When God moves in our hearts, it can be with unexpected whispers of the Spirit through the actions of the least likely.
Three times over the Advent/Christmas season we received gifts from homeless people. We do not know all the reasons that they are homeless but they come to church to receive and to give.
We do not really want the half-smoked cigars or the used CD’s but their love and generosity moves us to tears. It may be all they have to share but share they must or their hearts will burst from the sorrow of their situation.
They attend the services, come to the coffee time where they are treated with dignity, acceptance and love and then return to “wherever.” One of the homeless men sang in our Carols by Candlelight service attending every rehearsal and singing heartily and joyfully. Is one of them an angel we are welcoming?
“Don’t neglect to show hospitality, for by doing this some have welcomed angels as guests without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2
We all are surrounded with opportunities to show the love of Christ. May this New Year of 2020 be filled with reaching out “to the least of these.”
A few minutes walk from our apartment is the 120-meter high, man-made Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain). This hilltop plateau with views of the city and the surrounding Grunewald (Green Forest) was made from some 75 million cubic meters of rubble from the second world war. It is frequented by tourists and locals, who come to take advantage of the views and of the wide open space to run their dogs and to fly their kites.
Monday, in spite of the gray and cold dampness of the afternoon, someone was there flying a kite. This is a common sight year round. Often multiple kites and remote controlled gliders and drones are in action simultaneously. But somehow, this week it seemed to me a sign that spring is on the way. Soon the gray landscape of the Grunewald will match its name again! I turned and walked along the edge of the plateau, and I saw below me were several more kites. These, however, were no cause for hope at all, for they were caught, broken and hanging rather forlornly in tree branches.
They reminded me of the lives of so many people who have lost hope, countless individuals, who for awhile may have soared, but who are now caught in the ugly entangling circumstances of life–trapped by their own unwillingness and inability to do what they were created to do.
Kites, it seems, are always in danger from trees. (Remember Charlie Brown and his kite-eating tree?) But the problem isn’t really the trees. As long as kites remain connected to the kite flyer, they remain free to do what they were created to do, which is fly! As soon as a kite breaks free from the string or in rebellion gets away from its master, it will inevitably be lost and caught, unable to ever fly again . . . unless it is rescued.
Sin, which is a term for rebellion against God, breaks the connection we have with Him, and leaves us unable to achieve our created purpose, which is to live in relationship with Him. Away from the Master, we find ourselves caught by our own sins, trapped and hopeless. And unless we are rescued, we have no hope of ever being free.
But praise God, He has come to rescue us!
In light of our metaphor, it is interesting, how! For when we consider the Cross of Jesus, we see there a figure caught and hanging on a tree–broken, lifeless, seemingly without hope. But when we look beyond the Cross, we discover His broken and lifeless body raised up in the resurrection on the third day and ascended back into the heavens. The Scriptures teach us that by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus we are granted the forgiveness of our sins. Through faith in Christ, we are set free, and we are also raised up to eternal life and ascended with Him into the heavens. May we receive this gospel and fly again for His glory!
It’s always fun when I can bring a bit of Americana to my students.
Yesterday in class with my Master of Divinity I students, one of them asked me a question, to which I responded, “simanyi,” or “I don’t know.” A student who was sitting in front of me asked what that meant, and I said, “I don’t know.”
The look on his face barely changed, and said, “but you just said it.” I missed his nearly imperceptible look, and replied, “I don’t know.” So he repeated, “what did you say?” And I said, “I don’t know.” Poor guy. He must have been frustrated.
He finally rephrased the question to “what did you just say?” I finally got it, laughed, and told him that I said that I had said “I don’t know.”
Then I asked the class if they were familiar with baseball, and tragically, they are not. So I did what any red-blooded American would do: I drew a baseball diamond, and explained the basics of the classic Abbott and Costello sketch. It’s impossible to do it justice in only a minute, but I certainly tried. Fortunately, they seemed to enjoy it.
New Beginnings is a six month discipleship program based in Kenya which aims to help recent graduates grow in faith and transition to life after high school. SAMS Associate Missionaries, Dave and Lucy Chaves, have been grateful to be part of New Beginnings for the past nine years.
Each year a new class of participants joins, usually 6 to 12 in size, and a mix of males and females. The participants meet at a local church for small group Bible studies, book discussions, life skills training, and mentorship sessions. They also participate in short-term missions, community service, and occasional retreats. In 2019, there were 10 participants along with over 14 alumni who served as volunteer teachers and mentors.
Each participant learns about God’s purpose and calling; gains leadership, communication, and job skills, and has the opportunity to serve others in their community as well as engage in cross-cultural mission. While many of the participants grew up in informal settlements in Nairobi and attended school through scholarships, others have joined New Beginnings from the USA, Australia, and the United Kingdom.