An old tree

April 14, 2019 - Leave a Response

A few years ago, when we visited historic Williamsburg, VA, we took a side trip to Shirley Plantation, the oldest plantation in VA (started in 1613) and the oldest family-owned business in North America (since 1638.)

Next to the house stands this willow oak tree.

It is over 350 years old. It was a privilege for me, a mere 75 years of age now, to see this majestic living thing.

Of course, this tree is young compared to the giant sequoias of California. Some of them are over 2,000 and 3,000 years old, which means that some of them were seedlings when David was King of Israel!

What is the oldest tree you have seen?

Who is the oldest person you have known?

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Refugees

March 9, 2019 - Leave a Response

This week I learned about the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. With 235,000 dislocated people, it is the third largest refugee camp in the world.

The largest are in Bangaldesh and Uganda.

It is impossible to imagine adequately the suffering, pain, longings and hope of so many of our fellow human beings.

Thinking About Justice

March 8, 2019 - Leave a Response

As you may know, a few agencies choose a Word of the Year, based on factors such as the frequency with which the word appears in the news and in word searches.

For 2018, Merriam Webster chose the word justice. It was a top lookup at Merriam-Webster.com and was at the center of many national debates.

From the Bible we learn that God has a passion for justice.

“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? T o act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

“Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” Isaiah 30:18

“And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.” Luke 18:7-8

Achieving justice often seems like a far-off dream in our complicated and broken world. But justice, peace and reconciliation are all part of the heart-cry of all who care for the poor, the prisoners, the victims of human trafficking, refugees, persecuted Christians and the ordinary people caught in the conflicts of nations.

Do I care about justice?

Do I pray for justice for all the oppressed?

What can I do today to promote justice in my community and our world?

A Visitor from Russia

February 25, 2019 - Leave a Response

In February 2019, we had a guest from Moscow, Russia, in our home. He is Sergey Chervonenko, graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary of Wilmore, KY, and President of Moscow Evangelical Christian Seminary in Moscow.

Above is a photo of Sergy and his wife Yulia.

I am grateful that both Sergey and I are alumni of Asbury.

Sergey is in US on a friendship tour, telling people about the ministry of Moscow Evangelical Christian Seminary. We hosted him at three different meal events to meet Brethren in Christ church leaders and other friends.

Here are a few things we learned about Sergey.
* An ethnic Russian, he grew up in Uzbekistan.
* As a teenager, he was curious about Christians and told his mother he would like to visit a church. She was an atheist but did not object to his going to church.
* He became a believer, the first Christian in his family. His mother and some other family members also became believers.
* For four years, he served as the director of youth programs for a union of Protestant churches.
* He served in a staff position at Moscow Seminary, then earned his D. Min degree from Asbury Seminary in 2017, and became President of Moscow Seminary that same year.
* He and Yulia and their two teenagers live north of Moscow and participate in Tushino Evangelical Church in Moscow.

And here are a few things we learned about Moscow Seminary and religion in Russia.
* Churches and seminaries must register with the government. After accreditation is granted, the Seminary is free to teach the Bible and Christian theology without government interference.
* Moscow Seminary was founded in 1993 through assistance from OMS, a missions organization in the holiness tradition. At first, the initials OMS first meant Oriental Missionary Society, but now it stands for One Mission Society.
* The Seminary still has a close connection with One Missions Society.
* The Seminary is committed to training ministers for Russia in Russia.
* The Seminary has grown significantly in the past three years and now has 700 students. Many of them are already pastors of churches.
* The students come from Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Russia.
* Several Protestant denominations in Russia have named Moscow Seminary as the official institution for training their ministers.
* Some Orthodox priests are evangelical believers. Occasionally, the Seminary has one of these priests teach a class.

You may learn more about this remarkable Seminary online at: http://www.moscowseminary.ru.

We will always be grateful for having met our new friend Sergey Chervonenko.

A Visit to the Museum of the Bible

February 24, 2019 - Leave a Response

On a Sunday in February, four of my family (Ed, Jeffrey, Julio and I) went to Washington, D.C., to tour the Museum of the Bible.

The entrance, on the right, has two 40-foot tall bronze doors depicting text from Genesis 1 from an early edition of the Gutenberg Bible, in Latin. So as you enter the museum, you actually walk into the Bible.

From the observation area on the top floor you can see much of the city.

There are seven floors of all kinds of displays. I will introduce you to only a few items.

A reproduction of the Memeptah Stele (stone monument), 1208 BC. In cuneiform writing, this stele recounts the military conquests of the pharaoh Memeptah of Egypt. Near the bottom, he mentions that he “wiped out” a people called Israel. This is one of the earliest extra-Biblical references to Israel, confirming the historical accuracy of the Bible.

A closer view of the same stele. The photo has a distracting glare because of the overhead lighting.

The above two photos are of a replica of the Lachish Mural, created in Nineveh about 681 BC.

King Sennacherib of Assyria came to the nation of Judah in 701 BC to destroy its fortified cities. Lachish, southwest of Jerusalem, was the second to last of the cities he attacked. The mural is from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh and depicts the battle of Lachish, which is narrated in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and the book of Isaiah. The record of the Lachich Mural again proves that the Bible gets it right.

A model of Jerusalem in the time of the kings of Judah. The temple complex is in the upper right section.

A large hall contains dozens of Bibles and descriptions of early persons who translated the Bible from Latin into vernacular languages.

In another area there is an impressive display of a circular library with over 6,000 volumes, one volume for each language of the world. The majority of the volumes represents languages that do not yet have any portion of the Scriptures at all.

A scene representing Nazareth as it was in Jesus’ day.

Another scene in Nazareth.

A portion of the Hebrew Bible in a scroll, similar to what was used in Jesus’ day. Note that the sections of the scroll are laced together so that if a mistake is made in hand lettering one section, the scribe does not need to discard the entire scroll. He can simply rewrite that one sheet.

For the first time in my life I learned about the Wiedmann Bible, which depicts the complete OT and NT in pictures. This Bible is on display at the museum. As you will have guessed, the above scene shows Joseph and Mary arriving in Bethlehem before the birth of Jesus.

The Bible was created by Willy Wiedmann (1929-2013) in Stuttgart, Germany, over a period of 16 years and consists of 3,333 hand painted images.

A portion of the Wiedmann Bible.

The entire work, “the world’s longest painted Bible.”

This is an exact replica of the portable pulpit used by George Whitefield (1714-1770) for outdoor preaching. Whitefield was an English Anglican minister and evangelist who was one of the founders of Methodism and the evangelical movement. He had several preaching tours in America and was part of the Great Awakening here.

The display mentions that “The Marks of the New Birth” was one of his greatest and most successful sermons, which he preached on many occasions.

With that, I close this blog post. Obviously, the Museum of the Bible contains so much more than I can narrate. I urge you to visit it for yourself.

A Personal Testimony

February 18, 2019 - Leave a Response

On February 10, 2019, our ten-year-old granddaughter Genesis Avila was baptized. I had the privilege of administering the baptism.

Here is Genesis’ poem testimony, which she read to the congregation just before her baptism.

MY STORY

God had a plan to create something big
One day he created day and night
God separated the sky and water on day two
On day three he made land and sea, plants and fruit
He hung the sun, moon, and stars in the sky on day four
On day five sea creatures and birds appeared
God filled the earth with animals on day six
The God said let us make man in our image, in our likeness
God saved his best for last
God created me in his image and he calls me good

I was born on January 27, 2009, in Los Angeles
At three months, I moved to Guatemala
Church and serving pancakes to street youth taught me to be kind and compassionate
God created me and he also created my street friends in the park in his image and he calls us good

I’ve heard about Jesus in church, at camp and at home
He loves me, cares for me, and died n the cross for my sins
I gave my heart to Jesus at Roxbury Camp
God created me in his image and he calls me good

Today I want to show my love for Jesus and desire to follow him
I show this by being baptized here today
Thank you Kidventure for helping me to grow in m faith
God created us in his image and he calls us good

James Madison’s Home

February 10, 2019 - Leave a Response

In January 2019 we visited Montpelier, James Madison’s home in Orange County, Virginia.

Madison, a close friend of Thomas Jefferson, was the Father of the Constitution, architect of the Bill of Rights, and the fourth President of the United States.

Montpelier on a foggy winter day.

The tour leader told about Madison’s life and work as well as the extensive social entertaining of his wife Dolley.

One of the interior rooms.

Carpet pattern.

Near the main house, the quarters for enslaved people. “Enslaved people” was a new term for me, but I affirm it as a term of respect. As you see, some of the quarters are being renovated.

Madison had a mixed experience with the issue of slavery. On the one hand, he was opposed to slavery, as evidenced in this quote: “We have seen the mere distinction of colour made in the most enlightened period of time, a ground for the most oppressive dominion ever exercised by man over man.” In all my life, I had never read or heard that powerful statement of his.

On the other hand, he was not able to find a way to operate his house and plantation without the work of 120 enslaved people.

In the dining room of the house is this cutout of Paul Jennings, an enslaved person who was Madison’s personal valet at Montpelier and the White House. Paul was later sold to Daniel Webster, from whom he bought his freedom in 1845. After gaining freedom, he wrote the first White House memoir.

An exhibit called “The Mere Distinction of Colour” documents the stories of the Montpelier enslaved individuals and some of their descendants.

“E Pluribus Unum” is a mosaic created from pieces of brick excavated from the living quarters of enslaved men, women and children across Montpelier. On many plantations, bricks were made by enslaved women and children. The mosaic was created by Rebecca Warde.

Giving Jesus His Rightful Place

January 29, 2019 - Leave a Response

Thomas a Kempis was a German-Dutch clergyman who lived from 1380 to 1471 and wrote The Imitation of Christ, which is perhaps the most widely read Christian devotional book next to the Bible. It was first written in Latin.

What follows is a prayer from the book, a powerful statement of full devotion to Jesus Christ above all other things or experiences in life. I have taken the liberty of adding contemporary language.

“Grant me, O most loving Jesus, to rest in you above every created thing, above all health and beauty, above all glory and honor, above all power and dignity, above all knowledge and wisdom, above all riches and arts, above all joy and gladness, above all fame and praise, above all pleasure and comfort, above all hope and promise, above all deserving and desire, above all gifts and favors that you can give and pour out on us, above all happiness and rejoicing that the mind can receive and feel; finally, above all angels and archangels, above all heavenly beings, above all things visible and invisible, and above all that is not you, my God.”

Simplicity in Prayer

December 8, 2018 - Leave a Response

Meister Eckhart was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic who lived from 1260 to 1328.

His comment on prayer may be a bit overstated in order to stir our thinking, which it does for me. There are many ways to pray and many examples of meaningful prayers, but let us keep returning to simplicity.

Thanks to BrainyQuote for the art work above.

An Unusual Arrangement for a Church Key

November 27, 2018 - Leave a Response

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is one of the holiest sites of The Christian faith. Many believe that this is the location where Jesus was crucified and buried.

Church of Holy Sepulchre 1

Church of Holy Sepulchre 2

The third photo above shows visitors entering the memorial structure inside the church, a memorial built over the spot where traditions says that Jesus was buried.

I have visited this Church several times, but only recently did I learn the unusual story of the key.

The key to this world-famous Christian Church is held by a Muslim man and his family, and it has been in his family for centuries.

This began in the early 600s, when Umar ibn Khattab was the second caliph (chief civil and religious leader) of the Muslims. He met in Jerusalem with the Christian Patriarch Sophronius and made an agreement granting Christians right to worship in Jerusalem. Since many Christian denominations wanted to worship at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Umar entrusted the church’s key to a Muslim family for safe keeping.

Actually, the arrangement involves two Muslim families. One family holds the key and carries it to the Church doors every day. A man from another Muslim family uses the key to open the doors. The same process happens every evening to close the doors.

You can learn further details about this arrangement by going online to: key to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.