SADNESS FOR HAITI ….AND AMERICA

I have been involved with Haiti for over 35 years and have become good friends with many people there, most of them brothers and sisters in Christ. Others and myself have witnessed love, faith, great works and ministry in the country and through the churches there. And now once more we have seen devastation, not from an earthquake but at our border.

Today a very good friend wrote me and I will let his words speak for themselves. There is nothing I can add that would do justice to the words that come from the heart, and the pain of this man I love like a brother. He is broken and his people are broken.

“My brother,

I gat tear when I saw what  happen to the Haitian people, I was really disappointed 

That situation remind me slavery period

Haitian are very angry, I know two Haitians who destroy their passport with American visas.

we all know ,Haitians helped America to fight  in order  to get his freedom , so we are part of America.

it’s inhuman when you hear testimony from people they send back to Haiti. 

We know that, American people are not happy with what’s happening at the border.

But , why Haitians ? 

Haitians love Haiti, they run away from Haiti because of kidnaping , killing, insecurity , violence and misery , we are not safe. ( nobody)

Haiti is one hour from America,  why America does not come to help with the gangs , insecurity and so one .

Today , I hear   Daniel Foot the  special ambassador for Haiti is resigned  because of what’ happening at the border and Haiti,

Past George, when you hear and see what is Happening in Haiti right  now is two different things. Haiti looks like hell, no body wants to stay.

Last week only at least 4 ships leave La Gonave Island.

George, 50 American  soldiers are good enough to help us with the gangs , we are at 1hre 30 minutes  from America.

Let ‘ us pray for Haiti.

God bless.”

The question for us is ‘What can and will we do?’ That is the question asked by our Lord, I believe.

I will write more but for today, let us pray for Haiti and ask wisdom for the leaders of our nation and world.

george

READING THE BIBLE WITH GRACE-FILLED EYES

The violent character of God as presented in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, has always troubled me.  I grew up having been taught that the whole Bible is the word of God without any errors. This idea of inerrancy became sort of a doctrine one had to subscribe to within the evangelical church.

Some people raised in more fundamentalist homes and churches were taught the Bible says it and I believe it, only to discover how untenable some of that ancient stuff really is. So when God commands the slaughter of people, well we just know that God had his reasons. He was purifying the world by getting rid of the bad people. Some say that God’s ways are mysterious and we can’t know God’s will. We just accept the printed word.

People leave the faith because of answers like that. I believe we CAN understand the violence in the Old Testament but it will require a certain grace to read the scriptures differently than what we might have been taught.

Let me write this cautiously because some will be offended even though they might not know why: Not every biblical event in those ancient times was specifically from God. Much that was written interpreting God’s intent and actions was actually the way a tribal society amidst other tribal societies interpreted what God was saying and doing through them.

I know that ‘all scriptures are inspired by God,’ but not all of them are accurate portrayals of God’s character. How do we know God’s character? Through Jesus, the Christ. He was the very WORD made flesh so that we can know God. Jesus himself says at one point, ‘if you see me, you see the Father’.

So I came to a conclusion late in life that if I see something from the old stories that don’t conform to what I know about God in Jesus then at the very least I say now that the old stories are problematic and probably not accurate. I feel under no pressure to believe differently now because I have come to know the living eternal God through Christ. God’s character never changes. He is love, once and for all time. The cross is the place where love and justice meet in Christ. Our God is a merciful and forgiving God. Christ shows us that time and time again in his acts of forgiveness, healing and Godly love.

 As one evangelical writer put it, “Some biblical writers got the message wrong.” Jesus even corrects some old sayings when he speaks what we now call the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5,6, and 7. (C.S. Cowles) For example: “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD.” – ( Leviticus 19:18) But Jesus goes on to say, “43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” ESV.

Or take Saul, for another example. (1Samuel 16) The Bible says that God sent an evil spirit into Saul. Then look at Jesus…. He never put evil spirits in anyone he encountered but rather removed them.

So I am not troubled any more by the misunderstandings I read. Although I must be forthright and say that many churches wouldn’t want such an evangelical as me. But I want to be honest to God and I want to seek truth. And the only one who really had the truth was Jesus who himself said that he WAS the truth.

So I am reading the Scriptures with grace-filled eyes these days so I can model my life on the God I know in Jesus who gave me life and life eternal. On the Mount of Transfiguration God said to Moses and Elijah, about Jesus, “This one is my son. Listen to him.” That’s who directs my ways these days.

One more thought. A man approached a monk one day and asked, “Why does the Bible contain so many bizarre, offensive and un-Christlike depictions of God?” The monk replied, “Because God let his children tell the story.”

And so it was. The children continued to tell the story progressively until the WORD became flesh and dwelt among us and we now get to behold his glory.

So, enjoy the Scriptures. We learn much about God. And when your friends tell you they can’t believe some of the violence in the Old Testament, feel free to say, “It’s ok, I have the same trouble with it.” Then get to Jesus.

REMARKABLE HOW LITTLE I MISS GOING TO CHURCH

The other morning after a four-inch snow I decided to help my neighbor with my trusty snowblower. Coincidentally another neighbor showed up and we worked together to clear our neighbor’s sidewalks and driveway. We got done, high-fived each other and I said, ‘There, we’ve had church for today.” Mark 12:33 says that loving a neighbor is better than going to church. Yep, that’s a paraphrase but it’s right there. 

During this Covid time, I have reflected on the meaning of the church. From my own professional and personal experience I have come to think that church is very much a part of the Constantinian Captivity. After the church was made legal and even mandatory it lost its central message of ‘loving one another’ and instead came up with religious inoculation whereby if you get a little of it you won’t be subject to the whole infection of God. Now, that might seem a bit extreme but it’s been proven time and time again that when push comes to shove ‘the church’ would rather be safe and secure than dying for the neighbor in trouble, which is the true definition of love.

Let me give you an example. Once upon a time, as a pastor, I had a finance person ask me, ‘What are you going to do to put more bodies in the pews?’ Not what I was going to do to spread the gospel or help a neighbor but rather how was I planning to get more people in church so that… we could more easily finance the budget. 

The church today has become weighed down by its own bureaucracy and self-security.  

I am reading Bonhoeffer’s “Letters and Papers From Prison”. At one point he writes to a friend, ‘It’s remarkable how little I miss going to church. I wonder why.’ Many of us have not been inside a church for a long time during this pandemic and some of us are just not missing the experience.

I am wondering if the church is not intimate and outward-focused enough. I suspect that smaller and more intimate groups would be better suited to fulfill the commands Jesus gave to us in the Sermon on the Mount and the two greatest commandments by which he tells us to love God and neighbor. Remember, Jesus only had 12 disciples through which God changed the world.

From the conflict I observe these days in churches, I am convinced that small intimate groups are the only way to reconcile people and resolve such conflicts. The political vitriol we see has split some churches into factions that have become unmanageable.

Now, onto a confession of my own. I have been a professionally paid pastor most all my life. My personal security has been taken care of by the larger institution and so I feel some sense of guilt of speaking this way about the church. But I’ll get over it. However, I am seriously thinking that a small group of disciples can more effectively be the fellowship of change and reconciliation that God wants in this world.  And some larger churches can make this work by means of smaller fellowships that carry out the mission of Christ in the world and with one another.

Bonhoeffer went so far as to say that the time will come and should be upon us when the church sells its property to give the money to those in need. He says the pastor won’t be paid or at least very little and probably will have to find secular employment. A tall order that I am sure we can get around if we use the right Bible verses.

A smaller, more intimate group of people can better reach the marginalized people in the community. Much prayer, study, and accountability are better attainable in such a setting.

I don’t know what will happen once churches are fully open but I hope in the meantime we all do some deeper reflection on what it means to be disciples today.

THE SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE

The band ‘Cream’ sang this in 1967, the year I graduated high school. Forget the lyrics for now. It’s the title I love. I am still a big fan of Eric Clapton.

Anyway, the title reminds me of some words of Jesus. We’ll get to those words but first I need to recall a couple scenes from the T.V. series FRASIER. My wife and I are watching it for the 4th time. Get a life, george. The scenes involve Frasier and his brother, Niles. In different scenes the brothers hold a door open for some woman who neglects to say, ‘thank you.’ It becomes a theme in the show about ungrateful people who don’t offer the thanks that is expected. 

I’ve done that. I stop my car so someone can cross the street apart from the crosswalk area. A little wave of acknowledgment? Nope. So then I decided to not expect any gratitude. That worked for a while and now I’m back to anticipating something that is probably not going to come.

So I’m thinking the other day about Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:45 we read the words that ‘God makes his sun to shine on the evil and good’ and Jesus tells us to do the same thing for others, no matter their character.

God is showering the sunshine of his love on everyone without thinking about getting thanks in return. Oh, does God love our praise? Certainly. But his love takes no notice of those who don’t respond except to keep loving them and letting his sun shine on them. Some folks call that common grace. Let’s call it love, pure unconditional love, a love that does not keep score. And I for one am glad because if God kept score of my ‘bads’, God would be already in the ‘billions to nothing’ category.

Our God is loving. God is love, says the Bible. That’s his essence, his nature. He loves to love. That’s why you and I are here on this earth. To love. Like our Father in heaven, says Jesus.

Thanks be to God for those who want to live in that love, soaking up all that grace and seeing the difference in their lives if they do. Now that I am writing this, I’m gonna see what it’s like in real life.

God be with you.

THIRD GRADER CRIES IN FRONT OF CLASS

I was in third grade, a very self-conscious kid, too conscientious for my own good. I remember the day clearly. I didn’t have my homework done. I remind you that this was in third grade. I walked to the front of the class and stood at the desk of Miss Carroll, my teacher. I cried when I told her I didn’t do my homework. That wasn’t the worst of it. Miss Carroll then presented me to the class and said that she wished all her students were as conscientious as me. I could have fallen through the floor if I could.

As a person and particularly a pastor I have too much cared what others think or even what I think my behavior and responsibility should be in this world. Certainly I have thought myself in line with God’s will but I have been probably more in line with my homegrown super ego.

I have recently come into conflict with others over some of my theological ideas.

My conscience used to want to explore different theologies but I have wanted to be line with the will of people more than God. This applies to my ideas about social activism and liberal politics too. These things are on my heart and must be explored and given voice in my life.

And so I am encouraging you who read this to explore life beyond your conscience. After all our conscience can be informed by the wrong ideas. The people of Germany in the 1930s certainly had their consciences formed by wrong propaganda.

See I believe myself to be a child of God in all the best ways and so I am going to listen to the little boy inside of me, the little boy who every day is open to the Father’s direction and will.

And even when I am wrong I will be happily wrong because I belong to God and God won’t stop loving me no matter what. God’s love is the top priority of my consciousness.

So go ahead, take a chance. Stretch a little and even rebel at what those little voices are telling you. There’s only one voice that matters. That’s the voice of Jesus. See Hebrews 1:2.

Yeah, I still cry on occasion but I’m not going to shed any more tears for those little voices in my head that make me more sensitive and conscientious than I need to be.

Jesus said in John 8, “If you obey my teaching, you are really my disciples; you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

That’s all I need, I hope and pray. To be free.

THE KILLING OF GEORGE FLOYD

As a follower of Christ I must say there is no place in the Kingdom of God life for the unjust killing of George Floyd by the police. And I for one think that Christians must raise their voices as one against such brutal violence on the part of law enforcement. We know all too well that too many black people have suffered violence and death at the hands of those who think they are carrying out justice.

There have always been rationales for the brutality most of us saw on T.V. But as Christians we know better, or should know better.

When the Bible speaks about justice it does so in the context of how the marginalized people were being treated by the authorities of the day. In this instance justice must be brought to bear for those in charge of such brutality against George Floyd. And this is not just on behalf of African Americans. This must be done on behalf of all people. When one someone suffers like this, God suffers and we all suffer.

Christians can’t just read the NEWS. We are part of this NEWS and we may no more turn a blind eye and deaf ear to such horrendous murder than Christians could during the brutality of the Nazi regime.

It’s time again, as it was during the civil rights struggles, to raise one voice, no matter our race, against such violence that surely is contrary to the will of God.

It is up to the followers of Jesus to discern and determine what goes against God’s will and fight against such demonic actions with all the weapons we have at our disposal. (I refer to Ephesians 6) May God help us so to do.

And may God have mercy on the Floyd family and grant peace to Mr. Floyd in God’s eternal peace.

Pastor George Gaffga

 

welcoming our gay brothers and sisters

Back in 48 A.D. the church was predominantly Jewish. Soon Samaritans entered and then the Gentile world responded to the Good News. And get this- the church rulers at the time went from 613 laws of Moses to just 4, an interesting 4 at that (see Acts 15). Gentile Christians were asked to abstain from food that had been sacrificed to idols, sexual immorality, the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming the blood of animals.

Why these four? It had something to do with accommodating the consciences of Jewish believers. It was like a negotiation in order that the two groups would be able to fellowship together. Sort of like today the Presbyterians saying they won’t baptize infants while hanging out with the Baptists.

Today those four laws that came from the Council (in Acts 15) are not required for Gentile Christians. In fact most of them are not even understandable to a lot of Christians. Jewish Christians these days do celebrate many of the traditions found in the Old Testament but not as legal requirements.

But what about the question of sexual immorality? What did that even mean? It meant rampant promiscuous sexual activity outside the context of marriage between a man and woman.

Now, a parable of sorts: God is the great Maestro conducting his orchestra in such a way as to accommodate people who have learned to play a different tune And God also accommodates people who play, in some people’s opinion, out of tune. See, the tune we play is not what gives us entrance into the orchestra. It’s our trust of the Maestro to get our music to the place of glory. The Maestro has been making such accommodations since the beginning of time.

This little parable is meant for us today. Jesus gives us two commandments that he says cover the whole law. They sum up everything God wants from us. One is to love God with our whole being and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves, as Paul repeats in one of his letters.

So what about people who are of homosexual orientation and practice? Why are we laying a heavy burden on them which denies them God’s love and their intimate love for one another? I am not speaking of promiscuous sex, which is in reality outside the bounds of real love for all of us. I’m emphasizing friendship love and romantic love that comes from a commitment between two people.

In my humble opinion, we are not to prohibit homosexual Christians from embracing faith or being embraced by the church community. This is a legitimate accommodation the Maestro makes for the Kingdom Orchestra. If any person knows and lives God’s love they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Yes, there is a change in the tune since 48 A.D. And God is smiling upon all the new members of his orchestra. God’s ongoing love makes more than an accommodation. He creates something beautiful from all corners of his gorgeous and glorious creation.

CORAM DEO

 

Grace in a Stolen Miracle- Scriptures from MESSAGE VERSION

Most all of us have heard the saying, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes.’ I personally don’t believe there are atheists anywhere. God has implanted in every soul just enough light or awareness to know that somewhere, somehow God or even ‘a god’ exists. Paul writes in Romans 1:19-21: “But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is!” By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So no one has a good excuse.

What happened was this: people knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, and refused to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. The reality of God is present to everyone everywhere but people, though they know God, choose not to honor God. Some people even worship or honor themselves, which is sort of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. And since the world we live in is one large foxhole you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t look for help outside of themselves.

From the Scriptures we learn there is something of God’s life in every part of creation. “Everything was created through him (the logos – universal divine reason); nothing—not one thing!—came into being without him.” John 1:3

In Acts 17 Paul is speaking to the philosophers in Athens. They wanted to believe in something and he explained to them that the ‘something’ was actually a ‘someone’. 22-23 “So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know whom you’re dealing with.”

Somewhere there is a source of justice or people wouldn’t say, ‘it’s just not fair’. Some even ask how a ‘good God’ could allow evil? These are all questions pointing to a ‘higher power’.

1-2 “God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.” Psalm 19

“God has not left himself without some witness to his being, and his goodness.” Acts 14:17

Even astrologers searched the skies for the Messiah and thus found him before the religious leaders did. Expressions such as ‘knocking on wood’, ‘the man upstairs’, ‘oh my God’, ‘thank God’ or even ‘thank goodness’, are all tied to a sense of someone outside of ourselves.

And so I would like to suggest that the lady who touches Jesus’ garment in Luke 8 actually ‘steals’ a miracle provided to her by God’s grace. Perhaps ‘steal’ is a bit too strong; we might say that she clandestinely finds a way to God through her touch.

A friend of mine says that every person on earth has some point of contact with God in his or her life. For the woman in Luke 8 the hem of Jesus garment was that point of contact, getting just close enough to the ever-present grace of God. Here’s her story from vs. 43-45: “In the crowd that day there was a woman who for twelve years had been afflicted with hemorrhages. She had spent every penny she had on doctors but not one had been able to help her. She slipped in from behind and touched the edge of Jesus’ robe. At that very moment her hemorrhaging stopped. Jesus said, ‘Who touched me?’ When no one stepped forward, Peter said, ‘But Master, we’ve got crowds of people on our hands. Dozens have touched you.’”

God causes his sunshine and rain to fall upon the evil and good folk alike. Jesus referred to God’s care for everyone in the Sermon on the Mount. In William P. Young’s book, The Shack, Papa (God) says to the protagonist Mac, ‘God is particularly fond of you, you and everyone.’

For the woman in our story in Luke 8 the hem of Jesus’ garment was just enough. She made the effort to receive that which had been waiting for her, as orchestrated by God the Maestro. In Matthew 9:21 the words are recorded that she really wanted to touch this healer, this Messiah, and she wanted to do it discreetly, for her problem was probably a chronic menstrual bleeding which would have made her too unclean to touch Christ, the holy man. A point of contact. A miracle stolen. Or the grace of God just hanging there for the taking.

As a pastor there were many times I was asked to perform a marriage, a funeral or a baptism by people who were looking secretly for some good luck, a good start, some comfort, all being points of contact to touch the sky as it were. I suspect for many the motive was to get closer to God; and for many it was a matter of doing ‘the right thing’. But either way these were all points of contact. Sometimes a hospital visit for a non-believing patient, a telephone call, a prayer are points of contact. Who knows how the point of contact will bring life? Because life is what God is about and God is everywhere at every moment.

“Am I not a God near at hand”—God’s Decree—
“and not a God far off?
Can anyone hide out in a corner
where I can’t see him?”
God’s Decree.
“Am I not present everywhere,
whether seen or unseen?”
God’s Decree. Jeremiah 23:23-24

 

Now here’s the thing. Christians are the body of Christ, clothed with Christ at all levels of maturity but the grace belongs to our strong loving God. We may not even have faith enough but even that’s enough for it was the faithfulness of Jesus that impacted the lady. But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.” Galatians 3: 25-27 

That’s what people touch, the unseen faithfulness of Christ at work in us. Sometimes we know it and sometimes not but God knows and loves so well.

And now, the rest of the story. This beautiful thief is ‘caught’. Not by the disciples. They are still learning the extent of the master’s grace. They are bewildered by Jesus’ question, ‘Who touched me?’ because everyone was jostling the disciples and Jesus, pressing in against the Messiah. But in the melee there was a secret desirous touch of an unclean woman. She wanted to remain anonymous but the miracle was so evident in her body and her life that she confesses to why she touched Jesus.

Now I think Jesus is thrilled that this ostracized woman would dare come close enough, risking her reputation, but her story is meant for every soul that thinks itself unworthy of God’s grace.

Sometimes I wonder if Christians might sense the pressing in of a neighbor or loved one or a social outcast who wouldn’t darken the doorway of a church. A word, a touch, a whispered prayer may just activate the power and grace that is all around us.

WHERE DOES IT HURT?

Recently I listened to a podcast from Renovaré, a great ministry/organization focused on Spiritual Formation. The podcast was a conversation with author Philip Yancey led by Nathan Foster.

Yancey has written a new book titled Fearfully and Wonderfully: ‘The marvel of bearing God’s image’. In the book he draws an analogy between pain in the human body and pain in the Body of Christ, the church community. His writing comes after working many years with Dr. Paul Brand, the late surgeon who specialised in treating leprosy in India. Leprosy is an infectious disease within the skin and peripheral nerves leading to a disastrous consequence for those, who because of this illness, cannot feel pain.

Pain is important because it’s real and it signals that something is wrong with the body. It can be physical or emotional and can include such discomforting feelings as anger, sadness, depression and much more.

Pain causes us to pay attention to our bodies. And for the Body of Christ, as the analogy goes, pain is a sign that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

These days there seem to be a lot of division and hurt in the church over such issues as exclusivity and inclusivity, liberal and conservative, sexuality and doctrine. Rules, standards, grace and love are in conflict and people on all sides are hurting. I know this personally.

So let me continue the analogy by saying the church needs to know the pain is real and then go to the Great Physician who can diagnose the pain and help each of us to care for those in pain. Jesus told his disciples that the signal of a healthy community is loving one another. He prayed for us to be one even as he and the Father are one.

We are all in some fashion broken, sick, or lost but within the community, the Body, we can recognize and address those circumstances that underlie the pain. We need to stop being against each other and instead be with and for one another. Let’s listen to each other out of love. Let’s be attentive to the pain we often hide beneath a veneer of doctrinal faithfulness, social activism and success (just to name a few methods of denial).

Read the way the Apostle Paul puts it in 1Corinthians 12. ‘If one part of the body suffers then every part suffers with it.’

Maybe the question isn’t ‘What do you believe?’ but rather the one we often ask our children, “Where does it hurt?”

MICROSCOPES, TELESCOPES, AND HOROSCOPES

Humans have an endless desire for truth. We are curious. We are seekers. From the furthest reaches of our universe to the minutest movement of electrons we long for answers, answers that may well help research and progress.

We want to know the how, when and where truth is taking place that will make our lives, society and world a better place, a more flourishing environment. We develop theories, doctrines, religions and philosophies to help us not just with the ‘what’ of life but also with the why?

And this is all good ….to a point.

I think God has made us inquisitive. The sage writer of Ecclesiastes says that God put eternity in our hearts so that we will not be able to fathom all that God has done from the beginning to the end. So we will keep on searching to find truth.

But God has done something else. God has put all eternity into the person of God’s own Son, Jesus, so that though we might not be able to fathom everything about God we CAN know God intimately, know we are loved and valued by the Creator.

Oh, there are many days we don’t know if we are coming or going but to know Jesus, the Christ, is to know the heart of God, the essence of God’s love.

Which all brings me to a wonderful passage from the Bible. It’s one that gives us assurance of the intimate presence of God and providence of God for all God’s creation, believer or not.

Colossians 2:8-10 Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

Let those words have a place in your heart and mind. Stay close to the Christ who IS the WORD OF GOD who has come to us, died for us and lives for us.