Archive for January, 2009

Here is a good reason to love this great state!

And no Mom we didn’t get a snow day.

Replica of the Tabernacle

Replica of the Tabernacle

The story of Numbers is any interesting look at two main aspects of sin, according to Tim at Seward Church.  As we continue our journey looking for the Gospel message in the 66 books of the Bible, Numbers is our 4th stop.

A few quick thoughts on the book – it is called Numbers because it opens and closes with a census being taken. There are about 2 million Israelites or the size of the Twin Cities Metro area living on a vast plain.  The book though, shares the story of the wandering Israelites and their quest to enter the promised land.  Yes, Number is quoted or alluded to in the New Testament, Hebrews 3:15-17 and I Corinthians 10:1-13.

So what are the two aspects of sin?  1) A longing to be an insider and 2) a longing to be satisfied.

We all have a desire to be a part of the “in-crowd” or on the inside of a group, or what C.S Lewis calls the inner-ring.  We may not aspire for a place of power, but we usually want to be within the group of people where power comes from though.  God created this desire within us. Wait. Isn’t that a contradiction, are you saying God created a sinful desire within us?  Nope, only that God created within us the desire to be in His inner circle, what in the Old Testament is referred to as the “Holy of Holies” or the inner-circle in the temple, tabernacle, or the tent. This is the place that only the High Priest can enter and only once a year.

Many passages throughout Numbers make it clear that only those whom God allows are to take part in the priesthood, tabernacle, and other holy things.  Take for instance Numbers 1:51 “When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.” Yikes! God is pretty strict about His holiness.

God has a high standard for who He lets in to the holiest parts, if you try to take part and shouldn’t be the consequence is… death. Our sin is that we try to lower God’s standards and create our own inside groups, cliques, and our own standards to get in.  Or maybe more importantly, we create standards to keep people out (ie racism).  Like in Numbers 12:1-2 or 16:1-11 we make-up some reason to block people out of our circles.  We will continue to be miserable, always seeking approval until we stop and seek approval only from God. The Gospel of Jesus slams all of the circles and bubbles of our life together not letting us keep people in or out.

Oh and in case you are wondering… all who come to Christ are accepted by God.

The second major aspect of sin is that we all have a longing to be satisfied.  You know the saying, the grass is always greener on the other side.  Well that was here in Numbers as well. The group of people actually started grumbling the minute God set out to free them… and continued even though He contiuned to provide for their every need.  Sound familiar?  I wonder how often we sit around and grumble, even though God has proven Himself faithful?

You might recall that God provided for the nutritional needs each day through manna.  One day God provided them with a supplement of quail to eat.  They literally had quail coming out the nostrils!  Then God returned to providing them regular old manna.  At that point according to Numbers 11:4-6 they decided that slavery under Egypt was better than freedom – because they ate better as slaves.  That seems stupid doesn’t it?

It is amazing that God continues to love and accept us, despite our foolishness and our desire to enslave ourselves to the ways of this world. Through our hero – Jesus – we are saved from our folly and receive an amazing and abundant grace.  Christ died so that we can be satisfied.  His death opens up the holiest of places for us to enter. He is the perfect high priest, the final blood sacrifice.

Through Jesus God is able to accept us completely and allows us to enter the holiest places.  Satan wants us to question this, which is why he creates unhealthy cravings and longings within us.  God won’t necessarily take away or fill our desires, but will direct us to a better place. He is willing to meet us where we are and offer us grace.  Ultimately, we have an offer of eternal life through Jesus Christ (John 3:14).

Let us be free today from the longings and desires that keep us from chasing after God.

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The crisis continues in Somalia.  Refugees International is one of few organizations working in East Africa with Somalia refugees.

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Can you believe it? 2008 is over.  Minneapolis was a great place to spend 2008.  Sunday night as we were driving back to Minneapolis after a great trip to Ohio and Indiana we remembered that it had been exactly one year since we had made the same journey, albeit with a moving van and a lot of stuff!

As we left the relative warmth of Indianapolis (43 when we left) and returned to around a foot of snow and 1 above temperatures in Minneapolis we wondered what we were thinking. But superficial weather-talk aside this has been a great year and we are excited to spend 2009 in Minnesota.  We are quite blessed to both have jobs that we enjoy, new friends to revel with, and a growing community to become a part of.  2008 represented many new adventures and experiences for us as we learn about surviving a brutal and long winter and squeezing every possible second out of the perfect summer weather.

I realize you haven’t heard from us since early October and we apologize for this.  Things have been quite busy. We enjoyed our Thanksgiving with friends here in Minneapolis due to Christy’s work schedule but were quite excited to both get 2 weeks vacation around Christmas and New Years to be able to celebrate those holidays with family.  Unfortunately, Christy was “displaced” from her night-shift job in postpartum to a day-shift job in endoscopy.  Not exactly what we had expected but this was a lot better than getting laid off, like many of our friends.  She worked on the new unit for a week before our vacation started and has about 4 more weeks of orientation ahead!

You might recall that my year as an Americorps VISTA ended yesterday and through a long series of tough decisions I have decided to extend my term of service into April.  From now until then I’ll be doing fundraising and grant-writing to see if it is sustainable for the school to keep me on a full-time basis. My building principal will be able to sustain me through the end of this school year and then we’ll see what happens. I will continue running the after-school job training/fundraising program for the middle school students.

Those are the two biggest updates in our lives and both consumed a lot of our time and energy during November and December. We continue to be involved in teaching English to and befriending Somali’s in our community.  We both enjoy this time interacting and learning more about their culture and sharing some of ours.  We have also found a new church home.  It is a small church, a mix between church plant and house church it has been fun getting to know these new friends. We are excited to be a part of it and see the direction it is taking.

Okay, I have bored you enough!  Happy New Year to you and may you have a great 2009.

As always please let us know what is going on in your life.

Nick & Christy

We traveled back to Minneapolis yesterday and missed attending any church during the weekend. This is a recap of last week’s sermon at The Bridge, our home church while living in Anderson, IN. We thought we were going to be hearing one of our close friends speak, but instead heard Melissa Jansen, author and sister of the head pastor speak.

I was disappointed to not get to hear our friend speak or the dynamic head pastor.  Don’t get me wrong Missy is an excellent speaker, but I think you know what I mean. The sermon series was “Unwrapped” while the title was Hangovers, Leftovers, & Do Overs.

She talked about how it is hard to be a good receiver of gifts, especially when you don’t like what someone gave you.  You know the hideous Christmas sweater from great-aunt Bertha. She connected this to the story of her oldest son’s birth and the crazy circumstances surrounding it. I don’t think she was actually comparing herself to Mary’s situation but connected the two stories.

She shared several verses, but never gave actual references and I haven’t had time to leaf through the books to find the references so I won’t integrate them.  Her main point was this:

Jesus is an amazing gift to Mary and to all of us, so what are we going to do with it? What will you do today, tomorrow, and throughout 2009 knowing that jesus was the most important present ever given?

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Img from USAID

What does the phrase “Not on our watch” mean? We hear it off and on, from a variety of people in a variety of contexts. Well Don Cheadle and John Prendergast want you to know that while they are alive and kicking they will not allow genocide or mass atrocities against humanity to go unnoticed. In their book titled, Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, they have created an activists guidebook.

Sharing from their personal experience they relay the hard story behind the current genocide in Darfur. They share easy steps that can be taken to end the horrible tragedy there.  One letter can shift the balance in government which could change the entire landscape of how the world interacts with Sudanese officials. The two authors draw on their experiences with advocacy, but throughout the book share short stories about how regular individuals, like you and me, have taken action.  Simple ideas that create massive change – that is the theme of the book.

Outside of the short stories, it can get a little dry, but when you realize that you can create change it can be a powerful motivator.  Out of their efforts came an organization called the Enough Project, which basically wants to end and prevent future genocides.

I’ve had enough of the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women, and children.  Have you?

The book ends with this great quote from Cheadle, it is a powerful reminder we are not alone in our work.

Times like this, it’s easy to feel powerless, easy to feel alone. But when I take off those blinders and look around I see that I am actually surrounded by many people “intending the light,” as Joseph Campbell says, hoping against hope to make a difference in their time. I grow inside as we grow in size, not an army of one but one of many taking up the gauntlet thrown at our feet. Millions of lives hang in the balance, their futures determined in part by wheter or not we act. Ultimately, I pray that we not stand down from our post. Not us. Not now. Not on our watch.

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