Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Our Origins blog 2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog. Want to see who and how many checked it out this year? See below.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,200 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Bloom Where You’re Planted – South Africa Flowers

I was quite surprised when I learned South Africa boasted her own floral kingdom. Honestly, I thought to myself, “just because Darwin stopped off for a while on his trip around the world isn’t reason enough for a place to have its own floral kingdom. Especially when one considers there are only six such kingdoms world wide.
But in my time here, I’ve seen why such a high honor is deserved by this place. Below are a select few reasons why I’ve changed my mind.

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One of over 200 varieties of Protea.

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Wall flowers.

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There’s a hummingbird perched above these flowers, in front of the aloe tree.

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Beauty in an unlikely place atop Table Mountain.

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At Stellan Bosch University campus.

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I don’t even know what these are, but they’re everywhere! Let me know what they are and I’ll send you a copy of my book.

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More orange beauties.

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The King Protea, national flower.

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Crane flower.

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More proteas.

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Calla Lily in a slum.

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An Anglican rose.

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Bird of Paradise.

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“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God will stand forever!” Isaiah 40:8 ESV.

Citizens of Nowhere

You shall not oppress an immigrant. You know the heart of an immigrant, for you were immigrants in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

These words to God’s people Israel, spoken from Mount Sinai at the very same time Moses received the Ten Commandments from the Lord, have fallen on the deaf ears of many of God’s people in America today.  We act as if we have done something to deserve the status that we enjoy as citizens of the United States of America.  When in fact, the vastest majority of us never did anything to deserve our legal standing as citizens.  We were just born here.

We are taught to look down on those who are different than us, especially “illegal” immigrants.  We have begun looking at them as “those people,” as if we are somehow different from them in a way that makes us superior to them.  This is not true in the eyes of God or in reality.  Yet another misconception that has been blown out of my mind in my time in Tijuana is that my story really isn’t any different from the story of many men in the mission because they were born here too.

When I say they were born here, I mean in the United States.  Yes, that’s right, many of the people the INS are deporting were born in the United States of America.

One such man is named Matt.  He was born in Southern California to “illegal” immigrants who were too scared of the authorities to have him in the hospital.  So instead, his mother delivered him at home.  This means that there is no paper work to document his American birth or his eligibility for US citizenship.

Matt grew up, went to school, married a woman and had three children.  He earned a decent living in construction, even making ends meet through the housing collapse.  Even though he was born here, worked hard, and has never been in trouble with the law, he was deported.

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About 1,200 immigrants receive a free meal at this soup kitchen every day. Many of the men who stay at the mission walk three hours each way for lunch.

He was deported because he was driving his motorcycle with a burned out light, got pulled over and had no driver’s license.  The police arrested him on the spot and in less than a week he was deported to Mexico.  But the catch is, Matt isn’t a citizen of Mexico either.  He is literally a citizen of nowhere.

As a citizen of nowhere he has no rights in the US or Mexico or anywhere else.  He’s stuck.  He’s the victim of a system that thirty years ago welcomed migrants.  Now we can’t get rid of them quickly enough.  What did Matt do to deserve this?

You shall not oppress an immigrant. You know the heart of an immigrant, for you were immigrants in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 23:9)

God told His people Israel not to oppress immigrants before they even entered the Promised Land because he knew that as soon as they got settled and took ownership of the Promised Land that their hearts would change.  He knew that as long as they were the immigrant, they would demand respect and justice for immigrants.  But once settled, immigrants could be considered a threat.  They would be taken advantage of because they had no rights unless He granted them.  And so, God granted immigrants the same rights as citizens in Israel.

Now, I don’t think that in our context that it would be wise to grant everybody who wants into our country or everybody who wants to stay in our country blanket amnesty.  We have to be responsible about who is allowed to enter our country and who can stay.  Instead of kicking everybody out or allowing everybody in, we should find a reasonable compromise that allows responsible people in or to stay, while those who are grossly irresponsible are returned to their native land or otherwise dealt with.

Care for the most vulnerable in society, including immigrants gets right to the heart of the Lord.  In the law, we see something deeper than a list of rights and wrongs as God’s people.  We see who we were created to be in light of the perfect love we have first received from God.

Granted, no one besides Jesus will ever be able to keep the law perfectly, but the law nonetheless tells us who we are as God’s people.  It tells us what is in line and out of line for us.  That line is not set by politicians or borders or preconceived notions.  It is a line that has been drawn hard and fast by God.

According to God, everyone for whom Christ died deserves equal treatment under the law.  This means that spiritually and politically speaking all are created equal and deserve equal treatment.  We as the people of God, who enjoy true spiritual freedom in Christ through the forgiveness of sins, should be seeking equity for all under the laws of this land as an expression of the freedom we have in Christ.

We are not ever told what those laws need to be or how they are to be brought into existence.  We have the freedom to work that out amongst ourselves. But we are called to ensure the fair treatment of all people.

The struggle and yearning for freedom is great preparation for the next life.  Those who don’t enjoy equality long for the day they will have she same rights as everybody else forever.  We who have freedom and use our freedom to secure the freedom for others grow in the likeness of Christ.

We citizens of heaven can be a blessing to citizens of nowhere by speaking up for their rights.  When we do, we offer hope to others that gives them a tiny glimpse of the hope we have in Christ.  When we live as the blessed and as a blessing, everybody enjoys a greater measure of the freedom God has created us to have.  Living under the cross, we are prepared to live in glory.

Live First, Work Second.

A few weeks ago, I learned of an interesting book by Rebecca Ryan titled, Live First, Work Second. The title intrigued me, and when I began looking into it and it didn’t take long to stumble across the premise of the book.  It describes a generational shift that has happened in how Americans think about work.  In short:

“Three out of four Americans under the age of 28 said a cool city is more important than a good job.”

That’s a significant insight!  After reading it, I guess I don’t know young adults as well as I thought because this idea had never occurred to me before.  But since reading more on the subject and conducting random straw polls in small gatherings of young people, I see this mindset alive and well among many of the young adults I work with and minister to.

Ryan continues, “The work/life calculus for the next generation had shifted.  Their parents may have followed a job, a promotion or corporate marching orders.  But the next generation was following their bliss, choosing cool cities and then finding work” (emphasis added).

What does this say about today’s young professionals and college students who are preparing for adulthood by figuring out where they want to live and then finding work once they get there?  It tells me that to them, the job isn’t as important as the life.

Wow!  It almost shocks me to say that this is a revelation.  Shouldn’t it have always been that way?!?

Yes, if we have our priorities right, work should come after life, and yet, when Americans entering the workforce embrace a Live First, Work Second mindset, it’s a cultural shift so big that it may very well affect the economic geography of our country (with even more people flocking to the coasts and large cities) and threaten the economies of entire states that can’t help the fact that they don’t appear to outsiders as fun and exciting places to live.

This trend is changing the way employers try to lure and retain the most promising talent.  Ever heard of what Google is doing to find and keep their employees?  Amazon has also been through a major revamping of its image as an employer, making it a coveted place to work in Seattle.

What can this shift in attitudes towards work teach all of us about our relationship between work and life?  Well, it makes me think this generation has seen how “happy” their parents are after years of pressing through the daily grind just to earn a living.  I wonder if unsatisfactory relationships with parents who never had enough time for them (most Millenials were raised in high-stress and/or broken homes) has shed an unsavory light on the priorities of previous generations.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Working and earning a living, the right to choose what you want to do for a living, how long you work and having some say in how much you make based on your occupational choice are all blessings from God.  But have Americans traditionally had an unhealthy relationship with their work?  Could doing have become more important than being in our hard-working, ruggedly individualistic society?

Ask someone to tell you something about themselves and they usually tell you what they do.  Ask them a follow-up question about who they are or what makes them unique and most struggle to come up with a good way to describe themselves without telling you again what they do or where they live.  This shouldn’t be the case for Christians.  As Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, ESV)

A view from the mountain where tradition says Jesus taught His disciples who they were in light of His undying love, not what they had to do in order to earn His love.

A view from the mountain where tradition says Jesus taught His disciples who they were in light of His undying love, not what they had to do in order to earn His love.

God has given us our identity in Christ who has taught us to seek His kingdom and His righteousness, confident that God will take care of the details for us.  I think that the millennial ideal of Live First, Work Second makes the Millennial mind more receptive to a gospel of being instead of doing.  If we understand who we are in light of Christ and His sacrifice for us, we will be led on the way of true joy and happiness.

If we get who we are in Christ and live lives invested in eternity, everything we do has eternal value because of WHO WE ARE.  Not because of what we do.  This gives everything in life lasting meaning.

This mindest equips Christians with an ethos, an understanding of who they are, that makes all of the difference between emptiness and fulfillment.  So who are we?  Redeemed children of God whose sins have been washed away by the blood of the Lamb.  Cleansed by His righteousness, we live in light of the resurrection.  Assured of our share in the hope of the resurrection, we are given every day as a gift to freely serve our Lord and Savior.

This is the mentality of the life of faith which is founded upon who God is and who He has made us in Christ.  This way of living is the only Way that offers a fulfilling satisfaction for the soul that longs for eternity in a dying world.  A scriptural Live First, Work Second mindset is Holy Spirit given and allows Christians freedom to love and to serve and to find a truly fulfilling life in Christ.

Live First, Work Second!

Has the Church mistakenly made the Good News sound like old news?

A tour through Redeemer’s library reveals why many young people today see the Church as outdated and irrelevant. Filled with materials about faith and science dating back to the 1950’s (before many Millennials’ parents were even born), it is a somber illustration of why the Church has trouble connecting with young people today.
In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus showed that genuine love includes meeting people where they are. If today’s youth are very aware of the tension between science and faith, the Church owes it to them and the Savior to reach out to them in familiar terms. Instead of retreating into the pews and expecting young people to go out of their way to come to us, Christians need to be out on the streets, so to speak, lifting up those who are struggling to make sense of life.
The only way wounded and wayward souls will feel the healing touch of Christ’s love and grow in a wholesome understanding of self is by being taught the timeless Truth. God created us and everything we see. He loves us enough to take-up our sinful brokenness by suffering with us and for us. He restores us by giving us forgiveness and faith to know the truth about ourselves and the Truth about Him.
Those who already know the Truth, transformed by the Truth reach out with the Truth—that’s easy because this is God’s work in us. The more difficult part of this task is doing so in LOVE. Possibly the most difficult is doing so in a way that makes sense to people who have an entirely different way of looking at the world than we do. We can reach out in a way that makes sense to others because God has shown us how by reaching us with His love. He has given us His Holy Spirit to reach others in spite of ourselves.
I have learned how God can use me in spite of myself first hand. It is both humbling and empowering to be used by God to reach others with His love. For my part, I’m trying to do a better job of reaching out because God has shown me how important it is for me to step out of my comfort zone and reach out online. Learning from missed opportunities, it’s the least I can do for the One who has done everything possible to bless me with life and salvation by teaching me the Truth.
“Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him’” (John 14:5-7 ESV).