We are all the beneficiaries of someone telling someone telling someone generation after generation and from many parts of the world. The "Famous Last Words" of Jesus have come true, but it's not over yet--and won't be until He returns. Do we know our faith genealogy? It's a family tree-there are many branches in both directions.
Part of my own story is shared with a good part of the Western world. The first followers spread in many directions after the Resurrection and Ascension; spreading through the Middle East, as far east as India, and also west to Greece, Rome,Egypt and North Africa, and even in those first generations, as far as Gaul and Britain. As the Roman Empire collapsed after 450 AD, the Church survived and grew in the heartland of Europe. Many missionaries were sent out to spread the Gospel in what is now France and Germany; one of which was St. Ansgar. He was born and educated in what is now France, sent as a missionary to Sweden in 829AD, responding to a request from a Swedish king. He became the Bishop of Hamburg, in charge of missions to Denmark, Norway and Sweden. He was known for his visions; one was "I will make you the light of nations so that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth," which was interpreted a call to the "end of the world in the North", which was Sweden. By 1050, The Scandinavian countries were solidly Christian, and accepted the Reformation from Luther's Germany between 1530 and 1593. All of my great-grandparents, in both Sweden and Finland, were born and raised in Lutheran churches. I have been privileged to visit two of those churches, one in Sweden and one in Finland.)
My father's mother's grandfather was a shipowner in western Sweden, and his sons grew up as seamen. Two of them, my grandmother's father and his brother, were converted to a personal knowledge of salvation at the Mariner's Temple in New York, and decided to go back to Sweden to share their faith, even though it was illegal to have religious meetings outside of the State church. He and his brothers and their families were forced to leave Sweden, came to Minnesota, where my great-grandfather had a house church and his brother evangelized in the Swedish emigrant communities--a long ways from the coast of Sweden.
The Gospel is contagious! Jesus' followers and their spiritual descendants have gone from 120 people in Jerusalem to literally the ends of the earth. When Pastor Paul and a group of our people attended a cell-church symnposium in Waco, Texas that had speakers and participants from all over the world, many of the participants from Asia and Africa expressed their gratitude for missionaries from the Western countries that had brought the Gospel to their home countries.
What can we do? We may be called to go somewhere, near or far (I could say that I was called to San Bernardino, not of my own expectation!); we are called to support others with prayer and material blessing; we can also make a point of reaching out to people from somewhere else who are now on our doorsteps, who may go back, or go on, or become part of our community. We are called to recognize that "God so loved the World..", and we all have the choice to become a citizen of His world.
Saturday, April 30, 2016
Michael Weiss and I had our annual play date last Tuesday. We went down to Huntington Beach and rode bikes along the ocean. We talked, shared, and prayed. When the waves beside the pier called our names. We answered. As we swam past the first line of breakers Michael asked if I wanted to head for the outer break. Sure was my automatic response. Swimming warmed us up in the brisk 62 degree water. We hit a mild rip current and gladly rode it out past the third line of breakers. At one point a volunteer lifeguard paddled over to check on us. He concluded that, "You guys look pretty comfortable out here" and caught a wave for shore.
Our swim was a parable of my life right now. The man who adopted me and gave me his name is in Glendale on hospice. I have sat by his bed and told him how much I love him, and how much I appreciate him. Watching him on his journey is reminding me of just how much I am like him. As I write this, Karen is sitting behind me in a green recliner, with her broken leg freshly wrapped by the team who did her surgery yesterday. Plates, screws, a pin, and six weeks of good behavior should have her on the road to a full recovery.
Then there is NorthPoint. The goal is to move into the sanctuary for the beginning of our Hope series on May 15th. Life Groups are forming. Screens, lights, projectors, and fog machines are coming. Walls will be painted, curtains are being hung, door hangers need to be hung, and all the recent visitors need to be welcomed. Sprinklers are being repaired, tents are coming down, and speakers are going up. My dear son has truly taken the "bull by the horns" and gathered a fantastic team of faithful Christ followers. It is pure joy watching them dream dreams and see visions of NorthPoint's future.
My challenge is that when I am at church I think about Karen. When I'm with Karen I think about my dad. When I'm with my dad I think about church. It is like fighting the foamy rip in the second break of waves. My brain feels totally random and racing. My flesh wants to submit to the natural tendency of freaking out, melting down, getting angry, lashing out, or giving up. The right answer is to let the Spirit of God take over, and tell the mind and body to chill out, relax, float, trust, and breathe. God knows exactly what is going on. Nothing in my life is a surprise to him. My wife has graciously released me to spend nights in Glendale with my mom. My mom has graciously encouraged me to take care of my wife. My son has so stepped up and taken leadership at NorthPoint that I feel like a spectator.
God is graciously giving me everything I need. He has it handled. All I need do is check my ego at the door, and receive the love, grace, and support others are pouring out. My earthly family is a true family, and NorthPoint is a true spiritual family. When family is working well in partnership with God there is care, love, support, and grace enough to carry you through anything.
I want to thank all of you who have given love and grace to Karen, Chris, and I on this journey. I want to invite anyone else who feels "caught in the foamy froth of the second break of waves" to relax. Connect with the NorthPoint family in Sunday Celebration, the Hope groups that are forming, and one on one mentoring when your ready to go deeper. There really is power, love, grace, and mercy in the community of God's family. Sometimes God allows our plate to become so full we must realize our need for Him, and one another. When the foamy surf of life roughs us up it is time to relax and rest in the arms of God, family, friends, and our church fellowship. There really is strength and hope for the journey of life. I pray you all come and join me in the safety of this place.
With much love, appreciation, and heartfelt welcome to you all,