Friday, August 27, 2010

denying the deity of Jesus before A.D. 200

I am thoroughly enjoying this work written in the early 300's, Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, because human nature is so conserved over time. The church enjoys public favor then falls into disfavor resulting in persecution and death. The church enjoys unity then is divided by schismatics who think up all sorts of crazy theologies that tend to result in their own physical well-being and personal wealth.

Recently, at the lunch time Bible study I belong to at work, our free flowing conversation, based on John 13, gravitated toward the deity of Jesus. Is he or isn't he God and if he is, how can there also be a God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit, but God can still be one? This mystery is solved as early as Tertullian, writing in North Africa, in the early 200's, maybe only 140 years after John wrote his gospel. It was later hammered out at the Nicene council, which I wrote about before. Basically, one substance, God, but three persons, or, "three who's and one what." Augustine makes a nice comparison of the Trinity to love. But one member of our group is thoroughly convinced that the Trinity is a heresy introduced by Constantine. He was on shaky ground, as we were reading John's gospel, which is tightly focused on the deity of Jesus. So I pointed to the numerous attempts by John to portray Jesus as God.

A few days later, I come across the same controversy around the time of Tertullian's writing about the Trinity, that even then, so close to the teachings of the apostles, still ringing in the ears of some, that others were denying the deity of Jesus. The first link, is to the subsection on this controversy. But I enjoy the appeals made at the time, in attempts to reason with the heretics.

I will quote from the 1965 Penguin Books version translated by G. A. Williamson. But I encourage the reader to refer to all the footnotes in the online CCEL version.
In a polemic composed by one of these against Artemon's heresy, which again in my own day Paul of Samosata has tried to revive, there is extant a discussion pretinent to the historical period under review. For the assertion of the heresy in question, that the Saviour was merely human, is exposed in this book as recent invention, because those who introduced it were anxious to represent i as ancient and therefore respectable. After adducing many other arguments to refute their blasphemous falsehood, the writer continues:

They claim that all earlier generations, and the apostles themselves, received and taught the things they say themselves, and that the true teaching was preserved till the times of Victor, the thirteenth Bishop of Rome after Peter: from the time of his successor Zephyrinus the truth was deliberately perverted. This suggestions might perhaps have been credible if in the first place Holy Scripture has not presented a very different picture; and there are also works by Christian writers published before Victor's time, written to defend the truth against both pagan criticism and current heresies - I mean works by Justin, Miltiades, Tatian, Clement, and many more. In every one of these Christ is spoken of as God. For who does not know the books of Irenaeus, Melito, and the rest, which proclaim Christ as God and man, and all the psalms and hymns written from the beginning by faithful brethren, which sing of Christ as the Word of God and address Him as God?How then can it be true that when the mind of the Church has been porclaimed for so many years, Christians up to the time of Victor preached as these people say they did? And are they not ashamed to slander Bictor in this way, knowing perfectly well that it was victor who excommunicated Theodotus, the shoemaker, the prime mover and father of the God-denying apostasy, when he became the first to declare that Christ was merely human? If Victor regarded their views in the way their slanderous statements suggest, how could he have thrown out Theodotus, the inventor of heresy? pp. 235-236
So back then, 100 years before Constantine, it was Bishop Zephyrinus who was to blame. Eventually, the heretic runs out of time on who to blame. But they claimed a bishop as a supporter, Victor, who had ex-communicated the same type of heretics they were.

History comforts me. It tells me my experiences are not solitary nor unique. It tells me there is nothing new under the sun. It tells me, people are the same, age to age and perpetually in need of a God who desires to rescue them from their sins and ignorance and slaveries.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

cinema review: Inception (2010)

The major theme of this movie might seem to be the power of an idea, which is compared to a virulent virus which overtakes minds and can overtake societies. We can receive ideas, or conceive them ourselves, but to deceive someone to think they conceived the idea is the act of inception. In this sci-fi world, people have learned how to invade other's dreams to steal secrets, which leads to the real theme of the movie, haunted minds. Regret, unforgiveness, guilt are all emotions that can cripple and destroy us and those around us. Inception is about a dream burglar, the best in the world, whose ghosts put his team and his mission in danger.

If you don't like spoilers, don't read any further, but go enjoy the movie then come back here.
Inception (film)Image via Wikipedia

Dom Cobb is the best dream burglar in the world because he has gone where no others have. Time slows in dream world, and minutes in our world can be hours in a dream and weeks in a dream within a dream. Only Cobb and his deceased wife have gone deeper than that. They lived together for 50 years in a dream world, but only a day in reality. But she didn't like this world anymore. She was no longer in charge of it. And, because of his suggestion while they were in dreamworld, she doubted which world was real. One way to escape from a dream is to die. She sought to escape the real world and killed herself, inviting her husband to join in, but also implicating him as her murderer should he not join her. He didn't join her, but had to flee the country and his children, to escape the charges.

He continued to work in the field of corporate espionage, but was handicapped by the ghost of his wife, who would try to sabotage his jobs. It wasn't really her, just a projection of his sub-conscious. When this problem is revealed by a new dream burglar, recruited for the biggest job ever attempted, the inception, she tells Cobb that the only solution is to let go of her, to forgive himself, to let the guilt go.

All this is true, but it's even better when we let Jesus forgive us. I discussed this theme with my adolescent kids after the movie. I told them to not hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness and to not plan revenge or hold onto hatred. I exhorted them to trust Jesus when he tells us in his famous sermon on the mount, to daily ask God to forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sinned against us. At one level, I agree we need to forgive ourselves, but to ask God to forgive us, to acknowledge that our actions offend Him as well, cleanses us at a deeper level.

In my view, writer/director Christopher Nolan gave us a beautifully packaged lesson on forgiveness. He started working on this movie in 2001. If it was only a movie about dream burglars and ideas, the movie would have been vapid. But making it about forgiveness brings it deeper and is worth watching.

Friday, August 13, 2010

book report: Christians are Hate-filled Hypocrites 2010 by Bradley Wright

I have only known UConn Sociology professor Bradley R. E. Wright through the internet but he still was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book to review. I loved it. It's got a long title, but it tells you everything you need to know, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media. I started reading Wright's blog soon after he started it, when he was investigating the assertion that Christian divorce rates are no different from non-Christian divorce rates in America. As he pointed out, things are more complicated than that. But you can read the series yourself, or the book, to get the rest of the story. One lesson I learned from all the data he presents from large national surveys is that, in general, the more often you go to church, the more likely you will behave in a Christian way, with the exception of minority tolerance. I could focus on that bit of negativity, but, as Wright points out, it's that inconsistent stuff, the non-Christian behavior of Christians, that sells papers, magazines, books, and conferences. But most of the negativity that comes out from Christian pollsters should be taken with a pound of salt. Here is how the "chicken littles" of the american church sound to Wright,
Their message can go something like this: American Christianity is rapidly dying, and Christians are immoral, disliked, and not very good at being Christians, so ... go invite your friends to join us. Frankly, if after two millennia on Earth and several centuries in this country, Christianity is as messed up as people like to describe it, we should probably just give up. No book or conference or magazine article is going to save it now. Thankfully, this appears not to be the case, and many things are going well. When we invite others to join us in our faith, we are not asking them to jump onto a sinking ship; rather, it's a ship going at maybe three-quarters speed in mostly the right direction. p. 213
Thank you professor Wright. You can get a sense of his conversational tone in his writing. Although an academic, he has written this for anyone. There are tons of graphs and charts in the book, but that's a good thing, because a picture is worth a thousand words. There are pictures showing the growth of evangelicalism in america since the revolution, the retention of the youth, the consistent practice of Christian ethics and practices in the church, etc. The sky is not falling on the american evangelical church. Jesus made a promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church, Matthew 16:18. Maybe the Holy Spirit really does work in the lives of believers and changes their hearts, and if that is true, maybe this year's crisis is nothing the Holy Spirit is worried about. Wright's book, seems to support a correct theology of the Holy Spirit, indirectly, simply using large data samples from groups without interest in selling solutions.
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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

a couple things Aug 11, 2010

I listen to Pandora in the lab at work regularly as I'm running my experiments. I have quite a variety of artists in my playlists, but I made a new one based on Dave Brubeck, and I love it so much that I haven't listened to anything else. I like Pandora, but I love what they offer in the Dave Brubeck genre. They play plenty of Brubeck, but also other great stuff. Music I can leave on in the office and the lab all day that no one gets sick of, yet.

After I finished last night's book report, I dove into the next one by Bradley Wright, a sociologist at my alma mater, UConn. His book is Christians are Hate-filled Hypocrites...and other lies you've been told. I hated statistics when I took at UConn, but I use them at work now, and I love a book full of statistics, like this one. In pharmaceutical trials, my company has to recruit thousands of volunteers in the 3rd phase of drug development, to prove to the FDA and other regulatory bodies around the world that the effects seen in smaller trials are indeed reproducible in larger populations. This is called statistical power. Whereas, headline grabbing statistics about the demise of Christianity are underpowered, Wright presents data from large studies that track over decades. Stuff like that gives me warm fuzzies. As the title suggests, the headline grabbers, don't necessarily agree with the very large religious surveys. He has a great blog as well.

I love this recipe I found in a jiffy to get the skunk stink off my dog. The short answer, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, some dish soap, and warm water. She's still outside on a very short leash drying off right now. Has someone invented anything to spray in the air around the house?

Composed while listening to some great piano jazz.
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

book report: Beyond Opinion (2007) by Ravi Zacharias

As a Booksneeze book reviewer, I was so excited to receive a Ravi Zacharias book, Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith we Defend, for review. He is on our local Christian radio station, WCSE, and those 15 minute shows are usually so compelling, we’ll sit in the car to hear the end of the show. The recorded presentations are very palatable because the apologetics are weaved into compelling narratives. The book does not go down so easy, which is not a bad thing, especially if you like more meat than potato. Mr. Zacharias serves as the general editor and contributor to

Cover of Cover via Amazon

the book. Other chapters are written by current and former staff from his apologetics ministry. Of the 14 essays, three were most enjoyable to me: Challenges from Science by John Lennox, The Trinity as a Paradigm for Spiritual Transformation by L. T. Jeyachandran, and Idolatry, Denial, and Self-Deception: Hearts on Pilgrimage by Danielle DuRant. I enjoyed the first because I am a biologist by day and I appreciate a hearty scientific discussion from a lecturer at Oxford in mathematics. I enjoyed the second because I never realized how much sense the trinity actually makes. I enjoyed the third because it confronted me and challenged me to stay alert on my journey of faith through this life. Each essay stands on its own and if one is not interesting there are many more to learn from. I heartily recommend this to all who dwell on the difficult but important ideas about life, faith, religion and truth.
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Monday, August 09, 2010

consistency of Christian discrimination

I'm finishing up Ravi Zacharias's book on apologetics, Beyond Opinion, and the last chapter, The church's role in apologetics and the development of the mind, is written by himself. He is the editor of the book, but also contributes a couple chapters, this one and one on evil. I will set up his position on discrimination by quoting his take on truth.
You see, truth by definition is exclusive. If truth were all-inclusive, nothing would be false. And if nothing were false, what would be the meaning of true? Furthermore, if nothing were false, would it be true to say that everything is false? It quickly becomes evident that nonsense would follow. p. 314
If I tell you something is true, then I am also telling you something is not true. If I tell you that the apple is red, then I am also telling you it is not blue. This plays out in a conversation he had with a reporter.
I had just finished lecturing at a university. She [the reporter - jpu] had very graciously stayed through the entire length of the lecture even though she had other pressing engagements. After the lecture was over, she was walking beside me and asked, "Can I ask you a question that really troubles me about Christians?" I was glad to oblige. "Why," she asked, "are Christians openly against racial discrimination but at the same time discriminate against certain types of sexual behavior?" (She was more specific about the types of behavior she felt we discriminated against.)
I said this to her: "We are against racial discrimination because one's ethnicity is sacred. You cannot violate the sacredness of one's race. For the same reason, we are against the altering of God's pattern and purpose for sexuality. Sex is sacred in the eyes of God and ought not to be violated. What you have to explain is why you treat race as sacred and desacralize sexuality. The question is really yours, not mine. In other words, our reasoning in both cases stems from the same foundational basis. You in effect switch the basis of reasoning, and that is why you are living in contradiction." pp. 322-323
As a believer in Jesus Christ, I trust his definition of marriage, Matthew 19:4-6, and his gentle condemnation of sex outside of marriage, John 4:18. I've heard gay marriage defended by fellow believers in the name of trajectory, that Jesus could not reveal his accommodation for their orientation, but their trajectory is only apparent to their gnostic priests. Only those with the secret knowledge, because those of us with public knowledge cannot read the same words they do and arrive at the same conclusion except self-delusion or cognitive dissonance. Others say it is all about love. But doesn't the author of love get to define it?
Paul writes about it famously in 1 Corinthians 13
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I am focused on the these four verses with the affirmations of love. He wrote this to a church formed in the midst of a sensual city, composed of sensual people who, before their salvation, had partaken in all sorts of sensual, but empty, delights. Some were having a hard time letting go of the anything goes mentality. I'm drawn to verse 6. Who gets to define what is evil? Someone is good, all good and only one is good, God, Matthew 19:17. He defines it through his prophets. But God is patient and kind and not rude nor easily angered. We are no more than toddlers fighting over crackers and toys. But leading an insurrection in the playroom will only succeed in timeout. God wants us rejoice with Him, the truth.
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Sunday, August 08, 2010

idolatry and cognitive dissonance in the Christian life

I'm almost done with a new anthology from RZIM, Beyond Opinion, Living the Faith we defend,
2007, edited by Ravi Zacharias. In the chapter by Danielle DuRant titled, Idolatry, Denial, and Self-deception, I was intrigued enough but her thoughts that I wanted to put them here for the viewing public's consideration.

What is idolatry? It is "treating what is not ultimate as though it were ultimate, making absolute what is only relative," says Emory professor Luke Timothy Johnson. Whenever we deem a particular relationship or goal an absolute necessity - I must have this - we are in danger of idolatry. According to Martin Luther, whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, that is your God. "An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as a substitute for God,: suggests Dick Keyes. Since an idol is a counterfeit, it is a lie. Deception is its very identity...Tather than look to the Creator and have to deal with His lordship, we orient our lives toward the creation, where we can be more free to congtrol and shape our desired directions."
Idolatry distorts our knowledge of God, ourselves, and others. p. 279

I wrote about idolatry (a, b, c, d, e, f) in my Ten Commandment series. But I really love the collection of quotes she rounded up. Although she didn't mention it, the last statement she writes reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Jesus in John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. That simple statement is so profound, and it is what keeps us from idolatry.

It was DuRant's subsequent discussion on turning away from correct knowledge as a turning to idolatry jumped out at me.
Though our doubts and ambivalence may sometimes overwhelm us, they also help us ease our internal conflict by allowing us to avoid commitment to a particular known truth...
Social scientists label the experience of attempting to hold two opposing views ("I know this is wrong but I want it") as cognitive dissonance. One endeavors to reduce the conflict by changing the conditions ("Did God really say?"), adding new conditions ("My spouse doesn't love me anyway"), or changing one's behavior. When the individual refuses to submit to the truth, an attempt is made to reconcile the internal conflict by rationalizing the behavior ("God understands my weakness") or by refusing to acknowledge the truth (avoidance).

In this valley we attempt to internalize our dissonant voices in a way that allows us to alleviate our anxiety by avoiding commitment to a particular truth. p.286
She speaks of the valleys of doubt and distraction on our Christian journeys. Cognitive dissonance allows us to remain in a valley even though we know, or have been told, such a valley will weaken us and make it hard for us to follow our shepherd. But the Bible is full of such examples. One of the early ones is the children of Israel who after being delivered from the Egyptians, feared obeying the Lord and entering the promised land. She illustrates from Dueteronomy 1. ...
Moses reminds them, the Lord your God is compassionate, attentive, and trustworthy.
The next verse reveals, however, that the Israelites have not resolved their fear and doubts: "In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord you God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go" (vv.32-33: emphasis added). Bible teacher Beth Moore underscores the significance of this introductory phrase as it appears in the King James version: "Yet in this thing you did not believe the Lord your God." She proposes that we may have no trouble believing God in many areas of our lives, with the exception of "this thing." Yet leaving "this thing" unresolved will ultimately undermine our faith and trust in him because "this thing...corresponds with the deepest brokenness in your life." Thus, "deep down in our psyche, we just know God is not going to be faithful to us here" - because God was seemingly unfaithful in our place of brokenness. p. 288
I thought to myself, I know I have held onto many a "this thing." Just the other night, I woke up feeling convicted about watching a movie online that I hadn't paid for. It was a lame movie and I was bored and looking for something to do, and searched for free movies online and found one remotely interesting. But I hadn't paid for it. It was pirated. I was guilty of theft. And God convicted me of that in the middle of the night. He woke me up. And I resisted repenting. I justified myself. But I knew it would take more work to fight God, to kick against the goads, than to agree with Him. I really wanted to go back to sleep too. So I didn't fight God long. But I was holding onto something so stupid, my "right" to watch lame movies for free constantly interrupted by re-buffering.

At my Bible study at work, we share many stories of how we can relate to the characters we encounter in the passage we look at. I really admire the people who listen to God when they feel his conviction in their hearts. I want to be like them. I want to trust Jesus like they do. This chapter by Danielle DuRant makes it simple. Know God. If I know him correctly, why wouldn't I trust Him in every area he seeks to bring under submission in my own life. He is trustworthy. There is nothing to argue about and the arguing looks so much like a toddler meltdown in hindsight. A full blown meltdown only wastes time, but my toddlers always lost those battles. They still went with me where I wanted to go, just more uncomfortably. Sometimes I told them, "you can do it now, or do it after the spanking." I think God lets me know, I can trust him now, or after the period of discomfort, but He loves me enough to get me where he wants me, despite my petty objections. Because He loves me. Why do I doubt that?

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Monday, August 02, 2010

another blogger's thoughts: Did God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?

I very much appreciate the thinking that has gone into this article and the response to the atrocities of Joshua. Here is the introduction, but I hope you will go read it all.

Contra Mundum: Did God Command Genocide in the Old Testament?: "

Perhaps the most perplexing issue facing Christan believers is a series of jarring texts in the Old Testament. After liberating Israel from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites arrived on the edge of the promised land. The book of Deuteronomy records that God then commanded Israel to “destroy totally” the people occupying these regions (the Canaanites); the Israelites were to “leave alive nothing that breathes.” The book of Joshua records the carrying out of this command. In the sixth chapter it states “they devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.” In the tenth and eleventh chapters the text states that Joshua “left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.” The text mentions city after city where Joshua, at God’s command, puts every inhabitant “to the sword” and “left no survivors.” If these passages are taken in a strict, literal fashion then it is correct to conclude that they do record the divinely authorised commission of genocide. In light of this critics of Christianity often ask how a good and loving God could command the extermination of the Canaanites?

In response, I want to suggest that this strict, literal reading is mistaken. Reading these texts in isolation from the narrative in which they occur risks a distortion of the authors intended meaning. Consider the book of Joshua, critics are quick to point out that in chapters ten and eleven the text states that Joshua “totally destroyed all who breathed”, left “no survivors” in “the entire land”, went through the land “exterminating them without mercy”.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

a sermon on mercy with emphasis on Haiti

I gave this sermon this morning at my church.

Two Wednesday nights ago, four 50 somethings from this area, could not fall asleep again. The previous nights were due to the heat and humidity, but this was humidity on a new level of misery. These Yankees had never experienced a thunderstorm so loud and violent and rain so hard as this one. But then, none of them had ever been in Haiti before, in July. Although this house in Jacmel, on the southeastern coast of Haiti had remained standing after the massive earthquake of January 12th, 2010, it apparently had lost some strength in its roof. With this much water coming down, so hard and so fast, all the cracks in the flat concrete roof let the rain in on the team, who were alone for their first night. So they got up in the night and started to mop out the wet rooms. At least they were on bunk beds off the floor. Compared to tens of thousands of Haitians throughout SE Haiti, they were living in luxury: electricity, flush toilets, showers, solid walls, fans that almost kept them cool at night and drowned out the screeching roosters who argue all night. Unlike thousands of Haitians still in tents that night, they wouldn’t have to stand up all night while the water gathered on the floor of their tarp shelter and soaked their bedding.

Why were these 4 middle aged Yankees there last week? Because they wanted to embody the mercy of God.

Proverbs 14:21 He who despises his neighbor sins,
but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.

Are Haitians our neighbors? They aren’t even Americans. They live 700 miles south of Miami and a 90 minute plane ride. They practice voodoo which is scary and weird. Their country is so screwed up, they are the poorest country on this side of the planet. But on January 12 a massive earthquake killed nearly a quarter million Haitians and made a million survivors homeless. They are in need. And God blesses those who are kind to the needy.
But you know there are people in need right now in Norwich. Do you also need to concern yourself with Haitians too? Jesus met a guy with a similar question.

Luke 10:25-37 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

LK 10:26 "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

LK 10:27 He answered: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, `Love your neighbor as yourself.' "

LK 10:28 "You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

LK 10:29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

LK 10:30 In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest/UN worker happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite/Red Cross, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan/50 year old corrections officer, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,' he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'

LK 10:36 "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

LK 10:37 The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."
Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."

Back in January, right after the earthquake, Pastor Joe decided that all the money given that morning would be set aside for an opportunity to have mercy on some Haitians in need. We spent most of it on this trip. Because of the gifts made to this church, we were able to provide $6000 towards the construction of a new house for a single mom in Jacmel, built by Haitians your money hired, and 2 guys from here. It is only 12’x15’, but its enough to sleep in, especially in those monster thunderstorms, as well as a hurricane.

Proverbs 14:31 He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

God’s word tells us, that caring for those in need, our neighbors is a way to honor Him, which means a way to worship Him. It’s a form of worship because it’s a form of imitation. God is merciful, so his children should be as well.

Jesus says as much in Luke 6:35-36
LK 6: 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

I want to thank you on behalf of the team for the honor of embodying the mercy of God in Haiti with your assistance. I want to thank you on behalf of a Haitian woman and her kids in Haiti for providing a home to replace the one destroyed in the earthquake. But that is only one woman. I want to encourage you to keep being generous to the Haitians. My hope for you is to embody God’s mercy consistently and make generosity part of your identity.

Proverbs 11:24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more;
another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

PR 11:25 A generous man will prosper;
he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.

Your generosity goes so far in Haiti. One team member, when she returned realized her daughter, making $10 an hour was making in a day what we paid the Haitian house builders for the week. The Haitians aren’t paid by the hour, but by the day. They made $12 a day last week. That was good before the earthquake when unemployment was over 80%, but it’s even more important now. Not only did you bless one woman, but you blessed 4 families, whose men were able to bring in food money and rent money and clothes money.

When I came back in February and told you how kids could be educated, fed, clothed, and doctored for a dollar a day, many of you responded and committed to sponsoring over 60 Haitian kids.

Another team member returned and found out her dog needs some medical care. She realized her dog is getting better care than most Haitians. Your giving goes a long way down there.

Proverbs 21:13 If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor,
he too will cry out and not be answered.

Mercy is demonstrated in generosity to the poor. Jesus says in the beatitudes,

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

He explains this in more detail in Matthew 25:31-46.
MT 25:31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

MT 25:34 "Then the King will say to those on his right, `Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

MT 25:37 "Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

MT 25:40 "The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

MT 25:41 "Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

MT 25:44 "They also will answer, `Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

MT 25:45 "He will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

MT 25:46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Hunger? Yes! The team had a block party with kids on the streets for 3 nights. They saw kids with the distended abdomens which indicated malnutrition. They also children with orange hair which indicates lack of protein. Children still die in Haiti, as they did before the quake from malnutrition. You can feed Jesus in Haiti.

Thirsty? Yes! There well water isn’t safe for Westerners to drink. They buy bottled water. Instead of oil trucks up here in New England, Haiti has water trucks that people who have so little money need to buy from if they don’t want the dirty water. I read one account of the business owners in Haiti complaining about the aid distribution that included water, because it was hurting their bottom line! You can help Jesus’ thirst in Haiti.

Naked? Yes! Some kids run around bottomless. Most of the kids have worn through shoes, but on that rocky island, really need something better for their feet. The house builders were mixing cement with shovels in bare feet. The Yankee thought for sure someone would lose some toes. Each team member ended up giving the extra clothes and shoes they came down with to Haitians. You can clothe Jesus in Haiti.

Strangers? Yes! Between 2 and 300,000 children are house slaves in Haitian households. Here is one woman’s story.
Alina "Tibebe" Cajuste described her childhood as a restav├Ęk this way:
"This is a sad, sad story to the world. A woman who used to come sell in the market told my mother to give me to her. My mother had no support, so she had to.
"What did this woman make me do? I had to get up before 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning to make the food, sweep the floor and wash the car, so that when the family woke up everything would be ready. Then I had to wash dishes, fetch water and go sell merchandise for her in the countryside. When I came back from the marketplace, I would carry two drums of water on my head, so heavy, to wash up for her. Then I'd go buy things to make dinner. And I couldn't even eat the same food as her. If she ate rice, I only got cornmeal. I didn't even wear the same sandals or dresses as her child. My dresses were made out of the scraps of cloth that were left over from what she sold in the marketplace. I couldn't even sleep in a bed."
You can welcome Jesus out of slavery in Haiti.

Sick? Yes! The team went to one understaffed orphanage where the children were provided for physically. They weren’t starving, but even kids up to 7 years old were laying in cribs. The women couldn’t make it past the third crib before they were overwhelmed with tears and broken hearts for these kids. They were able to leave toys in the cribs and hug these kids and hold them. In fact, I have a picture of them each holding a child and trying to smile, but their puffy wet eyes tell a more complicated story. You can look after Jesus in Haiti.

Paul encourages us in Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

So the team partnered with a ministry and a local church down there. After traveling all day Saturday, they were able to worship with their Haitian family on Sunday. Then Monday through Thursday, they tried to bless that family.

While the guys mixed cement and lifted block, the women taught a Vacation Bible School. Haitian kids have nothing, so they play with garbage. But the women had gone to the dollar store and bought pencils and stickers and glow in the dark bracelets and post-it notes in the shape of stars. The kids were so excited to have these trinkets. Even the adults wanted them.

And every kid wanted the gift of Jesus. Apparently, they will receive the gift of salvation from Jesus every time the invitation is made by visiting teams. But why not?

Jesus offers hope. In the midst of all the devastation and poverty that the Haitians live in, not one Christian they met was bitter or nasty. The know the truth, better than we of 1 Timothy 6:17-19

1TI 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Jesus makes it so easy for us to go to heaven, by taking on himself the just penalty due for our sins. All we need to do is agree with him. Jesus tells us several times how simple it is. In Luke 18:9-14 he says

LK 18:9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

LK 18:13 "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

LK 18:14 "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

But we want to earn it somehow by doing something good. But Jesus says there is only one thing to do in John 6:28, 29, 40, 47.
JN 6:28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
JN 6:29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."
40 For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.

If you haven’t received God’s mercy first, I plead with you today to do so. If you have done it, I plead with you to honor God by being kind to the needy and care for Jesus by caring for the poor. If you are not already regularly being generous, I hope you will consider helping Haitians through groups like our hosts in Jacmel, or sponsor kids with the groups (story 1 a, b, c, or story 2) I went with, Mission E4, and Calvary Chapel Port-au-Prince who have an orphanage as well, or Samaritian's Purse, or the Salvation Army. I have seen what they are doing, and I can assure you, your money will be spent on the poor.

James tells us,

James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.