Meet Moses

On May 1, 1884, Moses Walker stepped up to the plate for the Toledo Blue Stockings - making him the first African-American baseball player to play professional baseball.  Sixty-three years later, Jackie Robinson swung the bat for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Jackie, rather than Moses, is most-often credited with the distinction of the first African-American man to play professional baseball. 

Wishing no ill toward Robinson's well-deserved fame, I nevertheless wonder why no one, save baseball aficionados, has ever heard the name Moses Walker.  Most likely, it's because the Stockings were a minor league team while the Dodgers were a major league team.

Accounts of history often suffer from limited recaps - limited by their lack of focus on the less-than-sensational personalities and events.  For the sake of holding attention and committing to tell the "whole" story by telling part of it, historians must summarize. 

Even the Bible skips some details (obviously, unneeded ones - I won't argue with the Author).  However, there are exceptions.  For example, the Book of Judges covers some obscure events.  In the chapter of Hebrews, often deemed the "Faith Chapter," the writer hits the highlights - Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses' parents, etc.  He also, however, gives a shout-out to lesser known people of faith - unnamed, yes; but mentioned at least.

35 . . . There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
Hebrews 11:35b-38 (NIV)

Who were these women and men?  What were their names?  I will never know the answers to those questions.  I will, however, remember that they, like the "famous" faithful ones, take their rightful place in the great cloud of witnesses.  (See Hebrews 12:1.) 

In eternity, if I am able to meet those unnamed ones, I will thank the flogged ones for their examples of bravery, the sawed-in-two ones for their incredible faith, the destitute ones for their willingness to suffer for Christ, and the other witnesses for their obedience.  Yet - why wait until eternity?  Call them what you will -

- Unsung heroes
- Silent saints
- Behind-the-scenes servants
just call them.  Or maybe you prefer email, text, or face-to-face.  Join me in saying "thank you" to those who serve, love, care, and well-represent the cloud of witnesses - even with no promise that history will include mention of their names.


The Non

The non in nonfiction informs us that what we are about to read is true – at least from the book author’s perspective.  The lack of non however does not necessarily tell the reader the whole story. There is much truth in fiction.  Think of the truths that you learned from nursery rhymes (no, not the one about cradles falling safely from a tree!). Recall the moral truths that Frog taught Toad.  I’m still not sure why Jack and Jill tumbled down and I’m sure that jumping over a candlestick is not the wisest course of action; nevertheless, I am prepared, if I ever see a grandmother with big ears, eyes, and teeth, to run for the hills. 

Jesus understood the power of fiction.  He made up stories to teach life (and after-life) lessons.  I learn from them.

  • I learn that if I were cast as a character in the Prodigal story, the director might suggest the role of the older brother (I’m more likely to take gifts for granted than wallow with pigs.)
  • I learn that God loves sheep – the two-legged human kind.  Even those who keep getting lost.
  • I learn that using God’s gifts wisely comes with the Father’s blessing (enjoying His happiness), while burying them leads to the Father’s rebuke.
  • I learn that those who chose Christ while young and those who finally surrender when gray receive the same “pay.”  Grace!

Jesus also used fictional images (metaphors and simile) to describe Himself.

  • He is the Light.
  • He is the Door.
  • He is the Lamb.
  • He is the Vine.
  • He is the Water.
  • He is like a longing hen.
Do you hear the non in that fiction?  He speaks truth with such intriguing and beautiful images.

In chapter twelve of Augustine’s Confessions, the author grants his readers a peak into his personal story.  During a deeply personal time of contemplation, prayer, and tears, Augustine heard God saying (through the voice of a child next door) “Take up and read; Take up and read.”  Augustine heeded the words and opened the Bible and read. 

I am not God nor a child, but allow me to say to you “Take up and read.” Turn to one of the four Gospels and read the parables of Jesus.  Enjoy the fiction.  You’ll be amazed at the non you find there.  


Too Rugged

Last week I flew in and out of John Wayne Airport..  Outside the airport stands a bronze tribute to "The Duke" which towers nine feet tall.  I'm almost convinced that if you listen attentively, you will hear "Pilgrim" and "Howdy Partner" sound from his lips.  From the 1920s to the 1970s, Wayne captured the attention of movie goers - even winning an Oscar in 1969 for "True Grit." 

Why did Wayne - or more aptly, Wayne's characters - receive such fanfare?  Likely the reason for such a reception is the attraction to the romanticized idea of rugged individualism.  People, perhaps especially Americans, place high value on the ability of individuals to make it on their own. 

John Wayne
Jack Reacher
Wonder Woman
Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover, America's thirty-first President, touted the importance of everyone having the determination (stubbornness?) to help themselves.  I'm an advocate of "boot strap" pulling and the donning of "big boy pants."  Yet, individualism should not be held and practiced to the point of "rugged."

God's wisdom on this subject . . .

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Genesis 2:18 (NIV)

When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
Exodus 18:14 (NIV)

Another biblical word warns against extreme self-sufficiency.

Those who trust in themselves are fools,
    but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.
Proverbs 28:26 (NIV)

Why do we need each other?  I offer reasons. 
We need each other for . . .
1.  Support.
2.  Accountability.
3.  Enhanced effectiveness.
4.  Assuring our humility.
5.  Wider views.

So "Partner" - how 'bout it?  Will you reach out to others rather than going it alone?

9 Two are better than one,
    because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)



Once again, my blog topic for today came to me courtesy of the quote on the paper handle of my tea bag.  President Harry Truman said, “It’s amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” 

Truman’s words remind me of a rebuke that Paul (the Apostle) issued believers in Corinth. 

1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  1 Corinthians 3:1-7 (NIV)
Paul sought no credit.  It appears that the Corinthians (some at least) did.  More accurately, they desired to give credit to only certain individuals.  They were in a “My dad can beat up your dad” type of verbal sparring.  For some reason, they felt that whoever led to Christ and/or was their teacher was of crucial importance, of such importance that it overshadowed what really mattered. 
So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  (Vs. 7)
Paul, in essence, says “Let’s give credit where credit is due, and nowhere else.” 

When you see what you planted and/or watered growing, remember who deserves the credit. 

  • If you are a pastor and the church where you serve is growing, exalt the Grower. 
  • If you are a parent and your child is following the Lord, thanks in great part to an example set by you, thank the Father.
  • If you are a teacher and your students (group members, Bible Study class, etc.) are learning and bearing fruit, worship the Teacher.
At Rabbit Creek Church, our focus verse for 2018 is John 15:8 - This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

With the first six words of that verse, Jesus pointed to the right answer in regard to whom all credit belongs.  God deserves all the credit.  I do well when I remember that and therefore give Him all that He deserves.  Any time I fail to remember and/or give, I dishonor His work and name.  So I strive to continue the planting and watering while leaving the growing to Him. 

There really is only One with a green thumb!


Quite Foolish

As I type this post, I see to my left a shamrock.  It’s one of those do-not-spill stickers (or whatever they're called) with which baristas don lids.  It reminds me of a day of the year that I dislike (I don’t like the word “hate”).  To be clear, I hold no grudge against the day itself, but rather toward the tradition that wormed its way into it.  I have a problem.  I hate (here I use that word intentionally) being pinched and, for no particular reason that I am self-aware about, other than, as a silent protest on St. Patty’s Day, I avoid wearing green.  Thankfully, not since elementary school, has anyone attempted to pinch me.
On par with my distaste for St. Patrick’s Day (just the mandatory wearing of green part) is my apprehension toward April 1st.  I don’t enjoy attempts directed at fooling me.  I really do not like Fools’ Day.  Practical jokes are annoying rather than practical.  Can we change the name or just stop it all together?  Perhaps there’s a slight chance of the first; but, as for the former, it is highly unlikely that the world will cease a tradition that dates back to the 1300s. 

This year, however, I enjoyed April 1st; it was Easter after all. 

Easter falling on April 1st made me smile.  I do not know if the Apostle Paul enjoyed practical jokes (I doubt it), but I am sure that he reflected on foolish things. 

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 1:17-25

Easter, better named Resurrection Day, celebrates the “foolishness” of the cross.  That is to say, what looked like an end-of-all-hope event actually opened the door to the great victory.  Death conquered death.  Not wisdom.  Not well-crafted instruction.  Not philosophy.  Death.

Jesus died on the cross to save sinners.  Jesus died on the cross to save me.  Jesus died on the cross to save you.    Jesus died for those who wear green and play practical jokes.

Jesus died even for those who pinch!