Allí Newell holding one of the youngest members of the Bunia Evangelical Francophone Church

Allí Newell holding one of the youngest members of the Bunia Evangelical Francophone Church

August 10, 2015

As I sit here at home, getting ready to start my first week back at professional development for school, my heart is wrecked. Literally wrecked. As in, I just starting tearing as I made coffee, like really, really good coffee.

Being back just a week, it feels as though I am just now readjusting to the reality I was witness of in the Congo.

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Alli speaking to educators

To process the stories I heard of war-torn communities, incessant rape and sexual abuse, lack of education, lack of access to clean water, the stories of pain can go on. YET, the deep sense of Hope and Joy is alive in Bunia. People worship freely and loudly. Their laughter is contagious and their smiles are healing. Their eyes are on fixed on today, but see the horizon of tomorrow.

Teachers are craving change and more education, children have hope for the future, students want better schools, women want help out of abusive relationships, police and politicians want to lead without corruption, leaders aim to rise up other just leaders.

So when I get the good intended question of, “How was Africa?”, I respond with “amazing, life-changing, incredible.” But my response should really be, “How much time do you have?” Because the stories I have need to be heard, but will probably wreck your heart, too.

Alli with the children of Bunia

Children seeing their images in Alli’s smartphone

But isn’t that what we are called to do? To share our stories? And not just the filtered, life-is-awesome, Instagram photos, but also the hurting, sad, or conflicted stories we are witnesses to or walked ourselves. Isn’t our call to have our hearts hurt for those who are hurting, to feed the hungry, to heal the hurting, YET at the same time fully rejoice with the hope and promise of Christ. Yes! I think so.

So, I have stories to share. Stories that have changed me, wrecked me, inspired me, and allowed my eyes to see Hope differently.

Thank you, Africa.



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Jordan speaking at a gathering of police officers in Bunia, DRC

In the twelve years since the civil war ended in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the country has been seeking to rebuild itself. And for the past six years, The Bunia Evangelical Francophone Church has been partnering with Bel Air Presbyterian Church to put on personal development conferences to help transform the country. As a member of Bel Air Pres and a Los Angeles Police officer serving in South Central Los Angeles, I was invited to join the 2015 mission team to speak to the Congolese military and police.

In the year spent preparing for this trip, I felt woefully unqualified for the task. But biblically speaking, that is exactly who God uses. He equips the called. By the time I got to the Congo, I realized that God has been developing me and giving me a foundation of training and experience in military leadership, sociology, poverty alleviation, at-risk-youth development, police community relations, gender violence, and ministry. I was able to synthesize all of these to come alongside the Congolese church and aid them in their quest for restoration of their country.

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Jordan with the police chaplain and senior officers

Police: After spending a week talking with Congolese police officers, learning what issues face them, and studying the city up close, I was able to speak about the corruption that was keeping their country in poverty and how it was up to them to break the cycle of corruption. At one point, I thought I was going to get arrested for my boldness, but God paved the way and they were completely receptive to the ideas of integrity in all things, respect for all people, and how to gain trust in the community they serve. They asked me for copies of my talk and asked me to return next year.

Military: In an audience of military commanders, General Kaseekiela and the head magistrate of the region spoke on war crimes, genocide, and the rules of engagement. When it was my turn at the podium, I challenged the commanders to see their profession and leadership as a calling from God to serve the people, and I spoke of how a country can only develop when there is a foundation of security. I explained that the Congolese church’s efforts to help the people in business development, education, and health care would be fruitless if people are not safe and cannot trust their government. Many of their business leaders are weary of importing products into the country because of the many levels of graft and extortion they must pay, and many young women won’t go to school out of fear of sexual assault while walking there.

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Security guard trainees meet with Jordan

Security Trainees: The Bunia church puts on vocational classes for young men (many of them former child soldiers) to become certified as private security guards so they can find employment in the city. Some of these “security boys,” as I called them, guarded the compound in which we stayed, and I quickly befriended them. They asked me if I could come speak to their class. I expected six of them. Forty-two showed up with pen and paper. We ended up meeting three times and had discussions on why and how to live a moral life amidst an untrustworthy government.

Youth: Along with one of the other Bel Air Pres high school volunteer leaders, and Maddie, the high school member on our team, I spoke at a youth conference for about three hundred 16-28 year-olds. Using my experience in youth ministry and working with at-risk youth and inner-city Los Angeles gangs, I discussed issues of faith, morality, and choices. I also spoke on the theology of respecting women and used my love for my sister as the foundational narrative for the talk.

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Jordan with some of the orphans

Orphans: We also worked with “House of Grace,” an orphanage the Congolese church supports. I really had no idea what to say to young boys who have lost their parents in the civil war, who don’t have beds, or a toilet, or light once the sun goes down. Maddie, who had raised funds back home to buy beds for them, presented the first of these beds to them, and I briefly spoke on the concept that we can’t choose the circumstances we’re born into, but we can choose how we treat each other.

Women: My favorite part of the entire trip was not planned at all. One morning, I awoke thinking about a talk I had given on female safety to the high school girls at my church. In a country where about 90% of the women are victims of domestic violence and about 80% are victims of sexual assault, I thought this Bunia church is the place that needs that information, so I pitched it to Pastor James.

Women gather with Jordan to share their stories of abuse

Women gather with Jordan to share their stories of abuse

Less than twenty-four hours later, I was speaking to a room of about hundred women on how to use their instincts to recognize danger, and how to protect themselves from domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking in a society where they cannot rely on law enforcement. We also talked about the need for them to remove their sense of shame as victims, because shame and secrecy are the tools predators use to remain at large to continue their evil. Women began speaking of their traumatic experiences to the group, and it was such a powerful experience for them, they asked me to come back the next morning to answer more questions.

Throughout this mission trip, God used me in ways I never knew were possible. I’ve been serving in Third World countries for a decade now, much of it in the medical field, but this trip was unique. A dear friend described it as filled with “Moses moments” in which God calls you to a task that is so overwhelming and unprecedented you don’t know how to process it. That is where I find myself.


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Entebbe, Uganda: Team members from left: Will Bredberg, Scott Prewett, Dr. Emmanuel Bellon, Jordan Cooper Lee, Stephanie Seim, Maddie Reasner, Alli Newell, Buck Rea, Jonathan (our Mission Aviation Fellowship pilot), and Derrick Coy

Our eight-member team left Los Angeles in July to visit the city of Bunia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where we joined four African team members to speak at a conference on transformational living.

Sponsored by the Bunia Francophone Church, the conference was designed to help people gain new skills with which to climb out of poverty and to encourage reconciliation and transformation among the inhabitants of a city and region struggling to recover from civil war, rebel invasions, and tribal genocide, and in which 40 percent are unemployed and 80 percent underemployed.

Our team divided up into smaller teams of two and threes, with members bringing their expertise and skills to share in seminars and workshops with over a thousand attendees.

Our teams met with:

• Pastors from a variety of denominations to teach, train, and encourage them in their very difficult ministries of growing their churches

• Politicians gearing up for upcoming elections, and challenged them to reject corruption and to uphold justice. Many of the politicians publicly made the decision to follow Christ at the end of our meeting

• Top-ranking officers from the army and police forces, and challenged them to be “peace guardians” who serve justly. Many of them answered the call to commit their lives to Christ

• Established business owners seeking to grow their businesses, and men and women seeking to start and build their own small businesses

• Youth groups from surrounding areas, and from a boys orphanage, all eager to hear from our younger team members

• Teachers, principals, and administrators from public schools struggling to teach within a broken educational system

• Professors and administrators from universities and higher education institutions with limited resources to help students prepare for a modern labor force and globalized economy

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Teachers from Bunia and surrounding areas

As a member of the education team, I spoke to schoolteachers and administrators from around the region. Acknowledging the challenges that continue to face them in the DRC—an education system devastated by war, school buildings destroyed, thousands of children slaughtered along with their families, many children forced to become soldiers, entrenched corruption throughout their government and education system, teachers not getting paid for months, and seventy percent of secondary students absent from school on any given day—I reminded them that:

• They have one of the most important roles to play in the rebuilding of their nation—that of educating their youth and adolescents who will determine the future of their nation

• They are not alone in their struggles, for together as educators, and together with churches like the Bunia Francophone Church and others throughout the DRC, they can become a unified voice of hundreds of thousands of educators working together to bring about change and improve the education system

A public school classroom in Bunia

A public school classroom in Bunia

• They must find ways to work together beyond the lonely confines of their classrooms—encouraging and supporting each other, mentoring the newer and inexperienced teachers, and developing strategies to change the education machinery within their city, their province, and across the nation

• With most of them having only “O” and “A” level school-leaving certificates as their highest qualification to teach, they need to keep learning and striving to earn higher qualifications and degrees—no matter their ages

• Teaching is a holy calling, citing Jesus as the supreme teacher who called his disciples and many of his followers to be teachers (Eph. 4:11-12; Rom. 12:6-7; Titus 2:7), and citing from the Bible fifteen characteristics of transformational leaders and teachers

I also reminded them of the words of the apostle James that “we who teach will be judged more strictly,” and I called on the male teachers to stop the abusive practice of demanding sex from students in exchange for higher grades.

I also spoke to university professors and administrators, and introduced them to a program of transformational partnerships between African and U.S. universities and institutions of higher education—a program sponsored and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in association with Carnegie Corporation of New York, Higher Education for Development (HED), and the Association of Public Land Grant Universities (APLU).

The program is designed to help universities and institutions:

• Improve the professional development of faculty and staff

• Strengthen their capacity to prepare students for the realities of a modern global labor market

• Strengthen the use of technology in learning

• Develop sustainable revenue streams

Several faculty and administrators expressed interest in forming such partnerships, and have been communicating with me since my return home as they begin the process of applying to the agencies.

The highlights of our time spent in Bunia include:

One of many choirs, bands, and dancers celebrating during worship

One of many choirs, bands, and dancers celebrating during worship

• The exuberant and joyful worship of God by the congregation and its many choirs, dancers, worship bands throughout the week and culminating in three services on Sunday

• The many decisions made for Christ throughout the week and at the end of the Sunday services

• The warm hospitality and care shown to our team by members of the church

• Pastor James Byensi treating our team to a trip out to the countryside to see the beauty of the land

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Finally, I wish to thank all those of you who contributed financially and prayerfully to make this trip possible. Grace and peace to you all.


Following is a reflection by the youngest member of our team:

My name is Maddie Reasner, and I am a 17-year-old high school student in Los Angeles, California. This was my second time to Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Last time I went I was 13 years old, and I worked to set up a computer center in the church so that people in the city could learn how to be computer literate for free. This time back, I worked with the House of Grace Boy Orphanage, and I brought an additional 10 computers to add to the Bunia Young Technology Center.

Maddie speaking to an audience through an interpreter

Maddie speaking to an audience through an interpreter

I’ve been back from the Congo for over two weeks now, and it has been hard to get back into the every day. I wish that by now I had a simple and clean answer to the question, “How was Africa?” but I don’t, and I don’t know if there will ever be a concise answer that is true to the experience I had. Being back in the U.S., it is easier to just pretend like the world of the Congo—the corruption, the pain, the grief, the suffering—does not exist…BUT IT DOES! And I am called to be a witness; I’m called to testify to what I saw. I’m called to testify to all that God is doing, and to testify to all of the hurt and helplessness felt by the Congolese people.

When we encounter God in a “mountain top” experience, we are called to come back into our everyday. In 1 Kings 19:15, after Elijah had experienced God’s power through the wind, the earthquake, and the fire on the mountain, God said to Elijah, “Go back the way you came through the desert.” God says to go back to the everyday, to the foot of the mountain where a large crowd waits (Matthew 17:14).

I have to tell the stories of the Congo no matter how heartbreaking and gut wrenching they may be, because that is why God had me there. God had me in Bunia, not only for the work that I would do there, but also so that I would have the opportunity to be a witness back in America, and that I would be able to share the heartbreak that needs healing, and the victory that needs celebrating in the lives of my friends in the Congo.

Boys from the orphanage

Boys from the orphanage

One story I want to share is when we visited the orphanage. When we arrived at House of Grace, the sun had set and the sky was getting darker, we heard the boys joyfully singing all together, but we couldn’t see any of their faces. The lack of electricity was one resource they weren’t at all concerned with. We sat around and answered their questions, and we asked them questions. When asked what is the most beautiful thing, one seven-year-old boy answered, “That Jesus loves me and saved me,” while another young boy answered that the most beautiful thing he will ever see is “a family telling [him] to come home.”

We enjoyed a whole evening getting to know the boys without even being able to see their faces. Many of these boys were child soldiers; others had lost their parents and all family members in the civil war. While they had every right to be solemn and depressed, instead they were filled with joy, an extraordinary joy that they recognized came from their Heavenly Father.

It was hard to leave…the American in me says that I failed, I did not complete my project, I did not “FIX” all the problems in the Congo. But God says no, just be a witness to his goodness in the midst of this evil, and see him move and change people’s hearts, which in turn can change the country.

God is stirring in the country. We witnessed a joyful, on-fire worship and praise among the Congolese—people who have nothing, but give every ounce of their selves to glorify God. We saw 150 people give their lives to Christ. Additionally, one of our team members, Jordan Cooper had the opportunity to be the first outsider, EVER, to speak to men of the Congolese Military about serving God while serving his people. We also saw 90% of a room full of politicians give their lives to Christ. Moreover, in the next year Bunia will have an election for their first governor, an opportunity to put someone they trust in power. There is hope beginning to rise up in Bunia.

Maddie with pastor James Byensi

Maddie with pastor James Byensi


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A recent series of text messages from a family member asking me about the rapture – an event in which God would suddenly snatch away into the clouds all Christians from earth before the end-time atrocities of the Antichrist – led me to reexamine what the Bible teaches about the subject.

The idea of the rapture was first introduced by Puritan preachers Increase and Cotton Mather in the 1700s, followed by theologian John Darby in the 1800s, then popularized in the 1970s by Hal Lindsey in his book, The Late Great Planet Earth, and by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in their Left Behind series of books in the 1990s. It is also a doctrine by some evangelical preachers and denominations based on their interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, but also of Matthew 24:27-31; 1 Corinthians 15:51-53; and Revelation 20:4. (Wikipedia)

According to their interpretation of these passages, Christians will be snatched away to be with Christ in heaven before the tribulation happens, leaving behind unbelievers to suffer under the worldwide tyrannical and destructive rule of the Antichrist for seven years. Christ will then return to punish the Antichrist and his followers, and rule the earth for a thousand years, before pronouncing final judgment on all who have ever lived. This is known as the pretribulation rapture or premillennialism (before the one thousand years of Christ’s rule).

Besides pretribulation rapture, there are variations of beliefs on when the rapture will occur – midtribulation, prewrath tribulation, partial tribulation (all three happening during the tribulation), and post tribulation in which the rapture occurs at the second coming of Christ. (Wikipedia)

But 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 shows that the apostle Paul was writing about the resurrection of the Christian dead at Christ’s second coming (the first coming being his birth in Bethlehem). The Thessalonian Christians were worried about what would happen to their fellow believers who had already died before the return of Christ, so Paul assured them that:

“We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever.” (1 Thess. 4:15-17, NLT)

I’ve highlighted key phrases that are important in comparing the other scripture passages with the above Thessalonian passage. For example, the phrase “caught up” in verse 17 was translated in the Latin manuscript as rapiemur, derived from raptus and raptura (a kidnapping, a carrying off, taken away). This Latin translation came from harpagisometha (caught up or taken away) used in the Greek version of 1 Thessalonians 4:17, while a shortened form, harpazo, is also used in Acts 8:39, 2 Cor. 12:2-4, and Rev. 12:5. (Wikipedia)

The Matthew 24:27-31 passage lists some of those same phrases and gives us a specific time when Christ will return – after the tribulation.

“Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matt. 24:29-31, ESV)

So, along with Matthew specifying the time of Jesus’ second coming as happening immediately after the tribulations, the similarities in these two passages include:

• The Lord or Son of Man returning from heaven or coming down in clouds from heaven

• His arrival will be announced with loud trumpet sounds from his archangel and angels

• He will gather his elect – Christians both living and dead, with the dead raised first – and take them up into the clouds

These similarities are also seen in the 1 Corinthian 15 passage which adds one key phrase – the last trumpet:

“ But let me tell you a wonderful secret God has revealed to us. Not all of us will die, but we will all be transformed. It will happen in a moment, in the blinking of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, the Christians who have died will be raised with transformed bodies. And then we who are living will be transformed so that we will never die. For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.” (1 Cor. 15: 51-53, NLT)

The last trumpet is important because it links all three passages and their trumpet references to Revelation 11:15 (in which the seventh and last trumpet will announce the second coming of Jesus Christ) and Revelation 20:4 in which Christ resurrects the Christians martyred during the tribulation, and reigns with them (and the rest of his elect) for a thousand years.

So, these passages from I Thessalonians 4, Matthew 24, 1 Corinthians 15, Revelation 11 and 20 are unified in showing:

• Christ’s return occurring immediately after the tribulation

• He will come down in clouds from heaven

• His arrival will be announced with a seventh and last trumpet blast from his archangel and angels

• He will gather his elect – Christians both living and dead – and take them up into the clouds (in the same way that he was taken up at his ascension)

• His elect, including Christians martyred during the tribulation, will rule with him for a thousand years

There is one more passage – Matthew 24:40-41 – that is used by the rapture proponents to describe the snatching away of believers into heaven:

“Two men will be working together in the field; one will be taken, the other left. Two women will be grinding flour at the mill; one will be taken, the other left.” (NLT)

But this passage must be interpreted in light of the preceding verses 37-39 in which Jesus teaches that his second coming will be like in the days of Noah when the people did not heed Moses’ warning about the coming Flood and went about living life as usual. When the Flood came, it “took them away” or “swept them away,” depending on the various translations. It is this destructive sense that one must interpret the phrase “one will be taken” in verses 40 and 41. The ones that are left behind are the ones that are saved from destruction, as were Noah and his family.

The doctrine of the rapture, as an event in which God will suddenly snatch away all Christians from earth before the tribulation of the Antichrist, is a misinterpretation of these scriptural passages and, therefore, is not biblical.


The following is a repost of a blog post by Dr. R. C. Sproul, theologian, author, and pastor:

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The Bible is a book. It may be called a collection of books compiled into one majestic volume.

As a book it is designed to be read. In this respect it is like all other books. But in important ways, the Bible is not like any other book. It is the Book of books. We customarily call this book the Holy Bible. Its holiness is found in its otherness. It is a sacred book because it transcends and stands apart from and above every other book. It is holy because its ultimate Author is holy. It is holy because its message is holy. And it is holy because its content is designed to make us holy.

The Bible is an inspired book; that is, it is “breathed out” by God (2 Tim. 3:16). It is inspired in a way that reaches far beyond the inspiration of human artists. The Bible offers more than brilliant insight, more than human sagacity. It is called “inspired” not because of its supernatural mode of transmission via human authors, but because of its origin. It is not merely a book about God; it is a book from God. Therefore, the true church confesses its trust and confidence that the Bible is the vox Dei, the veritable “voice of God.”

The Bible is a normative book. The church has rightly declared that the Bible is the “norm of norms, and without norm.” A norm is a standard, a measuring rod by which things are judged. We may use many lesser standards to regulate our lives, but all such regulations must be subordinate to Scripture. To be the “norm of norms” is to be the superlative norm, the standard by which all other norms are measured. The Bible is not simply “first among equals”; other standards have no parity with it. As Jesus is exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords, so we submit to His Word as the norm of norms, the standard of truth, and the one infallible rule for the people of God.

God is the Lord of heaven and earth, and He alone is able to impose absolute obligation upon His creatures. He does this through the written Word. The Reformers of the sixteenth century recognized this unique authority of the Bible, expressing it in the motto sola Scriptura, “Scripture alone.” The Reformers did not despise other authorities or deny the value of tradition and the creeds, but they distinguished the singular authority of the Bible, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

God calls every Christian to pursue righteousness. Our trust is to be childlike, but our understanding must be mature. Such trust and understanding require study of God’s Word. The authentic disciple meditates on it day and night. Our goal is more than knowledge; it is wisdom, the fruit of inward and outward obedience. It is our prayer that the Reformation Study Bible will aid students of the Bible in their understanding of Scripture that they might walk wisely before the Lord in all wisdom.

The Reformation Study Bible is so called because it stands in the Reformed tradition of the original Geneva Bible of the sixteenth century. In modern Geneva, Switzerland, a memorial wall has been built and dedicated to the sixteenth-century Reformation. This International Monument to the Reformation is adorned with statues of the great leaders John Calvin, Theodore Beza, William Farel, and John Knox. Surrounding these figures is the phrase Post Tenebras Lux—“After darkness, light.”

The light of the Reformation was the light of the Bible. Luther translated the Bible, which in his day could be read almost exclusively by professionals who knew Latin, into everyday German that could be read by ordinary people. John Wycliffe and William Tyndale translated the Bible into English. Yet there was substantial opposition to these efforts in England. Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536, and later, the Reformation was suppressed during the reign of Mary Tudor (1553–58). The Roman Catholic Mass was enforced, services could not be conducted in English, and priests were forbidden to marry. Two hundred eighty-eight people were burned alive, including the archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer.

These persecutions drove exiles from Britain to the European Continent. Many of the most capable scholars among them came to Geneva. There they undertook the task of preparing a new translation of the Bible in English. This new translation, the Geneva Bible, was published in 1560 and was carefully designed to be accurate and understandable. It was the first English Bible to use verse divisions, as “most profitable for memory” and for finding and comparing other passages. It included study notes explaining Scripture based on the interpretative principles reclaimed during the Reformation.

The Geneva Bible was the most widely used translation in the English-speaking world for a hundred years. It was the Bible used by John Bunyan, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, and William Shakespeare. Though the King James Bible was published in 1611, it did not supplant the Geneva Bible until fifty years later. It was the Geneva Bible that the Pilgrims and Puritans carried to the shores of the New World. It was used by many American colonists who read it, studied it, and sought to live by its light.

Since the Geneva Bible was published, a multitude of English translations and study Bibles have appeared. This present volume intends to return to the clarity and power of that important translation. By presenting a modern restatement of biblical, Reformation truth in its comments and theological notes, the Reformation Study Bible aims to carry on the legacy of the Geneva Bible in shining forth the light of biblical Christianity, which was recovered in the Reformation.

The Reformed tradition understands biblical Christianity as “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). This faith, we believe, is expressed in the ecumenical creeds common to all Christian traditions, together with the Reformation distinctives that are the result of accepting the Bible as the supreme and only infallible authority for faith and practice. We believe that these ecumenical creeds and the Reformation confessions provide the church with a full-orbed summary of the doctrine of Scripture. The words of the Bible are true, and its message is powerful. It conveys the infallible promise of God, its Author, that it will not return to Him empty but will certainly accomplish His intended purpose (Is. 55:11).


Trouble was brewing at the wedding. A very embarrassing and humiliating situation was about to shatter the joyful celebration of the bride and groom and their families. And since the wedding arrangements were the responsibility of the groom’s family, it could result in the bride’s family suing the groom and his family.

The cause? A sacred hospitality duty was about to be broken by the groom’s family—they had just run out of a crucial item in the nuptial celebration—wine! (John 2:1-12)

Before the wedding guests could become aware of the wine shortage, Jesus’ mother, Mary, told him about the problem. The Gospel of John tells us that she, Jesus, and five of his disciples were guests at the wedding—which raises the question as to how or why she knew about the problem.

New Testament commentator William Barclay points out that one of the Coptic gospels from Egypt states that Mary was a sister of the groom’s mother, and that other early sources identify the groom as the disciple John, whose mother was Salome, the sister of Mary. Such family ties and threat to the family’s reputation would undoubtedly give Mary reason to seek the help of Jesus in solving the problem.

Jesus’ response to his mother, “Woman, what concern is that to you and me? My hour has not yet come,” though seemingly rude to our modern ear, is not necessarily so. It was more a way of distancing himself from Mary as her son (Mt. 12:48; Mark 3:33), for he was about to embark on his journey towards the “hour” of his death, resurrection, and ascension as the Messiah.

Not put off by his reply, Mary told the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.” She most likely did not have any idea what he would do or how he would solve the problem, but she was confident that he would.

And so he did—quietly and miraculously, turning nearly 180 gallons of water into such exquisite tasting wine that the master of ceremony, not knowing where it had come from, gushed to the bridegroom, “You have kept the best wine until now!”


This miracle at the wedding in Cana speaks to us in several ways:

  • Jesus’ presence in the midst of the wedding festivity reminds us that he wants to share in our happy occasions; he was not a killjoy or sourpuss, and neither should we be. We should always celebrate life in a way that reflects his joyful presence.
  • Mary’s willingness to bring her problem to Jesus without knowing how he would solve it reminds us that we, too, should come boldly and confidently to him in prayer, yet without any preconceived notion as to how he will answer our prayers.
  • The enormous amount of wine is more than could be drunk at a wedding, and must be seen, not simply as a miracle of water being turned to wine, but as Jesus’ superabundant, extravagant, inexhaustible grace that meets our deepest needs and transforms our lives—“for from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John. 1:16, ESV).
  • This grace must also be seen in the context of verse 11 that tells us that this miracle was the first sign of his coming glory, a term that John uses in reference to the life and ministry of Jesus (John. 1:14; 11:4; 17:22, 24), and to his death, resurrection, and ascension (John. 13:31, 32; 17:5) in order that he might save all who believe in him.

As with his transformation of water into wine, so can his superabundant, extravagant, inexhaustible grace transform each of us from perishing to saved, from sinner to saint, from ordinary to extraordinary, from pedestrian to remarkable, from uninspired to inspired and inspiring!

The question that we each must answer for ourselves, whether believer or unbeliever, is:

Will I allow Jesus to continue his transforming work of grace . . . in me?”


Derrick Garland Coy:

Reblogged from missiontomission, written by Brian Fulmer.

Originally posted on missiontomission:

I was created by my mother to reproduce; I assume to be her legacy.  But I was a failure from the start as it was learned that I was not fertile.  I was removed from my mother immediately (again I assumed because I had no worth to her).  What good is an infertile being to it’s mother?  After being loaded in a dirty truck I was put through harsh showers and abused by harsh lights and belts only to end up in a dark cold box where I was cold and alone.  What had I done to deserve this?

Again I was moved, lifted, boxed and moved again only to end up in another cold place where I sat for days, possibly weeks.  After one more move I found myself in the worst predicament of my life – in boiling water!  God, I cried, why am I being tortured when all I…

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When we pray for God’s blessings, most likely we envision people, things, and conditions that we believe will make us happy—loving relationships, close family and friends, good health, material things, financial assets, good jobs, successful careers, long life, and much more.

While Scripture includes some of those as blessings or rewards (e.g., Gen.15:1-3; Job 42:12-17; 1 Sam.2:20-21; Ps. 112), it more frequently refers to God’s blessings in spiritual terms or as a state of being in relationship to God or Jesus Christ.

In the priestly blessing that God gave Aaron to proclaim over the people of Israel (Num. 6:24-26), and later used as a benediction in Christian worship services, the blessing covers God’s people with his divine protection, pleasure, graciousness, favor, and peace.

When Jesus taught his disciples and followers about blessings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:3-11), he didn’t promise earthly prosperity, pleasure, or laughter. He promised a joyful, hopeful experience with God—independent of outward circumstances and things that we deem necessary for happiness. In fact, he taught that God blesses the poor in spirit, the mournful, the spiritually destitute, the persecuted, the oppressed, the unaggressive, the powerless, the merciful, the peacemakers, and the pure in heart.

And throughout the New Testament, God’s blessings are seen in terms of a happy state of being because of a believer’s relationship with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—as in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

“How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ.” –(Eph. 1:3, NLT)

Paul goes on to name these spiritual blessings that become ours as followers of Jesus Christ:

• God loved us and chose us for salvation before the world began (1:4)
• God adopted us as his children (1:5)
• God regards us as holy and blameless (1:5)
• God lavished his kindness on us because we belong to Christ (1:6-8)
• God purchased our freedom from sin’s destructive dominance and forgave our sins (1:7)
• God bestowed on us spiritual insight, wisdom, and understanding to guide us through our new life with Christ (1:8; 1:17)
• God granted us an eternal inheritance in his Kingdom (1:11)
• God gave us the Holy Spirit as his guarantee that we belong to him and will receive our full redemption and future glory (1:14; Rom 8:23)

All of these blessings are ours to enjoy during this lifetime and are a foretaste of the eternal glory that we will enjoy in our heavenly realms (1:3; 2:6; 3:10) at our death or upon Christ’s return to establish his new heaven and new earth (Rev. 21:1).

So as we give praise and thanks to God for our present blessings of shelter, clothing, food, loved ones, health, jobs, and the many other things that help to make life enjoyable, let us not cling to them and take them for granted. They are not permanent. We could lose them.

And may we remember to daily give praise and thanks to God for all the spiritual blessings that are ours because we belong to Christ. Those blessings are permanent and eternal, and we can count on them!



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