Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Creation of Man (Gen.2).

In Genesis 1 the good God created a beautiful world and created man, in His own image, to be His representative on the earth. God made man responsible to reflect God’s creative activity in his work, and to reproduce God’s images on the earth. In this story the Bible backs up to when God created Adam, or ‘man’ (2:7, 20), and women from the man. God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into him the breath of life transforming the dust into a living image of God (12:7b, 1:26-27). Watch the video and or listen to the story and then read the commentary below. https://www.dropbox.com/s/jdse50iqo3opokn/The%20Creation%20of%20Man..MP3?dl=0 
God had a garden in Eden and He put the man (2:8, 15) in the garden to ‘work it and take care of it’. In the garden there were various trees and in the middle of the garden where the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:9). Adam was free to eat from any of the trees (2:16) but he was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil or he would surely die (2:17). Then the Lord had Adam name all the animals, but no suitable helper for Adam was found (2:19–20). This was ‘not good (2:18) so God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. God made a woman from man’s rib and brought her to the man and Adam said, this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh (2:23).

God created a suitable helper for man to help him fulfill his God given responsibilities. God’s purposed for man to rule over all the earth and to fill the earth with ‘images of God’. This was a job that was too big and too grand for Adam alone. As God’s ‘royal representative’ man was to consecrate all creation and do God’s will on the earth in submission to God’s word. To do this man was given the privileges of worship, work and marriage (Gen. 2:3, 15, 25) and was restricted from eating from the tree of the knowledge of God and evil.

All men retain these responsibilities but after the fall (Gen.3) we have lost the ability to fulfill God’s purpose. God created man and called him to extend the beauty of Eden throughout the earth and to multiply ‘images of God’ who would do ‘God’s will’ on the earth. Adam and all his descendants have failed to do this but Jesus, the second Adam (1 Cor.15:22), achieves this and enables us to participate through our union with him by faith. Through Jesus and His word and Spirit we are renewed in God’s image and can do ‘God’s Will’ on the earth. Through faith in Christ we are to reflect God’s character, imitate God’s creative activity in our work, and seek to fill the earth with ‘redeemed’ images. We are all called to fill the earth with God’s redeemed images and we are to do this through marriage and child bearing and through the work of ‘evangelism’ (Mat. 28:19–20). 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

'Our Malawi Summer Vacation'

Dear Friends and Family, 
It may be summer in the states, but not here in Africa. In the Western Cape its now winter. The weather here is like California; Northern California that is. But here the homes aren’t heated so you can be colder inside than out. I’m glad that I bought two pairs of fleece lined pants which I bought at Eddie Bauer. It seems I wear them almost every day. We even wear our jackets indoors here. So between the weather and being between semesters at the University of Stellenbosch this was the perfect time for our whole family to return to Malawi.
These guys did a great job moving us! 

We went to Malawi, not for the warmer weather, but for a couple of important reasons. First we had to move ‘our stuff’. We have had ‘our stuff’ stored in one room in our old duplex at African Bible College for the past two years. When we left Malawi two years ago, we didn’t know whether we would return to ABC or not. We only knew that the college was moving in one direction and the Lord was moving us in another direction. When we left things were not particularly clear to us so we never said any formal ‘goodbyes’. Since that time we have been in transition but ‘our stuff’ stayed where it was packed away in one room of what was our home for ten years.

Ironically Malawi was almost closed to us before we returned. South Africa just recently implemented a new law that requires those traveling with children to carry birth certificates. While we had all this to get our South African visas but they were locked in a safe in our flat in Stellenbosch. They weren’t going to let us through immigration until Clara cried and made a scene. This got us through but they said we couldn’t get back in without them. That was one fit that I really didn’t mind. When we arrived in Malawi the ministry opportunities we were considering never materialized. Not only had the ‘School of Storying’ fallen through but the Conference Centre our friends wanted to build had suffered some serious setbacks. So we were really left with no other choice but to move and sell ‘our stuff’.

Saying 'goodbye' to 'our stuff'!
A former colleague at ABC was so gracious to us that it was humbling. He let us stay in his house while he was away so were able to use his garage and container to move and sort through our things. We were able to move, unpack, sort through and sell almost everything that we had. The cost of moving it to South Africa would have been close to the same price to put it on a shipping container and send it to the states. Well it was a busy few weeks but everything came together beautifully. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away! A former student, now a ‘Member of Parliament’, bought almost all of our furniture. So we said ‘goodbye’ to both ‘our stuff’ and to many good friends and former students. Our girls loved playing on the ABC campus with some old and some new friends. The warmer weather and the familiar surroundings were a real blessing.
Pempo & Livinia; former students & babysitters. 

We also had some significant opportunities to do ministry while we were there. We taught and told Biblical stories at the prison where we ministered for several years. We also taught a couple times at a hospital chapel, and preached three times at Churches pastored by former students. Everything really went pretty miraculously. The US embassy in Malawi was able to give us birth certificate for Katherine since her passport was renewed there. But when we went to the South African High Commission they said we wouldn’t be able to get back into South Africa without birth certificates for each child. However, while I was in line I read their law which was posted on the wall. The law said that if the child has a valid South African visa then the law requiring a birth certificate no longer applies. When I pointed this out it seemed to be news to them. They printed a copy of the law which the signed and stamped and when we showed it to immigration we had no trouble getting back into South Africa.

Thanks for your prayers and support,

Jay, Laura, Clara, Katherine and Lauren Stoms 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Creation Story

Having told a series of stories communicating the story of Jesus we now want tell a series of Old Testament stories that will give us the background story to the story of Jesus. We start where the Bible starts with God in the beginning. Watch the video and or listen to the story on audio and then read the commentary below.
In the beginning God, who existed independently from creation, created the heavens and the earth. God’s Spirit was hovering over the uninhabitable deep dark waters (verse 2) and God began forming an environment perfectly suited for life. By His ‘Word and Spirit’ God ordered the world and determined to live among the people He created in His own image to be His ‘royal representatives’ on the earth. The lengths of the days of creation are a matter of debate among Christians. Some see Genesis 1 as straight forward historical narrative while others believe the repetitive language indicates that the account is poetic. We can avoid this controversy by focusing on the principle message of Genesis 1. Genesis 1:1 introduces the story, and in Genesis 1:2 we find God’s Spirit ready to initiate God’s creative activity according to God’s word. On the first three days God created specific domains or spheres and in days four through six God began to fill or populate those particular spheres.

On the first day God created light which he called day and separated the light from the darkness which he called night. On the second day God created an expanse which he called ‘sky’ separating the waters above from waters below. On the third day God gathered the waters under the ‘sky’ and dry ground appeared which he called land and the land produced vegetation. Now on the fourth day God began filling these domains by creating the sun, moon and stars to mark out seasons, years and days. Here the two ‘great lights’ are assigned the role of ‘governing’ the day and night which God created on day one. On the fifth day, God filled the waters below which He created on day two with fish and sea creatures, and birds filled the sky. On the sixth day God fills the land that he had formed on day three with various living creatures. Again on the sixth day, God determined to make mankind, male and female, in His own image. So both men and women equally bear the image of God and are to reflect the character and creative activity of their ‘Creator’.

The word good (Gen. 1:4, 9, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31) is used repeatedly here and refers principally to functionality. When God said it was ‘not good’ for the man to be alone (Gen. 2:18) He meant that the arrangement was not yet suited for God’s purpose. When God declared the world ‘very good’ He meant that it was now perfectly suited for man to do God’s will on the earth. God demonstrated His good intention toward mankind by giving man plants and trees as his renewable food source. Moreover, God gave His ‘royal representatives’ authority to rule as God’s wise stewards over all the creatures and all the earth. God finished creating and He set apart the seventh day as holy because on it rested from His work of creating. God made and ordered our world in such a way that mankind, His image, could live in God’s presence and do God’s will. As God’s stewards man was, and still is, to exercise God’s dominion by reflecting God’s character and imitating God’s creative activity. Mankind fell from God’s favor and was expelled from God’s presence. Now it is through Jesus Christ, God’s ‘very image’ (2 Cor.4:4) that we are restored to God’s original purpose. Moreover, those trusting Jesus are being renewed after the image of God (Eph.4:24, Col.3:10) and conformed more and more into the image of God’s son (Rom.8:29).   

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Wrapping Up Our Malawi Trip (Returning to SA)!

Dear Friends and Family,

w/ Dorothy Likole @ Kafita CCAP.
If you’re able to befriend us on facebook we’ve been posting lots of pictures from our Malawi Trip there. We’ve had a great few weeks reconnecting; saying goodbye to old friends and visiting churches were we used to attend. It is always great to be able to worship with our Malawian friends and to preach in churches that are pastored by former students. We even did a football (soccer) tournament outreach at Maula prison where we used to take student to minister for 12 years. We are also very grateful to have been able to move and sell most of our stuff that we have had stored in Malawi for the past two years.

Saying 'goodbye' to our stuff.
As travel with our whole family back to South Africa today we have an urgent prayer request. South Africa has implemented a new law requiring those traveling with children to carry birth certificates with them.  We don’t have the girls birth certificates with us but we went to the US embassy and to the South African High Commission and according to the new SA law each of our girls have valid SA visas so we should be okay. The girl's visas have the USA passport numbers of both Laura and I so the girls are clearly identified as our children. So we are confident that we should be able to get back into South Africa but dealing with immigration in African countries is always a challenge and we have our concerns.

Maula football tournament.
Besides the challenge of taking two flights across Africa with three children we are taking 10 of those black shipping containers (+ carry ons) with us. We are taking a Ford Explorer and a Toyota land cruiser to the airport Monday morning just to get our family there with our stuff.  If you guys could pray for our flights we would really appreciate it.

Zikomo (thanks!),
Jay, Laura, Clara, Katherine and Lauren Stoms