Thursday, October 23, 2014


We recently purchased the movie, "Bears".  My grand daughters really enjoyed the movie, and so did I.  In the movie a grizzly bear mother named Sky gives birth to two cubs named Amber and Scout in her den on a mountain slope. When April comes the bears leave the den. When they reach the lush valley below, the cubs meet the other bears, some of which pose a threat to the cubs.

When summer comes, so does the yearly salmon run. Dozens of bears gather along salmon streams on the coast to get the best of the run before it ends. After the bear family fills themselves on the salmon, they head back to into the mountains as winter approaches to their den to sleep through the harsh cold winter.

The bear cubs are very cute and the scenery is spectacular.  When I learned that the movie was filmed in Katmai National Park in Alaska, I started reading about the park which spans over four million acres of remote, wild, and spectacular country in southern Alaska.  As I was reading I came across the story of Pemby.

Early last July, rangers in the park observed that a yearling bear cub appeared to have been abandoned by his mother.  They named the cub Pemby.  Without his mother, the cub’s chances of survival were slim, but the rangers could only watch as nature took its course.

Over the next few weeks, Pemby remained mostly out of sight, perched in a tree near the river where his mother had left him. But just a few weeks later, in late July, park officials saw something that intrigued them. A visitor had snapped a few photos of a mother bear with two cubs taken in another region of the park. Rangers recognized Pemby immediately, but were surprised to see that he was in the company of a different mother bear, known as Holly, along with her own young cub.

Mother bears accepting outside cubs into their family units is almost unheard of, so the rangers were justifiably dubious about what the images suggested.  In the first week of September, Pemby was seen yet again with Holly and her biological cub, and their manner seemed to show without a doubt that the mother bear had come to consider the orphan one of her own. Holly has been seen sharing food with the youngster, sleeping by his side and nuzzling him just as his real mother might have.

The rangers have since concluded that a rare case of adoption had indeed occurred, even if the reasons why are virtually impossible to explain.  The orphan Pemby is an orphan no longer. He has been born again. He is now Holly's cub.

The Bible tells us that we can be born again.  We find this truth in John 3:1-3;  There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Nicodemus was as religious as anyone in Jerusalem, but he needed a complete conversion, a new birth.  Being born again is not what we do. Being born again is when we quit trying and begin trusting Jesus who died our death on Calvary's cross in order to give us, in our death's place, His life.

What jobs do you give newborns? Why don’t we give them jobs? We don’t ask them to work, we love them, feed them, take care of them. We will in time give the jobs to do, but only after we have watched them grow, as we have taught them.  That is what Jesus is talking about when he says that we must be born again.

Listen to this story found in Luke 18:15-17; Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”

To become a part of God’s Kingdom you must be born again.  You must receive God’s kingdom as an infant.  Babies don’t have preconceived ideas.  They don’t think that they know it all and can run their own lives.

Our first birth gives us many treasures: a family name, a genetic inheritance, nationality, ethnicity. Birth determines or influences every aspect of our lives—whether we are tall or short, smart or not so smart, rich or poor, musical or can't carry a tune, color blind or sensitive to colors.

When we are born again, none of this changes. We have the same family of origin, the same finances. We can still sing . . . or not. We still take pride in our ethnic or national heritage. These elements of our identity that flow from our birth are treasures. Being born again does not erase them. Being born again puts them in their proper place. All of these identities become subordinate to our supreme identity as children of God.

Because we have been born again we recognize all of the rest of God's children as our brothers and sisters.  They are part of our family. We are part of their family. We see them as the dearly-loved children of God.  We will not do anything to disparage our brothers and sisters.

Similarly, when we have theological disputes, those who have been born again see the people with “differing” views as dearly loved children of God. The status my opponents enjoy as children of God imposes on me the obligation to show them respect. To listen carefully to their arguments.

Being born again imposes obligations. We have joined a new family and this new family has a distinctive culture.  1 Peter 3:8 tells us, "Live in harmony with one another.  Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble".

One of the fascinating aspects of the bear cub story is the interaction of the cubs. According to rangers, the aggressive behavior of old male bears begins very early. Male cubs fight. They don't share. But in Holly's household they do. Holly's natural-born cub and Pemby have been observed sharing fish together. It appears that the generosity of Mama Bear has created a new kind of bear culture.

In the same way, Jesus has modeled and taught a new way of being human. As born again Christians, people adopted into the family of God, we are called to mimic God in forming a new kind of human community, a community where people show to one another the same grace we have received from God.

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