Dec 31, 2008

Burundi Opens its Doors to the Gospel

Under 100 degree heat, rising dust, and high precipitation from the nearby Lake Tanganyika, 4,500 Burundian believers from all walks of life and all ages crammed into the temporary tin-roofed structure set up in an open field in the city center. They sang, danced, listened to our message of hope through Jesus Christ and prayed fervently for the salvation of their nation. Faith-filled believers and the intense heat combined with the occasional cooling breeze blowing over the crowd reminded me of what the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 must have felt like. The Holy Spirit was unmistakably present among us. The service was meant to be a gathering of believers from Bujumbura churches to pray for the healing and salvation of Burundi during our upcoming Festival of Hope and Leadership and Governance Conference in the capital city. However, when I asked if there was anyone who needed to receive Jesus Christ into their life as Lord and Savior, fifty four people stepped forward. Following this, I made a second altar call for those needing God’s special help in different areas of their lives. More than 500 raised their hands. We could not accommodate them all in the limited altar space. Later on as we headed for our car one woman stopped us in the street and asked us to pray for her and her husband to be able to conceive a baby. She was both desperate and full of confidence that God could help her through our prayer. For the rest of the service we sat sandwiched between Burundi's cabinet minister in the office of the President in charge of Good Governance and Local Administration Martin Nivyabandi accompanied by his wife and baby and Rev. Manasse Mberabagabo Ngendahayo pastor of Eglise Messianique Pour la Guerisons des Ames in Bujumbura (Messianic Church for the Healing of Souls). Martin was there both for himself and his family as well as to deliver a welcome from the president of Burundi and his cabinet colleagues. They were all united along with Bujumbura’s 58 evangelical congregations represented by Pastor Mannasse in welcoming the SWIM ministry. If what we saw at these inaugural services in December 2008 is any indication of what to expect in Burundi, then the upcoming Festival of Hope and Leadership and Governance conference, September 8th-13th 2009, will be a powerful and transformational time for the whole nation. We expect 50,000 people will participate at the Festival of Hope in addition to thousands of others listening in on radio and watching the services live on Television throughout Burundi and the neighboring Rwanda and Eastern DR Congo. President Pierre Nkurunziza accompanied by several of his cabinet ministers has indicated he will personally be present at the opening and closing nights of the Festival and at the Leadership and Governance Conference. Pray with us for a great harvest of souls during the Bujumbura Festival of Hope and for the strengthening of churches throughout Burundi as they work to bring healing to individuals laden with personal sin and to a nation battered and broken by fifteen years of civil war, social strife, and political instability.

The African Transformation

After reading this article by Matthew Paris, I was impressed by his honesty and frank observation of the African transformation. Mr. Paris, an atheist, is impressed by the apparent transformation that the Christian faith makes in the lives of the Africans that he encounters as he travels across the continent. Not only are these believers changed spiritually, they demonstrate a rare competence in their pursuit of societal change that is fueled by a new biblical world-view. He observes: "In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall." To the contrary, their non-Christian comrades luck this unique trait. Bound by group-think and traditional religious values, they cannot unshakel themselves from societal parterns that hinder transformation. He observes thus: "Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders." Mr. Paris, surprised by the irony of his own atheism in the face of such staggering transformation then rightly admits that the bright future for Africa is inseperably tied to its embrace of a Christian worldview rather than the mere promulgation of development strategies apart from faith or an increase of international aid. "When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old," he muses. Whereas I appreciate Mr. Paris' frankness, his findings are not new. It is common knowledge among African strategists who care about the future of the continent that Christianity is integral to the process. His observations remind me of what Rwanda's minister of Local Government and Good Governance Hon. Protais Musoni said to journalists during conference that our organization (SWIM) held for Christian Leaders in the Africa Great Lakes Region: "There is nothing of greater value in our society here in Rwanda today than forging the unity between the Church and the state if we are to correct past mistakes and grow competent societies that can be able to achieve sustainable development." Evangelism is inseperable from true transformation. This is true not only in Africa but all around the world.

Dec 24, 2008

Jesus of the Palace...Jesus of the Manger

Last Sunday as I prepared to speak to some four thousand believers in Bujumbura, Burundi on the significance of Christmas, I was captivated by Luke's narration of the birth of Jesus Christ. In his narrative in the second chapter, he begins by laying out the historical context. Augustus was the Ceasar. Quirinius was the governor of Syria. What captivated me is the placing of these great historical figures and their assumed political power and wealth juxtaposition Joseph, a descentant of King David, by birthright a king, but dwelling in poverty and obscurity. Similarly Jesus, being divine royalty, is born in a manger.
Why didn't God in His sovereignty orchestrate things so that Jesus is born in Ceasar's palace rather than in a manger? If not in Ceasar's palace, why not orchestrate things so that Jesus is born in Quirinius' palace in Syria? The location of the birth of Jesus Christ, in a manger rather than in a palace, is obviously consistent with His entire mission. Firstly, being God, He became man so that He may save humanity from their sin. He did not come in His divine form but rather in human form. He did not come to dwell with the powerful and the connected. He came for the poor and the disconnected. The choice of a manger rather than a palace speaks of God's strategic bottom-up approach to human societal transformation. Joseph, Jesus' earthly father, was a king without a palace or political power. He was of the lineage of King David, yet he could not marshall enough recognition to secure a better place for the birth of Prince Jesus. He was a king without privilege or prefferement.
How contrary this is to our modern kings (leaders) who demand privilege and prefferement. How different it is from todays celebrity culture! Jesus' own poverty at birth speaks to the poor in spirit that are blessed at His inaugural address, "Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs' is the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matt 5:2). Whereas the proud and the arrogant exclude themselves from the mercy and favor of God, the poor, the needy and the humble are invited. Finally, the unimpressive location of the birth of Jesus Christ speaks to those who are down-trodden that all things are possible for them who believe. God, in sending His Son to be born to poor peasants, did not leave out the influential and powerful. He sent the magi from the east laden with gifts. They were rich, yes, but they were also humble enough to obey God. Clearly, God's vision is not to rid the world of people who are doing well. Rather, it is to elevate all people to embrace true joy and salvation. In Christ, the poor and the rich are all included as part of His salvific mission. Granted they acknowledge their poverty of soul. Rather than God's salvation being one dimentional, it is a holistic salvation. The coming of Jesus calls all to arise from their place of complency and mediocrity and to embrace the New Life full of hope and meaning. God with us, Immanuel, means that nothing is impossible. With God, all things are possible to them who believe.

Dec 14, 2008

Touched by the Villagers' Generosity

Today, Sunday, was a fairly busy day for us. We woke up early and got ready to go to church. Our host friends Dr. Matasi and his wife Ziporah had invited us to minister at their church here in Kitale. The name of the church is called Kitale Victory Center. It was started five months ago and has about 500 members at the moment. Dr. Matasi, an OB-GYN, is a prominent member in the church as well as in the city. He operates a medical clinic called Rapha Medical center, with a vision to develop a full fledged Christian hospital in the town. Pray with him that this vision which he has held for over ten years will come to pass. Since our arrival here in Kenya, I have felt that the Lord would like for us to encourage the people with a message of hope and restoration. I have shared this message now in three cities (Nakuru - Nakuru Christian Center, Nairobi- Nairobi Pentecostal Church Valley Road, and Kitale- Kitale victory center) as well as in my village of Eluuya and also with the nations' political leadership. Today I spoke from the book of Revelations Chapter 5, challenging the believers with the words of the Elder in the presence of God who commands John to (1)stop weeping and (2) behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Whereas we may feel disappointed because of our circumstances and luck of insight into our future; whereas we may luck understanding of God's plan for our lives, surrender to Jesus Christ ensures recovery of hope and purpose. In Christ, God has offered the Godself as the ultimate solution to our human predicament. The seated God who holds the sealed mysteries and destinies of all humanity and the entire cosmos is also the standing lamb that was slain and has overcome and is able to open the scroll. This Lamb of God has conquored and redeemed for God humanity from every tongue, tribe, language and nation. Kenya, like most African countries suffers from enough tribal related tensions. The message that Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, has redeemed for God people from every tribe, toungue, nation and language and holds no regard for one group above another resonates with the pain and discomforts of the recent post-election violence in the country. His restorative promise is appropriate for a nation beleagured by the consequences of the violence. Because farmers were displaced from their farms, there is currently shortage of food on the market. Scarcity means higher prices for grains. Combine that with the harsh realities of the global economic outlook and what you find are a people who are hard pressed on every side. Even so the Gospel of Jesus Christ is always redemptive and blossoms in such settings. God is well able to grant believers the grace to overcome and to triumph inspite the harsh realities. He himself calls us to invest in eternity while remembering that we can never outgive him. On that note, Suzanne and I were greatly blessed by the generosity of the people in my village of Eluuya during our reception. Besides the dance and the rejoicing with us in what God has done, this people, who live on less than a dollar a day, openned their pockets to share with us financial gifts. They blessed us as they shoved into our hands and pockets their few shilling notes and penny's, wishing as well in our marriage and ministry. We were totally surprised by this gesture of generosity. Often in many places it is the reverse: the local people expect you to give to them since you are coming from the United States. When Suzanne and I eventually counted what had been given to us and converted to U.S. dollars, it was equal to 25 dollars. May the Lord bless them and cause them to prosper even as they have blessed us and added to our ministry to the nations. Finally, my wife has been having some severe pain for a couple days now due to a bladder infection. Thankfully, we are staying with Dr. Matasi and he has been very helpful in advising us on what to do. He prescribed medication for her to take and also advised us to drink a lot of water. Right now she is resting even as I write and I am praying that she feels much better by morning.

Dec 13, 2008

The African Village Dance

My wife Suzanne and I were treated to a very elaborate reception by my family and village when we arrived in the village yesterday. It was more or less a full wedding re-enactment including the cake-cutting ceremony. There were about 400 people at the service after my family worked so hard to limit the number. They sung, danced, and celebrated our arrival. My younger brother Victor led the crowd in a beautiful worship service. The gospel was fully proclaimed and nearly 50 people gave their lives to Jesus Christ following the altar call. My dad, Justus, also shared his testimony and how God has favored him all his life. The most touching moment was when he publicly repented for having "resisted God's will for his son's life (me)" 11 years ago when I had to leave for the United States. He admitted that for selfish reasons, he resisted and sent emisaries to desuade me from following the missionary call at the time. God bless him for his humility. The other great moment was meeting with two of the nations Cabinet ministers. On Tuesday morning I met with the Secretary of Information and Broadcasting Hon. Samuel Poghisio. Our meeting consisted in discussing leadership issues in the nation and the region, specifically in regards to servant leadership. Mr. Poghisio, a born again Christian, is one of the very humble leaders Kenya has at its helm of political power. He is also the chairman of his political party and being tauted as a future possible president. Among other things I got to pray with him after he requested to know if I had any wisdom to share for the nation and the East African region in general. I invited him to participate in our up-coming Leadership and Good Governance Conference in the country of Burundi. My second meeting was with Hon. Khang'ati, a minister in the office of the Prime Minister. Our meeting focused on personal spirituality and the leadership challenges the local members of parliament encounter. He is not a born-again believer. He was, however, open to praying together and sort to stay in touch. I hope to continue communicating with him in the coming days.

Dec 9, 2008

In Nairobi - Kenya

My wife Suzanne and I arrived here in Nairobi last week on Thursday night. It is great to be back to this city which holds lots of memories for me. I lived, worked, and exhibited my Christian faith here in the early nintees before moving to the United States. I have since been through the city at least once a year mostly on my way to the neighboring countries for mission work. With God's help, I have retained many friends and connections here inspite making my aboard in Minneapolis. I guess it is the normal life of a world evangelist to have friends from all-over the world. When we arrived at the Airport this time though, one friend who has always been there to receive me was ambiguiously missing: Josphat Mboko. Josphat, an old friend and mentour to me since my teenage years, went to be with the Lord this past summer. He and his wife Scolastica were in a road accident and both died, leaving their teenage kids orphaned. It was shocking when I heard about it in early August cause he was getting ready to come to Minneapolis for my wedding when the accident happened. God bless their souls as they sit with Jesus. One clearly noticeable change in Nairobi is that the city looks a lot more cleaner and greener than it did in the ninties. The other change are the longer traffic jams. The jams start at six in the morning and continue throughout the day until after nine at night. It is not unussual to get stack on the road three to four hours trying to make a stretch of four miles. That is how crazy it has gotten here. I am told every day Nairobians add an average of 500 new vehicles on the road. Yet there is little being done expand the existing roads or to build new ones at the moment. It can be annoyingly slow trying to make it from point A to point B. Other than that my wife Suzanne is doing great. When we first arrived she was very tired and we had to make quite a few adjustments in our schedule so that she could rest adequately. I will tell you more about what we have been doing and whom we have been meeting with in my next post.

Nov 11, 2008

Advancing from Success to Significance

"I am requesting for your prayer,” he began as we sat down over a meal at the Forepaugh restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota four years ago. “I am currently designing a heart device that has capacity to stop itself should it sense that a heart patient is beyond recovery. My biggest concern is to know what our boundaries as human beings are and when we are crossing those boundaries in regards to medical innovation and treatment,” he continued as he sought God’s wisdom in the matter. Meet Robert Stadler as he lives out his faith in the market place of scientific ideas and technological cutting edge. He is the Senior Principal Scientist for Medtronic, the world’s largest medical technology company whose head-quarters is here in Minneapolis. A graduate of both Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University from where he holds a Master of Science in electrical engineering and PhD in Medical Engineering respectively, Rob advanced from searching for success in life to finding significance through his relationship with Jesus Christ. Rob and I met seven years ago when I was invited to speak at a youth service at their church, Messiah Lutheran Church, in Moundsview, a Northeast suburb of the Twin Cities. Moved by what God was doing, he, along with his wife Bethanie, a professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, and their two children, Noelle and Andrew, felt led to get involved with SWIM. I later invited Rob to join our Board of Directors which he has joyfully and diligently served as chairman for the last three years. One of Rob’s amazing qualities is his self-effacement. He is a humble, down to earth servant of God, keen to serve and obey Christ with trembling and fear. As we have worked together, his biggest concern has always been making sure that we are not getting in the way of God and hindering His work through mediocre faith, over-emphasis on availability or lack thereof of finances, or any other thing. He is deeply compassionate, a trait that led him to be involved with a young Rwandan refugee family following the 1994 genocide in the country of Rwanda. Recently, God stretched Rob’s faith when He laid it on his heart to travel with the SWIM team in 2007 to conduct the Africa Great Lakes Region Conference for Leadership and Governance in Kigali Rwanda and the Festival of Hope in Bukavu, DR Congo. Having never travelled into a war-battered zone before, Rob’s faith was stretched each day as we drove on raggedy roads and met extremely needy people and situations in the Democratic Republic of Congo. As our team’s logistics manager, he successfully navigated otherwise daunting logistical situations in a foreign environment, allowing the rest of our team to minister effectively to over 400 pastors, government leaders, and to nearly 20,000 residents of the city of Bukavu through the Festival of Hope. During the pastor’s conference, he equipped the church leaders with great insights on effective time and resource management as the expression of our faith. On How He Came to Faith "I grew up as a Christian, but only in the latter half of my years have I really felt the urge to put my faith into practice. I have since felt a calling to advance from striving for “success” to striving for “significance.” God makes it clear that his kingdom and his purposes are the only things that carry true significance. Striving for success according to human wisdom is like chasing after the wind - it is meaningless!" On the Relationship between Faith and Science "A great deal of good comes both from science and from faith. Unfortunately, some scientists choose to discredit themselves by attempting to use the scientific method to answer the question: “How did life begin?” This question cannot be answered by the scientific method, and attempting to do so requires one to assert their own bias to fill the gaps. Bias always leads to bad science. As a result of this ongoing debate, science is discredited and the foundation of the church has been shaken. This question can only be answered by faith. I put my faith in the word of God rather than the biased ideas and interpretations of man." My Tribute As a co-laborer in the Kingdom of God with Rob, I give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ who connected us seven years ago. It is true that God calls individuals just like he called me from the boondocks of Kenya to preach His gospel around the world. However, he never calls those individuals alone. He calls them along with and to serve among the community of other believers. Through Kingdom partnerships, we confront powers and principalities that stand in opposition to the truth of God. Rob has been and continues to be that faithful partner. Now that He is transitioning from our Board of Directors to spend sometime doing research in Europe, I pray that God’s hand of favor will continue to follow him and his family in unprecedented fashion. Thank you brother for your humble service. Keep the flame burning! Robert Stadler, PhD, is the out-going chairman of the Leadership Board for Shine in the World Int'l Ministries (SWIM) of which I am Founder and President -- this is in honor of his example of faith and service to the Kingdom. God does not require extra-ordinary people. He uses ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. In Rob and his lovely wife Bethanie, PhD, along with their children Noel and Andrew, I see an ordinary couple who are available to Jesus Christ.

Oct 8, 2008

How should we live in the face of economic anxiety?

The question we are all dealing with is how to live well in these economically anxious times. According to the latest statistics by psychologists, eighty percent of Americans are anxious about the economic outlook and worried about making ends meet. That is a staggering number of people. Unfortunately, the news is not any different for followers of Jesus Christ. Everyweek I pray with people who are on the brink of a nervous break-down due to economic pressures. Many among us are dealing with job losses, house-value depreciations, and diminished or vanished incomes. Those in their 50s and 60s are seeing their retirement savings disappear over-night. Just yesterday, a dear seminary professor shared with me his own anxiety... his 401 K is now far much less than it was 15 years ago even as he approaches retirement. I believe that Jesus gives us a clear blue-print on how to live anxiety-free. Here are five principles that we find in Matthew 6:19-34 that if we pay attention to, we can live joyfully and worship God authentically inspite the goings-on: First, Jesus warns us to EXPECT SUDDEN COLLAPSE of earthly economic securities: Although we always hope and pray that our investments will flourish, Jesus tells us to expect sudden melt-down and disappearance. He warns that earthly investments are vulnerable. Thieves will break in and steal or moth and rust will nibble away on them. Many of us are all shocked to learn how Wallstreet CEO thieves have been actively stealing the public's funds. We are seeing how the moth and rust of economic mismanagement is leading to bank collapses. It should not be surprising to believers. Jesus said these things are bound to happen. If we place our hope and full confidence in humanly managed systems (capitalism) we are bound to be disappointed. Expecting shifts and disappointments is realistic and saves us from unneccessary anxiety when our investments suddenly vanish. Most importantly, it helps us to invest our time and treasures wisely. Secondly, in view of expected sudden melt-down Jesus calls us to INVEST DIFFERENTLY. He calls us to prioritize the investment of our time and resources around the Kingdom of God. "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (v. 20). Some of us may have stopped giving to charitable causes, ministries, and churches due to our fear and panic. But Jesus reminds us that this is the best time to invest in the Kingdom of God. The measure of our trust in God is our generousity in times of anxiety. With open hands we should receive from God all that He wants to give, believing that He wants to give us alot, and with open hands give it away, believing that we cannot outgive Him. Jesus clearly calls us to demonstrate our strength of relationship and confidence in God through our continued generosity. Thirdly, Jesus calls us to REFOCUS. By drawing attention to our eye's influence over our overall well-being, Jesus calls us to refocus our view and perspective. "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness." What have you been focusing on lately? What have you been talking about and with whom? Clearly, what we focus on affects our overall health. If we are solely focused on Wallstreet, we will no doubt be depressed. But if we focus on God, then we have no reason to worry. Jesus warns us against letting the darkness out there overwhelm us in here. The tragedy is not that there is darkness out there. The tragedy is that we, His followers, should let the darkness out there encroach on our inside. Symptoms of darkness on the inside are precisely what we are seeing in 80 % of Americans: anxiety, panic, depression, anger, resignation and despair, etc. "If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (v. 23). Fourthly, Jesus calls us to REMAIN LOYAL TO GOD. The Old-Testament concept of loyalty to God embraces the idea that Israel was to look to God as their sole provider and reason for prosperity. It was the reason behind God's command for them to take a day of rest (Sabbath) each week contrary to their pagan neighbors who worked seven days a week. It was a re-affirmation that they were not a self-dependent and self-made prosperous community. God was their source of wealth and well-being. Rather than rush to save ourselves by taking on more working hours or second and third jobs at the expense of our spiritual health or families, we should re-affirm our confidence in God and pledge ourselves afresh to Him. We should stop trying to save ourselves apart from God's plan and seek His wisdom on how to channel our investments. If you watched todays news, you know that all the recent attempts by government and the Fed chairman to bail out Wallstreet or to cut interest rates is landing in a bottomless pit of sorts. I can be as bold here and state that the American government's current approaches in seeking an economic solution are anti-God and will fail. My wife Suzanne points out to me that God is attempting to get our attention. But so far, we have remained self-focused. The solutions being pursued are totally fear-driven and anthropocentric in nature. No one seeks God. No, not even one. As God's people, His call for us is to stop trying to save ourselves. Have you prayed about your current situation or your future? What is most important to you? Is it your 401 K? I assure you if it is, that as it goes down so goes your future with it. "You cannot serve God and mammon" Jesus warns (v24). Finally, know that GOD CARES for you. Therefore stop worrying. Worry and anxiety do not add to our lives. They take away from our lives. Jesus assures us that God is watching over each one of us to provide for us all of our basic needs. He may not necessarity indulge our wants (a whole new topic for later) but He wants us to know that He will take care of our needs. He does it daily for birds, beasts, and plants. He will do it for you. --------------------------------------------- Several months ago I gave a message in the four worship services at Westwood Community Church titled: How then do we live in the anxious middle? (July 22nd 2007). I said that for those who are followers of Jesus Christ, we have the advantage of faith and divine companionship in our experience of the anxious middle. We are confident about a good ending pricisely because God, the one who holds the beginning and the end of our story, is with us and for us. I urge you to click on the link, scroll through the topics and listen to this audio for your own encouragement as it is relevant to our current state of affairs.

Sep 23, 2008

Marriage: Investing the most and the best

I recently married my best friend and companion, the love of my life Suzanne. I am having the BEST time of my life EVER. So, I hope you understand why I haven't posted much lately. The ancients understood something about a newly married man and the necessity for him to take time to get to know His wife. For instance, Moses instructed Israel not to send a newly married man to war or lay any other heavy responsibilities on him for at least one year. He was to stay home and bring happiness to his wife (Deuteronomy 24:5). One thing is clear to me: marriage has plenty of rewards. We are blessed to be married, especially if we have our priorities right. By this I mean having God as the center of our marriage relationship and caring more about your spouse's wellbeing than your own. My experience so far is to be careful to seek God's wisdom when faced with potential crisis. I pray for Suzanne consistently and on a daily basis and serve her in light of our call as servant leaders. With this in place, I count on God's grace to sustain us. His hand continues to make us thrive in our enjoyment of each other and guides us through potential and real adversity. When I have given my best, only the best keeps coming back to me. One thing I thank God for is that I took plenty of time to prepare for my marriage. You may not believe this when I tell you that since age ten, I prayed consistently and almost daily for my future wife. Given that I am now 35, I prayed for my wife for the last 25 years on a consistent basis before I ever met her. Besides praying for her and for decisions around that, I prepared by reading widely on the subject. I read and pondered what the Bible teaches about marriage. I read great books from respected Christian authors about marriage and on relationships in general. I also observed and developed relationships with thriving couples besides my own immediate family. When taking marriage and family courses at Seminary, I worked hard to understand not only how marriages succeed but also what makes some fail and how to avoid such failure. Most importantly, I prepared myself through developing a vibrant and healthy relationship with God, with self and with others around me. At the appointed time, all these factors came together to yield my current joyful experience. I believe that what and how much we reap from our marriages is directly proportional to our investment in it before and during our marriage. It is my commitment to invest the most and the best so that both Suzanne and I can be our most and the best for the Kingdom of God. Living in the midst of a generation of great brokenness and painful experiences, one cannot help but stay on guard both day and night. Like Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, we are to hold a sword in one hand to guard against the enemy's intrution and work on growing our marriage relationships with the other . There is no question that the family is under attack all around the world. But there is also no question that God is standing with all those who humble themselves under His mighty hand and count on His covenant relationship with Him and with their spouses. He protects them with His own blood.

Jul 17, 2008

Where Humanity and Truth Meet

The issue with us believers who are engaged in political discussion here in America is that sometimes we are willing to bury the truth or simply glose over it in order to advance what we think is most important. We would do so in order to support our preferred candidate or political party or merely to win an argument. Truth-being and truth-telling at all times is a virtue we only espouse when it is convinient.

The danger is that this lack of charater breeds nothing less than bondage. By not being honest and truthful with ourselves in accordance with God's Word, we handcuff ourselves and allow political peddlers and exploiters to lead us blindly to the dark dangeons of servitude. Hidden in the candy of political expedience is the deadly poison of devilish deception.

I see this in our talk of "choosing the lesser of two evils" language. In other words, we would gladly paint over a lie thereby become liars for political expedience. The God that I know from Scripture is a God who is consistent in his resistance of evil. He does not choose to endorse "the lesser of two evils." Nor does he overlook one evil in dealing with another. He deals with evil decisively. His hatred for it is absolute.

So what is this talk of us choosing "the lesser of two evils?" Aren't we by so doing--- co-opting evil, glosing over evil, becoming evil ourselves and therefore enemies of God? If none of the candidates espouses our values, why can't we be simply honest and say that our preferences are simpy that...our preferences as human beings who live in a fallen world and who by virtue of our humanity participate with other human beings in the political process and that it doesn't always have to be spiritualized. Why coat our choices in "lesser of two-evils" language?

The great value of truth lies in its liberating power. Truth and freedom are inseperable. Jesus tells us that knowing truth sets us free (John 8:32). When we are truthful with God, with ourselves, with our family and friends, and in being and in facts, then we are a truly free people.

When we are dishonest with God, with ourselves, and with society around us, regardless of how free we look in the natural, we are in bondage and are seperated. The lie always leads to bondage and seperation from God and from others. Ultimately, it leads to death.

The Hebrew and Greek traditions that shape our Judeo-Christian understanding of the nature of truth taken together give us a comprehensive picture of what it means to be truthful. In the Hebrew or Old Testament tradition, the basis of truth is more in terms of a reliable person rather than it is of mere facts of the case. Reliability is an attribute of God whose truth "reaches to the clouds" (Ps 108:4). God is true. He is consistent both in his loving care for his children (Gen 32:9) and in His implacable hostility against sin (Ps 54:5; 119:151).

Truth is also demanded of humanity as its response to God in obedience to the law and in its inmost nature (Ps. 51:6). Truth is portrayed as the bedrock of all human relationships (Ex 20:16; Dt. 5:20). In Greek literature, the words for truth, (aletheia, alethes, alethinos), depict truth as being facts rather than its moral and personal understanding of the Hebrew thinking... as in Judicial language. The New Testament combines both the Hebrew and Greek understandings of truth. Ultimately, it is personified in the very person of Christ who is "the Way, the Truth and the Life." Jesus points to the knowledge of truth as the key to human freedom. For a follower of Christ, truth must be both moral and factual/judicial in expression. We cannot articulate one without the other. To compromise in any way is a much more grave lie in the sight of our God. Truth must be both truth-being and truth-telling. And yes, truth-being and truth-telling includes what we choose to forward to our friends on-line. Ultimately, where truth and humanity meet, there is freedom.

Jul 9, 2008

What Do I Know About Obama's Faith? Part I

Lately I have had several people ask me what I know about Barack Obama and his faith. So, I will be responding to this request in my next few posts. If you have studied anything about the History of Christianity in North America, you know that the American public has always cared about the faith of their presidents and presidential candidates. We like it when our leaders express their dependence on God and can affirm their personal faith in Christ. That is not to say that everybody likes it that way. There are plenty of people who are so irked by this fact. They would rather have secularism dominate. The truth discernible from those of us who are 35 and under, however, is that faith requirement is a quality that is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Faith in the person of Jesus Christ and acknowledgement of the need for God in the public square of American politics and business enterprise is not going anywhere. This election cycle is no different. Americans are a religious people. 90 percent of us believe in God, 70 percent affiliate themselves with an organized religion, 38 percent call themselves committed Christians, and substantially more people in America believe in angels than they do in evolution despite the many years of secular propaganda and contrary public education indoctrination. Beyond the economic and the war policies of the campaigns, the faith stands of both Barack Obama and John MCcain are going to matter. Rather than a perfect and neatly packaged faith story, we are keen to discern a sense of authenticity, humility and honesty from the candidates on their personal faith. An acknowledgement that they recognize the limits of their human capabilities and that in the times of difficulty that the U.S. and the world may find itself in from time to time as it sure will, as well as in the good times, they are in a position to guide the nations mood toward God. We are also keen to know that they care about important issues to people of faith such as the sanctity of family, marriage, the unborn child's right to life, the environment, global injustices like Darfur, and the care of the poor among us, among other concerns. This holistic concern for religious issues rather than the piecemeal concern that has characterized partisan politics in the past is important to us. There are other reasons that some people think my opinion on Obama's faith is important. Firstly, Obama has publicly said that He is a born-again Christian. I am an evangelist and I know something about a person who has faith in Christ. I am not saying that I am a judge in that matter. I am simply saying that I know enough to give trustworthy perspective. Secondly, I have no political party interests unlike many of our older evangelical leaders whose faith perspectives I agree with but who are partisan in their brand of politics, dicing the gospel message to affirm certain political groups and against others. I am neither democrat, republican, independent, nor libertarian. I am a missionary. My call is simple: to advance the course of Jesus Christ in the world. Thirdly, I've seen and been asked about the many rumors online about Obama being a secret Muslim with a hidden Muslim agenda because of his Kenyan father. Before I became a missionary to the United States, I was a missionary to Western Kenya. Obama's father, a none practicing muslim, was an immigrant from Western Kenya. I was born there. I know something about the brand of Islam practiced in that part of Kenya. Fourthly, I am a biblical realist. Biblically speaking the world as we know it has little hope of becoming a perfect place. Sure, if people learn to love neighbor as they love themselves and we collectively embrace the teachings of our Lord, life will be much better. It will never, however, become a heaven through political power and activism. Only Jesus Christ's Kingdom when it is fully established upon His return will be a perfect Kingdom. The utopian views of a perfectly just and equal society will remain elusive for a very long time. Hopes of inevitable socio-political and economic progress, fueled by the enlightenment philosophies and pegged upon human genius will always prove to be a disappointment. So how do we assess the "Yes, we can" philosophy? Finally, I care about the future of the United States and of our world. I care about the world in which our children and our children's children will live in. I know that politics plays a huge role in shaping that future. I also know that a candidate's faith or their faith trajectory has huge impact on their political values and policies. It is important we examine where the likely next president of the United States is pointed. O.k., I hope this interests you enough to come back next week to read my next post on this subject.

Jul 3, 2008

Why JCfan-Khakava?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 I recently graduated from Bethel Seminary with a Master of Divinity degree. Following my graduation I promised my family and friends who follow my International ministry that I will start blogging on a regular basis. After experiencing several site difficulties at my previous blog address, I have decided to start a new one here. You might be wondering what JCfan stands for. It simply means "Jesus Christ fan." I am a big fan of Jesus Christ because of what He is doing in my life and in the lives of millions of people all around the world. I am His follower and live my life guided by His Word and philosophy. I came to know Him at an early age of four. So, we go way back in our friendship. "Khakava" simply means "All sufficient God" in the Luhya language spoken in parts of Western Kenya where I was born. This name of God is the equivalent of the Biblical Jehovah Jireh in the Old Testament. It speaks of God's love, care and generosity toward all humanity. I always come to God with open hands and ready to receive believing that God wants to give us a lot in this life. And then with open hands I give it all away believing that I cannot outgive God. It is an absolutely liberating attitude to life. Most of what you will read on this blog will be either reflections on what JC is doing around the world in people's lives, insights on leadership, or wisdom I am gleaning from my walk with Him in His Word. I may share some opinions on various contemporary issues of spiritual significance as well. I hope we can have vigorous interactions. Most importantly, I hope we get to see JC more clearly at work in our lives and the world. So, a big welcome to you as you journey alongside my musings.