Mar 12, 2010

Repentance, Restoration

As Published in the Chanhassen Villager and Chaska Herald Newspapers Faith Columns

By Rev. Sammy Wanyonyi

For centuries, many in the Christian tradition have observed the season of lent on their religious calendar. Starting with Ash Wednesday, they prepare for Easter by practicing a forty-day period of fasting, repentance, moderation and spiritual discipline. They engage in candid self-evaluation and recognition of one’s own mortality, sin, moral failure and shame. Surrounded by other sinners, they come to church to kneel, to pray, and to ask God’s forgiveness. They hear Scripture readings that are urgent and vivid. They have black ashes rubbed into their foreheads. They recite a Litany of Penitence that takes one’s breath away.

Whereas I do not come from a Christian tradition that observes the season of lent, the lessons of lent are not unique to such traditions. Indeed, repentance is at the core of Christianity’s teaching on sin and salvation. It is universal within Christian teaching and understanding of human relationship with God. Jesus started His preaching and teaching ministry in the Gospels with a call to His listeners to repent; “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17).

Fundamental to the process of repentance is the acknowledgement of our human failure, sin and separation from God. The Bible teaches that all humanity has fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Humanity is sinful. We have missed the mark of perfection that is essential to divine-human relationship.

Moreover, our human to human relationships are hindered by our sin nature. We cheat, engage in shoddy business deals, are sexually immoral, are dishonest and exploitative of others, and specialize in facades and window-dressing. In and of ourselves, we are morally incompetent and lack integrity.

Simply put, sin hurts our relationship both in vertical terms (with God) as well as in horizontal terms (with fellow humanity.) Sin kills.

While contemplating this article, I happened to take part in a global media event. Tiger Woods, one of the world’s most famous and admired athletes was giving a statement of apology for his “irresponsible and shameful” actions. For years I have been an admirer of Woods. As his contemporary, I grew up in a Kenyan village where there are no golf courses. But hearing of Tiger Woods golfing accomplishments and later in life watching him play the sport with such a sense of perfection and commitment made me want to learn the game of golf. Most importantly, I wanted to be excellent and succeed well at what I did. As an athlete, he is indeed a global phenomenon.

However, far from the carefully cultivated media image of perfection, Wood’s recent adulterous and immoral actions showed his failures as a human being. In spite his enormous talent, wealth, and fame, Woods, like all of us, is a sinner. Deep inside he experienced an emptiness that he sought to fill with sex and other temporal things. Deep inside and carefully wrapped up with a killer smile was a man in rebellion. In his own words, “I thought the rules didn’t apply to me.”

My prayer for him is that he will experience the grace of God that brings healing and restoration to his personal life, family and career. To the rest of us, however much we may want to throw the first stone, Woods epitomizes what is our human condition. I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed and counseled with people all over the world as they wept and cried over their failures. Five months ago while ministering in the country of Burundi, a man walked up to me after the service and said, “I am a church elder. But I am also an adulterer. Will you pray for me to change right now?”

Not long afterwards while ministering here in the Twin Cities another man walked up to me with tears in his eyes on a Sunday morning with a very similar plea, “I have been unfaithful to my wife and last night she caught me red-handed committing adultery. I am ashamed and embarrassed at what I have done to my family and to my teenage daughter. Will you please pray with me to change?” Sin and human failure are universal, cross-cultural and intergenerational.

For many of us, our pride, humanistic tendency and rebellious nature collude within us to deceptively declare our moral independence from God. But the truth of the matter is that we are morally bankrupt. In and of ourselves we have no control over our sinfulness. It contaminates our lives from birth, and dominates our lives thereafter. We are sinners in need of a Savior.

This season of lent is a good time to take an honest look at ourselves and to come to terms with the reality of our moral bankruptcy, transience, and need of a Savior. The Bible reveals to us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). God did not sent His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved (John 3:17).

Regardless of our moral and spiritual failures, God’s invitation stands. He offers grace and salvation to all those who seek Him through Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the restitutionary Lamb of God that is necessary for our restoration to fellowship with God and healing of our relationships with fellow humanity. To experience His forgiveness, we must repent. We must acknowledge our sin and turn away from it toward God in total submission. We must accept His free gift of Salvation.

So how are we doing on Accelerate and Evening of Hope budget?  Well, a lot of progress.  We are down to $ 7,750 to go with seven days left.  God is able!

Mar 10, 2010

The Lord of All Provisions

Ministry, especially evangelistic work, is always a tough deal.  It is not for those with weakness of bones.  It is not for those without tears in their eyes or for those with smooth knees.  It is for those with courage of spirit and hearts of faith. It is for those who paint a picture in the dark and envision a harvest in a barren land.

As the Psalmist reminds us in Psalms 126:5 & 6 "Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him."

Everytime God calls you to do something new, He sure always provides for it.  But not without calling you to trust Him every step of the way.  Every year and every time since I responded to the Lord's call to global evangelistic work God has always called me to trust Him for the provisions. He has never disappointed.  Preparing for Accelerate Conference as well as the Evening of Hope is no exception.

When we launched these efforts six months ago, we had just emerged from one climax season of amazing provisions as we headed to Burundi for the Bujumbura Festival of Hope.  A week before departure we needed $ 25,000 to complete the $ 100,000 overall cost for the mission and I had no re-entry visas into the United States.  All we held onto was the assurance that God had called us to do the work and come rain or sunshine, we were following through with it.

As we prayed, God gave us assurance that He would do it.  Sure enough within a week's time He had provided $ 25,000 for us and had moved heaven and earth to provide for my Green Card within a day of departure. I could re-enter the United States without difficulties once the mission was over.

With a week to go before the Evening of Hope outreach and Accelerate Conference here in Minneapolis March 19th and 20th, we once again stand $ 9,000 short of our budget for the events.  Once again I am tempted to be nervous and afraid.  Yet deep down I can hear God's call to trust Him with the provisions.  I can hear Him say I shouldn't focus on the economic challenges of our times but rather on the God who holds all times and seasons in His hand. 

For the last four months we have been working hard to prepare and to reach out to the Northwest Metro community.  We have also been working hard to fundraise the modest $ 25,000 budget we assigned for the project.  But with just a few days left to go I find myself asking the same question: will the Lord provide the whole amount for these events? 

Although I look at my limited list of contacts and the economic circumstances and I am tempted to be afraid, I choose to be bold and to answer with an emphatic "Yes, God will provide."    We go forth trembling.  We bear precious seed in our hands.  We stand the risk of embarrasment.  Yet our hearts ache with passion for the King.  Our love for Him surpasses all fear.

We are pushed on by the hope of the joy of the harvest.  As we still our hearts in the tumultuous millieu, we can hear the Master say, "Trust Me, it will be alright.  Your joy will be complete.  I AM simply accelerating your faith in Me."

And so, come back tomorrow to see how we are doing on this.  Most significantly, come alongside with us next week to the Accelerate Conference and the Evening of Hope and witness first-hand the outworking of God's power and Spirit among His people.  As a point of testimony, while I am writing and yet to post this, a friend just pledged to send in $250 toward the efforts.  So here we go.  Only $ 8,750 left to go :)

One Week to Accelerate Conference and Evening of Hope

We are only a week away from the Accelerate conference and Evening of Hope outreach. Now is the time to firm up your plans and to get ready to be blessed through the ministry of God's servants whom He is preparing.

Accelerate conference kicks off on Friday March 19th at 10:00 AM and continues till 4:30 PM. Our speakers on Friday include Scott McNair, President of Shwans Food Company as well as Nick Hall, youth speaker for Billy Graham Association and Founder of Pulse Outreach. I am looking forward to welcoming you to the conference and to sharing with you what God has laid on our hearts.

In the evening of March 19th, we are conducting the Evening of Hope outreach as part of Accelerate. We have a great line-up of music artists who include Superchick, John Reuben (Right), Bread of Stone and Manic Drive as well as great messages of hope from your evangelistic speakers.

On Saturday March 20th, the conference continues from 10:00 AM till 4:30 PM. Joel Johnson, Senior Pastor of Westwood Community Church and professor of transformational leadership at Bethel University will be our morning speaker. We will be concluding the conference on Saturday afternoon with a celebration service and a powerful time of one on one prayer and commissioning as we go forth to serve our Lord.

Please see our conference website: for more details on registration. Remember that the conference fee is $ 80 which includes lunch for both days. The Evening of Hope outreach concert is free admission for the first 900 people. Please spread the word and plan to attend.

Serving in His Power and for His Glory,