Monday, December 22, 2008
Last night small town, small church shone brightly in Mertens, Tx. We had our annual Lessons and Carols, which is your basic Christmas Eve Candle Light Service. Before we started our Lessons and Carols, our children (which we have surprisingly a lot, something must be in the water) performed the "Nativity." The lights were turned down low, with only the stage lights on. There was a small inn to the side of the stage and a barn complete with a manger and Christmas Tree and four bails of hay. Our girl that played Mary appeared on stage and then the music came on: Faith Hill's "A Baby Changes Everything." That's right, Faith Hill. And our kids acted out the nativity as told through the wonderful voice of Faith Hill. It was great. We even had a real live baby Jesus (even though Jesus was a girl last night)! All the kids in their costumes came out: angels, shepherds, wise men, a star, donkeys, camels, and even a pig (poor girl might have a complex later and a pig in a Jewish barn?). It was great. The girl who was the star took the verse literally that the star shone right where Jesus was because Jesus on this night was her sister, and she did not trust our Mary to hold baby Jesus! In fact, she tried to take Jesus at one point, and her mom had to rush to the scene to stop her. After a brief meet and greet time, and rearranging of the furnature, we began our Lessons and Carols. It was beautiful and chaotic at the same time. There were kids all over the place, and parents trying to control them as we read scripture, listened to our chior, and sang Christmas songs in worship of the Christ child. One kid would start crying and then the others would point and say what's that, and then another would run to try and help the baby stop crying. It was crazy and fun and the way that church should be, a family atmosphere. I have a feeling that Jesus smiled at our church last night. When we passed the light from the Christ candle and each person and child helped light up the room with their own candle, it was beautiful. Afterwards we had a Christmas party complete with Santa Claus coming to visit all of our kids. Never has a chaotic celebration seemed so beautiful to me. I leave you with my Advent Reflection as I lit the Christ Candle last night:
We have hoped with the prophets, placed our faith in the promises of God, discovered the joy of new life, and experienced peace beyond human understanding. Now the wait is over. Christ is here and he lights up our dark world.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
I started a book last night called The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson. He has come up with what he calls "spiritual theology" and he wrote in his introductory chapter what I have been struggling with lately:
"It didn't take long for some of our Christian brothers and sisters to develop consumer congregations. If we have a nation of consumers, obviously the quickest and most effective way to get them into our congregations is to identify what they want and offer it to them, satisfy their fantasies, promise them the moon, recast the gospel in consumer terms: entertainment, satisfaction, excitement, adventure, problem-solving, whatever. This is the language we Americans grow up on, the language we understand. We are the world's champion consumers, so why shouldn't we have state-of-the-art consumer churches?"
What do you think about his idea of consumer churches and is there any way to avoid it with our consumer-American lenses on?
Monday, November 10, 2008
Today Sarah and I ate lunch with our good friend Geoff Price, and his friends from Uganda Godfrey and Joy. Geoff is involved in helping starting an orphanage in Uganda along with Godfrey and Joy. Godfrey and Joy are pastors, and they help run an organization for pastors and churches in Uganda called Arise Africa. Godfrey's heart is in the church. He overseas about 200 churches. What he does is either start churches or go to churches that are struggling and train leaders from within the church to do the work. His biggest concern is helping churches to help meet needs. I asked him what are the basic needs and problems that African churches deal with. He says it is mostly clothing people, feeding people, and mentoring young ministers so that they can take the leadership of the church. Godfrey and Joy's joy were contagious, as they explained how they live out the Gospel in Uganda. This has been a war-torn country, and yet the church has survived and even thrived in the midst of poverty, war, and a lack of theological education among its ministers. Godfrey even invited me to come and speak with the pastors to help them with their theological training. What I always leave impressed and blessed on my life anytime I talk with an African Christian is their reliance upon prayer. They have to rely on God to meet their needs. Godfrey and Joy have 8 children, and they could not pay for school this past year. So that had each one of their kids pray for the money for school, and to be grateful even if God did not provide, and God ended up meeting way beyond their need. Listening for God's voice and prayer are woven in the fabric of African Christians. I need them, and their example. Godfrey and I talked about how he listens for God's voice in every decision he makes, and the joy he sees in God's provision. Certainly the African Church are not without their problems, but we need them as examples of prayer and God's provision.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Sarah and I bought a table a few weeks ago. We love it. It is a "grown-up" table as Sarah calls it. The dark wood goes nicely in our three bedroom house in Mertens, which we are incredibly grateful for. We had a table before. It was a Wal-Mart special that I bought when I moved to Waco. It worked, but it was small. The table we have now is big and has a leaf in it. We can comfortably sit eight people at the "grown-up" table. We bought it for ministry purposes. After all we are now at our first pastorate and we know that we will be entertaining people. We needed a nice table to entertain our guests and church members.
The question that I am constantly asking myself is am I too American for the Gospel? I've got nice stuff like our table. I like my stuff. I like our table, and we even used ministry as a justification for buying the table from Patriot furnature (they really do have the lowest prices in Texas!). In my trip to Africa, nobody had a table like mine. Yet over there I learned more about being a Christ follower than I ever have here. I can't wait to go back so that I can learn more. I need those Christ followers, so that I can learn to live out a more authentic following of the Jesus way here in Mertens. I don't know where tables fit in to Christ following, or if that is my American expression of faith. In the mean time, my friend Julie has an excellant post on victimization.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
As Sarah and I have tried to get settled in Mertens, blogging has been put on the back burner. I do have a topic that I am still thinking through and will be thinking through out loud in the next couple of weeks: am I too American to fully accept the Gospel, or to follow the way of the Gospel? It is a discussion that I've thought about through Greg Boyd's Myth of a Christian Nation and a class discussion about a week ago. In the mean time check out two posts that have been meaningful to me lately by Dr. Stroope and my good friend Jeff.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I rarely talk about politics on this blog for several reasons: 1. A kingdom person is not focused on politics, but rather the mission of God in the world. 2. I can get so wrapped up in politics that it can dominate my time. I am going to vote, and I am making an informed decision about my vote. With that being said, I am declaring last night's winner of the debate: Joe the Plumber. So here's to you Joe, way to capture America's hearts, and the hearts (maybe the anecdotal heart that appeals to voters) of the candidates.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
I am not an economist. Most of the language of the bailout is foreign to me since I have not had an economics class since high school. I did study a little bit of economics with Dr. Mullins in my history classes at OBU, but only enough to confuse myself even more. But I have made one observation. Many people go into debt trying to make the allusion that they are higher socially (whether this is conscious or unconscious I don't know). Our national debt is now about to hit the $10 trillion mark. I can't even fathom that much money. We talk about America being the greatest nation in the world, and to be honest I would not live any other place. But I wonder if all our debts, both individually and as a nation, are now catching up with us. We are in desperate need of Jubilee!
On another note, Sarah and I are moving Friday to Mertens, Tx. Excitement, anxiety, nervousness, and joy are swirling within us right now. The people of Mertens have been so kind to us already, and now my good friend John Lassitter is going to join us out there as music minister. I have a feeling God is going to move there in us and through us.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I am now the pastor of FBC Mertens, Tx. To be honest, it is not the place where I would have expected God to place Sarah and I, but it is a great church. Mertens is a town with a blinking light and a Coke Machine (literally), but is an incredible community. I am looking forward to serving the people there as we navigate how to live out the Way of Jesus in Mertens, Tx! Pictures will be coming soon of the house.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
This is an excerpt from a letter of Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world. Our earlier words are therefore bound to lose their force and cease, and our being Christians today will be limited to two things; prayer and righteous action among men. All Christian thinking, speaking, and organizing must be born anew out of this prayer and action. By the time you have grown up, the church’s form will have changed greatly. We are not yet out of the melting-pot, and any attempt to help the church prematurely to a new expansion of its organization will merely delay its conversion and purification. It is not for us to prophesy the day (although the day will come) when men will once more be called so to utter the word of God that the world will be changed and renewed by it. It will be a new language, perhaps quite non-religious, but liberating and redeeming – as was Jesus’ language; it will shock people and yet overcome them by its power; it will be the language of a new righteousness and truth, proclaiming God’s peace with men and the coming of his kingdom. ‘They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it’ (Jer. 33.9). Till then the Christian cause will be a silent and hidden affair, but there will be those who pray and do right and wait for God’s own time. May you be one of them, and may it be said of you one day, ‘The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter till full day’ (Prov. 4.18). (p. 300)
Monday, July 21, 2008
I am one of the few in the America that has not yet seen the Dark Knight, although I hope that will change over the weekend. I have read a few movie reviews, all which say that this movie is incredible. Manahola Dargis of the New York Times wrote a very thought provoking review of the movie. In it she writes, "Apparently, truth, justice and the American way don’t cut it anymore. That may not fully explain why the last Superman took a nose dive (“Superman Returns,” if not for long), but I think it helps get at why, like other recent ambiguous American heroes, both supermen and super-spies, the new Batman soared." In other words, we want our heroes in a "postheroic" culture to have an edge, even to be flawed or have some kind of struggle in some way. We crave authenticity. Perfection is no longer a requirement for our heroes anymore. Instead, we want our heroes to feel the intense struggle of life like we do.
The other day I tuned into a Christian radio station in the Dallas area to listen if they would play my future sister-in-law's band. A promotion for the radio station came on and proclaimed that this particular radio station was "fun and safe for the whole family." Put that together with the success of the Dark Knight and you see a clash of ideas between the Christian Ghetto and the mainstream public. The public craves authenticity in their saviors, where the Christian world boasts of safety and fun. Does anyone else see the problem?
The irony is that Christianity does offer an authentic savior. We have a savior and redeemer who did struggle. We love to worship and ponder Jesus being God, but have to remind ourselves that Jesus was a man. However, if you would sit around the campfire with Jesus' disciples in the early 1st century and say, "Hey did you know that Jesus was a man," they would look at you crazy and say "Duh, of course he's a man." When we actually read the Gospels, especially Mark and Luke, Jesus' humanity begins stand out. The struggle is there as he is tempted to show his power and might to the world. The struggle is there knowing full well that he could militarily raise an army to defeat Rome. The struggle is there when some of the Jews try to crown him king after he miraculously feeds them. Jesus struggled. We don't like to think about that. But it must have been such a temptation to take over the world. The struggle was so intense the night before he died, that Jesus literally sweat drops of blood. Our Savior does know what it means to struggle, and because of his struggle, God gives us life.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I have to admit, I've always thought that mysticism was something that only weird people did. I thought that they have missed the point of Christianity by secluding themselves only to think. I read in my Texts and Traditions I class about mystics who would barely eat together, and some who would even refrain from taking part in communion because they wished to be alone with God. Walter Rauschenbusch, the father of the social gospel, said that mysticism was a waste of time, and that Jesus was not a mystic but rather a social revolutionary. Mystics dedicated their lives to the spiritual and sometimes to seclusion and being weird. I always thought that they were insane hermits living alone out in a desert somewhere. It was not until lately that I have become dissatisfied with my own "quiet time" that I have found beauty in the mystic tradition. Quiet times are taught to children in evangelical churches in order for a person to spend a few moments alone with God. In my own journey, I have found that I have become legalistic about my quiet time, and it became more of a law to fulfill rather than an organic alone time with God. Quite honestly, my quiet times were often pretty selfish, ending with prayers about what is going on in my life and not being quiet listening for the voice of God. Add to that my fascination with Greek, Hebrew, and preaching, my quiet times turned into what will preach time. At Truett, thanks to Dr. Talbert, I have been exposed to other forms of Spiritual formation that I have lacked in my journey up to this point. I would be lying if I told you that I have done each and every one of them or even liked all of them. I have not, but what they have taught me is to center my focus onto God. In my last post, I talked about the impact Thomas Merton is having on me. The more I get into mysticism and the poetry, silence, and beauty that comes with it, the more I realize that God is a mystery, and that without mystery, there is no beauty. G.K. Chesterton said, "Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery, you have health; when you destroy mystery, you create morbidity." God is ultimately a mystery, and we need to be open to they mysterious part of God, because it keeps us at peace.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Recently, I have started to get into more of the mystical writings with my journey with God. I love scripture, and I have given my life to studying scripture. However, that often dominates my time with God, and so I am exploring other disciplines with my journey. I came across a book by Thomas Merton, who was an American monk. I had heard about Thomas Merton from Greg Boyd, a pastor in Minnesota who I listen to on Podcast. The book I am going through is "A Book of Hours." It is a book dedicated to praying the hours with Thomas Merton's reflections, poems, writings, and inward examinations. This quote is from today's reading during the "Day" portion of Monday: "Perhaps I would rather be guilty and weak in myself, than strong in Him whom I cannot understand." Wow. This statement has caused me to really look at myself. It is easy to proclaim God with your own strengths. But to truly rely on God, and be strong in God, who we can never fully understand. That is truly scary. And that's why God is Holy.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
My lovely bride-to-be, Sarah and I
Monday, June 02, 2008
In other news, I was ordained this past weekend. It was a special time for me. My dad performed the service and did a phenomenal job as he always does. The ordination council was made up of men who I have had close relationships with for 12, almost 13 years. Several of them were my Sunday School teachers growing up, and I even worked with a couple when I was on staff at the church. My cousin Elise was married in Houston this weekend as well, so all my family was in town, which made it even more special. Sarah of course was there, and her parents were nice enough to come down to Beaumont for the service. It was a great and moving experience last night. I am really grateful for the people God has put in my life to mold me into the person I am today.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
My struggle is that while I do want to remember our soldiers, and every family member or friend that we've lost, I feel like Memorial Day in churches has become another way that American churches promote folk religion. In the Memorial Day services that I have been apart of and have watched on TV done by the Mega-churches, it has become a service that celebrates American greatness and not the resurrection of Christ. I do not know if that is intentional or not, but it concerns me. I do believe in honoring our country. I love the Fourth of July, but I think we need to remember that as Christians, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Citizens of the Kingdom of God do honor soldiers, but also pray and love for our enemies. That is often missing in Memorial Day services. I believe that the Kingdom of God rejects the Kingdom of the Sword, and the violence that is brought with it. The Kingdom of God brings peace and new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I'm not quite sure how to convey this pastorally to a congregation so tied in with American pride. Don't get me wrong, I think it is good to have pride in one's country, but remembering that the Kingdom of God often calls us to do the opposite of what society says. Tomorrow, we'll remember our soldiers, our loved ones, and friends in a time of prayer and remembrance. Although this might be unpopular, I think that I will also lead a time of remembrance for our "enemies" who have lost loved ones as well, and a prayer that God's peace will advance in a seemingly hopeless situation. What do ya'll think?
Friday, May 09, 2008
Friday, April 04, 2008
I could not believe it when I read it, but an editor for the Missouri Baptist newspaper has actually written a book defending the Confederate Flag.
The picture to the right is from the cover of Hinkle's book. And we wonder why Sunday is still the most segregated day in America.
Monday, March 31, 2008
I preach each Sunday at a church similar to this in Adamsville, Texas. It is actually a Presbyterian church which was established in 1897. The building has been there since 1906. It is a long drive early each Sunday morning out there, but I enjoy it. It keeps me from being in the theoretical all week long. Sometimes you never know what you are going to hear out there. For instance, my first Sunday out there, they told me they always have a time of special music. I thought, that's great, somebody from the church gets up and sings. Then I found out that this is actually done by CD. My first Sunday Elvis was in the building singing "He Touched Me." Since then we've had everything from MercyMe to Scottish Bagpipes for "special music" time. As you might expect at a rural church, you hear things that sometimes make me wince or laugh to myself. My favorite was when we had a young boy out there and I mentioned HIV in a sermon. He says in a voice loud enough for me to hear, "Mom, it's not HIV, it's HIJKLMNOV!" Half of the 20 people who come are related in some way or another. However, this church will surprise you. One man, Mr. Perkins, is 90 years old. Last November, he set a world record in the shot put for people 85 and older. He also survived in a Japanese war camp for over 600 days. There is Judge Pru, an 87 year old man who might be the biggest patriot I've ever met. He's one of those guys people in my generation like to poke fun of his American pride. However, a few Sundays ago he described in tears how much this church meant to him. He described about how much they love each other, pray for each other during the week, and how proud he is that they give about 30% of their money to a children's home. There is Bob, who got all bent out of shape a couple weeks ago because the KJV Bible had "doest thou believe in the Son of God?" and the version I read said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He didn't understand that these were the same terms. But Bob is one of those men who you can tell is in constant contact with the spirit. He is one of the most gentle and loving men I have ever been around. Bob encourages me in my preaching, and prays all week for the service that God may touch lives through the service of the church. I hear folk theology all the time out there, and I try to combat it in my sermons as gently as I can, but they have something that many intellectuals and serious students of the Bible do not: a community that loves each other, and a community, even though it is small, dedicated to spreading the love of Christ. We may not have the glamor and size of other churches, but the Spirit is there, and God is glorified just the same.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
I hear a phrase every once in a while that makes me cringe a little bit, but is popular in some circles of Christianity, "To understand the mercy of God, we must understand the wrath of God." I don't hear it very often at Truett, but I do read it on blogs, hear it in sermons, and in popular Christian literature today. Partially, I agree with that statement, but where people go after that statement horrifies me. Most of the time, they then go on to present a god who is angry all the time and who just wants to deal out punishment to the wicked people of earth. It is a judicial presentation of a god sitting on a throne ready to zap those who do wrong. The only way people are then saved from this angry, lightning throwing god is that they have Jesus in some sense as their lawyer. Jesus then is almost presented as Johnny Cochran who always gets his defendants acquitted. The problem I have with this system of looking at God is that it is not the God encountered in the Bible. I agree, humans are totally deprived. We all have a sin nature and are in need of a Savior in Jesus Christ. God, however, is not sitting on his throne ready to zap us. That is not God, that is Zeus. What I am about to say is an idea taken from one of my seminary friends, Chris Doe. I am taking his initial idea, and then expounding upon it a little bit. God as he is presented in the Bible is a "Holy God," meaning that God is wholly other than his creation. As a result, we will never fully understand God. God time and time again is presented as a being of love. Over and over again the Old Testament says that God is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abiding in steadfast love (Psalm 145, Jonah 4, Exodus 34:6). So how do we understand his wrath? Since God is a Holy God, we do not understand the full implications of his wrath. However, my friend Chris has a good statement: "God's wrath is tied in with his love." It is a wrath born out of his love for his creation. Therefore, God's wrath is not ultimately just arbitrary against wicked people, but has a purpose of redemption and restoration. Take for instance the flood account. After the fall in chapter 3, Genesis presents a human society that grows more violent and wicked by the generation. By the time we arrive at chapter 6, all the human hearts are wicked and their thoughts evil, outside of Noah. So God is grieved. God is hurt and upset that humans are destroying the world he created and loves. The God presented here is a God who feels, who hears suffering, and who wants to restore his creation. God's wrath here is not to arbitrarily wipe out human society, but rather to recreate the world God loves. This is a story not of destruction, but one of salvation. Through God's love of the world, he saved the world from itself. That is the wrath of God, not a destroying wrath, but one of recreation. God's wrath is born out of his love for humans and his creation, and is in some way a representation of God's mercy.
Monday, March 17, 2008
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
This past summer, I wrote several blogs about my experience in Kenya. Most of it was how I saw God working among the poorest of the poor in Kenya. However, I left out a big part of the story. I met and fell in love with my future wife Sarah there. Someone who was instrumental in Sarah and I coming together was this little guy above, Marvin. Marvin spoke no English, and honestly did not speak much at all (until Marc decided it would be a good idea to give him six cookies). His eyes told his story. They were eyes of hope, love, and acceptance. Whenever you looked into Marvin's eyes, your heart melted and fell in love with the kid. Even though he did not talk, he was a smart kid. He was always looking around, checking things out. Marvin's mom was learning a trade so she could take care of Marvin and herself at a place called Beacon of Hope. I love that name Beacon of Hope, and Marvin's presence there personified that ministry. We met Marvin at the chapel service when we first visited Beacon of Hope. He came right up to our team, and we immediately fell in love with him. For some reason, he wanted to hang around me (or maybe it was mutual). Sarah, who loves kids, was gravitated to him as well, and there is a picture Sarah, Marvin, and myself all holding hands while he looked up with those eyes at Sarah. It was almost like he was saying that Sarah and I should be together. Like I said, smart kid. There was another moment when Marvin and I were playing that he came and hugged me. Never has my heart been so warm as it was in that moment. I looked up, and there was Sarah looking at me with her blue eyes. It was at that moment I knew something special was happening between us thanks to a quiet, but loving and hopeful boy named Marvin, who hopefully Sarah and I will see again.
Monday, January 28, 2008
The picture to the left depicts one of the many sacred moments I experienced in Kenya this past summer. We were at Xcel School in the Kibera slum next to Nairobi. This slum is three miles long and a half mile deep. When I visited it this summer, it was estimated that about one million people live in this small stretch of land. Sadly, this slum has been home to much of the tribal violence going on in Kenya over the past month. In the couple of days my team and I spent at Xcel School, we had several moments where we could feel Heaven crashing into Earth. One of those moments happened right before lunch the first day we were there. The school feeds the kids ugali, rice, and beans every day. For many of the kids, that was the only meal they would have all day. Before they are fed, however, they pray together. Each kid, out loud, and in Swahili. Those prayers, prayers of genuine gratitude, impacted our whole team, even though we had no idea what they were saying. Now these kids are not only praying for thanksgiving, but also for peace. The article below originally ran in Baptist Press.
NAIROBI, Kenya (BP)--A group of children runs up a muddy path, drenched from an unexpected downpour. A 5-year-old boy speeds in front of the pack when he suddenly spies the perfect puddle.
He waits until his older sister and friends are almost parallel with him and then practically "cannon balls" to get the biggest splash. He giggles and dashes inside a small, tin shack of a Baptist church as the 8-year-olds squeal and chase after him.
After three weeks of post-election violence, it's good to hear the sounds of children laughing and playing -– especially in the hard-hit slums of Nairobi.
Inside the church, it's wall-to-wall children -– and a sound even more precious than laughter can be heard –- a child's sweet, innocent prayer.
"Father, our country is in trouble. We pray for peace to come," an 11-year-old boy prays. "Protect us, Father. Teach people to love one another and not to fight anymore."
For the last two weeks, children in this small slum area have gathered to pray for their country. The church's pastor says the children started gathering on their own, so he let them in the church. The daily prayer meeting now attracts more than 200 children ranging in age from 3 to 17.
Ever since the children started praying together, the pastor says there have been no deaths, houses burned or even violence in their section of this slum. Adults recite this fact in amazement. The children, however, don't even mention it because it's exactly what they expected to happen.
"Pastor told us that there is power in prayer. He said we can change the country through prayer," 12-year-old Boniface explains. "So that is what we are doing, changing the country."
The children evidence a depth of understanding of the issues surrounding Kenya's post-election chaos.
The 12-year-old prays for President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to sit at one table and talk peacefully. Votes cast in the election for these two candidates are under contention. The two leaders have yet to talk to each other in an effort to bring the strife in Kenya to a peaceful resolution.
Caroline, 16, shows her concern for the 250,000 internally displaced people around the country. She prays they will be able to go to school somewhere and that they feel safe. UNICEF estimates that more than 40 percent of the displaced are children. Parents put their children on trucks headed to the camps for displaced people but stayed behind to protect their houses and belongings. Many sit in camps, unable to attend schools that just opened in mid-January.
Another young boy prays for the people hurting others who are not from the same tribe, referring to reports of ethnic animosity throughout the country. He asks God to help them all be brothers and sisters and one people.
The pastor smiles and whispers to me, "A few days ago that one asked if I knew what tribe he was. I told him no. He didn't know, either. So he told me, 'I think I belong to the tribe of Kenya.'"
When it's time for the "babies" to pray, a fearless 4-year-old clasps his hands and closes his eyes so tight that his entire face scrunches up. "God, people die," he says in prayer. "Please do not let anyone die in front of my house."
More than 600 people have died since elections Dec. 27. The number increases daily as violence and protests continue.
An adult's concluding prayer simply thanks God for the innocent prayers of children and their faith in His answers.
As soon as the "Amen" is said, the church buzzes with little voices and bottled-up energy spurts out freely. Laughing and holding hands, the children rush into the rain and head home.
Even though it's the dry season and rains are not supposed to come for another month, no one complains about getting wet or muddy. The rain is an answered prayer.
The children had prayed about a three-day countrywide protest called by the opposition party. They had asked God to take control and keep people from dying.
Because of the rains, turnout for the protest was much smaller than expected. While there was still a lot of property damage, it was much less than predicted. Death tolls for the week were the lowest since the incidents started.
"See," 7-year-old Natasha whistles through her missing two front teeth. "God answers prayers."
Sue Sprenkle, an overseas correspondent for the International Mission Board, has been reporting from Africa for 10 years.
May we all learn from these kids to pray for peace, and may we all have a "child-like" faith.
Friday, January 25, 2008
If you did not know, I got engaged about a month and a half ago to the beautiful woman in the picture with me on the left (if you are reading on Facebook, you cannot see this, but she is in my profile picture). I never knew how much planning actually goes into a wedding. Sarah's roommate is a wedding planner, and makes a good living doing it (she is doing our wedding by the way). In the past few weeks, I have learned what runners, calililies, monkey tails, baguettes, and so many other things that I had no idea went into a wedding. It's amazing how much planning actually goes into an event that lasts for six-seven hours, and I'm grateful because Sarah and I will be able to enjoy that day and remember it forever. Imagine though planning a wedding that doesn't last for just seven hours, but seven days! That is how the weddings were in the 1st century Judaism. The couple would have the ceremony under a Chupah, and then walk through the town as people provided the light to walk by lanterns. They would then go and know each other in the biblical sense, and then come back out for the reception which would last for seven days! The couple would be given crowns and robes to wear, and would be treated like royalty for the duration of the celebration. Essential to this party was wine. In the Bible, wine is seen as a blessing from God. God wants us to celebrate, and wine was a symbol of joy and celebration. However, since it was a gift from God, they would not drink to get drunk because that would disrespect God's blessing. To some of you, this seems like your kind of party! It obviously was for Jesus, because in John 2 we find Jesus at one of these wedding celebrations. But something happened. The party ran out of wine. This was a social shame. Not having enough wine to supply your guests would be a family shame for years. So the host of this party was in trouble because he had run out of wine. Jesus' mother found this out, and comes to Jesus for help. And so Jesus, reluctant at first because he knew if he did this sign, the way to the cross would be coming soon, as hour for the book of John is symbolic of the cross. But Jesus saves the day and turns the water into wine. It's interesting what water Jesus uses to turn into the wine. He uses the huge buckets that hold 20 to 30 gallons of water that were used for the purity rituals to keep a good Jew "clean." Clean and unclean was of upmost importance for the 1st century Jew. It became so important that they would send lepers to live in isolation from the community, they would not eat certain kinds of food such as pork, and would only associate with Gentiles if they had to. If they came into contact with any of these "unclean" things, they would go through this washing ceremony before they could worship or even eat. The water would wash away the "unclean" and make one "clean." Jesus, who said it was not on the outside of the person but on the inside of the person is what makes one clean, takes this ritual water and turns it into win. According to Amos 9, wine is going to be a symbol of the new age of salvation and restoration of humans to God. So when Jesus replaces this water with wine, he is saying something more. He is saying the age of salvation and restoration is here, and that Jesus' way is replacing the old way of ritual. The question then for us is what does Jesus need to replace in our lives? For our churches, what does Jesus need to replace there? Does he need to take our judgementalism and replace it with grace? What does Jesus need to replace our old way of doing things, with his way of grace and restoration?
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Monday, January 21, 2008
Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I grew up hearing about Dr. King, and enjoying the day off dedicated to him growing up. However, I really began to study his life as a sophomore in college. His writings and life was incredible, and I hope we can take up his message of love and continue to repair racism in our country.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Monday, January 07, 2008
This is Leonardo DaVinci's depiction of the Magi coming to visit Jesus. It shows the Magi worshiping Jesus in the middle of chaos. I like it because I think that is the picture that Matthew is trying to paint in his gospel. After all, Herod and all Jerusalem with him were grieved at the Magi's appearance and their request to find the "King of the Jews." Yesterday was the on the Christian calender the day of Epiphany. In the Western church, that is the day that the Wise Men (Magi) are celebrated as to have revealed the Christ child and have had the Christ child revealed to them. I have never been into the church calender much, but after studying a little bit about Epiphany, I really enjoyed this day. Epiphany comes from two Greek words (maybe another reason why I enjoy Ephiphany) epi and phaneo. Both of them together mean to reveal or to show. The story itself is so interesting to me. Here we have these Persian priests who study astrology recognize that a significant world figure is born. During this time there were whispers of a great world leader being born in Judea as the Roman historian Tacitus wrote about this. So they come to the most logical place to find a great leader or ruler born in Judea, Jerusalem, the capital. There they meet"King" Herod. Herod was not really the king, as Rome was in control. He was more of a governor. Herod was so concerned to keep power that he wanted to be just like Rome. He would build these massive buildings, much like the Romans would. He even built a temple dedicated to a Roman god, as well as a huge palace for himself, and renovations to the temple in Jerusalem where the Jews would have worshiped. He wanted to keep power so badly and be like the Romans so badly that he missed Jesus. The Magi also talked to the chief priests. They knew all the answers, and even told the Magi where the Messiah was to be born. But in all their study, and in all their pursuit to be right, they missed Jesus. No, it was these Gentile astronomer priests who found Jesus. They gave him three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts really told the story of Jesus. The gold is what you would give a king. We know that Jesus is the King of kings and came to establish God's kingdom here on earth. Frankincense is an incense that priests used during sacrifices. We know from Hebrews 4, that Jesus is our great high priest. And myrrh is an embalming spice. Jesus of course came not to rule by force, but to rule by death on a cross. Through these gifts they made known the story of Jesus. I guess my question is do we with our lives make known the story of Jesus? It's so easy to be like everybody else and conform to society like Herod did. The pursuit of money and consumerism is so easy to follow. The other extreme that many evangelical Christians fall into is wanting to be right and have all the answers, just like the chief priests. However, we have become so concerned with being right, that sometimes we miss Jesus. Yes, we should study the Bible. But we do not study the Bible to argue with people, especially lost people. We study the Bible to live better, to be more Christlike. Our lives should tell the story of Jesus. We are now the epiphany to which Jesus can be revealed to those who need him on earth.