Sunday, October 24, 2010
I originally wrote and tried to post this blog on Friday before I left Kisumu. The hotel Steve and I stayed at lost its Internet connection (long story), so I am posting it today (Sunday). I've just safely arrived home after being on airplanes or in airports for the last 36 hours. I missed two flights coming home but that will be the source of my final post about my trip to Africa tomorrow.
I am all alone. At least I feel that way. Perhaps it is because everything seems so strange and somewhat surreal. I am literally on the opposite side of the globe from home. Behind me is a bed draped in a mosquito net to protect me from Malaria. I’ve never slept under a mosquito net before. I’m not sure I like it. Outside of my window, I can hear the sounds of motorbikes and people walking up and down the street. Yesterday some cows or bulls were walking toward me, so I left my group and crossed the street. This is all very different from what I am used to. I’m used to my six children laughing too loudly or fighting too much. The sounds here sound strange to me and add to my feelings of being homesick. But I’m actually not really alone. I am sharing the room with a godly Christian—he is downstairs in a meeting. He is a great guy, with a great ministry, ITEM, and he is doing a great work. He conducts pastor’s leadership conferences all over Africa. But he’s not Naomi, and I miss her. This is the longest time I have ever been away from her. I feel like a part of me is missing. However, this is my last night, but I’m not looking forward to it, though, because I already know what will happen. Although I am exhausted, I probably won’t be able to sleep because of my rock hard pillow. And at some point tonight, just when I start falling asleep, one of the hotel guests will start praying to Allah at top of his lungs. I feel emotionally, physically, and spiritually completely spent. To be honest, I didn’t want to come, but here I am, sitting in a hotel room in Kisumu, Kenya as reluctant missionary.
But what does the Scripture say, “For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship,” 1 Cor 9:16-17. The privilege of preaching to my brothers in Kisumu as a reluctant preacher has humbled me by God’s grace. He used another Jonah to share the great gift of the treasure-truth of the Word of Life.
HUMBLED BY GOD'S GRACE
Over the years God has used the spiritual hunger of the LABTS students to keep me from believing the lie that no one cares about truth anymore. No matter how tired or scattered I may be, I look forward to sharing the truth with them because I know they will savor every word. Now imagine teaching pastors who have never attended a Bible class, sat in a seminar, or owned a single commentary or Bible dictionary. Imagine them hearing the truth that they love explained clearly to them for the first time in their ministry. I am moved to tears thinking about the privilege that God entrusted to this reluctant missionary this week. Dr. Van Horn and I served nearly 80 men by being the first to explain to them what they called “the deep things of God.”
I loved everything about being with these leaders. I loved their singing. I loved that they came from miles and miles to hear the Word of God. I loved that they sat for 6 hrs a day on the edge of their seats taking in every word from the Bible that Dr. Van Horn and I taught to them. I loved their questions. I loved their candor and transparency. I loved the fact that they are my brothers and sisters, and God could use a saved reluctant sinner like me to share with them the Word of Life that sets sinners free.
One of the men said that they came back to the seminar from a previous year because of the truth that Dr. Van Horn brought to them. He said and this time Dr. Van Horn has brought another man teaching the same truth. Because their land has been filled with lies from our American prosperity teachers and because many of them cannot afford the simplest Bible books, there is a famine in their land. So they cherished the opportunity to take in both the milk and meat of God’s Word, and they were inspired with the hope that perhaps America has more teachers of truth that might come to them.
THE HARVEST IS PLENTIFUL; WORKERS ARE NEEDED
After the conference, I was completely caught off guard when the leaders of Kisumu Baptist Bible College invited Dr. Van Horn and me to a meeting. They made a sincere plea. They asked us if we would try to find more teachers who would help them train their pastors. Imagine that. The way God moved this week has made me sure of one thing—that I am unworthy for such an honor. But if the Lord wills, I will not be a reluctant preacher again.
Tomorrow, I will make a 21-hour flight back to Los Angeles stopping in Nairobi, Amsterdam, and Detroit along the way, but a deep part of my heart will stay with my brothers in Kisumu. To Pastors Tom Ogala, Dennis Odhiambo, Apollo Oluoch, Peter Nyawade, Sampson, Joseph Agwanda, Jonathan Abongo, and to the rest of my brothers and sisters, I say asante for allowing me to have the honor of serving with you as your fellow-laborer and soldier for the Gospel of Christ. With tears of joy, I thank God for the laborers that He has raised up in Kisumu and the precious work that they are sacrificing to sustain. May God grant you, my brothers, the desires of your heart and may He develop a partnership that will glorify the Name of Jesus by allowing us to bear much fruit together.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Dr. Van Horn and I started teaching at ITEM’s pastor’s seminar today in Kisumu. He taught through the Bibliology (Revelation, Inspiration, and the Sufficiency and Authority of Scripture) and having a biblical philosophy of ministry. A young American missionary shared with Steve after he had finished that his lecture was the best one he had ever heard a white man give to Kenyans. I taught on the role of the pastor and the qualifications of leadership. We also had a very lively Q&A time. The question that dominated our discussion was women’s roles in ministry. Surprise! We also entered into a deep discussion about what it means for pastors to be slaves of Christ and slaves of the church for Christ’s sake (1 Cor 4:1; 2 Cor 4:5).
The group (approx. 70 in size) is very eclectic. To a few we are preaching to the choir. Others they are hearing things that they have never heard before and are eagerly taking them to heart. The rest they are hearing things that threaten their way of doing ministry. Please pray that all who attend will embrace the truth of God’s Word and that Steve and I will accurately answer their questions. There is a tremendous element of spiritual warfare in all of this. Some of the ministers and hence ministries are being held captive by cultural strongholds. Polygamy is one of them.
The conference is being held at Milimani Seminary. It was started by the Southern Baptists. The school reminds me so much of LABTS. A few years ago the SB pulled their support believing they had invested enough time into that work. In order for the seminary to continue a few graduates assumed both the administrative and teaching responsibilities for the school. They have kept the school open by offering training free of charge, and volunteering their time. They have three different programs:
- A diploma degree for the men who don’t know English and have limited education. They teach them in Swahili.
- A Bible degree for those who know English but have limited education,
- And a Bible Education degree for those who know English and who have more education.
I feel a burden to help them. I asked to see their library with the goal of identifying books they were lacking and trusting the Lord to somehow enable me to secure the ones they need. Please join me in praying that I can fulfill this burden. There are some dear brothers here fighting to guard their churches from error, which is so rampant because of a lack of accessible theological training.
THE CULTURAL EYE-OPENER FOR THE DAY
Before I sign-off, let me share one cultural eye-opener, at least to me. Imagine flying into an airport, and you never enter into a building—not even for one second. Welcome to the Kisumu Airport! You exit the plane on the tarmac. Walk to a sign that says “Wait here for your luggage.” Wait for a shuttle loaded with luggage. The driver off-loads it to you, and you head off to transportation without ever going inside of a building. That was amazing to me.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Today Pastor Pius Okello, a god fearing, pious man, invited us to come and share at his church, Nairobi Apostolic Revival Ministry. To get there, we had to travel on the matatu, a 12 passenger van/bus. Dr. Steve Van Horn told me that if we rode on the matatu, it would make our shuttle ride from the airport seem like a children's Disney ride. So of course we had to ride on the matatu.
Twice, not once, but twice!!!! we sped onto the dirt sidewalks to pass another matatu. We made a blind left hand turn so fast that the matatu almost tilted onto two tires. Mind you pedestrians are everywhere! in the street and on the sidewalk. I was bracing for flattening someone as we gained vision around the turn. Then the better part of wisdom took over again, and I stopped back seat driving.
Then we arrived a Kibera . . .
and we walked through Kibera. When we arrived at Nairobi Apostolic Revival Ministry around 2 p.m. The people had been there since 7 a.m. in Bible Study and worship. As we entered still sobered by what we had just seen, we were surprised by what we were hearing: young and old cheering and applauding us —the men of God from America. Then they sang and danced and sang and danced and when we preached they cheered and applauded.
It would be harder to find a more exuberant people, a people filled with more joy, and a people who had less. The people living in Kibera had Jesus and to them that seemed more than enough. We stayed more than 2 hours. After that some leaders led us to an out house with just a hole in the ground, and then through the rest of Kibera. A picture can't capture the scope of the poverty, but here's one that we took.
We continued walking together to Pastor Pius' home. He is pictured above in black. Dr. Van Horn and I talked to the men about what we had seen and what occurred during the service. (Sign up for his newsletter to read what we saw). We encouraged them to test what they we were doing by the Word of God. They were very teachable. But there was much to explain. Pray with me that I will be able to send some theological resources to them. There is something worse than physical poverty and that is spiritual poverty. And there is something much worse than that. Do you remember why Jesus called a man a fool? It is because he decided to squander his great physical wealth to build himself bigger barns. I wonder what Jesus will say to those of us who have both physical and spiritual riches and hoard them to ourselves.
Dr. Van Horn taught me a new phrase today, "In American you keep time in African we have the time." Today God caused us to have time for Kibera. I will not forget my brothers and sisters whom I met here. And I thank God for deepening my conviction that the greatest resource the church has is truth. Truth is what God wants the church to share with the world. Because only the truth in Kibera and America (and everywhere else) can set sinners free and change them to be like Jesus.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Greetings From Nairobi,
After flying from Los Angeles to Detroit (4hrs), Detroit to Amsterdam (9hrs), running through the Amsterdam airport to catch my flight to Nairobi (8 hrs), I made it, but my luggage didn't. I guess I ran faster then they could transport my luggage. The Nairobi airport said they will deliver it tomorrow by noon. Hope so, I just carried my laptop on the plane. So all I got is the clothes on my back.
But I must say I am as excited as a kid. The shuttle ride from the airport was part NY taxi ride (just don't look) and part amusement park ride with the added thrill that it could kill you. We passed two accidents and just missed out on being the third (twice). But God is good. I just said if this is how you want me to go Lord then I guess this is how I'll go.
I caught up with Steve Van Horn in Amsterdam. He's the president and founder of ITEM, the mission I am working with. We leave for Kisumu Monday and start the pastors' conference on Tuesday. This leaves us a day to worship and see a few things.
Not only is this my first trip to Africa, but my first trip out of the States. I am focused on teaching but just as eager to learn what the Lord will show me through seeing Christianity through different eyes for a week.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Heading to Kisumu, Kenya
I leave tomorrow for a week of serving my fellow soldiers and workers for the Gospel in Kenya. I'll be working along side of Dr. Stephen Van Horn of ITEM (International Training and Equipping Ministries) teaching workshops on NT survey, pastoral qualifications, church discipline, leadership, and the purpose of the church.
Gotta admit I'm excited and nervous. This is my first trip to Africa. More than anything though I humbled by the staggering privilege of representing my Lord who bled and died for me, an unworthy sinner. Please pray. I'll post updates if I can get online in Kisumu.
Friday, October 8, 2010
I thank God for the Los Angeles Bible Training School. It is very encouraging to see men and women serving the Lord in an urban context who are so eager to receive and apply the Word of God to their lives. Last night, I had to privilege of preaching in chapel. Here's the outline of my message and if you want to listen click here for the audio.
This summer I experienced one of the greatest joys of my life—I officiated my parents’ golden anniversary.
But all marriages don’t make it to 50 yrs, do they? Today many people never get married at all. The institution of marriage has lost a lot of its luster, even in the church. Marriage has become an endangered species, and that’s dangerous.
This evening we will consider 5 foundational truths that the church must embrace to fight against these trends and to fight for God’s institution of family.
Truth #1 Marriage is a Divine Institution Gen 1:26-29; 2:22-25
The God ordained gender distinctions “male” and “female” have far reaching implications, as the apostle Paul makes plain in Ephesians 5:31-32. God made them male and female so that He could take the two and make them one (Mat 19:5-6). Maleness and Femaleness reflect a complementary differences that enable a husband/male and wife/female to become one flesh (one person, Gen 2:24b).
God designed the husband to be the leader in the marriage union and the wife to be his subordinate helper. Far from these roles being bad, God called this design not “good,” but very good.
Jesus Himself is eternally the Son and in a subordinate role to the Father and is yet equal in the essence with God (Phil 2:6). John 14:31 (misquoted in the message as John 14:1) says “so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me.”
Proverbs 18:22 affirms, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.”
If we believe that God’s design of marriage is good, then why don’t we get married?
Truth #2 God Wants You to Love Him More Gen 2:16-18
God blessed Adam and Eve with everything. They owned and ruled over all of creation. Like the first man and woman, God blesses people today with many gifts that reveal His goodness, and in turn He wants us to show genuine love for Him by living in obedience for His glory.
God does not want us to let His gifts, including our relationships, to make our relationship with Him secondary. In order to love your loved ones more you need love them less than you love God. Our love for Him must be central.
“What is the one thing you can't live joyfully without? If that one thing is not God, it's an idol,” Tullian Tchividjian.
Lesson #3 The Serpent Seduces Women with a Lie Gen 3:1-5
All sin begins with a lie. The Bible says Satan is the father of lies. He seduces Eve and women in general with the lie that God has wronged them by placing them in subordination to their husbands. Christian women must reject this lie and affirm the wisdom of God’s design and His goodness towards them. Eve believed that God had wronged her and she rejected God in an attempt to gain a freedom the serpent said she would receive by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Lesson #4 The Serpent Seduces Men with Sex Gen 3:6-11, 17; 2:16-18
The sin God indicted Adam with is that he listened to the voice of his wife (gen 3:17). To be sure, it is no sin to listen to a wife when her counsel is in keeping with the wisdom of God’s Word. But Eve enticed her husband to choose her and her path rather than to submit to and obey God’s. There is an interesting play on words that connects the marriage narrative to the Fall narrative. The words are “naked” arom in Hebrew (2:25; 3:7, 10, 11), and the word “shrewd” arum. The connection reveals that it was the shrewd plan of the serpent to use a naked Eve whom Adam was thrilled with to seduce him to reject God. Click here for further study on "How Nakedness Affected the Fall."
Lesson #5 Our Children Will Imitate Our Sins Gen 4:1-7
Like father, like son. God directly warned Adam (Gen 2:16-17), and he directly disobeyed. God directly warned Cain, and he directly disobeyed. This is a sobering truth. Our children hear what we say but will live what we do. So love God (Deut 6:5) and model the life you are teaching (6:6-9) your children to live.
Lesson # 6 God’s Grace Gives Hope to Hopeless Families Gen 3:15; 4:25-26
The consequences of the sin of the Fall devastated the first family. Although God graciously came to Adam, he refused to repent and instead blamed Eve and even God for his rebellious idolatry (choosing Eve over God). So Adam’s sin led to his spiritual death and the death of all who remain in him. But Eve appears to be a very different woman at the end of Genesis 4. She no longer despises God and longs to be free from Him. Instead, she thanks God for giving her another godly son. Much of the language of Gen 4:25 is very reflective of the promise in Gen 3:15, that through the seed of the woman, God would raise up a victor over the serpent. Thus He and His coming provide hope for otherwise hopeless families living in a fallen world.
We all live outside of the garden, in a world marred by sin and filled with death—death of marriages, death of children and worst, eternal death. Our only hope and the hope of the family is that God who is holy is also merciful to repentant guilty sinners. We all have contributed to the demise of the family. The solution is to repent - to yield in faith to God’s institution of family, to seek His grace and mercy to fulfill it, and in faith, to enjoy Him as the Giver of good gifts.
I had the privilege of reviewing and endorsing this latest contribution on the work of Calvin.
Here's what I said:
If Calvin intrigues, inspires, or even baffles you, then you’ll want to get this latest contribution to his teaching ministry and life. This work digs through 500 yrs of history and unearths one of the church’s greatest treasures—the heart and mind of John Calvin—and places it not behind the walls of academia but on the pulpits of pastors and in the pews for laymen. Applying the brilliance of Calvin to the hardest theological questions and the most stubborn challenges of everyday Christian-living, this book will enlighten you with the great breadth of Calvin’s biblical worldview.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
One of the most divisive theological issues in the church today is the question about spiritual gifts. In this two-part study, we will search the Scriptures to shed clarifying light on this question that confuses and divides so many believers. First, we’ll identify the main three groups into which churches have divided regarding the gift of miracles, tongues, and prophecy.
- What do Continuationists believe? They believe that people with miraculous and revelatory gifts still exist in the church today. They believe that the church has recaptured the power of Pentecost, and that the miraculous manifestation of the power of the Spirit is essential for the sanctification of believers. They typically believe that these gifts stopped only because of sin dominated the church during the dark ages. Miracles and prophetic gifts and namely tongues play central roles in these ministries.
- What do Cautious Continuationists believe? This group is often called Open But Cautious. They believe that the tongues and prophetic gifts are for the church today and yet recognize many abuses of false expressions of these gifts. Also they generally do not play a central role in their ministries.
- What do Cessationists believe? They believe that the miraculous and revelatory gifts ceased after the Apostolic era. All evangelical, for that matter Anglican and Catholic churches before 1960, believed this. They believe today’s so-called revelation, tongues, and miracle workers in the church are at best illegitimate and at worst demonically inspired.
Can you name churches, schools, and prominent leaders from each group?
- Continuationists: Church of God in Christ, Holiness Churches, Assemblies of God, King’s College, Fuller Seminary, Jack Hayford.
- Cautious Continuationists: Calvary Chapels, Sovereign Grace Churches, Biola, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, C.J. Mahaney.
- Cessationists: John MacArthur, The Masters Seminary and Colleges and most Baptist Presbyterian Church.
THE FATHER OF PENTECOSTALISM
After being invited to preach at a small Nazarene Church in Los Angeles, William J. Seymour, the Father of Pentecostalism, was kicked out after he preached from Acts 2 that tongues were the evidence of the Holy Spirit. Soon after, he moved to the Azusa Street Mission of LA. He held a revival attended by both blacks and whites, and it took off. People claimed to have visions, prophecies, and spoke in tongues/babel. It had bazaar extremes. People fell into trances, spiritists and mediums also attended. Many of the leading pastors and theologians of the day condemned this new movement (see B.B. Warfield in his book Counterfeit Miracles). Even Charles Parham, Seymour’s spiritual father, split with him over the extremes of what Seymour alleged to be the work of the Spirit. Nevertheless, a new powerful movement was born. It continued to gain numbers rapidly, and gave birth to all modern day Pentecostals and Charismatics.
BIBLICAL BASIS: The Truth about Tongues
- What is and is not biblical tongues? It is the gift of speaking in an unlearned real foreign language (Acts 2:5-11). It is not indiscernible babble (1 Cor 14:7-10).
- Who had this gift? It was never the case that all believers could speak in tongues (1 Cor 12:30).
- Did Paul speak with the tongues of angels? Paul’s appeal to “speaking in an angelic language” is not a practice he claimed that he performed. He makes this hypothetical reference purely for the sake of argument to show how much more important love is than the gifts (1 Cor 13:1). Just as he did not have “all knowledge” or “give away everything he owned” neither did he “speak with the tongues of angels” (13:2-3).
- What was and was not the purpose of tongues? No gift including tongues was for personal edification (1 Cor 12:7; 13:5; 14:5b, 12). Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for selfishly trying to use the gift of tongues for themselves (14:4, also cf. 14:17). He is not commending this practice. God gave the gift of tongues to the early church to rebuke unbelieving Jews (1 Cor 14:20-22).
- Does the NT indicate that the gift of tongues would cease? The Greek text in 1 Cor 13:8 strongly suggests that tongues in and of itself would one day simply cease. Church history confirms that this gift of speaking in unlearned languages did in fact disappear and has never returned after the first century. Nothing claiming to be tongues today remotely resembles what happened on the day of Pentecost.
APPLICATION: WHY IS THIS SIGNIFICANT?
Some P/Cs create a two-tier breech within Christianity—the haves and the have-nots. They believe those who speak in tongues have the Spirit while those who don’t speak in tongues don’t have the Spirit. Some take that line of thinking to the extreme of believing non-tongue speakers are not saved.
P/Cs can become so enamored with the so-called ecstatic experience of tongues that they put more stock in their experience than in the Word of God (1 Cor 12:1-3). This error often leads to a serious case of spiritual AIDS leaving the church inept in its fight against dangerous heresies. Also some P/C churches lose sight of true spirituality—a Holy Spirit empowered holy life and accept in its place their ecstatic experiences, which are more pagan-like than like Pentecost.