Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Yeah… I know. I didn’t blog last week. Blame it on the general pace of life this January! Something had to give. But it’s been a good month. I’ve been preaching through a series called ‘Happily Ever After’ at Mavuno. Carol & I have taught marriage seminars for years but this is the first time we’re actually doing a sermon series on the subject. She hasn’t been well enough to co-teach but has helped work on the sermons. It’s gone really well; great to see so many coming wanting to hear God’s word. Part two begins this Sunday and it will be great to teach together.
Over the last couple of weeks, we also launched our biggest ever Mizizi cohort with 500 people! And our School of Prayer class with around 200. Confirming something I’ve believed for a long time; that most people in this generation are not anti-God. They’re actually hungry. Not for religion but for a real encounter with a real God.
Of course that creates a good problem. The need for passionate leaders. I feel Jesus when he says ‘the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few’. And I’m praying that the Lord of the harvest raises many laborers for Mavuno.
I'm greatly enjoying reading through the book of Luke. The first four books (aka gospels) are biographies about Jesus, two by eyewitnesses (Matthew & John) and two by journalists who interviewed the eyewitnesses (Mark & Luke). They sound similar and yet each has a unique angle. Like watching the news on four different stations!
Matthew, former taxman, wrote mainly to the Jews to show how everything in their history found fulfillment in Jesus’ life and how we too are completed in Jesus. Mark, who probably got his story from Peter, has the simplest story with no digressions but gets straight to the point, eager to share the great news that God is here right now and on our side. Luke, a medic and one of Paul’s companions, writes like a historian, giving much attention to detail, but also as a non-Jew is passionate to show how the good news is relevant to all those typically treated as ‘on the outside’ because of their gender, ethnicity, health status or poverty. John, who was one of Jesus’ closest friends, sounds most different from the others. As the only survivor of Jesus’ inner core, he writes not only to recollect what happened but to interpret it in the light of his understanding of Jesus as the eternal Creator who takes on human form.
So… now you know! I thank God for the rain. And pray it will bring an end to the drought. But with it I pray God will also end our drought of leadership. And raise up godly leaders in for Kenya. In government, parliament, the judiciary, the media, the church, industry etc. Of course God often answers our prayers through us. I’m praying He will use me to raise up many godly men and women who will give godly leadership in every sector of society. What are you praying for yourself?
Let me leave you with Luke 6:26 which has stood out for me this week…
‘There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them. Popularity contests are not truth contests – look how many scoundrel preachers were approved by your ancestors! Your task is to be true, not popular.’
Have a great week!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Am in Naivasha (my favorite place in the whole world) on retreat with the Mavuno staff team (best staff team in the whole world)! Our objective is to connect on our vision, values and goals for the year as well and to invest in the relationships that will carry us through it. One of my strong beliefs is that we spend so many of our best hours with our workmates that it would be tragic to work with people we don’t enjoy! I’m amazed when I reflect on how God has grown us as a team and some of the incredible moments we’ve shared together. I look forward to some great times this week.
We kicked our new series at Mavuno ‘Happily Ever After’ last Sunday. We’re looking at marriage from the bible’s point of view. From the great response, it’s clearly a live subject for this generation. I look forward to seeing God @ work during the rest of the series.
Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the New Testament read-thru. This week we’ll finish the book of Matthew and start on Mark, which is definitely my favorite eye-witness account of Jesus’ life. Matthew aka Levi, was a former tax-collector who gave it all up to follow Jesus (Matthew 9:9). Back in the day, tax-collectors were not very popular (some things never change!) and were reviled for their corruption.
Matthew was so amazed that Jesus would accept a person like him that he asked him for dinner and invited all his buddies – referred to as ‘disreputable characters’ or ‘notorious sinners’ depending on which version you’re reading! The religious leaders of the day were scandalized that Jesus would socialize with such people. Jesus’ reply to them was characteristically no-nonsense…
“Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders”. Or as another version puts it, “I’ve come to call sinners, not those who already think they are good enough”.
Walala! How affirming for Matthew and people like him through the ages, who came to Jesus knowing they had ‘issues’ that desperately needed fixing! And how uncomfortable for us Christians when we think we have our act together, and work hard not to 'contaminate' ourselves by hanging out with ‘sinners’!
I like this quote; ‘the church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints.’
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
I began my 3 month New Testament Challenge. Along with all the other Kenyans joining gyms, going on diets and starting to attend church, hopefully some of you who are reading this are doing it with me! This time round, I’m using a paraphrase of the bible (not an exact translation but more of an informal rewrite in contemporary language) called 'The Message'. If you’re doing The Challenge, please invest in an easy to understand version or paraphrase; maybe one you haven’t read through before. You’ll be amazed how the dramatic story comes alive as you read it!
Some of you who take The Challenge will struggle with the reading plan. You’ll come to a great idea or difficult verse and want to stop and camp there; figure out what it means. But while this is a great thing to do, you need to take care not to miss the forest for the trees. Reading through as we’re doing every once in a while is a great way to get the big picture; a bird’s eye view of God’s word. And as Matthew 4:4 puts it, ‘It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth’
Of course the main challenge will involve time. Ensuring you set aside enough time to do this every day. With this one, if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. So right from the beginning, set aside a time when you’ll do this daily. And if you miss a couple of readings, don’t beat yourself up! You can catch up by reading on the off-days or even extending the 3 months a bit.
Here are some of my favorite quotes (ala The Message) so far followed by some my resulting random thoughts (that I turned into prayer)…
Matthew 3:17 ‘This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life’
Matthew 5:18 Not only that – count yourself blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer even! For though they don’t like it I do!
Matthew 4:23 ‘God’s kingdom was (Jesus’) theme – that beginning right now they were under God’s government – a good government! He also healed people of their diseases and the bad effects of their lives’.
Matthew 5:1 ‘When Jesus saw his ministry was drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions.’
If you’re doing God’s work God’s way, expect critics! I tend to get discouraged whenever I’m criticized especially if I perceive it to be unfair. Yet I feel affirmed and encouraged by my Heavenly Father to keep going in 2009 despite what any critics or haters may say. Say after me... I have the Father’s blessing and that’s what counts.
Jesus’ message to his generation was that God is now here to take over. Their only hope of survival lay in their giving their lives over to Him completely. Moving from the driver’s seat and surrendering not only the keys but the logbook as well (not minor repairs but a total overhaul). This is the message of the Kingdom. It's a coup against my self-directed life. It’s not ‘say this prayer and you’ll be safe forever’. God isn’t interested in just taking over the religious sphere of our lives; in our Sunday piety… in turning us into ‘nice Christians. He wants it all, including Monday to Saturday. Secular and spiritual. It’s only when He has control over everything in our lives that He can deal with our issues and turn us into Fearless Influencers; who in turn take over on His behalf, not just the ‘spiritual’ and ‘religious’ areas but every sector of society.
When people realized he had a life-giving message, crowds were the result. Jesus raised the bar though. He took it a notch higher so that only those who were willing to go further could. I need to ensure that I’m not just following Him when it’s convenient. Instead I must move from being a consumer Christian and follow Him into those quiet and sometimes lonely places where I’ll hear Him most clearly.
If you’re taking The Challenge, please feel free to add a comment and share what you’re learning with the rest of us!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Ready or not, 2009 is practically here! Interesting how as soon as you leave high school, time begins to really fly! I like this quote by Charles Lamb, ‘every New Year’s day is everyone’s birthday’. I guess he meant we all have a chance to change; to leave the old behind and start with a clean slate. To cut off from old toxic ways and to make new life-giving decisions. Thank God for the New Year!
It’s in that spirit that I’d like to invite you to join me in my New Year’s resolution. To read through the New Testament in the first three months of the year! I’ve done this before and was really blessed by the practice.
The daily readings will be anywhere from 3-6 chapters and should take around 15-20 minutes. So there’s definitely a time requirement. The plan is spread over 5 days of each week though, so there are two days to ‘catch up’ in case you fell behind somewhere! My plan is to read the daily section each morning during my Quiet Time and then meditate on/pray about the one thought that stood out while I read.
So… I’d like to invite you to join me! If you’re interested, please download the reading plan from here. It’s in pdf format so you might need to download a pdf reader if you don’t already have one. And if you're willing to take the challenge with me, I'd greatly appreciate your letting me know. Please leave a comment on this post!
Happy New Year!
This has been a great year. And as it comes to an end, I have much to be grateful for. God has been gracious to me and 2008 will certainly go down as one of the most memorable years in my life so far!
Met a friend from the Coast who’s here on vacation; its funny how in Dec, Coastarians come to Nairobi for holiday, because the Coast is so hot and crowded - on account of all the Nairobians being down there! Am glad we got out before the crowds descended. This week I’m taking it easy at home with the family, sleeping in, and learning how to be a couch potato. I enjoyed watching the Village Christmas concert on different TV stations. If you missed it, you can still catch it on Wednesday 31st (KBC after 6pm).
Speaking of TV, our daughter church Mavuno Downtown (MDT) also got some great press on the KTN news this last Sunday, as well as a fabulous article in the Daily Nation.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I am grateful to God for the wonderful family, friends and congregation He has blessed me and my family with. Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a memorable Christmas and a purposeful and prosperous 2009. Thank you for the part that you have played in our lives!