Monday, July 13, 2009

Kenya Review Day 4 (June 20)

We traveled back to Nairobi today and visited an organization called New Life Children’s Home. It was a well-run ministry taking care of the abandoned babies in Nairobi. Their ministry has been blessed to the degree that they have several satellite homes throughout Kenya. Whether they find the babies, or people bring them to the home, or if police bring them, they take 50 or so children in at a time. I think they had 47 during our visit. They’ll take them from birth to three years before they go to an orphanage.

This ministry is vital because orphanages often don’t take babies because they are so labor intensive. So this is a specialized ministry where the helpless are helped. Our task was to play with children and encourage the staff by sharing from the Scriptures. I shared from Luke 13 (it was my go-to devotional for the week). It is where Jesus sees a woman who had been suffering for years. Everyone else overlooked her or looked out for her to stay away from her. She was unclean. But Jesus, the text says, “saw her.” And then He brought her up so others could see her. And He healed her. They got upset that he healed on the Sabbath, but Jesus said this woman is more valuable than the ox they’d feed on the Sabbath so relax.

I encouraged these workers that they are taking care of those who are overlooked. The idea of abandoned babies pulls at our heartstrings, but few see them to the degree that we’ll actually give our lives to taking care of them. But Jesus sees them and these workers are being His hands as they care for these who are in such dire need.

It was a beautiful place where kids are played with and cared for, but it is run with great efficiency and discipline as well. I’ve never seen toddlers eat so much or so quickly. They get the kids cleaned up as well as put down for naps. It was a clean, efficient ministry meeting the basic needs of the most helpless among us.

I posted some of these pics on my facebook account and several people commented on how they were moved to tears. While I may be a bit hard-hearted, I left more encouraged. And I know that fifty kids are a drop in the bucket for the great needs in Nairobi, let alone Kenya, Africa, or the world. And yet, there’s a common theme I’m seeing in the last couple trips I’ve gone on in the last couple years.

God raises up people to meet the needs around them. Fifty kids may not solve the problem, but it is a group of people committed to doing what they can. They can’t solve the problem by themselves, but they’re part of the solution. They’re doing their part. I’m always inspired by people who are doing that and it is what is motivating me to build a ministry that ministers to and alongside those who are in need in our local community here in Cypress. I’ve seen great examples in Kenya (we’ll look at others throughout the trip) and in Ecuador and I’m sure they’re all around the world.

Church tomorrow!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

How do you prepare for worship?

I raised a few basic ideas on how we can prepare better to engage God in worship with His people on Sunday mornings, to build anticipation for worshiping God with the church. Get up earlier, go to bed earlier. But I’m counting on you to have better ideas. There’s one more I didn’t share – just to get the conversation going on here. But please add because my ideas need some help. Here’s what I do.

I’m a channel surfer when I drive. I don’t have a particular station that I camp on. Sometimes it’s talk radio. Other times it is classic rock, sometimes 80s music – the sound of my youth, other times I’ll stop in at the Christian station or listen to CDs. But I bounce around.

I have about a 5-7 minute commute on Sunday mornings so it doesn’t work as well as it used to when we lived in Long Beach, but I don’t channel surf on Sunday mornings. 95.9, the Fish, offers a great service of commercial-free worship. So I tune in each Sunday morning on my way to church. Helps get me a little more focused than my usual channel-surfing.

What do you do to get ready to worship on Sunday mornings? Discuss.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kenya Review Day 3 (June19)

This was Friday in Kenya and it was a lighter day. It is amazing how things slip one’s mind, but the schedule was clear apart from preparation and a cookout with some Moffat faculty. I don’t remember a day feeling so “open,” but I think that was pretty much all we did this day. This doesn’t mean it was a relaxing day. I don’t think we had one of those. Instead, we worked on the lessons we’d be teaching during the coming 10 days. Actually, we were probably just focused on the weekend ahead of us.

The evening cookout with the Harrells was nice. We were able to meet some of the professors at Moffat Bible College. One of the American missionaries had been a pastor for 20+ years before coming to Moffat to teach church history. He had done enough short term trips that he was familiar with how to see the sights in London in five hours. His tour came in handy on our return trip.

One of the great things about Moffat is the Kenya to expatriate ratio. They are careful to keep the staff 50% Kenyan, including the Academic Dean and the Principal of the college, I believe. This keeps it from being paternalistic. The Western missionaries are working under the leadership of Kenyans and it maintains a good balance. At the same time, the Western missionaries help give a different angle on ministry and training as well as help keep tuition costs down, which is important. Because Western missionaries are supported, the students don’t have to pay for their salaries with their tuition.

We met some great folks at the cookout and even discussed the possibility of spending a trimester there as a teacher during my next sabbatical, which is a ways away. But still something to look forward to.

Tomorrow (in Kenya) we get to work! That day will show up on the blog on Monday – a special church post tomorrow!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Kenya Review Day 2 (June 18)

This pic is our team from Cypress. I don't have one with us and the Harrells so this will have to suffice. This was taken later in the trip, but here's the team.

Regarding the date, no, I didn’t skip a day, the flight was really that long. Plus the time change. Perhaps a little background is necessary at this point. Our church (Cypress Church) supports Rich and Kathy Harrell. They serve as lecturers/instructors at Moffat Bible College in Kijabe, Kenya. They train young men and women for ministry. My desire in going on this trip was to bring others along for a short term experience in a new place. I also wrestle with whether God wants me to go to the mission field ever few years. When I imagine where I’d go, I think of doing what the Harrells do in Kenya. So I guess this was partially exploratory for me, too. In fact, that’s why my senior pastor wanted Suzanne to go (she wasn’t initially on the team). He wanted her part of the decision-making if I decided to stay in Kenya!

The Harrells were wanting to connect better with Cypress Church. A team is one way to do it. While we were there, they wanted us connecting with Moffat students, partnering with them, and, where possible, opening doors for them for new kinds of ministry.

So on to our day…

We had breakfast with Rich at Mayfield Guest House (run by Africa Inland Mission) and then ran some errands here and there. The most significant errand we ran was to Naivashu Maximum Security Prison. We met the warden in the men’s prison and the medium security women’s prison. Since we were planning on returning in a little over a week, it was good for them to meet us. Surprises aren’t good at a prison. We had good interactions and were pleased that God was using us to open up a ministry opportunity for Moffat Bible College students – both while we are there, but hopefully in an ongoing capacity.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Kenya Review Day 1 (June 16)

We packed and ran errands before hopping on the plane to London and then Nairobi. Honestly, this was quite a blur. Not much to report apart from lots of flying, some reading, and some sleeping. Some anticipation, but I don’t know that Kenya was “real” in my mind yet. Preparation was so rushed and there were so many things happening at church that I don’t think the weight of the journey had soaked in yet.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Silence and Pastoral Ministry

I’m reading The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen a few pages at a time. There was a great passage that I thought was helpful and challenging for pastors. The section is on the wisdom of silence from the desert fathers. Here’s his quote:

“Our task is to help people concentrate on the real but often hidden event of God’s active presence in their lives. Hence, the question that must guide all organizing activity in a parish is not how to keep people busy, but how to keep them from being so busy that they can no longer hear the voice of God who speaks in silence.” (p. 47)

Kenya Review Day 0 (June 15)

“Day 0” because we didn’t leave for Kenya until the next day, but this was the day the adventure started for us. I guess our commissioning on Sunday would be the start, but this was the day we said goodbye to the kids. We had a nice day visiting the Wild Animal Park north of San Diego, a nice Father’s Day dinner, and then went home to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in El Cajon. Cael went down easy and then we laid with the girls in bed until they fell asleep.

It got a bit teary when Vivian and I locked eyes and she saw my eyes leaking. It’s scary to write a will and leave your kids for two weeks to go around the world. We both understand it is to tell people about Jesus, but it’s still sad when one of your girls starts crying because she knows you’re leaving as soon as she falls asleep.

I think she missed us in the morning, but they didn’t miss us much after that. They had a blast with all their family and friends taking care of them.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Kenya Review

It’s been a week since we’ve returned from Kenya – OK, a week tomorrow – so I suppose it is time to put some thoughts down. We’ll be sharing at a dessert on Friday evening, but sharing here might give a broader picture of what was happening on a day to day basis in Kenya.

My plan for the blog is to go through each day and hit some of the highlights of the day and maybe what God was teaching me or the team at that time. I hope you enjoy it and I know it will be profitable for me to review what God has done and what He is doing thanks to our time in Kenya.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Christ & Culture Revisited: Overall Conclusions, Part 2

This last installment of a Carson summary finishes “Disputed Agendas & Frustrated Utopias.” After speaking of some more sweeping paradigms yesterday, Carson now moves to a less ambitious perspective.

Minimalist Expectations
This view recognizes culture as a storm that we cannot affect, but we help individuals who are being battered by the storm. There is some wisdom that culture cannot ultimately be redeemed until the new heavens and the new earth, but there is surely some temporal good we can do. For example, we can do more to abolish slavery than just rescue individual slaves – or cure diseases, not just individual sufferers. And, Christians can help create culture to make a better world that is passed on to the next generation for the common good.

Post-Christendom Perspectives
Carson gives initial praise to Craig Carter’s Rethinking Christ and Culture and it operates from a post-Christendom perspective. The dividing line for Carter regarding Christendom or post-Christendom is pacifism. The latter are the approved post-Christendom models. The strength of this model is that it discusses what Christians and the Christian community should do, but Carson ultimately has little use for it due to the arbitrary dividing line of pacifism (equating the Crusades with WWII, for instance, as both morally indefensible) and it is ultimately reductionistic.

Finally, persecution is a painful reality in the world and, when it is extensive and exhaustive, the blood of martyrs is not the seed of the church. It can be stamped out when the persecution is particularly intense (e.g., Turkmenistan). Persecuted Christians don’t often see themselves as part of the culture, but “other.” However, while some flee for freedom, others stay to try to bring about change. Carson offers that options on how the church should engage in culture are not given to everyone and we must humbly learn from those who are in much more difficult circumstances than most of us find ourselves in.

As useful as all these paradigms and grids may be, culture changes within a generation or two and it must constantly be rebuilt and re-thought.

There is a tension between “This is My Father’s World” and “This World is Not My Home” (in Michael Horton’s words). Both are too reductionistic – as are most options. We need to keep the turning points of biblical theology and flex with regard to how we engage with culture rather than canonizing inflexible paradigms.

Carson’s final words serve as a good summary for his study: “…we will live in the tension of claiming every square inch for King Jesus, even while we know full well that the consummation is not yet, that we walk by faith and not by sight, and that the weapons with which we fight are not the weapons of the world (2 Corinthians 10:4)” (p. 228).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Christ & Culture Revisited: Overall Conclusions, Part 1

Carson begins his final chapter with his summary of the previous five chapters, summarizing that there is not fixed paradigm that is universally transferable, but our discussions of church and state must take into consideration the key turning points in biblical theology (these have been written previously). Then Carson goes through some more recent paradigms that he calls “Disputed Agendas and Frustrated Utopias.”

Fundamentalism is culturally reactive – even winning some battles in the culture war. This is not a theocracy, but more of a 1950s America. He argues that fundamentalists should not argue that America was based on Christian principles. Rather, it is based on some Christian principles. We wouldn’t want to return to slavery, Carson contends. Hard to argue with that. While this paradigm has social ills that it is particularly passionate about, it neglects others.

Luther & His Heirs
This is the Two Kingdoms view, but Lutherans disagree on how this actually plays out. This view has its strengths, but it can also forget that Christ is Lord over all and that there can be a polarized view of knowledge – a distinction between human reason and divine revelation. Such a sharp distinction can result in letting the government do whatever they want – like Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Beyond politics, to draw too sharp a distinction makes “reason” king and doesn’t allow God to speak into His world via special revelation.

Abraham Kuyper
Kuyper had unparalleled success in articulating a view of church and state and actually implementing it well. He argued that all truth is God’s truth and all of creation is God’s, but the consummation is not yet and so there a tension because the recognition that God is Lord of all is not realized, but Christians are called to speak Christ’s lordship into every area of life. He founded Christian unions and universities, not for the purpose of withdrawing, but to speak into the world. Carson thinks Kuyper shifted to a more liberal position once in power – emphasizing common grace over redeeming grace. Also, once he departed leadership there was a massive decline in Christian influence and the church had become full of the unregenerate members due to “presumptive regeneration.” Finally, this Kuyperian paradigm is helpful when you have the piety of a Kuyper, but it fails when it is not wed to personal piety.