Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Texting May Be Taking a Toll

Report: American teenagers sent and received an average of 2,272 text messages per month in the fourth quarter of 2008, according to the Nielsen Company — almost 80 messages a day, more than double the average of a year earlier.

Still, American teens are way behind Asian teenagers. Texting affects communication, relationships, and culture dramatically. What are the long-term impacts of the texting age?

I am also amazed at how much texting goes on during church. It has definitely taken the place of passing notes down the rows.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cell Phones in Church

In our second worship service today we had a persistant cell phone. It rang throughout the sermon time...as many as twenty rings at a time at least. I have long prided myself on my preparations for interruptions during sermons. Crying babies, cell phones, etc. don't usually phase me. This was different. It was the ring that wouldn't go away. I went so far as to have everyone stand and get their phones out and turn them off. Sort of a "get out of jail free" card for the offender. It didn't stop.

This afternoon I have been receiving theories on the source of the non-stop ringing. Our searches turned up nothing. It remains a mystery at this point and I have no solutions. We will continue to pursue the issue because it did steal away a big part of a worship hour.

In our services we led in Africa we also ran into interruptions. One of our folks had goats walk through his service as he was speaking. My favorite story was from my roommate on the trip. Breast-feeding is a natural part of the culture in rural Kenya. Any time is the right time as far they are concerned. My friend was preaching his first Sunday in Kenya when a toddler climbed into her mother's lap. The mom pulled up her blouse and the baby nursed. He continued his sermon. After a while, the baby climbed down and walked across the little center aisle of the church and climbed into another woman's lap. She pulled up her blouse and the baby went to work again. Shortly, the little girl climbed down and made her way to a third woman on the other side of the church who also graciously shared with the child.

At this point, my friend, trying to stay on track with a message from the Bible for these people, was more than a little flustered. He said that he wanted to yell out, "Hey, kid! This isn't a buffet." Distractions at church are an ongoing adventure.

One thing that surprised me was that in the four or five formal sermons I shared with groups, I dealt with cells phones every time. While the people we ministered to/with didn't have electricity or running water, many of them had cell phones. They came through a government program and were very inexpensive. The only challenge was finding a place to charge them according to the Kenyans.

Amazingly, God can still work through interruptions and does so often. The variety of distractions to hearing God's voice in our lives seem endless. Take time this week to quiet your heart and life and listen for God's voice. Also, make sure you're not a distraction or obstacle to someone else hearing from the Lord.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Washing Feet

Jesus is our ultimate model of servanthood. In John 13 we find him in the upper room with His disciples. With all that was on His mind…all He knew He was about to face in the next few hours in the rapid steps to the cross…Jesus turned toward others…His disciples and taught them a lesson about being a servant. He washed His disciples’ feet.

We read in Luke’s account of the Last Supper and find more context. “A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest” (Luke 22:24, NIV). At the table with Jesus was Judas…who would betray Him. Jesus would shortly reveal that all the disciples would desert Him. In the context of this struggle in the room on multiple levels…Jesus did the most unexpected of things.

In a world where people walked everywhere they went…down roads or through streets of dirt, filth, mud, and waste…feet covered in all sorts of things…washing the feet of guests was an important courtesy and honor…though lowly task. It was reserved for the household servants of the wealthy and for the lowest ranking member of any ordinary household. The disciples…in their dispute over which of them was the most important…wouldn’t have even considered doing this common courtesy for one another…BUT Jesus did it for them.

In Kenya I did a lot of walking with Kenyan brothers and sisters. They were used to walking most everywhere they went. Many of them walked mostly barefoot or in sandals. Their feet were hard, calloused, scarred, and uncared for. Because of the filth of the third world…when a person walks the streets or trails…they are walk through the refuse of life.

We have a sanitized view of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. We think of it in the way we would wash one another’s feet. The feet that Jesus washed that night were much different. They were like the African feet I described. Keep that image in mind when you think of the story – “Jesus washed their feet.”

As servant leaders in the church…we are called out to serve the Lord and serve the Lord’s people through the life and ministry of a local church family. Acts of service to the Lord are often a source of great blessing.

Those acts are also a generous gift of grace. As we have been treated so graciously by our God and forgiven so freely and accepted so generously…so we are to be agents of the grace of God. We are to love with an uncompromising, unrelenting, unbiased love…offered up to people who may be the most loving and lovable and to those who are not.

THINK ABOUT THE FEET THAT JESUS WASHED:

Dirty feet – “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Tired feet – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Bruised feet – “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).
Feet that betray Him
Feet that deny Him
Feet that run in a moment of crisis
Feet that run to follow Him
Feet that bring good news

We are called on to care for the people around us. It is a blessed work you are called out to do but if you really do this…you’ll deal with dirty feet, tired feet, bruised feet, feet that deny…but also feet that follow and bring good news.

The symbol of your office as a servant of the Lord is a towel and basin.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Singing At Church In Kenya

videoThis was the choir leading music at the Muambani Baptist Church in Kenya. They loved their robes even though it was a hot day along the equator in a building with a tin roof.

Kenyan Children Singing at Primary School

We found music to be an important part of Kenyan culture on our recent visit. This video shows school children singing just prior to me speaking at a school assembly.
video

Repentance and the Witch Doctor

On our mission trip to Kenya, some of our team members encountered witch doctors. They are common in the Makindu area and considered powerful and feared by many of the people. They are called in by locals for healing, casting spells, etc...your basic witch doctor job description.

Much like the demon possessed individuals Jesus encountered in the gospel accounts, the witch doctors were confrontational and angry toward the Christians out sharing the gospel message. Some refused to listen to the story of Jesus but a few did and their lives were forever changed.

One of the Americans on our trip encountered a witch doctor (which he quickly said was way beyond his experience but not beyond the experience of some of the African believers who were with him). They had opportunity to share the story of Jesus who died on the cross for their sins and was raised from the dead. They invited this witch doctor (a woman) to turn from sin and give her life to the Savior. The transformation was dramatic when she prayed inviting Christ to be her Savior and Lord.

Immediately she asked her visitors to go with her into the small structures around her home. She came out with several things my friend described as trinkets, junk, stuff. He learned they were part of her practice of witchcraft. She understood that giving her life to Jesus meant giving up her old life and taking on a new life. They gathered her occult possessions and piled them together and burned them. Then, they dug and hole and buried the ashes and everyone came by and stomped on the site.

Repentance is a key element in salvation according to the Bible. It means that we go in the opposite direction. We are to turn away from sin and turn fully to God. I fear that too many people in America are willing to accept Jesus...so long as they can carry along their favorite sins as well. Such a shallow view of repentance falls short of a saving faith. We are called on my our Lord to love Him with "all our heart, soul, mind, and strength." What do you need to burn and bury for real repentance to be reality in your life?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Eating in Africa

While in Kenya on our mission trip I ate every mid-day meal out in the field with our Kenyan brothers and sisters. Their food of choice for each day was ugali or rice along with boiled goat-meat stew. For the record, I am no fan of goat-meat. It was more grissle and fat than meat and quite chewy. I would chew for a good while and then realize that it wasn't going to get any smaller. I knew it was a generous offering they had set before me and so I would swallow hard and choke it down. While there are many things about our Kenyan experience I will miss, goat at mealtimes will be easily replaced now by hamburgers and tacos.

To wash down the goat-centered meals, the pastor I was working with was inclined toward boiling hot "goat-milk tea." After walking five miles down dusty trails in an area located on the equator, there's nothing more satisfying than a boiling hot cup of goat-milk tea...oh what I wouldn't have done for a big drink from Sonic.

Spending time in the third world brought home the truth of the the Model Prayer of Jesus. He taught us to pray, "Give us this day, our daily bread." For people who can't really be sure of where their next meal will come from, particularly in a time of drought, the prayer takes on a whole new meaning. Even a "goat-centered" dining experience can become a gift from God.

Twenty Minutes to Save Your Marriage

I read an article today by Mike Seaver. It was titled, "Twenty Minutes to Save Your Marriage." It is simple and insightful. He broke it down this way:

The first 5 minutes when he woke up in the morning
The last 5 minutes before he said goodbye for work
The first 5 minutes when he walked in the door from work
The last 5 minutes before he said good night

For the complete article and application go to: http://rolecalling.blogspot.com/2009/01/20-minutes-to-change-your-marriage.html

For God So Loved the World...

Two days ago, I returned from a church mission trip to Kenya. I have returned home with my head still spinning. Thirteen of our church members joined with seven other Americans and forty African nationals in an effort to share the good news of Jesus with the people in the area of Makindu, Kenya. The thirty-two churches we were partnering with had prepared well. We saw great results and the hand of God at work in the experiences of each day.

We also saw the third world. Transitioning from the suburbs of north Dallas to that world is strange. Transitioning from that world back to the land of the "rich, young ruler" is stranger still. The people I spent time with lived in houses made of tree branches and mud with thatched roofs. They cooked all their meals over open fires. I visited families within a five mile radius of the Muambani Baptist Church where my efforts were centered. None of them had electricty. None of them had running water or a water well. I found less than a dozen who had ever seen a television, computer, or movie.

The people asked questions about America. "We have heard that the houses are close together in America. Where do you have to take your goats for grazing?" They asked, "How far to do you have to walk to fill water jugs for your home?" and "Do you know Obama?" They couldn't begin to grasp life in America and how dramatically different it is from their own lives. I feel certain that if you dropped them into our culture and took them to a movie with special effects or into a Walmart, their heads would simply explode.

In one day I encountered several of the things typical on the African continent - AIDS, malaria, typhoid, and tuberculosis. Infant mortality rates are high. Life expectancy is low. Education is so far behind the western world is hard to imagine how they could ever catch up. On top of all that, a drought is severe in Kenya with little measureable rainfall in two years. Relief organizations are keeping people alive (especially in urban centers). Animals are dying in rural areas.

The most famous verse in the Bible may be John 3:16. It says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, should not perish, but have eternal life." For nine days we were on the ground telling that story and loving people Jesus gave His life for. We worked on some of the other things too and there remains much more to be done. An affluent suburban world can't ignore a rural, sick, uneducated, primitive third world. Jesus loves them too.