Distinguishing Between Love and Desire

Our back door

Dallas Willard, in Knowing Christ Today: Why We Can Trust Spiritual Knowledge, writes: “Love means will-to-good, willing the benefit of what or who is loved. We may say we love chocolate cake, but we don’t. Rather, we want to eat it. That is desire, not love. In our culture we have a great problem distinguishing between love and desire, but it is essential that we do so.” (K 810-18)

I’ve met with husbands who interpret their sexual desire for their wife as “love” or real “intimacy.” This false attitude treats their wife as a “treat” to be consumed, like a piece of chocolate cake. Real love thinks of the other. And, of course, even the sex act can be other-centered.

Willard writes: “Agape love, perhaps the greatest contribution of Christ to human civilization, wills the good of whatever it is directed upon. It does not wish to consume it.” (Ib.)

Renounce a Spirit of Poverty

A meal of rice and vegetables in Kenya

I embarrassed myself in Kenya. It was at the Pastor’s Conference in Eldoret. I was with sixty wonderful men and women from Kenya and Uganda. They were all pastors who are part of New Life Mission, a network of over 150 churches in Kenya and Uganda. I ate many meals with them. The meals were real Kenyan food – vegetables, cooked raw bananas, rice, maize… I loved eating this food.

I noticed that some of the pastors took very full plates of food. A lot more food than I took. I made a joke, saying “Kenyans and Ugandans eat a lot but still are slim and run so fast!” My host, Cliff, later graciously and gently told me that one reason these men and women put a lot of food on their plates is that, for the most part, they only ate two meals a day. So when they had a chance to eat, they ate a lot.

Inwardly I sank. Who am I, what am I become, that I am so out of touch? The prayers of many Kenyans and Ugandans is that they would have food to eat today. I, on the other hand, fight overeating. My problem is not trying to secure my next meal. It’s that there is so much food around me and before me that my “prayer” approaching our American Thanksgiving is that I not overeat.
Back in the land of over-plenty, over-eating, and struggling to diet, I am being processed by God. I do not know how it’s all going to shake down for me. Here are some things God is revealing to me, even this weekend.

1. I am not to any longer see someone who has no food and thank God that I have food. I am to thank God for food, for a roof over my head, for clothing. But this thanks is not to come at the expense of someone else’s lack. I now think there is something evil about this. It is using another person’s bondage as the occasion for my rejoicing. Jesus never looked on sick or hungry people and said, “Thank God that I am God and am not like these sick people.” Instead, he had compassion on them. Put more strongly, he became one of them, for “the Son of Man had no roof over his head.” My focus needs to be on my own need for God’s mercy rather than giving thanks that I am not among the mercy-deprived. I am not to be like the Pharisee who prayed, “I thank you [God] that I am not like other people.”

2. I am to understand that authentic thankfulness necessarily results in overflowing, sacrificial giving. To those who have much and thank God for it, much is expected. I now think thankfulness is hypocritical and meaningless if it does not overflow to others. Pure Pharisaic “thankfulness” thanks God that I am not poor; true thankfulness to God impacts the poor. Self-centered gratefulness is faux-gratitude.

3. At our monthly Worship Intercession Night at Redeemer God was processing me about such things. It was a beautiful night of worship + intentional thanksgiving to God for how he has blessed us as a church family. That night God told me this: “John, when you see someone who has nothing and then give thanks for what you have that they don’t have, that is the spirit of poverty on you.” A spirit of poverty, a spirit of “lack,” whispers to me “You do not have enough.” This heart of not-enough-ness, when it sees someone worse off than me, feels thankful. This is the spirit of poverty’s solution to my dilemma; viz., to keep me perpetually enslaved to a poverty mentality by comparing me with others. Some people drive a new car and I feel deprived; some people have no car and I feel thankful. A spirit of poverty is never satiated, and in this way it continuously punishes. When I feel thankful when I see someone who has no food it is because I feel I do not have enough myself. I think, “Whew, I’m not so bad off after all!” One only says those words if one feels, after all, “bad off.” Real thanksgiving has nothing to do with any of this. I confess I’ve been living under a spirit of poverty and this weekend renounced it.

I’m asking God for a true heart of thanksgiving because it has been revealed to me that I do not yet have it. My God, who loves me in my weakness, is currently addressing this.

A Night of Worship & Thanksgiving

Joe LaRoy & I want to invite you to join us and our worship team led by Holly Benner

…this Saturday, Nov. 20…

…6-8 PM…

Redeemer Fellowship Church (5305 Evergreen, Monroe, MI)…

…for a time of worship and thanksgiving.

We will give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.

He has displayed his goodness to us as a family in this past year. We’ll give testimony and thanksgiving for that!

He has done great things in our midst! We will praise and honor him for these.

It is good to pause and give thank to God, who is the Great Giver of every good and perfect thing.

We hope you will join us this Saturday… to worship our God…  to lavish praise and thanksgiving upon him…

The Final Interlocking of Heaven and Earth

Green Lake, Wisconsin

Tomorrow at Redeemer I’m preaching out of Acts 3:17-26. I’ll especially focus on the meaning of authentic repentance, which leads to having one’s sins wiped away and days of refreshing now. Plus, the idea that Jesus is now “in heaven” (i.e., in God’s sphere) “until the time comes for God to restore everything.” I’m going to explain this idea of everything getting restored.

I’ve been living and breathing this text for a week now, going to commentaries, reading the thing in Greek with special attention to certain words and their meaning, in context. This afternoon I am revisiting N.T. Wright’s wonderful book Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. I’ll post and comment on some Wright-thoughts here, especially as they are relevant to “the restoration of everything.”

  • Our real Christian hope is not “going to heaven” after we die, if this means going to some place or something that is essentially away from this world. The Christian hope is for “new heaven and new earth. This hope has already come to life in Jesus of Nazareth. (5)
  • “It comes as something of a shock when people are told what is in fact the case: that there is very little in the Bible about “going to heaven when you die”…” (18) Wright says “the language of ‘heaven’ in the Bible doesn’t work that way.” (18) How so?
  • “‘God’s kingdom’ in the preaching of Jesus refers not to postmortem destiny, not to our escape from this world into another one, but to God’s sovereign rule coming ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. The roots of the misunderstanding go very deep, not least into the residual Platonism that has infected whole swaths of Christian thinking…” (18)
  • Now note what Wright next says. This is the kind of thing that sounds somewhat shocking given the mostly-unstudied otherworldly ideas I grew up with re. Christianity and the afterlife. “The wonderful description in Revelation 4 and 5 of the twenty-four elders casting their crowns before the throne of God and the lamb, beside the sea of glass, is not, despite one of Charles Wesley’s great hymns, a picture of the last  day, with all the redeemed in heaven at last. It is a picture of present reality, the heavenly dimension of our present life. Heaven, in the Bible, is not a future destiny but the other, hidden, dimension of our ordinary life – God’s dimension, if you like. God made heaven and earth; at the last he will remake both and join them together forever. And when we come to the picture of the actual end in Revelation 21-22, we find not ransomed souls making their way to a disembodied  heaven but rather the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven, to earth, uniting the two in a lasting embrace.” (18-19; emphasis mine)
  • Wow! Is Wright some kind of heretic? No. Rather, Wright takes scripture so seriously that he’s willing to leave the blatant Platonism that infects so many of our hymns and understandings of the afterlife, and which actually takes away our now-hope. Commenting on this book Dallas Willard writes: “Responsible Christians must carefully study this book. It uniquely meets the challenge facing the Church recovering the original, radical understanding of the resurrection, salvation, and the Good News of life now in the Kingdom of God.” (Wright, Ib., back cover) Platonic Christianity only believes in a kind of changeless life after death. Wright affirms not only life after death but life before death. What we think about the afterlife is crucial to this, since Platonic misunderstandings of our real hope in Christ leave us hopeless in the present.
  • Marx’s criticism of religion as the “opiate of the masses” is relevant only to a Platonic hope. Marx’s criticism fails when our true hope in Christ is revealed. (26)
  • The one line of The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, on earth as in heaven,” “remains one of the most powerful and revolutionary sentences we can every say. As I see it, the prayer was powerfully answered at the first Easter and will be answered fully when heaven and earth are joined in the new Jerusalem.” (29) This does seem to be the hope given us in the New Testament. A time is coming… when God will restore all things…The NT says this is a variety of ways.

    • Eph. 1:8-10 – “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment— to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.”

    • Col. 1:19-20 – “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

    • Rev. 21:1 – “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.”

    • 2 Peter 3:11-13 – “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

    • Rom. 8:18-21 – I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” 

  • Now hear this beautiful statement. “Easter was when Hope in person surprised the whole world by coming forward from the future into the present.” (29)The resurrection of Jesus is, for Wright, “the defining event of the new creation, the world that is being born with Jesus.” (73) What God has done in Jesus “is what he intends to do for the whole world.” (91)
  • So, in Jesus, heaven has invaded earth. Recently this idea has been resurrected by Bill Johnson in his book When Heaven Invades Earth. I thought of Bill’s book when I read this, in Wright: “When Paul says. ‘We are citizens of heaven,’ he doesn’t at all mean that when we’re done with this life we’ll be going off to live in heaven. What he means is that the savior, the Lord, Jesus the King – all of those were of course his imperial titles – will come from heaven to earth, to change the present situation and state of his people. The key word here is transform: “He will transform our present humble bodies to be like his glorious body.” Jesus will not declare that present physicality is redundant and can be scrapped. Nor will he simply improve it, perhaps by speeding up its evolutionary cycle. In a great act of power – the same power that accomplished Jesus’s own resurrection, as Paul says in Ephesians 1:19-20 – he will change the present body into the one that corresponds in kind to his own as part of his work of bringing all things into subjection to himself. Philippians 3, though it is primarily speaking of human resurrection, indicates that this will place within the context of God’s victorious transformation  of the whole cosmos.” (100-101)
  • Look more closely at Philippians 3. Verses 20-21 read: “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Wright says these words are not about us going to heaven, but about heaven coming to us. “Indeed, it is the church itself, the heavenly Jerusalem, that comes down to earth. This is the ultimate rejection of all types of Gnosticism, of every worldview that sees the final goal as the separation of the world from God, of the physical from the spiritual, or earth from heaven. It is the final answer to the Lord’s Prayer, that God’s kingdom will come and his will be done on earth as in heaven. It is what Paul is talking about in Ephesians 1:10, that God’s design, and promise, was to sum up all things in Christ, things both in heaven and on earth.” (104)
  • The living God will come and dwell with and among his people. Wright says that “C.S. Lewis did a great job in the Narnia stories and elsewhere of imagining how two worlds could relate and interlock.” (115) 
  • So let’s circle back to Acts 3:21. Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. This doesn’t say that “”Jesus has gone to heaven, so let’s be sure we can follow him.” [This says], rather, “Jesus is in heaven, ruling the whole world, and he will one day return to make that rule complete.” (117)

A few years ago, at our summer HSRM conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin, YWAM’s Dean Sherman was preaching about these kind of things. Dean said one of those things that just stays with a person. Speaking of life after this life, he said “I don’t want heaven to have streets of gold. I want heaven to look like Green Lake.” Paul said, “the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.” (Romans 8:19) As beautiful as Green Lake, Wisconsin, is, how much more shall it be when the kingdom of heaven is established in all its fullness.

Be Free of Trying to Change Other People

Be Free of Trying to Change Other People

Val Fowler’s cookies

Years ago God told me, “John, why are you trying so hard to change other people when you can’t even change your own self?” I have come to the freeing conclusion that: we cannot change other people. Only God can. So we can let go of trying to do that.

One result of this insight is that, in our marriage, Linda and I rarely, if ever, “advise” one another. We only do it if requested. This is because unasked-for advice is usually received as criticism. If I saw you today and said, “Did you know that Macy’s has some really nice shirts on sale?” you would think, “John doesn’t like my shirt.” If I want your advice I’ll ask for it. I do ask people for advice on a variety of things. If the advice is about something personal, I only ask people who know me, love me, are themselves vulnerable and open, and trustworthy. If Linda gives me unsolicited advice (like, “Your pant zipper is down”) it always comes out of care for me.

In relationships, and in ministry, the desire to change the other person is toxic. I like how Thomas Merton puts it. Merton writes: “Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to reform other men. A serious obstacle to recollection is the mania for directing those you have not been asked to reform… Renounce this futile concern with other men’s affairs! Pay as little attention as you can to the faults of other people and none at all to their natural defects and eccentricities.” (New Seeds of Contemplation, 255)

If God shows you another person’s fault it’s only so you can pray for them.

Confess and Forgive

Wilberforce, Ohio

If I am asked the question about what makes for a strong marriage my first response is: confession and forgiveness. When we wrong one another, we confess and forgive. Linda was the first person I ever did this with. Previous to my relationship with her I never admitted to anyone that I was wrong. The idea of confessing anything to another person was totally foreign to me.

I confess my sins to God. When I hurt someone else I confess to them, and ask for their forgiveness. I use these words: “I was wrong when I said/did ____________ to you. Would you forgive me?” In my confession I am specific. I don’t say something vague and general like “I was bad,” but I name the thing I said or did, specifically. Such as: “I was wrong when I raised my voice to you. Would you forgive me?”

To confess + forgive is not the same as saying “I’m sorry.” I do think emotional sorrow, in varying degrees, always accompanies authentic confession. But confession + forgiveness is deeper than saying “I’m sorry” since it is a two-way act. Confession requires a response. Confession + forgiveness is more powerful than one person saying “Sorry” to another. Confession is the personal owning-up to a perceived misdeed. Forgiveness releases the confessor from owing-up. Confession + forgiveness is: owning-up and release from owing-up.

I meet lots of Jesus-followers who do neither of these, in spite of the fact that their entire life in Christ is founded on Christ’s atoning, sacrificial act of forgiveness. The big barriers to owning-up confessional activity are pride and shame. These self-obsessive attitudes block many from confessing to those they have hurt and wronged. Even though we are told, in many ways, to confess our sins one to another, I think the actual practice of this is rare. For example, if you have not confessed something to a significant other in a long time, what’s your problem? Probably: pride or shame. Shame is the obverse of pride, the other side of the same coin which is self-obsessiveness. We are imperfect people, not-yet-arrived people. Our not-yet-arrivedness at times impinges on others in harmful ways. The act of confession is God’s gift for the not-yet-arrived. It is good to include yourself in this group.

I meet many Jesus-followers who choose to not forgive others. To forgive means: to cancel the indebtedness of the other person. The only other alternative, which is to withhold forgiveness, is to make the other pay. And keep paying. Refusal to forgive is the punishing, anti-Christ choice. For a Jesus-follower to not forgive is sheer hypocrisy. I might cry and rejoice over how much God has forgiven me while I put the screws to those who ask for my forgiveness. To realize the heinous, from-hell nature of withholding forgiveness, see the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:23-35). That any professing follower of Jesus could read this parable and not forgive others is, logically, unbelievable, and raises genuine questions like: “Who is your shepherd, really?” One Shepherd forgives and sets free; the other shepherd withholds forgiveness and imprisons.

To sin against another breaks relationship. Confession + forgiveness is the brilliant, genius-idea of God that restores relationship. We cannot do the past over. But we can break free from our pasts, and set others free from theirs.

Kenya Journal (3)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Today Cliff drove Al and I and Mike (New Life Mission’s excellent worship leader) from Nairobi to Eldoret – 180 miles – 5 ½ hours.

Highlights include:

• A man leading his camel next to the highway

• Monkees

• Storks

• Extreme poverty (60% of Kenyans live below the poverty line)

• Driving in elevations over 9000 feet!

• A man wearing an MSU Spartan jacket in a gas station (probably the highlight of the trip so far)

• Good dialogue with Cliff, Mike, and Al

• A beautiful shiny iridescent blue bird I’d never seen before

• Pelicans

• A stretch of highway that’s got to be as bad as any paved road can get – because until recently in Kenya trucks had no load limit. So, gigantic grooves are worn into the highway in places.

• The phenomenal Rift Valley. It almost took my breath away. It’s the Kenyan equivalent of the Grand Canyon (not sculpturally), except the Rift dwarfs the Grand Canyon in size.

• Arrival in Eldoret. We eat in the dining room. It’s a buffet. Fried Embu rice; Cream of Caroline soup (if your name is Caroline, don’t go there…); Ugali (a corn thing – I liked it); Lyannoaise potatoes (really, round French fries, but since we’re in lion country why not?); roast rack of lamb (the lyon and the lamb); and Cajun-fried tilapia. When Al and I got to the Cajun fried tilapia all we saw were Cajun fried tilapia heads. I thought Cajun-friend tilapia heads might be a delicacy. At least that’s what I told Al. When Cliff sat down to eat with us I asked if, in Kenya, cajun-friend tilapia heads are a delicacy. If he said “yes” then I’d feel good, and I needed to feel good about this tilapia head since it had precious little to eat on it and was always staring back at me. Cliff said, “No. Didn’t you see the fish bodies and the fish tails? I insisted there were only heads. Cliff then pointed to a nearby table, and there was a tilapia body on someone’s plate. Whoops. Or, maybe other people took all the tilapia bodies and tails and left the heads for Al and I?

I don’t have the best internet setup here at our Eldoret hotel.

70 pastors from Uganda and Kenya will be with me tomorrow. Some of them have driven all day and overnight to get here. Most of them… no, probably all of them…, are economically very poor. I am so grateful to God for the next 3-4 days with these real Jesus-followers!

Tuesday in Eldoret, Kenya

I’m in Eldoret, Kenya. About to go to breakfast. Then, off to teach the pastors from Kenya and Uganda. I am so thankful for the opportunity to do this.

FYI – for some reason I cannot upload photos to anything. I can’t attach them to an e-mail or upload to Facebook or upload them here. Since I’m a tech-ignoramus I don’t understand what’s going on. Could it be the wireless? Too bad, since I’ve got some cool pictures from on top of the Rift Valley escarpment.


Rift Valley, Kenya

Al & I are standing on the edge of the escarpment of the Rift Valley. This overlook is between Nairobi & Eldoret.

The Rift Valley is the Grand Canyon of Africa, except the Rift is way far longer and wider. Amazing!

Kenya – A Gift of a Maasai Bracelet

Marabou Storks looking for food. (These are real!)

This has been a great day for me. Here in Eldoret, Kenya, at a Roman Catholic retreat center, I’ve been teaching 70 pastors from Kenya and Uganda. I’m teaching them Spiritual Transformation, the same material I’ve taught at Palmer Theological Seminary, Faith Bible Seminary, Payne Theological Seminary, and our Redeemer Ministry School. (As I’m writing this I now hear the sound of the Muslim call to prayer over loudspeakers. It’s a religious world we live in, and Africa is an exceedingly religious place. Everything that I’m reading, including Peter Paris’s …., + my recent talks with African religion scholar Steve Lichty, confirms this.)

My translator, ___, is a beautiful and highly intelligent man from western Kenya neqar the Ugandan border. Today, during the hour of prayer I assigned, God told him: “All my doing comes from my being.” He showed me this and asked what I thought. I said, “That is true.” And, it’s to be the same for us. God wants to morph our hearts in Christlikeness (Gal. 4:19). I found myself thinking how intelligent he is. At lunch I asked him, “Have you studied this idea before?” “No,” he said. He’d spent a little time at a Bible college but could not afford the tuition any more. This man is a theologian who cannot afford to further his studies. That is not right. I’m thinking and praying about how I can assist him. He does not have a computer or access to the Internet.

The worship today was… exquisite, energetic, compelling. A worship leader led a capella. For it, it was everything African. It was the total, pure African sound rhythmically and melodically. It was also (pay attention now) very repetitive. Thank God some American evangelical Christian wasn’t here to protest and mock this “7-11” worship. As I’ve repeated over and over and over before, all tribal worship is repetitive. British colonialism brought, to Africa, “three verses and that’s enough worship for us.” I say: the repetitive worship coming from these pastors aimed at the throne of God was real worship.

Lunch: cooked raw bananas, rice, vegetables, and some other kind of lentil mix. A lot of food, and delicious! A cup of hot tea with lime and honey was given to me as I am losing my voice. My voice is wasting away, yet my spirit is being renewed day by day with the brothers and sisters.

BTW – I have found Kenyans and Ugandans to be welcoming and warm towards me. They are very gracious, quite anxious to help and serve.

We came back to the hotel for a few hours for a break. Our hotel is 7 kilomoters from the retreat center.

Back at the center – I continued teaching my spiritual formation material, esp. about how we cannot change other people so we can let that one go. The pastors seemed to be thankful for that. But we can be changed, and we can be changed. The change is – into Christlikeness. Paul says, in Gal. 4:19, that the metamorphing is into the likeness of Christ, that Christ would be “formed” in us. The orphing happenes as we enter and dwell in the presence of God, as we live “in” Christ.

At the end of this teaching time Al and I prayed for every pastor individually and gave words of knowledge and prophetic words of strength and comfort and encouragement. It was a beautiful time. Every pastor came forward and knelt to receive blessings and impartation. Very humbling, and empoweing for me.

At one point yesterday a pastor of the Maasai tribe came to me and said “I want to give you this. I want you to wear this so you will remember me.” It was a beaded Maasai bracelet. He put it on my right wrist. I’m wearing it now as I’m writing this. It’s Wednesday morning in Kenya.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This morning I reviewed my Spiritual Formation notes for the pastors who are at this conference.

But before that – the worship! Beautiful, God-filled, ridiculously repetitive and thus so very, very memorable and wonderful. The harmonies that are immediately and intuitively broken into…

Al got the old pegs out of the Yamaha FG-180 guitar. (My first acoustic was a Yamaha FG-160.) I brought new strings (Elixers) and slapped them on. I played a guitar improve using DADGAD, and I think the pastors enjoyed it.

I taught about the power (dunamis) and authority (exousia) that is available to us as we dwell attached like a branch to Jesus the Vine. I said that Jesus never prayed for people to be healed but commanded healing. When you have real authority, then all you need to do are things like requesting, demanding, directing. Jesus taight on the power and authority of the Kingdom. And, then, he demonstrated it. I asked if there was a pastor who needed healing. A man raised his hand. He’s had a pain in his throat for a year that has caused him difficulties. I explained to the pastors what I was going to do. I asked for permission to place my hand on his throat. I said, “In Jesus’ name, be healed.” I asked him, “How’s the pain now?” He moved his neck, he gulped several times, looked at me and smiled, “The pain is gone!” Everyone cheered and clapped. I pointed out the obvious (if you think about it): I can’t heal people, but God can. So if a nobody like me is attached to Jesus, his power can flow throw me to heal and deliver. And that’s what happened today.

After this I thought about people who claim to see more healing in places like Africa than they do in the U.S. I feel pretty certain that it could be shown, empirically, that African people have more faith in a God who heals than do people in the U.S. Even among U.S. Christians a whole lot of them don’t think God does this kind of stuff anymore, if ever at all.

We break for coffee and a pastry of some type, not like we have in the U.S. Good!

At the next session I do some teaching on Mark 1, where Jesus goes out to a solitary place and prays. Why did Jesus do that? To find out what the Father wanted him to do. Therefore “prayer” is: talking with God about what we are doing together. I then sent the pastors out for an hour of prayer.

During my prayer time I had this “Aha, I’m in Africa!” moment. While I am looking forward to going home, I will savor each African second to its sweetest and deepest. I’ve sometime not lived in the present, which means I have not lived at all. Only the present is real. Ask Greg Boyd if you think differently.

The pastors returned from their hour of prayer. “Did God speak to you,” I asked. Most raised their hands. “Is there someone who would share what God said to you?” One pastor shared how God called him to repent of his “blood line,” which contained idols and witchcraft and sorcery. A second pastor stood. He said: “Two weeks ago my house burned down. My wife and children were in it. They escaped and are alright. Everything we had was lost, even our precious memorable things. But today as I was praying and meditating on Psalm 23 God told me to look at the suit I was wearing. I then felt how blessed I am, and all that I have. And one day the house will be rebuilt.”

With this I am wiped out. Who am I, anyway, that has worried about not having enough? This man is spiritually beyond me, asymptotically approaching the Real Jesus who, BTW, did not have a roof over his head.

Friday Morning in Kenya + An African Son

Friday morning in Eldoret, Kenya. The hotel’s breakfast buffet is on the outside porch. I’m eating breakfast next to the outdoor pool. A bowl of porridge with honey, a fruit drink called “passion juice,” fresh mango and fresh pineapple. Both are grown here in the Eldoret area, which is “the bread basket of Kenya.”

We take the 5 1/2 hour drive back to Nairobi today. Then tomorrow, 10:30 PM, to Amsterdam, and then home to Detroit.

Here are bullet points from yesterday and more, not necessarily in any order.

  • I talked with a pastor named David, who leads a church in Eldoret. I can tell he is a great leader. He’s talking with me about wher he could get a Master’s seminary degree in the U.S. I’ve read a lot about African religions, both prior to coming and while here. We talked about African scholar John Mbiti’s idea of African ancestor appeasement and caregiving and ancesters as “the living dead.” I asked David about “diviners.” Yes, Africa is full of diviners, people who can tell you your future and even more. Some of them have flags on top of their houses to advertise their powers of divination. African is, it could be said, entirely religious. African primal religion believes in a Supreme Being, with many sub-deities who serve the Supreme Being. The Supreme Being is a distant being; the sub-deities are intermediaries. And, even the ancestors, the “living dead,” serve their living families as intermediaries between them and God. Mbiti’s work is well-known here and very relevant.
  • Duncan is a young pastor from the Maasai tribe. I’m wearing the Maasai bracelet he gave me. Yesterday Duncan wanted to take pictures with me and of me. I have his address. I’ll be sending him materials from my teachings. I feel very close to him.
  • Titus was my translator all week. My English messages were translated into Kiswahili. Titus is a 37-year-old pastor whose small church is in Kenya near the Ugandan border. We talked quite a bit. He is very intelligent. I’m sending him my teaching notes, plus I’ll be sending him a book to study. He is, like nearly all the pastors here, very poor. He has one bicycle. Last night he wanted to talk some more. He is an exceedingly gracious and humble man. He took my hands and said to me, “Now you have a son in Africa.”

    My laptop battery is fading. I’ll write some more, hopefully, when I get to Nairobi later, + download a billion photos since the internet is faster in the big city.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Eldoret, Kenya

On the road from Eldoret to Nairobi today our host Cliff Msioki said, as we were driving through the Rift Valley, “We may see zebras on the roadside, and maybe a giraffe.” Are you kidding? Al and I began looking. A few miles down the road and Al says, “There they are!” Four zebras on the other side of the road. Cliff turned the car around and we stopped, and took pictures. After this there were many more zebra sightings, in groups of 5-15. We saw over a hundred zebras!

We also saw baboons on the roadside. One was on the highway ahead eating roadkill. We drive up next to 5-6 baboons. The one feasting on roadkill narrowly missed getting hit by an oncoming car. We were right next to him, and he jumped out of the way. I got a great picture of a baboon, which I’ll post when I get my camera back, since I left it in Cliff’s car. He’ll return it when he picks us up tomorrow to take us to the airport.

We also saw a herds of gazelles and impalas.

And, we saw two warthogs! But we couldn’t get photos of them.

We stopped and ate at an outdoor restaurant – the one where the giant 4-foot tall Marabou storks hang out hoping for a free lunch. Check out the link – they look exactly like that. Now imagine they behave like seagulls, hanging very close waiting for you to toss them food. They stand in a circle around your table, with their weird hunchback positions. When our meal was over Al fed them chicken bones, which they swallowed whole without chewing. These things are carnivores! “They will catch small rodents and reptiles and have even been known to pick swallows out of the air!” (see link)

As we were eating an African grey Hornbill kept flying around us and landing in the nearby trees. Cool!

It was an exhilarating time. I felt like we were on a safari that was costing us nothing!

Oh yes, we stopped on the equator and had our pictures taken – it’s 9100′ above sea level.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Nairobi at night

It’s morning in Nairobi. Had breaklfast at the PanAfric hotel’s buffet. Steve Lichty is picking up Al and I – we’ll go out for coffee. Cliff picks us up at 4 to go to the airport.

On to Amsterdam, then to Detroit. We’ve got a 3 1/2 hour layover in Amsterdam. I probably won’t post anything more until Sun. evening U.S. time.

As always when I take a trip like this I’ll be thinking about many things in the days and weeks to come. I’m so grateful to God for this trip, and for having Al with me, and the extreme graciousness of Cliff Msioki and his people and pastors, to Steve Lichty for the blessing and richness of time spent with him, and for the Kenyan and Uganda people and their great hospitality.