Sunday, January 14, 2018

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE LOG CHURCH OF KENYA

It was 27degrees below zero in Tripoli, Wisconsin this morning (that’s about –33 in Celsius). We canceled our regular service at the Log Church. However, this does not mean a day off for me.

I also this morning received an email from the Log Church of Kenya. I have communication with Pastor Joel from that church at least two or three times per week. His letters are not usually about present hardships that they are facing, but they sometimes are. On some occasions, like this morning, he tells me that they and the orphans who are in their care have had to go to bed without having eaten the entire day. They go to bed with stomachs completely empty.

I have sent them some money in the past to help with this very urgent need when it has happened, but not always. I am not always able to, nor do I always think that I should.

Today, instead of the regular sermon that I post on my blog, I am sharing the letter that I sent to the people at the Log Church of Kenya. Vivian and I (they refer to us as “Dad and Mum”) are really praying for direction:
 
Dear Pastor Joel and beloved people of the Log Church of Kenya,

Mum and I are very grieved to hear of your most recent needs. We are so sorry that you and the orphans again are going to bed after a day of no food. Every day I am praying and wondering what God will have me do. I would like to be able to tell you for certain what those things are, but as of yet I have received no definite direction from God.

I am not able to simply keep sending money. God has not given me great amounts of money. Last year I was able to sell two cows to be able to come to you with some gifts, and I have determined that I should continue to dedicate my cows for the benefit of the orphans and the church there in Kisii. However, it is in the months of September and October when I am able to have the meat processed to sell.

I do not have a large herd. Seven animals, only two or three of which can be butchered and sold next autumn.

I would like to come again as I did last year, but I do not yet know if God will direct me in that way. The airline ticket price is very high. Financially, it would make more sense to just use the money for the ticket and send it for your use, but this cannot be that kind of relationship.

Ours cannot be a relationship based on sharing money. It can only be one based on sharing Christ. This is how this relationship has begun, and this is how it must continue.

Still, at this very moment, you are all hungry, and that saddens me.

Please know that Mum and I are praying about this very present need of yours and also be assured that if God directs me to do something, I will certainly obey. I have lived my life saying “yes” to the Lord, and I will always live my life in that way.

We would also like to be able to help the orphans be able to attend school and will continue to pray about that need.

As for the present moment however, I pray that God will provide food for you. Our prayer is that you will see the fulfillment of the promise that the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, “My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

These are not empty words. I also am bringing your needs before our Savior and Lord.

Your Dad and Mum in Christ,
Pastor Don and Vivian

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A PLACE CALLED BETHEL

The man Jacob was on the run. He had done something that, in his time and place, was disgraceful and loathsome. Now he was fleeing. He was trying to escape the consequences of what he did.

Jacob was the second born of his family, albeit by only a couple of minutes. Nevertheless, if one is inclined to be precise, his twin brother Esau did precede him in his birth. In that culture, this was a distinction of significant importance. Much of the honor and inheritance was vested on the firstborn simply by virtue of the fact of his primogeniture.

Esau however, the older of the twins, had little regard for this custom and even for his own rights as the eldest son. Some time before this latest event, the one from which Jacob had to escape the consequences, Esau had showed his disrespect for those inheritance rights when he uncaringly traded them to his younger twin for a bowl of red soup.

The trade had been initiated and negotiated by Jacob. That exchange alone might be considered by some to be enough to make the older brother angry. This time however, Jacob had done something that had really enraged his brother. Now Jacob had done something extremely deceitful, and Esau was angry. He had even vowed to kill Jacob because of it. It was from this wrath of his brother that Jacob was fleeing.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

OUT WITH THE OLD—IN WITH THE NEW

THE STAFF OF JACOB

Age often obligates a man to use the aid of a cane as he walks. His footsteps are not quite so sure as they once were, and the extra support and steadiness of a staff offers him more security in his steps.

In Biblical times, the use of walking sticks was especially common because the staffs were not only for walking, but also used as a tool of shepherds and others.

Concerning walking canes, there is one particular verse in the book of Hebrews which, for some reason, has long been intriguing to me. It simply reads like this:

By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. (Hebrews 11:21 NAS) 

In that chapter of Hebrews we read of many men and women who had learned to walk by faith in God. About some of these, the writer of Hebrews has quite a lot to say. However, for Jacob, who has one of the most extensive biographies of anyone in the Old Testament, the writer has given only this single verse.

So much could have been written about Jacob. In his life, we have many examples of experiences from which to draw, both good and bad. Jacob’s journey to a life of faith had many ups and downs, many advances and many retreats. His life was not one of steady and continual improvements.  It is interesting to me that of all the things that the writer of Hebrews could have said about Jacob, what he mentions is that Jacob worshiped, “leaning on the top of his staff.” 

The Importance of Jacob’s Staff
Why was this significant? For a man about so much could have been written, the writer of Hebrews dedicates only one sentence. And, in that sentence, he has Jacob leaning on the top of his staff, as if for some reason that were unusual or important in some way.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

WHAT TWO MOMS DID

You are probably familiar with the biblical story of the baby Moses—how he was put in a basket soon after he was born and placed in the reeds of the Nile River, then later to be found by daughter of the Pharaoh.

But this post is not about Moses or about the princess. It is about the mother of Moses, a woman by the name of Jochebed.

Don’t worry if you did not know her name. It is not even mentioned in the story, and not many mothers in these days would give their little girls this name. I don’t think little Jochebed would make it through middle school. We only learn the name of the mother of Moses later in two of the several listings of genealogies of the Hebrew people (Exodus 6:20; Numbers 26:59).

Usually when we hear the story of Moses, we do not speak too much about Jochebed, but there are several reasons why we should give her some attention. When we consider the story this time, try to imagine what it must have been like for this mother of Moses.

Here is some background for the story of this woman. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

SOJOURNERS – THE LIFE OF ABRAHAM

Abraham Lifts His Head

In the days when my family and I were preparing for our first overseas move from our home in Wisconsin, I identified with Abraham more than any other Bible character. Like Abraham and his family, that time in our lives was one of sojourning for us.

As we readied ourselves for our future work abroad, we were first required to attend language school in Costa Rica. While living in that Central American country for some eight months, we grew to feel comfortable there, but because we knew we were not in what was to be our home, I myself could not come to the point where I felt completely settled in that country.

Even before that time, while we were still in the US, we needed to travel extensively. We stayed in many different homes and for many nights had different hosts. We often spent long weeks living out of our suitcases. This is often the case in the life of a missionary.

After our language school was completed in Costa Rica, we made our eventual move to Venezuela, where we were to settle and begin our first extensive assignment. However, even after arriving to our new hometown in that country, we could not immediately find a permanent rental house. For some months, we stayed in a house temporarily with a month-by-month rental agreement until we could finally find and settle into the house that would become our permanent house. 

Settling In

Since those early days of our work, our family has gone through several international moves. In my nature, I am a person who prefers to simply find a place and settle in—to make myself at home. However, this has not been the life that the Lord has given me. Through the course of my life, besides in my home country of the United States, I have lived in seven different countries in five separate regions of the world. This is not a description of a life where I have been allowed to “settle in.” On the contrary, in its own way, each move has been unsettling.

The life of a sojourner has its own special challenges, especially for ones like our family who would prefer to settle down and grow deep roots. Sojourning can be disheartening—wondering when you will once again be able to allow yourself to feel completely at home. It was for Abraham, and so it has been at times for us.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

THE LOG CHURCH - KISII, KENYA (part 1 - BEGIN HERE)

As you can see, this is part 1 of a 4 part video. Please begin with this video and go through the sequence. Each video is probably about 2 or 3 minutes long, The blog page placed a limit on the length of each video, so I had to break it up into smalleer segments



THE LOG CHURCH - KISII, KENYA (part 2)

As you can see, this is part 2 of a 4 part video. Please begin at part 1. Each video is probably about 2 or 3 minutes long, The blog page placed a limit on the length of each video, so I had to break it up into smalleer segments


THE LOG CHURCH - KISII, KENYA (part 3)

As you can see, this is part 3 of a 4 part video. Please begin at part 1. Each video is probably about 2 or 3 minutes long, The blog page placed a limit on the length of each video, so I had to break it up into smalleer segments



THE LOG CHURCH - KISII, KENYA (part 4)

As you can see, this is the last segment of a 4 part video. Please begin at part 1. Each video is probably about 2 or 3 minutes long, The blog page placed a limit on the length of each video, so I had to break it up into smalleer segments


Sunday, December 3, 2017

HOW TO WALK BY FAITH

This was the final sermon at the Log Church of Kisii, Kenya. This was also the sermon today at the Log Church of Tripoli, Wisconsin. The Bible Conference at the church in Kenya was centered around our walk of faith. This sermon could be considered as an introduction to the subject, but here I used it as a conclusion.
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HOW TO WALK BY FAITH
“…For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

These are the words of the Apostle Paul in describing the Christian life. We often hear about “living a life of faith” and “walking by faith,” and we are fond of calling ourselves, “people of faith.” These are all very pious sounding words, but sometimes we do not really understand what it means to walk by faith.

On the other hand, walking by faith is often misrepresented and ridiculed. Christians are sometimes accused of having a “blind faith” and placing hope on something that, deep down, they fear does not really exist.

Mark Twain, for all his wit and writing ability, did great damage in mischaracterizing the life of faith with the much quoted statement of one of his characters: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” (Pudd’nhead Wilson). Also in our culture, it is common to refer to a “pie in the sky” type of faith, which ridicules the life of faith by implying that Christians are placing all of their hope in some future promises of heaven that do not actually exist.

Both of these references have their elements of humor, and if we do not take them too seriously, we can laugh at them. But unfortunately, they have also mischaracterized what actually is a walk of faith. 

Two Walks
But if these characterizations of faith are not true, then what does it mean to walk by faith? The Apostle Paul is quoted as saying “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Just what does this mean? What is it to walk in faith? Is it true that those of us who practice walking by faith, walk in blind trust, without sight and without any evidence whatsoever?

Paul also said that we look not to the things that are seen, but to those things that are unseen (2 Corinthians 4:18). What did he mean?

If it might help in your understanding, here is how I would compare a life of walking by faith in contrast with a life of walking by sight alone: 

Walking by Sight
Walking by sight can be likened to what a man or woman may do when they stand in a doorway of a room. They do not immediately enter, but only stand in such a way so that they can see all that the room contains. They are able to simply stand in the doorway without making any real commitment to enter. Finally, when they become satisfied that they know sufficiently what is in the room, they may choose whether or not to go inside. Their commitment to act only follows their sight. It does not go before.

This is walking by sight. In this world, this seems to be a reasonable way of conducting ourselves. There is much in the world that is not trustworthy, so we must be cautious in making commitments.

However, when it comes to matters of eternity, living in this manner is not the walk that God tells us we should be doing.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (26)

What now?

Tomorrow morning early, I am to leave Kisii for the seven hour drive to return to Nairobi, where I will stay for two nights. Then it is the plane ride to Amsterdam, Minneapolis/St Paul, and finally to Wausau, WI.

My sermon today at the Log Church of Kisii was a contrast of the life that is guided by faith, rather than a life that follows only those things that we can verify with our senses.

The verse that I based the sermon on was where Paul said, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Our learning to walk by faith does not end when we first respond to the call of God upon our lives for salvation—at least it should not be so.

This trip to see the Log Church of Kisii was definitely a step of faith for me. I came with what were few pragmatic evidences that what I would find when I arrived was as I was led to believe, but also with many other factors telling me that it was all a scam.

But I did have one other thing. The Lord told me that I should make the trip. He did not tell me what I would find and he did not give me the assurance that everything would be as I had hoped. He only told me that I must go.

What that meant to me was that I had to face the real prospect of coming and finding no one here. No church. No orphanage. No people. I have been told that this has happened to others who had been set up to send money to “fake” orphanages. I had to face the prospect of returning to my home and being called “foolish” for falling for such a scam.

I had to come to the point of accepting that fact. I may be called a fool. Nevertheless, I was sure of my calling.  If I did not come to Kisii and see for myself why God called me to come, I could not continue on with my life as if nothing had happened.

This was not the first time that I have done something in my life that was considered foolish by some. I have to admit, when the brothers from Kisii walked into the hotel where I was staying on my arrival to Nairobi, there was a part of me that was simply relieved. What I had been led to believe was true.

But then, I have long tried to live my life based on one simple philosophy—one guiding principle.

When God asks me to do something, I try to say “yes.” 

That’s it. No eruditic (not sure if that’s a word) and finely crafted statement that you would print on a poster with a mountain background to hang on the wall.

So what about my future involvement with the church here in Kenya? Every day, when one of the pastors was speaking, they would off-handedly say, “When our dear Dad comes back,” or, “When our Dad comes back, we hope he will bring our Mom.”

In one of my sermons I mentioned the verse in Acts 18 that says that Paul stayed a year and six month in Corinth, teaching the people the Word of God. It was merely a verse in passing. I barely even mentioned it, and I hope that Pastor Vincent got more out of the sermon than this. But when he took the podium after I sat down, he mentioned the verse again and said that the church in Kisii would want the same—that I could stay with them a year and a half and teach them from the Word.

But then he said this, “He would first need to go back to America to get Mom.”

It is always “Dad and Mom,” or “Daddy and Mommy.” I have been thinking a lot about this and at first felt a bit uncomfortable with it. But I have grown used to it and I see that they actually mean it. They sometimes refer to me when introducing me as  their “mentor” or their “good pastor.”

So what does all of this mean for the future?

I have no idea. This was not something that I sought, nor did I ever see it coming. I do know that any further involvement that requires my presence here would also require the Lord to move many pieces of my life.
But the Lord has already shown me in this experience that I should never come to the point where I say my life is settled.

And I thought that it was.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

WHY I AM GOING TO KENYA (25)

I did not pattern my teachings around the doctrine of predestination for this conference. I am simply going through the book of Ephesians. But here is something else about the doctrine of predestination that Paul mentions in the first verses of Ephesians.

First of all, he says that God “chose us in him before the creation of the world.”

That is an amazing statement and one which we discussed in the conference, but I will not enter into all of that now.

The other statement of Paul's that I want to mention is that we “have been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

If you accept that God created you, then you must consider that it was for a purpose, just as Paul’s second statement says. It is logical that this is so. When we make something, we always have a purpose in mind for what we are making. It is to serve a function. Likewise, when God made us, he also had a purpose for each one of us.

By rejecting the truth of the first verses of Ephesians that tell of God choosing us and then predestinating us for a purpose, we then also miss seeing what our purpose in life is. It is no wonder to me that many in America have a difficult time finding meaning in life.

We are so independently minded that it goes against our natures to think that God has determined anything for us. We have pumped ourselves up on Free-Will Steroids. 

However, we conveniently and completely ignore the fact that there is already much about our existence for which we were not consulted. We were not consulted when and where we would be born, for instance, or into which family. Certainly, as any teen-ager will tell you, if we would have chosen our appearance or how our bodies would look, we would have made them much differently.

By pridefully ignoring God’s working in our lives, we are left to find our own purpose in our living.

Paul speaks about this also in the second chapter, where he calls us "the workmanship of God," and that God created us for the specific purpose of "doing good works."

It is my opinion that the the reason so many do not find fulfillment in their lives is because they reject the teaching of predestination. But God did not create you simply to leave you alone in the world, floundering for meaning in life.

Know that God has a purpose for you. You have been made specially to do specific tasks for the betterment of your fellow man and to give glory to God.

"I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well."