Friday, September 02, 2005
Friday, August 26, 2005
God's love for diversity is clearly shown in the two lists Paul gives of the gifts that God has given his people. While the lists overlap, they are by no means the same, which indicates that rather than being exhaustive lists of the spiritual gifts, they are representative of a potentially much larger group of the gifts God gives. God has a vast and diverse array of gifts He means to give to His people, according to His purposes for them and their needs in the particular time and place in which they find themselves. While the focus is on the powerful and spectacular gifts which so entranced the Corinthians, Paul also hints that some of these gifts are not ones we would desire to have in his discussion of how the human body fits together. In verse 23, he makes reference to parts of the body that are less presentable and require more modesty and yet are still essential parts of who we are. Given the force of the analogy with the church, it seems reasonable to believe that God also gifts the church in the same way, with people who are less presentable and require more modesty, and yet are inseparable from what He means His church to be. God likes not only those in our midst who are spectacular and beautiful but also those who are weak and unimpressive, and He's glad for part each of us contributes to the body of Christ.
We, on the other hand, prefer the prominent gifts, and perhaps with some justification, as Paul himself told us to eagerly seek the greater gifts. But the greater gifts are to be sought not because of the added luster they give to us individually, but because of the blessing they give to the body as a whole. The Corinthians were notorious for the factionalism and their tendency to push the envelope of their spiritual freedoms, both of which were rooted in a desire to gain personal prominence and power. Thus they sought gifts like tongues because such gifts made it unmistakable that God was speaking through them even if no one had any clue what He was saying. But God wants us to use our diverse gifts to bring diverse blessings to others because our needs as a body are diverse. We need not only teaching, but also encouragement, not just good leaders, but also faithful followers, not only people with great faith, but also people with only a little faith who provide the strong with an opportunity to use their strength to bless those in need.
This is rather different from many churches today, where homogeneity is considered a strength and personal weaknesses are kept carefully hidden so as not to be a source of embarrassment. But from what Paul says, these churches are actually rather ugly in God's sight, sort of like a gigantic eye with no body to support it, or a torso with a hand and an ear attached to it. While homogeneity may promote efficiency and make it easy for everyone to get along, God seems to prefer a diversity that forces us to move out of our comfort zones and be stretched to bless people who are very different from us, and perhaps even to receive a blessing from them in return. Where we tend to prefer age-segregated adult fellowship groups and would rather keep the disabled and handicapped in "their own place" if we allow them at all, God would rather we bring college students, grandparents, middle-aged homemakers and those on wheelchairs or with speach impediments all together in a diverse group of people who love Jesus. I've seen this diversity in my church, and God uses it in unexpected ways to make something very beautiful.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
One possible use of these features is to make it easier for the staff of a large church to create for people the illusion that they are connected to the leadership. It's comforting to be addressed by first name and to receive letters that contain personal information rather than being simply addressed to "Occupant." And it can be nice to have someone say "we missed you on Sunday" even if they only knew about your absence because you didn't get your badge scanned.
But we need to more than just an illusion of connection, we need to actually be connected to each other, and that's a much more difficult challenge. When the time comes that we encounter strains in our lives and need someone to talk to, what we really want is not simply to talk to a pastor whose only knowledge of us is the information he's reading from his computer screen as we talk. But people have only a limited amount of time for each other and a limited capacity for meaningful relationships, so pastors can very quickly reach the point where they simply can't keep in touch with any more people in a meaningful way. What churches really need from technology is not simply assistance in creating the illusion that people are connected to each other but help in actually connecting people. Software that can effectively help us to identify people who are inadequately connected and to bring them in contact with others who have open capacity for relationships would help churches to take a step towards creating real Christian fellowship within the community.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Sunday, August 14, 2005
Here are points 9-13 (see below for the others):
9. 5 million - the increase in the number of people who have no health insurance since George Bush took office.
“One of the groups with the greatest risk of being uninsured is non-citizen immigrants; almost half (45.3 percent) were uninsured in 2003.” A better policy for dealing with illegal immigrants would greatly reduce this figure, and would go far to dealing with many other healthcare issues.
10. 20,000 - the number of premature deaths annually resulting from the Republican gutting of the Clean Air Act
This number is not easily proven and needs to be considered against other projections, such as the number of people who would die early because of the loss of healthcare because of their unemployment as a result of their employer’s being forced out of business by the expenses of implementing the Clean Air Act as it now stands. Some of the rationale for President Bush’s Clear Skies act are here. The act will result in more than 60% reduction in major pollutants from current levels - perhaps not as much as the Clean Air Act would have, but a lot nevertheless, and perhaps as much as we can afford.
11. $400 million - ho w much the Bush administration wants to slash the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency.
As documented here, this is a 6% reduction in the budget and reflects reductions in the spending on water cleanup. Other areas of the agency’s budget are increased.
12. 3 - the multiple by which North Korea has increased its nuclear weapons arsenal while George Bush has lead us into Iraq.
I would have thought that the Democratic party would have expected this to be an issue for the United Nations to address, just as it is addressing Iran’s nuclear weapons development plans.
13. 0 - the number of mistakes George Bush admits to making in his first term.
It’s not clear why this should be a surprise.
Saturday, August 13, 2005
5. $236 billion - the surplus Bill Clinton left George Bush
This followed the huge dot-com boom and was diminishing rapidly during the last year of Clinton’s term due to the impending collapse of the boom..
6. $333 billion - the current deficit under George Bush
On the heels of 9/11, the dot-com bust, and Operation Iraqi freedom, this is not a terribly surprising number. As a percentage of the GDP, the federal debt is been smaller under President Bush than it had been at any time between 1998 and 1999.
7. 800,000 - the net loss of jobs in George Bush’s first term
According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of civilians employed increased from 137.8 million to 140.2 million between January 2001 and January 2004, a growth of just under 2.5 million jobs, and this despite both 9/11 and the dot-com bust. Unemployment levels are now the same as they were during President Clinton’s first term, which is a better base of comparison than his second term when they were artificially deflated by the dot-com boom.
8. $13.1 billion - how much George Bush has underfunded the No Child Left Behind Act.
See here for some rebuttals to this accusation. Education is getting funded at a remarkable level in this country (about $10,000 per pupil from all sources in California, for example) with no real proof that the additional funds are providing a commensurate improvement in educational quality. We need to concentrate on using existing funds more productively before looking at increasing funding further.
1. 1766 - number of American soldiers killed in Iraq as of July 18, 2005
This works out to about 61 casualties per month or two per day. For a war of this magnitude, this level of casualties would seem to be remarkably low. At this rate it would take over seventy years to reach the number of casualties suffered in the Vietnam war (58,226) .
2. $181 billion - spent on the Iraq as of July 18, 2005.
Operation Desert Storm cost $61 billion for about 100 days of combat. Iraqi Freedom cost three times that much for almost ten times a long a period, or one third as much to sustain over a much larger front.
3. 0 - number of weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq
While fear of WMDs was one justification for the war, war was authorized for many other reasons, including Saddam’s support for terrorism and violation of numerous United Nations resolutions. The unanimous opinion at the time was that Saddam had WMDs (even his own generals thought so). If he did have them, he also had plenty of opportunity to get rid of them or convert them to peaceful uses (e.g. fertilizer plants) before we invaded. For all we know they may still be hidden out there, since we’re still discovering new weapons caches every day.
4. $98 billion - how much George Bush has underfunded first responders since 9/11
As of early 2004 (see here) only $1.1 billion of the $6.3 billion allocated for first responders under the Homeland Security grant program had actually been spent. It is difficult to see how we could usefully have spent almost 100 times that much, or given the current budget deficit, how it would have been funded.
Monday, August 08, 2005
Friday, August 05, 2005
With God's help I've relaxed some, reducing my expectations in some areas and getting help in others. People are graciously stepping in to help, and my stomach has stopped hurting. And I'm hoping now by God's grace to be able to start some low-key blogging, believing that He has a few things He wants me to say here.
Sunday, June 05, 2005
All of this indicates that we are not likely to be able to say that we have done all that was needed to present the gospel when we speak to someone. But some things are foundational to faith, and need to be said to people who are seriously considering the significance of Christianity or their lives. These include the following:
- There is one God, the creator of the universe, who is different from us and cannot be fully comprehended by us.
- We are born alienated from God, and cannot enjoy His company, nor He ours while we are in this state.
- This alienation is called sin and is the cause of most of our present suffering, a suffering that will only be intensified after death unless it is remedied.
- For us to be reconciled to God requires the intervention of God Himself; we cannot do it on our own.
- Because He loves us, God tooke the initiative to send His Son into the world as Jesus Christ to die and be raised from the dead in order that we might be reconciled to Him.
- We need to believe that God has accomplishedin Jesus Christ the work we need for our reconciliation and accept it as a free gift in order for it to have value for us.
- Being reconciled to God involves a change of heart and lifestyle as we seek to live lives pleasing to Him rather than for our own purposes.
- Being reconciled to God also involves being baptized as a tangible sign of our participation in God's purposes and becoming unified with God's people in a local church.
I'm finding that now that all of the effort involved in buying and selling is past, I have more energy for thinking about blogging. I had underestimated how much emotional and spiritual energy I need to be able to blog, and I was just too drained over the last month to even think about it. God willing, I should be able to pick up the pace some now.
Monday, May 09, 2005
Sunday, May 01, 2005
I don't know for certain that this is what Jesus meant, but I believe that it is closer to His meaning than my previous image.
It is good sometimes to ask yourself as you read Scripture "what does that really mean?" You may find that God is waiting there to help you see a little deeper into the truths of His Word.
Friday, April 29, 2005
One challenge has been a work related. I'm in a technical field, but the recent demands have been more for adminstrative than technical effort. My difficulty is that I'm not good at administrative stuff, and I'd frequently come home weary from filling out forms, and missing the satisfaction that the technical work frequently gives. What's more, the stakes have been raised, and people are now getting disciplined for mistakes that used to be tolerated. The stress this generated was very tiring.
Another more pleasant but still taxing effort has been putting our house up for sale and looking for a new place. The market is amazingly hot right now, and our home has hugely appreciated over the seven years we've lived there, so things look pretty good for sellers. Homes are getting snapped up almost as fast as they hit the market, so there are no houses for sale near us. After doing a lot of cleanup and some minor repair (which should have been done years ago in some cases), we put the place on the market, and within less than a week had two offers at our asking price. Right now we're in escrow with one of the buyers, having asked the other to stand by as a backup just in case.
But what helps us as a seller makes it harder as a buyer. Our first bid we made was $25,000 over asking price on a beautiful house that attracted seven other bids after being on the market less than a week. We ended up being #2 due to the contingency of the sale of our house despite the fact that we had two offers on the place. The next house we looked sold after less than two days on the market. So we have started looking at less desirable places that can meet our needs without attracting such a bidding storm.
One of the main contributors to the tremendous speed of the market is the Internet, which allows the news about a new home on the market to get to interested people with great speed. But we've realized that we cannot allow ourselves to be dragged along at such a breakneck speed because we will be totally overwhelmed by the effort needed to keep up with all the options. Instead we pray, believing that God can and will keep track of all the offers out there, that He will keep for us the home that He wants for us, and that if we simply do our best to follow His lead that He will keep us from missing the place He has for us.
This conviction has played out in some interesting ways during our search. When we first visited the house on which we made our first offer, I was immediately attracted by its beauty, but at the same time I had this inner feeling of uncertainty and darkness that I couldn't account for. Knowing my proclivity to depression, I thought that I could simply be overreacting to the stress of all the real-estate transactions we were involved in, so we went ahead and made our offer on the place. But during the following few days the darkness deepened, to the point when one day as I was driving home I was crying out to God not to let us buy the place if it wasn't what He wanted for us. So it was with a sense almost of relief that I learned that night from our realtor, a sweet woman and longtime friend, that our offer hadn't been accepted. I ended up comforting her, for she was very disappointed, and not the other way around.
This sense of God's guidance has continued to keep us through a number of other bumps in the process. We are confident that we'll our place will ultimately sell at the right time to the right people for the right amount, and that we'll be able to get into the right home when we need to for a price we'll be able to afford. So as places come and go on the market, we don't feel driven to check every one of them out, and don't fret as much if others get there first. It's not stress free, that's for sure, but I'm much more relaxed than I would be on my own. Hopefully I'll be relaxed enough during the process to have enough energy to post here on a more regular basis than I've done in the past.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Thanks to Belmont Club (this is the backup site) for the pointer.
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Spread the word - perhaps Mae Margourik can yet be saved.
It is terrifying how easy it is becoming to kill of the weak among us.
Thanks to Dawn Eden for raising the red flag.
Spread the word - perhaps Mae Margourik can yet be saved.
It is terrifying how easy it is becoming to kill of the weak among us.
Thanks to Dawn Eden for raising the red flag.
Monday, April 04, 2005
The distinction we need to make here is between the wisdom of man and the wisdom of God. In the previous verse, it says that God "catches the wise in their craftiness." Craftiness is a good term for human wisdom, for its goal is to circumvent the healthy limits of human life to gain some particular power or prestige. The crafty person manipulates situations for his own good rather than working within the situations to achieve God's intended good. Now God cannot be manipulated, so he catches the crafty, those who are humanly wise, and reveals the futility of their scheming.
The wisdom of God, however, seeks to accomplish God's purposes within the situations he has given us. It starts not with a desire for self aggrandizement but with a deep concern for God's character and purposes, described in the book of Proverbs as "the fear of the Lord," which, we are told, is the beginning of wisdom. This kind of wisdom looks at things not from the perspective of how they can make us happy (as Eve looked at the fruit of the tree in Eden), but how they can satisfy God. One person looks at a jar of perfume and sees how it can satisfy God by being poured out in love on Jesus' feet, another sees it as a vehicle for gaining some spiritual brownie points by selling it and giving to the poor (while perhaps taking a cut off of the proceeds for himself - John 12:1-6).
So if we pray for wisdom, God will not hear us if we are only asking for better skill at manipulating situations for our own benefit. However, if we are asking God to help us to see things better from His perspective so that we can better accomplish His purposes, we can expect Him to honor His own promise to give abundantly to those who ask for wisdom (James 1:5). By giving us this kind of wisdom, God equips us to do what He most wants done, so we should ask eagerly and then spend freely of what He gives for His glory.
If a disabled person is not terminally ill, not in a coma, and not being kept alive on life support, and they have no written directive, should or should they not be denied food and water.When they actually knew what Terri's situation was and were asked directly what to do about it, 79% of the people surveyed said "no" such a person should not be denied food and water, while only 9% said "yes." That's the message our government needed to hear and respond to.
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Friday, April 01, 2005
The question is unmistakably before us; will we learn to see the value of those who are frail and cannot defend themselves, or will we find new ways to "mercifully" get rid of them? California is presently considering a law legalizing euthanasia. Some may consider this an improvement on the starvation and dehydration that Terri Schiavo endured, but wouldn't food have been a better option than murder? Joni Ericson Tada has been wearing herself out these days on behalf of those who cannot feed themselves on their own; she is a quadraplegic and cannot feed herself on her own either. If euthanasia becomes acceptable, how long will it be before the government decides that it is better to mercifully get rid of people like her than to allow them to continue to live?
Sunday, March 27, 2005
If our own self interest is not reason enough for us to be careful to invest ourselves in the things that God prizes, Paul in verse 16 flips things over to show us God's perspective on our labors. By sending His Holy Spirit into believers, God makes us into His temples, places where His very nature dwells. This is no small thing, indeed we are as significant as anything anywhere. As God's temple each one of us is sacred and set apart for Him. We are not free to fill our lives with trashy thoughts, junky behaviors, or warped affections any more than we would be free to fill the White House with compost or trash. Your body is not your home but God's, so if you mistreat it you insult the God who dwells there and can expect that he will respond accordingly.
The problem is that because human wisdom prizes what God considers to be trash, by relying on it we deceive ourselves into becoming fools in God's sight (v19). We are far better off being thought wise by God even if it means the world thinks us simpletons. Indeed, the world prizes craftiness, for all human wisdom is based on self-interest even though all efforts to exalt ourselves are ultimately futile. While the Corinthians were concerned to make themselves look good to others by affiliating with the "right" preacher, God evaluated them according to what they did with the preacher's teachings. The Corinthians worried about who their mailman was, while God wanted to know what they did with the million dollar check that he delivered.
This is not, as Paul points out, to say that the preachers are of no significance (4:1), but rather to see them in the light that God sees them, as messengers entrusted with God's message to them. As such, their business is not to impress the Corinthians, or even to satisfy themselves, but to satisfy God that they have properly handled the message He gave them to deliver. External evidence won't by itself tell us what God thinks, anymore than the color of the mailman's uniform will tell us about the quality of the job he's doing. It is when God Himself reveals His assessment of his messengers' labors that we'll be able to accurately judge how well they have done.
This does not mean that we will never be able to judge if a believer is doing well or not, for there are some truths that God has already revealed by which we can judge each others' behavior and teachings. However there are many more criteria by which people are prone to judge each other, and it is in these areas that the wise man or woman will wait until the appointed time, to discover what God has to say about each of us. As Jesus has told us in the parable of the talents, we are all given different gifts, and will be judged not on how our fruit compares with the fruit of those around us, but on how fruitfully we have used the gifts we were given. The widow's mite was the greater gift than the wealth of the Pharisees because Jesus is more interested in the quality of the heart that gives than the amount given. So we need to beware of judging those who labor on God's behalf; given the resources and calling that God has given them, they could be doing far better or worse in God's sight that it appears to us and we'd never know it until the end.
With Peter's allergy having subsided, we were able to continue our planned trip to Mara Safari Park in south western Kenya. It provided a remarkable exposure to animals up close in their native habitats. Cheetahs, gazelle, zebras, water buffalo, giraffes, lions, warthogs, hyennas, jackals, wildebeast, rhinos, hippos and elephants were among the many creatures we saw on the savannah, up close and personal. It was an awesome encounter with African wildlife, like nothing any of us had ever experienced before. Bouncing over muddy ruts and crevaces in an old open-top Toyota Land Crusier, admiring the huge open spaces, watching cheetah hunt, elephants graze and lions sleep and then returning to our luxury tent to sleep made for a delightful tourist interlude in the midst of an otherwise very work-oriented trip. We came closer together as a team as a result of the trip, and left the park with a much greater appreciation for the magnificent wilderness that Africa still has.
to be continued...
Friday, March 25, 2005
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Jesus told us that as we care for the prisoners, the sick, the weak, the orphans, those who are hungry and thirsty, we care for Him (Matthew 25:31-46). If it is Jesus who's feeding tube is being pulled or who's being gunned down in a classroom, how will we stand before Him if we have not done all we can to prevent it?
Monday, March 21, 2005
As I mentioned last time, our project ran into a major challenge early on, which was Peter's health. While we were still in Nairobi, Peter started noticing a rash, which he first attributed to insect bites. But each day it turned worse, then suddenly hives appeared on his large parts of his body. Dana Witmer (who is sitting at the end of the table in the picture above, next to her youngest son and across the table from Ted), being a doctor at Kijabe, diagnosed Peter as having an allergic reaction to the anti-malarial drug he was taking. She prescribed benadryl which helped Peter to sleep through the night, but didn't appear to touch the hives. Now Peter's younger brother Adam had had an allergy just before Christmas that has responded well to prednisone, so I mentioned this to Dana and she prescribed that as well. The hives then became periodic, leaving in the morning and returning in the afternoon. This began to look like food allergies, so we restricted Peter's food, but never saw any clear cut response. The itching interfered with Peter's ability to do his programming and Dana was concerned about the possibility of anaphylactic shock, which would have put Peter in the hospital as a patient, rather than a programmer. She warned us that if Peter didn't improve soon, she was going to call off a safari trip we had planned for the weekend, since it would put him too far from medical care if he needed it. But on Wednesday night Peter saw some significant reduction in the severity of the hives, and Thursday there were only a few spots left. We all heaved a huge sigh of relief, and packed our bags for Mara Safari club in south west Kenya, where we were to have the most remarkable exposure to African wildlife any of us had ever experienced.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Friday, March 18, 2005
Credit: Carol Platt Liebau
On Monday after we arrived in Kijabe, we plunged into work, quickly establishing ourselves in a small room in the basement between Ted's office and the computer room (where you see Peter working and my laptop set up next to him). First we set up the computers, discovering in the process a few problems with the hospital's network configuration. When Tim was able to fix these problems, Ted declared our trip to be a success regardless of what else we accomplished. Peter promptly set up his Mac and continued work on his customization of the Care2x software. Allison went down the hall two doors to the inventory room and started helping the woman who worked there to set up and use the new inventory system that the hospital has recently obtained. I started talking with people and looking at the forms and putting together a list of changes needed to make the database useful in Kijabe. It quickly became obvious that we weren't going to be able to do a quarter of what was really needed and wanted, and I spent a lot of time saying "no." It also became evident that the designers of Care2x hadn't quite anticipated using it in a hospital like Kijabe, so we were going to have to strip it down considerably and add some features to have any hope of making it useful. All of this had to be done in two weeks, because in our last week we were going to roll the software out and do all the training and cleanup necessary to make it work. So we plunged in and got to work, spending our days in this little room and working as rapidly as possible to make this happen. And by God's grace, we made good progress, though one problem threatened to torpedo our efforts right at the beginning.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Now Paul brings the discussion back home to the issue which started the whole discussion in 1:10, that of factions within the Corinthian church. Paul reminds them that when he first came to Corinth as an evangelist it was only natural for him to speak to them as infants in Christ since they had only newly become believers. But he finds that years later he still must speak to them as infants because by their factionalism they betray the fact that they have not grown significantly in spiritual maturity since then. The Corinthians, by making a big issue out of who is their preacher of choice behave like toddlers who get more excited about the wrapping paper of their Christmas presents than about the present inside. What makes the preacher significant is not his eloquence or stature or social grace, but the power of God that is manifested through the message he carries. A farm laborer's hard work sowing and watering his fields would be useless if he was sowing gravel instead of wheat seed. The life is the essential thing, and that comes from God alone.
Paul then shifts the metaphor from farming to building, identifying his role as laying the foundation of Christ in the people's lives and leaving them with the opportunity and responsibility to build on that foundation. They first need to realize that, as Jesus also pointed out in Matthew 7:24-27, it is impossible to build anything that lasts on any other foundation than Christ. Many people have discovered in the recent rains the perils of building on insecure foundations, for a house can be completely destroyed when the ground shifts underneath. But even if we build on the good foundation, it matters what building materials we choose. Good materials (gold, silver, and costly stones) will survive the fires of God's testing, while bad materials (wood, hay and stubble) will be consumed in the fire, leaving us with only the original foundation. If we build our lives out of things that matter to God, then we will not lose these things when God tests us, while if we build on anything else, God's judgment will sweep it away as worthless.
This raises the natural question of how we distinguish the precious building materials from the worthless ones. In some circles, this distinction has been identified with godly vs. worldly activities, so praying and evangelizing were precious materials while dancing and playing cards were not. Others have distinguished between sacred and secular employment, so missionaries and pastors have built with gold, while grocery clerks and bankers have built with wood. But this does not seem to be the division that Paul is making. Jesus gives us a better view of the divide between precious and worthless labors in his encounter with the woman who poured perfume on his feet in Mark 14:3.
Putting perfume on a person's feet doesn't necessarily look like a very spiritual act. Dumping large amounts of perfume that would probably have cost over ten thousand dollars in today's money would look like an extravagant ostentatious waste - building with straw for sure. In the estimate of Judas and others of the disciples, the way to build with gold was to sell the perfume and give the proceeds to the poor. After all, isn't charity an obviously spiritual thing, and so pleasing to God?
That's not how Jesus saw it. He saw the heart of a woman who loved Him deeply and desired more than anything to give Him glory. As John tells us, this woman was Martha the sister of Lazarus. Not long before this Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Martha's act sprang from a profound gratitude to Jesus for what he had done and a premonition of what He would yet do in raising us all to life on the last day (John 11:24). Nothing less than the best she had to give would even begin to do justice to the love and praise she had for Jesus, so she gave unstintingly to bring Him glory, and even, as Jesus said, to prepare for His death. Selling the perfume and giving the proceeds to the poor, while it would certainly mark the giver as a charitable person in the eyes of all the onlookers, would fail utterly to give Jesus the glory due him. The foolishness of Martha was far wiser in glorifying God than the wisdom of Judas (which only glorified himself).
We build with gold when we follow Martha's example of giving all we have to the glory of God. It doesn't have to be "spiritual" stuff like charity or prayer, indeed those things can be very strawy when we do them more to feel spiritual than to please God. If the Corinthians listened to Apollos preach because he helped them to grow in the knowledge of Christ, they built with gold, if they listened because he was the "cool" preacher that all the right people listened to, they built with straw. If we do our jobs well because it pleases God and provides a benefit to those we serve, we build with gold, while if we only care about impressing our bosses as a stepping stone to promotions and recognition, we build with stubble. If we play a musical instrument out of a desire to create something beautiful that reflects God's beauty, it is golden, while music that draws attention only to the virtuousity of the performer is straw.
Building with straw can be fun because we usually get recognition from the "right" people when we do it. But building with gold, though it may not be recognized (and may even be mocked) by the world, will be recognized by God and will endure when He comes to test our work. So Paul warns the Corinthians (and us too) to pay attention to how we build the things of our life, for in the end if we build poorly it will all be lost to our sorrow, while if we build well it will last for all eternity.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Hugh Hewitt has a transcription of an interview on his site today with a woman from Lebanon who observed the largest demonstration for democracy on record in the Middle East. Read it - it's a remarkable account - then pray for the people, and urge our leadership to stand by the Lebanese people in this time.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Our first Sunday in Kenya Ted drove us over some of the roughest roads I've ever been on to one of the few truly "multicultural" churches in Kenya. Like in the U.S., most churches tend to reach out to specific cultural groups; in Kenya those groups are tribes. But this church, remarkably enough, members from both the Masai and Kikuyu tribes (the two largest tribes in Kenya) in addition to members from other tribes as well. This is difficult for them when hostility erupts between the tribes (as it did the last week we were there) but gives the church a special ability to reach out as mediators when such hostility arises.
We enjoyed over three hours of worship with the congregation in their little corrugated steel sanctuary which they packed to the walls. There was lots of singing, in all the represented languages, tribes and generational groups. The sermon was given by Ted in English for our sake (he usually preaches in Swahili there, which he knows well enough to correct his translator if needed) and communion was served. Everyone formally greeted everyone else, time was taken to specially acknowledge the presence of a number of visitors including ourselves, and a gift of a Masai bracelet was given to each visitor there. After the service, Alli played a game like jacks with the children (instantly attracting a crowd), and we had lunch together. All in all, it was a beautiful time of truly cross-cultural fellowship among believers.
The church is slowly building a new sanctuary for itself. The speed is limited by both a lack of funds and a shortage of labor. Since people have to walk miles in many cases to come to church, the time is limited that they can give to the work, and the work proceeds slowly since they have to shape each beam by hand for the construction. But the need is real and progress is being made, and one day, God willing, they'll have a new larger sanctuary to accommodate the growing congregation there.
I hope this isn't the model education that school actually proposes. I'd prefer to think of education with imperatives like "grow!," "mature!," "develop!" or the like, because these speak to me of bringing to fruition the potential that is already present in me. I think that's a better model for education, and a better model for human growth as a whole.
Thursday, March 10, 2005
On January 7th, Ted Witmer came to meet the team and drove us out to Kijabe, a town about 80 km NNW of Nairobi and the largest missions station in the world. Kijabe is the home of the Rift Valley Academy, a well-known boarding school, a seminary, Bethany Crippled Children's hospital and Kijabe Hospital, where we would be working for the next three weeks. Peter and I stayed in this two bedroom apartment, while Tim and Allison stayed with the Witmers.
I quickly discovered that the things we were used to being able to handle at home weren't necessarily going to be quite so easy here. The first challenge was food. We bought the food we thought we needed in Nairobi, but I don't have much experience with putting together a week's shopping list, so there were some gaps that needed to be filled. Groceries were available at a small store in Rift Valley Academy (open on Monday and Wednesday), produce and bread was sold by door-to-door vendors who came on Tuesday and Saturday. Thus I had to plan carefully to make sure I had everything I needed until it was next available. Improvising was sometimes necessary since a lot of familiar foods weren't available or took a different than expected form (we ate a lot of English muffins in the absence of other breads). Sometimes we came up short, and some food spoiled because I'd gotten too much, but overall we did pretty well, and by the time we left, I had the planning down reasonably well. The biggest disruptions to plans were the fairly frequent and very welcome invitations we received to eat with the Witmers or other people at Kijabe.
God gives what the world can only recognize as foolishness, but is in fact wisdom, a wisdom that can be discerned only with the aid of His Spirit. Paul speaks somewhat cautiously about these things, limiting himself to those who are "mature" (NIV) because talk about the wisdom of God is a dangerous thing, prone to misunderstanding. It is too easy for the ignorant and immature to think of themselves as special in some way because they have access to God's wisdom. But it is only because God graciously gives us His Spirit that we have any way to receive His wisdom. Without God's Spirit, we are like young children attempting differential equasions when we encounter the things of God; not only are they incomprehensible to us but no amount of teaching can enable us to comprehend them. With God's Spirit, not only do we have a little access to God's thoughts, but we have His abilities to think these thoughts with Him, so they can make sense to us.
Being able to think about things in some sense as God does, we are in the position to see and evaluate these things according to His plans and purposes. We are then truly able to evaluate things as they truly are. Without the Spirit, people have no way of making such an evaluation, so they will judge things wrongly, while we have the potential to pass true judgment on those things we see with the Spirit's insight.
The question arises, "what then did Jesus mean when he said 'judge not, lest you be judged (Matthew 7:1)?'" The context here helps us, for Jesus is talking about the person who is searching out specks in the eyes of others while failing to notice the plank in his own. This is not the Spirit's judgment, for the Spirit will show us our failings rather than leave us blind to them. The person Jesus is referring to is judging humanly for the primary purpose of gaining power and prestige by finding fault. The judgment of the Spirit seeks out God's perspective in humility, being equally open to finding our own faults as well as the faults of others and using the insight to heal rather than harm. Jesus frequently urged the Pharisees to correctly discern what he was doing when he healed on the Sabbath, taught in parables and performed miracles, and in all these cases he was calling them to the judgment that comes through the Spirit. When they called themselves wise and discerning and yet accused Jesus of doing evil they showed that they were using human judgment rather than the Spirit's and could therefore expect to find themselves judged by God.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
CU could really use a breath of fresh air, but do you think they'd hire Hugh?
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Update: You really, really, really want to go here for more information on the action you can take to help Terri and other disabled people who's right to life is being challenged (thanks to Dawn Eden for the direction).
Monday, March 07, 2005
I'm posing here with Samuel Kibe. He is a former street kid who, when we met him, was tending the gate at the guest home we stayed in our first night in Kenya. While we were waiting for Tim and Allison to arrive the following evening, we got introduced to Samuel and found that he had a passion to reach street kids like he once was who didn't have any prospects for a job. To do this, he wanted to open a barber shop and teach the kids how to cut hair. Additionally, he would earn enough from the barbershop to support his family, who were staying with his wife's family since Samuel's income at the guest house wasn't enough to support them. We talked about how much it would cost to do all this, and it came out to $160 US for equipment plus one month's rent of a small shop. Remarkably enough (or perhaps not so remarkable given how God had orchestrated the trip up to this point) we had an extra $160 in hand, which we had brought to cover the cost of customs on the computers we were bringing with us. However we were simply waved through customs and didn't have to pay anything, so we gave the money to Samuel, and he's used it to establish his barber shop and reunite his family. In his first month of business, he earned just enough to keep it all together. Now he's praying for the additional equipment his wife can use to cut and style women's hair. The initial investment is more costly, but it earns more in the long haul, so he and his family would be in good financial shape if that were possible. We stay in touch with him via email, and hope to have a chance to see him again if God sends us back to Kenya.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
The government of Niger has cancelled at the last minute a special ceremony during which at least 7,000 slaves were to be granted their freedom.
A spokesman for the government's human rights commission, which had helped to organise the event, said this was because slavery did not exist.
Oh. Should someone tell the person who originally organized the ceremony (or the 7,000 non-slaves they apparently invited)?
Hat tip: Powerline
Friday, March 04, 2005
"[A]part from liberating 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, undermining dictatorships throughout the Arab world, spreading freedom and self-determination in the broader Middle East and moving the Palestinians and the Israelis towards a real chance of ending their centuries-long war, what have the Americans ever done for us?"Love it! Read it! (Hat tip: Carol Platt Liebau)
- freedom of expression
- to come to school with a legitimate academic purpose
- to act in a safe and healthy manner
- not to disrupt the educational process
- to care for and use appropriately individual and state owned property
"is not the Dean's office, nor is it in detention, nor is the solution in an assistant principal's office. the solution is in the entiere school community opening and continuing [a] conversation through principles."the hoped for outcome being that
"Teachers would be living what they were teaching, students would be living what they are being taught, and a mutual respect between individual teachers and students would develop. Ideally, principled actions would follow."This sounds to me a lot like how the United Nations works. We all agree on principles that people should be nice to each other, not stockpile weapons of mass destruction, not practice genocide and not polute the world. When some nation disobeys these principles, the diplomats of the various nations get together and talk to each other and try to persuade that nation that it really ought to be good and conform to the previously agreed to principles. Sometimes treaties are signed with promises that everyone will be good to each other in the future. Yet nothing really seems to change. The genocides continues, polution continues and the contries busily sell each other technologies to produce yet more weapons of mass destruction. Sometimes the weak nations go along with the treaties because they have no resources with which to do differently, but those who are strong and stubborn largely ignore the treaties and sanctions and continue as they have always intended to.
In a fallen world, power is sometimes needed to restrain evil. It is necessary in the U.N., and it will be necessary in a high school as well. Conversations are fine up to a point, but when the talking is done there needs to be a big stick, whether it be a suitably powerful military force or the Dean's office to enforce the desired action. Those who have the principles already may be susceptable to verbal persuasion, but those who do not and have the strength to resist will not be persuaded by words alone (though they may pretend to be to satisfy others). Without a stick of some kind, the unscrupulous will continue to go their own way and those who have suffered at their hands in the past will continue to suffer in the future. If the high school principal has any doubts about this, he can ask the Sudanese (to name only one of many examples)...
The Kenya team - Ralph, Peter, Allison and Tim. We came together as a team amazingly fast. Ted Witmer spoke to our church in October, by mid-November we had purchased our plane tickets. By the end of the month, we were getting vacinations and sending out a prayer letter while the church was putting together a support package for us and organizing round-the-clock prayer. Part of the church's energy was due to the fact that we were going out at the same time as another group being sent to India, but the enthusiasm of their support was still amazing, especially since none of us were long time veterans of the church and they could just as easily have said that they were already sending one group and had no energy to support another. We got an amazing response from the letters we sent out as well; over two hundred people wrote back to say they would contribute with prayer and/or money - an abundance of generosity far beyond our expectations.
With January approaching fast, we collected computers to take with us, emailed back and forth with people in Africa to begin scoping out the project, started customizing the Care2x medical records software for Kenya and worked out remaining loose ends as well as we could. Finally, we flew out on January 4th. Due to confusion when I purchased the tickets, Peter and I would arrive in Nairobi a day before Tim and Allison would, but we shortly discovered that this too was part of the plan that God had for us...
(Updated with corrected dates - I had forgotten just how rapidly this all came together until my wife reminded me that the Witmers spoke to the church in October...)
David was the youngest, and a lot smaller than Goliath
Amos was only an orcharder (that is a word, right?)
Jacob was the second son, not the first
Joseph was near the bottom of his family
Paul was, by his own assessment, the least of the apostles
and so on...
For that matter, Jesus himself didn't have the most auspicious beginnings from a human perspective. And those who did have something that looked good humanly frequently had to have it taken away from them before God could use them - think of Moses, Job, Joseph again and Paul when he was lowered in a basket over a Damascus wall.
So when I grumble to God that the world's going to pot and I'm too small to make any difference in it all, God nudges me with his words to Paul: "my grace is made perfect in weakness" and points me back to some other small people in the Bible who made an impact, not because they were big, but because a big God worked through them. And when I stop my grumbling and listen, I start to realize that I'd rather do it that way anyhow.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
In any case, pray. If you can, fast - you may know a little of the pain Terry is being asked to go through. "Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish." (Jonah 3:9)
The needs of Africa are two-fold, namely to deal with the social collapse that has already been triggered by the AIDS in Africa and to minimize its future impact. One organization that is doing great work in Africa to repair the collapse is World Vision, and I am sure there are many others. Medically, one of the strategies is simply to prolong the lives of parents with AIDS until their children can care for themselves. This is one benefit of the kind of AIDS patient care that Kijabe hospital provides, and one of the reasons the reporting system we installed is so important. With it, the effectiveness of the AIDS medication can be tracked, and the methods can be identified which will be most effective in prolonging the lives of people and so preserving the integrity of their communities.
To minimize the future impact of AIDS, it is necessary to reduce the number of infections. Condoms are the popular strategy for doing this, but they are of dubious effectiveness in this struggle. As reported here, Uganda has found that abstinence works far better in reducing the incidence of AIDS (and other STDs as well), and offers much hope for those willing to pursue it. However one group will not benefit from this, and that is the children of pregnant women who are already infected with AIDS. Again, medical treatment offers hope here, for it is possible to use HIV medications to reduce the likelihood of the transmission of the disease from mother to child, and so allow the next generation to make a clean start in its battle against AIDS.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Today, in our weekly Bible study at work, we never quite got around to studying the Bible. Instead, I was asked to tell more what motivated the trip to Kenya and what was accomplished. It isn't possible to explain it all in one post, but I'll make a start.
Kijabe hospital is a mission hospital sponsored by Africa Inland Church. It is one of the larger hospitals in Kenya (over 200 beds) and, together with the associated Bethany Crippled Childrens hospital does world class orthopedics while providing general medical care for people throughout East Africa. One of the major concerns of the hospital is care for HIV positive patients, for which it receives funding from the U. S. government. One of the requirements for this funding is to supply reports documenting the use and effectiveness of the care provided.
The hospital also has been reaching the limits of a small Access database that stores patient data for reporting. So the need is to replace the Access database with something that meets the hospital reporting requirements while meeting the U. S. government requirements as well, all with very limited resources (the picture with this post is a picture of the data center - after we've installed the two identical PC boxes in the center of the picture to host the new database). This need was presented to Grace EV Free Church in La Mirada, CA by Ted Witmer, the missionary who heads up computer support at the hospital. Four of us who heard the presentation (myself, my oldest son Peter, Tim and Alison) also heard God calling us to meet this need, so we formed a team and made the trip.
For more on the impact of AIDS in Africa, go here
to continue the story...
(updated to add AIDS link)
When we truly comprehend our own nature, repentance is no dry doctrine, no frightening message, no morbid form of self-flagellation. It is, as the early church fathers said, a gift God grants which leads to life. It is the key to the door of liberation, to the only real freedom we can ever know.This is true because repentance means turning back from a wrong path to the right one, and when we understand truly how wrong the path is that we're on, the opportunity to turn back is a gift of unspeakable value. For the person driving down a road in a downpour, the sign saying "bridge out ahead - turn around!" may trigger disappointment because it is now clear that the destination is unreachable, but it also triggers relief, because the impending catastrophe ahead was avoided. So it is that when God says to us "repent!" he gives us both a sign that the path we are on in our lives leads to disaster and a promise that the disaster is not inevitable, that we have an opportunity to turn around, to follow instead a safe path that leads to life and joy and peace. This is what Jesus offers, which is why the first message the early church had for the world was "repent!"
(HT Roger L. Simon)
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Kijabe hospital, Kenya. I was part of a team that went here in January 2005 to help install a computerized medical records system. I'll be loading pictures onto the blog over the next few weeks to tell a little of the story of our trip.
(updated to add link).
[C]an anyone articulate a philosophy of jurisprudence in which European opinion, however manifested, is given priority over American opinion, as expressed in laws passed by legislators?I should hope not, but that appears to be what's going on in the Supreme Court these days. Yesterday a ruling came down which used European law to support a decision by the Court to overturn American law. Read the whole post for more details.
If there was ever any doubt that the upcoming judicial appointments were going to be important to our country, that ought to be gone by now.
Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D.: Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.Maybe I should see a doctor about this (if I can remember to make an appointment...)
This is how it manifests itself:
I decided to wash my car. As I start toward to the garage, I notice that there is mail on the hall table. I decide to go through the mail before I wash the car.
I lay my car keys down on the table, put the junk mail in the trash can under the table, and notice that the trash can is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the trash first but then I think, since I'm going to be near the mailbox when I take out the trash anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my checkbook off the table, and see that there is only one check left. My extra checks are in my desk in the study, so I go to my desk where I find the can of Coke that I had been drinking.
I'm going to look for my checks, but first I need to push the Coke aside so that I don't accidentally knock it over.
I see that the Coke is getting warm, and I decide I should put it in the refrigerator to keep it cold.
As I head toward the kitchen with the Coke a vase of flowers on the counter catches my eye--they need to be watered.
I set the Coke down on the counter, and I discover my reading glasses that I've been searching for all morning
I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I'm going to water the flowers.
I set the glasses back down on the counter, fill a container with water and suddenly I spot the TV remote.
Someone left it on the kitchen table. I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV, we will be looking for the remote, but nobody will remember that it's on the kitchen table.
So I decide to put it back in the den where it belongs, but first I'll water the flowers.
I splash some water on the flowers, but most of it spills on the floor. So, I set the remote back down on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.
Then I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.
At the end of the day; the car isn't washed, the bills aren't paid, there is a warm can of Coke sitting on the counter, the flowers aren't watered, there is still only one check in my checkbook, I can't find the remote, I can't find my
glasses, and I don't remember what I did with the car keys.
Then when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I'm really baffled because I know I was busy all day long, and I'm really tired. I realize this is a serious problem, and I'll try to get some help for it, but first I'll check my E-mail.
Do me a favor, will you? Forward this message to close friends you know, because I don't remember to whom it has been sent.
Don't laugh - if this isn't you yet, your day is coming! And if I have sent this to you ...well, now you know why you're getting it again
After Focus is Truth for Life, with Alistair Begg, who is, IMHO, about the best broadcast preacher I've heard. He has been going through a long and excellent series on the life of Joseph, with today being the point where Joseph's father Jacob died. Alistair uses this occasion to probe family relationships and issues of trust within our earthly families and with God as well. It's a really good study, and challenges us to discover just how much we trust in God's provision and love for us. You can (and should) listen to him here.
Monday, February 28, 2005
More from the always-worth-reading Mark Steyn, who is justifiably glad to say "I told you so..."
What bothers me is not that my own personal pick for best movie of the year didn’t get an Oscar nomination. That happens all the time. What bothers me—and a lot of others as well, I believe—is that about 95 percent of the population would have been deeply shocked if the film had received a nomination. And that prediction had absolutely nothing to do with its artistic value.(HT relapsedcatholic)
It is in truth the cultural devaluation of marriage that explains why some homosexual activists have reacted to the recent push for homosexual marriage by asking, "Why should we scramble to get onto a sinking ship?" But most of homosexual couples now seeking to be married are doing so precisely because so much of the traditional freight of marriage—complementary gender roles, work in a real home economy, childbearing, sexual fidelity, permanence—has been thrown overboard as the marital ship has settled ever lower in the water. The strangely de-natured and deracinated thing that marriage has become now appeals to homosexuals because it now offers insurance, employment, lifestyle, and government benefits, while imposing almost none of the obligations it once did. Opponents of homosexual marriage speak the truth when they protest that America makes a mockery of wedlock if it licenses vows for couples who can never have children (without resorting to surrogate mothers or sperm donors), will not resist the temptations to extramarital affairs, and will not preserve their union for a lifetime. But the mockery of wedlock began decades ago when hundreds of thousands of heterosexual DINK couples started buying basset hounds rather than bassinettes, started indulging in extramarital affairs, and started fulfilling divorce attorneys' dreams of avarice. It was indeed by trivializing the marital traditions of fertility, fidelity, and permanence that heterosexuals so completely changed the character of marriage that homosexuals finally wanted to claim the very odd thing it had become.Read the whole article