Sunday, March 27, 2005

The weekly Bible study - 1 Corinthians 3:16-4:5

In 1 Corinthians 2-3, Paul warns the Corinthian church about confusing the wisdom of man with the wisdom of God. Human wisdom places the wrong value on things, so that we end up building our lives out of things that are worth no more than "wood, hay or straw" in the eternal reality (3:12). Such things, while perhaps satisfying in this life, will not survive the fires of God's testing. If our lives consist of nothing more than that which the world prizes, we will arive in heaven as refugees from the collapse of the world, with nothing to show but our skin for all that we have done on earth (3:13-15).

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.

Kenya trip - at Mara Safari park.

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...Posted by Hello

Friday, March 25, 2005

Up in the middle of the night

I'm up in the middle of the night for work stuff. I've been doing this the last few nights because I'm working on a problem with a printer at a medical lab that only shows up in the middle of the night. It's dried up the few remaining creative juices I have so I haven't been posting. With Easter weekend coming up I probably won't be posting much either, but there are a few topics I need to post on so I'll try to get a few things out by the end of the week.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Terry Schiavo

The increasingly desperate struggles to get permission to restore Terry Schiavo's feeding tube before she dies of thirst and hunger are well documented by Dawn Eden. Keep praying, both for Terry and for ourselves, that somehow we may as a society repent of the things that brought us to such a place that a man can starve his wife but can't starve his dog...

Too few people really care...

Hugh Hewitt grieves this morning that "Too few people really care that human life is being snuffed out left and right." Thus we have the Terry Schiavo debacle and now the Columbine replay in Minnesota. Forty years ago (when I was a kid...) events like these would have been inconceivable. How far we have come. I ask myself where my own outrage is - have I become simply resigned to the inevitable degradation of society? Have I become so preoccupied with looking after my own satisfaction that I haven't got time or energy left to care for others?

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

The Kenya trip - medicine and missions.

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.


The Groningen protocol

Today I was in a discussion with a young woman who had been born with cerebral palsy and didn't move for almost two weeks after birth. According to the Groningen protocol, had she been born in Holland, she would have been a prime candidate for euthanasia. Brain Shavings has put together an excellent information page on the protocol, which is a perilous step down a slippery slope. We need to be aware what is happening in Europe in these matters, because it is often not long before the influence of Europe's thinking is felt here. Witness a recent Supreme Court decision which quoted European thinking as a basis for establishing a judicial precedent.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Could Jesus have sinned?

The question was asked at my church today "could Jesus have sinned?" The first thought that came to my mind was "why?" Perhaps Jesus could drink untreated sewage but why would He? No one knew the horror of sin like He did, why on earth would He indulge in it? He saw sin for what it was, how it corrupted human hearts, the endless grief and sorrow and pain it caused, its utter ugliness in the face of the holy God, how could He choose it? With our fallen natures, our ears are tuned to Satan's voice and welcome his lie that sin is attractive, but Jesus had none of the fall in Him. He saw sin with God's eyes, and even Satan's most eloquent lies, his nearest approximations to the truth could never make it look other than grotesquely ugly. To use C. S. Lewis' magnificent mataphor in the The Great Divorce, it would be as if a female corpse, already liquid with decay, should come out of the grave, smear its lips with lipstick and attempt a seduction. Satan never had a chance.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Why Brian Nichols turned himself in.

Peggy Noonan recounts a remarkable story of how a remarkable woman named Ashley Smith was instrumental in leading Brian Nichols to turn himself in after escaping from the Florida court building. You really do want to read this; it puts flesh and bones on 1 Peter 3:14-16.

Credit: Carol Platt Liebau

The Kenya trip - hard at work

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.

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The Incredibles

We got the Incredibles DVD yesterday and watched it at home last night. I'd forgotten how much I loved the movie, one of the best animated movies I've ever seen, another in a long string of Pixar hits. It's got great humor and is wonderfully family friendly. It's so great to be able to watch a movie and not have to cringe for the main characters. They are real people, good people, with worthwhile ideals and very human weaknesses and temperaments, and yet with something more. If you haven't seen it, get the DVD and watch it, and share it with your family, friends, neighbors, whoever. It's good for the soul.

Terry Schiavo - hanging in the balance and why we should care

Captain's Quarters posts some moderately encouraging news for Terry Schiavo and those who care about her. Powerline reminds us of why her fate matters greatly to us, and the downstream implicati0ns if we ignore her situation. Keep praying, and go here to get information on how you can speak out on her case to our Senators, who may yet act in time.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Weekly Bible study - 1 Corinthians 3:1-15

Up to this point in 1 Corinthians, Paul has been teaching the Corinthians about the wisdom and foolishness of God as compared with the wisdom of men. The cross of Jesus is the foolishness of God, and it surpasses the wisdom of men (which fails utterly to understand God's purposes). The wisdom of God is the grace God gives His people to see the world in the light of His Spirit. Without His Spirit, we are blind to the purposes of God, but by the Spirit of God we can see begin to see things as God does and value them according to His purposes.

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


This was a killer weekend. I was up from 12:00 to 3:00 Sunday morning putting some changes into a computer system I support, then spent from 8:00 AM until 11:00 PM (with a few breaks) on Sunday trying to fix unexpected problems that resulted from the changes and then finally rolling them out. I sent my family off to church at 9:30, then at 10:30, when I thought I might be able to go myself, I went out to find that a car had hit our garage door and dented it enough so that I couldn't open it (the driveway is less than 15 feet long from the street and is used for turnarounds at times, which is how it must have happened). So I didn't go to church, which was a good thing because I got a nap in just before getting another phone call and spending the rest of the day on the computer. I'm sure glad for he remote support capability that I have over our cable modem - if I had to go to work for this it would have been even worse.

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

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.


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I saw an add for a correspondance school on my way home today that invited me to evolve to my next level. I doubt they expected me to react to that invitation the way I did, but I was rather disgusted by the suggestion. To me, it suggested that I am fundamentally inadequate, and my essential structure needs to be changed (for this is what evolution is about). And if it's evolution according to Darwin, then the changes will be the result of random mutations, some of which will hopefully produce an improvement. So I must allow my fundamental nature to be prodded, tweaked, and twisted by random forces outside of my control, and then be tested by natural selection to see if all this banging around actually improved something. If it did, I survive, if not, oh well...

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

The Kenya trip - home away from home

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.


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This week's Bible study

At yesterday's lunchtime Bible study at my work we discussed 1 Corinthians 2:6-16. It was interesting for me to see how alien God's wisdom is from human wisdom. As Paul pointed out previously, in his day Jews looked for miracles, and Greeks for wisdom, but God provided something entirely different. In the birth of the Messiah, the Jews expected a spectacular miracle and Herod prudently saw a rival, but God provided a baby who would grow up to be a suffering savior.

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.

Reward for service in Iraq - for some it's prison

Life as a military reservist in Iraq is full of challenges, but this is disgusting. It's absolutely shameful that we would convict a soldier of a felony and imprison him because of debts acquired as a result of his of reserve service. There ought to be either an opportunity for a waiver or a fund that will cover these costs in such circumstances.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Sudan - it's worse than we thought

LittleGreenFootballs tells us that the situation in the Darfur area of Sudan is worse than we thought. It's difficult to know why people think that the U.N. is the place to go to resolve international issues when this disaster has been allowed to continue unabated for close to a decade. Pray that a resolution is found soon, or that the people who are allowing it to continue be replaced with some people who will do the right thing.

Florida legislature acting on Terri Schiavo

Here's perhaps the best defense Terri Schiavo has against the courts and her husband who would kill her. Keep praying and write to the Florida legislature to get this passed. Then, while you're at it, write to our own legislators and insist that we get the same protection in case the court should ever be asked if we should live or die.

Academia upside down

If you've been following the Ward Churchill story at all, you know that he's a radical leftist professor at University of Colorado who's drawn heat for attacking the victims of 9/11 as being "little Eichmanns," forging artwork and falsely claiming that he's American Indian to gain clout as a representative of a minority (and more besides...). CU is standing behind him claiming that it's all a matter of academic freedom, but when they are confronted with the academic freedom of an award winning Christian professor, it looks like it's a whole different story. Thanks to Blue State Conservatives for the pointer.

CU could really use a breath of fresh air, but do you think they'd hire Hugh?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

More on Terri Schiavo - please act!

Good news/bad news on Terri Schiavo. The court has ordered her feeding tube removed on March 18th and expects her to be starved to death. But the Florida and Federal legislatures are acting to protect her. Keep praying, keep fasting (if you can), and go here to find out how you can encourage the legislatures to move quickly while she's still alive. You can also go here to send email to our local representatives urging them "to co-sponsor and vote for The Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act of 2005, sponsored by Rep. Weldon."

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

The Kenya trip - an unexpected opportunity

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.

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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Slavery in Niger (?)

From the BBC:
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

What have you done for us, anyhow?

"[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)

Teaching principles and character.

The principal of the high school that Nathan (my middle son) attends wrote recently to all of the parents explaining how he plans to teach principles and character to the students. It's all founded, he said, on the basic rights and responsibilities we all have. The rights are
  • freedom of expression
  • equality
  • justice
all which, he informed us, have been upheld in the courts. The responsibilities are:
  • 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
The principal's strategy for handling situations where students do not receive what is their right or fulfill their responsibilities
"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)...

Traveling to Kenya

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...)
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Today was a blah day. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the junk, and wonder what I can do of any use in it all. In days like these it is good to remember that God didn't pick a lot of prominent people to do his work.
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


I don't ever remember being so outraged in my life. First the whitewash of perhaps the worst tyrant alive today by the L. A. Times (see my post below) and now this. If you have any doubts that Terry Schiavo is alive and functioning pretty well, read this. It's appalling to think that anyone could advocate Terry's death in court, and even worse to hear that the courts are listening. Dawn Eden has been an advocate for Terry -you can go here for information on what you can do to help.

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)

More on AIDS in Africa

One question that I've been asked about work of the Kenya team of which I was a part is what exactly the situation is regarding AIDS in Africa. To put it in a nutshell, according to many reports, the situation is disastrous. Many parts of Africa have few social restraints on promiscuous sex, so the transmission of AIDS and other STDs is rampant. Heterosexual sex is now the primary vehicle for transmitting AIDS in Africa, though many people are ignorant of this. In fact, superstitions promote the transfer, for some people believe that a man with AIDS must have sex with a virgin in order to get healthy. The huge death rate from AIDS has resulted in whole villages being depopulated and millions of AIDS orphans being left behind.

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.

Puffing North Korea

For those of you who are aware of the human-rights disaster that is North Korea, you will find it hardly possible that anyone could write an article puffing the country and telling us how they're just like us and we have nothing to be concerned about. Yet the L. A. Times has done just that. Hugh Hewitt has the details and he's outraged. It's a long post, but read it all and take action if you have a stake in seeing the Times tell the truth about oppressive dictatorships like those in North Korea.

Hippo birdie ... (etc).

Today I'm celebrating (more or less) my 49th birthday (or, as my wife thoughtfully pointed out, the last birthday before the big five-oh). The big three-oh and four-oh never seemed like that much of a deal to me, but somehow 50 seems different, more like a real "end of an era." But Alistair Begg put a different spin on it for me in this morning's Truth for Life broadcast when he said that he asks his congregation what they're planning to do with themselves when they're 55 to 110 years old. Taken aback, I asked myself who's planning to be alive and active at age 110, but the way things are going I guess I should keep that possibility in mind. In that case, the big five-oh doesn't look so big any more; I'm not even at the half-way point! But maybe I should take a little more time to plan what I'd do with sixty more years if God should grant them to me; it would be a shame to let them go to waste.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Trip to Kenya, post 2

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)


Charles Colson, in his book Loving God said
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!"

Former Clinton aide suggests President Bush for Nobel prize

It may sound incredible, but read this interview and see how Soderberg is driven to suggest that Bush may win not one, but several Nobel Peace prizes, and how frustrated she seems with the fact (consoling herself by saying "[t]here's always hope that this might not work." It's unbelievably sad that someone could hope that Syria and Iran might not become free nations, but that's what people on the left are being forced to these days...

(HT Roger L. Simon)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Trip to Kenya

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).
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The crisis/tragedy/genocide in the Sudan

If you've been praying for peace in the Sudan and an end to the genocide there, now is not the time to stop. Instapundit reports here on the latest U. S. government report on the conditions there and the news in Darfur is not good.

When European law overrules American law

Powerline's Hindrocket asks
[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.

The story of my life...

I think my co-worker Armando has learned more about me than I thought, since this morning he gave me what amounts to the story of my days...
Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D.: Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.

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
Maybe I should see a doctor about this (if I can remember to make an appointment...)

This morning's commute

One advantage to my almost hour long LA morning commute (that's if the freeways are good) is that I get a chance to listen to some great programming on KKLA (99.5 FM). This morning at 7:30, Focus on the Family presented the second part of a presentation by comedian Chonda Pierce, who was very funny and told a beautiful and touching story that illustrates our relationship with God. It's well worth hearing, and you can get the broadcast here.

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.