Recently in church we talked about a 24-hour day in the life of Jesus (Mark 1, Luke 4). He taught in the synagogue and cast a demon out in the morning, healed Peter’s mother-in-law that afternoon, then as the sun was setting healed people who came from all over the village who were sick and demon possessed, and then got up early the next morning to pray. Once the disciples woke up, they went looking for him, with a makes-complete-sense idea. “Come on back, Jesus. Everybody is looking for you here.”[Read more…] about “…other towns, too.
“Is that normal?”
I get that question often when I send out letters after overseas trips. People who have been worshipping spirits or who grew up in cultures with ideologies and theologies very different from Christianity hear a couple stories and their families accept Christ, get into small churches, and start telling other people new things about the Jesus they are learning about. Yes, it is normal.
After seeing this repeated over and over and over in as diverse settings, backgrounds, and people groups as we have, I know the stories we share about what happens in other countries happen because of the people who are doing things—their willingness to speak, go, do, try. Storying methods are simply a communication style they are using. Way more important is the believers’ stepping into other peoples’ searching.[Read more…] about “Is that normal?”
Searching and Celebrating
We’ve all done it. That frantic search for ten minutes for the smallest stupidest thing. Why we have to find that one pen I was using (even though there are twenty others available) is a mystery, an insane obsession. But I must…it will not defeat me! When we do, we hold it proudly aloft, announcing to the world “I found it!”, expecting to be acknowledged for this superhuman feat which saved civilization from an apocalyptic demise. Of course, nobody really cares.
I shared this with a roomful of Ugandans and they laughed. It seems this type of hunting is a global reality, and when I shared the “nobody else cares” there was a lot of elbowing each other.
After a few wives stopped bruising their husbands’ ribs, I shared the stories in Luke 15, the only time Jesus told back-to-back-to-back stories that had the same pattern and message. A search for a lost sheep, a lost coin sought, a lost son looked longingly for. Imagine how frantic we look for a fifty-cent pen, then how determined a shepherd climbs hills and peers into bushes, how a woman tosses her house looking.
If we obsessively search for such things, imagine how intense God hunts for people. He has been looking far longer and far more intensely, turning the house of man inside out, like a dog getting the scent of an animal and not letting creeks or thorns or hills stop its hunt![Read more…] about Searching and Celebrating
Interest of the Irreligious
One of the things that always makes me grin when I read the gospels is how it was the irreligious people who felt comfortable seeking out and being around Jesus, and equally how Jesus enjoyed spending time with them. Doesn’t mean he didn’t enjoy being with religious people, but his dinner conversations with them were usually more cantankerous or had a not very well-hidden “find a fault with Jesus” agenda.
On the other hand, Zacchaeus threw a party with his friends and Jesus said it was a house filled with great joy, and Matthew’s first thing after Jesus said “Follow me” was to have a large crowd at his house eating and drinking and spending time with Jesus.
At these and other times, the Pharisees and those “more religious” showed they wore myopic blinders—how can something unholy associate with something holy? Jesus countered that, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick,”—how can the holy not seek out the unholy?[Read more…] about Interest of the Irreligious
Eating Goat Cheese
“Babu, I just wanted to say I love you, in case you didn’t hear me say that until the other side.”
Tuke is a Kenyan bushman in his late sixties, maybe. He once told me that in the bush, your birthday is like a hyena on the plains—it is out there, somewhere, and only when it wants to pounce on you does it let you know where it’s hiding! He’s started twenty churches and continues mentoring bush pastors in Kenya and across the border in Tanzania near Mt Kilimanjaro. He’s teaching himself to read English.
When he called me, Tuke shared there were 19 COVID cases in his village of 120 people. Several people had died. The government had closed down the closest market village so they hadn’t been able to get food for the past several weeks and were living on a diet of goat cheese. Because of the virus, the government also was not going to send aid to the village. Tuke understands they have to make priorities and a village of herdsmen in the middle of nowhere does not rank as high. He’s not angry.[Read more…] about Eating Goat Cheese
Where Would Jesus Go
“I’ve never been to church, love.” Skye calls everybody love. She’s a twenty-six year old military wife who works at the coffee shop I basically lived at during my PhD writing. Since this virus has almost shut them down, I sneak out every now and then to give the shop some business. And since there’s no customers, I’ve been able to have longer conversations with the folks who work there, like Skye.
It’s given me a lot of chances to live what I think is the answer to a simple question, “If Jesus came to our city today, where would he go and who would he enjoy spending time with?” (OK, so I’ve modified it a bit…“If Jesus lived in our city today and was under stay-at-home orders, where would he go when he couldn’t stand being inside anymore?”) In the gospels it’s impossible to miss how often Jesus went directly to where irreligious people were, and how many of them really liked being around him. So I figured if Jesus were in our city these past two months, he’d sneak out to the coffee shop.[Read more…] about Where Would Jesus Go
People are Sharing Bible Stories
“Pastor Johnson just sent a message to say that people are moving all around sharing Bible stories and they are getting results. Will keep you updated.”
That was a text I received a week after my time in western Uganda. What we thought was going to be a small training ended up being 200 Ugandans from churches in 11 different village areas. During the few days we had together, we shared stories and explored them, much the same way early believers explored and learned lessons of faith, God, and Christ. On Saturday, market day, we decided to send all 200 out into the village to share these stories with anybody they met…
Two men shared the story of the demon possessed man (Legion, Mark 5) to a man at his market stand. “OH MY! That’s my story! How do I follow Jesus?!” He accepted Christ.[Read more…] about People are Sharing Bible Stories
“Congratulations…” And I don’t remember anything else said. And I don’t really care. After an hour of questions, I heard the magic words. Dissertation defended and approved. Doctorate done. Now I can read books about things other than African theology and contextualization theories.
Later, I read write-ups by the evaluation committee. One of them went into great detail about how he was sucked into reading parts of it. “You have a natural strength for making connections between seemingly unrelated cultural issues, drawing them to tangible ministry and theological conclusions. I found myself pulled into the Maasai world, intrigued, more curious as I read. However, a weakness was revealed in your academic writing style…” Three years ago when I was accepted into the program, I told the dean my greatest struggle was going to be writing four hundred pages in academic-eese. It’s not exactly how I’m wired. Guess what? Three years later, he said, “You were right.”[Read more…] about Congratulations
“In Case Of Emergency…”
Whenever I fly, I try to get exit row seats. As I got on my last flight into Asia, I saw this written on the side of the plane and realized it wouldn’t really matter where I sat. If there was an emergency, I’m supposed to…do what?! The flight attendant failed to say exactly how I was to exit the plane should we plummet from the skies. No mention of any bulkhead cutting tools located under the seats next to the life jackets. No blow torches where the oxygen masks were. I had extra leg room and all the pretzels I could want for the next two hours and I’d just sit there listening to the droning engine, but if there was an emergency, it would take a miracle to escape…
I was in our second training location in this country. In the room were fifty-seven men and women actively planting churches. All of them are working in Buddhist areas. Almost 100% of the people they live among have no idea who Jesus is, and Christianity is at best thought to be a mythical belief in a nameless god.[Read more…] about “In Case Of Emergency…”
Distance doesn’t matter
It was 4 AM and I heard these dreaded words. “Continue on south for 559 miles.”
Last Saturday I visited my son at his college. Forty-eight hours later I pulled in the driveway back home before my other kids left the house for school and then I went to the office. It’s been six weeks since we dropped our boy off at college. He’s in the film program and loves his editing and shooting and script writing classes. He’s not burned anything yet that I know of in the apartment. He’s doing well. There were a few hard things going on with each of us, though, and we both just needed to see each other, if for no other reason than we’re father and son.
The only thing keeping us from that was fourteen hours of monotonous interstate. Distance doesn’t change the fact that I’m his dad, even if that distance is half of the USA. When my son needs me, I’m coming to him. So I sat in the truck and headed south…[Read more…] about Distance doesn’t matter