Tuesday, October 14, 2008

On a Mission for God

Hi everyone, sorry I haven't written in several days. Life has a way of getting overwhelming and it has been all of that since my last post. I am now amid preparations for a return trip to Uganda. Alan, Wayne, Ray and I leave from JFK this Sunday evening. We will be working with the Nexus Seminary Uganda as we continue to provide training and teaching for rural Ugandan pastors. Most of these pastors cannot get into seminary for a variety of reasons (some economic, some linguistic) so we are taking seminary training out to them.

There are many interesting aspects of this kind of mission. The one I found the most intriguing is that most of the pastors we were privileged to work with were first generation Christians. That is they have no family history of being Christ followers. Some of them were Muslims but most of them came from the more traditional animistic religions of the region. I have never encountered first generation Christians before. Nearly everyone I knew growing up, going to school and my other journeys had parents, grand parents etc. who, even if they were only nominally connected to the church would readily and easily identify themselves as "Christian."

The experience was world view shaking and, to a large degree, life altering. I found a passion for Jesus Christ and a willingness to do "whatever it takes" on a level that I had never encountered in the United States. I remember when I was a young Christian, fresh off the passion and fire of a radically transforming conversion in my own life, that I was fearless about Jesus. I was willing to talk to anyone anywhere at any time about my love for the Lord Jesus Christ and how turning your life over to Him could and would change your life too! Somehow through schooling, serving an institutional church and just life in general I lost this fearlessness and forgot what it was like to be head over heels in love with the Lord. My trip to Uganda reconnected me to this personal history and reminded me that I am not my own.

So, I go merrily along on a mission for God. I travel to Uganda because I know in my heart and mind that God has called me to do so. I do not know what awaits me on this return journey but I know I have a divine appointment. God has prepared my life for (to quote Ester) "such a time as this." Pray for me as I will be off line and out of touch into early November. I'll write about what happened when I return.

God's peace be with you all,

Dr. BJ

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It takes a village . . .

I've been preaching this fall on the Christian Home. In the past three weeks I have talked about the importance of Sunday School -- and especially how important it is for Sunday School lessons to be reinforced at home. I've talked about Youth ministry and how important it is for churches to encourage youth to get hands on involved in ministry and mission. Last week I talked about how important it is in the Christian Home for parents to be vital, growing, maturing Christians themselves.

There is a myth in American culture that a "nuclear" family -- mom, dad, kids in isolation -- is somehow healthy and/or the proper way to raise children. I remember hearing the old African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" and was interested when I read Senator Clinton's book by that same title. But the truth, for Christians, has to run much deeper. Any village won't do. In fact, I would suggest a rewrite of the proverb that says "it takes a COMMUNITY to raise a child."

The Church is one of the very few organizations (organisms) on the planet that is intentionally and essentially a multi generational gathering. It takes a healthy community to help parents raise their children. This healthy community would include healthy growing adults (of all ages), engaged and involved teens and growing maturing children. I asked one of our young mothers, as she came out of worship a few weeks ago, how she was doing. She replied, "my son has a few new grandparents and aunts and uncles after this morning." I thought to myself, that is exactly what we, as a church, are supposed to be. It takes a community, intentional, focused, committed, growing community to raise a child.

Dr. BJ

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

An image of determination

In Luke 9:51 we run across one of the more powerful images of determination I've ever seen or read. It says "Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem." Jesus has already told his followers, at least twice, that they are going to Jerusalem where he will be betrayed, crucified and in three days rise. I've always wandered at what point did Jesus know this information? Was he fully aware of his divinity as a baby? Did he know he was the Son of God as a toddler? We know from Luke 2 that he knew he "must be about his father's business" when he was 12, but at what point did all of this become clear to him? At what point did Jesus know?

Regardless of when he knew it, by Luke 9:51 he is fully aware of what awaits in Jerusalem and yet he has set his face to go there. I am overwhelmed by his inner strength and challenged by Jesus faithfulness. How often do I turn away from conflict even though to face the conflict is the most faithful thing I can do? How often do I flee from uncomfortable responsibility because to do the right thing or the faithful thing might prove to be inconvenient? Jesus "set his face" to go to Jerusalem.

Do you have an unpleasant task ahead of you? Do you have something you know you need to do, know it will be uncomfortable to do so, but to be faithful you have to follow it through? Use Jesus as your example, be resolute, set your face toward the task and do what you need to do.

Dr. BJ