Like a Child: Totally Honest (+Garissa visit)

Yep, after a barrage of posts during the Bible Read-a-Thon, we seem to have gone silent. Catching our breath, or allowing you to catch yours, perhaps?

We will now return to several more posts on the “Like a Child” theme. Today’s is a bad example of what could be a ‘good’ child-like characteristic. That is, honesty. Brutal honesty.

Young children say things “straight”. They do not know how to cover up their true feelings. Granted, a child might lie about whether or not he ate all the cookies that were in the cookie jar in an effort to protect himself from punishment. But when it comes to more subtle matters of attitudes or opinions, a child is usually honest.

We saw very unfortunate evidence of this during our visit to Garissa last week. Christians living in that Muslim-dominated town report that little children are the most likely to bombard them with rude comments: “Muende kwenu. Hapa si kwenu” (Go home. This is not your home). Unfortunately, they also throw stones, and apparently girls are the most aggressive at that!

As bad as this is, it does tell us that children are not good at pretense. They obviously learn these attitudes from adults, but the adults try to cover up how they really feel and let children ‘speak’ for them instead.

God’s Word encourages us to “speak the truth in love.” At least children get the first part right! In a culture where people are highly likely to tell others just what they want to hear, even if it is a complete lie, that is an important admonition. A bit more child-likeness can help us all.

PART TWO: Garissa University Visit We also want to tell you about this visit. On 2 April this year, Garissa University was attacked by terrorists; the resulting massacre claimed the lives of 147 people.

No church leaders have visited the university since then, according to the reports we received. We felt it was an important step to take.

IMG-20150808-WA0043We started our tour by peering through the windows of the classroom where the Christian Union students were holding their 5 a.m. prayer meeting that fateful morning, as was their daily practice. This room was the first target of the gunmen. Broken windows, bullet holes on the walls and abandoned shoes tell the story. Twenty-three of the twenty-seven students in that room were killed; others feigned death so that the attackers would overlook them.

The university security officers showed us where the main sniper was positioned, and how the attackers lured students out of the dorms only to gun them down as they tried to escape. We went into rooms where students had been hiding, some who survived and others who did not. The imprint on the floor of a body, with a bullet hole at the position where the head was lying, was among the most disturbing images.

We learned that church leaders, the local community, Somali activists and Garissa University staff (pictured) staunchly agree on one thing: the university should re-open.IMG-20150808-WA0015

So finally, we prayed on site.We prayed that Garissa University will open again. We prayed that teachers, doctors and businessmen will not abandon this gateway, but will continue with — or return to — their lives and vocations in this dusty town. The terrorists want to instill fear. If we respond fearfully, we have already handed them their victory.

~ Diane

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Until Next Year?

Confession: I was hesitant to have another Bible Read-a-Thon in 2015. But those who participated last year really insisted that we needed to hold the event again.

“Okay,” I reasoned, “we can do it, but I will find other people to lead most of the days.” That, I did. We had an amazing core team, with 7 or so people who were there every single day. I was intending to be absent some of the days, or to carry other paperwork that I could do while sitting anonymously in the back ‘pew’….

HA! That did not happen! It seems that the Word of God is somehow addictive. It is like watching a movie — you don’t want to miss any part. Especially the Old Testament; it is a continuing story of a nation, or a family. If you miss something, you really ‘feel it.’ One time I had to rush out to the bank, but hurried back, thinking “I want to get back before David dies!’ (I was just in time). Another time it was the exile. “Have they gone into exile yet?” was my first question when I returned from running some errands. The answer was “not yet.” Whew!

Then the coming of Jesus, his amazing life, powerful teachings and history-changing resurrection. Oh, how I wish I could have been on the Emmaus Road when he traced his own divine heritage. What a lesson!

Reading chronologically through the Bible ‘at once’ really gives a fresh perspective. On one hand, it is much easier to see the continuity, or to trace certain threads from Genesis to Revelation. On the other hand, seeming inconsistencies or even contradictions are brought to light. One thing for sure, I now have more questions than answers! And that is good, because there is a deeper desire to study and seek. “Those who seek the Lord will find him when they seek him with all their heart.”

Finally, reading out loud. It must be so easy to gloss over certain things when reading silently. Why else, if I have read through the Bible probably 20 times, am I still finding completely ‘new’ things?

We are very thankful for the $550 raised so far through the Read-a-Thon. The door for giving is still open! You can use the “Donate” button on the home page of this blog, or send a donation via PayPal on the dcfi.org or springsofafrica.org websites. All donations will go to the mission work of DOVE Africa.

One thing is for sure, we WILL do it again. We have decided that, by God’s grace, this needs to be an annual event. So, ‘good-bye’ to the Read-a-Thon reports for now… until next year!

~ Diane

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Day 10-11: GRAFTED

We all know that when we are looking for a certain theme, we find it everywhere. The past two days, the themes of law vs. grace and Jews vs. Gentiles have been in my heart. And for sure — I found these everywhere in our reading. Let’s look briefly at the latter.

The issue of Gentiles coming to faith surfaced not only in the time of Jesus, but also plagued the early church. Most of the differences that arose among the disciples were due to this debate. Definitely Israel was the original ‘olive tree.’ Gentiles were not chosen from the beginning. We were “not a people!” We had “not received mercy!” (I Pet 2:4) But we were grafted in.

Jesus was a Jew. He even said in Matthew 15:24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel” (but when the Canaanite woman pressured him, he ‘agreed’ to heal her daughter, and did).

Paul was also a Jew. A Pharisee, for that matter. He writes over and over again about the ‘mystery’ of the gospel that had been revealed to him. That mystery is stated as “Christ in you” (Col 1:27); maybe that is more like saying, “Christ has come to you, of all people!” Paul clarified in Ephesians 3:6 that the mystery was the fact that, through the gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members of one body, and sharers together in the promise” (covenant). Formerly, Gentiles were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel, and foreigners to the covenant of the promise, without hope and without God” (Eph 2:11). That is a pretty bad situation to be in!

We (unless you are of Jewish descent) were simply not part of the deal.

But WHY did the children of Israel — for the most part — fail to recognize their Savior? After all, Jesus was indeed “the promise that the 12 tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night” (Acts 26:7). They had all the history of walking with God. They were recipients of God’s covenant of love. They knew the prophecies and were waiting for their Messiah. But they rejected, even crucified. their Lord. Hmm.

Leaving that for you to ponder, I just want to say that we ended our reading powerfully, crying out with John the revelator, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

Thank you for taking this journey through the Word with us!

~ Diane

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Day 9: ON TO THE NEW

The Old Testament ends with a sense of great expectancy. The exiles have returned. The walls of Jerusalem  and temple have been rebuilt. The prophets, while still recounting the sins of Israel and the disgrace of her downfall, are now speaking of tremendous promises and of the glory yet to come.

The last Old Testament book in our reading schedule was Joel, and what a climax it is! “Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days” (2:29). “The Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel. . . . the mountains will drip new wine, and the hills will flow with milk” (3:16-17).

It struck me that our relationship with God, as reflected in the reports of the kings, judges and prophets, is more about seeking and inquiring of God than even of asking from him. Of course, there is a place for prayers of petition (especially seen from the temple or designated places of worship). But perhaps we emphasize the petition aspect more than we should. After all, when we ask according to God’s will, it will be done! But how do we know whether or not we are asking according to His will if we do not seek to know his will first? And seeking to know his will, will be of no value, unless and until we know how to hear his voice — unless and until we are sheep who know the Shepherd’s voice.

Entering into the New Testament, the birth, baptism, temptations and teachings of Jesus are deeply meaningful.  I am glad that Jesus teachings about the Law of Moses vis-a-vis God’s new covenant law are clearly explained in many passages. It is now so noticeable how much Jesus emphasizes that relationship, that of the old with the new.

It is very hard to believe that we have only two days of the Read-a-Thon remaining!

~ Diane

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Day 8: EXILE

Both the Northern and Southern kingdoms were taken into exile, and Jerusalem destroyed, in our reading today. But even in the desolation, they had a promised hope. “I am with you to save you. Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you. I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you, but with justice’ (Jer 30:11). This is repeated four times in Jeremiah alone.

Yes, promises of restoration are dotted throughout the prophetic writings. But the word “dotted” is used intentionally here. Ninety percent of the time, it seems (I did NOT calculate), the prophets warn of destruction and speak condemnation. In response, the Israelites can be so insolent. Imagine, they go to Jeremiah, imploring him to enquire of the Lord for them and promising to obey whatever God says, “whether favorable or unfavorable.” But then they blatantly refuse to obey. (Jer 42) What is that about?

Being a prophet was not a very attractive profession! Prophets were often hunted down, imprisoned, or sometimes even put to death. In Kenya, we have some kind of romantic idea about what it means to be a ‘prophetic voice’ to a nation. We imagine that a prophet is one who is honored or whose words are taken seriously. Really? That was certainly not the case for most of the Old Testament prophets. I noticed that the prophets who enjoyed favor with kings, Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah for example, were those who served in the regimes of foreign rulers. Interesting. Most of those who brought a message to Israel’s kings were not ‘received well’ at all!

In interacting with God’s Word, I/we usually pick out the passages that are positive or promising, and ignore others. But when reading every single verse and every single page, it causes those positive parts to be even more precious – like a gem in the midst of rubble. I found the book of Hosea to be one of those beautiful jewels, strongly portraying the tender compassion God has for His children.

Finally, we notice that God’s dealings with us are highly dependent on our response to Him (Jer 18:3-10). How am I responding to God’s love?

~ Diane

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Day 7: THE PROPHETS

We are glad to report good progress both in reading and fund-raising. Those who are reading, alone, have brought in $120. Another $300 has come from the international family. We thank God and all who have given. But we are still far from our target of $2,000 for DOVE Missions. We trust for strong support this week!

Readings today focused on the era of kings along with the writings of the prophets. One thing became so clear. The saying “everything rises and falls on leadership” was certainly true for the children of Israel! Godly king = godly nation. Wicked king = wickedness in the land and punishment from God. They certainly had their share of the latter.

We were awed by how the prophecy in Isaiah 19 about what was to come in Egypt (Africa) is so accurately descriptive of the calamities that have plagued this continent:

  • civil wars and tribal clashes (vs. 2)
  • poverty and despair (vs. 3)
  • witchcraft and consulting the dead (vs. 3)
  • dictatorship and exploitation (vs. 4)
  • drought, devastation of resources and famine (vs. 6-8)
  • low wages; no reward for labor (vs. 9-10)
  • foolish leaders (vs 11-13)
  • drunkenness (vs. 14)

After all that and more, the promise of “In that day” comes so powerfully. The people of Egypt will cry out to the Lord and worship him. “There will be an altar to the Lord in the heart of Egypt; He will rescue them” (Is. 19:19,20). PRAISE GOD!

This scripture constitutes a word that we have been given repeatedly about the vision for a Prayer Center for DOVE Africa in Nairobi. Although in the Read-a-Thon we usually keep reading without any breaks, after this chapter we took time to pray and proclaim the revelation of this promise. “The Lord Almighty will bless them” (19:25). So be it!

~ Diane

A good motto for any business: “Profits and earnings will be set apart for the Lord… profits will go to those who live before the Lord” (Isaiah 23:18).

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Day 5-6: THE KINGS

We have been weaving through I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Along with the kings of Israel and Judah, Elijah and Elisha feature strongly in these books.

I find 1 Kings chapter 11, the report of Solomon’s fall, to be a very painful passage. Why? Why? Why? With all the splendor, success, fame, wisdom, wealth…. WHY did he throw it all away?

We usually blame Solomon’s 700 (!) wives, or even his 300 concubines, and their false gods — and rightly so (I Kings 11:3). But was there another problem?

Apparently, Solomon believed that he was better than any leader before him AND any who would come after. He wrote, “I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me” (Ecc 2:9); “What more can the king’s successor do than what has already been done?” (Ecc 2:12). Yet his very own proverbs warn of the danger of pride: it goes before destruction and precedes a man’s downfall.

The reading plan we are using for the Read-a-Thon places Solomon’s proverbs before I Kings 11, and Ecclesiastes after it. That makes sense, because Ecclesiastes takes on a distinctly cynical tone. “Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless,” Solomon laments (Ecc 1:2). He says that his heart began to despair, and that he “hated life” (Ecc 2:17). Perhaps by the time of its writing, Solomon had already turned to evil.

The foreign wives with foreign gods? An overdose of wisdom? A heart of pride? Whatever the reasons, Solomon’s slippery slide from God’s grace sends Israel into a downward spiral — a tumultuous period of division, civil war and punishment from God. Treachery and conspiracy abound.

In this context, another very sad event was the stoning of Zechariah by King Joash — yet his father Jehoida had both saved and served him! So heartbreaking. In turn, his officials conspired against Joash and killed him in his bed. Revenge and counter-revenge seem to be the norm in this era, and it is all justified in the name of “avenging the blood.”

THANK GOD for the blood of Jesus; without it, where would we be?

~ Diane

  • TO NOTE: It is interesting how many Proverbs mention the frustration of having a troublesome wife. Surely, Solomon must have known since he had 700 of them!
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