Saturday, November 7, 2009

Adoption, Ethnicity and Worship- Part 3

I once asked a very aged and respected Christian about the issues of ethnicity in the American church. He has authored books, pastored, and is one of the wisest men I know. He also has preached in various churches around the country (and around the world), addressing both “white” churches and “black” churches. I was quite surprised by the answer he gave me when I spoke to him about what I see as the Biblical vision of intentional pursuit of ethnic diversity (since God the Father has intentionally purchased a multi-ethnic bride at infinite cost, the blood of His dear Son). He agreed with the things I said, but finally stated that it is just NOT possible because of the vast chasm that divides the white and black church in America. He sighted both preaching style and worship as the two main dividing factors, unbridgeable because of the vast differences in heart-expression and practice.

Since that conversation I have thought much about that conversation, trying to see the issues clearly, yet I am unable to come down on the side of “unbridgeable” simply because of differences in heart expression or culture, especially after living here in Uganda. Of course, if the goal is simply to have a church that is multi-ethnic for the sake of being multi-ethnic, IT WILL FAIL (it is not humanly possible as we are too selfish by nature). Yet, if the goal is the very heart of the Gospel itself and if the commitment is grounded in pursuit of our Glorious God and His Kingdom above all things then through the work of the Holy Spirit it is more than possible.

It helps me to think about marriage. Rarely do two people get married who come from the exact SAME family culture, expression, ways of doing things, ways of looking at things, etc. That’s what makes marriage SO MUCH WORK in those early years. It takes two people committed to each other and to moving towards oneness out of their two-ness. Throw in cross-cultural marriage and the issues are even greater and the work harder. Yet, no Christian in their right mind would say, “Hey, don’t even try to get married, after all people are just too different to be able to come together as ONE and survive as husband and wife. The gap is unbridgeable.” The world has no problem agreeing with that statement, especially when things just “don’t work out” because of the vastness of differences in two people often clearly seen AFTER marriage (selfishness exploded), and divorce is common and almost expected in our Western cultures. Yet, Christians are pushed to fight to make things work in marriage both because of the sanctity of the covenant entered into and what keeping that covenant means before God Himself (not to mention the effect on the children). And of course, through the beauty of living out the Gospel in relationship with one another and through the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, two selfish and vastly different people ARE ABLE to come together as ONE. Yes, it takes a dying to self and for God Himself to intervene IN that marriage, yet the product is a “new” culture (a family culture) that comes from the uniqueness of the two individuals entering into covenant relationship, while the uniqueness of both individuals is also maintained. The children see the power of God at work in their homes and they are able (therefore) to grow up with a vision that marriage CAN actually work and be a good thing (which is a vastly different view that most children grow up with).

How much more should this be lived out on a church level!?! We are truly a Covenant Community, brought together through Jesus’ unveiling of the bride He came to purchase for Himself through His death and resurrection. He has stated the incredible implications of this purchased and available ethnic oneness (John 17), and while it takes MUCH WORK to push through our own “preferences” and cultures, much revealing of our selfishness and even ethno-centrism (viewing our own ethnicity as better or superior to others), Jesus meets us in that place, offers cleansing forgiveness to our repentance, and empowers His people through His Spirit to love beyond ourselves and to come together in committed love.

I attended a church in Chicago for a couple of years that was incredibly diverse ethnically. One Christmas the church decided to begin its Christmas program with a procession of flags representing the various cultures within the church. A non-Christian journalist came to write an article on the Christmas program. As she sat and watched the procession of flags, the procession of men and women of many different colors, it was obvious that she was not prepared for what she was beholding. Tears began rolling down her cheeks as she witnessed the awesome display of Christ’s Bride, an ethnic unity she had never seen before. It IS as Jesus said, “then the world will believe that You sent me.”

The beginning point for all of us is recognizing that this intentional pursuit of ethnic diversity within our communities of worship is a Biblical mandate, not just a “good thing” to pursue. And like broken marriage, there is also a GRAVE effect on our children. When churches remain ethnically isolated, children grow up assuming that it is "just how it is", and what is assumed is that their own expression is the right one, and the issues are propagated through the generations, both directly and indirectly. The opposite is also true, that when children grow up in a diverse community, there is a natural love and respect for the various ethnicities and expressions, and they are able to see their own culture in relationship to all of the others, not as superior, but in its proper relationship to the others. What a vision of the Kingdom of God is held out for our children!

One other issue that often comes into play here is the way churches deal with differences in age groups within the church (as one friend who commented on the facebook post noted). Isn’t it interesting that churches often deal with the whole “traditional” versus “contemporary” issues like they do with ethnicity, only the division isn’t as clearly seen. The quick answer is to separate age groups by holding the hymns service for those who find their HEART EXPRESSION being met there, and then the contemporary service for those who “prefer” that (or because of the outreach appeal to a “modern” or “postmodern” people. What happens is a clear division between the generations, and what is lost is the age diversity that is also desperately needed in the Body of Christ for its health and building up. Rather than intentionally pursuing diversity of style (expression), one group is typically called to die to its own preferences for the sake of the other or the two are completely separated. Churches can't even see how this way of dealing with age diversity is an outflow of how they deal with cultural diversity!

So what is the way forward? How should our view of the Gospel, and hence the Spirit’s work in our world, drive our churches in all of these areas. What can be done practically? I still see the doctrine of adoption as central here and all that I’ve written below becomes a key factor, but first I want to ask:

Do you agree?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Adoption, Ethnicity and Worship- Part 2

Alright, I admit it! I bit off more than I can chew in the last post. It seems that most of you agree with me, as I don't see any comments or feedback below. However, I do want to push forward on this theme, mainly because I think the implications for the church today are desperately needed, as are the implications for Christian families seeking to model the Kingdom of God (or better stated, living out the Kingdom of God through family). I realize that I am insufficiently equipped to unfold all of the answers to the questions I raised, but I hope to at least lay some foundation that we can toss around and build on. Let me begin my just talking about our church here.

Kasana Community Church is truly a unique church both in Uganda and in the world at large. At one point last year we had men, women and children gathered in worship of God from the United States, Canada, England, India, Kenya, Rwanda, Congo DR, and Uganda (including over 14 different tribes represented). It is quite an incredible sight to see that kind of ethnic diversity gathered together in one place! It is incredible that the English language is able to act as a unifier of such vastly different people-groups. It would be easy for us as a church to simply adopt ONE new worship expression using ONLY English as the dominant language...but what would be lost would be the HEART EXPRESSION of the individuals represented. Let me explain.

As Westerners here in Uganda, most of us have grown up in the context of Western worship. Regardless of whether we are singing songs in English or Luganda (local language here), the style is different, the length of songs, the instruments (most Westerners struggle with the electric keyboard!), etc., even if we are singing familiar songs. But we adjust.

I can remember during our first year here when we were struggling to adjust, missing our "familiar" worship style, a team came on a short-term trip. One of the team members was a gifted worship leader in his home church, so our church leaders decided to allow him to lead a portion of the worship. He stood in front with his acoustic guitar and the second he began leading I felt my heart come alive. Both Laura Beth and I LOVED that short 15 minutes of worship that we had, yet towards the end as I looked around, most of the Ugandans were quieter and obviously NOT enjoying the time as much as we were. Then something incredible happened. The man sat down and our Ugandan worship leader came forward. The second he started in with a song in Luganda, the place about came apart! It was like they were waiting for what was familiar to them. I looked around at the Westerners and they looked very much like the Ugandans had during the "Western worship" time. They were enjoying the time in worship, but not like before.

What I came to understand at that moment is how important HEART EXPRESSION is for those engaging in worship. I enjoy singing in Luganda, or singing the Ugandan English songs that we sing, but I typically find myself coming MORE alive when we are singing songs that I have grown up singing. It's the same with each nationality and people group represented in the church. Our Ateso brothers and sisters enjoy singing in English and Luganda, but something happens when suddenly an Ateso song gets thrown into the mix- men who were standing and clapping before can be seen suddenly jumping high into the air, up and down, up and down, throughout the church (which is how the Ateso worship). The same could be said for each ethnicity represented.

If this were simply a context where Western missionaries were co-existing with people from the Buganda tribe, good missiological practice would call for the Westerners to simply die to their own cultural worship expression and integrate into the larger culture here (which is how many Western churches function when it comes to cultural integration). I have no problem with this in our context, especially in the light of the past missionary practice of simply establishing/imposing Western practice and worship in other cultures (at the expense of local culture and expression). But when it comes to other tribes within Uganda who are gathered here, the answer is not so clear-cut.

It is great that the churches planted within various tribes each have their own unique expression of worship (non-Western), but now that tribes are beginning to mix in both the city and even within different tribal territory in larger towns, what is the way forward for the Ugandan church? Is the answer to follow the common US pattern of keeping different ethnic groups separate in their worship? Hopefully our response is a resounding: NO! It would be a shame for it to be said here in Uganda that the 10am hour is the most segregated of the week.

How awesome to see our church here as a rallying point for the different tribes, intentionally seeking to bring the various ethnic expressions out in the context of our worship service, instead of forcing everyone into ONE "common" expression that in essence is the expression of none, or perhaps one dominant group. I see this as the beauty of the Bride of Christ gathered around His throne in Revelation 7, from every nation, tribe, people and language, singing out "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" Granted, we don't know if in heaven those in Rev. 7 were singing in ONE language or each in their own, but down here on earth where the curse of Babel is brought back to blessing for the nations through the unifying Gospel and the gift of the Holy Spirit, when the nations and tribes gather together it is as Jesus said in John 17, "I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me."

I think it is in the context of where the Ugandan church stands today, and the way forward that God is calling His church to, that will serve as an example to the direction that the Western church needs to pursue if it is indeed to be a true expression of the Kingdom of God.

Before I move forward, I'd love some feedback here. Thoughts?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Adoption, Ethnicity and Worship- Part I

I can remember the first time I watched the movie Losing Isaiah. I cried throughout the movie, first for the plight of the birth mother (played by Halle Barry) in the abandonment of her new-born (already drug addicted) son, then for the plight of the white woman who adopted and in essence “saved” the child who had been thrown away into a garbage can. After some years the birth mother got “cleaned up,” found out her abandoned baby was alive, and then wanted her child back- a child who had solidly become a part of a white family. The movie centered around the issue of ethnicity in cross-cultural adoption (in this case white versus black). The birth mother's attorney believed that a black child should be with his black family, yet within the white home the point is made that in the eyes of the child, color is not what matters but love, a love that is given through the adoptive mother and the family. Though the issues raised by the movie were pointed and heart-wrenching, the movie offered up no real solution for the issue, ending with the child “divided” between both the birth mother and the adoptive mother.

Sadly, the church of Jesus Christ has also often been plagued by these same polar sides when it comes to looking at ethnicity within the church. On one side, churches tend to think that mono-ethnicity is best when it comes to worship, fellowship and church growth (it certainly is easiest!), and therefore the leadership and DNA of the church is made up of one singular ethnicity which expresses itself in both a preaching style and worship style that reflects that ethnicity and culture (even when the church is located completely within another ethnic group). Each different church, of course, views their own expression of worship and style as either “historical” (and thus a-cultural) or culturally inclusive, as opposed to viewing itself as intentionally mono-ethnic in its expression and thus culturally exclusive.

Often, churches that are “open” to different ethnicities attending their churches can not see beyond their own cultural bias for their own expression of the historic faith. If someone from a different ethnicity comes into that church, it is expected for that person to “conform” to the style of church/worship that forms the identity of the church, leaving that individual to either “yield” to the dominant worship and teaching expression or to leave and find a church with similar cultural expression (it is supposed in this situation that this person has had contact with a specific ethnic expression of Christianity as opposed to a “new” believer).

On the other side are churches that want to be multi-ethnic. They often seek to create a contemporary worship style that each individual ethnicity can rally around and more easily “conform” to. Often, these churches are made up of first generation Christians who are drawn to these churches, those who have not been a part of a church made up of their own unique ethnic expression. Unfortunately, the individual culture and expression that God has granted the various “ethnic” cultures are either lost or blurred within the newly created expression.

What is to be done by the church today in such a confusion of “models”? What is the way forward and what are the biblical and theological foundations to keep us on the right track? And what does all of this have to do with adoption and the doctrine of adoption...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Adopting Music

I realize I am way behind on posting! I haven't forsaken this blog! Here's something my pastor in Chicago (and good friend) sent me that fits right into the discussion going on right now in the blog. It's exciting to see more people catching a vision for the adopting grace of God and wanting to express that through worship back to Him. The quote by Packer is right on as well! Enjoy.

New Album Features God’s Adopting Grace
via Between Two Worlds by Tony Reinke on 8/5/09

Posted by Tony Reinke.

In his classic book Knowing God, J.I. Packer wrote:

If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all. For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctively Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. "Father" is the Christian name for God. … Our understanding of Christianity cannot be better than our grasp of adoption. (pp. 201—202)

The adopting grace of God is a major theme of the Christian faith, and today this theme has a new soundtrack. Bob Kauflin and Sovereign Grace Music today released their latest project, Sons & Daughters, a 12-song album accenting God’s gratuita adoptio. The album was intentionally written for congregational worship settings.

On his blog Kauflin wrote,

… The project came out of a perceived lack of songs that help us meditate on the unfathomable love God has shown us in adopting us through Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:5). We are now part of God’s family—in Christ we will forever be the objects of God’s particular and passionate mercy and love. We are not only forgiven, we are co-heirs with Christ, and never again have to doubt God’s care for us. That biblical reality, rather than leaving us focused on ourselves, drives us once again to proclaim the greatness of the God whose grace turns hopeless rebels into precious children.

The album can be sampled online and purchased as an audio CD ($12) or as a set of MP3 downloads ($9.00). Guitar charts, lead sheets and lyric sheets are available as free downloads.

Sons & Daughters is the third album released by Sovereign Grace Music this summer. In June they released a children’s album, To Be Like Jesus. In July they released a live conference recording titled, Next 2009 Live.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Calling God "Daddy"- Part 3

I can hardly believe that it's been a month since I was last on here! Please excuse my delay in finishing up these series of posts- in this month we have finished up this current session of the Institute of Childcare and Family and then Laura Beth and I headed off for a week in India (yes, this was a spur of the moment trip- and without our boys!). It was an incredible trip, exceeding all of our expectations, but that's not the point of this post. For more info feel free to e-mail us (

In my last post I alluded a couple of times to the multi-ethnic implications of the doctrine of adoption. I want to expound on that a bit here and then pick up on it more in the posts ahead (hopefully). The foundation for this discussion is of course the incredible privilege that all sons and daughters of God have in addressing our God and King as "Daddy" or simply "Father". There is now a beautiful unified crying out to God together in every tongue and language out of hearts set free from sin and bondage to Satan and brought into intimate relationship with our now Father God. Yet what does the doctrine of adoption and the implications of the "Abba!" cry mean for us in terms of ethnicity.

If we look at the "new birth" alone as that which brings us into the family of God, then what appears is a unified family all rallying around the Lamb- Glory to God, yet there is a richness and fullness that is yet lost. In reality, we are "born again", brought from death (Eph. 2:1) and given spiritual life, a life and awareness that frees us to confess "Jesus is Lord" and submit to His rule over all of our lives. Yet it is here that He goes beyond redeeming us as simply His subjects, but He then adopts us into His family- that's the glory of the doctrine of adoption.

What is incredible about this new family is that we are not all consigned to simply ONE language or simply ONE newly created culture. There is an incredible beauty in the diversity of languages and cultures together, redeemed and free to cry out to God from the multiplicity of terms and expressions that each culture has to offer. This is also at the heart of the Galatians and Romans passages. Though intimacy is the foundation, there is beauty in the fact that Jesus cried out not simply in the language spoken at that time by the Jewish people (Aramaic- Abba!), but also in the language of the Gentiles (Greek- Pater or Patros), both of whom may now address God out of the uniqueness of each individual culture and language. This is also part of what Paul is picking up on in both the Romans and Galatians passages.

Before Jesus came one had to come INTO Judaism to be brought into relationship with God, a relationship that demanded one to conform to this new culture, laws, and even language (before the Septuagint was translated into Greek, everyone was dependent on Hebrew to know God and His requirements for His people as laid out in the Law and the Prophets). Yet because of the death of Jesus, each culture is now free to come to God where he/she can experience the redemption of their own fallen culture, while also coming to God in worship, expression and the language offered by each culture. This is a great significance found within the "Abba! Father!" cry.

So the picture both around the throne of God (as well as down here on earth) is not a picture of a mono-ethnic group coming to God in one language and one culture, but it is that of a group made up of multiple-ethnicities each redeemed out of their fallen cultures, yet also each distinctly marked by the beauty of that ethnic group- every tribe, language, people and nation. No culture is above another- not in THIS family! Instead, because we have been adopted INTO His family, we each are free to share in the family Name, the family inheritance, and the family culture (Kingdom culture), while at the same time delighting in the beautiful diversity represented by all who now cry out "Father! Papa! Tata! Baba (I picked this one up in India)!"

So what does this mean for the church? What are the implications of the doctrine of adoption for local churches in terms of ethnic make-up, cultural expressions and worship? Any ideas?
[pic by Corrie Heinrich for a kid's book I'm working on]

Friday, May 15, 2009

Calling God "Daddy"- Part 2

The question of the day is: Can we call God "Daddy"? In my last post I surveyed how we naturally tend to view God as King and therefore relate to Him that way, as well as the fact that most Evangelical Christians have never called God Daddy (and most would probably agree that the term seems just a bit too familiar). I hope this post helps those of us who are longing to understand just what God holds out to us in the hope of the Gospel and in our identity as His children.

If the Gospel is true and through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ we are truly able to find forgiveness of our sins through Jesus' bearing our punishment for sin (justification), then the question of what we are saved UNTO has to be just as clearly spelled out for us. It seems that many Christians live the Christian life as if we have attained the status of angels- you know, able to be in God's presence, serving Him and worshiping Him, free from sin. Yet God did not create us in His image nor send His Son to die for the redemption of angels or to bring us to the status of angels. God's redemption of fallen humanity goes far beyond our freedom from and victory over sin. The Scriptures clearly reveal that God has adopted us INTO His family, with all of the blessings that come with being joint-heirs with Christ.

Romans 8:15-17 and Galatians 4:4-7 are our key passages here, both which speak of the doctrine of adoption. What stands out in these passages, though, and what most of us (myself included) have a hard time grasping is when Paul states that we have received the gift of adoption as sons (Galatians) and the Spirit of adoption (Romans) by whom we cry (Romans) and who Himself cries out within us (Galatians) "Abba! Father!" The implication for us is that we who were slaves (both to the Law and to sin) are now free to cry out by the Spirit (who is also crying out!) "Abba! Father!" So what does this mean for us as we approach our now Father God? Is He Daddy or simply Father?

I recently was on a blog of a highly respected Christian who loves to write about the doctrine of adoption. His subject was the "Abba" cry. He, along with some other very good commentators, have argued against “over-sentimentalizing” the Abba cry into such affectionate terms as “Papa” and “Daddy”. Though I understand these arguments from the standpoint of etymology, they fail to recognize the most powerful argument for precisely using these terms, and thus the unifying result of being a people who united are free to cry out “Daddy!” (along with the multi-ethnic unifier that it provides- next blog). Let me explain.

Any title for “Father” can at the same time be the most endearing of all terms or the most cold and distant of all terms. For example, in the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the rich and spoiled girl Veronica says over and over again, “Daddy, I want…” or “Daddy, get me…” (of course, you have to say it in a snobby British accent). This cold use of the term “Daddy” is a far different use than a child who dearly loves his or her father and who finally sees him after he was away on a four day trip. Can't you see that child running to be embraced in the arms of his father shouting with tears in his eyes, “Daddy!”? I have experienced this myself!

It is not necessarily the word employed for "Father" as it is the intimacy of the relationship behind the word when it is used. In Jesus’ case, there is an intimacy with the Father that goes back from before the world began (Jn. 17:1-5), a perfect intimacy that we can only get a taste of here on earth. And it is in that intimacy of relationship that Jesus knew with the Father that He had in his heart when he cried out to His Father in the garden (just before His coming death!), “Abba! Father!” (Mk. 14:36) So there is nothing wrong with translating the term "Abba" as “Papa!” or “Daddy!” or “Father” or even “Pa”, so long as the understood intimacy of the word is at the center. If we have genuine intimacy with our Father God (the intimacy promised by Jesus Himself in Jn. 17), then we are free to address Him as Papa or Daddy or any other endearing word that our language might have to offer. And the beauty of this is that it does not matter what language or nation you come from, we are all free to enjoy our Daddy God together as His children.

Author George MacDonald understood this as seen in his classic children's story The Princess and the Goblins. In one scene the Princess Irene is awaiting the return of her father, the King of the land. As he approaches on his white horse she runs to him crying out "King Papa!" Truly that is what He is.

It is a beautiful thing to hear a child here in Uganda who was once fatherless and who has come to know their TRUE Father (the true Father of the fatherless) pray addressing God as "Tata" (Daddy). May we begin to lead others (spiritual and physical fatherless) into the glorious freedom of the children of God where we are set free to come before our God and King who is in reality our King Papa and Tata.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Calling God "Daddy"- Part 1

The last time my family and I were in the States I was able to preach at a number of churches. The message that I spoke was "What Uganda Has Taught Me", which is a bit unusual for a missionary to speak on. After all, haven't I been sent to Uganda to teach others? Well, I guess that is partly true, but I am not afraid to readily admit that Uganda has taught me FAR more than I have had to offer myself. It is in this place (New Hope Uganda) and in this community of believers that I have learned family, fatherhood, manhood, and a much greater vision and understanding of the Gospel of Jesus. One of the greatest truths to radically penetrate my heart has been the doctrine of adoption and all that is held out for us in relationship to our Daddy God. Yes, Daddy God, I know that is a bit "personal" for a reference to God, at least by most people's standards. Yet it was here that I first began comfortably referring to God as Daddy.

I can remember the first time I heard someone call God "Daddy". I was at Bible College and my good friend Drew Kelly prayed and addressed God as "Daddy". I was stunned. "Did he just say THAT". I thought he was weird (after all, God is too big and mighty to be called Daddy), yet deep down I knew that I longed for that kind of freedom in my relationship with my heavenly Father. I just didn't understand that that was what the Gospel truly frees me to do. I have found that is true of most Christians. When I was preaching in those churches about what Uganda has taught me, I focused on the doctrine of adoption. I asked the congregations how many of them have ever called God "Daddy". Do you think it was the majority of people? Of course not. In fact, in a crowd of around 200, I found that if 10 people raised their hands that was pretty good. It was typically around 5. Why?

For most of us it is much easier to relate to God as King and Master (which He is!), yet often I think we are naive as to just why that is. I think it comes back to our reductionist Gospel and the way we have been "taught" to read the storyline. Our emphasis on justification alone tends to bend us that way. For example, when we read Genesis 1-3 we naturally read it through the lens of God as King, though that term is not there. If you read commentaries on creation in Genesis, God is pictured as a King issuing forth his commands. My favorite kids' Bible (The Big Picture Story Bible put out by Crossway) does an amazing job of presenting the consistent development of the theme of God's rule, God's people, God's king and God's place throughout the Old Testament, and the grounding for the Kingship of God is of course in Genesis 1-3. Yet why do we naturally read it through the lens of Kingship when the motif of God's Fatherhood is just as clearly unfolded there?

Why do we naturally read the text this way? Well, part of the reason is that God IS KING over the world, there is no question of that, so it is quite a natural reading of the text to see God as the King and us as his subjects, those who will be shown to break his commands and therefore come under his judgment. This is the clearest way we present the Gospel looking back on the OT to introduce the concept of sin and our need of a Savior for violating our Just King God's commands. But remember, our reductionist Gospel simply emphasizes our need for JUSTIFICATION and presents the Gospel only in that context. What is lost?

Here is what is lost- the reality that God is the true Father of all of humanity (see Acts 17:28-29 as well as Luke 3:38 where Adam is called the son of God) and at creation our amazing and loving and perfect Father provided us with everything we need (identity, security, provision and protection) all found in Himself and in the security of the garden. At the fall we rebelled against our Father (and King) and began life "outside the family". But the Father was not done with His children. He had a plan that was set from eternity to send the PERFECT and UNIQUE Son of God to die for our sins and to undo what was done at the fall, and to bring His children back into His family through adopting us back (wouldn't that make a great kid's Bible!).

You can then read through the entire OT and see how God unfolds the fact that He is Israel's Father (as well as King), all culminating in Jesus' coming (the true King) who came to reveal the Father (read John 14) and how to be in relationship with the Father. Because we don't tend to read the storyline this way, we naturally lose what it means at salvation to be brought into the family of God (a HUGE NT theme) and to be able to call God "Father" and even "Daddy" (more on this later) through our spiritual adoption by God.

That is why most of us simply assume that we have been "born again" into the family of God and never think much about what it means that God is truly our Father. We have little foundation for walking in relationship with this true and perfect Father as the one who IS our identity, security, provision and protection. Eph. 3:14 says that it is in God that every family (or literally every fatherhood) in heaven and on earth is NAMED, yet we have very little understanding of what Paul is talking about here because we don't understand the storyline in terms of family. We also so often fail to grasp just what is held out to us in relationship with this amazing God and Father.

May we as God's people begin to be confronted by who God has revealed Himself to be and who we truly are IN Him as His children and as the bride of our Lord Jesus. And wouldn't it be awesome to find a kids' Bible that traced the themes of Kingship and Fatherhood throughout the Bible as well. Who knows, maybe someday...

(the pic is of me, Isaiah and my "son" John around a growing Jackfruit- which is the most unique fruit in the world! I chose this pic simply because it pictures the natural intimacy of my sons and I. They don't hesitate to call me "Papa")

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Reductionist Gospel and the Doctrine of Adoption

My friend Godfrey typifies exactly what this post is about- how many Christians know that they are saved from their sin, yet in their hearts they remain detached from day to day genuine joy in God. Godfrey grew up in western Uganda and never knew his father. Rooted in this not-knowing was a desperate longing for identity, something he never gained. After leaving home and moving deeply into the things of the world, God amazingly brought him out to New Hope where he met Jesus and found forgiveness and new life in God. Though now saved, he lacked day to day joy in God and could never understand how the Christians in church could worship God with such obvious joy. Godfrey, though saved, was still an orphan in his heart. His relationship with God became one of slavery, doing this and this (and not doing this and this) in order to please God. He knew that New Hope's ministry was "bringing the Fatherhood of God to the fatherless", but in his mind he had a father, he just didn't know who he was. His heart was restless and he was spinning downward quickly. It was at this point that he one day read the words of Psalm 68:5 painted on the side of a New Hope vehicle, "A father to the fatherless is God..." Suddenly, his whole life's search was over. He saw clearly that God is his father, that he is NOT fatherless, but has a clear identity IN God. Since that time, Godfrey has continued growing in his relationship with God as his Father, and he as a son. The doctrine of adoption is the sweetest of all biblical teachings for him, the truth that he is an adopted son in the family of God.

It is a proclamation of the Gospel that those who put faith in Jesus are justified sinners now called saints. It is assumed that God is father, after all, we are born again, but the depth of that relationship typically goes unexplored. In fact, if you ask most Americans to define "the Gospel" they will say something like this: Jesus Christ, the unique eternal Son of God, was born, lived, and died on the cross so that those who put their faith in Him can be forgiven of their sins and live forever with God. Of course, you can add or take away various parts, but the essence is the same: we are justified- finished. YET, the glory of the Gospel is that it goes far beyond most of our simplified versions and includes many other glorious truths, including the fact that after we are justified, God literally ADOPTS us into His family.

The fact that the early church clearly saw this relationship between salvation and our new standing in God is seen not only in amazing passages like Romans 8:12-17 and Galatians 4:1-7, but early church fathers like Origin who expounded quite a lot on the amazing adoptive relationship that we believers now have with God. It is a reductionist Gospel that fails to bring believers into the depth of glorious truth contained in all that is held out for us as adopted believers into the family of God. Many Christians in our day (especially as fatherlessness grows) have no earthly concept of God as Father (or if he is father, then he's distant and far away) and find it easier to relate to Jesus then to God the Father. We desperately need to recapture who God has revealed Himself to be as the TRUE Father, as the source of all redeemed fatherhood, and as the one who frees us to enter His presence proclaiming, "Abba! Father! Daddy!" as sons and daughter who are accepted not on the basis of what we do to please Him, but simply because He has chosen us, loves us and has adopted us, all because of the perfect son, Jesus.

This all becomes quite clear when sharing the Gospel with fatherless children (orphans). It is wonderful to see children responding to the call of the Gospel, to find forgiveness and true life in Jesus, yet it is equally exciting to see children set free from their lifelong wandering and search for both identity and fatherhood through coming to know the perfect Father, God. May we all be among those who point others (and especially those who are fatherless in our midst) to the true Father, that we might truly come to know and walk in what is called "the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom. 8:21)."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Feeling the Effects of a Reductionistic Gospel that in Uganda has led to TWO Gospels- one of Salvation and one of Deliverance

When I was a teenager, wrestling with thoughts of heaven and hell, feeling the pull between going to church and doing what I wanted to do, I really just wanted to know one thing: WHAT DID I REALLY NEED TO KNOW and DO TO GO TO HEAVEN WHEN I DIED. I didn't know it at the time, but I (like many people out there) simply wanted the Gospel reduced down to its lowest common denominator so that I could be sure to go to heaven and yet continue on living as I wanted to live. The answer I received, of course, was that I needed to pray, confess my sin and need of a Savior, and ask Jesus to forgive my sin. Saved. I liked being saved, knowing I was saved, but not living like I was saved- that was the tough part- and after a while I fell into the common "backslider" category and had stopped going to church, entranced by the things of the world.

Unfortunately, this is a common story for many, and while many wouldn't like to admit it, the truth is that much of Western Christianity has bought into a reductionist Gospel that flows out of the very question posed above- what is the base line for being a Christian. This is a question that the early church would NEVER have asked, and if they had, there would not have been a short answer. Our reductionism, however, flows from the church's defense against liberal Christianity that with the Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thought began to call into question the heart of Protestant Christianity- the doctrine of justification by faith alone. While it has been a much needed defense, the sad reality is that with that defense, much of the church simplified the Gospel down to a formula for getting to heaven, for forgiveness of sins, for living for the "pie in the sky", and that has become THE GOSPEL.

If you had to boil down the early church's understanding of the Gospel, it would have encompassed at least three components. There was an understanding that Jesus, in His death AND resurrection, defeated the three great enemies: sin, death, and Satan. There was an understanding of what this meant for believers for their lives HERE and NOW, and great doctrines (like the doctrine of adoption) were enjoyed and expounded. Interestingly, in a secular society dominated by science and the dispelling of the supernatural, the understanding of Jesus' victory over Satan and freedom from bondage to demons and spirits was lost, after all, what good westerner actually lives in fear of Satan or demons?

The truth of what I wrote above is seen quite clearly in the efforts of the western missionaries of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Take for example one of China's pioneer missionaries, James Fraser. He was 22 years old when he set out from England to China where he would spend the rest of his life working among a tribespeople known as the Lisu. Fraser would journey on horseback or on foot across rugged mountains for days and weeks on end to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus to people who had never heard that name before. Entrenched in demon-worship (spirit-worship/ancestor worship) Fraser was disheartened when an entire family that had professed faith in Christ (and an influential family at that) had been attacked by the spirits and out of fear had gone back to their old ways. His daughter writes, "In spite of the convictions growing upon him James was still slow to believe that demon-possession can be as real today as when our Lord was upon earth." And again she writes, "It was during this survey that the hold demonism had over these people came home to James. This was not a childish belief in something non-existent. The demons were real: their power was demonstrable. The fear the villagers lived in amounted to total slavery."

James Fraser had not been prepared for what he would meet in terms of the spiritual war that would be waged among the Lisu turning to God. He had proclaimed the Gospel, many had accepted the message of Jesus and wanted to follow God, but the hold of demonism was too strong and because their core beliefs (their core worldview) was not touched with the message of the Gospel, they naturally went back to what they knew and to what had controlled their way of life for years on end.

Interestingly, the same could be said about many Christians in Uganda today. Fraser was wise enough to come to see what the Gospel proclaimed about Jesus' victory and authority over Satan, and so he was able to lead the new Christians out of slavery and fear of Satan. Sadly, it seems that many of the early missionaries in Uganda were not able to present the Gospel in the fullness of its message concerning Satan and demons. It seems that when the Gospel was proclaimed and people were "saved", for most the "high" Christianity proclaimed by the missionaries (high meaning how to get to heaven) had little to offer the reality "down here" of dealing with Satan and demons.

Early on in my time here I noticed how controlled people are when it comes to fear of Satan. I found church services unable to begin until Satan was bound and removed, along with the "spirit of dozing" or any other spirit of something. I found people still paralyzed by the shrill of an owl at night, as culturally it is proclaiming the looming death of a family member. I found people up in the night binding and casting demons because they heard a noise on their roof, along with many other practices born out of fear. In reality, the more I got into the "Christian" culture, what I found was that because of the lack of understanding the Gospel's message concerning Satan, here there is in reality many who proclaim TWO different Gospels.

The first Gospel is the Gospel of salvation. This is what a person needs to know in order to be saved. But that Gospel doesn't deal with Satan and demons, so there is a second Gospel, a Gospel of deliverance. I have even heard some of these teachers try to scare people with the reality of demons and their power, telling them that they first need to get saved, "and then we can deal with the demons and your family curses". What I am speaking about is not a small "part" of Ugandan Christianity, but it is very active under the surface of almost every major denomination because it is under the surface of most Christians (it is entrenched in the worldview). Once, during my first year of ministry here and after doing a teaching on Jesus' authority over Satan, one of my students discussed the issue with me until finally he admitted that (to him) "Jesus has the authority, but Satan has the power." This is the reality regardless of what the Bible says. That is the mindset of many Christians.

Galatians 1 is very poignant in its proclamation about the guarding of THE Gospel, to the point where even if an angel comes and preaching another Gospel, he is to be accursed. The centrality of THE Gospel is seen as the motivator and the empowerment of Paul's ministry throughout the Epistles. There are not two different Gospels, but ONE Gospel that proclaims Jesus' victory of sin, death and Satan, the same Gospel that is inexhaustible in its scope and depth of both mystery and blessing for those who believe its message. I am thankful that my eyes have been opened up to this reality and my lips have been privileged to proclaim its message- and I love seeing my Ugandan brothers and sisters SET FREE from fear and bondage to Satan by simply coming face to face with Jesus' victory and authority over Satan.

May we as God's people not promote a reductionistic Gospel any longer, but may we begin to see the centrality of the Gospel to all areas of our lives and the freedom that it brings in all areas. I want to use my next post to dialogue about this a bit more, but specifically in relationship to the doctrine of adoption and the healing of the orphan heart.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Book Review- Theology in the Context of World Christianity

I was down this week with back issues and decided to use the time to plow through a book that has been staring at me from my shelf for the past few months. The subtitle of the book is what really grabbed my attention: how the global church is influencing the way we think about and discuss theology- WOW.

Timothy Tennent does not disappoint in the least. Tennet recognizes that modern theology is dominated by western reflection on theology and to find publication outside of a western context is quite a rarity. This is disheartening in the context of a growing world Christianity that has seen what he calls the new "Majority World Christians" as coming from the non-western world. Africa, South America, Korea, India and China are all seeing incredible growth of the church. It is the unique context of the growth of these churches that is forcing the churches in various localities to wrestle with theological questions and issues in a way that the west does not face, the result being a richer and deeper theological reflection in specific areas.

The book raises various topics in theology from the differing world contexts, like the following: Theology- Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad; Anthropology- Human Identity in Shame-based Cultures of the Far East; Christology- Christ as Healer and Ancestor in Africa; and Ecclesiology- Followers of Jesus in Islamic Mosques (just to list a few).

I found his critiques and evaluations of the various topics to be VERY insightful. Tennent writes with a sharp theological understanding and provides good insights into the impact on not just theology, but the life and health of the church in a global context.

Living in Uganda and working with orphans, I have already been forced to think about God in ways that my natural western context did not provide. The Fatherhood of God, the doctrine of adoption, the church and community (among other topics) have been deepened and enriched as a result of living in another cultural context. I long to see the Western church glean from what God is doing in this specific context. Tennent goes a long way in providing the foundation and vision to make this much needed global discourse more of a reality.

I highly recommend the book to any who desire to think outside of their own cultural contexts and desire to be impacted by the global discourse that is arising. Of course, that discourse is coming into the West more than ever before (indeed, it can't be stopped)- let's just hope that we have ears to hear before it's in our face and we've missed out on the discussion.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Heart of an Orphan- Part 3

Here is the second half of some of the various characteristics of the heart of an orphan. I am so thankful for my friend Mark Stibbe (author of an amazing book called From Orphans to Heirs) who gave us the idea of describing some of these characteristics through his own list of characteristics. Mark is a humble brother who speaks on the doctrine of adoption out of personal conviction since he himself has been adopted by an earthly father as well as his heavenly Father. He has recently moved into full-time ministry of sharing the message of the Father's love to God's people all over the world. He has a special place in his heart for Africa's orphans. Check out his organization (The Father's House Trust) and website at You will find New Hope Uganda listed there as one of their ministry partners.

INSECURITY: Tied into fear. A sense of feeling unprotected all the time and therefore feeling unsafe. The result is great care given to make sure that the heart is protected. A defence mechanism is constantly employed where one is quick to interpret what people say and do, whether in trouble or safe. One often reads intentions into statements and actions that were not there. Offence is easily taken where none was intended.

POVERTY: A feeling of constant scarcity that says there will never be enough even in the midst of plenty. The goal is therefore to get what is needed NOW, because what will happen the next day is unknown. The now becomes the focus without thought or hope for the future. Decisions are made based upon what seems temporarily best for needs in the moment. Hoarding becomes a lifestyle.

GREED: Tied into poverty. The constant need for more and more whereby the heart is never satisfied but is driven to be. Care is not given to whether others have what they need so long as individual needs are met. There is no consideration of others, or if there is it is only in what can gotten at their expense.

ANGER: Anger is always present in the heart because of what has been experienced in the past and comes out over even a small thing. It often seems like an eruption that has come out of nowhere, but it has always been there, only suppressed. Fighting at a moment's notice among children is a very common outflow of this anger that is constantly present in the heart. Another aspect is that there is always someone to blame for anything bad that happens.

INDEPENDENCE: The heart posture of doing what is desired without being questioned. If questioning comes, then rebellion will follow. Things have to be done “my way” and anyone who gets in the way of that is an enemy. Accountability is rejected and life is lived according to what is best in one's own eyes.

STRIVING: This defines life. Since there is no one that cares, one has to do what it takes to make sure that things will work out for good. One will try at all costs to do anything possible to make life better, even overworking, yet without finding satisfaction in it. Often, identity is tied into what is being strived after. The need for success can even be with an attitude of revenge- “After I have succeeded then those who have rejected me will turn back to me and I’ll get them back!” One's value is attached to the accumulation of what he or she has.

ESCAPE: Pain in the heart leaves it continually unsatisfied. Therefore the heart seeks satisfaction in things that give it temporary value or identity- things like sports, drugs, sex, and alcohol. At times the false world created by the heart can be more real than the painful one that is a reality, and thus the false reality is sought after at all costs and at all times. In the West, entertainment, video games, pornography and the internet become some of the favorite modes of escaping reality in addition to the ones listed above.

The picture above is the family that we work with here at New Hope called Samuel Family.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Heart of an Orphan- Part 2

When I first began working among orphans I was surprised at how different it was from what I expected. The media of the 80's had made me think that all African children had large bellies, suffered badly from malnourishment, and were for the most part quite miserable. Yet when I came to East Africa, I found quite the opposite. Though you can find destitute situations of impoverishment, most of the orphans I was around in the countries of Zambia, Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda were incredibly happy children. I was stunned at how children who had known such tragedy could yet have such joy in life. Yet even in this I was quite deceived.

It was only after living among orphans here in Uganda that my eyes were opened up to the reality of the destitute state that many orphans carry around in their hearts. For many, the joyful external is a mask of the deeper pain of the heart, and for others, the joy is only momentary, giving way to a gloom that reveals the isolation of the heart. It was Paul Kusuubira who put flesh on this for me in his description of the heart of an orphan, drawn from his own experience and journey to healing in the Gospel.

I'm going to post half of his description in this post and half in the next. Let me add though, the orphan heart or the orphan "spirit" is simply a description of the human heart that we are all born with but which is drawn out in the specific context that orphans face. You will find many of these descriptions in the Apostle Paul's descriptions of the flesh throughout the New Testament revealing the connection to the sinful human heart, and if you have eyes to see you might see these same things at work in your own heart and life regardless of whether you are a physical or spiritual orphan. These are also helpful to understand why many fatherless children act or respond as they do to your attempts to love them or move into a heart relationship with them. I'd love some feedback here, so please feel free to interact.

ABANDONMENT: The deep feeling of having no one to turn to for answers or help. One has to make his own way because those who would help are not there. Even when people are there, they cannot be trusted because they will probably leave, too.

LONELINESS: The loss of identity in family leaves the feeling of being out of place and isolated, even when surrounded by people. The preference is to be alone in a self made “cocoon” rather than to be involved with people. The feeling of loneliness is often both hated and enjoyed. It is hated because the heart longs to be free to relate and enjoy relationships, but is enjoyed when it is able to gain sympathy from people without the tie of strong relationship. Self-protection is at the heart of this.

REJECTION: The feeling of being unwanted by people. One feels like a misfortune whose presence is a burden for those around you. The thought is, “Why should I even exist if I’m an inconvenience to others?”

HOPELESSNESS: Because the present is so unstable, one cannot even imagine what the future will hold. There are no dreams. Life becomes a puzzle of trying to put pieces together again to make sense out of life. One just exists with no sense of purpose or meaning.

WORTHLESSNESS: A conviction that says I am of no value. If a person comes who seeks to bring value to you or to appreciate you, it is denied and the person rejected.

LOSS OF IDENTITY: Tied into worthlessness. In the African culture people are identified by their fathers. Children are a priority because a man’s name and identity is continued in them. To die without children is to “perish”. On the other side, to lose a father is to lose the one where that identity is found. “Who is his Dad?” is asked of every child. If the father has died the reply is, “He’s just an orphan.” A result of this loss of identity is that one cannot identity himself with anyone (especially male figures who can easily betray). One can not lift his or her head- it stays “down” because the father, the source of identity, has died.

SADNESS: Tied into loneliness and the outflow of the hurt in the heart. Happiness can come for a moment, but it always gives way to the feeling of sadness. Even in the midst of a conversation, one's entire demeanour can suddenly change as the heart reconnects with its deep sadness. It is unexplainable by the person feeling sad, but it is the fruit of pain. It can also be a tool to keep people around to bring comfort, but without the commitment of relationship.

MISTRUST: It is hard to believe and trust what people say and do. Because one is alone, without value, and abandoned, one can have no confidence that people are truly there to help or that they are not trying to use him or her for their own benefit. The heart will ride out the relationship to the point of what one can get, but it is always ready to leave as soon as there is reason to suspect any kind of rejection. The heart is careful to select who it will allow to enter into its sphere. It operates in comfort zones.

HIDING: This is both physical and emotional whereby one does not really want to talk about real things, but it is free to talk about things surrounding the real issue, careful to make sure no access is given to the real issue. Authority figures are suspect and kept away because of the fear of experiencing the pain they might cause. Any correction means rejection and the heart retreats away from the corrector. Accountability is very difficult to accept, as the true problem is never dealt with, only surface problems.

SUPERFICIALITY: Tied into hiding, it becomes the guard of all relationships. One can never know the true heart as it is guarded and protected. Relationship is kept at a distance for fear that the true heart will be revealed. When the heart is pursued intentionally, the person will end it all together.

MANIPULATION: Using the situation one is in to convince people to give you what you want. Emotions, sadness, loneliness, all are used for the advantage of the suffering one. Life is a drama where acting becomes the key to gain.

DECEIT: Constant lies are told to make sure that the heart remains safe and protected. Truth will hurt and pain is to be avoided at all costs. The memory becomes selective and only exposes what will provide safety in the situation.

FEAR: This defines life. Anything that has the potential of causing pain or the memory of pain is to be fearfully avoided. Fear of what “could be” or “could happen” is always on the mind. It pushes the heart to pursue safety at all costs. Obedience does not flow out of what is good for me or out of love for the person asking, but because of the fear of what could happen if I fail to obey.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Sacrificing Children to Molech, Witchdoctors, and the Spirits

When I was in graduate school at Wheaton College, I took a class on Ancient Near Eastern History with my friend and professor Dr. John H. Walton. Dr. Walton often had us do research projects on the cultural backgrounds behind various Old Testament passages. Since I was moving toward ministry to orphans in Uganda, I tried to dig into as many passages dealing with orphans or children in the light of the world of the Ancient Near East. During that time I had come across the warning in quite a few passages about not offering up your children to Molech. The texts seemed plain to me in that they were warning against the age-old practice of sacrificing children, in this context to a god named Molech who especially demanded this ritual as a part of his worship. However, instead, I found quite a few authors arguing against this interpretation, making a case instead that it had more to do with “dedicating” children than actually sacrificing them. The same argument was given for the texts that speak about passing children through fire. Ultimately, then (as it seemed to me), these cultures were not so barbaric as to sacrifice children in any sense that would have to do with killing them. I mean, how could such a barbaric practice be found among “civilized” cultures? And yet it still does today.

I was caught off guard and quite alarmed a few years ago when I found out what all of the buzz was around New Hope. I had wondered why we were told that kids could no longer walk home alone, but had to be in groups and with older kids present. Evidently a new shrine was being dedicated somewhere in our vicinity (a shrine is a place where worship of spirits/ancestors takes place), and the witchdoctor had demanded that in order for it to be dedicated it had to have five human children skulls present (my wife remembers it as ten). This all hit a bit closer to home when a friend of ours who lives in the village had to run off one of his ex-employees who was hanging around his farm, trying to entice a few of the local children to walk home with him. He knew that this man was a part of the cult who was dedicating the shrine. Since the farm is only about a mile from us, it put all of us with small children on red-alert. Eventually the police got involved and to my understanding the shrine was never dedicated, but it did open up to me the stark reality of child-sacrifice that is still alive and well here in Uganda.

A few years ago I sat and talked with a couple of children’s workers from the Rakai area of Uganda. I had heard about Rakai from the Dangers, who to this day have some interesting stories about the times they have stayed in that place. What I heard from these children’s workers, though, really stunned me. Rakai is on the border of a lake (I’m forgetting the name). Now, here in Uganda, bodies of water are feared and reverenced as places where spirits dwell, sacred places if you will. Certain rituals are practiced by multitudes of people who want to both appease the spirits and while binding themselves to fear are attempting to get free from it. Well, these workers sat and told my wife and I an interesting fact: there are no (or few) abandoned babies in Rakai. Interesting, I thought. But it was the “why” that hit me square in the eyes: because they are all thrown into the lake. There is a serious spiritual/demonic bondage in that place unveiled in the reality of child sacrifice that is occurring there up to this day.

Over the last couple of months the topic of child-sacrifice has been popping up more and more in the news. I picked up a newspaper in Kampala (pictured above) with the headline, “Ritual Murder: Man Sacrifices Nephew for Shs50,000” (which is around $30). It’s been gaining press because it seems that of late it is happening on a wider scale within country. A good friend of ours had a serious scare when her nephew wandered off and was not seen again for a week. We were all praying against abduction, and it turned out that it was not. But the scare is all over the place.
The closest to home that this thing has hit has to do with the mother of our friend Fiona. Jaja (grandma), as we call her, has been keeping a young boy (11) and girl (13) to help her with her daily chores for survival (i.e. fetching water, digging in her small garden, etc.). Well, the week before Christmas, a neighbor man just showed up and took the children off with him to Kampala. No word about where or for how long, they were just simply gone one day. This put Jaja into serious concern. When the children had not returned after a week, the police were brought into the situation and her neighbor (who is another close friend of mine) Kibeti found himself going back and forth to the police for Jaja. Then suddenly the man showed up back here in the village, but without the kids. That was enough for the police who quickly told the man to go back to the city and to return with the children. He did, and then he was promptly arrested.

Though it does not appear that anything serious happened to the children (I only say that because of external appearances, not because of medical exams or their own testimony as of yet), what the man did had caused an uproar in the village around Jaja. With the man in prison and facing serious charges, his father decided to step in. The man’s father lives a bit of a distance from Jaja, but he journeyed to her house with one purpose in mind- scare Jaja into dropping charges against his son. God be praised that Kibeti “happened” to come up at just the time that this old man was yelling and threatening Jaja with serious words here in this culture. You see, the man is a witchdoctor and was threatening with statements like, “I can kill you, just like that. I just speak and things happen. If you don’t drop this right now, I will be against you. In fact, you must pay me the 200,000USh I have had to pay because of my son.” He then began chasing Jaja around her house! Kibeti told me that it took everything within him to stop from tearing the man’s head off!

But this is where I stand as a proud father, so proud of Kibeti- he never backed down in the face of serious threat of witchcraft. FEAR is such a controller here, and no one wields it better than a witchdoctor. In fact, as Kibeti moved around the village to find witnesses who would testify against the witchdoctor, no one would dare speak a word unless the man was already in prison. Kibeti and his wife stood alone, though, sure of the truth of Jesus authority in heaven and ON EARTH, refusing to allow the fear to stop their defense of the widow Jaja and the fatherless children who had been taken advantage of. They testified together and the witchdoctor now stands to be arrested (if they can find him!).

Yes, child-sacrifice is alive and well here in Uganda, but so are the continued injustices against helpless widows and fatherless children. In a way, they are all related. Pray for the church here to stand in the face of the evil powers that continue to destroy lives. Pray for freedom from fear and a boldness that can only come from truly seeing Jesus and basking in the truth of the Gospel that alone can free from fear- both fear of death and fear of Satan. Pray that child-sacrifice would end and that it would not be replaced with that sacrifice of another-kind called abortion, which is presently not allowed in this country.

[picture is taken from the Daily Monitor, edition Tuesday, December 30, 2008, No. 366]