The Methodist Covenant Prayer

I am no longer my own, but Thine.
Put me to what Thou wilt,
rank me with whom Thou wilt;
put me to doing, put me to suffering;
let me be employed for Thee
or laid aside for Thee;
let me be exalted for Thee,
or brought low for Thee;
let me be full, let me be empty;
let me have all things,
let me have nothing;
I freely and heartily yield all things
to Thy pleasure and disposal.

And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am Thine.
So be it.
And the covenant
which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.

On Disagreement

I bet we all dislike arguing, at least at a certain level. I have a couple teenagers in my house that seem to embrace it. But even they reach a point where they realize it is getting nowhere. Finding common ground when possible, affirmation of one another as people, and seeking understanding seem to be keys to ending arguing and turning toward discussion. And so I get to this article that I thought was interesting, especially in our East Africa context.

Disagreements in the church discourage me these days. Not the existence of disagreements—those are to be expected. We’ve been living with disagreement since the days of the early church. I’m talking about the way we handle debate.

In the blog post Are Tattoos Worse than Adultery?, Trevin Wax explains how different cultures can come to completely different viewpoints even regarding things that seem to be obvious. And so I want to be a person who moves from disagreement to understanding and peace. I definitely need to be better at cross-cultural communication.

More Thoughts

From the article “Is God For Us” by by Adam McClendon on the website “For the Church”. Thinking like he describes helps me to trust God in all circumstances, even when they do not fit what I think they should be.

In other words, God is focused on you, yes, but he does so within the grand scope of his redemptive plan for his people. It is about you, as you are a part of a greater body, and God’s securing of that body, even if that means bruising a toe to save the leg. Believer in Jesus, may God deliver us from our “me-centered” lives and help us see that he is orchestrating a tapestry of redemption, and it is our privileged to be used in any way he sees fit. If that means being faithful in a bad marriage as a witness to my spouse, my children, and the world, so be it. If that means risking it all to tell my family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers that Jesus loves them, so be it. If that means selling my home and moving to the mission field, so be it. If that means that I buy an Accord instead of a Lexis, or for most of us, I buy a used car instead of a new car, so that I can give the difference to those in need, so be it. If it means being a faithful witness while cancer ravishes my child’s body, so be it. If it means forgiving the drunk driver who killed my spouse in the car accident, so be it. If it means being faithful in the midst of great financial blessing as my stock portfolio goes through the roof, so be it.

In the end, my life is not my own. It belongs to the King. May we get our minds off of ourselves and our possessions and our families alone and surrender ourselves to God more fully. May we surrender our immediate comfort and happiness and pursue holiness saying, “God, use me as you see fit for your glory and the promotion of your kingdom among the nations.”

I differ from his text a bit as he has the comment “May we surrender our immediate comfort and happiness and pursue holiness saying . . ” I actually think the key to both short-term and long-term happiness is having this attitude.

To Whom Is God Faithful?

This is a thought, not well conceived, but in process. When God is faithful to us, is it as individuals or as a people, specifically Christians. God blessed Abraham to form a new nation that would be a blessing to the world, and God was faithful to Abraham on behalf of the world. Are we blessed just so we have goodness from God, or is God working through us to be a blessing so that our own personal well-being is secondary to that greater goal. Or are both realities the truth Is God only faithful to us individually to the point that it allows us to bless others.

I think it is both. We experience God’s blessing personally (how can we not?), but that blessing is to be used for the blessing of the world, both Christian and non-Christian. God’s generosity toward us is not just for ourselves, but is for the display of his love and faithfulness to the world.

And so everything good that comes our way, we can enjoy, but we should also look to how it could be used for the good of others. We are God’s conduits of faithfulness and love.

As an aside, been listening to John Mark Comer preach recently, and I have been listening to the book below on Audible. Allison and I enjoy him and find him edifying. Also, he has a cool Portland vibe! See below for a link to his church’s sermons as well as to the book.

Love This Show

Everybody seems to know about this show and watch it. We are big fans in our house. The episode below is when Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night. It is best watched after seeing the previous episodes, as you see that Nicodemus really wants to know God and wants to see his kingdom come. He cares about the things of God. And so when he meets Jesus at night, it is very powerful. So if you are one of the few who have not heard of this show or think it is not worth your time . . . give it a try.

Thoughts on Faith

I had a discussion with a more experienced physician of whom I was asking for advice. I call Steve with medical questions because he can help me sort out the balance of taking good care of patients in a resource limited situation and how to weigh futility against aggressive hope. But our conversation this time was more about interpersonal relationships in a pandemic when opinions can be so varied. We drifted into discussions of the role of missions in Kenya versus other parts of the world, how do we deal with people dying who would never die in a developed nation. We acknowledged that we deny the trauma of watching people die compartmentalizing it into some sort of work related box disconnected from our emotions. Finally we ended up in theology. Later, I was emailing with another friend Matt, and shared some thoughts that came out of that conversation which I have posted below copied from our email. This thought has been stuck in my brain since talking with Steve, and I am trying hard to sort whether it is true.

I have been thinking a lot about how as Christians we are called to die, not called to live. Also wondering about affluent Christianity, and how it affects my own thinking. Kenya Christians and Peruvian Christians think about God as suffering with them, not taking care of them. A subtle difference, but I know I pray for God’s provision probably as much as his presence (or I am thinking more of his care of me instead of just being with me). I am afraid that is cultural baggage and not the true message of Christ. Our truly poor brothers probably have it more correct.

Steve mentioned that he had been studying the story of Jesus in the boat with his disciples. Jesus slept, the storm came and threatened to sink their boat. The disciples woke Jesus and he calmed the storm saving the boat and his followers. We often read this story as Jesus protection and power over even the storm. And I agree with that. But Steve pointed out that God does not always save the boat. We see Jesus followers die all the time. Within the last week I have watched two mothers die leaving widowed husbands and motherless children. Jesus own disciples (except John) were all killed for the gospel’s sake. But Jesus is always in the boat with us, whether it stays afloat or goes down. So he may not rescue us in our times of struggle, but for sure he is with us, and that is good news too.

Sunday Night in Kijabe

Some random thoughts this morning. Most often we attend a small group Bible study on Sunday nights. This week we hosted at our place. It is a nice time to relax and enjoy other’s company. It is a good time to pray corporately. Almost always it is part of making new friendships in the transient world of a missionary community. We miss friends back home . . . did you know we have been living outside the US for almost 9 years! It has felt short and long. Our kids were small when we left, and now we send our oldest off to college next year at Abilene Christian University. Time really does fly as they say. It is sad to see him go, especially after such a bummer year with the COVID restrictions. On the other hand I am really happy for him. ACU is a blast, or at least it was. I hope it continues to be so. In the picture below are several of our Kijabe friends. One couple runs an organization committed to environmental protection while encouraging productive farming. Another teaches at the local seminary. Another is helping to establish small clinics in the poorest communities of Kenya. Another is an anesthesiologist at the hospital. There is a lot of good work being done!

The Great Leap

“The position was not, as I had been comfortably thinking all these months, merely a question of whether I was to accept the Messiah or not. It was a question of whether I was to accept Him—or reject. My God! There was gap behind me, too. Perhaps the leap to acceptance was a horrifying gamble—but what of the leap to rejection? There might be no certainty that Christ was God—but, by God, there was no certainty that He was not. If I were to accept, I might, and probably would, face the thought through the years: ‘Perhaps, after all, it’s a lie; I’ve been had!’ But, if I were to reject, I would certainly face the haunting, terrible thought: ‘Perhaps it’s true—and I have rejected my God!’ This was not to be borne. I could not reject Jesus. There was only one thing to do, once I had seen the gap behind me. I turned away from it and flung myself over the gap toward Jesus.”

Simmons III, Richard E. Reflections On The Existence Of God: A Series Of Essays (pp. 249-250). The Center for Executive Leadership. Kindle Edition.

Every Life is of Value

Working my way through a good book. Here it is quoting an article by Philip Yancey.

I then read an article in Christianity Today that its editor, Philip Yancey, had written. The article summarized an interview that he conducted with a pastor who had fought in World War II and, in fact, had been at Dachau as it was liberated in April 1945. The following is the account of Yancey’s experience: “It was a blustery Chicago day, and I sat hunched in a wool sweater next to a hissing radiator… The pastor looked off to his right, seeming to focus on a blank space on the wall. He was silent for at least a minute. His eyes moved back and forth rapidly, as if straining to fill in the scene from forty years before. Finally, he spoke, and for the next twenty minutes he recalled the sights, the sounds, and the smells especially the smells that greeted his units as they marched through the gates of Dachau. For weeks, the soldiers had heard wild rumors about the camps, but believing them to be war propaganda, they gave little credence to such rumors. Nothing prepared them, and nothing could have possibly prepared them, for what they found inside.

A buddy and I were assigned to one boxcar. Inside were human corpses, stacked in neat rows, exactly like firewood. The Germans, ever meticulous, had planned out the rows alternating the head and feet, accommodating different sizes and shapes of bodies. Our job was like moving furniture. We would pick up each body so light! and carry it to a designated area. Some fellows couldn’t do this part. They stood by the barbed wire fences, retching. I couldn’t believe it the first time we came across a person in the pile still alive. But it was true. Incredibly, some of the corpses weren’t corpses. They were human beings. We yelled for doctors, and they went to work on these survivors right away. I spent two hours in that boxcar, two hours that, for me, included every known emotion: rage, pity, shame, revulsion every negative emotion, I should say. They came in waves, all but the rage. It stayed, fueling our work. We had no other emotional vocabulary for such a scene. After we had taken the few survivors to a makeshift clinic, we turned our attention to the SS officers in charge of Dachau, who were being held under guard in a bunkhouse. Army Intelligence had set up an interrogation center nearby. It was outside the camp, and to reach it, you had to walk down a ravine through some trees. The captain asked for a volunteer to escort a group of twelve SS prisoners to the interrogation center, and Chuck’s hand went straight up. Chuck was the loudest, most brash, most volatile soldier in our unit. He stood about five-feet four inches tall, but he had overly long arms so that his hands hung down around his knees like a gorilla’s. He came from Cicero, a suburb of Chicago, known mainly for its racism and its association with Al Capone. Chuck claimed to have worked for Capone before the war, and not one of us doubted it. Well, Chuck grabbed a submachine gun and prodded the group of SS prisoners down the trail. They walked ahead of him with their hands locked back behind their heads, their elbows sticking out on either side. A few minutes after they disappeared into the trees, we heard the rattling burp of machine gun in three long bursts of fire. We all ducked; it could have been a German sniper in the woods. But soon Chuck came strolling out, smoke still curling from the tip of his weapon. “They all tried to run away,” he said, with a kind of leer.

I asked if anyone reported what he did or took disciplinary action. The pastor laughed, and then he gave me a ‘get-serious-this-is-war’ look.

No, and that’s what got to me. It was on that day that Ifelt called by God to become a pastor. First, there was the horror of the corpses in the boxcar. I could not absorb such a scene. I did not even know such Absolute Evil existed. But when I saw it, I knew beyond doubt that I must spend my life serving whatever opposed such Evil serving God. Then came the Chuck incident. I had a nauseating fear that the captain might call on me to escort the next group of SS guards, and even more, dreadful fear that if he did, I might do the same as Chuck. The beast that was within those guards was also with me.

I could not coax more reminiscing from the pastor that day. Either he had probed the past enough or he felt obligated to move on to our own agenda. But before we left the subject entirely, I asked a question that, as I look back now, seems almost impudent. ‘Tell me,’ I asked, ‘after such a cosmic kind of call to the ministry confronting the great Evil of the century how must it feel to fulfill that call by sitting in this office listening to middle-class yuppies like me ramble on about our problems?’ His answer came back quickly, as if he had asked himself that question many times.

‘I do see the connection,’ he said. ‘Without being melodramatic, I sometimes wonder what might have happened if a skilled, sensitive person had befriended the young, impressionable Adolf Hitler as he wandered the streets of Vienna in his confused state. The world might have been spared all that bloodshed at Dachau. I never know who might be sitting in that chair you’re occupying right now. And even if I end up spending my life with “nobodies,” I learned in the boxcar that there is no such thing. Those corpses with a pulse were as close to nobodies as you can get: mere skeletons wrapped in papery skin. But I would have done anything to keep those poor, ragged souls alive. Our medics stayed up all night to save them; some in our company lost their lives to liberate them. There are no “nobodies.” I learned that day in Dachau what “the image of God” in a human being is all about.

Ask yourself a very simple question. Do you believe that you—and all other human beings—are unique in a way that cannot be explained by the idea that you are a sophisticated animal or an elaborate machine? Do your family members and all the people in your life have value beyond the emotional, physical, and financial support that you get from them? The only way that human life can be extolled and held sacred is if God in His divine wisdom created humanity as a reflection of Himself.

Simmons III, Richard E. Reflections On The Existence Of God: A Series Of Essays (pp. 42-44). The Center for Executive Leadership. Kindle Edition.