Murchison Animals on Video

The still pictures are good, but videos are even more powerful.

Of course the winner is the lioness and her cubs on the hunt here. If you listen closely, you will hear her calling her cubs.

I love watching giraffes moving across in their stately elegance across the savannah here or feeding in the forest here

Crested cranes as beautiful, but also enjoy being quite artistic as they “display” trying to stir up an interest in romance here. It is common in humans too, but usually is not see elegant.

There are SO many antelope in the park, ranging from the small oribi to the comic Jackson’s Hartebeest to the national animal of Uganda, the Kob with its curling horns. They are in this video here. There are also the larger darker waterbuck.

The trip up the Victoria Nile allowed us to see a riverside elephant family here.

Hippos are very common. The female group here included a mother and small son here. On the  other side of the river was Mr. hippo here.

Crocodiles are fascinating but We saw several sunning themselves, laying with their mouths open, or running alongside the water. I was despairing of getting a picture because they were all to quick to slide back into the river. The very last one we saw was not in quite so big a hurry as you can see here.

God loves to create a wide variety of amazing animals.

Uganda Murchison Falls Tuesday

There is just no way I can express the beauty of this park! I put pictures on my facebook page here. Since internet connectivity is expensive I won’t repeat them here.

A large number of people live in extremely modest housing, usually just a single small room with no water or electricity. They cook with charcoal and carry water from a common pump in the area. The problem is that well to do people want to build nicer houses so they just bulldoze these and the people have to find another place to live, usually far away from the place where their lives have centered. You can imagine the disruption.

P4190026Driving up, I was struck by the public nature of life here. Everything happens in front of the little shops and rooms where folk live. It is hard to get pictures of as we drive along. The bodas (small motorcycles that are a primary form of public transportation) are everywhere, hauling everything. We saw one group of people struggling to fasten a coffin to the back of a boda.

We had our first view of the Nile as we crossed at Karuma Falls. Catharine and Pious (our driver) both warned me not to take pictures. This was one of the hot spots back in the day when Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army were active in this area. Soldiers in their barracks made a “no photographs” rule and it stands. I complied since didn’t want my camera confiscated. As we crossed the Ayago Bridge, Pious told us that the LRA would hide under the bridge and jump out to ambush passing vehicles, attacking people, stealing everything, and burning the cars. He was caught in an ambush once and escaped only by bending as low as possible with bullets flying everywhere.

The entrance to the park was a chance to stretch our legs and pay a lot of money to visit. While there is some of the “soak the tourists” mentality, and I fully agree with paying for the chance to see such beauty. We laughed and worshipped as we began to see all sorts of animals, but hurried on so we could catch the lunch at the lodge. The Paraa Lodge has the style of British elegance so we were welcomed with hot towels and fresh passion juice.

We went for an afternoon game drive and Pious found Henry, a senior ranger, who guided us. They were amazing. Herds of water buffalo, families of wart hogs, huddles of giraffes, clusters of elephants including babies, four kinds of antelope including Kob the national animal and my favorite, the tiny Oribi, and birds of all kinds including huge eagles and storks, but it all topped off with the lions.

The rules are NO off road driving – strictly enforced!! But Henry told Pious to go there and soon we were watching a lioness in full relax. She rolled over on her back inviting us to come rub her tummy. We resisted the call! We were just 25 feet or so away, so we got a good look at her.

But that was just the beginning. Henry took us back near the airport and again told Pious to go off road. We drove through the savannah nearly a kilometer to find two lions.

The first lion was a tragic story since he had lost one of his back legs, probably to a poacher’s snare. After a bit Henry moved us to another tree with a second lion. We awe struck as we watched them from just a few feet away. He stretched, yawned, looked and then decided the shade was better in front of our Land Rover, so he ambled over and laid down just in front of the bumper and relaxed. Can you spell unbelievable??

Uganda Day 7 Monday

P4180011We left the house early because it is the first day of the school term and traffic is a killer. So we pulled out at 6:40 headed for the Hope Alive! country office where the training of the mentors and staff would happen. I tried to get pictures of the traffic and all the students walking  but they really didn’t show what was happening. This truck full of police officers shows some of the crowds!

P4180022P4180020The view from the staff room on the second floor was beautiful. So green with beautiful clouds and lots of people hidden behind the green. Catharine took her rightful place as executive director and we all did some work until the 9:00 teaching time arrived.

P4180021Catharine gets gifts from some of the students. One was this fine rooster who proudly oversees his flock. Florence is the full time house lady for the office. One of her jobs is to care for them. She is quite popular when they smell her food.

P4180109I love teaching with Bible open on the wall so I can ask questions, point to words, make emphasis, and get people into God’s word directly. Pauline, financial secretary, is in the green to my left. She is full of life and laughter. She won a Master Card Foundation full ride scholarship to Arizona State University, so you see how bright folk are here. The issue now is getting all her papers from  the embassy for her visa. They just take longer sometimes.

Tea!We took tea which is pretty serious snacking with lots of stories and fun.

An adanced grass cutter: weed eater rather than swinging a macheteAs I was finishing up my teaching I heard a weed eater going so I took my tea and found this fellow. He is “slashing,” cutting grass. It is usually done with a machete, but he is doing the up to date method. I wondered how long it would take him to do that whole area. I asked if he slashed the yard at the country office. No, they said. Someone else had that job though he had to leave a couple of months ago.

Martin: the grass cutter with injured eyeAs tea finished, I heard James and Catharine talking earnestly about something.  They went downstairs, so I followed them. It turned out to be Martin, the former grass slasher. He was dabbing at his right eye and clearly in a lot of pain. As I listened, I heard that his eye had been seriously injured. Surgery had not helped at all. He needed more treatment but had no money at all. It was very likely he would lose his eye, he thought. I heard him say, “I have no where to go except to my friends at Hope Alive!” We heard more of his story and then gathered around him to pray. James (far right) took him upstairs to see what could be done. What a helpless place to be.

Finding the Will of God

Finding the will of God is a most relevant issue — so I preached on it at Corban University for their year end chapel. I responded to the “traditional” searching for the “dot” of His perfect will and then outlined my 5 step process: Be Christlike, Search Scripture to rule out sinful, Live wisely to rule out stupid, Inquire of God: He may have an opinion, Do what will make you most deeply happy. The sermon recording is here, the outline here, and the Power Point here.

Acton 2012

I am at Acton University in Grand Rapids. the people here describe it as a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. Guided by a distinguished, international faculty, Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, Christian theology and sound economics

Network with people from diverse backgrounds who share a concern about issues at the heart of faith and freedom. The goal is that I/we will be better in articulating my understanding of the Judeo-Christian view of liberty and morality and its application in a free and virtuous society.

Acton gives me a chance to reaffirm some friendships and meet interesting new people while going to classes where I am stretched in areas I know little about. At yesterday’s reception for those of us who are Kern Fellows, I met Dr. Roland Hill, Director of Development and Stewardship for the Seventh Day Adventists of Texas. Fascinating conversation around theology and economics.

I had very much looked forward to the opening session with Michael Novak. Unfortunately it was just a personal remembering of people and events rather than a lesson from the history he has been involved in.

The geese greeted me at the end of the day as I walked back along the Grand Rapids River on the River Walk that takes me right down to water level. Beautiful!

Defining “ordain” and “pastor”

Evangelicals are wrestling with what to do with these two terms. Grace is typical of many other churches. Our by laws define “pastor” as a full time paid ministry staff who is also an elder. Since Dennis retired our only official pastor is Jay. Gerry Smith is now full time paid ministry staff and an elder, but not yet congregationally voted to be a pastor (we overlooked the congregational vote required in the bylaws). He will soon be Pastor Gerry. Then he will be Pastor Gerry though not ordained and I will only be Elder Gerry though I am ordained. 

Here is our current definition of “ordain:” When appropriate, the elders shall call for the public ordination of a pastor. Ordination means that a man (1) satisfies the biblical qualifications for an elder, (2) is considered by the elders and the church to be called by God to the ministry of the Gospel, and (3) is commissioned by the church to an appropriate avenue of such ministry. The appropriateness of ordaining a man serving in a non-pastoral ministry (e.g. missionary) will be evaluated by the elders."

At the time this definition was written ordination (an extra biblical culturally defined term) was almost always for pastors (another extra biblical culturally defined term), usually meaning a preacher, the leader of the church in our church or as missionary sent from our church. It was normal to commission chaplains who hadn’t already been ordained as pastors. The government currently recognizes both terms.

What do we do with other full time ministry staff who are shepherding people but not elders? They are not “pastor” but people are calling them “pastor.” What term do we use when we introduce them when they are doing something on stage in a Sunday service?

“Pastor” is also changing to mean a full time ministry professional who does shepherding of people in a church, not just the preacher dude. The professional norm for chaplains is now ordination. Virtually all chaplains are now ordained though most had never been or will be pastors of churches.

I want to see evangelical churches go with the current professional standard rather than the older professional standard. What makes that hard is that we still have in our minds and emotions that “ordain” means “pastor” which means a person is or could be the preacher, leader of a church. The change is wrenching because the terms have strong emotional attachments. The older definitions have almost biblical authority for people who came into leadership in the church a couple of decades ago. The emotions get all the higher in churches with a complementarian view where elder is an office reserved for men.

Wish we were going with biblical terms like elder and deacon. The God would tell us what to do and it would all be easy – well easier. There are huge cultural ramifications to those terms too!

Hebrews Warnings

I’ve been working on the warning passages in Hebrews for quite a while. But when I got asked to preach them in our series at Grace, I  had to stop thinking and produce! The sermon actually worried me because most sermons are pretty encouraging even when they call people to action or change. But the warnings are very serious (6:4-6: it is impossible to be renewed to repentance) and severe (10:26-27: nothing remains but a fury of fire that consumes). Even if that comes in an encouraging context (6:8 in your case, beloved, we think better things), it is still a warning of hard things.

A key to understanding is to put things in context.

context

 

To understand Hebrews 6 go back to Numbers 13-14 and Deuteronomy 1. To understand Hebrews 10, go back to Babylon. Kadesh Barnea tells us  Israel had seen the hand of God but refused to believe His promise that He had given them the Land. They rebelled and refused to enter the Land after sending in spies. They believed “The LORD hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. God forgave their sin, but in His anger swore they would never enter the Land. The people “repented,” again ignoring God’s promise, and arrogantly entered the Land but were defeated. No amount of weeping or religious ritual cancelled the consequence. God protected them from enemies, provided manna, water. Even their shoes did not wear out. But they die in the desert, not in the land.

Similarly if believers who shared in His enriching provision, His enabling Spirit, His incomparable Word, His strengthening power, then fall away, it is impossible for them to be brought back to repentance. While they are still His children with His acceptance and provision, they lose specific blessing of the LORD now and forever. Who knows exactly what that lost blessing might be. It might be the intimacy with God, or the sense of His presence and comfort.

The place went serious when I suggested we might lose a level of intimacy with God forever. Somehow everyone has the view that we may mess up now, but Jesus will make it all good when we see Him. He will renew us and we will all be be equal before Him. American egalitarianism runs deep. But His life here suggests differently. There were many disciples, but only 12 were chosen to be Apostles. Among the Apostles, there were 3 who were closer, who were there for special events like the transfiguration and the Garden. Among the three Peter was the closest. Similarly the rewards passages like Luke 19 suggest that those who return more get more in the kingdom. Ten minas means 10 cities and five means 5 cities, where ruling cities refers to opportunities to do more cool things with Jesus.

Chapter 10 shows us that those who deliberately defiantly sin may have God respond with severe punishment, like that of the Israelites being sent to Babylon. The widespread lie that God does not punish His children is partly true: He does not work out his anger on His children. He does not punish people who really trying nor ones who who make mistakes. But He does punish rebellion.

The out come is that the call to all to draw near and enjoy the lavish banquet He provides freely is a wonderful opportunity. Jesus will never reject the one who comes to Him (John 3:16; 6:37; Psa. 102:17; Isa. 1:18-19; Matt. Matt. 11:28-30) But something is seriously wrong with those who don’t want His salvation, whether that’s justification or the fullness of His intimacy. It’s dangerous when we are OK with ignorance or immaturity. I think a lot of the fear of drawing near comes from Satan’s story that God isn’t trustworthy. He accuses, “what kind of God would make you lose your job?” When Satan reminds me of the trouble in my life and suggests God doesn’t care, look at the Cross and remember how much He cares. That One is God Himself. There’s no way a God who doesn’t care would do that. So we draw near to the beauty of Jesus.

The sermon is here or go to gracecc.net and look at the Hebrews series. 

 

 

 

 

Jesus in the Qur’an

Sherry and I were at the Jesus in the Qur’an conference (web site here) in Corvallis over the weekend. I knew some of the things the Qur’an taught about Jesus, but was amazed when we gave it careful attention. It teaches that Jesus is a miracle and a sign (Sura 2:87 and 21:91), a prophet (19:30), the only prophet born of a virgin (3:47), the only prophet who is sinless (19:19), the only prophet who was brought near to God (3:45), the only prophet who performed healings and resurrections (5:110), the only prophet who is called the word of God ((3:45, 4:171), the only prophet who was called Messiah – and called that 11 times (4:157, etc.).

In light of the wonderful prayer which makes up Sura 1, the statement in 3:50-51 is amazing: Jesus says, “fear God and obey me. This is a Straight Path.”

I am wondering if Mohammed  really was pointing to Jesus, especially in the earlier days, and his followers missed the message. Lots to think about and talk about.

Despite my role as elder at Grace Community Church and that I am officially old, I did find it hard to park in this spot:2012-04-14 07.48.09

Beirut #6

Beirut 31You Beirut 32would think that a Portlander would never trust the weather report, but somehow I did when it said it would rain (yes, that’s the Portland default). I cancelled the plans to take a tour to Baalback or some such place. Of course, the early morning shower was all alone in the world and the day was mostly sunny! We had tentative plans to go downtown for supper with a friend but a meeting and a lost passport in the group he was leading nixed those plans. The result was that our day off teaching was pretty normal. After breakfast I joined a Bible study with Daniel from India, Barnaba from South Sudan, Samar from Egypt, and Diana (not in the picture) from USA and Lebanon. It is a kick to hear the different perspectives but very sad to hear Barnaba telling about the rising conflict that’s killing South Sudan . . . again.

I got upstairs to see Mary in our room with Sherry. When we first came in 2002, she was running the dining room. She took great pains to be sure the food was to our liking and we were well taken care of in every way. Now she’s semi-retired and oversees the room service. She’s still the wonderful caring person who laughs often and bring joy to everyone.

Beirut 33I was invited to the ABTS faculty meeting. I asked what the agenda was. Coffee, snacks and sharing life. What a great agenda! After I took pictures of them, Hikmat insisted that I join and took our picture. He loaned me his book where he did the first ever cataloging of the Arabic Gospel Documents which is a huge contribution to the world of New Testament textual criticism. Along with being a first class scholar and both NT faculty member and dean, he also pastors a local church which has tripled in size to about 200 in Sunday attendance since he took over after he finished his PhD about three years ago.

We had lunch with the woman who had to flee her country after being severely persecuted for becoming a Christian. We heard more of her faith and her love for Jesus and the Muslim people. Her tears were close as she described what a wonderful hope she had now that she has her very own Bible and can read freely to learn more about her Savior. Absolutely fascinating.

Beirut 34Akram, another long time member of the ABTS service staff, enjoys Turkish coffee, an after lunch is a tradition here. I couldn’t get Sherry to try it.

We went to get snacks and Starbucks with Scott Keranen. Sherry and I both appreciated the unusual bill board. And we deeply enjoy the sunsets from our room. Beirut 35

Beirut 36

 

Beirut #5

Today was the first day of class so I was eager to meet my students. At breakfast, I wondered who they might be, as I did as we worshipped in chapel. Finally 10:00 came and the students began to arrive. A few have English so we talked directly. Most do not so translation slows down conversation. As they told their stories, I delighted in ministry stories from Iraq, Egypt, Syria, North and South Sudan, and Lebanon, of course. One of the exciting points is that there are three husband/wife teams in the class.

Walid is my translator. He is assistant librarian who teaches some classes and hopes to grow into a full professor after he finishes his advanced studies at the seminary in Prague. After introductions, we opened our Bibles and went to work. My questioning style is not normal at all, but they enjoy engaging with issues so they quickly got engaged. By the end of the class time, they were actively wrestling, almost arguing, about which interpretation was correct. I just stood back and smiled to see them learning actively and personally. Three hours went by very quickly.

Beirut 23After lunch, we went down to show off my portable coffee maker to Diane, one of the Institute of Middle Eastern Studies staff. She is the espresso lady but wanted to see my travel brewer. We ended up in a laugh filled reciting of international coffee stories. So like times here with the great diversity of ethnicities and cultures. We visited Marcelle to see about how to get to the airport in the extremely early hours of Sunday. The taxi will pick us up at 1:00 am. Since the taxi didn’t show up last time we had that arrangement, I wanted a backup plan. “It will be here,” Marcelle insisted. “It is Trust Taxi.”

Who is practicing a favorite activity? Beirut 21

Sunset tonight was spectacular as the clouds that will bring us showers for the next three days approach. Enjoy God’s beautiful art: Beirut 22