This week catches me in the middle of an indepth study on prayer. I'm intending to go through the Lord's prayer with the men's group, starting next week. But my study hasn't even made it that far yet - as always I find the Lord keeps me busy in ideas that precede prayer - ie preparing ourselves for prayer. The topic last week at men's group (customs and traditions which contradict scripture) set off a whole thought process about how we can use "vain repetition" in prayers and even how we use the "name of Jesus" as an incantation or "magical" phrase tagged onto the end of our prayers. Did you know for example the exact phares "in the name of Jesus" is only used 7 times in the NT (in the book of ACTS only) and not one occurence is used within the context of a prayer (2 in respect of baptism into his name: Acts 2:38 & 10:48; 3 in respect to teaching in his name (2 forbidding to do so) - Acts 4:18, 5:40 & 9:27); 1 in relation to healing - Acts 3:6; and finally in relation to exorcism - Acts 16:18). Before you jump on me, please be aware, I've also looked at variations of this phase, including the OT phrase: "calling upon the name of the Lord"; and it's NT equivalent "ask in his name" (found predominantly in John's gospel). I'm not saying what conclusions I've come to, as I haven't yet, but it's very intersting - what traditional short-hands we have grown up with. Especially as we should be praying with meaning, intention and focus.
This week, at the behest of the men, we shall be contininuing to look at other customs which are anti-scriptural. It was surprising how quickly they welcomed the challenge to their way of thinking last week - they literally begged me to look at others. They seemed to be very enthusiastic about it. I pray so and that they act on changing/ laying them down, as it will set them free from bondages that held them for too long.
I found out another interesting related fact this week, when I attended my first Kenyan funeral here. I'll share the differences I noticed in a minute. But apparently, some politicians here (I'm not saying all, as I'm sure that can't be the case) when they obtain money - dedicate and make a pact with spirits. Hence if you take money from a politician who has done so (e.g a bribe or some other back-hander), then it is said you are coming under " their control, power and influence" and ergo, obviously those particular spirits too. It got me wondering (these things usually do).
Africans are far more in touch with the spiritual world and things of a spiritaul nature than we are - so they tend to recognise it quickly - being so close to it still, e.g witchcraft is still widely and openly practiced here. Nor have they "rationalised" it away from their everyday thinking, as we in the west have. We tend to assign many things to natural causes, ie we've rationalised them away to a natural explanation of events and happenings. We shun the spiritual and anything to do with the supernatural in favour rational explanations - what we can see, touch and hear. This even pervades the churches (although some would argue not all - but look at them and you will see a rejection of "rationalism", logic and reasoning, in favour of "the experience" (post-modernism) - e.g. the emergent churches. Btw, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, they just need time to grow up and realise they need to not take scriptures out of context - we could do with some experiencing of God's supernatural presence ourselves). Just look at how much "rationalism" and the subsequent following philosophies have affected our thinking in the last 200 years. The theory of evolution being one such philosophy (yes evolution is a belief system!) which has completely replaced the supernatural events of creation. Anyway, back to the point - so easily distracted.
It got me thinking, what if, in our reasoning, we have assigned things to the natural, something which is in actual fact spiritual. For example, taking a loan of "gift" from a business man, although not "overtly" dedicated to an idol / spirit, is still actually connected to a spirit and we come under it's influence? Remember, many business men, have idolised the pursuit of wealth, money and possessions - in effect they have dedicated themselves to the God of money, and sometimes they give money with "strings" attached..... Just a thought.
I promised some differences between a Kenyan and English funeral service:
1. There is no obvious sign of "mourning" actually occuring;
2. It focuses on the living still here, and not the deceased so much;
3. It is more of a celebration - even the songs are joyful - they even dance!;
4. Many ppl speak and share, not just one or two, and even then the focus is on those present to support/care and provide for the widow and children left behind, e.g. their education. Remember there is no welfare state here, no real free education and insurance (of any kind) is unheard of in the villages);
5. It is used as an oportunity for community information dissemination. It is one of those rare occasions where a large proportion of the community is there, and so is a good time to inform. Many of the local village elders also speak; and
6. They last many hours (5hrs by my count, and then the body still had not been buried)
In short, when I die, I want my funeral service to be like they are here.
I went to a satellite Sunday School on Sunday and shared with the children about "taste and see that Lord is good" (Ps 34:8) and “I have stored up (laid) your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Ps 119:10). I gave each of them a lolly and linked it to how they should also enjoy reading "eating" God's word. They all want to see me again. There is so much to do here. I feel like I need to be able to clone myself and be in more than one place at a time. Instead, I'm encouraging the older youth to start working with me and hence get them involved in doing Sunday School lessons. Even this difficult when I'm at a different church every two to three weeks. I'm so aware that consistency is key when it comes to children. Please pray that God enthuses these young people to come on this journey with me.
Tomorrow I attend the Barassa with the pastors and will be discussing with them how to run a group to help train their keyboard players some basics of music (notes, keys, chords etc) and hopefully some teaching on leading worship. So much here is ruined by over-zealous use of the PA systems they have - ie they have them too loud and they tend to play everything in one key using all the black notes.
And next week I hope to start on my study of praying with the men and will be doing the full works at another church. I also hope to be returning to the women's groups soon to do the same thing with them as the men - draw up a "Women's declaration". The Bishop has fully embraced it and is very keen for the women to have one too. Past that, this can then be used in the other churches also. Please continue to pray God uses this medium to help transform their thinking and behaviour towards one another. I'm still waiting for the first man to sit next to his wife in church - inspite of asking, challenging them to do so every week. In fact, I've had several "yes" (promises) from men to do so. They are not going to like me this Tuesday, when I point out the verse that says: "a man keeps his word, even when it hurts".
I still pray for serious medical situations every day - a lady who has kidney failure - asking for a miracle. A woman who is bleeding again after two months pregnancy. This by the way, is clear example of witchcraft at work. The husband had formerly been married to a muslim here (the muslim probably makes very little difference), but when he remarried his current wife, she came and painted on the door in blood "a cross" in the shape of an 'X' and the words "No Child". Since that has happened she has carried no child to full term. I prayed last night about this and gave instruction to write on the door the following - a cross ➕ and the words "NEW LIFE" written in red. I believe the Holy Spirit connected Deut 6:9 to me " you shall write them on your doorposts of your house and on your gates", in that the other cross and curse was a perversion of God's instructions of blessing in Deut 6:9 and that this was to be a symobolic representation of the destroying of the devils work by the Son, which has already been accomplished upon the cross. (1 John 3:8).
That's it for this week, until next week, may you all be blessed and highly favoured.
P.S. I forgot to mention:
1. I should now have sufficient funds to buy 20 bibles thanks to two of you and one of my aunts';
2. And a big thank you to June who has enabled the purchase of 20 chairs and a table for the school, at which, I think, I will be officially presenting to the school (although they aready have them I believe) and speaking to the parents this coming Wednesday.