Relationships in the Fast Lane V: Go and do Good

I belong to a very vibrant LIFE group. This group is a very refreshing part of my ministry. This week we were on Ch 5 of our study of Mkenya Halisi, on the Man eat Man Society. And so once again I was blessed by the sharing of the group. Jeff and Anne Kimari told us how they went against the Man eat Man mentality when they helped a woman who was involved in a car accident. Jeff took the lady to hospital, called her husband and called the insurance company. All the while Anne was keeping watch over the car. Not only that, they thwarted the attempts of the matatu crew that had hit her car from behind, who were trying to tell the police that the lady had been talking on phone and that she was at fault. Anne and a few others gave the true story. Anne and Jeff were amongst those who recorded statements with the police. They also proceeded to be witnesses in court, which meant at least three trips to court. Sadly, the file disappeared and the case fizzled into the blue. But not the relationship. Jeff and Anne told us how the lady has visited them severally and still keeps in touch with them. Now that is what I call the spirit of Ubuntu, that I have said is at threat on the continent of Africa. Through acts of individuals such as Jeff and Anne, the spirit keeps alive on the continent.

 

Would it be a complete story to say that purely the Spirit of Ubuntu drives Jeff and Anne and others? Is there more to the story. Over this month we have been speaking on Relationships in the Fast Lane. It has been an attempt to recapture the place of relationships in a world full of pressures, because we need those relationships even more in fast paced world. I began the month by saying that our national psyche has affected the kind of people we are and by extension the kinds of relationships we have. Colonialism, the struggle for independence, the explosion of corruption and unhindered greed in the 80’s through to the post – election violence five years ago, which led to the country experiencing a sense of rebirth before and after the elections this year. Yet through all these experiences that should have deflated many a nation, there is still a remnant of people in the country like Jeff and Anne. What would drive people such as these and why shouldn’t there be more. Turn with me to Luke 10: 25 – 37 (read)

 

Redefining your Neighbour

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbour as yourself”. That the Law could be summarised by a focus on two people says something. I am sure all of us are comfortable about the first person being God himself as the focus of our love. I guess we do not have a problem with our neighbours being the second, but we can ignore that to a certain extent because they are not at the same level as God.  Especially if we are told to love our neighbours as we love ourselves and judging by what we saw of ourselves in the mirror this morning, some of us will feel we do not need too much to love our neighbour. Yet this is the Law summarised. Indeed such is its emphasis on the matter that Jesus said to the man who asked and answered the question by telling him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live”.

 

We are dying slowly and we may not realise it. We are dying because as I look at our relationships, many of them are in the Fast Lane. There is less and less of loving our neighbours. But could it also be that in this modern deviation from the spirit of Ubuntu, we have gotten confused about what our neighbour means. Could it also be that the downside of Ubuntu has always been that the definition of my neighbour has been my clan, then my tribe, then my people group, and then my fellow countryman. Which is why I began with the need to analyse the national psyche and its effect on our relationships. The result has been that my neighbour is the person most closely related to me from within my tribe before anything else.

 

For the people who listened to Jesus give this story, their definitions were challenged. For those of you who are familiar with this story, you understand that Jesus was setting the bar very high for what a neighbour was  – the kind you were to love. Because at the end of the day, it was not the people from his own side of society who helped the man  – coming from Jerusalem he must have been a Jew and obviously so for the Priest and the Levites. These men who were in fact the most expected to help not only passed but also crossed over to the other side. Instead the man least expected to help was the one who had mercy and not helped but went out of his way to do so. This man was considered to be the lowest kind of person in society, so much o that that the road from Jerusalem to Jericho was longer just to avoid the Samaritans. He of all the people had a right to pass by this man. But no, there was to Ubuntu than their sectarian differences, thee is more to Ubuntu than our tribal differences. There is more to Ubuntu than our racial differences. Up until this time there was nothing like a Good Samaritan. Jesus redefined neighbour by this story. Does your definition of neighbour need to change?

 

Redefining Good

I added a recent happening of my own to the stories of that day. Sadly mine was not as angelic as that of Jeff and Anne. I had just come from doing a good thing – dropping off guests who I had picked from the airport to their flat. It was late in the night and I was ready to go back home. On my way, I rounded a bend and suddenly there was a policeman on the side of the road next to a man lying down. You think I wanted to know. I even accelerated the car. A policeman alone next a body on the road in the middle of the night? I was not going to be the first one to discover what it was about. I am familiar with enough people who tried to be Good Samaritans in the night only to be the ones in need of a Good Samaritan. Oh no, Kenyans. I know you too well to fall for that. It turns out that it was not a hoax because that very night due to poor communication I had to go back that route to go pick my son. Now there was not just the policeman but two other very worried looking people even though there was no body.

 

As I said, Kenyans can very smart at hoaxing others. What this has done to us is make us suspicious of one another just as I said in my first sermon. If you are like me, how many times have you been tempted not to give way for an ambulance because you are not sure they are taking advantage just to get out of traffic?  If there was a national anthem today it would be Kigeugeu by Jaguar. Who can you trust?

 

But can we afford to live with a goodness paralysis because of this. The Priest and the Levite experienced a sort of goodness paralysis for one reason or another. I highly suspect it was the fear of becoming unclean according to the Law of Moses. If the man was bleeding or dead, it may very well have meant several days in isolation before they became clean again. They certainly did not want this inconvenience especially if they were going to preach somewhere that weekend. But whatever the case at the end of the day, they had not loved their neighbour as they loved themselves. They had in seeking to fulfil the law not fulfilled the Law. We run into the same kind of danger today. I am not sure that given another chance I will risk that night rescue. But here is what I can do?

 

Conclusion: Go and do Good

First, after having redefined who my neighbour is, I will make a choice to do good.

 

Second, after having made the choice to do good, I will actually practice doing good. We need to start making it a part of who we are just like we make a habit of reading the scriptures. There is much opportunity to do good that you can be proactive about. This is right from helping someone in your neighbourhood to a participating in a hospital visit. But the scripture also helps us in some way about this priority. In Galatians 6: 9 – 10 it says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers”.

 

Third, just like in other areas of my walk with the Lord, I will trust Him to help me do good. When the Lord sends us to do something He gives us the willingness and ability to do it. The very last words he says to the expert of the Law in v 37 were, “Go and do likewise … and if we backtrack to the words in v 28 it would be “Go do this and you will live”.  When we seek to obey the Lord He gives us strength. Philippians 2:13 says, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His purpose”. It is God who enables Jeff and Anne and any of His people who will obey Him to keep alive the spirit of Ubuntu in this world of Relationships in the Fast Lane.

 

 

Relationships in the Fast Lane: Dealing with Extended Family Obligations

Introduction

So much for Father’s Day last week: I gather that the men very much appreciated the gift of a screwdriver. This was backed up by Elder George’s remark that his wife cannot lock him out of the house now because he will use the screwdriver to open the door. But at the close of the sermon I encouraged us to call our fathers and let them know how important they are to us. This is because fathers too need encouragement and affirmation. I mentioned to you that my father was and still is a good man for he has been and still is there for us. But I had challenges of my own making that call to wish him a happy Father’s Day.  This is because most of the time, calls to my folk upcountry often result in a financial obligation because there is almost always a need to be met, and genuinely so. This has affected the nature of our relationship where the relationship has been overshadowed by the responsibility.

Over this month, we have been looking at Relationships in the Fast Lane. God has designed us for Relationships. How do we manage those relationships in a world that has pressures on us? These very real pressures have a bearing on our relationships. We concluded the opening sermon of this series with Psalm 121; “I lift up my eyes to the hills; Where does my help come from. My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth”. We must not lose sight of that. Our help comes from the Lord who is a firm foundation. Today we examine the Pressure of family obligations on our relationships. Turn with me to I Tim 5: 1 – 8, a portion of scripture that addresses various relationships (read). How do we keep healthy relationships in a society where there are increasing pressures from needy family members, and some not so needy but in the habit of “tunaomba serikali”?

Religion into Practice

There is no place the scriptures relate taking care of our family’s material needs to our faith as clearly as in this portion of scripture. V 3 points to this when it says explicitly,

 Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 

This scripture can be looked at alongside that found in the 10 Commandments in Deutronomy 5 where we are told in v 16, “Honour your father and mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you”. From where I am sat, honouring my parents is more than just being a good obedient boy when growing up. As a social justice mechanism then as now, it is also taking care of your parents and ensuring that their needs are met especially in their latter days when they can no longer be productive through their labour. It is honouring them beyond words by providing for them. And this was a mark for the children of Israel that made them stand out. It is something that God took seriously in looking to the welfare of the nation he was forming and so he made it a commandment that would come with a blessing for the entire nation. A nation that looks down on its elderly and scorns the grey hair is a nation on a downward spiral to destruction. And so the Lord was speaking to the entire nation to honour its parents so that it may go well with them in the land He was giving them.

Defining our Obligations

And so despite what I said earlier, I have an obligation to ensure that the material needs of my parents are taken care of, because there is a sense in which our parents are immediate family. It is partly because of this that many years back Yoland and I decided to be proactive and set aside some money every month to give to my family because there was need to do so. In contrast for Yoland’s parents there is little need if any at all (indeed they can support and have supported us) but I nevertheless have made it a point to give to them as a way of honouring them. My point here is that because it is a way of living out our faith and beliefs, Yoland and I are proactive about it. We set some money aside for it every month alongside other obligations. We have worked out what it means for us together. And because of this the stress that affects many relationships due to this has been reduced. Also let me also say that where I have not needed to honour Yoland’s parents in a financial way, I have looked for other ways to show them that they are honoured and cared for. To ease the pressure on our relationships we must be proactive about family obligations because in this we do not just demonstrate our faith but also keep the spirit of Ubuntu alive. And before I forget, v 4 finishes by saying that this pleases God.

Let me now put it in wider context. The reason the writer in these scriptures speaks this way about the widow is because in that day and time she was tied down economically to her husband. The land belonged to the family on the man’s side. The men and by extension the husbands were the ones responsible for the welfare of the home. It is part of the reason why there was wife inheritance practised in the culture then as a justice mechanism. But there are instances when the widow was alone whether young or old. And this meant she was economically disadvantaged. These were people hindered from being responsible for their economic security whether it was because of age or access to resources. This is why v 9 puts a caveat to the kind of widow to be supported when it says, “No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty …”. To put it this way, you became the responsibility of society at the point when you were deemed unable to take care of yourself. I need to add in this category the children who are minors. These are the people who may be referred to in v 8 (read). The first stop for taking care of the economically vulnerable is the immediate family.  Verse 4 refers to this as putting religion into practise. V 8 says not doing this makes you worse than an unbeliever.

What this means as I see it is that you are not obligated to support able bodied relatives who can work for a living. Then I will add that you are not obligated to support relatives who have children who are able bodied and can work to take care of them.  And I speak from my thinking and not scripture – that if you do, you are creating a dependant relationship that you should not have. And dependant relatives that create an unreasonable obligation are a major source of stress in our family relationships today. Yes you can make them work or get them a place to work if you can. If you cannot, do not have the Messiah complex. The people you are obligated to help are your immediate family members, which in this case are your wife, children and then your parents. I would add closely that if you are supporting any brother or sister it is as a way of supporting your parents, not because it is your primary responsibility. That still remains their primary responsibility.

But what about the spirit of Ubuntu that I cherish here in Africa? I go back to intentionality about support beyond the immediate family. My suggestion is that it has to be negotiated when in a family situation, and also timed. For example, if you are in school or college, I think it is okay for you to be hosted by your brother or sister and their family. But that must be timed. It cannot be that two years after completing college they are still feeding you. If you need to stay there for various reasons you must be contributing to the economy of the home, because you should be doing something as an able-bodied person. You must view the arrangement as a transitional season as you prepare for your own blessings in your own place.

Conclusion

Allow me to conclude by this. In Africa we not only have the spirit of Ubuntu but also the spirit of Harambee. These two can be great in helping us put our faith into practise – by each one giving something. What I want to add is that I am worse than that infidel if my brother and his family are struggling to take care of my parents on their own – and because I think they are managing I sit back and do nothing. You are not putting your faith into practise. I suggest that you must chip in whatever the amount and be part of the family support. The flip side to it is this; As the guardians of family in this situation, we say nothing about it when we feel we have been left to carry the responsibility alone. We complain and grumble and do nothing about it. Why don’t we confront our brothers or sisters or sometimes our parents so that they chip in? As long as one is able-bodied they have something to give. We must not be afraid because eventually this will cause bitterness in you. Even if the people needing assistance are not in your house you are still obliged to help as long as they qualify as immediate family. That not only allows you to keep the commandments and put faith in practise. It also allows you minimise the pressure that others are feeling – taking care of their own families as well as extended family. It makes them feel they are not alone with this burden. It gives them joy to host and take care of those people because they have support and encouragement from you. And even then, the blessing of a long life and honour from the Lord will still be yours.

Relationships in the Fast Lane: The Power of a Father

Introduction

It has always a pleasant thing for a parent to hear that their children resemble them. I am very pleased when that happens to me or hear them say the same about their mother. However it was a different matter altogether when one day, one day I woke up and looked in the mirror and went, “Oh my goodness. I look like my father”.

Judging from what I heard from my friends not just in primary school but running even through to high school and for some till adulthood, our dads were characterised more than anything else by their strictness. They were the disciplinarians in the home. They were the final word and for some their presence was terrifying. Colossians 3 is a brilliant chapter on relationships. It has much to say on all manner of relationships. It then concludes with a few specific lines for different people. Allow me to read these key verses from v 18 – 21.

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers,[c] do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

 

It is worthwhile noting that for each of the categories, there is something for them to do. But for the men there is what they should not do. In v 19 the husbands are told what to do – love their wives but quickly told what not to do – do not be harsh with them. In v 21 the fathers are told not to embitter their children, and the consequences are that they will be discouraged. It seems to me that fathers in their relationships can do so much good if they played their role well. But we have the capacity to do so much more damage when we do the wrong thing, no wonder we are quickly admonished about what we should not do.

 

On this Fathers Day, what should Fathers do? What we should not do is clear. The result of the wrong things we do is clear. What then should we do? I will seek to respond to this question with the response of God the Father to particular situations. Turn with me to two fairly related portions of scripture – Matt 3: 13 – 17 followed by Matt 17: 1 – 5 (read). From these two scriptures I will attend to two things we important for Fathers in the lives of those around them. These are:

  1. 1.    The Presence of the Father
  2. 2.    The Proclamation of the Father

 

The Presence of the Father

I was privileged to grow up in a home with a father who was very present. My father’s routine was very predictable. Every weekday he left with my mother to work. Every weekday he came back home by 5.30 p.m. he had his cup of tea with us and then went to the club where he spent about an hour or so before returning back for dinner and the evening with us. I am grateful that my father was present. There is no doubt that Jesus was fully aware of the presence of the Father with him. He talked about this to his disciples when talking about the coming Holy Spirit. When Philip asked Jesus to show them the Father, John 14: 9 -13 says, 9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

As fathers it is important that our children sense that we are around. It is important that the mother knows that there is a father for her children where there is one. Our presence and influence around our families must be assured. Jesus knew his relationship with the father was assured because of His presence within Him, around Him and at work within Him. To put it in a phrase, a father needs to have enough presence to be an influence. That presence equally needs to be felt within the children, around the children and at work within them. But then there are also occasions when a Father’s presence needs to be clear and pronounced. When He was being baptised the presence of the Father was very clear. There was no doubt in Jesus and those who witnessed that this was special both to the father and the son. As fathers there are times and occasions when there is no sufficient excuse to be absent. I can remember when my eldest son was Head Boy. On the last day of school he was to make a speech. I was out of the country shortly before that but God willing there was no excuse to miss that. When my daughter was to be born, I cut short a trip to India from Australia just to be sure that I was here when she was born as I was with our first two children. The Father made His presence clearly known at such occasions. Fathers need to be clearly visible at some occasions because the presence of the father is an assurance of the relationship to the child and those present. And so yesterday my wife and I attended a sports festival where our son was playing rugby. We met one of our friend’s children, and she was very excited to see us – she was playing netball. However at the awards ceremony she was called out as the player of the tournament. My wife and I turned to each other and we knew we were thinking the same thing. If only the parents were here. If only the father was here. It was a special occasion that cannot be recaptured however many times she wins the award again.

 

The Proclamation of the Father

Allow me to start my second point by making a statement in bold. We used to hear when we were young that boys are to be seen and not heard. Well, fathers must be seen and heard. The proclamations of the father are very vital. And so when Jesus was being baptised, the father was not just present in a visible way through the Holy Spirit taking the form similar to that of a dove and alighting on him. The father also made a proclamation that day. As some biblical commentators would say, it was not so much for others but mainly for Jesus to hear the words “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased”. It was shortly after this that Jesus began his ministry of preaching. I say this because the Father did not affirm Jesus for what He had done – he was yet to begin His ministry. He affirmed Jesus for who he was; a son whom He loved and in whom he was well pleased.

 

Therein lies some of our greatest folly as men. We are such doing people. We are such result-oriented people and we affirm our children for what they have done rather than for who they are. Let me hazard to guess that the more dissatisfied we are with ourselves as men/fathers the more we will make performance the reason for affirmation. But I digress. So God affirmed Jesus for who He was rather than what he had done. No performance, just relationship. Let me hazard to guess again that in the absence of a relationship with our children we can only affirm them for what they do rather than what they are – because you do not know what they are! But again I digress.

 

If we are to go with what God said about his son, we are to love our children, period. And not only that, we are to express our love for our children. We do that by telling them, showing it to them and affirming them about the relationship – the proclamation of the father. Children need to hear that they are loved. Children need to hear that the fathers are well pleased in them not just for what they have done but also for who they are. But there are times when a father’s words can make or break a child. Indeed the words of a father can make or break a child.

 

A very successful woman recently shared her story. She got pregnant in college at a time when any premarital pregnancy was equal to social suicide. She was lashed at from all sides, dropped out of college, and shunned by family and friends. Then one day her father sent her a note simply saying, “No matter what has happened I will always love you and support you”. That was all she needed to hear. She picked herself up, went back to college, found a new society of friends. This being a testimony she shared only last week, she has gone on to be very successful in her career. Not only that, she is very active in a ministry that works with the youth. The make or break was the words of her father. How strong is the proclamation of the father.

 

In closing I recognise that for some of you, the father was not present for one reason or another. And if they were present it was that that presence of tetemesha. You were very glad if he was not around. His presence was very oppressive right from beating your mother and everything around him. May God bring healing to you on this Father’s Day. I also recognise that for others here, the words of your father were not words to build you up. They are words that broke you. When the words were not breaking you he was breaking his promises and you learnt never to trust the word of a man. May God bring healing to you too. May He begin the process as you acknowledging that you are or were hurt by your father. God the Father knows that. He wants to heal you. But for those of you with good relationships with your fathers you have much to be thankful for. And today we can rejoice in that. Happy Fathers Day.

 

 

Relationships in the Fast Lane II

Relationships on the Fast Lane: Choosing Mary Moments in a Martha World

 

Introduction

I have probably shared with you part of my journey of faith. But allow me to revisit some of its aspects afresh. After giving my life to the Lord in my early teens, church just became a bore. I went to a church where the Youth Leader was what is my age now – the mid forties. And so I stuck with the main service where people played the roles of their age. But even that did not inspire me. The services lasted for ever. After I went to boarding school I did not step into that church again. Indeed I did not step into any church for almost four years. That was until I was expelled from boarding school and became a day student.

 

What this did for me was to open my eyes to the lives of my elder brother and sister. Both of them were involved with the local church. They had radiance about them and a peace about their lives. I was in the process of discovering who I was. But it was mainly their relationships that struck me. Their friends were just like them – really friendly, vibrant, at peace and a joy to be with. Because our house was the closest to the church it became the unofficial youth centre. I began to yearn for such vibrancy and such relationships with Christ and with Christians. It led me to giving my life to the Lord which also led me to having some very special relationships. One of these is that with my mentor Ken Obimbo and the other is with my wife who I met when she came to sing at our church. But this is to say that my relationship with the Lord opened me up to some wonderful relationships that were genuine and deep. I therefore begin this message today where I left it last week. I would like to say what I have put on my Facebook page as my religious belief – What a friend we have in Jesus. Being connected to Christ allows you to be connected to great relationships whether it be spouse, in family, church and the wider community. What a friend we have in Jesus.

 

Turn with me to Luke 10: 38 – 42

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 

This is no unfamiliar story to many of you. And neither is the message of the story – time with Jesus is far more important than what you do for Him, without relegating the latter to a meaningless endeavour. However there are some things that we can glean further for our relationship with the Lord and with others. And that is the question of the investment of our time. I have titled my message Choosing Mary Moments in a Martha World; after a blog article I recently read by a wonderful writer called Jen (her blog is “Being Confident of This”). The article is dated 2nd May 2013. From today’s passage I suggest two things for better relationships.

 

Open Doors

Opening the door for a guest, a friend, a spouse or a child is a great act of hospitality. But can you imagine a host who opens the door and disappears for a while. Or just imagine someone opening the door for you then to leave you for half an hour while they prepare dinner for you. There you are with the remote flipping through the channels – for men. There is then very little contest that spending time with someone is the better act of hospitality because it shows interest in the person and a value for them. Martha did a good thing by opening the door for Jesus. But she then went about her business preparing to host him. And all the while Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus as the bible says, listening to him. Martha was justified to be indignant with Mary for lazing around while she did all the hard work. She even invited Jesus to help her with this lazy sister suggesting that he pick the remote while Mary came to the kitchen.

 

Many of us in our relationships are very well intended. Like Martha we are even those who open the door and welcome others, but that becomes the end of it. There are relationships that are based on the need to impress others. People of this kind love opening their doors for you into their lives so that you can see what they are – very often rather that who they are. Their time and energy is spent in the show. It is likely that that relationship will be superficial. People will leave you feeling wowed by the food and the presentation. But if you do not avail yourself to them as a person, they quite likely will say, “What was all that about”. It is not enough to open the door like Martha did. That is only but the start. But let me not downplay it. We need to be people who are open to letting others into our space as well. The opposite of opening your doors to impress others is not opening your doors to hide your shortcomings – when you feel your home does not measure up (and by this I mean your actual dwelling conditions as well as the condition of your life). You are afraid of being judged. That is as wrong as the proud person because the belief may be that your worth is equal to what you have or what you have accomplished. How false a premise is that for a genuine relationship. True relationships are about people, not possessions.

 

Open hearts

Open hearts are about receiving the people and demonstrating love for them. Receiving them is receiving their stories – sharing in the narrative of their lives. Sensing them by hearing them out. And hearing them out takes time. This is what Mary did while Martha was preparing to put on a show. And she was absolutely put off by Mary lazing there while she did all the hard work … to impress Jesus. She was probably more put off by the fact that Jesus was not saying anything about it. He was not appreciating the sacrifice Martha was making by giving time to the wrong person. I can imagine the noise coming out of the kitchen.

 

But Mary had an open heart. She spent time with the guest hearing from him and allowing herself to be heard too. Granted it was a little unfair, actually quite a bit, she probably did what a host should do – give your guest your time. The world is in need of open hearts. This is because even when someone posts on Facebook that they are going through a situation, some of us have the nerve to click “LIKE”. It is intended to show that you have noted what they are going through. But it seems to also indicate I do not want to make it my business, but just know I know. LIKE.

 

We live in a busy world with lots of things demanding our attention. It is called Life in the fast lane. But in this world, the things that will affect our relationships are not those that are clearly foolish or bad. It is those things that are good. I recently read a blog article by Mr John Nganga that he sends out weekly. In it he said that many parents, especially fathers invest their best years for their children. This is at the expense of investing their best years in their children – attending special occasions and events, doing homework with them, telling that bible story and even when they are in their late teens driving or picking them from somewhere. As someone said the greatest enemy is not the bad things but the good ones. This is because the good ones keep us from investing in the better ones. And so when Martha asks for Jesus’ intervention in the matter, the bible says, 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

 

Conclusion

Do we have the courage to choose what is better? Choosing what is better can have an impact on your career. My prayer partner told me this week how his father’s career in the late seventies stagnated for many years because he rejected a transfer to another town as a bank manager. He had made a promise not to be separate from his family. Choosing what is better will make some family members look down on you. Choosing that is better will make your colleagues ridicule you. But if what Jesus says is true, the better choice can never be taken away from you. Think about it, the better choice can never be taken away from you. Money can, houses can, looks can, jobs can, but the better choice is a worthwhile investment. And that I suggest is an open heart to take time with family and friends, to hear people out and speak to them a word in season. What are the good things and what may be the better thing in your life?

 

I have no hesitation in spelling out again the need for a relationship with Jesus that affects the choices, and the choices of other relationships. And what are those other relationships that require your time as an investment? As Jen would put it, in Relationships in the Fast Lane we need to look for Mary Moments in a Martha world.

Relationships in the Fast Lane: Lessons from Kenya at 50

Yesterday marked the first of Kenya’s Jubilee celebrations. Kenya has now been self-governing for 50 years, only one week younger than the African Union whose Jubilee anniversary we celebrated last week. My family and I spent the day with a group of families out of the city. The things about this group is not just that we are good friends, but that we have all known each other for over 20 years, having first met through our church Youth Group in the late 80 years. We have been able to sustain relationships with one another as single people, and now married with families. Yet we still meet and absolutely enjoy each other’s company in good times and comfort in difficult times for these have been there. But what made it more enjoyable is my thinking that we are what Kenya should be at 50.

 

We begin a fresh series today running for this month – Relationships in the Fast Lane. Relationships are important and lie at the core of what I spoke about last week – the spirit of Ubuntu. And could it be that the thing that may very well define our nation over the next 50 years, the thing that may very well define our children over the next 50 years may not be the economy, or the constitution or globalisation. It may very well be the kind of template for relationships that we bequeath our children. As part of our LIFE Cycle here at Lifespring, relationships are one of our four key tenets. We say that we have been designed by God for relationships, and not just any relationship but fulfilling relationships. Hebrews 10: 23 – 25 is our key verse for this tenet where we are encouraged to, “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.

 

To begin our series and couple it with our 50 years of self governance in our nation, I suggest that we look at our national psyche. I say this in the belief that what we have become as a nation affects our relationships base. It is because of this that I will state key things that I feel affected our national outlook and make us the kind of society we are today – Kenya at 50.

 

First is the effect of nationhood. Over 50 years ago today we were not a nation but a group of tribes. This was until the British out of economic convenience, anthropological ignorance and political arrogance carved out protectorates for themselves that eventually led to the formation of our nation and its neighbours. We have spent many years trying to pull together with the form and appearance of a nation and lacking the substance thereof. Our nationalism makes a rare appearance in sporting events but rarely beyond that. And so in our relationships, we have been very suspicious and even hateful of other tribes. Our relationships began to be them against us. Antagonistic is the word.

 

Second is the Goldenberg scandal of the 80’s. Kenya was a fairly prosperous nation until the Goldenberg era brought us to our knees. If you read the papers this week you know the ghost of Goldenberg is still alive and we may yet pay a few more millions to the scandal’s architect. But what it did was not just make most Kenyan’s poorer. It began an era where people realised you could fleece the nation and one another and get away with it. And therefore people started grabbing whatever they could. With all due respect to our former president, he presided over the most criminal era of our nation and did us a great disservice by allowing it to foster. What it did for our relationships was to rip away Ubuntu from our souls. People did not matter. The national psyche was eat as much as you can without caring for others or the future. We are now struggling with water shortages because our biggest water tower was eaten during that era. A few people who did not care for others. In our relationships we became an uncaring people. No more Ubuntu.

 

Third was the Anglo Leasing scandal, shortly into the era of former president Mwai Kibaki and after president Moi. We thought we had seen the end of what we thought was a corrupt regime that had milked us dry. We sang “Yote yawezekana bila Moi” in anticipation of better days. We arrested policemen who took bribes. I hear we saved 8 billion shillings in the first three months of Kibaki’s presidency due to reduced corruption. Then came the news that the new government was involved in a mega scandal. The Githongo revelation was not questioned in its credibility. Some if not all the Anglo – Leasing money has been returned. Yet no major actor has been prosecuted for this. Our balloon was deflated. We became a nation that lost hope. We became cynical about change. And these things have affected our relationships. We have flat lacklustre relationships where we are uncertain, tentative and even cynical about them. We have a come we stay mentality where we do not commit but instead take a wait and see approach to our relationships.

 

The last 5 years have been the fourth thing that affected our national psyche. It all began when the kid gloves came off. We finally came to the place where we fought a political battle on a tribal front at a national level. Our worst came out. We killed, maimed, looted and raped people who had been neighbours from childhood. Our coalition government barely held together. But the prospects of a repeat with the just concluded elections sent us in a different direction. We realised what was at stake. And the country went flat out to ensure that there was peace. And the church that was divided in 2007 came out united in prayer in 2013. Indeed, one of the key outcomes of the last 5 years is a church that has found its place once again as a voice in the nation. The leaders got together in prayer before the election at Uhuru park. The newly elected President and his Deputy and their wives knelt before the Lord at the inauguration ceremony. And last Friday, thousands of worshippers came together at AFLEWO for a night of worship and prayer to celebrate the 50th year.

It is my hope that this renaissance of the church in Kenya would usher in a new period for this nation that would significantly alter the psyche of our people. It is my prayer that the next 50 years would find their foundation in this season where as a nation we have known what it is to be saved from disaster. We have in a sense known the salvation of the Lord. We have seen what it means to depend on ourselves and its danger. It is my prayer that we shall be in agreement that our help comes from the Lord. The Psalmist in Psalm 121 delivers a Psalm of reassurance and security and hope and provision that we need as a nation (read).

 

We need to discover afresh that nothing indeed is secure except in the Lord. We need a new security for our relationships. It is not and cannot be our tribes. Our help does not come from tribe. Neither should other tribes be a threat to us if our help is in the Lord. We need to discover afresh the truth that the Lord will provide for us – that He will neither slumber nor sleep. He wants to take care of this nation. And therefore it is meaningless for us to tear one another in a scramble for resources. I hope as we look back over the last 5 years and see the resources that the country is discovering, we will look forward to the next 5 years and be secure in sharing oil and mineral revenue with the Turkana and other tribes as Kenya’s resource. Individuals and tribes need not be competition but partners in shaping the destiny of this nation. And then I pray that we shall be people who hope again – because our help is in the Lord. We shall dream for ourselves and our children and the nation because God is not a man that He should lie neither the son of man that He should repent. I sense the blessing of the Lord is over this nation yet sometimes I don’t want to embrace it in fear of disappointment. If this is so, then what Balaam said to Balk stands; “Does God speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfil” (Num 23: 19). May God help us to look to him and hope again and make hope part of the psyche of this nation.

 

And finally as we begin another 50 years I look forward to us being a nation of commitment. We have been disappointed up until this week by another crop of MP’s who want to eat more. We cannot afford to not care and let things just be. If we need to be part of the signatures that recall our MP’s, do it for your constituency and for your children. Let us not just accept and move on. No! Commitment calls for action. But I pray that with the Lord on our side we shall be people committed to our relationships. Committed to one another at whatever level of relationship we are in. But most of all committed to our relationship with the Lord. He is able to deliver; to deliver not just from sin and Satan. He is able to deliver LIFE to us. Do not wait and see if this salvation thing works or not. As the psalmist said in Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Blessed are those who take refuge in him”.

A Statement on the Election of the 4th President of Kenya

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The 4th President of the Republic of Kenya has been duly elected. This brings to an end  months of intense campaigning, and a week that has stretched the patience of many Kenyans. I applaud each and every one of you who endured hours on the line under a hot sun, and all of us for the many days of waiting for the results. Every vote counted. Through all this we have kept peace. I applaud the IEBC for the hard work they have put in over the last couple of months. Despite the last minute failure of their electronic systems, they have as far as I can see, carried out a free and fair election. Well-done Isaack Hassan and your team.

The intention of this process was to choose a leader for this country under the new constitution. That man is president – elect Uhuru Kenyatta. Congratulations to him for his success and victory. As I have spoken from this pulpit before in echoing Daniel 2: 21, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others”. Through this democratic process, God has given us a leader. Whilst we were headlining news with the words, Kenya Decides, God had already known the choice He would give for this country. We must then receive the new president as God’s choice for us. . He is God’s choice for us. Our response then must first be to God in this matter. And that is to give Mheshimiwa Uhuru Kenyatta the honour due to his position. I will honour the new president remembering the words of Ecc 10:20, “Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words and a bird in the wing may report what you say”.

I understand that there are some who are dismayed by this result. May the Lord grant you grace for this season and I pray that the new president will hastily make you feel like you count in this country as he works on the attendant issues of wananchi such as the economy and security. Others of you have been elated by the result. As the CEO of the IEBC said, I hope you will celebrate “without stepping on the heads of others… that we can have victory without victims”. All of us then can be united in our sentiments with the hope and the presidency of Uhuru Kenyatta will be a presidency of all Kenyans. He is not a Kikuyu or Kalenjin president. He will be Kenya’s president.

And now in regards to the main challenger, the outgoing Rt Honourable Prime Minister, allow me to quote from a facebook post of one of our members in the diaspora. Anne Njoki Kabuya Mwaduwi wrote this. I picked the excerpt in totality as follows.

“Raila, Raila Raila,rao…..you may not have won, but you are part of this countries history…you have won in many other ways before!!!you have brought so much change…..from way back, you have humbled yourself many a times…you still are a leader to many..this fact has not changed….You set the pace for the democracy that we enjoy today>>>>.God bless your big and humble heart!!!!As a kenyan I salute you….Thumbs up Raila….looking forward to your press conference!!!!!”

In their own wisdom and according to their constitutional right, the CORD coalition has found it necessary to contest the results in court. This in and of itself is a step forward because it means that we have credible avenues for redress that helps us avoid violent conflict. We thank the new Chief Justice for enabling this environment.

In concluding this statement, let me say that Lifespring Chapel must play its part in helping forge the new Kenya as one people from many tribes. We scattered last Sunday to vote different ways. We  gathered once again as one people from one nation under one God. As the final stanza of our National Anthem says,

Natujenge taifa letu

E ndio wajibu wetu

Nasi tujitoe kwa nguvu

Nchi yetu ya Kenya,

Tunayoipenda

Tuwe tayari kuilinda

Kenya has decided. God decided long ago. In an election there must be winners and losers. But how much more glorious it is when a nation is ultimately the winner. Through our prayer and participation, this has been possible. God bless Kenya.

Go Vote – And receive the choice as the Lord’s

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Introduction

One of our most prominent political analysts said that it was good because it was not bad. This was in reference to the first ever presidential debate in the history of the country early this week. It was watched by millions in the country and around the globe, an opportunity for the candidates to state their stand on issues. If you ask me, it was a good debate, period. It was good for the candidates to be forced to articulate their stand on issues affecting Kenyans. It was good to deal with any elephants in the room. It was good for some of the candidates to be called to account for their actions in the time they have been in office. And in the midst of all the politics, it was good to have a session on how to eat well – a third githeri, a third water and a third space to breath.

 Over this month we have been preparing ourselves for the upcoming election by reflecting on God’s word and how it can inform our thinking and actions. By reflecting on Psalm 85, we said in the first week that God has favoured and forgiven us. After the fracas of the 2007 election, we should have plunged into chaos difficult to recover from. But God brought us through it, heard us when His people called out to him in repentance, and then blessed us with progress over the last five years. Last week we saw from Psalm 85 that we also need to be still and listen to what God will say. We need to isolate ourselves from all the political noise and mute our voices in the heat of the campaigns. But we saw that we also need to be careful not to return to the folly of 2007 – the tribal factors, being ignorant of the candidates we choose, voter apathy, and most of all a tendency to violence.

 Today I go back to the 8 men and woman who took to the podium to speak on their positions regarding various issues. They arouse various passions within us, whether by their speech or conduct, past or present. Regardless of that, the fact remains that one of those eight will in the next few weeks be the president of the Republic of Kenya, your president. For some of you this will bring great joy because it was your desire. For others of you this will bring disappointment. But what must be our response beyond the election of the president? I quote from two portions of scripture that approximate each other in their teaching. First is Ex 22:28: “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people”. The other is Ecc 10: 20: Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird in the sky may carry your words and a bird in the wing may report what you say”.

 Honour is of Essence

It is my submission that one of the defining moments in the history of this nation was the inauguration of President Mwai Kibaki in 2003 after that historic victory of the opposition over KANU. What defined it for me was not the massive turnout, the palpable excitement of the people or the chaos that overtook the order of the day. It was the outright rejection and humiliation that the exiting president Daniel arap Moi suffered, culminating in the chants on that day, “Yote yawezekana bila Moi” (Everything is possible without Moi).

 ImageThe president in his last days to the last minute in office was humiliated. And I admit that I was one of those who sang from my sitting room that song of rejection. But it was hardly a year later when people began asking for Moi to come back. It was not long into the new government when there was division and infighting, and people spoke about how Moi would never let his lieutenants fight each other in public. It was barely a year into the new government when the Anglo Leasing matter was inherited and exploited by the new political elite who tried to reap the people off billions of shillings. And the people echoed the words of presidential candidate Dida that the Moi government at least left you the crumbs. This new government was eating everything. Shortly after, Minister Kiraitu, the very man who told Moi to go home and herd his goats turned back and invited him to work with their side of government as an elder statesman. It was half way through President Kibaki’s first term that he formed a coalition government that brought back several KANU ministers after he fired a rebellious half of his government. It was in this same period that the M.P’s started raising their own salaries to one of the highest in the world. The following election would be the most devastating chapter of the post Moi era when the country ended up in civil conflict. We all know about that. We sang “yote yawezekana bila Moi”.

 I hazard to state that part of the reason the country suffered in the first five years and degenerated may have been because we dishonoured the president and it did not please the Lord. Ecc 10: 20, which says, “Do not revile the king even in your thoughts …” was ignored and the opposite done. We reviled and dishonoured President Moi towards the end in our thoughts. We abused him in our group meetings at home and in the office. Political rallies heaped scorn on him. And finally we chased him away … literally chased him away at Kibaki’s inauguration ceremony. Part of the reason we have suffered since then has been our actions at that time. From then on, our country plunged into chaos because we lost honour for the president, for our leaders, for one another and even for our country. The result was 2007 and 2008 post election violence. Maybe we got there because of what Ex 22:28 says, “Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people”. Blaspheming God and cursing the ruler of your people may be a wrongdoing at the same level. How can that be so, you ask? I say it may be so judging by when Daniel worshipped God in Daniel 2: 20 – 21 saying, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; He deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning”. Each and every person in authority is there by God’s doing and not by mans scheming. Even when they have used evil to be there and stay there, God has allowed it and knows why. He also knows when they will be brought down and fall. There is a sense to which they are as David says, “the anointed of the Lord” from the minute they become King, President or Prime Minister. And to dishonour their position is to dishonour the doing of the Lord. And that action can bring consequences on you as an individual or a nation as it did for us from 2003 – 2008.

 By the time one of the eight candidates ascends to the highest office in the land, they quite likely will have received negative words from many Kenyans. By the time they take the oath of office, they will both be honoured and reviled by many. Our response before and beyond the election as church must be one which recognises that God raises kings and brings princes to naught (Psalm 75:7). It is His choice and we must honour the person whom God chooses through the democratic election process. Indeed it will be difficult to honour them then if we do not start showing them honour even now. It is only right. And we must play our part in demonstrating other people the value of honouring that leader or even the candidates right now.

 Conclusion

It is my sincere prayer that the inauguration of the next president will be a dignified affair. I pray that President Kibaki will be honoured then just as parliament and Kenyans honoured him recently. I pray that as he passes the instruments of office to the next president he shall feel so affirmed that he will bless the next president. I pray too that we shall see beyond human eyes and recognise that it is God who has raised the next President and so honour him. And the honour that we give the exiting president will also fall upon the incoming president. If that happens, God will bless this land and nation. Justice will be our shield and defender. We will dwell in unity, peace and liberty. And plenty will be found within our borders.