It Shall not be so Among You

Mark 10:42-43 (NKJV) 42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.

I am finally back after a very productive six weeks in Kenya and Tanzania. In my last post I gave some details as to what we were doing there and the success we enjoyed. Now it is time to get back to business here. I want to share some things with you that we ministered to the pastors and leaders in Kenya.

Let me say that I believe these things apply to all of us. We all lead someone. We may lead our coworkers, fellow students or neighbors. We may lead our families or friends. We may not hold any position in the church, but as the people of God, we are responsible for leading people to Jesus. Someone is watching you and that makes you a leader.

One of the important things to remember about leadership of any kind is that leaders set the tone. What kind of leader you are will determine how the people who follow you will live and react to life. The people following you will go no higher than you go. They will be the kind of followers that you are a leader. That is why it is so important that we understand what Jesus has to say about leading.

Our scripture is taken from Mark chapter 10. This is a familiar story, but I think we often see it as a cliché. I was particularly struck by one phrase as I was teaching in Malaba, Kenya. Jesus said to his disciples, “It shall not be so with you.

Although this is in reference to a question about who will be great in the Kingdom of God, I believe it goes beyond that. I believe we must understand that nothing in the Kingdom of God can work the same way it does in the world.

One of the main issues in the African church is the mixture of culture with Christianity. Culture in itself is not wrong. All cultures have wonderful aspects to them that we should cherish. I am an American. We have a particular culture that has evolved over the last 300 years. Many things about my culture are good. They fit with Christianity with no problem whatsoever. However, some things about current American culture simply do not agree with the bible. Where those things are concerned, I must be willing to allow the Word of God to supersede my culture.

In Kenya, there are cultural practices and attitudes that are much older than American culture. Many of these attitudes and practices are still part of African life to this day. The tribal roots that are part of our distant past are, in some cases, less than 50 years in their past. Many people still live in the manner in which they have lived for thousands of years. There is often a great deal of pressure to honor the “old ways.”

In some areas, this is perfectly acceptable. Just as the things in American culture that do not fit with the Word of God must be abandoned, the same is true of African culture. Because the African cultural ways are so recent and because there is so much pressure on people to honor the ancestors, it can produce a problem in the Christianity they practice.

No matter where we live, we must understand that we are not Christians second and whatever our nationality is first. I am not an American Christian. My brothers and sisters in Kenya are not African Christians. I am a Christian who happens to live in America. They are Christians who happen to live in Kenya. Either way, we are Christians first.

As I was talking to these precious people about these things, I shared with them that their “old ways” are just not old enough. Our culture does not go back to where we were born. It does not even go back to our grandparents or great grandparents. It goes back much farther than that. Our cultural roots go back to the Garden of Eden and the book of Genesis. That is the standard by which our culture must be measured.

When Jesus said, “It shall not be so with you.” what was he talking about? I believe he was talking about doing things the worlds way and doing things the bible way. Choosing culture over the Word of God is to choose the way of the world. As we look at the rest of this chapter, we can understand Jesus’ real meaning.

In the first 12 verses, Jesus discusses marriage. The Pharisees try to justify divorce by quoting the Law of Moses. Jesus tells them that this was only added because of the hardness of their hearts. Although I believe there are very narrow grounds for divorce in the bible, it was never God’s will that divorce be an acceptable option. In the beginning, God joined the man and woman and Jesus indicates it is not our right to separate the two. Divorce is the world’s way, but Jesus says, “It shall not be so with you.”

Next, some children came to Jesus. The disciples rebuked them. After all, children should not bother a Prophet of God! However, Jesus rebukes them. The world’s way is that only important people should come to a dignitary like Jesus. Jesus says, “Let the children come to me for the kingdom of heaven is made of ones like them.” The world handles measure importance according to its standard but “It shall not be so with you.”

A rich ruler comes to Jesus. In the world, he is a ruler. That means he has power and authority. He is wealthy so that adds to the equation. Jesus looks at him and says, “All you need to do is give away all your money and the power that goes with it. Do that and come follow me.” This makes no sense to the mind who thinks according to the ways of the world but “It shall not be so with you.”

Then he makes a statement that his disciples cannot believe. He says it is hard for rich people to be saved. To their minds, wealth is a sign of the blessing of the covenant. If a man is rich, it must mean he is righteousness. Although God does say that the covenant provides blessing to meet our needs and beyond, this idea had become corrupted. Wealth in itself does not mean righteousness. In effect, Jesus is saying it means just the opposite. In the world, wealth may guarantee a type of salvation but “It shall not be so with you.”

He tells them that the way to guarantee their future salvation is to give up everything for the gospel. To the world, it would seem that following Jesus’ admonition would leave them penniless and helpless. This is so in the world but “It shall not be so with you.”

He tells his disciples that his path to fulfill the will of God is going to take him to the cross. How can death produce anything? Jesus makes it clear that without death he cannot reach his destiny. In the world, it makes no sense to walk into the place where people want to kill you and give yourself to them. In the world it makes no sense but “It shall not be so with you.”

In every area of life Jesus points out there is one path that is acceptable to the world and another that will produce results in the Kingdom of God. There is never a time when doing things against the principles in the Bible can produce Godly results. Never!

Today, ask yourself, “What am I doing that is not in agreement with the Word of God?” It may seem that there is no other way to get by. It may seem that the only path to prosperity or success is to compromise with the world. Do not do it. When we do things God’s way, we have access to God’s power and we get God’s results. When we compromise, we may have temporary success but the cost will eventually manifest and it will always be greater than we want to pay.

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Last Days in Kenya

Greetings from Limuru, Kenya.  I know that I have not posted in a long time, but we have been very busy here for six weeks in Kenya and Tanzania.  I appreciate all those who have prayed for us.  Brother David Cerar, our host, did have Malaria and was out of commission for a week, but my wife, my assistant pastor, Jesse Lee and myself have all been well and strong throughout the trip.  There have been a couple of minor car issues but always where it was no problem to get things taken care of.  Praise God for his provision and protection.

We began by visiting Chris and Holly Oesterblad in Arusha Tanzania.  They oversee the ministry began by Leonard and Rosella Fox in Kenya.  Sharon Fox Cranford was based here in Limuru for many years at Harvest Fields Bible school.  Chris and Holly took care of the sister school in Arusha and when Sharon was called back to help with the home church in Colton California, Chris and Holly took over as the East Africa coordinators. 

We had a great time in their school and with them personally.  We taught in the mornings as well as a class in the afternoon.  My wife helped Sister Holly get started with a puppet ministry for the local children.  They are doing a great work there.  Please keep them and their 3 young boys in your prayers.

We came home and had a great time with bishop Sammy Nzau’s Church in Nairobi.  He was in South Africa, but we had a great time with his wife and his people.  He is a graduate of both Harvest Fields and David’s School, Vision International.  His was the first in a series of Sunday’s where we preached in the Sunday morning services and then held leadership seminars in the afternoon. 

We then got in David’s Subaru Legacy, affectionately known as “Baby” and went to the city of Norak.  (I always think that name sounds like it should be from the planet “Vulcan.”)  There my wife and I took part in a Ladies Conference held in Nicholas and Judith Ndavi’s church.  What a powerful time with these wonderful women of God.  I ministered twice, but my wife, Elaine, really shined as she poured into these ladies. 

There were a number of other speakers with whom we now enjoy new friendships.  Pastors and pastor’s wives from all over Kenya attended this conference.  Nicholas and Judith are part of Word of Faith, a Norwegian based group of churches here in Kenya.  However, there were many other groups represented as well.  They all expect my wife, and me as well, back next year.

We stayed with the Ndavis over the weekend and ministered to their youth and in the church on Sunday morning.  Again, the Lord met us in a powerful way and we look forward to many more visits to “Narok of Vulcan.”

“Baby” and her occupants arrived safely back in Limuru on Sunday night.  Monday morning we awoke to find David down with malaria.  We were scheduled to speak in the Harvest Field Chapel Services Monday morning through Wednesday morning at 7:30 AM.  Pastor Abel Onyaro, the principle of the school, came and picked us up.

We spent many mornings with the students over the next three weeks and had a great time teaching and imparting to these men of God.  Some of them are already pastors continuing their education and some are preparing to enter ministry when they graduate.  This is a great place to learn and grow.  Sharon Cranford spent 25 years as the school principle and director of the ministry in East Africa.

Starting on Tuesday of the same week we began a 4 day seminar in Word of Faith, Limuru.  Pastor Peter Mbugua and his wife along with Ben Muholo who is the assistant pastor hosted the seminar. 

We are below the equator so it is winter here and Limuru is over 7000 ft. in altitude.  It was cold, but this “frozen seminar” was a blessed time of ministry.  There were 5 or 6 young people in particular who were hanging on every word my wife and I shared.  I believe we had impact on all who attended.

That Saturday, September 6th, Elaine and I taught at a marriage seminar arranged by Hezron and Helen, dear friends from the Nairobi area.  We spent the day talking about biblical marriage with 15 lovely couples.  What an honor it is to be trusted with such a cultural topic.  Our goal is not to speak about American or Kenyan marriage.  We share what the bible says about marriage.  I received testimony today that for the past two weeks this seminar has been the topic of conversation in their church.

After two more sessions at Harvest Fields, my wife departed for the US on Wednesday night.  It was her first time in Africa in many years but she never skipped a beat.  God used her mightily and the people here are adamant that she must come back next year. 

On Friday we picked up Pastor Jesse Lee to help me for the remaining 10 days of this trip.  Jesse and his wife have served as our assistant pastors or 23 years.  That Sunday we ministered at the Maranatha Church outside of Limuru.  This is a great church pastored by Peter and Ruth Kebo.  Peter is a powerful man of God and another good friend.  Once again we taught in the morning services and had leadership training in the afternoon.  Many leaders from other area churches joined us for a powerful time together.

This was Pastor Jesse’s first time of ministry here in Kenya.  He had traveled with me to Ivory Coast in 2000, but has not been to Africa since then until now.  He gave his testimony on being an assistant pastor for so many years.  This was a perspective that Pastor Peter said he had never heard taught before.  The idea that this position is so vital to the success of any church and that it is not somehow less was a revelation to many.  These kind of comments would be repeated many times over the next week.

On Monday morning Pastor Jesse shared with the students at Harvest Fields.  On Tuesday I addressed them for the last time this year.  Then we got in “Baby” and began the journey to a town on the Ugandan border called Malaba. 

Along the way we spent the night on the shores of Lake Victoria.  Although the city where we spent the night is Kenya’s 3rd largest, I heard a lion roar as we sat at dinner.  The hotel was very near a game park.  In the morning we went to “Hippopotamus Cove” where we were treated to a show of a hippo family bathing in the lake not far off the shore.  This was my first time to see these giant animals. 

Thursday night through Saturday we spent in seminar at Malaba hosted by Pastor Pius and Matilda Idewa.  This Maranatha pastor has a real anointing to bring leaders together.  He has a great church and we have developed strong relationship

We spent three days with some 40 pastors and leaders.  I began with this thought from Mark 10.

Mark 10:42-43 (NKJV)
42 But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.

Although servant leadership was a thrust in the teaching, the idea that “it shall not be so among you” is what I really focused on.  The Lord was telling us that whatever the world does we must do differently.  Culture is a very powerful force in Kenya.  I shared that our true culture is not based on where we were born.  Whether we live in Kenya, the US or any other country our culture is based much farther back than our ancestors.  Our culture begins in the Garden of Eden and is defined by the Bible.

After Sunday morning in three area churches we headed back to Limuru.  After a stay in a hotel in Nakuru and repair of a flat tire over night, we arrived back at Brother David’s this morning.  On Tuesday night we fly out for the journey home. 

Hopefully you can see why I haven’t posted in a while.  I want to thank those of our church who helped us financially with this trip.  It was worth the investment. Relationships are building and we are already booked for dates next year.  The only question is how we will do all that is available to us. 

Perhaps you would like to get involved with Living Word International’s outreaches?  If so you can send an offering through our website at WWW.livingwordgreene.com.  Paypal donations are accepted.  Just let us know you would like to help with our trips to Africa.

Check back next week.  It takes a few days to get back in the flow after a trip like this, but I should be up and posting again Monday or Tuesday. 

Blessings to all.