RESPONDblogs: Is the Jehovah’s Witness “Jesus” the Genuine Article?

watchtower_2010454c

I was getting ready to go out on Saturday morning when our front doorbell rang. I opened the door to a young lady who greeted me and began to talk to me about “religious” issues. My heart sank – I was just on my way out to a friend’s wedding! But – she seemed very earnest. And I felt a tug to stay and talk for a while. I let her speak…and then she asked whether these religious issues interested me.

 

I scratched my head a bit. “I’m a Christian”, I responded, “so God is very much at the centre of life…I’m not so keen on religion tho. However – let me ask you something.”

 

She nodded expectantly.

 

I asked, “Who do you say that Jesus is?”

 

Without a blink she responded, “Well he is God’s son.” I nodded – “Yes…but what does that mean?” She began to look a bit puzzled now. “Well I guess it means…” She stopped. I volunteered an ending to her sentence. “You reckon it means that God created Jesus? He is created BY God?” She nodded. “Yes – that’s it”, she said.

 

“Okay – that’s interesting because my view of Jesus is completely different from yours. He’s God. He’s not created BY God.”

 

She nodded and without a thought she shot back, “Let me ask you then. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray…who did he teach them to pray to?” It was my turn to look puzzled now. However many times I engage with a Jehovah’s Witness…this bit always strikes me as incredible. I carried on.

 

“You are right. The Bible records that Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God the Father. But you know what else the Bible shows us? That Jesus himself RECEIVED worship…personally. More than that, the Bible’s overall presentation of God has always been that three persons exist. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” She looked at me incredulous. This bit in the conversation that always hits me hard. I’m gutted that the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach their poor people to ignore and deny such a central biblical doctrine as the Trinity.

 

I really felt for this young lady. I was glad I’d stopped to chat with her. My heart so wanted her to get who Jesus really is! I decided to leave her with a statement and a question.

 

“You know, based on what we read in scripture the early church wrestled with but ultimately agreed on Jesus identity. The Jesus I am describing to you – the one who points to the other members of the Trinity and receives worship also for himself – is the prevailing view. Yes it’s tough to wrap our heads around. It looks like what I am saying has mystified you. Let me ask you. If there was no mystery to God…if we understood everything there is to know about God…it wouldn’t make him much of a God. Would it?” She smiled and nodded. And as my time had gone – we said goodbye.

 

As I closed the door – my heart ached. It matters who we understand Jesus to be. Why? If Jesus is NOT God – then we are completely lost! Why do I say that?

The Bible explains what humanity’s main problem is. Actually it’s not poverty or petrol prices or religious terrorism. It is sin. We underestimate the extent of our problem.

“all people…are under the power of sin.  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:9 – 23, NLT

Why is sin a problem? Because it ruins any connection we could have with God, it messes up our relationships with other people and it ultimately leads to our demise…physically, spiritually, completely.

“For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23, ESV

“It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” Isaiah 59:2, NLT

We all limp along carrying this crippling sin problem. It leads to our demise and our isolation from the God who made us.

Only God himself can sort out this problem. It is too big an issue for anyone else to fix! And so the Bible tells the tale of God preparing the nation of Israel and then coming in person…Jesus Christ…to give all people…you and me a way out of our sinful rebellion against God. He came to Earth to forgive sins. Only God can do that job. Because at heart, sin is mankind’s direct rejection of God.

“Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.””, Luke 7:48, NLT 

“For this is how God loved the world; He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16, NLT

 

That’s not me disagreeing with my friend at my front door. It’s the Bible I share with my Jehovah’s Witness friend (although her New World Translation has been slightly modified by un-scholarly people to trip her up in her understanding – outrageous!). It’s also the Church Fathers who studied under Jesus Disciples and led the first Christian Churches.

 

And then it struck me. It’s only valuable items that are counterfeited. People only go to the effort of creating fake 50 pound notes…because the real ones are so valuable. There’s no one in human history more valuable than the God-man Jesus Christ. Not to me…not to the writers of the Bible…not to all true Christians down thru history. No wonder there are counterfeit versions available to anyone who is unfortunate enough to accept them.

RESPONDblogs: Maybe the First Christmas was More Stressful than Restful

the_nativity_story

I love the children’s nativity at our church – it’s one of the highlights of the Christmas season for me. Tea towels have never looked more festive, shepherds have never looked more cute. It’s a time for our children to enjoy dressing up and retelling the tale of the baby born in a manger with a star overhead, and visitors coming from afar.

 

I love this.

 

And yet the actual events that are being acted out here by our kids were very different.

 

The Bible tells us that Shepherds came to see the baby in the manger.

 

“…the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the lord has told us about.’ They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.” Luke 2:15-17, NLT

 

Well – first of all –Mary and Joseph found themselves without any lodging following a long duty trip to Bethlehem  – this sounds horrible. Could you imagine travelling for hours on a long haul flight in Economy, only to find on arriving that your accommodation had fallen thru and you had nowhere to sleep? This was Joseph’s situation with his pregnant wife.

Next – a manger was an eating trough for animals. The poor couple found themselves needing to borrow the livestock’s eating trough to use for the baby. How do you think the animals reacted to that? Don’t you think the livestock was going to be pushing and bumping them out of the way? Stuffing their heads in to the trough…licking and chewing what they could get hold of? What a nightmare. This doesn’t sound very “calm and bright”, does it? Actually to me it sounds pretty stressful!

 

And then – the shepherds arrive.  In Jewish culture, Shepherds were the lowest of the low. They were people who lived outside with animals; a solitary smelly existence. David Instone-Brewer says, “When the Jews asked whether a piece of bread had gotten too mouldy or was still edible… then they would ask…well would a Shepherd eat this? If the answer was NO…if not even the even the lowest of the low would touch it … then just throw it away!” Basically, Shepherds were stigmatized in Jewish culture. And Luke’s Gospel tells us that it was shepherds who came to visit the baby Jesus first.

 

How do you feel when a homeless person accosts you on the street? For myself – I wish I could say I was always welcoming, and always quick to offer help to that person. But I can’t. Why? Rightly or wrongly – it often makes me feel uncomfortable when a homeless person stops me on the street. I don’t know what to say to them – I find their plight difficult to look at – and on top of all of that, sometimes it has been some time since they had a good bath or shower!

 

Joseph and Mary had the 1st century equivalent of poor homeless visitors coming to see their new child. Not the most auspicious of guests.

 

The original Nativity was stressful for the people involved, it was uncomfortable for the family and it attracted the undesirables of Jewish society.

 

And then on top of all of this – Matthew’s gospel tells us that…

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of king Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.’…They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him.” Matthew 2:1+11, NLT

Now – surely – we finally get someone arriving to dignify the proceedings. At last – we get kings visiting the baby Jesus? Right?

Wrong. The arrival of these people was also an awkward encounter for the family to endure. Why? Because these wise men weren’t Jews. They came from far away pagan lands, people who studied the stars. The Greek word for the wise men (Magi) is the word we use to get our word “magician”. It is thought that these individuals came from the Old Testament Babylon.

There is a historical link between Israel and Babylon, we can see this in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.  Daniel was a Jewish man who was taken to live in pagan Babylon where life was difficult for a Jew. There were many alien customs there, there was pressure to worship the Babylonian King as a God. And – there were magicians, astrologers and wise men living there.

The Magi who visited Jesus probably came from there …a pagan country…the enemy nation…evil Babylon.  A 1st century Jew would have been very suspicious at the arrival of such a Gentile person.

 

So – lets summarise our nativity so far. We have stress for the family, we have uncomfortable and difficult living conditions too, we have Jewish undesirables accosting them in the Stable. And now we also have the 1st century Jewish equivalent of “the enemy” coming to say hello to them.

You know – I love the carol “Silent Night” – but I do wonder whether the events surrounding the first Nativity were anything but quiet and restful! Stressful and uncomfortable sounds like a better description to me.

 

And this causes two thoughts to occur to me.

FIRST – if the Nativity accounts in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels are made up stories, if the Jesus birth narratives are fabrications, if they are just intended to make Jesus seem more important than he actually was…then I don’t buy it. I don’t agree with the thought that these Nativity accounts are made up. Because I really don’t think a 1st century Jew would have written a story like this. As David Instone-Brewer suggests, “This story is so crazy, it must be true!”.

If the author wanted to impress a Jewish audience with a fabricated account, Matthew’s Gospel would probably have had the local Jewish Leaders and the Priests coming to visit the Christ child. After all – Priests and Leaders  were the people that  1st century Jewish culture esteemed and respected. So to hold up Jesus birth as an important event…you would want him to be recognized by those sorts of people. Right? Instead – what we get in both Matthew and Luke’s Nativity account is the opposite. Jewish undesirables and suspicious pagans are the one who welcome Jesus Christ into the world. That’s crazy. What’s the point of saying that? There is no point…unless it is just simply a true historical account of what really happened on that first Nativity.

 

SECOND – the account of Jesus life is not an easy one. Jesus is not some ancient equivalent of a Marvel superhero from today. Jesus life was difficult and scandalized from the beginning. He faced misunderstanding and stigma all his life. He lived an ordinary and hard existence. Yet at the same time – he is the most extraordinary person who has ever lived. His earthly life was surrounded by suspicion. Yet in reality, he is also God in human form…God with us. God who created the Universe and he is worshipped and adored in heaven.

 

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” Matthew 1:23, NLT

 

So it strikes me that – when our lives feel hard, when we suffer times of pain and suspicion. When we are numbered with the undesirables in society…Jesus is standing right along with us. He knows exactly how we feel because he has had it worse himself. And if that is the case – if Jesus is standing alongside you and I in our situation right now – then it means that no one has fallen too far. No one is a lost cause. No one is irredeemable for Jesus. In fact, Jesus Christ is an expert at rescuing lost causes.

 

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16, NLT

 

This Christmas – we might have misunderstood just how stressful and how uncomfortable the first Nativity was. But to Jesus – it really doesn’t matter. He experienced it all so that he could reach out to us in our loneliness and our brokenness and save us. That was his Father’s intention on that first Nativity. It’s still Jesus’ intention today. Why not let him reach you this Christmas?

 

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:6-11, NLT

 

RESPONDblogs: First Christmas Tragedy

TheChristmasNativityCardv2

The picture perfect Nativity scene that we see on the front of Christmas cards (remember those old things?) is a long way from what originally happened when Jesus Christ was born two thousand years ago. Life in the ancient Middle East was hard. One of Matthew’s details hints strongly at this.

 

“Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews?…’ King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this…He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under…”

Matthew 2:1-16, NLT

 

It’s not a very “Christmassy” detail this … is it? Infanticide at Christmas.

Sometimes skeptics look at the Nativity accounts and shake their heads in disbelief at the slaughter of these poor innocent baby boys. There’s not one shred of evidence that this massacre ever happened…outside of Matthew’s account, of course. It’s a fantasy, put in there to make Jesus seem more important.

 

Well I disagree. We have lots of evidence about Herod the Great. We know that sort of man he was and why Matthew’s account of the death of the innocents is very reasonable given the setting and the people at the time. We can be sure that Matthew got the details right in his account of Jesus birth.

 

Rich History:

The Roman historian Josephus wrote two whole book scrolls on the life of Herod the Great. This is a rich primary source of history. Herod seems to have been a remarkable keeper of the peace between Rome and Judea between 40 BC and January 1 BC when he died (NOTE: the date of Herod’s death is indicated by the available Roman, Jewish and Astronomical documentary evidence)

His legacy included the building of theaters and stadiums; he rebuilt the great temple in Jerusalem. He is responsible for the construction of the Masada fortress on the south west corner of the Dead Sea.

 

Paranoid Herod:

Yet what we also learn from Josephus is that King Herod also had a decidedly paranoid streak. He had a habit of “getting rid” of people who threatened the peace, or were in danger of “rocking the boat” for him.

His family was notoriously power hungry and violent. Herod killed some of his sons, who were apparently too ambitious. And he even got rid of one of his many wives…along with his mother in law.

But possibly the biggest indicator of Herod’s character can be seen in the plans he tried to put in place for his funeral. He feared that few people in Israel would mourn his passing. And so he decided to give his subjects something to mourn about. His plan was to fill one of his stadiums full of Jewish leaders, and order them to be massacred as a “celebration” of Herod the Great’s demise. He wanted to make absolutely sure that there would be great mourning across Israel at the time of his death.

 

This then is the backdrop to the birth of Jesus, and the arrival of the mysterious pagan Magi who announced to Herod that they wished to worship the newborn king of the Jews. Can you see how Herod the Great might have responded to them? When Matthew says he was “deeply disturbed” at this news…this is probably putting things politely. After all – Herod WAS the king of the Jews. And he eliminated anyone who tried to replace him.

 

Suddenly the “spray and pray” shotgun approach that Matthew describes…kill all the newborn children of Jesus age in Bethlehem…seems right up King Herod’s gruesome street. It’s just the sort of reaction we can expect from him.

 

So the question then is – why is there no evidence outside of Matthew’s gospel to record it?

 

Herod’s Likely Reaction to Jesus’ Birth:

I’ve heard it described like this. The murder of these babies was the ancient equivalent of a mugging on a New York subway train. So much happens in New York each day – it’s unlikely that a mugger is going to hit the front of the NY Times.

 

Josephus had such a rich and interesting history of Herod to record – particularly his spectacularly brutal plans for the stadium and the Jewish leaders – it is unlikely that a small localized event in a little village would get a look in.

 

Bethlehem is understood to have been a very small village at this time. It has been estimated that only around 24 children of the relevant age would have suffered at Herod’s hand. At a time when infant mortality would have been high – this is hardly big news. Perhaps Josephus didn’t even know that it happened. But just because an event is small in scale, doesn’t mean it is not hugely significant.

 

So – did it happen…or didn’t it? Well just because Josephus doesn’t mention it does not mean it never happened. By the way – Luke the historian doesn’t mention it in his account either. Yet absence of evidence is NEVER evidence of absence.

And besides – we DO have evidence that these babies died. We read it in Matthew’s first century account.

 

Paul L Maier, Professor of Ancient History at Western Michigan University, has said this:

“I see not one iota of evidence here it could NOT have happened…Luke hasn’t heard about it. Remember, Matthew and Luke don’t copy from one another when it comes to the Nativity…that way they can hit it from different angles. But yes, it really happened.”

 

It’s not a very festive Nativity detail. It’s a minor, horrible footnote to Herod the great’s reign. Yet it is a significant event surrounding the life of Jesus and his parents. And it points to the bittersweet future to come. Journalist Tony Reinke has insightfully suggested this:

“The 1st Christian martyr was not Stephen…or Jesus…the 1st martyr in the Christian Church was the first baby that was killed in Bethlehem. And we always overlook him.”

RESPONDblogs: The Curious Case of Quirinius

census

In Luke’s Gospel we read that…

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.” Luke 2:1-3, NLT

Luke’s statement has caused problems for some people.

First of all – the historical evidence suggests that Quirinius did not begin to govern Syria until after the death of Herod in 4 BC. Now it is clear from the gospels that Herod was very much alive when Jesus was born. In that case – how can Quirinius be Governor BEFORE Jesus’ birth…if Herod was already dead when Quirinius was governor of Syria? That sounds like a circle that cannot be squared.

Second – there is internal and external Biblical evidence of a census called AFTER Quirinius took over Governorship… Luke records what might be this census that Quirinius conducted in the 6th century in Acts 5:37. But this census cannot be the same as the census mentioned in Luke chapter 2.

 

Does this confusion undermine the historical reliability of Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth? Does this point to Luke being guilty of sloppy history?

Well – this would be strange given the high standing Luke enjoys as a 1st century historian, and the meticulous detail we find in his Gospel and his later work on the history of the early Christian Church – the Acts of the Apostles.

Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians. – William Mitchell Ramsay

 

Ancient Near Eastern historians have made the following responses to the Quirinius census problems.

 

FIRST – these censuses did happen in these cultures at that time.

Ancient census forms have been discovered by archaeologists. An order dated AD 104 says…

“Gaius Vibius Maximum, Prefect of Egypt: Seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those who for any cause whatsoever are residing out of their provinces to RETURN TO THEIR OWN HOMES, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census…”

This manner of counting people might seem odd to our advanced, IT enabled 21st century society. But the Biblical + extra-Biblical evidence points to the ancient practice of census calling.

 

SECOND – there is evidence that there may have been more than one Syrian Governor named Quirinius.

King Herod is believed to have died in 4 BC. So Luke’s claim in chapter 2 implies that a census was called by Ceasar Augustus well before 4 BC.  If Quirinius didn’t begin ruling until AD 6…this seems like a big discrepancy on the dates recorded by Luke.

HOWEVER – John McRay, PHD and professor of New Testament and archaeology at Wheton College, says , “a coin [has been found ] with the name of Quirinius on it in very small writing. This [coin] places him as proconsul of Syria and Cilicia from 11 BC until after the death of Herod….apparently there were two Quiriniuses.”

Names in the ancient world tended to be common…often lots of people shared the same name…so it is reasonable to assume that perhaps two separate people are being referred to here as Quirinius.

In this case, perhaps two censuses occurred – a 14 year gap was apparently typical. This would suggest that an earlier census took place under the earlier Quirinius.  And this is the census that Luke refers to in his gospel.

 

Who cares?

Luke claims to have personally interviewed the eyewitnesses to the birth…and death of Jesus of Nazareth. He claimed to have carefully investigated everything so that he could produce an orderly account about the certainty of what occurred. Luke is claiming to record what actually happened – so the details count.

The details count – and the words of Jesus have the power to change our lives forever.

“…this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.” Luke 15:24, NLT

RESPONDblogs: Who Wrote the New Testament Gospels?

conspiracy

You will often hear the claim that the New Testament Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – are not actually written by those people at all. Rather, they were written anonymously at some point late in the history of the early Church. And to give the books an air of authenticity and authority, they were given the names of central figures (like Matthew, for example) to pass them off as true. In other words – the Gospels are claimed to be forgeries.

 

Is this a reasonable claim?

I don’t think so. I think the New Testament Gospels were written by the people who they have traditionally been attributed to (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Let’s look at some of my evidence.

 

MARK:

There is compelling evidence from outside of the Bible that John Mark, who we meet in Acts, penned this Gospel.

Let’s look at what some of the early Church Fathers said of this account.

  • Justin Martyr (AD 150) described Mark’s Gospel as the “memoirs of Peter” (Peter was one of Jesus’ original inner circle and an Apostle). It is suggested that it was written while in Italy to encourage the Roman Christians.
  • Iraneus (AD 185) referred to John Mark as the Disciple and interpreter of Peter. This is in fact the relationship that we see playing out in the Acts account (although as we read it was quite a contentious and rocky relationship at times!)
  • Papias (AD 70 to AD 155) said “Mark wrote down accurately whatsoever [Peter] remembered. …he took special care not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.”

And here’s a thought to ponder. If Mark’s Gospel was a forgery, why wasn’t it ascribed to Peter or one of the other Apostles? Surely if the aim was to pass it off as genuine…the scribe who falsely named the author would have chosen a top notch source. Instead – we see the author is John Mark – a well known but frankly minor character in the history of the Church.

 

LUKE:

Again, here we have a book claimed to be authored by an arguably minor character in church history. Luke the physician is not one of the direct eye witnesses to Jesus life and resurrection. He is a minor companion. He is certainly involved in the early Church, and we can see that from Paul’s letters (check Colossians 4:14, for example). But it would not make sense to ascribe a forgery to a minor individual.

Scholars compare the style of Luke’s writing and confirm that – just as both books claim –Lukes Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles were both written by the same person.

What we see in Luke’s writing is a mixture of eye witness reporting and direct personal testimony. For example, in Acts 16 we see a shift in the language being used. It stops talking about “they and them” and begins to use the terms “we and us”. In other words, Luke is saying…and I remember this part because I was part of this! Certainly much of the detail we read in these later chapters must have come from someone who was there and witnessed it themselves.

In summary, both Luke and Acts show evidence of early eye witness reporting and personal testimony from someone known to be in the right place and time to record both.

 

JOHN:

The disciple John is mentioned over 20 times by the other Gospels, and judging by some of the jealousy that went on, John was a central figure in the group of Jesus’ first disciples. But John’s Gospel never refers to the individual John directly. Instead it continually uses the term, “the disciple Jesus loved” to refer to that person. Why would the author do that? Well – perhaps he assumed that the audience he was writing to would know who he was. Perhaps he had learned some modesty in his old age?

Further – at the end of the Gospel, in chapter 21, we read “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.”

 

MATTHEW:

Matthew, like John, was one of Jesus original inner circle. Mark and Luke might have been minor characters in the events that unfolded. But John and Matthew were not.

Going outside of the Bible again to the church fathers, Origen (AD 185 to 254) says

“Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned the tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism.”

 

 

I’ve briefly laid out some of the internal and external evidence supporting the authorship of the New Testament Gospels. But really I think the question comes down to this. Who are you going to believe? Are you going to believe the conspiracy theorists? Or are you going to trust the testimony of the early leaders of the Church who lived a few decades after the Gospels were written?

I for one – am going to trust the early church leaders. Surely that makes sense?

RESPONDblogs: Happy, Hope-filled Halloween!

I love the creative way these guys have expressed the history of All Hallows’ Eve. Take a look.

 

 

All Hallows’ Eve was a vigil designed originally not to glory in the forces of darkness at all. But rather as a brief pause before the celebration of the lives of those who have gone before. The brilliant people who had used their lives to point to the true hope of the world – Jesus Christ.

 

 

“The future is futile for forces of evil, and so they did scorn them in times Medieval.”

 

 

“The triumph is not with the forces of night, it dawned with the one who said…I AM THE LIGHT.”

 

 

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

 

Have a great day, today!

RESPONDblogs: Fresh Water for Africa + a Faith Upgrade for Us

water6

In the 13 years that Kingfisher has been visiting Africa, I have seen firsthand the devastation that dirty water wreaks on human life. Dirty water holds every manner of disease for those with no option but to drink it. The effect on human life is sobering. Suffering – hardship – sickness – death. On the other hand – I’ve also seen the joy and the health that flourishes when a fresh water supply is made available to a community of people.

 

This year at Kingfisher Church Network – we are investing in fresh water for African communities. We are investing in LIFE. We aimed at the target of helping 13 villages in Malawi and Mozambique to find their own fresh water supply. We smashed our target – so we will be able to help many more people than originally planned. This is so exciting. But you know – the background to this project is also interesting in itself.

 

Back in 2010 – the Kingfisher National Director for Malawi – Charles Mithowa – challenged us to think about how Kingfisher could enable fresh water supplies for various remote villages where a water well did not exist. The remote community of Mulanje – close to the border with Mozambique – was one such community crying out for fresh water.

 

In my naivety – I returned back to the UK with intentions to get water wells built for the folks in Mulanje. Did I have the first idea what was involved? Beyond digging a big hole and suddenly finding fresh water at the bottom? No. Not at all. I had no experience – no information – just a heart to help.

 

That heart to help led me to seek help from charities like Pump Aid and World Vision. Both of these organizations were incredibly helpful, spending time helping me understand the issues. The long and the short of it was this. They had a schedule for building water wells in Malawi. If I wanted to get on THEIR agenda – and contribute funds – I would be sure of helping many communities in Malawi. Unfortunately – the Mulanje community did not qualify. What a shame I had rashly promised fresh water to them!! Despite my disappointment – we contributed funds towards a Water Aid water pump for Malawi. Water Aid built the pumps – people in Malawi benefited. And I resigned myself to the fact that – we had failed in getting a water well built for our friends in Mulanje. Yet I made the decision to leave the problem in God’s capable hands.

 

That was a good decision because the story was not over. The end had not yet been written.

 

While I was wrestling with NGO’s and Charities…Charles Mithowa received word that his Malawian  Government was offering a practical training course in the creation of sustainable water purification systems for remote villages. The purification system uses easily accessible materials combined together in a particular way…and the Malawi Government teach key community leaders exactly how to build this purification system themsevles. As long as these leaders were willing to pay their way (in Africa – there is NO free lunch). Charles Mithowa – a wonderful and inspirational man – jumped at the chance.

 

He galvanized Kingfisher Church into action. Kingfisher Centre in Limbe allocated a field for Maize cultivation – they grew the crop, harvested it and sold it at market to raise funds. Once the funds were raised – Charles contacted the Malawi Government and informed them he could pay his way to learn how to build water purification systems.

 

Fast forward to summer 2012. We returned to Malawi. And Charles showed us how a bucket, a car battery, a filter, some sand and some chemicals could save people’s lives. I met folks whose lives had been changed by the use of this new water purification system in their villages.

 

At this point I realized that my weaknesses and my lack of knowledge and wisdom was no barrier to God’s wisdom and his plans being worked out. My limited capabilities are clear. But God’s unlimited resources make my  lack of resources insignificant. When he plans to change lives for good – it happens one way or another. The question is – will I get on HIS agenda.

 

Mulanje got fresh water – just not thru my little plan of digging them a water well. Instead today they use a filtration system that they look after and manage.

 

And the great news is that – Kingfisher Church in Malawi is working to share this basic but life changing technology to many many more villages across Malawi and Mozambique. We in Kingfisher Church UK have the privilege of contributing funds to help make it happen.

 

So where is the response to the spiritual skeptic in this blog? I think this time it might be a bit of insight into my own journey of faith…

 

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Proverbs 19:21, NIV

 

What impossible goal are we facing? What dreams are in our heart?  If He wants it to happen – He will bring it about. He is not limited by our lack of wisdom or resources. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, He cares for the flowers in the fields and His eye is on the sparrow. But He has his own timeline and His own way of bringing things about.

 

The real question is – what about me? Am I getting past my own agenda, and aligning myself with His? This is the most sensible thing to do – because in the final analysis “it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Wouldn’t we rather be on the prevailing side, rather than on the side of our own little plans and missions in life? The things that are so important to me, yet they are here for a little while and then like an early morning mist…they are gone.

 

In my experience – in this Water project, but in many more situations besides, He is trustworthy. He is creative. And He will never let you down when you put your life in His hands.

 

Kingfisher Church is here – http://www.kingfisher.org.uk/

You can find Pump Aid here – http://www.pumpaid.org/

World Vision is here – http://www.worldvision.org.uk/