I got this email from Edward Simiyu, pastor of City Harvest in Nairobi, Kenya:
The eagle has landed!
The team arrived safely last night and are recuperating... as they take a city tour with Patrick. I meet them this evening for fellowship and preparations for Sunday. Thanks for sending them to us and of course you will really miss alot this time! Greetings to the church.
I'm not sure this team has the same significance as the lunar landing but I love the imagery employed by my African friend. Also great to have him rubbing it in that I'm not able to be there for this trip;-). Here's an update from our New Life team to the rest of the team leaving Chicago for Kenya on the 26th:
We are here safe in Kenya and arrived to our missions house late last night. Right now we're sitting with Mordecai and Patrick from City Harvest Church and Ben a missionary visiting for three months. He attends Baylor University. We are all sitting together at the Java House. Mordecai and Patrick have been gracious to take us through the city and we have already ventured into Kibera today. Be ready for an experience of your life! God is at work here and we will have many opportunities to share our faith.
Although it is amazing to be here, we also look forward to your arrival. We are a team and it's not the same without you here with us. We are all praying for you and your safe arrival. We will keep you posted when we get the opportunity to e-mail. Please continue to keep us in your prays as we minister in Nairobi.
Yesterday afternoon we dropped 13 New Lifers at the airport--9 heading for Uganda and 4 headed for Kenya for the first wave of mission trippers. On the 26th the second wave of 5 people will be heading to Kenya.
The Ugandan team will be ending a London layover and heading the rest of the way to Kampala at around 4pm Chicago time today. The Nairobi team is already airborne and will arrive in Kenya at around 2pm Chicago time.
You can pray for the Uganda team: Jose, Joann, Blanca, Tony, Kelli, Mike, Leigh, Elannie and Heidi. Please also pray for the first part of team Kenya: Mike, Rachel, Marco and Diane. Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of my first return from Africa. Exciting to be celebrating it with the movement of 18 New Lifers to Africa for short term missions trip they won't ever forget.
In May I set a new course in my morning quiet hour to be planned but not to be scheduled. In other words, I charted out the next 9 books of the Bible I planned to read but set no date for when they would need to be started and finished. I started in Hosea then 1 Peter, Joel and now 2 Peter. I've found that this approach has suited my personality well and has allowed me to move on from one book to the next when I feel the Spirit of God is saying "move on" and not having to move on artificially because of a random schedule. At the same time, knowing where I'll be going next keeps me from drifting and lapsing.
So this morning I began reading 2 Peter and I was struck in the first chapter by Peter's radical humility. I'm a big Peter fan. And Peter has a good deal to boast about. He could have positioned himself to be highly thought of based on his extraordinary life. Peter was:
one of the first disciples
a member of Jesus inner circle
only man to ever walk on water
saw Jesus revealed in all His heavenly glory as a preview of heaven
first to preach a Holy Spirit inspired sermon after Jesus' resurrection
head of the early church
first to confess Jesus' divinity
first to see thousands of people come to Jesus because of His obedience to the Spirit
wrote 2 books of the Bible and probably dictated the book of Mark as well
has the first 8 chapters of the book of Acts largely devoted to his leadership and ministry
performed several bona fide miracles
and much more.
I mean the list just goes on and on. Sometimes, God allows people who follow Him to be recognized on earth for the quality of their ministry. And to me, this can be the most dangerous aspect of serving Jesus. Many, many people mishandle the accolades of public ministry and end up in serious trouble. One of my greatest fears is to lose track of humility just because a few people happen to listen to me preach on any given Sunday. To somehow believe that I am someone and begin stealing God's glory to take something for myself is to give in to the worst of who I am. And then I read Peter.
Hear what Peter says in 2 Peter 1:
To those who have obtained faith of equal standing with ours...
Peter, the spiritual superstar, calls his faith equal to the average person reading the letter he has written under Divine inspiration. He takes no extra credit as having "special class" faith for having done all these things. He claims that faith is faith and every person who comes to the Cross stands on equal footing before a Holy God.
Later in the chapter he says:
We were eyewitnesses of His majesty [the transfiguration]... we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the Holy mountain. And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you do well to pay attention...
That's radical. Peter who saw Jesus transfigured into the glory He had with the Father before taking on flesh, Peter who was one of few throughout history to hear and understand the audible voice of God says essentially, "that's nothing before God. If you want to really know the power of God, listen to His prophetic Word. Listen to what the Scripture says. Listen to and obey the Bible."
Peter did not graduate, through his experiences, from the simple devotion to hearing and obeying the whole Word of God. He stayed under its control, influence and direction, not trusting his past spiritual successes to be "enough" for him today. He never coasted.
Dear God, as one who couldn't even hold Peter's sandals, let me imitate his radical humility. Keep your holiness in the center of my vision and let me forget everything I do for you, always looking toward the next thing your Spirit calls me to do. Don't let me ever, by being a teacher of your word, ever believe that I can escape the simple call to hear and obey. Remind me that I simply receive a stricter judgment. Amen.
This morning in our pastoral prayer time, Pastor Mark was reminding us of the importance of retaining the qualities of an organism as we grow larger--that we need to fight the tendency of becoming an institution or organization.
We don't want to be institutional or organizational in our thinking and practices, we want to be Organismal.
That got me thinking about what it means to be Organismal. Here's a partial list of what I believe it means to stay Organismal:
to retain the feel of a movement that is constantly growing and taking territory
to stay fluid and pliable
to have a leadership that is marked by being a learning and growing group
to emphasize the relational
to refuse to say, "but we've never done that before"
to welcome young leaders and give them opportunity
to constantly look for creative means to accomplish goals
to experiment constantly
to stay rooted in the basics of discipleship, the Bible, Holy Spirit direction, one anothering, evangelism, community, personal holiness and spiritual discipline
and probably another 100+ things
Anyway, I like to make up new words so there's one for you to kick around.
We have a rat hotel in our backyard--well its actually in the neighbor's flower bed but the entrance/exit is in our yard. Try as I might, I can never end up killing the rats. Its a family joke. Actually, I'm a family joke. My wife and kids laugh at me whenever the Don Quixote of the rat extermination world mounts his trusty horse and goes attacking windmills. Take yesterday as a case in point. I tucked the kids into bed last night and then rushed upstairs to bait and set my new, "old-fashioned" rat trap. Peanut butter, check. Trap set near a rat pathway, check. Excited over the prospect of finding a dead rat in the trap tomorrow morning, check.
This morning I look out the back window. Couldn't see the trap so I grabbed my crocs and ran out to the yard. Gil herded the kids out after me--she was expecting this to go poorly and wanted the kids to be in position for a good laugh.
I went to the spot where the trap was, but it wasn't there. It was gone. Totally gone. No blood, no fibers, no rat prints, not even rat droppings. We searched the alley. No dead rat. No trap.
To quote Vizzini from Princess Bride, "that's Inconceivable!" How does a rat steal my rat trap? How can a man be so pathetic at extermination that the varmints he's trying to get rid of can actually steal his equipment?
NASCAR is huge--its taken hockey's spot as America's 4th sport. I'll be honest, I'm not a big NASCAR fan. But my dad is and maybe you are. But even if you're not a fan of racin', I think you'll find this report full of entertaining information...
Periodically I like to recommend web resources that I find useful. Today I want to give a shout out to a great blog that I've recently discovered: philcooke.com. I've actually just begun consuming the podcast as well. This video on the use of technology is a great vodcast addition. I encourage you to check it out.
I believe there is a secret to healthy team environments: the team that can laugh hard together, can serve well together. I'm a big believer in the power of a good laugh, a joyful laugh. Not a laugh that hurts someone but a laugh of celebration or of something wholesomely funny.
Today in our Lakeview/Jefferson Park staff meeting we spent a lot of time laughing and praying. A winning combo. I felt a really spirit of joy and ease from our staff. And our laughing and praying didn't keep us from accomplishing our goals in a timely fashion. We still ended on time. We just had more fun doing it.
Another thing about laughter within a team--its an indicator of people's health as a part of the team. I've learned that when someone consistently can't laugh along with the team, there is usually a problem to deal with--a heart issue that needs to be discussed in private. Healthy people who are on board with a vision can laugh. People who have something on their heart will restrain laughter and be frustrated when others are laughing.
Earlier this year, 3 of our pastors--Mark, John and Luke--presented at a Zondervan Pastor's conference out in California. One of the sessions was developed into an article for Leadership Journal and is now available online.
Take a look at this article coauthored by John Palmieri, pastor of New Life Melrose:
This Sunday and for the next 4 we'll be providing worship and preaching for Seminary Avenue Community Church in their 11am service. Pastor Mark King and his wife are adopting a baby from Guatemala this week and we are helping cover home base for them while they go get little Sam and then begin their adjustment to having an 8 month old baby in their home.
We've also been talking to Seminary Avenue about the idea of a restart under New Life. We're praying about it, talking and leaving it in an open hand to let God lead. Be praying for our two teams as we navigate this process. We believe that if God is in it, it ought to be a win for the community, a win for Seminary Avenue and a win for New Life.
We had a fun Sunday! Our 10:45am service was a bi-lingual celebration with our Spanish congregation and it was a lot of fun. Some of the most dynamic Sunday worship I've been a part of in a long time--I was jumping and shouting and it seems like I wasn't alone! I really enjoyed ministering alongside Pastor Freddy.
Then we headed out to Portage Park for a combined picnic with our Jefferson Park location. We had a great turnout--over 400 people attended and it was a blast. In the morning with all the rain I was wondering if we'd even have a picnic but thankfully the weather totally turned around by midday.
To the cooking and serving crew--you are the most dedicated, hard-working, others-focused group of servants that I can imagine! Thank you for serving so many for the entire day with a great attitude and tons of extra effort. Standing over a hot grill on a terribly humid day takes a heart for Jesus and a love for mass-quantity cooking.
Marco, Al, Christina, Jim, Carmen, Rich, Samantha, Stacy, Stacey, John, Larry, worship teams and all the other folks that made the picnic work--THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!