JESUS SIGHTINGS FROM KENYA Embracing “The Jesus Who Is”
The first week of our three week ministry time in Kenya has ended.
Richard Cazzell led a three day Marriage and Parenting workshop for more than 60 young Christian leaders – then taught a shorter version of the same in the Bible School. Sam preached, assisted with teaching in the Bible School and ministered in a home group.
My week focused on teaching the GOSPEL OF JOHN in its entirety. This is a repeat of the class in January 2012. Those students were profoundly affected by the “Jesus Who IS” in the Gospel and took action after the class by organizing an association to help each other start micro-businesses to support their ministry efforts.
So we decided to offer the same course to a new group of students this January.
JOHN is less a biography of Jesus as it is a personal introduction to him. The object of the Gospel is to take the reader step-by-step from UNBELIEF to FAITH in the Son of God.
JOHN is sometimes referred to as the “Book of Signs”.
The apostle John selected 7 signs to point the reader to the “Jesus Who IS” and away from the Jesus we might imagine or wish him to be. Signs are natural or supernatural events that seem to have special meaning or significance beyond the simple happening.
Such ‘signs’ (e.g. the plagues in Egypt prior to the Exodus) have a vetting effect on the observers: hardening the hearts of those who are rejecting the revelation of God while strengthening the faith of those whose hearts are open to authentic faith.
What was interesting this week was the dramatic and unseasonable weather during our teaching days. Eldoret was at the height of the dry season. There had been no rain for weeks and none was expected until March.
On Monday afternoon, a massive thunderhead passed over the area with a thirty-minute downpour. The local folks were surprised by the out-of-season rain.
Tuesday afternoon the same thing happened.
Wednesday an even a heavier rain.
Thursday even more.
Friday a four hour severe thunderstorm with torrential rain and hail. I’d estimate conservatively that not less than 10 inches of rain fell in those five days.
But Saturday (after our schools closed), there was no rain. [Nor was there another drop during the remaining 13 days we were in Kenya.]
The students were buzzing.
Is this sign?
And if so, what might God be saying to us?
Or maybe it is just global warming?
Or some weird coincidence?
Or maybe…just maybe… this was a sign that prayers long offered for God to pour out the finances needed to fund the Final Push in world evangelization were about to be answered?
That is the nature of signs.
Their interpretation is a matter of ‘vision’ – the ability to see and understand what the signs are pointing toward.
JOHN presents Jesus in divine terms. Perhaps the most telling witness comes from Jesus who identifies himself half a dozen times as I AM – God’s name of choice to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3).
The crisis of faith and unbelief escalate as the Gospel progresses. After all, who can claim to be God and not create a major stir?
In chapters 7 & 8 Jesus confronts the religious leaders of Israel in a contest of ‘who’s your daddy?’ The corrupt leaders imply that Jesus is a bastard from Nazareth (that miserable little town in Galilee of the Gentiles). And, they accuse him of doing his miracles using demonic power.
Jesus claims the God of Abraham to be his father. He identifies THEIR daddy as the devil!
Who is this man who dares to publicly label Israel’s spiritual leaders as sons-of-Satan?
- Is Jesus a demon-possessed Samaritan?
- Is he the illegitimate son of a nobody from a distant, disrespected province?
- Could he be the Prophet-to-come predicted by Moses (Deut 18)?
- Or – it’s a long shot to be sure – could he be the long-awaited Messiah?
In the end, everyone makes their decision about Jesus. The consequences of that final judgment about Jesus are massive and eternal. One’s judgment about Jesus turns out to be one’s ‘final judgment’.
Each day I asked the students if their perception of Jesus were changing. “Yes!” they replied. “He is getting bigger!”
And BIG indeed is the One who sits at the right hand of God with ALL authority over the heavens and the earth.
There is so much more about the Jesus of JOHN I would love to share with you.
Let me close with this.
The apostle John and the Jesus of JOHN are agreed on this:
THERE IS NO MIDDLE GROUND (Ch 3) WITH GOD.
Each of us is either moving toward the Light of the revelation of the One True God shining through the Son who is sent from the Father, or each of us is shrinking back into Darkness to hide our unbelief and sin.
In the end, we will each meet God face-to-face: as a new creation in Christ Jesus (to discover him to be an infinitely more wonderful friend than we could ever imagined), or we will meet him still saturated in our sin (to discover Him a shockingly terrible enemy we could scarcely have imagined).
It all depends on who we understand Jesus to be and what action we take based on that understanding.
The apostle wrote this Gospel so that everyone might know that Jesus is the crucified, resurrected, glorified Son of God and the King of all creation — so that we might have LIFE in him – now and forever.
I live with knowledge that my ‘story’ will climax in the welcoming embrace of the Jesus Who Is.
I hope yours will too.
Doug Van Devender
Transforming Prayer email@example.com
JESUS SIGHTINGS FROM KISII, KENYA A Mighty Rushing Wind
We just finished our second week in our ministry journey through Kenya.
This week we led a Pastors Conference hosted by Dr. George and Susan Mambeleo of Life Ministries. The venue was Mt. Zion Church in the southwestern mountain town of Kisii.
Kisii is located high above Lake Victoria and is agriculturally one of the most fertile areas in Africa. The area is also deeply entrenched in witchcraft and ‘Christianized’ religion.
Some 70 pastors and church leaders joined us for the two and a half day meeting. The church is a small stone building with an attached 4000 sq. ft. permanent tent (made of heavy, rubberized canvass) used for congregational meetings. We met in the tent.
Over the years God has gradually clarified the Transforming Prayer message he has given us to share:
- God is creating a People for himself, called by his name, in whom he comes to live – now and forever.
- God has revealed himself in Jesus who on the Cross takes away our sin and is to us The Resurrection and The Life, and The Way into the eternal People of God.
- Through New Birth we become new creations in Christ – hybrid creatures able to live simultaneously in the visible physical world and in the largely unseen spiritual world – being unique in all creation as beings created in the image of God.
- Jesus is the template for how we are intended “to live by the Spirit of God”: in humility, absolute dependence on God, obedient to Him, increasingly manifesting His character, nature, purpose and competency.
- In regard to the latter, we explain the Ministry of Jesus (Luke 4), the calling of EVERY believer to participate in and do the ministry of Jesus at some level (Luke 9 & 10, John 14:12a, Matthew 28:16-20, Acts 1), and the responsibility of Christian leaders to both model the ministry of Jesus and to equip all of God’s People to do the same (Ephesians 4:11-16).
All of this is foundational to the introduction of Transforming Prayer: a simple prayer model that enables every trained believer to participate in the ministry of Jesus in virtually any setting.
Over the years we’ve prayed with hundreds of people and witnessed the ministry of Jesus with our own eyes: the lost receiving salvation, blind eyes opening, the broken-hearted made whole, tormenting darkness peeled off, and the discovery of joy and freedom in the wonderful world of God’s grace and favor.
We also taught other important lessons: Richard teaching effectively on Marriage and Parenting – Sam Bass doing an excellent job of explaining what forgiveness IS and what forgiveness ISN’T.
During the conference we gave the church leaders two homework assignments:
- Repent of YOUR ministry so that you might take up the ministry of JESUS, and
- Ask God to identify within you ALL residual unforgiveness, resentment, hatred and revenge — then give them up completely.
Sam taught one meaning in Greek for forgiveness to be LOOSE THE SAIL. When a storm caught a boat under full sail and threatened to capsize it or drive it on the rocks, the order was shouted: FORGIVE (LOOSE) THE SAIL.
And so it is with unforgiveness which wrecks the effectiveness – even the life – of anyone who refuses to LOOSE THE SAIL. Loosing forgiveness deprives darkness of the leverage necessary to ‘imprison’ and ‘torment’ us (see Matthew 18).
Multiple testimonies indicated that some leaders did in fact do business with Jesus during the night by loosing grudges long held. Others gave evidence they were at least struggling with the challenge.
On Day Two we did demo prayers in front of the group during which God showcased what he is prepared to do with those who embrace this new way of prayer.
One young leader was healed of deep guilt for personal sin and grief over a serious family situation. His hopelessness lifted off and was replaced by joy.
Another man made a first step back to wholeness after being derailed during a season of drugs and false religion. The next day his sense of calling had been restored and he appeared to be moving toward wholeness.
The bottom line is this: the way we go about ‘doing church’ in Kenya is a reflection of European and American church models that are limited in their effectiveness in Africa and — arguably — aren’t getting the job done well in Europe or America either!
What is emerging from the ecclesiastical haze is a choice: to continue to ‘do church’ with increasingly limited fruitfulness and a limited capacity to actualize Jesus-ministry among Jesus’ People…
…to embrace a model that activates ALL of God’s People to do the ministry of Jesus — and that with the aims of (1) equipping of God’s People to effectively evangelize the nations, and (2) enabling them to heal God’s People while bringing them to maturity in Christ.
The meeting concluded as the leaders grappled with this choice.
Communion was served.
Closing prayers were offered by several leaders.
A final goodbye was spoken by the host.
At that very moment, out of a clear summer sky, a tornado-like wind descended, blasting into the front of the building with a great roar, intensifying as it came. Suddenly the roof lifted, peeled away, leaving the church completely open to the sky. One section of roof was later found more than half mile away.
The funnel traveled the length of the remaining structure with a roar, a cloud of sand and dust marking its path. At the back wall, the powerful wind lifted and quickly dissipated.
People in a nearby market heard an explosion and the great roaring sound, and — seeing the destroyed church — assumed everyone inside to be dead. They did not approach the building, not wanting to see the dead bodies.
An older woman (who had been cooking lunch each day for the conference) took her Bible and went to meet the crowd of onlookers. SURELY WHAT THE PEOPLE IN THAT BUILDING ARE DOING IS EVIL, the people said, FOR SATAN TO HAVE COME AND KILLED THEM.
NO, she said. Opening her Bible she preached from Acts 2, explaining that God had come down to affirm the message that had just been delivered. ‘Now we have experienced something of Pentecost ourselves.’
For astonishingly, no one was injured or killed – virtually nothing inside the building was disturbed (water bottles and Bibles on the tables remained untouched) — nor were any objects in the building destroyed or missing such as one would have expected in such a violent wind – no one felt fear or panicked – few made any effort to evacuate the building – we all stood in place as the wind blasted around and past us. An adjoining tent used by the youth was untouched.
One pastor later remarked, “The wind was so powerful, but so gentle.”
We were stunned. There was no natural explanation for what we had just witnessed and experienced. The weather was clear and dry — there had been a gentle breeze all week – except for this one dramatic event.
No one doubted that this was a sign!
But how were we to properly interpret the sign?
The initial response from a few was typical, concluding that the devil was angry because our teaching and prayers had threatened him. ‘He must be showing his displeasure by attempting to destroy the church and everyone in it.’
But I had just finished teaching that the churches in Kenya were giving far too much credit to the devil for the happenings of life. Rather than being preoccupied with the devil, we should press deeply into relationship with Jesus who in any event “disarmed” the principalities and powers of darkness on the Cross (Col 2:15)
So as we continued to pray for understanding, several convictions grew:
This was the finger of God come to confirm the message and ministry of the week AND to figuratively rip off the roof of a ‘closeted African church model’ to open God’s People to the heavens and to the community.
Several had the strong impression that just as God tore the veil in the Temple at the moment of Jesus’ death to open the way for everyone to enter the presence of God in the Holy of Holies, so God was tearing a veil off outdated religious forms to punctuate His offer made in the conference to move us into something better.
Had the roof remained firmly attached to the framework of the building, the entire building would have pushed over and almost certainly resulted in injuries and fatalities.
But the building “loosed the roof” and it flew off with otherwise minimal consequence.
Or maybe it was a freak meteorological event?
Or a monstrous dust devil….?
After all, that’s the way it is with signs. Different ‘eyes’ see different meanings.
But a sign it was. Everyone agreed.
Many onlookers declared they would attend the church on Sunday to see what God was doing. As the news ran through Kisii, some who had ignored the invitation to attend the meeting called to express their deep regret at having stayed away.
I can say for our team with certainty, we passed a transition point in Kisii as the wind passed us.
That day we left something behind – gone with the wind, if you will. Today we are moving into something fresh – authentic – dynamic – and thrilling in our relationship with Jesus.
The adventure of tracking with Jesus continues for us.
We hope it is for you, too.
Blessings, Doug Van Devender & Team
Transforming Prayer firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE JESUS SIGHTINGS An Example of Transforming Prayer
Eldoret, Kenya – February 13, 2013
While the focus of this week’s T4T Conference is to train evangelists and church planters how to bring and incorporate large numbers of new converts into the People of God, we continue to pray daily for leaders who need a healing touch from God.
Today we prayed for a young pastor named Jimmy who is doing an excellent work of training new leaders in Uganda.
The presenting issue was a near fatal heart arrhythmia that had recently hospitalized him for ten days. Our team of four gathered around him to pray during a lunch break.
As we commonly do, we asked God if there were any issue He wanted to address before we prayed over our friend’s medical condition?
The ministry of Jesus is five-fold (Like 4:18ff)
- spiritual healing and salvation
- physical healing
- emotional healing
- liberation from the powers of darkness
- entering the age of Gods favor.
We have learned that the initial request for prayer may provide God the opening to do even more than is asked. So, we follow the lead of the Spirit to discover the intentions of Jesus.
The answer from the Spirit was, “No other matter to address first.”
So we proceeded.
Before praying for the healing of the young man’s heart we asked him if he were aware of any underlying problem contributing to the heart’s irregularity.
He answered that the doctors said he had an overactive thyroid which they could only partially control with medication.
So we asked Jesus if there were any underlying factor feeding into the thyroid problem?
The young man was quiet for a moment. Then he told us of being anxious about family matters and ministry challenges. (If you knew the details of his life situation, you would wonder how he manages to keep going!)
So we asked Jesus to speak the truth to him about these anxious feelings.
The answer was, “I own you. I own your family. I own your business. I own your ministry…AND… I care for each them more than you care for them!”
After considering that for a moment, the young pastor expressed the realization that everything that has come to him in this life has come from Jesus.
“Nothing has ever really come from my efforts alone,” he confessed.
I asked, “How does that make you feel – knowing that everything you need and have comes from Jesus?”
I thought it best to check and see if the root of the anxiety had been pulled. “Now, see if you can locate the anxiety you have been experiencing.”
He could not. The anxious feelings had dissipated.
So with the assurance that God was welcoming our prayers, we prayed for several minutes for God to heal his thyroid.
At the conclusion, I asked, “How do you feel now?”
He reported that his strength had returned and that he felt well. So, we prayed for him to be filled afresh with the Holy Spirit who – in any event — provides life to our mortal bodies.
The minister was relaxed and smiling as we finished.
So, how do we evaluate such a prayer session? We wait for objective confirmation concerning his healing before we report it as so:
- If he has been healed, this most recent experience of God’s mercy and power will be added to his already dramatic and extensive testimony of the living God’s work in and through him.
- If there is improvement, we will likely ask God for discernment and pray again for his healing to be complete.
- If there is no improvement, we will ask God for discernment on how to pray and we will pray again.
Until he know for sure what God has done in prayer, the pastor remains under medical care with continuing medication.
As is so often the case, the initial voiced prayer request turned out to be only one aspect of what God wished to address.
With patience and discernment, an ordinary prayer session can be turned into Transforming Prayer.
[NOTE: When we left Jimmy two days later he reported that he had had no further heart irregularities.]
MORE JESUS SIGHTINGS FROM AFRICA And Signs Shall Follow Them
During our 32 years of ministry in Africa, we have experienced what the New Testament calls ‘signs and wonders’. I am often asked why such ‘signs’ seem rare in American church life? The evaluations Jesus made of the religious situation in his day seem to apply to us as well:
- God is active around us all the time. Our failure to see and properly discern what he is saying and doing is rooted in spiritual blindness — and that blindness (often matched by a deafness to God’s voice) is rooted in unbelief.
I realize I will make no new friends by saying this, but the American Christian community functions at a seriously high level of unbelief when it comes to discerning and acknowledging the contemporary presence and work of Jesus. Hence, we live in a ‘sign-less’ world and wonder about the ‘exotic’ reports we hear from places like Africa.
- A second reason for the scarcity of signs is our passionless hearts for the lost, i.e. those people apart from Jesus who are heading for an eternity in hell.
Hell went out of fashion in many Christian circles in the 1960’s (as did heaven) to be replaced by education, social sensitivity and political action. ‘We are all God’s children’ is the new mantra. Nothing could be more intolerant than to suggest that no one will escape hell who has not been crucified with Christ and thereafter resurrected with him.
Jesus declared that such people who seek after a sign are evil and adulterous. Jesus certainly knew how to excite The Tolerant.
- A third reason for the scarcity of signs is a failure to model and communicate THE Gospel.
Paul wrote that there is only one Gospel. Those promoting any other gospel (‘which is no gospel at all’) are functioning under a curse! (Gal 1 & 3) And this curse comes not from the devil (which might be prayed off), but is a self-imposed curse sanctioned by God himself.
And [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover…. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. (Mark 16: 15, 17-18, 20 ESV — emphasis mine)
God confirms HIS Word with signs.
As we model the ministry of Jesus and proclaim the apostolic Good News, God continually delights with the ways he confirms his Word.
One evening I ministered in a home group in the wretched slum of Sukunanga. Some 30 people – mostly young people – packed into a dimly-lit mud hut the size of a small bedroom. They worshiped Jesus passionately. They prayed with faith. They shared Communion. They gave out of what they do not have. They eagerly received a word about the heart of God for them.
On the way back to town with Ben, Patrick and Geoffrey, Ben suggested we drop by a local hospital to pray for a fellow believer who was very ill. We stopped, entered the hospital and spent some time going form ward to ward until we found Livingston.
His ward was dark, dirty, mosquito-infested and apparently unattended. The small room was crowded with the beds of ten very seriously sick people. The narrow spaces between the beds were filled with attending family members.
Livingston had a life-threatening blood clot in his right leg. He is a soccer star who is otherwise in excellent physical condition. The young man was in considerable pain and could not sit.
He was happy for us to pray for him. As we prayed, the Holy Spirit settled on him. He became very hot and sweated profusely. After a few moments, he raised himself to a seated position and reported that much of the pain had left.
Patrick was encouraged by those results and suggested we offer to pray for everyone in the ward. The team agreed. Patrick announced to the room our offer to pray for all the patients. Immediately, without being directed, all the family members rose, formed a circle, held hands and waited for one of us to pray.
I was asked to lead. As I prayed for the other nine patients, the presence of God came strongly into the room. I wondered if some of us might not be able to stand under the weight of God’s presence.
Our prayer completed, the family members thanked us and we left.
Afterward our team traveled to Kisii for a week. So I didn’t talk with Ben again until we returned to Eldoret nine days later. I was curious to get a report on how Livingston was doing.
“You know, you will be amazed,” Ben stated. “After we prayed, the young child (who apparently was dying) woke up healed and the parents took him home that evening. The man who had been in the coma for some days woke up and his family took him home. Another critically ill man got out of bed and his family took him home.
“The next morning, the other six patients had also recovered and their families took them home. The day after that, Livingston was healed and went home, too. He is now doing fine.”
God had emptied the entire hospital ward.
Try these things:
Turn off your media.
Deal with your unbelief.
Risk your respectability.
Crawl out of your comfort zone.
Open your heart with mercy to the spiritually lost, the physically sick, the emotionally crushed, the demonized and those hungering for the favor of God.
Drive a stake through your own personal and religious opinions.
DISCERN what God is doing around you.
Having discerned what he is doing, AGREE with Him. Agree with what HE is saying. Agree with what HE is doing.
COOPERATE with him. Stop watching others do the Jesus stuff. Become a full participant. Become an actual disciple. Get busy DOING the MINISTRY OF JESUS along with Jesus (Luke 4:18ff).
Live THE Gospel.
Model THE Gospel.
Do THE Gospel.
Develop a lifestyle of sharing THE Gospel with the lost who God brings across your path.
You might be surprised what you will witness the living Jesus do.
You might even catch a sign or two.
JESUS SIGHTINGS FROM KENYA Moving from Addition to Multiplication
It is an understatement to say the Christians we work with in East Africa are dedicated. Their passion to introduce everyone to Jesus is hot. They work long hours for little notice. Place themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of others. Endure poverty to minister to the poor. Care for hundreds of orphans when they can barely provide for their own children.
And in and through it all, they produce fruit – fruit that lasts:
- The lost are saved.
- The sick healed.
- The demonized freed.
- The destitute fed, clothed, sheltered and educated.
They are Adding to God’s People daily, but the numbers are working against them. Africa – like many parts of the world – is growing at such a rate that the best efforts of dedicated men and women seem to be falling behind population curve.
QUESTION: So what is needed to stay ahead of the curve?
ANSWER: To move from Adding to Multiplying.
To help them make that transition to Multiplying, we helped host a training event in Kenya last week. An old friend of mine who has spent three decades learning how to empower evangelists and church planters to move from the Addition to the Multiplication trained us.
God providentially made it possible for Bill to be with us to conduct the training. Thirty select evangelists and church planters gathered from several areas of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.
The training was simple but transformative. The following are a few things we learned:
- We should know God’s will for EVERY Christian: to reach the lost with the Good News of Jesus so that they will escape destruction & enter into eternal LIFE.
- We should understand that we were created by God to produce PERMANENT fruit: both the character of Jesus & new believers.
- Discipleship is not so much the transfer of information as it is being functionally TRAINED in the basics of the Faith.
- I am responsible to train others to train others to be trainers of that with which I have been trained (2 Timothy 2:2)
- True LIFE and permanent FRUITFULNESS come from abiding in Christ (John 15:1-18). So every day we ask one another the question believers in China ask each other, “Have you eaten today?” i.e. Have you been fed yet today with spiritual nourishment from God’s Spirit & Word, and have you had breakfast? We listen & interact with each other’s answer. We make sure everyone has breakfast food, too.
- Bringing others to Jesus produces JOY – in heaven and in your life.
- Develop this as a lifestyle:
SEEING what God is doing.
OBEYING what God is saying.
SHARING what God has done and said.
- Everyone needs a weekly ACTION PLAN.
- Successful ACTION PLANS run on consistent ACCOUNTABILITY.
- Look for the PERSONS OF PEACE who will be doorways for God’s salvation to their family, friends and community (Luke 10). Invest your life in them.
- Train new believers from the moment of salvation – everyone is called by God to be a trainee, a witness and a trainer – the sooner one is empowered to witness and train the better, preferably beginning the day they are born again.
- The proper training progression: DEMONSTRATING, ASSISTING, WATCHING & LEAVING.
- Each ‘generation’ has the responsibility to train the next ‘generation’ of trainers to train the next ‘generation’ of trainers.
Each morning we reported on (1) who we had witnessed to the past day, and (2) who we had taught yesterday’s lesson. Two class members led a passing man to the Lord on the steps of the hotel where the meeting was being held. Other class members led seven others came to Christ during the seminar.
Bill required us to produce daily action plans based on what we were learning and incorporating what Jesus was saying to us. For me, the pieces came together on how to prepare our TRANSFORMING PRAYER orientation materials to train Christian leaders in 43 nations in Africa (where we are invited) to do the ministry of Jesus and to train others to be trainers of the same.
Of course, such an audacious vision is humanly impossible. But as God provides additional, competent team members and finances to carry us forward, I am confident we will enable many of God’s People in Africa to more fully engage and do the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus said, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” John 4:35 ESV
Or to put it another way, “Millions of people are lying on their beds tonight in pain, crying out to whom they know not.”
But we know the One to whom they are crying out. They are waiting for us to tell them.
Are you Adding? or
Are you Multiplying?
Don’t wait. Today is all you have.
Today is all that many of them have.
Doug Van Devender & Team