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Apprentice: Serving in Isiolo

Ephraim Kironji

Ephraim teaching a group of women of a Self-help group

My name is Ephraim. I come from Rironi, a village in Limuru where there is chilly and cold temperatures throughout the year. On the other hand, Isiolo is hot and warm throughout the year which was a totally new environment to me. It never crossed my mind that at any one time I would come to this land to serve the Lord. Majority of the people here are Borana and speak the Borana language. Even with the language barrier, I praise God to have been able to interact with a lot with them and to learn a few words in Borana.

Back in campus, I desired to find a Christian Organization to learn more about God and serve Him. Praise God that I came across iServe Africa. It is now 10 months since joining the apprenticeship programme; it has been a worthwhile time learning so many things concerning faithful Bible teaching and serving.

Being two apprentices at the placement has helped ease the work load greatly. I also met three other staff who have made my time here enjoyable and fruitful. We work as a team in a community based organization by the name ‘Oasis of Hope Initiative’. I am involved in the school mentorship programs which aim at mentoring students in schools. Several times I have worked with the Women Self Help Groups in teaching them on several topics. I am also involved in translating our English training manuals to Kiswahili which is quite involving. Sometimes I help in preparing annual plans, writing project proposals for soliciting funds as well as writing mission reports whenever we plan and conduct missions to the unreached people groups.

In serving the women and young people, I have come to realize how much every one of us is in dire need of the gospel every day. I had not realized how sinful I am until this training. The Lord has been helping me to work with different people with a lot of patience and love. Most of those we target here at my placement are Muslims. O that they may know Jesus Christ the true living God for the forgiveness of their sins! I will forever be grateful to iServe for allowing me to have this cross-cultural experience among the Borana people group.

Through the training in the apprenticeship programme I have come to know that my faith is safe and secure in Christ Jesus unlike earlier when I lived a life of fear and insecurity that my faith may fail. I can now confidently say that I am born again. I have come to know of whom I have believed in and know that it was through the amazing grace of God that I came to faith. My desire is to be involved in gospel ministry forever. For that reason, I am seeking more training with iServe. It is my prayer to be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Ephraim Kironji is one of our apprentices serving in Isiolo. Isiolo is a County in the former Eastern province of Kenya. It is mostly arid or semi-arid.

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Book Review: Show Them Jesus

I have been brought up in a Pentecostal church and happened to be entitled ‘teacher Morris’ because I was teaching Sunday school in my local church. At that time I thought that children need to be taught Christian behavior, ‘churchy’ experiences and being able to master Bible stories so that they can live a good life which is what is happening in many churches. It is after I joined apprenticeship program at iServe Africa that I came across this book titled “Show them Jesus”.

Some things that inspired me to read the book is the statements that children quit church in college level because they learnt much about Christian behavior and churchy experiences which didn’t really change them. They never saw Jesus so strikingly that he becomes their one and greatest Love. They were never convinced that Jesus is better – a zillion times better than anything and everything else.

Show Them Jesus‘Show them Jesus’ is a book written by Jack Klumpenhower. Jack is a Bible teacher and a children’s ministry curriculum writer with more than thirty years of experience. He has created Bible lessons and taught children about Jesus in churches, camps, clubs, conferences, and Christian schools all over the world. This background has made Jack to speak into detail about teaching the gospel to kids.

Jack explains why kids really, really need us and the point is that we are called to teach the good news – all Jesus is and all he has done by his life, death and resurrection.

He says, ‘We need to learn to teach the good news to the kids and they need to understand that Jesus Christ did not bring religion but good news. That when we talk about news is not what you do – it’s what someone else has done that affects you. The good news mean that you relate to God based on what Jesus has done for you not what you have done to prove yourself worthy. Many times we have been giving children good advice instead of the good news. Eventually, kids will tire of our advice, no matter how good it might be and many will leave the church. Others will live decent church lives but without any fire for Christ which is equally as dangerous.’

Section one of his book that comprises of the first five chapters Jack answers the question “Why teach the good news?” He has given the following answers: Because Jesus is everything we need, the good news is like nothing else, the good news is for church kids too, the good news changes hard hearts, the good news is the Bible’s theme song.

Section two that comprises of the last six chapters he talks of ‘How to Teach the Good News’ in this session he has discussed the following: ‘How to teach the good news from the Old Testament, how to teach the good news from the new testament, taking the good news beyond lesson time, taking the good news into all of life, living the good news through prayer, and making the good news your great hope.

He concludes the book by giving twelve answers to the objection that teaching God’s free grace to children leads to lax obedience and states that those who love God’s grace also love to obey him.

‘Show them Jesus’ is a book that I would read every now and then as it has changed my perspective on teaching the gospel to kids; that it’s not about leaving the kids with lessons about behavior but instead showing them Jesus. I recommend it to all who are involved with children at church and at home and would like to learn on how best to teach them the gospel.

Bryan Chapell, one of those who recommends the book says “we want kids to know about Jesus, but we leave them with lessons about behavior and they leave the church as soon as possible. Here’s book that sweetly, masterfully, and powerfully tells us what the gospel really is and how it can really change a child’s life and eternity.”

This book review has been written by Morris Ndoro a January-December apprentice placed at ACK St Luke’s Diocese of Butere. Morris helps in the church as well as teaching God’s Word in schools nearby.

 

 

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Book Review: Gaining the World, Losing the Soul

“Gaining the World, Losing the Soul: How the prosperity gospel distorts the good news” is a book written by three authors: Maura M, Mbugua K and Piper J.

The authors aim to show the harm prosperity gospel has had on the true gospel; how it gaining the worldhas robbed, distorted, corrupted, sugarcoated and misinterpreted the true meaning of the gospel. It has reduced God to the level of a mere sugar daddy.

The introduction defines the prosperity gospel saying that it refers to the preaching that declares that Christ came to offer us salvation from sickness, poverty and all earthly sufferings and not “merely” salvation. The prosperity gospel carries with it four distortions that are distantly different from the true gospel: it offers a smaller God, it distorts man’s greatest need, empties the gospel of its power and it robs God of his glory.

Maura gives a comparison between the true and false gospel. He uses the example of Cain and Seth. Cain chose to focus on false earthly prosperity and Seth focused on calling on the Lord and looked to an eternal and heavenly city. True prosperity is enjoyed by those who focus on God. Jesus said that it is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. This is because the prosperity gospel encourages us to think that the definition of well being and God’s blessing is wealth and it lures the wealthy into a sense of complacency. It leads to an illusion of self sufficiency. Mbugua states that the prosperity gospel comes about because of misinterpretation of the bible. Prosperity preachers decide what Scripture means to their merit.

Mbugua outlines the true meaning of the true gospel. Firstly that the true gospel is the gospel life of Christ’s life on earth which is identified by suffering. Just as he suffered so his followers will suffer for his sake. The books shows that despite the suffering and trial of sharing the true gospel we have the hope of the blessings of the true gospel – eternity through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The mostly targeted audience as stated by Mbugua in the introduction part is: the preachers of the prosperity gospel and those that have fallen prey of it. The book also appeals to all Christians who know the true gospel to be able to boldly speak against false teachings.

The book has helped me to clearly see that true prosperity is enjoyed by those whose focus is God and that true prosperity is rejoicing in my sufferings since the supremacy of Christ is manifested in my suffering. Material things are not bad but if we are living for material prosperity then we are building our houses on sand. Christ suffered and if the master suffered, I as a servant should expect nothing less.

The gospel is about God’s love for us and the heart of the gospel is Christ himself – his death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins. To understand the cross is to understand the true gospel. True prosperity is preaching the crucified Christ. Prosperity preaching leads people away from Christ but there is hope as Jesus tells the wealthy Laodicea Church in Revelation. Repentance is the only hope left. Christ came for all!

This book has really helped me a lot in clearly differentiating the true gospel from the false gospel. I highly recommend this book to every believer and everyone seeking to know the truth in a time when there are so many preachers preaching so many things.

This book review has been written by Alice Mutheu, a January apprentice serving in Karen Community Church helping with children’s ministry. 

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Book Review:  How to Read the Bible for All its Worth

How to Read the Bible for All its Worth is written by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. Gordon is a professor of New Testament at Regent College and Stuart a professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

The purpose of this book is to help the reader become a better Bible interpreter. The authorsHow to read the Bible focus on good interpretation of the text, what the text originally meant (exegesis) and to hear that same meaning in the variety of our own day (hermeneutics). Exegesis is a historical task laying distinction of books according to time and culture of the author and his readers, geographical background, political arenas while hermeneutics seeks to display the relevance of the text in the current century.

Professor Fee Gordon discusses matters on choosing translation. Which translation should one go for and study from? Should we opt for a version because we like it, it’s readable or it was recommended by a woman or man of God? The challenge is the transfer of words and ideas from one language to another; looking at the original language, receptor language and the historical distance existing between the original language in matters of words and their meanings, grammar and culture. The writers have written a whole chapter to guide their readers on different translations.

Furthermore, the book all through has described how to read all the books of the Bible with a clear understanding on the given guidelines, illustrated with examples and pitfalls to avoid what isn’t in the Bible. A good example is with the narratives; individual Old Testament narratives are not intended to teach moral lessons. The purpose is to tell what God did in the history of Israel, not to offer moral examples of right or wrong behavior. The story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis doesn’t portray negative results of parenthood favoritism; rather it serves to tell us how Abraham’s family line was carried on through Jacob and not Esau. And the book of Ruth isn’t a love story; it’s the story of God’s kindness played out in the lives of 3 people who are the central characters!

What’s not in the Bible shouldn’t then be forced. As we read and meditate on Scriptures, faithfulness to the scriptures is vital to give room for the Spirit to illuminate the text and speak to you. It’s time we evaluate the sermons we preach and the songs we sing whether they are scriptural or not.

This book has helped me in understanding how to read the Bible and interpret it correctly. I, therefore, recommend this book to all people who would want their hearts and minds drawn to God through his inspired word with no expectation that everything in the Bible applies as instructions for their own individual lives.

This book review has been written by Delvin Rutto. Delvin is a first-year apprentice placed at Mwangaza Children’s Home in Kilifi County. 

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Book Review -Counterfeit Gods

Counterfeit Gods is a book written by Timothy Keller. Tim is an American pastor, theologian, and Christian apologist. He is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Counterfeit Gods talks about the empty promises of money, sex, and power, and the OnlyCounterfeit Gods Hope that matters. It focuses on the idols we (human beings) have in our hearts that hinder us from acknowledging God as the only person who can give us the satisfaction we yearn for, and not just that but it further gives detailed information on how to identify, uproot and replace these idols.

The author defines an idol as anything more important to a person than God, anything that absorbs his/her heart and imagination more than God, anything one seeks to give him/her what only God can give.

Tim uses illustrations of a number of characters in the Bible who had hidden idols in their lives before they discerned, identified, uprooted and replaced them with the one true God. He talks of Jacob, describing his life as empty. He never had his father’s love, ran away from home to avoid his brother’s wrath, he certainly had no sense of God’s love and care. Then he beheld the most beautiful woman he had ever seen and all the longings of his heart for meaning and affirmation were fixed on Rachel (his idol).

He talks of Naaman, whose success, wealth and power, hindered him from believing Elisha’s instruction to go and dip himself in the Jordan River seven times, and how it took the intervention of his servant for him to be convinced. He further talks of Zacchaeus whose idol was greed and money, and Nebuchadnezzar who idolized status and power. Finally, he talks about Jonah who beheld the love for his own nation and failed to have compassion on the people of Nineveh.

How do we identify idols in our lives?

‘Your religion is what you do with your solitude’ said Archbishop William Temple. In other words, the true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there’s nothing else demanding your attention. What do you habitually think about to get joy and comfort in the privacy of your heart? Another way to discern your heart’s true love is to look at how you spend your money. Jesus said, ‘’ where your treasure is, there is your heart also.’’ Mathew 6:21.

What stood out for me in the book was chapter 6 where Tim dwells on the story of Jonah and the mission given to him by God and how his story connects to Christ. Jonah had to leave his comfort zone and his safety to go to Nineveh where he could face rejection and death. On the other hand, Christ left His comfort in heaven and actually died on the cross. Jonah was thrown in a terrible storm by sailors and the sea became calm, in the same way when the disciples woke Jesus up during a terrible storm, he calmed the sea.

The only difference is that whereas Jonah was merely thrown into the sea and later rescued by a fish, Jesus on the cross, however, was thrown into the ultimate storm – facing the divine justice and punishment that we deserve for our wrongdoing.

He says, ‘When I struggle with my idols I think of Jesus, voluntarily bowing his head into that ultimate storm, taking it on frontally, for me.’ While we may be wondering on where to draw the line of loving the good things we have like family, jobs, spouses, pleasure and so on, Tim says, ‘the solution is not to love good things less, but to love the Best thing more.’

I highly recommend this book to every Christian. It will help us discern, identify, uproot and replace the idols in their lives, with the only one – God who can satisfy their cravings. Counterfeit Gods points to Scripture to help root them out, turns to the Cross to find forgiveness and points to the gospel as the power to find ultimate freedom from them.

Anna Daisy Ojera has written this book review. Anna Daisy is an apprentice based in GracePoint Church, Kikuyu where she helps in the children’s ministry. 

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Evangelism: The Ministry of Dry Bones

dry bones

Many books and articles have been written on the topic of evangelism from how to do it successfully to how to keep the converts, the content of evangelism and even how to be bold for the timid ones. We have gurus who for ages have been doing it and praise God for the fruit and their great insight.

It occurred to me, however, that evangelism is a rather interesting ministry. It is not always exciting and it is not easy and here’s the reason; it is a ministry to the dead so to say; a mission impossible of resurrecting dead men.

The famous story in Ezekiel 37 is a striking one; Ezekiel is carried by God’s spirit to a valley. It’s more of a vision than the dramatic whirling of Elijah. The valley is not with flowers and flowing streams but with bones and lots of them and in his assessment they were very dry. Well, the Lord has brought Ezekiel here for practical lessons and asks ‘can these bones live’?  Answer: ‘O Sovereign Lord, You alone know’.

The Lord then asks Ezekiel to prophesy or proclaim to the bones to live which he does dry_bonesand the result is shocking. The bones come together bone to bone and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them. He again, on the Lord’s command, calls for breath and they stand on their feet. And behold a great army! It sounds like what happens in Hollywood horror movies (I think they might have borrowed ideas from this).

What is this all about anyway? Well, we need not overthink as Ezekiel explains the vision. This is an illustration of the nation of Israel, they are the dry bones – lost hope in captivity in Babylon in oppression and their country was ruined and they are under the yoke of the most powerful king at the time, they are as good as dead – but the comfort is that in that impossible situation God will raise them again to life by restoring them back to their land.

The promise is made massive by the fact that God will not only restore Judah who is in Babylon back to Jerusalem. He would also restore everyone else including the other 10 tribes of Israel that had been assimilated by the Assyrians many years ago so that they can become one nation of 12 tribes again just like they were in the time of King David. And David who was long dead by then would be their king not for 40 years but forever. Not only that but that people will not be rebellious like before but would walk in God’s way faithfully. This is not just a miracle of being alive physically but also spiritually. And there will be no more ‘by the rivers of Babylon songs’ again for they will dwell there forever and God’s temple will be there never again to be robbed by Nebuchadnezzar; such a great thing! Can this happen? Only You Lord knows…

The vision will be partially fulfilled when the people of Judah return home to rebuild their nation led by Nehemiah, Ezra and Zerubbabel. But even greater when Christ the son of David comes, dwells among us (Emmanuel) as the temple through whom we offer sacrifices to God, brings both Judah, Israel and all nations to himself and is still reigning almost two thousand years after and will continue to do so forever.

But what does this have to do with Evangelism?

I think Ezekiel is essentially doing what an evangelist is called to do, being taken to a valley of dry bones, dead men and women. Paul uses the language of dead men in Ephesians 2, unconverted men and women are dead even though physically they are alive, you can say they are walking dead. They might be arguing and talking and even agreeing and disagreeing but the fact is that they are dead. And the question of them coming to life is as difficult for us today as it was for Ezekiel. We don’t have that experience, we don’t have any course that handles the resurrection of people, we only study them as dead (post-mortem) but do not how to bring them back to life. We know what to do in case someone is angry, bored, illiterate, injured, fainted or goes into a comma but not if they are dead. And if that be the case we must learn to answer rightly like Ezekiel, ‘O Sovereign Lord, only You know’. I guess the ‘’knowing’’ here is more than just having knowledge but also being able to or having the ability, as it were, to bring them back to life.

Here is the big lesson for evangelism – we do not know, only God knows and better still we cannot bring dead people back to life only the Author of Life can. It is a mission impossible for any human being to bring back the dead. It is, therefore, a surprise when God invites us to such a mission, and we must learn from Ezekiel; we don’t know, we cannot do it.

The starting point of evangelism is to accept defeat; our weakness and our inability. It is an invitation first to ‘know’ the Lord, of His power and his working. Evangelism is for the building of faith of a believer not in them doing stuff, but faith in the Lord they believe in, it is being invited by God to his garage where he shows you how He does it. It is like being invited to that time before time began, chapter zero of Genesis and being with the Father, Son and the Spirit as they created the universe and everything in it. It is hearing the Word of God ‘’let there be’’ and seeing the lights shining, the waters flowing, the birds and animals coming. That is evangelism for us; witnessing God do the miracle of raising the dead; seeing grace manifested in our very eyes.

Evangelism then is about believers first; about their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Being awed by the greatness of our God and moved to cling more to Him. Seeing grace at work as God calls the dead (spiritually dead) to come back to life and turn from their old futile ways to put their trust in God.

As we see people being saved, leaving their old ways and turning to Christ, we watch with amazement and wonder, like Ezekiel witnessing the bones come together, and then flesh and finally breath. We praise Him to whom salvation belongs not just for others but even for us.

Although it is God who raises men from the grave he invites us to witness this not as passive members but as active ones; he gives us words to say (prophecy), and as we speak His words dead people come to life. The Lord calls us to share the good news of Jesus, to tell the story of a Saviour, we repeat his words and as we do that we see men waking up, running to Him for salvation. As a result, we come to ‘know the Lord’ and they come to know the Lord.

Therefore, ministry to the dry bones is possible because it is the ministry of the One who has the power to raise them from death to life.

As I had mentioned, this is not an article that answers all questions on evangelism but one that seeks to challenge our view of evangelism so that we think on its practicalities that could be different from one person to another and from one context to another.

This article has been written by Peter Kamau. Peter is on the staff team serving as a Ministry Training Facilitator and is passionate about missions.

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Taking God at His Word; Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me.

‘Taking God at His Word’ has been written by Kevin DeYoung. Kevin is an American Reformed Evangelical theologian and author. He is currently the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina.

Can we trust the Bible completely? Is it sufficient for our complicated lives? Can Taking God at His Wordwe really know what it teaches? I wonder how you feel about taking God at his word. It has been one of the hardest parts of my life as a disciple of Christ. I have no problem reading God’s word, the challenge comes at applying it and literally taking God at his Word. 

When we were given the book, I really wanted to read and see whether I would be helped in this area. The title says it all. Kevin begins by laying out what we should believe, feel and do with the word of God. By realizing that God’s Word says what is true, demands what is right and provides what is good we should thus delight in it, desire it and depend on it. We should sing, speak and study it, obey and store it, praise God for it and pray that he would act according to his Word. Quite accurately, the author attests that we should go to the Bible to learn about the Bible because to judge the Bible by any other standard would be to make the Bible less than what it claims to be.

If I’m honest with myself, I never thought that Scripture was enough. I struggled with its sufficiency, especially the knowledge of salvation and godly living. Yet Kevin puts it clearly that the Word of God is perfect and complete giving us all we need to know about Christ, salvation, and godliness. He further affirms that the Son is our great superlative, surpassing all others because in him we have fullness and finality of God’s redemption and revelation.

More to this, the writer also gives helpful advice on how to take God at his word by showing us that even Jesus believed that the Bible was all true, all edifying, all important and all about him. He believed absolutely that the Bible was from God and totally free from error. What scripture says, God says and what God said was recorded infallibly in the Scriptures.

He also gives good pointers on what we should focus on and how we can go about it. The most distinct pointer I have found helpful is that nothing more needs to be said about the Scripture, once we know that all of it has been breathed out by God.  We trust the Bible because it is God’s Bible. And God being God, we have every reason to take him at his word.

I highly recommend this book to every Christian and non-Christian with questions about the Bible and for Christians wanting to grow in their understanding of the Bible.

This book review has been written by Everlyne Muoki. Everlyne is an apprentice placed at ACK Mt. Kenya Hospital in Kerugoya, Kirinyaga County where she helps in the IT & Procurement Department as well as in the morning devotions in the hospital.