September 29, 2008

Awakening Africa: Guarding the Gospel

Awakening AfricaPerhaps you noticed that I didn’t post my regular weekly roundup on Friday. Why didn’t I? Because I was on my way to southern California for an important fundraising event—Awakening Africa: Guarding the Gospel. Now that I’m back home, I’m still marveling at God’s grace and blessings during this unforgettable night. Let me tell you more.

Nearly 150 of us gathered at the historic Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. After greeting many new friends, we sat down to a top-notch dinner. Of course, nothing is as good as my wife’s cooking (I’d get in trouble if I didn’t say so!), but I was impressed by the quality of the entire evening.

John Divito SharingSoloist Rob Nye set the mood with one of my favorite contemporary hymns, “In Christ Alone.” Then CFAR’s executive director, Paul Carden, answered three questions: Why CFAR? Why Africa? and Why Now? His sincere passion for our ministry’s vision was contagious.

Next we debuted a new film that vividly presents the vision for ACFAR. (You should be seeing it soon, so stay tuned!) I then shared my testimony of forsaking Mormonism and finding true freedom in Jesus Christ. I was also privileged to introduce Greg Koukl, founder and president of Stand to Reason, one of our key partner ministries in Africa.

Greg Koukl SpeakingGreg delivered a convicting message from 2 Timothy on “guarding the Gospel.” God has used Greg greatly in my own spiritual development, and I was reminded why: Greg effectively explains and applies God’s Word, giving Christians the tools they need to stand strong for truth in the marketplace of ideas.

After Greg we had a special treat: Hajni Pataki, a former Jehovah’s Witness pioneer from Hungary. Through the ministry of AndrĂ¡s Szalai, the director of CFAR Hungary, Hajni broke free from the lies of the Watchtower Society and has come to know true freedom and maturity in Christ. Hajni’s testimony was a powerful example of what we hope to see in the lives of cult members all across East Africa.

The evening’s program ended as Rob Nye brought a moving song on missions, “Our Heart.” I remained long afterwards to spend one-on-one time with our guests and supporters. What a privilege to meet so many believers who share our excitement for what God has in store for Uganda!

God used this weekend in California to rejuvenate me and renew my amazement at all He is preparing for ACFAR. I can hardly express my appreciation for all who invested so sacrificially to bring this evening about. May God be glorified as we pray and labor to raise up a generation of Africans who will defend His gospel and bring cultists to Christ!

September 24, 2008

Sermon: Festo Kivengere, "The Triumph of God's Glory"

When I was in Uganda earlier this year, Dr. Solomon Nkesiga from Kampala Evangelical School of Theology (KEST) suggested that I learn more about the Balokole and the East Africa Revival. Since returning, I have been trying to find helpful and informative resources on this important African movement.

Festo KivengereIn my research, I learned about a Ugandan Christian leader who was called "the Billy Graham of Africa." Festo Kivengere was an Anglican bishop who converted during the East African Revival. He also had to flee his home country during the brutal rule of Idi Amin. Kivengere faithfully served Christ until his death.

Imagine my surprise when I found an audio recording of one of Kivengere's sermons while he was in America. Here it is:
I praise God for our brothers and sisters in Christ in East Africa, and love hearing about the Holy Spirit's work around the world.

September 22, 2008

Trials and the Purpose of God

"Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand." (Proverbs 19:21).

Last week I mentioned how God changed my plans as the aftermath of Hurricane Ike blew violently through our area. However, it turns out that He wasn't done with my family yet. On Thursday night our oldest daughter was taken to the emergency room and diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.

InsulinShe will now be dependent on insulin for the rest of her life. The next several months will be trying ones for our family as we adapt to her medical needs. We will have to change her diet, test her blood four times a day, and give her regular insulin shots. Managing all of this well will take several months of learning and adjustment for our entire family.

My wife and I come away from this discovery thankful to God that He has provided us with ways to treat and live well with diabetes. We also realize how utterly dependent we are on Him—our daughter’s pancreas stopped functioning properly, and apart from attentive care she cannot live. But most importantly, we pray that we will glorify Christ through this time of trial. We pray that we will rely on Christ through this tremendous change. And we pray that each member of our family will draw closer to our infinitely wise and faithful God.

We welcome your prayers in the coming weeks and months and greatly appreciate all those who are committed to our family and the ministry of ACFAR. If you’d like to receive regular prayer updates about us via e-mail, let me know.

And please—continue to pray for this week’s "Awakening Africa" event in southern California (September 27)! I hope to see many of you there.

September 19, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Bambi Baaba, Buddhism, Hinduism, and African Christianity

Here's this week's round-up:

1) "‘God-man’ behind Rakai city project" in the Sunday Vision newspaper (Uganda). Earlier this week, I mentioned the controversial Sserulanda Nsulo Yobulamu Spiritual Foundation led by Mugonza Bambi Baaba. This news article is a write-up of their proposed multi-million dollar Lake Victoria Free Trade Zone. According to the report, "Among the stated objectives of the Sserulanda Development Association are to 'pool material, economic, financial and human resources by the members of the company for the purpose of fostering material, financial, social and spiritual growth and development of the members and their families'."

2) Florence Baingana, "Cause, effect, and witchcraft (ddogo)" in the Sunday Monitor newspaper (Uganda). A few months ago, I pointed out an article of an Ugandan promoting Buddhism. Here's her second piece.

3) Rafsanjan Abbey Tatya, "The Ganesh festival, where devotion is celebration" in the Sunday Monitor newspaper (Uganda). Hinduism also has an established presence in Uganda. This year marks the 14th year of celebrating the Lord Ganesha, who is worshipped as the supreme god of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune.

4) "Living on the Seam of History 1: African Christianity" on the Koinonia blog. Here's an announcement for an exciting new blog series: "'Living on the Seam of History' is a series of blog posts that will explore the 'dramatic shift' in Christianity that Dr. Tennent so rightly points out.... We will attempt to see and learn first from Africa, a member of the global church that is often only viewed as the mission field."

They also point to a new imprint from Zondervan devoted to our African brothers and sisters in Christ--HippoBooks. Noteworthy is one of their first books by Ghanaian scholar John Azumah, My Neighbour's Faith: Islam Explained for Christians. For those interested, you can learn more about Azumah and his work in Islamic Studies by reading an interview with him from John Stott Ministries.

September 17, 2008

Native Cults in East Africa

When Christians hear about cults in East Africa, they often think of the many heretical religious movements originating in the West. The Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Apostolics, Branhamites, and others are all very active in Uganda and throughout the region. Their presence leads to a serious, ongoing challenge for believers in East Africa.

But many groups that corrupt and oppose the Christian faith spring up from within Africa itself, as two feature articles in the September 7th edition of Uganda’s Sunday Monitor newspaper illustrate.

Bisaka BookUganda now hit by an influx of cults” reports on the Faith of Unity and Oneness, a powerful and widespread sect led by Dosteo (Desteo) Bisaka. Once a writer of popular hymns, Bisaka claims that he left Roman Catholicism after he began to experience special powers. Today he leads a movement that rejects (and publicly burns) the Bible, denies Jesus’ very existence, teaches that God has several “Major Spirits,” and regards Bisaka as a manifestation of God Himself. The article explains the group’s appeal:
According to one Kaboyo, who has been a follower of Bisaka for the last ten years, the differences between his faith and Christianity are fundamental. “For starters, it’s not a religion but a movement founded by an African, unlike Christianity which was imported into Africa by the white man. The Bible is divisive; that is why we discarded it and formed Oneness, uniting all people irrespective of race, into one flock under one shepherd—Bisaka.” He adds that Runyoro is the chief language in the Faith of Unity because it was formed in Bunyoro, but quickly adds that other languages are used according to where their branches are situated. “We have branches in Nansana, Kamwokya, Bweyogerere and Sironko, but they use other languages like Luganda and English, though the hymns are in Runyoro.”
Bambi Baaba BookThe strange Baranda of Masaka” describes a Ugandan journalist’s quest to understand the controversial Sserulanda Nsulo Yobulamu Spiritual Foundation. The movement teaches that its leader, “His Infinite Grace” Mugonza Bambi Baaba (who currently resides in the United States), is “God Almighty” on earth. Bambi Baaba reportedly oversees all aspects of his followers’ lives, from the naming of children to permitting marriages and approving burials upon death. The writer visited the group’s Ugandan compound—evidently at great personal risk. He reports that “After long hours of abuse and threats, I was saved by a plainclothes policeman,” who cautioned: “You were lucky they did not harm you.” At day’s end the writer “boarded the bus to Kampala, fully terrorised.”

Take a moment to reflect on the seriousness of the overall situation in Uganda. Cults that you and I know well are present and active. But even if we were to flood the country with resources addressing each of these groups, it wouldn’t begin to touch the false prophets and heretical movements originating in East Africa. Such cults must be carefully researched and analyzed in order to develop effective biblical responses and evangelistic strategies—a task that has yet to be undertaken.

We must face this challenge! By advancing biblical discernment—especially among pastors—and defending the faith in East Africa, we can equip Christians to counter the growing spread of cults. Though the need is daunting, we continue to trust in our God who overcomes all obstacles for His glory. And by His grace, we continue to prepare the launch of the Africa Center for Apologetics Research in January of 2009.

September 15, 2008

God Changed My Plans

I had plans to post a blog entry today. However, yesterday we ran into the effects of Hurricane Ike. A several hour long wind storm blew through on its way up north to Canada. The results? Downed trees and branches are everywhere. Our electric company is reporting over 300,000 outages in Indiana, with over 40,000 in our county alone.

Today my family remains without power, and I'll be spending the evening hours cutting down and removing fallen branches in our yard. Thankfully, our house does not appear to be seriously damaged. God has been gracious to us.

Obviously, our troubles pale in comparison to those in Texas and elsewhere who have been devastated by Ike. I continue to pray for those in Galveston, Houston, and other areas. I pray that those who have lost loved ones will not grieve as others do who have no hope. I pray that people will draw close to Christ, finding their security and rest in Him. I pray that our Lord will be with those who are now struggling through the challenges of rebuilding their homes and their lives.

Hurricane Ike has reminded me again of how dependent I am on God and how I must always be open to His changing my plans. As James writes:

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin" (James 4:13-17).

September 12, 2008

Weekly Round-Up: Prosperity Gospel in Africa, Religious Pluralism--Pro and Con

Here's this week's round-up:

1) Michael Njuguna, "Preachers hit out at prosperity gospel" in the Daily Nation newspaper (Kenya). Here is a news report on African pastors coming together to counter the false prosperity gospel.

2) Jaffer Senganda, "We should promote religious pluralism" in the New Vision newspaper (Uganda). A Ugandan Muslim arguing for religious pluralism? Yes--according to him we should reconcile our religious teachings so that conflicts can be prevented. While I completely agree with his desire to overcome religious persecution, his solution would force us to compromise our faith.

3) Harold Netland, "One Lord and Savior for All? Jesus Christ and Religious Diversity" (in PDF format) on the Carl F.H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding web site. Netland is one of the best evangelical scholars out there dealing with the theology of religions, and this paper refutes religious pluralism by showing the uniqueness and supremacy of Christ. I may disagree with Netland regarding those who have never heard the gospel (you can listen to my recent sermon on this question), but his article is still very helpful.

September 10, 2008

Book Notice: The Kanungu Cult-Saga

S. Kabazzi-Kisirinya, Nkurunziza R.K. Deusdedit, and Banura Gerard, eds., The Kanungu Cult-Saga: Suicide, Murder or Salvation? (Kisubi, Uganda: Marianum Press, 2000), 112 pp.

The Kanungu Cult-SagaThe Kanungu Massacre has been permanently etched into the history and culture of Uganda since it tragically took place eight years ago. The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God was a breakaway cult from the Roman Catholic Church which ultimately ended the lives of hundreds of men, women, and children. Why did it happen? This obvious but difficult to answer question has been ringing in the minds of many people through the years. To come to a better understanding of this tragic movement, a number of scholars came together at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda to present their research and analysis. Their resulting papers have been collected and combined into this essential resource.

From the back cover:
The Kanungu mystery fire in which hundreds of followers of the Movement for the Restoration of the ten commandments perished is and will remain a dark chapter in the history of Uganda. As many questions are being raised, researchers from Makerere University have attempted to provide clues to possible answers. Crucial among them are the following: Firstly, was it a case of mass suicide or murder?

Secondly, what role did religion and religious belief play in the tragedy? Finally, what are the wider implications for Uganda and indeed the whole society at large? it is hoped that insights in these questions will inspire other researchers to elucidate further the mystery of Kanungu.

Table of Contents:
S. Kabazzi-Kisirinya, Foreword, 7
Deusdedit R.K. Nkurunziza, Introduction, 9
Gerard Banura, Chris Tuhirirwe, and Joseph Begumanya, Kanungu Research Team's Report, 12
Gerard Banura, A Critical Evaluation of the Kanungu Tragedy, 47
A.B.J. Byaruhanga-Akiiki, Religion, Cults, and Sects: Towards a Comprehensive Understanding of Terms, 56
Paddy Musana, New Religious Movements in Uganda: Characteristics and Roots, 67
Sylvia Tamale, Cults and Sects in Uganda: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, 80
Sources, 87
Appendices, 90
Publisher contact:
Marianum Press

September 9, 2008

Sermon: "What About Those Who Have Never Heard?"

On August 31st, I had the privilege of opening the Word of God before my home congregation at Parkwood Southern Baptist Church. Below is the audio and outline of my sermon. I pray that God will use this message to further His kingdom around the globe!
I. One Hope: The Gospel, vv. 14-15aA. Four Questions
B. Three Misunderstandings
1. God
2. Humanity
3. The Gospel
II. One Method: Missions, vv. 15b-16A. Beautiful Feet
B. Rejection
III. One Way: Faith, v. 17

September 5, 2008

Returning Next Week

Hello! Between Labor Day, my wife's birthday, and preparing for a weekend trip, I have been swamped. But don't worry, I'll be back to blogging next week. I'll see you then!