Spread the virus! A guest post by Maggie Gitau*

As I scribble down this blog, I’m sitting by a window in the fifth floor of a building, overlooking the newly constructed, eight-lane Thika Super Highway (Nairobi, Kenya). As I watch cars zoom past each other with ease that has not been dreamt before in Kenya I think of the three times now I have lost my way on feeder roads that connect from parts of the city to this highway.   This road is one of the flagship projects of vision 2030, Kenya’s development blue-print. Vision 2030 is Kenya’s twenty years strategy to grow into a middle-income country by the year 2030. The blue print also includes a technology center that is being touted as Africa’s first Silicon Valley, a major sea port on the far north coast and massive infrastructural projects all over the country. It is backed by the recently promulgated constitution aimed at a wide range of political reforms.

I’m like most Kenyans. At this point, I’m excited by the ease with which I can cruise on Thika Highway. I’m excited by the prospect of other development projects. Apart from the hard infrastructure, I think of ease of access to basic services like healthcare, water. I dream of the end of the ubiquitous power blackouts. Like most Kenyans, I want those things. It is what we have clamored for. It is what we Africans and our church fathers have had in mind every time they have castigated non-performing governments. It’s what compassionate Christians have wanted when they have started community empowerment initiatives, like orphanages, schools, and feeding programs. We want a future in which these things are such an integral part of our existence, that sadness will be removed from the face of every ordinary African.

When I look again at the flight of cars on Thika highway, I believe that such things are now in sight, not just for Kenya, but also for war-torn-pirate-ridden Somalia; conflict splintered Congo, genocide traumatized Rwanda; indeed, good things are in sight for every country in Africa regardless of its dark past. So for once, I choose NOT to be depressed by pessimistic opinions of how things have been wrong, how mediocre our leaders are, how ethnic strife is a cauldron waiting to erupt. Yes I’m aware of those things, the shadows if you like. It’s like one of our African church fathers, John Pobee said it thirty years ago, ‘it is a though in our attempt to describe the light we have focused too much on the shadows’. Negativities have been the staple of our news airwaves for too long. Far too long that they have immobilized us to inaction. Far too long have blinded from goodness surrounds us, not just of the touristy pristine nature, but also the goodness born of the sweat and muscle of the African people. While we focus too much on the shadows we fail to see how much good we have accomplished. So we have become a continent of complainers and cynics. No wonder the rest world thinks we in Africa falling apart while our day to day reality is much closer to that new coca cola advert, ‘A billion Africans are sharing a coke’.

I like that coca cola advert. I chose to I believe that up ahead, life holds out more for every African, not less. Life holds out more, not less. Which is why on my part, I’m not just doing away with cynicism and negativity concerning our African realities, I have also chosen to actively engage my mind and all of my faculties in actions rooted in hope. In a quote in Life At Its Best, my book-friend, Eugene Peterson puts it this way,

“Hope is a projection of the imagination, so is despair. Despair all too easily embraces the ills it foresees. Hope is an energy and arouses the mind to explore every possibility to combat them… In response to hope, the imagination is aroused to picture every possible issue, to try every door, to fit together even the most heterogeneous pieces of the puzzle”

Let me call you to discard despair-ridden talk. Speak for a new Africa, for better prospects in our age and in the youth of our children. Let’s speak into a world of less misery, better justice in whatever forest paths remain and down the town streets we are paving. Let’s look for clean rain and more grain in the granary. I can tell you, if we wake up in hope each day, we will discover a new spring in our steps, the very energy we need to build the bright future we so yearn for. And hope is like a virus; all it needs to spread is a smile on the face and twinkle in the eye. H-O-P-E. If you’ve caught it, it’s safe to spread too!

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*Maggie Gitau is a researcher and leader in Mavuno Church, Nairobi. She is currently working on a PhD in Intercultural Studies – World Christianity at Africa International University, Nairobi, Kenya.

WHAT A GENUINE PROPHET OF CHRIST IS NOT!

The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language defines a Prophet as “One who foretells the future”. In other words, a prophet is a seer of the future. The Old Testament speaks comprehensively about the important place that the prophetic ministry maintains in the life of the Jewish people and religion. The prophetic ministry is not just important to the religious life of the Israelites; it is equally strategic in the cultural, social and political life of Israel. Furthermore, the importance of the prophetic ministry is not confined to the Old Testament. As a matter of fact, the New Testament teaches that the prophetic ministry is one of the gifts necessary for the growth of the Church. Ephesians 4:11 reads: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists and some to be pastors and teachers.”

The Bible does not teach that one ministry gift is more important that the others. In Ephesians 4:11, the prophetic ministry is not in any way more important than that of the apostles, evangelists, pastors and teachers. But the inherent quest of human beings to know what the future holds in the midst of life’s uncertainties places the prophetic ministry in high demand. Because of this high demand, many have become practitioners in the prophetic ministry without being called by God. Besides, some who were genuinely called by God have allowed themselves to be distracted by ordinary things of this world. As a result of wanting to know what the future holds, many Christians have unwittingly fallen prey to these pseudo-prophets. While it is true that there is never a time in history that the Church is short of genuine prophets, they may not be as many as we see being paraded in the Church today. From a biblical perspective, here are some of the marks of a genuine prophet of Christ:

  • S/he does not brag about his/her ability to foretell the future. S/he recognizes that it is a gift from God and not a man-made ability (Ephesians 4:11).
  • S/he does not claim to foretell the future automatically and constantly (remember Elisha and the Shunammite’s son? Read 2 Kings 4:8-37. Emphasis is on 4:27).
  • S/he does not necessarily fully comprehend the mind of God (Deuteronomy 28:28).
  • S/he is not a sycophant, seeking to please human beings (remember Nathan in 2 Samuel 12; 1 Thessalonians 2:4).
  • S/he is not motivated by money or material possessions (remember Elisha and Naaman – 2 Kings 5:13).
  • S/he does not play tricks on those who come to God through him/her for direction (1 Thessalonians 2:3).
  • S/he is not an idol to be worshiped, neither is s/he seeking to be a celebrity (remember Paul and Barnabas’ experience at Lystra – Acts 14: 8-18).
  • S/he is not merely religious but one who has a personal and deep relationship with Christ (Galatians 1:1-2).
  • S/he is not carried away by the praises of men or cheap popularity (1 Thessalonians 2:6).
  • S/he does not negate the lordship of Jesus Christ; neither does s/he reject the direction of the Holy Spirit at any point in his/her ministry (1 John 4:1-3).

The warnings of Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:23-25 are proper for our conclusion: “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform great signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. See, I have warned you about this ahead of time.” Beware!