Sunday, January 31, 2010

Could You Forgive the Man Who Killed Your Son?

The following testimony was written by Rev. Martin Odi, an African minister whose son was murdered and the grace God gave him and his wife to forgive the killer in person. After 20 years of pastoral ministry, Martin now serves with Equipping Pastors International in East Africa. A MUST READ.


Testimony on Forgiveness
By Rev. Martin Odi

In the past I have shared with some of you about what happened in our family in 1996. Our first born son, Bildad, who was then age 14, was maliciously poisoned by our neighbor about eight months after I had taken office as the Bishop of the PAG churches in Kumi district, an area of 2681 sq km in the northeastern part of Uganda in East Africa.

We were left with two sons. One was not even a year old and very weak as he was born pre-mature under very bad circumstances. I kept asking God “WHY?” I cried out loud and burnt with anger inside. This went on for years but I had no intention at all for revenge. However, I remained very bitter toward God and myself! I thanked God for this issue on my lips but deep down inside I wished God would revenge immediately in order to appease my anger.

Last year a long time friend of mine, Dr. Henry Krabbendam ("Dr. K"), was having a discussion with me on responses of Christians to God’s dealing with them; citing the way evangelicals tell testimonies in their churches. Many will say, “I thank God this week because I got school fees for my children.” Another will say, “I thank God I got a new car, or a good house, etc.” But Dr. K asked me “How many will say, “I thank God because I got more holiness this week?’” This was a huge challenge to me although I did not express it to him at the time.

On another occasion, last year, Jonathan Menn and I where teaching Anglican clergy in three dioceses in Uganda: Nebbi, Arua, and Busoga. Our good friend, Rev. Moses Isabirie, of the Provincial Office of CoU, led us each morning in devotions from the Book of Philemon majoring on sincere forgiveness for those who have committed major sins.

While teaching from 1 Tim. 3 on “The Qualifications of Bishops and Pastors” Jonathan said “He must be gentle and went further to talk about how the pastor must be slow to anger and forgiving. In his closing remarks he gave us homework. He said, “Can you remember any person who has done you any wrong that you must go back from here and forgive? Write down his or her name.”

Although I was teaching alongside Jonathan, I wrote the name of the guy who poisoned my son. Then I began to pray for an opportunity to meet him because he had fled away from his home in fear of me and had separated from his wife and family. However, just a week earlier his younger brother brought him back into a meeting of our clan leaders in an attempt to reconcile him with his family.

My wife Helen and I were invited to this meeting and for the first time, after 12 years, we spoke openly, but with tears to this man, and all his family, affirming to all the fact that he killed our son. We stressed to the crowd that we are now ready to forgive this man. There was untold silence in this crowd with others crying silently. We said together that we want to do this because we are BORN AGAIN!
We invited the man and a few of his relatives to our home at a later date to pray officially a blessing upon him and for his family. Our hearts were so released that day we uttered publically from the depths of our hearts that we had forgiven this man. Praise the Lord.

Now I have the answer to the WHY question of the last 12 years. This is it: God did this so that Helen and I grow in forgiveness and his holiness in order to minister to those who are, and will be, in a situation like the one recorded in 2 Corinthians 1:3-8.

“The mission of our family continues to be the salt and light of our community.” We must not revenge Bildad by killing the children of the murder’s family for the following reasons: 1) All these people are not saved (dead in sins). Killing any or all of his children would mean exchanging the living Bildad with the dead boys. 2) The worth of our son to us is not equal to the six children of this man. 3) Vengeance belongs to the Lord not to us. 4) And lastly, our public testimony has shown our community and those around it that we can win our enemies by demonstrating the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

I don’t know how Helen feels but I am tremendously relieved from the burden I carried for the last 12 years. It is off my shoulders. As part of Equipping Pastors International (EPI), I teach pastors and leaders to be more like Jesus Christ. The one side of the sword of the Spirit has pierced me also. It has moved me to forgive my enemies as Christ forgave his killers on the cross. I thank God for my ministry in EPI and the mission of our Lord. Through this terrible experience I have been pierced by the Word of God and changed to be like Him. JESUS AND HIS WORD ARE ALIVE!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Despondent?


Every so often we come across a text that is understood one way but when we examine it in its original context find it means something different. When preachers speak on the text, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55:8) most draw a parallel to one of two things. One is evangelism. The preacher uses the verse to point out to non-Christians that their thinking and lives are wrong. So they need to change and go God’s way.

Another way this text is interpreted is to say that in the midst of suffering you cannot understand God, so you must resign yourself to suffer; resign yourself to the fact that God knows what he’s doing. This last way is how the text is most often used: to express that when life has turned sour it makes no sense to question God, for his thoughts and ways are so far above yours that even he wanted to tell you why you’re suffering you wouldn’t get it.

But this last interpretation is the opposite of what the text was originally meant to convey. Israel HAD resigned herself to captivity in Babylon. They thought to themselves, “There’s no way out of this mess. There’s no way we’re ever going to return home. The best thing we can do is to build a future for ourselves in this hole.”

Against this melancholy, God says, “Those may be your thoughts, but I have something else in mind. I’m thinking of your liberation and returning to you your land. You may not think this way. You may not be able to find the way back. But my thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways. So do not resign yourself to hopelessness and despair. Do not live in spiritual paralysis, but understand that I am at work in your life to bring release.”

Are your though and ways God’s?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Little More on New Art Book


Here is the cover for my little booklet, Art to the Glory of God (available in the coming weeks). You know, not only art, but also all things are to be done to God's glory, including eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31). Have you considered that every time you take a sip or take a bite, you can do it to magnify the awesome God of heaven and earth? I'll bet you've heard this idea but really haven't thought it through. Nor have you thought it through to its logical conclusion: that God wants all of us...every bit of us, and that that every bit is an expression of our worship of him. If God expects something as seemingly mundane as consuming calories to be carried out to his glory, then ought we not spend more time considering how every area of our lives ought to reflect honor to his glorious name?

Please think and pray on it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

An African Responds to Obama and Abortion

The following letter was written by a Ugandan pastor not long after the election of President Obama. The substance of the letter is a response to Obama's signing of a law that allows funding for the killing of innocent unborn children in foreign countries. Though months old, the letter continues to represent an essential position in our public discourse regarding abortion. This letter should be read throughout the world.

The impression in our world is still growing with the election of Obama as the first black president of the USA. Almost all people have gigantic hopes that the relations of USA and other nations will begin to change to the better; but the relation of America and the unborn children has again become very bitter.

The man we have hopes in has in less than 2 weeks in office signed a law allowing funding for killing of innocent unborn children in foreign countries! This is the man and his team who claim that they will bring peace to the Middle East and stop the killing of those who have been born, some of which are innocent while others may not be innocent. He is planning for better times in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and other parts of the world. He is looking forward to God to help him sort out these problems. When closing his inaugural speech he said: “May God bless you, God bless America” can God really bless the same hand that kills unborn babies and also tries to bring peace to these affected areas of the world? Can bitter water and sweet water come from the same spring?

For the last 50 years or more America has killed over 50 million unborn children and influenced other countries to do so in a number that is not specified.

The American hand is more brutal than the hand of Pharaoh of Egypt when Moses the servant of the Lord was born; worse than the hand of Herod when Jesus was born; worse than the hand of Nero when the church of Jesus was being born, worse than the hand of Adolph Hitler when the nation of Israel was being born. Hitler killed 6 million Jews but America has killed about 100 million children in a few decades.
They are worse than the hand of Idi Amin of Uganda against Christians; or Intarahamwe who championed genocide in Rwanda, and further worse than LRA who has killed a few hundreds of thousands in the north of Uganda.

On the judgment day when God calls out all murderers to account for their deeds, all these groups with all their schemes will stand up to give account of what they did to KILL these innocent people.

President Obama must stop heaping sins on top of the big hills of sins already created by his predecessors, but must immediately reverse what he did. This is repentance! America’s sins can no longer hide from any person including unborn children. They are tall enough for someone in the valley to see. The twin towers destroyed during 9/11 where physical images of America’s political and idolatrous sins. But God judged them in such a bitter way during the Bush’s administration. THEREFORE WE SHOULD NOT RE-BUILD THEM AGAIN.

What threat does the White House foresee from the unborn baby as it does the nuclear program of Iran or the economic program of China? If it is true that the unborn child is an enemy of America as some nations are; and Mr. Obama emphasized that he would take a diplomatic approach to win his enemies over to healthy relations with America, is killing the unborn “enemy” a diplomatic approach?

Remember that the credit crunch is the hand of the Lord shaking us and attacking our pride. Therefore the wrath of the Lord cannot rest from humiliating us if we refuse to humble ourselves on issues that are clear ethically, morally and theologically.
Just stop and think if one or both of the two little girls of Obama had been killed before they were born, how different would be the world (home) of Obama, especially now in the White House. The two little girls speak a powerful message to the largest percentage of people around the world than what Obama and Michele say; we have to discover this.

May God open our eyes to see these things very clearly and turn away from these sins!

Rev. Martin Odi

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My New Book on Art


I have a new book, actually a booklet, coming out very soon. It's called Art to the Glory of God (Wifp and Stock). It is written for Christian artists who are looking for more than theory about Christianity and art. The booklet offers practical steps the artist can take to do art to the glory of God. Below is the Introduction to the booklet which will give you the general idea. I hope you will look for it when it comes out, likely in February/March.

INTRODUCTION
Years ago, I was privileged to be a student at the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music. The Institute is an interdisciplinary think-tank that is shared by the Yale Divinity School and the Yale Graduate School of Music. I attended classes in both schools. The principle focus of the Institute is to further study and dialogue on the relationship of Christianity and culture. My role at the Institute also permitted me to take courses at the department of Christianity and the Arts, where I studied art history (principally painting and architecture) and many of the underlying religious themes found in numerous art masterpieces. During my few years at the Institute, I arrived at many conclusions regarding the relationship between Christianity and culture—all of which have since matured.

One result of my deliberations over this mutual relationship is a book, which I wrote, titled, The Road From Eden: Studies in Christianity and Culture. The book has a great deal to say about many areas of society and culture, art and art history in particular. Though my formal training is in the area of music, I learned many years ago that the best place to discern the imprint of Christianity upon the forms of Western culture is found in the medium of art—painting and architecture in particular. Frankly, the history of culture is embodied in the history of art. As I have stated many times before, the student that knows little of art history knows little of cultural history.

An unexpected byproduct of The Road From Eden was a desire on my part to think more critically about what makes art great. Knowledge of art history is one thing. But knowledge of how one goes about creating a masterpiece is quite another. Truth be told, I can’t paint, sculpt; even my stick-figures leave something to be desired. Nonetheless, there came a point in my study of Christianity’s contribution to the contrasts, currents, and trends in Western culture that caused me to pause, and self-reflect, “Wait a minute, what is it about all of these magnificent creations of art that sets them on a higher plane from lesser examples? So, my interest in “what” happened in art history shifted to “how” art becomes great—the mechanics of art. This is a difficult question, certainly because there are so many different examples from art history to examine. The criteria for what makes a composition “great” has changed from epoch to epoch. But are there not some common ingredients that make great art, great?

Added to my continuing interest is a deeper question. I am a Christian. Consequently, I am ever-mindful of the fact that all that is done on this earthly globe is done before a watching God who appraises all the works of our hands. So, for this writer, the question of great art is inextricably woven into the question of how one does art that glorifies God. Now it is possible to create something that glorifies God but, according to the critic’s eye, is poorly done. On the other hand, it is feasible to create a piece of art that stands the test of time, but which glorifies man. My purpose in this brief work is to seek a synthesis of the two ideas: to offer some suggestions on how the artist can do great art that glorifies God. Beneath all of this is my enduring quest to see the Christian community become, one more, the source of magnificent, world-shaping art.

It is my earnest hope that the artist reading this booklet, whether an apprentice, or advanced, will find within its pages a true source of encouragement and some insights that can improve his craft.