First Presbyterian Church Moorestown

Located in Moorestown, this is a nice-size home for furloughed missionaries and their families. The home offers a comfortable place to rest at an affordable rate before their next assignment. This three bedroom home located in suburban Moorestown, NJ, is 10 miles from historic Philadelphia and 2 hours from New York City. Walking distance to downtown which features restaurants and stores. It is adjacent to the church property on a deadend street.

First Presbyterian Church of Moorestown has over 700 members.

As Presbyterians, FPC Moorestown embraces the essential tenets of the reformed faith including that we are saved only by grace through faith, that God is sovereign over all things, that every person is given gifts for ministry by God, and that we all share in the responsibility for building up the church, the body of Christ. We believe that leadership in the local church is best determined by the members of the church and as such we elect our own leaders. At the same time, we believe that we should work in partnership with other churches and participate in the life of our denomination the Presbyterian Church USA.

The Return of the Prodigal Son

Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son

Only a few works of art carry on in the minds of people from one generation to the next. The majority end up forgotten in the dust of history. The number of memorable art decreases even further as you increase the amount of time. For a painting to continue to impact people almost 400 years after it was created, testifies to its status as a masterpiece.

Rembrandt was born in the Netherlands to a Dutch Reformed father and a Catholic mother. He created The Return of the Prodigal Son, in 1669, towards the end of his life. At this point, he had lived a tumultuous, roller-coaster existence. He had experienced great wealth and financial bankruptcy. He knew deep loss through the death of his first wife and betrayal on the part of a spurned woman. He was the target of criticism from colleagues and church leaders.

Looking for extra reading? check out Henri Nouwn’s The Return of the Prodigal Son book. 

This painting captures the moment when the prodigal son returns to his father to beg forgiveness. The tender hands of the father rest gently on his kneeling son’s shoulders. The father leans forward with a posture of acceptance and love. It is clear that no matter what the son has done, no matter what mistakes he made, no matter how his choices hurt the family reputation, the father welcomes him home.

Rembrandt’s famous painting depicts more than a simple family reunion. To be sure, the viewer recognizes that something significant and life changing is taking place among the cluster of family members. The emotion is unmistakable and made even more emotionally full-bodied by its display of quiet dignity. As we gaze at the face of the father, we discern the visage of God.

One person who was deeply moved by this painting is Henri Nouwen. He first glimpsed a poster-version of the painting on the back of a university’s colleague’s office door. During this period of his life, he was going through emotional restlessness and spiritual dryness. What he discerned as he reflected on this painting was home. “The tender embrace of the father and son expressed everything I desired at that moment. I was, indeed, the son exhausted from long travels; I was looking for a home where I could feel safe.”

Home. Aren’t we all on a journey towards home? We all long to be embraced by our father. We all yearn with a deep desire to be home.

Although we don’t know much about Rembrandt’s personal faith, few of his writings survive, we can piece together a picture from his life’s work. His drawings, etchings and paintings give a good sense of what he held to be most important. His art focused on biblical themes more than any other genre. There are at least 500 drawings, 100 etchings and dozens of paintings that bring the Bible to life. In fact, his first major painting was a depiction of the stoning of Stephen based on the book of Acts.

It is worth noting that Rembrandt, unlike most of his contemporaries, always wanted to honour the Biblical text in his paintings. He always desired Biblical realism and built his art on the text of Scripture. This indicates that he not only was an avid reader of the Bible but that he relished the small details of the text. At a time when anti-Semitism was common, he read the works of Josephus, consulted with Jewish rabbis and often used Jewish models in his attempts to be authentic.

Over the course of his life, Rembrandt also painted countless portraits of Christ. He blazed a new trail in that he portrayed a Christ who is serene and introspective. The images are not so focussed on the divine power of Jesus as much as they balanced both his humanity and divinity. Rembrandt brought a unique perspective to the life of Jesus.

Mission Evangelique Vie Abondante En Christ

I spent a week in the west of our country. I went to train a group of pastors and church leaders on evangelization. Brother There is a great need for evangelization here.This region hi be devastated by the war that this country has experienced in 2010.

These servants of God promised to go to the people who live in the bush to announce the gospel.Please continue to pray for me, I need some means to realize well this great work in this country. All these missions, I do them with the meager means that I receive. May the Lord grant me the essentials to better continue his work to reach the unreached peoples in this country.

 Your brother pastor James.

[If you want to support Pastor James please contact Solomon’s Porch directly and we can arrange.]

Kenyan Urban Development Neglects the Poor

From Quartz:

Residents of Kenya’s biggest slum Kibera started their week on a bleak note: government cranes and bulldozers demolishing homes, schools, and businesses in certain sections of the slum to make way for a new $20m dual-carriageway in the capital Nairobi. Over 30,000 dwellers were rendered homeless in the process on Monday (July 23), a move Amnesty International Kenya said, “betrays the public trust and violates our laws.”

As Kenyans watched the shanties being removed, one image by Reuters’ photographer Baz Ratner captured the farcical nature of the evictions and the dire ways in which road construction and urban development habitually neglect poor city populations. In the photo, a golfer tees in the background while people stand opposite watching the destruction site—both groups separated by only a short bricked and burnt wall.

The photo is not only an exemplar of the stark inequalities that define Kenya’s capital but is also indicative of how unequal land access, poor urban design, lack of political will and public accountability, besides prioritizing road construction and expansion instead of investments in mass public transport converge in an increasingly urbanizing and fast-paced city.

Over the last decade, economic growth in Kenya has created a rising middle class in tandem with increasing rates of urbanization. With its property boom and shiny new skyscrapers and malls, Nairobi has especially been at the heart of this transformation, attracting both global tech companies and wealthy investors looking for second homes. And given the lack of public transport infrastructure, this has meant wealthier residents move around in private cars, leaving the city congested and one of the most dangerous places to be a pedestrian.

To ease this, the government has taken to expanding roads and building new highways—often with the help of Chinese firms. But as much as these new roads are welcome, new research shows that prioritization of road construction without consideration for the consequences of urban mobility and safety has had a dire impact on the city’s majority population: slum dwellers. A report from the Overseas Development Institute and funded by the FIA Foundation shows that within Nairobi, over half of all road traffic fatalities occur on new high-speed roads, primarily affecting poorer people who have to walk everywhere.

The sprawling nature of Nairobi also means residents are unable to easily move from one part of the city to the other due to unreliable and inefficient transport networks made up of matatus and boda boda motorcycles. And with poorly digitized land registries, disputes over land ownership are common, with corrupt land deals sometimes subverting formal development plans.

Besides, constructing new roads have a political salience, especially for politicians who use their visibility as “tangible signs” of their performance. Public contracts for road construction also offer opportunities for private gain through kickbacks or rewards to political patrons. Donors and governments also support paving new roads, pegging their justification on economic grounds: Kenya’s roads authority estimates that for every shilling invested in roads, the country stands to gain two shillings and fifty cents in benefits.

Yet building more roads, and not investing in light railway or a rapid bus transit system, haven’t reduced congestion—hence why Nairobi, ironically, is thinking of proposing car-free days. And while thousands of Kenyan pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists die every year in road crashes, road safety continues to remain a distant issue in the public sphere.

On Monday, facing criticism, the government defended the demolitions, saying only 2,000 households were affected and that a resettlement plan for those evicted had already been completed.

Book Review: Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands


Book #2:

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change

From Amazon:
“In many ways, the church today has more consumers than committed participants. We see church merely as an event we attend or an organization we belong to, rather than as a calling that shapes our entire life.

Many of us would be relieved if God had placed our sanctification in the hands of trained professionals, but that simply is not the biblical model. God’s plan is that through the faithful ministry of every part, the whole body will grow to maturity in Christ.

This book explains how God’s work follows an “all of my people, all of the time” model. If you followed the Lord for a thousand years, you would still need the ministry of the body of Christ as much as you did the day you first believed. This need will remain until our sanctification is complete in Glory.

This is a comprehensive treatment of how God uses people as tools of change in the lives of others, people who themselves are in need of change.”

One of my favourite quotes from this book was:

We forget that God’s primary goal is not changing our situations or relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations and relationships so that we will be holy.

If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.

VIEW FAVORITE BOOK #3

Book Review: The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions


Book #3:

The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions

From Amazon:
“The author uses the biblical story of the Israelite’s journey through Sinai desert as a metaphor for being in undesired, transitional space.

After enduring generations of slavery in Egypt, the descendants of Jacob travel through the desert (the land between) toward their new home in Canaan. They crave the food of their former home in Egypt and despise their present environment. They are unable to go back and incapable of moving forward.

The Land Between explores the way in which their reactions can provide insight and guidance on how to respond to God during our own seasons of difficult transition. The book provides fresh biblical insight for people traveling through undesired transitions (e.g. foreclosure, unemployment, parents in declining health, post-graduate uncertainty, business failure, etc.) who are looking for hope, guidance, and encouragement.

While it is possible to move through transitions and learn little, they provide our greatest opportunity for spiritual growth. God desires to meet us in our chaos and emotional upheaval, and he intends for us to encounter his goodness and provision during these upsetting seasons.”

One of my favourite quotes from this book:

Our response to God while in the Land Between is what will determine whether our journey through this desert will result in deep, positive growth or spiritual decline.

If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.

Book Reviews: 3 Favorite Books on Transition and Change

Eight years ago, we were preparing to head overseas to Africa. Life was moving fast, we were full of uncertainty and often experienced a unique mix of exhilaration, sleepless nights, and desperate prayer! We have heard some of you are in transition or you are trying to make a change at the moment.

One thing God used to anchor us during that time of transition was a good book. Actually, there were several!

If you’re in a season of transition, looking to understand a bend in your road, or just want a good read, consider checking these out. There are tons of great titles out there, but these were really meaningful for us at that time.


Book #1:

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. (Buy It)

“Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?

The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains. Psychologists have discovered our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.”

One of my favourite quotes from this book was:

More options, even good ones, can freeze us and make us retreat to our default plans.

If you’d like to get it on Amazon, here’s the link.

VIEW FAVORITE BOOK #2

 

The Honest Mission Leader

Why do we do short-term mission trips? Have you been part of a trip like this?

There is hope! Here are 3 reasons every teenager should do a short-term missions trip.

  1. Cultural Exposure. Most of us grow up in a bubble of our own community. A missions trip gives us the opportunity to see another culture – which changes how you view the world.
  2. God’s Kingdom. Believe it or not there are God-loving, Jesus following people all over the world. Their faith, hope, and love will impact you.
  3. Do something outside yourself. Even if short-term mission trips are relatively well shielded making a connection with new people of different backgrounds and cultures.

Ready for a trip? Visit https://www.actioninternational.org/opportunities to find an opportunity that fits for you.

Unequal Scenes

I wanted to bring attention to this amazing project. Please explore the work of Johnny Miller.

Unequal Scenes – by Johnny Miller

Discrepancies in how people live are sometimes hard to see from the ground. The beauty of being able to fly is to see things from a new perspective – to see things as they really are. Looking straight down from a height of several hundred meters, incredible scenes of inequality emerge. Some communities have been expressly designed with separation in mind, and some have grown more or less organically.

During apartheid, segregation of urban spaces was instituted as policy. Roads, rivers, “buffer zones” of empty land, and other barriers were constructed and modified to keep people separate. 22 years after the end of apartheid, many of these barriers, and the inequalities they have engendered, still exist. Oftentimes, communities of extreme wealth and privilege will exist just meters from squalid conditions and shack dwellings.

My desire with this project is to portray the most Unequal Scenes as objectively as possible. By providing a new perspective on an old problem, I hope to provoke a dialogue which can begin to address the issues of inequality and disenfranchisement in a constructive and peaceful way.

[tds_warning]Join the conversation on Facebook [/tds_warning]

How do we really compare to other families around the world

If you really want to see how people around the world live, the https://www.gapminder.org/dollar-street project is amazing. Over 30,000 photos that you can filter to see how – around the world – people’s bedrooms, kitchens, front doors, pets, toilets, toys, etc compare to yours. All the filtering is based on annual income. Imagine the world as a street ordered by income. Everyone lives somewhere on the street. The poorest lives to the left and the richest to the right. Everybody else live somewhere in between. Welcome to visit all homes on Dollar Street!

For example, compare front doors for people that earn about $1,000 per year. Sometimes we feel really different than others. But we really aren’t that different.

Three Qualities People Look For in Leaders

On March 15 1987, Dick Berg inaugurated one of the biggest scandals to ever be unleashed in Kenyan history. The American convinced the gullible Kenyan Sports Ministry officials that his firm, Berg and Associates, could help collect over Sh224 million to market the All-African Games. He claimed he had done this at the Los Angeles Olympics and no one bothered to check the facts.

[tds_note]People can spot a fake or a pretender from a mile away. In today’s world, people are weary of being “sold” or “marketed” to by incompetent baboozlers. Being an authentic, ethical leader with character is the most important. Yet, we must work had at improving our competency in whatever field we are working.[/tds_note]

Berg was granted exclusive business rights to market the games and brought some big sponsorship deals from the likes Coca-Cola and House of Manji. The Minister of Sports, Henry Kosgey, did not know that Berg was “an international crook”. While he was to market the games internationally, the Ministry only received Sh5 million before Berg hurriedly left the country in a cloud of shame. Dick Berg has lost his credibility and has a life-time ban from entering Kenya.

The reason Dick Berg lost his credibility is the same reason all leaders lose their credibility. They didn’t walk the walk. Even in today’s post-modern world, once your credibility is gone, it is very difficult to get it back. Just ask Lance Armstrong, Bill Cosby, Brian Williams, or you fill in the blank with a name.

[ads-quote-center cite=”]What is credibility and how can leaders cultivate it?[/ads-quote-center]

The English word credible finds its source in the Latin word for “believe”. In his book, On Rhetoric, Aristotle tells us  that a person’s ability to persuade and influence is rooted in three factors: ethos, pathos and logos. These three traits: known as:

  • CHARACTER (ethos)
  • PASSION (pathos)
  • SPEECH (logos) 

First, there is ethos. This is the speaker’s willingness and ability to project a trustworthy persona. It means things like integrity, transparency, honesty, grace and truth. On the one hand, this is great because ethos doesn’t require a PhD or lots of money. On the other hand, it is scary because there’s a high-intensity spotlight aimed at the character of every leader.

Ethos itself can be subdivided into three aspects: wisdom, virtue and good will. Wisdom is your ability to know and understand both sides of an issues. For example, if your neighbor asks you about your new sprinkler and you tell him the pros and the cons, you are more credible than if you only mention the good things. Virtue, sometimes socially constructed, over the centuries has remained surprisingly consistent. Things like justice, courage and self-control are always admired no matter what culture you are in. Recently, some have pointed out that virtues can be both in conduct but also associated with thinking. Goodwill is the last feature of ethos. This occurs when a leader disadvantages themselves to advantage others(especially their enemies). Central to the posture of goodwill is pointing out the worthiness of another.

Pathos is the passion, emotion, feeling, zeal, intense fury or even rage with which something is expressed. It is the emotive content of a message. This is one of the most neglected elements in our world today. Why? in general it is because we, men in particular, have been shaped to think and not to express feelings. Men are supposed to be stoic. The stronger you are, the less you express your emotions. On top of this, we are all aware of when a leader may use emotions to manipulate followers by shedding “crocodile tears”.

But a leader, especially a Christian leader, who acts and speaks without any emotional display is equally dangerous. How can you lead people towards something that has not gripped your inner being? It was once said of the famous preacher, Moody, that he was one of the few people qualified to speak about hell, because he could not talk about it without weeping. If your message does not move you, if it does not seem to have an impact upon your heart, then how can you expect it to have an impact on anyone else? Leaders must speak with an urgency as if it is a matter of life and death.

Finally, there is logos. What does logos mean in English? It means “word”. We get our English word “logic” from the Greek. It refers to the verbal content of a leader’s communication, but it also includes the craft, the artistic merit and the logic of a leader’s words.

The only way I know how to improve your ability to reason and use words is to be a reader. All leaders are readers because they interact with other ideas, concepts and words. When you aren’t improving your critical thinking, vocabulary, and your knowledge of new concepts, then your ability to influence others diminishes.

Logos appeals to a follower’s intelligence and offers evidence in support of what you are trying to say. Logos also increases ethos because the organized presentation of information makes you look knowledgeable. When you have well-presented powerpoint slides, even if you haven’t prepared, the perception is that you are organized. This causes your audience to give you more credibility and authority. A well-reasoned presentation, with ample evidence, is not easily dismissed by your followers.

Another important aspect of logos is that you know your audience. Who are you speaking to? Are you challenging men to love their wives? Are you inspiring teenagers to keep their eyes on the prize? Are you communicating a basic truth from Scripture to small children? Speak the language of your audience. Do not use words that they don’t understand and avoid cliches or technical language.

All that being said, people can spot a fake or a pretender from a mile away. In today’s world, people are weary of being “sold” or “marketed” to by incompetent baboozlers. Being an authentic, ethical leader with character is the most important. Yet, we must work had at improving our competency in whatever field we are working.