Auschwitz1

Sins will find you out

Oskar Gröning, 93, has been indicted for 300,000 counts of accessory to murder for his role as a member of Hitler’s SS unit at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

When prisoners were brought to the camp, their belongings were confiscated and Gröning would collect their currency and send it elsewhere to help finance the war effort. Continue reading

Blue Picotee Morning Glory

Upward

The graceful way that a climbing vine wraps itself around the ribs of a trellis is a cause for admiration.

However, this visual delight does not happen automatically. After a week away from home, I went outside to see how my flowers fared in my absence. A beautiful “Blue Picotee” morning glory was blooming low to the ground on the white arbor.

I wondered at first why the vine had not grown much, as it had been just as tall a week earlier. Upon further inspection, I saw the long stem bunched up near the base of the arbor, rather than climbing up the side.

The casual observer of a beautiful trellis with a climbing plant often does not realize that the plant may have had a little bit of help. Continue reading

Rickshaw

Whose burden are you carrying?

“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30Matthew 11:28-30
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28 “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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NKJV).

The rickshaw van is one of the most common vehicles in South Asia. They are pedal-driven utility carts, tricycle style, with essentially a small flat-bed mounted above bicycle wheels behind the driver’s seat. They are often used for carrying people, but their real purpose is to transport cargo. Almost everything from cows to refrigerators to high stacks of farm produce can be seen regularly on them.

Rickshaw and van “pullers” (as they are called here; a term dating back to when such vehicles were not pedaled but were pulled by poles extending from the front of the bed – such pulled rickshaws are still used in Kolkata, India) are among the poorest workers in Asia. They rarely own their own equipment but pay daily rent. Their salary comes from whatever surplus they can earn that day. Continue reading

Rad Jesus - Thumbnail

The politically useful Jesus vs. the Jesus of the Bible

Rad JesusJohn Fugalsang is one of the political types – recognizing the powerful moral influence of Jesus – seeking to make Jesus useful for his own social/political agenda. Fugalsang, in seeking power and legitimacy for his own views, recreates Jesus in his own image.

Fugalsang has a popular meme going around social media that spins Jesus into a more politically useful mold. This man-made Jesus has just enough of the ring of truth to carry some weight. But is it the truth?

Fugalsang begins claiming Jesus was a “radical, non-violent revolutionary.” Continue reading

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What’s our excuse?

We sometimes think that we have it bad trying to tell others the good news of Jesus. Maybe we have glorified what happened in the first century, thinking it was so easy – just open your mouth, tell them about Jesus, and presto! 3000 want to become Christians! If we understand the scriptures – and are honest with ourselves – we realise it wasn’t quite that easy. It isn’t about how easy it is. It is all about telling others no matter what happens to us.

Paul and Silas were in the Roman colony of Philippi (Acts 16). They had found some Jewish women who met together on Saturday for prayer and they told them about Jesus, resulting in at least some of these women becoming Christians. They continued to teach in this city and in the process helped cure a slave girl from a “spirit of divination” (v.16-18). Unfortunately the owners of the girl were quite annoyed, as they lost a steady source of income. They seized Paul and Silas and dragged them before the town authorities, accusing them of teaching things that were illegal.

There does not seem to have been any type of proper trial at all. The assumption was that they were not Romans and therefore had no rights. So the town magistrates stripped their clothes off, beat them severely with rods, and threw them into the inner cell in the prison, fastening their feet in stocks. Roman stocks were designed to inflict the most pain that they possibly could.

What would we be thinking if this happened to us? We’ve been doing what Jesus wants us to do – telling others about him and the salvation he brings. But what has it brought us? Public humiliation, a public beating, and now we are in prison in severe pain. What would we have been doing that night?

Notice what Paul and Silas did: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the rest of the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25Acts 16:25
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25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

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NET). No shouting at how unfair it was. No cursing God for allowing this to happen. No complaints because of their pain. They prayed and sang hymns – and this got the attention of the other prisoners. After all, this is not what they were used to hearing come from the inner cell of the prison.

Most of us are familiar with what happened next: the earthquake, the jailor rushing in and preparing to commit suicide, Paul stopping him, the jailor washing their wounds and after hearing Paul and Silas speak the word of the Lord being baptised, along with his household. Such a dreadful way to be treated, but it resulted in more becoming Christians!

The next morning when the authorities wanted to get Paul out of town quickly he refused to leave the prison. They couldn’t treat Roman citizens this way! This frightened the magistrates and they ended up receiving an apology, a nice escort out of the prison and a request (not order) to leave their city. Paul and Silas first visited and encouraged the Christians.

What’s the worst that could happen to us if we tell someone the good news of Jesus? Be called names? Abuse shouted at us? Our “friends” might not be so friendly? Compare that to what the Christians in the book of Acts went through. Do we really have it so bad? What’s our excuse?

Readings for next week

29 September – Acts 21
30 September – Acts 22
1 October – Acts 23
2 October – Acts 24
3 October – Acts 25

church building

Five things that are wrong with the church!

OK now that I have your attention, I have a question: Why are we drawn so strongly toward the negative? The internet is littered with negative titles: “Four Things Christian Parents Are Doing Wrong!” the title screams, “Six Things the Church Should Get Rid of Immediately” another yells.

These articles appear to be written by well-meaning people, believers in Christ, no doubt. But it seems so hard to avoid negativity. Is the church perfect? Are Christians sinless? You know the answer to that. Is the church so sacrosanct that it should never be examined and critiqued? Of course not, though it seems to me that this need (for the church to be critiqued) is pretty soundly fulfilled. The Pacific Ocean has plenty of drops of water, and the church has plenty of critics. Continue reading

Open Door

Access

A stout man shouted down a very lengthy stone hallway, “Leave now.  You do not belong here!” My fellow college intern and I had casually strolled into an architecturally interesting building having finished touring the nearby Tower of London. Curiosity had led us to open the massive door and step inside.

There would be no answers. There would be no access.  Being cast out was unsettling. Continue reading

Greedy

Does God legislate charity?

“Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness” (Luke 12:15Luke 12:15
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15 He said to them, “Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man’s life doesn’t consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses.”

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, ESV).

What exactly is “covetousness?” What does it entail? Jesus warns to be on guard against “all” kinds of it. Covetousness, to define it in layman’s terms, is the attitude where enough is never enough; where the appetite, no matter the object, cannot be satisfied. It is the opposite of contentment, and it is a disease from which many of us suffer. M.R. Vincent, in his seminal work on New Testament words, quotes Socrates, who likened the covetous soul to a colander.

Covetousness is translated from numerous words, but they all carry the same concept – to long for or fix one’s passion upon. This can be good, as in Paul’s recommendation to the Corinthians that they set their longings upon the best of God’s gifts (1 Corinthians 12:311 Corinthians 12:31
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31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. Moreover, I show a most excellent way to you.

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), or evil, as in the case of money (1 Timothy 6:101 Timothy 6:10
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10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

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), or any thing we do not own, as in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:17Exodus 20:17
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17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

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), or the statement of Jesus above (Luke 12:15Luke 12:15
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15 He said to them, “Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man’s life doesn’t consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses.”

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). Continue reading

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The unprofitable servant

Understanding Luke 17:5-10Luke 17:5-10
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5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” 6 The Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you would tell this sycamore tree, ‘Be uprooted, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. 7 But who is there among you, having a servant plowing or keeping sheep, that will say, when he comes in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down at the table,’ 8 and will not rather tell him, ‘Prepare my supper, clothe yourself properly, and serve me, while I eat and drink. Afterward you shall eat and drink’? 9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded? I think not. 10 Even so you also, when you have done all the things that are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy servants. We have done our duty.’”

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is crucial to our knowledge of salvation. What it says about grace is both challenging and liberating.

From a modern, fleshly standpoint, the master’s behavior is repugnant. We naturally bristle at subservience and allowing others to make demands of us. It brings to mind images of films or novels where the lazy wealthy treat their staff like animals. Continue reading

people-praying

10 faith strategies for every situation

The world encourages us to develop coping skills. God wants us to do more than cope. He offers us strategies to express our faith, strengthen our joy, and promote righteousness in the world. For every situation, we have the Way. How can Christians deal with difficulties?

1. Trust the word of God in every way. Satan wants us to feel that Scripture has nothing for us, but everything we need for our walk, worship, and work is in the Bible. “I trust in your word” Psalm 119.42 NET. No situation calls for laying aside the word of God. It has both answers and power for the difficult moment we’re living.

2. Own up to your feelings. Denial intensifies them. Cain failed to deal with his anger and killed his brother, Genesis 4. Express your emotions in prayer, admitting them to God. He can handle them. Write it down, if necessary. Use many of the Psalms as models or their words to express your thoughts. Recognize, too, that emotions do not represent reality, but only our inner state based on our momentary, limited evaluation. “How do I feel?” is a great question, but ultimately we must move on to ask, “What must I do?” In the garden, Jesus admitted that he felt anguish: “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death” Matthew 26.38 NLT. Then he went willingly to die on the cross. Continue reading