In his hands

“Hear, O my people, and I will speak, . . . For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are mine. . . . For the world is mine, and all its fullness” (Psalm 50:7, 10-12, NJKV).

To those who learned “religion” from the Bible, whether directly or second-hand from parents or culture, the idea that God is the ruler of the whole world is neither unusual nor difficult to understand. That was probably one of the first spiritual concepts to which we were introduced – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Continue reading “In his hands”

Are we worldly?

“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NIV).

I visited a congregation in southwestern Bangladesh and on the way back out, near dark, the Banglas who were with me had me sit in the back seat, surrounded and mostly hidden, by them. After a few miles they stopped and I was able to get back in the front passenger seat where I usually ride. When I asked them why the “musical chairs” they replied, “That is an area notorious for robbers; we did not want them to see you and think we were a good target.” Continue reading “Are we worldly?”

In limbo

For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. . . . For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now, and not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:19, 22-23, NKJV).

During the Red-Shirt Rebellion in Thailand several years ago I was in Nepal, with return tickets to home on Thai Airlines with a layover in Bangkok. The Red-Shirts captured the airport through which I would be flying and stopped all travel for about two weeks. I inquired about changing my travel arrangements but the airline refused to deal with me until time for the flight to occur. For all of that time I was in a state of suspension, not knowing what would happen or when and how I might be able to return to the U.S. Thankfully, the rebellion was ended and the airport reopened just before time for me to travel. We completed our journey without difficulty. Continue reading “In limbo”

Mansions

“In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3, NKJV).

Several years ago a younger visitor commented about his modest aspirations for a house. “I don’t want anything fancy, just a simple place kind of like your house.” Though I would agree that my house is not fancy, it represents many years of saving and working and is likely the largest and last house I will own. I was a little shocked at this example of the next generation’s definition of “starter home.” Of course, that particular individual may not be a true representative of his generation. Continue reading “Mansions”

The glory of heaven

“Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her that he might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that he might present her to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27 NKJV).

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God” (Revelation 21:9-11).

Most Christians are familiar with John’s vision of the New Jerusalem as recorded in Revelation 21. We frequently long for the time when we will approach the Holy City, New Jerusalem (v. 2), enter through its gates of pearl (v. 21) and walk those glittering streets of gold (v. 21). Even as we imagine those things however we puzzle over many questions: where exactly is heaven? How literal are those gates and streets? What will we do when we are there? On the one hand we are intrigued with the imagery John uses. On the other, we understand that it is a vision, and therefore may not be intended literally. Continue reading “The glory of heaven”

Let him pray

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. . . . Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:13-16).

Mrs. Baidya and her late husband were two of the original members of the Shikarpur congregation in Bangladesh, and had allowed the church to erect a small building on their property in which it met for over twenty years. Recently, when I was in the country, she sent word to me that she was ill and would like for me to come to visit and pray with her. I did so and enjoyed a very uplifting time with her, her family, and members of the church there. Such opportunities have helped me to a better appreciation of both the power of prayer and its value to Christians both individually and collectively. Continue reading “Let him pray”

Difficult but not impossible

“If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:18, ESV; compare Proverbs 11:31).

Traveling the mountain roads in Nepal has given me a new appreciation for the term “scraping by.” Frequently when two vehicles meet one must back up to a wider spot in order to allow the other to pass. Even in places where two can pass it is often by the narrowest of margins. I have frequently looked out my window and been unable to see any road beside our vehicle – and many times I found myself looking over a drop-off of hundreds or thousands of feet. Traffic can pass, but it is by no means easy. Continue reading “Difficult but not impossible”

Good memories

“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things” (2 Peter 1:12-15 ESV).

I am frequently asked whether I know someone in Nepal, Bangladesh, or India. Often I can answer yes and recall events which were shared with those persons. But sometimes, though the name may be somewhat familiar, I must admit that I do not really have any substantial memory of the person. I don’t really know them at all. The same is true of specific events such as gospel meetings or seminars which were held several years previously. Similar occasions tend to blend together so that I may be confused over what was done and who was involved in a particular instance. Continue reading “Good memories”

A whole lot of shaking

“See that you do not refuse him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven’” (Hebrews 12:25-26).

A recent Facebook post from a young Christian in Nepal read, “Another earthquake, already?!” This was in response to a moderate quake which once again shook that Himalayan nation. Readers may remember the massive earthquake of April, 2015 which devastated much of the country and resulted in almost ten thousand deaths and much structural damage. The population has strong memories of that event and even the slightest tremor causes deep anxiety and even terror.

The Hebrew writer contrasts old religious institutions of Israel with that new system inaugurated by Jesus. When it was time to begin God’s covenant relationship with Israel he brought them to Mount Sinai where he spoke to them, revealing his laws (Exodus 19 20; Hebrews 12:18-21). Though the Old Testament account does not specifically mention an earthquake, the description of “thunderings and lightenings, and a thick cloud on the mountain; and the sound of the trumpet was very loud” (Exodus 19:16) is consistent with the Hebrew writer’s comment, “Whose voice then shook the earth” (Hebrews 12:26). Continue reading “A whole lot of shaking”

Even the blood of wild animals

“Any one also of the people of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn among them, who takes in hunting any beast or bird that may be eaten shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth” (Leviticus 17:13).

Many years ago I took a course on meat preparation and was introduced to “Kosher” meats. That is the term used of meats approved for eating by Orthodox Judaism. At that time at least the processing of Kosher meat not only meant to select only “clean” animals as sources of food, but also the complete removal of all blood from the carcass. As I recall the lessons, Orthodox Jews only ate beef or mutton that had been de-veined. Simply bleeding the carcass out was not sufficient – the veins themselves had to be removed. Since the hind quarters of a cow (steer) could not be feasibly de-veined, those who required Kosher meat could only eat the front quarters (shoulders). Think of all the wasted T-bone steaks! Continue reading “Even the blood of wild animals”