Visiting the afflicted

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (James 1:27, ESV).

The call came to the administrators of Khulna Bible College. “Mrs. Baidya has had a stroke and would very much appreciate a visit from Mike Brooks.” This elderly lady is one of the original members of a rural congregation almost three hours drive from the college campus. She and her late husband had provided the land on which the small tin and wood church building which the church used for about 25 years had stood. One son and at least two daughters still live in the village and are members of the congregation. I was happy to comply with her request and, accompanied by several men from KBC, made the trip a few days later. Continue reading “Visiting the afflicted”

‘Without neglecting the others’

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew: 23:23-24 ESV).

The campus of Khulna Bible College contains a number of fruit and nut trees, including mango, coconut, litchi, jackfruit, papaya, and jambora (a type of grapefruit) trees. The nine coconut trees are especially productive and the nuts are prized for their water (or milk), meat, and fibrous hull. Periodically coconuts will be collected and counted out for sharing among the various staff families and the needs of the college kitchen. Continue reading “‘Without neglecting the others’”

Honoring those who are worthy of honor

“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7 ESV).

The custom of honoring guests and dignitaries by putting a scarf or garland around their neck is strong in Nepal and much of Asia. In the churches, visiting missionaries, as well as Nepali preachers and leaders, and local civic leaders are almost always welcomed by the ceremony of “garlanding.” It is a means of demonstrating respect and showing that they are held in honor. The traditional scarves and flowers are of little intrinsic value, but the act of being shown respect is priceless. Continue reading “Honoring those who are worthy of honor”

Who’s driving?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV).

A major U.S. bus line advertised for many years with the slogan, “Leave the driving to us.” I have found that to be a comforting motto when on Nepal’s mountain roads. The local drivers who deal regularly with the narrow, rough, twisting, precipitous roads through the Himalayas and their foothills are far more capable of dealing with dangers than I. I do my best to “cast my anxieties” on them and just let them handle it. I’m not always completely successful (I do worry sometimes about certain stretches) but for the most part I have been much more relaxed and able to enjoy the scenery since adopting that attitude. Continue reading “Who’s driving?”

The Lord of the Sabbath

“Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:5-8, ESV).

The question of rules and laws is difficult. Without laws societies break down and survival often becomes a matter of strength and ruthlessness. But the rule of law may result in a rigid system which is void of mercy and compassion. Legalism values rules above human needs. Situation ethics and similar moral systems often lead to the suspension of law based only on subjective feelings or opinions. What is sufficient reason to “break” a rule is different for each one who faces difficulties. Is there not a reliable standard which may be enforced in all circumstances? Continue reading “The Lord of the Sabbath”

‘Perils in the wilderness’

“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned’ three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” (2 Corinthians 11:25-26, NKJV).

Paul’s list of his sufferings while preaching the Gospel are absolutely amazing. The experiences cited above are only a relatively small part of the full list found in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. One who reads that account might well feel shame to complain about inconveniences and minor persecutions suffered today.

Yet while the extent of Paul’s experience surpasses that of most others, the fact of suffering and danger is a common, expected aspect of the Christian life. Paul promised, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Continue reading “‘Perils in the wilderness’”

Imitations

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children” (Ephesians 5:1 NKJV).

When I first started traveling in South Asia I was impressed by the many name brands available in clothing, hiking gear, and other basic equipment and the very reasonable (cheap) prices for which they were sold. It was only after I had examined a few things and found them to be of lesser quality than I expected from the name that I realized that they were counterfeit. I wasn’t all that surprised – I had been aware that such practices existed. But I had not previously seen them on such a scale.

While many of the makers and sellers of these items are obviously intending to deceive and defraud customers, that is not true of all. Some are not actually counterfeit, but rather imitations. They copy styles and colors and other features of the highly advertised originals, but usually invent a brand name that is very similar to the original, but differing in a syllable or a letter. Of course if someone does not look closely enough and thinks it is the genuine article, the seller does not object, but there is evidence of imitation if one looks well. Continue reading “Imitations”

Overcoming adversity

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations . . .” (Romans 5:3).

It is not unusual for people to take pride in, or even boast about, the problems that they face in their lives. Athletes will often speak in interviews about “All the adversity I (or we) have overcome” to be successful as an individual or a team. They are not the only ones to use hardships as motivation to try to prove themselves to others. Minorities, the poor, and those with various handicaps will all display their problems proudly to show the extent of their triumphs and successes.

One common error that such pride succumbs to is to feel that one’s particular adversities are somehow special. Maybe they don’t claim that they are more troubled than anyone else, but there is often a distinct flavor of, “I have had to overcome more than most,” at the very least. Continue reading “Overcoming adversity”

What do you want?

“Then they called the blind man, saying to him, ‘Be of good cheer. Rise, he is calling you.’ … So Jesus answered and said to Him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ The blind man said to him, ‘ Rabboni, that I may receive my sight'” (Mark 10:49, 51).

All people have desires and needs. Some are poorer than others, with greater and more obvious physical needs. Others have needs that are emotional, social, or spiritual, but just as if not more urgent. Some needs are obvious, but not all. In traveling to less developed parts of the world I see many beggars. Some are blind. Others are crippled. Some are simply poor and many are old, without income or family to help. When I see them I am often moved with pity and want to help. But I also recognize that I may not see their true needs, or be able to give that which will genuinely help them. Continue reading “What do you want?”

Time well spent

“If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength, but wisdom brings success” (Ecclesiastes 10:10 NKJV).

I recently watched a man in South Asia cut down a mahogany tree with a hatchet. The tree was probably 20 inches or so in diameter, with a fairly full top, and he climbed up near the top then began trimming branches. When he had it trimmed down to the main trunk only, then he came to the ground and cut it at the roots. Some of the work he did with a crosscut saw, but most was with a hand ax. If you have never tried it, take it from me, that is a hard job. This man did it well, and it did not take a very long time. Continue reading “Time well spent”