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”

Drink indeed: What it means to drink Christ’s blood

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him’” (John 6:53-56 NKJV).

In all of the paradoxes that constitute Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation which he delivered to mankind there may be nothing so startling and difficult to comprehend than his statements about drinking his blood. Those of us who were never under the Law of Moses and were not raised to avoid even the taste of blood under any circumstances may not have the innate aversion to the very idea that devout Jews have long considered an essential aspect of their identity. Continue reading “Drink indeed: What it means to drink Christ’s blood”

Convinced of God’s power and love

The weather here in northern Alabama this past week or so has reminded me of that old saying, “Be careful what you pray for; you just might get it.” After an unusually wet spring and early summer, we had been in a dry spell for three or four weeks and were beginning to hurt for rain.

Then tropical storm Marko and hurricane Laura showed up bringing deluges over a wide area, including us. Now we continue to have fronts coming through with frequent local showers. For all of these we are very grateful.

When James wrote to encourage Christians to pray he cited Elijah as an example of the power of prayer: Continue reading “Convinced of God’s power and love”

Exalting God together

“I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!” (Psalm 34:1-3, ESV).

The fundamental motives for evangelism and missionary activity are frequently identified as love for the lost and zeal to spread the good news of salvation. Somewhat less obvious today, but prominent in the New Testament, is the goal of exalting God in an unbelieving world.

Jesus spoke repeatedly about his earthly purpose, which was at least in large part to “glorify God” (John 17:1, 4). He taught his followers to live so that “others … may see your good works and give glory (i.e. praise) to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). One significant result of God’s plan to save mankind from sin was to demonstrate his glory both to all creation and to all the spiritual realm: Continue reading “Exalting God together”

What is it?

“So when the children of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘This is the bread which the Lord has given you to eat’ . . . And the house of Israel called its name Manna” (Exodus 16:15, 31 NKJV).

As one travels throughout the world there are many occasions when he or she may ask, “What is this?” It may be regarding a food, a drink, a piece of household furniture, a tool, or even a custom or behavior. There are many cultures in this world, each with its own history, traditions, and particular resources. It is not surprising that varying cultures have found different solutions to many of the same needs. One person’s familiar object may be completely strange to someone else. Continue reading “What is it?”

Extreme requirements of those who serve God

“Thus the Lord said to me: ‘Go and get yourself a linen sash, and put it around your waist, but do not put it in water’” (Jeremiah 13:1, NKJV).

I am often amazed at how many modern Christians seem to consider their religion to be non-demanding. This is often reflected in the denial that God would require any inconvenience or excessive demands from them. They also assume that God wants them to have a prosperous and enjoyable life, whatever may be required to make that happen.

Whenever I am confronted with such attitudes I almost unfailingly think of the lives of the prophets of Israel as related to us in the Old Testament. Jeremiah, often called “The Weeping Prophet,” is a particular example of God’s extreme requirements of those who would serve him. Continue reading “Extreme requirements of those who serve God”