Whose house is it?

“And again he entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that he was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And he preached the word to them. Then they came to him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where he was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying” (Mark 2:1-4 NKJV).

Some years ago while visiting churches in the mountains of Nepal I fell from the steps leading into the house in which I was spending several days. The floor level was two or three feet above the ground and the steps were makeshift at best – a few rocks stacked loosely on each other without mortar and without much level matching surface. My fall was not serious and I was uninjured, but as I sat on the ground catching my breath I saw one of the Church’s leaders taking apart the steps and beginning to level and relay them to be more secure. I thought at the time, “This is not his house (he was not actually even a resident of that village); what is he doing working on someone else’s house?” Continue reading “Whose house is it?”

Villains

“Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Be on guard against him yourself, for he vigorously opposed our teaching” (2 Timothy 4:14-15, NASB).

Most modern readers of the New Testament are interested in heroic characters, or in the study of God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and the Church – in short we focus on positive things which lift us up. Yet we recognize that the Biblical writers also tell of less wholesome things and people, those whom we might call “villains.” Continue reading “Villains”

Born to hope

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to his great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3 NASB).

From a human, earthly perspective, when one stands outside the window of a hospital nursery admiring the newly born babies within, the highest hope for any one of those new lives which is experienced is that he or she will have a long and happy life. All in that position are fully aware that every brand new baby comes with the reality of ultimate death. All hope and expectation are tempered with that knowledge. No matter how many years may be granted, nor what wealth, honor, fame or other accomplishments may be gained, physical life is limited in duration and will always end in death. Continue reading “Born to hope”

Benefits from being born again

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3 NASB).

Occasionally news will come from South Asia of the birth of a child to one of the Christian couples (often a preacher and his wife) there. Almost always that will be accompanied by a request for me (or Brenda and me) to name the new baby. That is always an honor, as well as a means of keeping me humble. To provide a new child with the name by which he or she will be known for the rest of their life is a significant responsibility.

Several years ago I got a similar request but in a different context. An older man who had been a Hindu for all of his life was baptized into Christ. He asked me during a devotional in his home that night to give him a name suitable for a Christian. He stated that up until that day he had prayed to idols every night in his house, but on this night he was praying (and we with him) to the true, living God. He no longer wanted to be known by his Hindu name. He was beginning a new life of faith and wanted to be known for that instead. Continue reading “Benefits from being born again”

Go anyway

“Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ And he said ‘Here I am, Lord.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Rise and go to the street called Straight, and … look for a man of Tarsus named Saul … But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.’ … But the Lord said to him, ‘Go’” (Acts 9:10-15 ESV).

I have often read how young soldiers struggle with fear, thinking that they are cowards because they are afraid. Often older veterans will advise them that it is all right to be afraid, so long as fear does not prevent them from fulfilling their duty. Continue reading “Go anyway”

What is wrong with birth?

“A good name is better than precious ointment and the day of death than the day of one’s birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1, NKJV).

There goes the cynical wise man of old again. Solomon’s discussion of the meaning of life (known as the book of Ecclesiastes) is filled with phrases like “all is vanity” (1:2), “no profit under the sun” (2:11), and “this also is vanity and grasping for the wind” (4:4). One who reads the book casually, especially for the first time, is likely to picture its author as an embittered old man who is disappointed with life. But is that a true description of Israel’s wise King?

One seemingly cynical statement which helps fill out that description is found in 7:1 where Solomon prefers death to birth. An easy interpretation of this verse concludes that life is nothing but a disappointment and those who are ready to leave it are “happier” than those just beginning. But is that really what Solomon is teaching? Continue reading “What is wrong with birth?”

Exactly who or what does God love?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17, NKJV).

God’s love for the world is stated unequivocally in this much loved passage, often termed “The Golden Text of the Bible.” But what exactly does the key phrase mean? How is the word “world” to be understood?

A reader of the Bible will soon discover other passages which disapprove of loving the world, such as: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). How can it be that God can love the world, but humans cannot? Continue reading “Exactly who or what does God love?”

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”