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”

Trash or treasure?

“Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to him to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them'” (Luke 15:1-2, NKJV).

I have been reminded of the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” as I have watched the concrete and brick rubble from the demolition of a roof being buried to form the solid base layer of a road bed. One of the expected problems when it was proposed to remove the old roof was, “what will we do with all of the waste material?” When it was decided that much of it could be put to good use in the building of the driveway, that project was added. Continue reading “Trash or treasure?”

Big rocks go on the bottom to make a good road

The big stuff

“But also, for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, . . .” (2 Peter 1:5 NKJV).

I have watched as a crew of workers built a road (or driveway) on private property in Bangladesh. First they dug out the soil to a pre-determined depth, then filled it with pieces of concrete broken into chunks the size of one’s doubled fists and larger. After those are packed and leveled there will be a layer of brick chips several inches thick, and ultimately a cement pavement.

The order of fill is of great importance as the varied materials in the base strengthen and support the smooth surface. If the smaller chips were put in first, on the bottom, they would eventually be pressed into the dirt and the road would become uneven and broken. The larger concrete chunks will stay at the correct level. Continue reading “The big stuff”

That neighbor?

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 NKJV).

A group of us were driving out of the city of Khulna when a large truck met us, driving the wrong way on our side of the divided highway. This is a frequent occurrence in Bangladesh where traffic laws are seldom enforced and many drivers are poorly trained. As we carefully steered around the truck I asked the other passengers in our van, “When Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors, did he know there would be truck drivers?”

Similar thoughts occur frequently as we are confronted with hostility, rudeness, and dishonesty in our interactions with others. There are many people in this world who are pretty much unlovable, at least in our opinions. Must we really open up to all of them and show compassion, mercy, and kindness? Does their bad behavior not excuse us from such obligations? Continue reading “That neighbor?”

A strange sort of optimism

And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1 NKJV).

When one thinks of all of the wars, famines, atrocities, and other crimes perpetrated by humans upon each other over the centuries of history, it is almost an impossible task to determine which particular event was the most horrible.

On two different, but similar, occasions a prophecy is made in the Bible about trouble greater than ever experienced, before or since. One of these is in the book of Daniel, referring to a particular invasion of Judah almost 200 years before the birth of Christ. The other was spoken by Jesus himself, and is believed by many to refer to the Jewish rebellion against Rome which would occur in 70 A.D., when the city of Jerusalem was once again destroyed (Matthew 24:21). Continue reading “A strange sort of optimism”

Final exams

“Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king” (Daniel 1:18-19).

Throughout the world, and throughout most of recorded history, examinations have played a major part in determining the future of young people. In South Asia preparing for exams is an extremely important activity as the continuation of one’s education or the beginning of a career depends upon making acceptable marks. In many cases those who fail do not get another opportunity. Continue reading “Final exams”

First or last

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, saying, ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last'” (Revelation 1:10-11 NKJV).

There are many ways to categorize people. One that I sometimes use has to do with how we schedule our pleasures. Some like to do the best (most enjoyable) things first. That may be eating dessert before the meal, or taking one’s leisure breaks as early as possible. Others prefer saving the best till last. I am among the latter group. I always keep the best piece of chocolate in the box for the final treat.

Reserving special pleasures for later offers several benefits. For example, there is the extended pleasure of anticipation. After all, once a particular dessert is eaten it is finished and cannot be enjoyed again. But while we look forward to it we savor the coming pleasure many times before finally consuming it. Continue reading “First or last”