“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it – lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish'” (Luke 14:28-30 NKJV).
A congregation in the U.S. made a commitment to help a church in Asia with a building in which to meet for worship. It has been a little while since I was involved in constructing a church building there and costs have increased considerably during that period. I was very concerned, therefore, with developing a plan which could be finished with the fixed amount of funds that were available. I did considerable shopping and consulting before the final plans were drawn and construction began. The last thing I wanted was to run out of money, leaving a partially finished but still unusable building to deteriorate in bad weather. Continue reading “Counting the cost”
“But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:23 NKJV).
Have you ever cut open a ripe papaya? If you are in the U.S. the chances are you have not. A good papaya tree may produce twenty or more fruits per season. Each fruit contains hundreds of seeds. Therefore, theoretically, at least, each tree could reproduce itself thousands of times each season. That degree of productivity is not untypical in the plant world or even in the animal kingdom when one considers fish, insects and various other categories of life. Continue reading “One hundredfold”
“Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves he went to see if perhaps he would find something on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, ‘Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.’ And his disciples heard it” (Mark 11:12-14 NKJV).
When I arrived in Bangladesh in early March, the fruit trees on the campus were in bloom and beginning to set fruit. Unfortunately, when it was time to leave a couple of months later the fruit was hanging heavily, but not yet ripe enough to eat. To say it was frustrating to watch mangoes, jackfruit, and other tropical fruits which I don’t get much opportunity for at home (at least not tree-ripened and fresh) get that close to edible but still not available to me is rather an understatement. Continue reading “Seasonal harvests”
“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox” (Proverbs 15:4).
The great principle established by the simple proverb stated above is that nothing comes without some cost, but if we choose our efforts wisely, the extras that are required will be well paid. If a clean barn is one’s goal, it is easy to achieve – merely get rid of all of the animals. But realize, one can do a lot with a well-trained ox. Is a clean barn really the most important thing? Continue reading “Cleanliness is not everything”
“Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth” (Isaiah 40:3-4).
Roads through mountains or high hills have always fascinated me. The sheer amount of labor involved in cutting a way through a rugged range, not to mention the engineering skills and material required, is staggering. Yet wherever I travel it seems that someone either already has or is in the process of making a better route. Continue reading “Road building”
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27 NKJV).
I recently visited a young man in Bangladesh who had been involved in a traffic accident. His father showed me his X-rays, clearly revealing a broken and separated bone in his forearm and another in his upper leg. He then showed another set of X-rays taken after surgery which revealed a plate attached to the arm bone and a rod inserted in the leg. As always I was amazed and grateful for the marvelous technology we have which enables doctors to accurately diagnose and treat internal conditions. Continue reading “Looking more deeply”
“Also the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, behold, I take away from you the desire of your eyes with one stroke; yet you shall neither mourn nor weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh in silence, make no mourning for the dead, and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover your lips, and do not eat man’s bread of sorrow.’ So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died, and the next morning I did as I was commanded” (Ezekiel 24:15-18 NKJV).
A preacher in one of the countries where we work targeted a community of lower income residents. Knowing they would be uncomfortable with someone they perceived as of higher social class, he purchased a lot and built a simple house among them. He realized that he and his family would be accepting a lower living standard than that to which they were accustomed, but they agreed that this would be a small price to pay for the opportunity to teach and convert those who were lost. Continue reading “Paying the price”
“Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun: there is one alone, without companion; he has neither son, nor brother . . . This also is vanity and a grave misfortune” (Ecclesiastes 4:7-8 NKJV).
I have traveled often both with and without companions from the U.S. Thankfully, I have never had to travel in other countries completely by myself. Whether or not there are other Americans in the party, I always am accompanied by Christians native to the countries which I visit. I would never say that I could or would not go alone; however, I certainly prefer the fellowship of others whenever it is available.
Solomon discussed the advantages of companionship: Continue reading “Loneliness”
“But Jesus said to her, ‘Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’ And she answered and said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs'” (Mark 7:27-28, NKJV).
Khulna Bible College replaced an outside cooking shelter because the tin was rusted and full of holes so that it leaked to the point of making it difficult to keep the wood fires going as they cooked in rainy weather. Members of a local congregation saw the pile of discarded metal and asked if they could have it to build a meeting place in which to worship. As a church building, it is much less than perfect but certainly better than nothing.
One of the most difficult virtues to obtain is contentment. James taught about the vicious cycle of desire and sin: Continue reading “One man’s trash”
“Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, ‘Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread'” (Matthew 15:1-2, NKJV).
Few things are more polarizing and divisive than tradition. One group will say, “That is our tradition so we must do it.” Opponents will counter, “That is just your tradition, it has no validity or authority.” To conservatives, traditions seem sacrosanct. To those of a more liberal or progressive nature, to label something as “tradition” is to condemn it to obsolescence and irrelevance. Continue reading “Tradition”