This day only

“Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, ‘I do not know you.’ ‘ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matthew 25:11-13, NKJV).

One of my pieces of electronic equipment is damaged, and though it still works for now, I have been looking for a good opportunity to replace it. Returning from an out of town business trip I checked my email and found a good sale on precisely the item I need. The only problem was it was headed “This Day Only”, and dated two days previously. Looks like I missed out. Continue reading “This day only”

Baptized into what?

“And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ So they said to him, ‘We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said to them, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ ” (Acts 19:1-3, NKJV).

Prepositions are often overlooked as small and insignificant parts of a sentence. They are typically little words which lack the impact of the more impressive nouns and verbs on which we focus. Yet they give essential details to our communications. Without them, and especially without precise understanding of them, our messages are often misunderstood. Continue reading “Baptized into what?”

Unselfishness

“And Joab was told, ‘Behold, the king is weeping and morning for Absalom.’ So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people. For the people heard it said that day, ‘The king is grieved for his son.’ And the people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle” (2 Samuel 19:1-3 NKJV).

During a campaign to South Asia, I am always confronted by many people with pressing needs who look to me to help resolve those issues. Most are financial in nature, as they struggle to meet rising costs of food, housing, medical treatment, and education for their children. Though I must balance the needs of any one petitioner against the many who will make requests, and the overall needs of the churches in several countries, everyone is preoccupied with his or her own situation and rarely able or willing to consider the many others in similar circumstances. Everywhere and all of the time it seems that we all think “It is all about me.” Continue reading “Unselfishness”

Selective reading

“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no God. . . . Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one” (Isaiah 44:6, 8).

An American friend who once lived in Nepal told me of a visitor to their home who raved about how much she “loved Nepal.” My friend then smiled and said, “But she never left Thamel (the tourist section of Katmandu).” Her meaning was clear. The tourist loved what she saw of the country, but that was very little and was not at all representative of the nation. She, like so many others, took back a distorted perception of the land and people she supposedly experienced. Continue reading “Selective reading”

Birds and flowers

“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?… Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:26, 28-29, NKJV).

One of the pleasures I experience often in other countries is the sight of unfamiliar animals, flowers, and trees. It is not that the kingfisher of South Asia is necessarily prettier or more colorful than, say, the indigo bunting or goldfinch of North America. They are just less familiar and thus perhaps more exciting to see. But I love to see the cardinals and finches at my own feeders at home too, regardless of how often I have watched them. Continue reading “Birds and flowers”

The elephant in the road

“You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous” (Deuteronomy 16:19 NKJV).

On a rural road in South Asia, our van was stopped by an elephant and its “mahout” (trainer/driver), and a toll was demanded of us. Toll roads and bridges are not uncommon there but they are normally collected by people with official authorization operating from booths. This was obviously private enterprise. It was also obvious that the business had some significant support from influential people. No common person could maintain that process without such backing. Continue reading “The elephant in the road”

High maintenance

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2).

A stated goal of most mission efforts is to establish and mature congregations in distant areas that will ultimately be independent and self-sustaining. Many congregations, and some missionaries, can become frustrated when young indigenous churches continually need help, whether it be financial or in dealing with ongoing problems.

Even such a successful evangelist as the apostle Paul confessed to this burden. Continue reading “High maintenance”

Joyful noise

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:1-2 NKJV).

Many of the congregations of Churches of Christ in Asia use rented facilities (often in apartment buildings) in which to assemble for worship. Occasionally one of them is compelled to change meeting places because of complaints from neighbors against outsiders coming into their building and especially because of the noise of the singing in worship assemblies. Continue reading “Joyful noise”

The ultimate visual aid

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15 NKJV).

Any teacher – or for that matter any student – can attest to the importance of visual aids. Whether or not it is true that “A picture is worth a thousand words,” it is certainly true that the more one can use multiple senses in acquiring knowledge, the more complete that knowledge is likely to be.

Most travelers are familiar with the frustration which results from trying to share one’s experience in strange places with those at home who just don’t get it. No matter how much we try we soon realize that our report gets filtered through their experience and expectations and they just don’t understand. Third world poverty for example translates as “just beans for dinner with no dessert” rather than three days of starvation. Yes, we know there are starving people over there, but we just can’t quite empathize with their suffering. We don’t feel it. Those who have “been there and done that,” however, know it on a much deeper level. Continue reading “The ultimate visual aid”

God is good

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1-5 NKJV).

As our party traveled by foot to a remote village in the middle hills of Nepal we came to a pool in a river where two men were washing something that I first took to be clothes or at least rags of some kind. As we got closer, however, I realized they were washing out the intestines of an animal that they had slaughtered. Continue reading “God is good”