Thursday, December 17, 2015

An Afternoon on the Coromandel

One day when I lived in India, I was traveling down the East Coast by train. I often made that trip. It took 27 hours including an overnight, on the “Coromandel Express” passenger train.

I was in the state of Andhra Pradesh heading south. The Coromandel used to stop along the way to drop passengers and pick up waiting ones. On this day I was almost alone in my small 8 person section of the coach. About mid-day we stopped at one of the typical stations. Hawkers sold coffee, tea, snacks, and numerous other things. There was a din of voices as they shouted, “Chai, chai, chaiya, kofee, kofee, kofeeeee!”

A young boy entered my compartment, looked at the seat numbers, and sat down opposite me. We nodded to each other and said no more. We were both by the window, and no one else was in our section. After a few minutes, the long train began to roll forward toward south India and my destination of Chennai.

We rode for a while in silence.

At some point I started up a conversation with him. The boy, about 12 years old, spoke very good English. He was a Muslim. He was heading somewhere to do something, I don’t really remember. He was not going too far, relatively speaking for an Indian train. I think he was going to be traveling for 3-4 hours and would be getting off in another town in the same state of Andhra Pradesh.

I asked him questions about his family, his school, and other things. He asked me where I was from, what I was doing in India, how did I like India.

At some point, I asked him about his religion. He answered my questions about his Islamic beliefs and practices. He was very articulate.

Then it came my turn. I spoke to him about Jesus and how he had changed my life after I began to read the Bible in college.

To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of the conversation details. There was nothing said that stands out in my memory.

What I do remember vividly, is that this 12 year old was captivated by what I said about Jesus. It was magical. I believe the Holy Spirit was in that compartment. It was natural, not forced, not striving in any way. Just a relaxed, friendly exchange of ideas. We both talked. We both listened. Oh my, he listened! He was absorbing it! That is my outstanding memory of this event. I knew that what I was saying was piercing into his soul and mind. Light from above! I did not attempt to “lead him in a sinner’s prayer.”

Finally the train rolled to a stop. He gathered his things and got up. We shook hands and he got out. I encouraged him to learn more about Jesus if he got a chance. On the platform he looked up and we waved and realized how cool those moments had been.

The train moved ahead. I never saw him again.

I’ll never forget the magic of that conversation.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Says Who?

All of us have some source of authority for our thoughts about God.

One man says, “Allah is God.”

Another says, “Jesus is God.”

Still another says, “There is no God.”

I met a young man named Gautam early in my time in India. He would visit us and we’d exchange our ideas about God. He worshiped Krishna from whom we get the Hare Krishna group. If I said, “Jesus can heal the blind,” Gautam would say, “So can Krishna.” Whatever Jesus could do, Krishna could do. It was like the old Broadway song, “Anything you can do I can do better.”

What was Gautam’s source of authority in believing in Krishna? It was the religion of his family. He was born into it and that’s what he knew. Why question that?

Most of us are like that.

Everyone has an ultimate source of authority for their “God statements.”

I remember my brother once saying to me, “I have my own ideas about God.” I got the impression that he’d thought about it. My guess is that he based his ideas on his experience in life to that point. His own thoughts were his source of authority. Many of us do that too.

For those who say “Allah is God,” that statement is usually based on the weight of societal opinion and on parental teachings. The Qur'an reinforces the belief.

For the atheist, his authority might be his own opinion, based on experience and what he considers scientific evidence. Certainly the agreement of many in academia is a reinforcement.

When a Christian says, “I believe in Jesus,” it may be from the same set of “authorities,” namely, culture, family, experience, etc. These can help, but is there more?

For many, myself included, there is the person, Jesus Christ. His life is recorded in the four Gospels of the New Testament. The testimony of who Jesus was and is, is an objective source of authority. If Jesus is truly God who came into the world as a man, then the Bible is a very compelling basis for a belief system.

What is your source of authority for your God statements? Is it your upbringing or traditional beliefs? Is it whatever is popular in our culture today? Maybe it’s your own opinion or proceeds from some hurtful experience?

The truth about God is out there. It’s either this or that. It’s either what you believe or it isn’t.

You remember my friend Gautam who was so stubborn about his belief in Krishna? Eventually, Gautam trusted in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Something about Christ sank in. He still actively promotes Jesus today, more than 30 years later. 

I recommend that you read about Jesus Christ in the Bible today. Jesus said, “The one who asks will always receive; the one who is searching will always find, and the door is opened to the man who knocks.” (Matt 7:8)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Cost of a Sheep

The cost of a sheep varies, but on average a “Katahdin cross” ewe is worth about $300.[1]

I was driving into a nearby town recently. I noticed a crowd of about three dozen gathered around a food giveaway program. People of all ages and descriptions stood in line to receive the weekly ration of free food being offered by a local charity.

I spent the next two hours with co-workers at our missions’ facility about a mile further up the street. We offered conversation, a listening ear, and prayer, and an opportunity to hear the “Good News” of Jesus Christ.  We gave stuff away too:  drinks, snacks, and biblical literature.

A few people came. I spent 45 minutes talking to a 60-ish, self-professed alcoholic named John. He had a long white beard. I thought of Moses in the Bible. We reminisced about our youthful years. Ironically we had had the same “favorite band,” The Who. It was a touch point.

I sought to explain my life since becoming a Christian, and told him how that in the mid-1970’s, the Lord had changed me. He mentioned a man from the Rescue Mission who had helped him so much. I said, “Why don’t you go over to the Mission and ask him how you can help? You can help many of the guys in there.” He made no comment on that. Finally I prayed for him as he had requested me to do in the beginning. As soon as I said, “Amen,” he continued a story. It didn’t seem he listened.

Another man with a hoodie pulled over his eyes entered and sat down.  He was visibly shaking. When he talked his voice was a heart-rending sob. As my friend talked with the distraught man, I thought, “He should be under supervised care, and yet he’s walking around the streets.”

I left and drove back up Main Street. I saw another cluster of 20 or so people gathered around a table with a “Free Cell Phones,” sign.

A block farther on, a sign hanging on the front of a bank promised, “We’ll Pay You To Open An Account.”

I felt sad. People here are being given things. I thought of the word “entitlement.”

When I served in India as a missionary, we saw many charitable works. We avoided the ones that created dependency like the plague. The best ones sought to help people to help themselves. It has something to do with self-respect that is rooted in the value of a person, which in turn, is rooted in the Gospel.

That’s probably why I felt sad. The people of this Pennsylvania town are loveable and worthy of respect. The man who looked like Moses and the crying man may be messed up, but there is a God-given value they have that is incalculable. Jesus once said, “What man among you, if he had a sheep that fell into a pit ... wouldn’t take hold of it and lift it out?  A man is worth far more than a sheep …”[2]

A man is worth far more than a sheep.

Our efforts to help people must never lose sight of this.

[2] Matthew 12:11-12 (Holman Christian Study Bible)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Where Did That Come From?

Jesus once asked some lawyers a simple question, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?”[1]

That is a good question.

The other day I was on my scooter at the drive up window of my bank. I was third in line. As I sat waiting, I thought, “I wonder if it’s weird for the car in front of me to see me on the scooter behind her? I am outside the normal confines of a car.” 

Then my thoughts changed directions.

“I wonder if she thinks I could just walk up to her passenger window and demand her money.”

My thoughts quickly flashed as to what that would look like, including popping back on the scooter and making my getaway. (I had been told once that a man held up that bank and escaped on a bicycle.)

Then I snapped back to reality. “What am I thinking about? This is crazy!” The motorist in front of me drove away.

The truth is, it was crazy.

But haven’t we all had thoughts like that before? I mean dark, off-the-wall thoughts? What is worse, haven’t we all done shameful or guilt-producing things?

I’ve heard it said, the one doctrine of Christianity that you cannot argue with is the doctrine of sin. We are all sinners with corrupt hearts. 

We have all experienced it. We’ve been on the receiving end and we’ve dished it out.

Although my thoughts that day were evil in nature, I did not sin. Had I dwelt on them, and eventually acted on them, it would have been sin. But just having the fleeting thought without premeditation, and then rejecting it, was not a sin.

The Bible says these evil thoughts come from our hearts.[2] My criminal thoughts originated in what theologians call my “sin nature.”

Spiritual philosopher Dallas Willard writes about the sin nature. “The condition of normal human life is one where the inner resources of the person are weakened or dead, and where the factors of human life do not interrelate as they were intended by their nature and function to do… The person is effectively turned away from his or her own good. The individual may and often does wish to be good and to do what is right, but he or she is prepared, is set, to do evil. It is what the individual is ready to do without thinking. In this condition, the mind is confused, ignorant, and misguided. The emotions are simultaneously dominant of personality and in conflict with one another. The body and the social environment are filled with regular patterns of wrongdoing and are constantly inclined toward doing what is wrong.”[3]

If Willard is right, we’re all out of whack. We’re crazy.

People can argue about who Jesus was and what he did. They can argue about teachings of the Bible. They can say this religion is better than that one. They can say there is no god.

But the one doctrine that cannot be argued against with intellectual integrity is the doctrine of sin. It’s our universal experience and is captured in phrases like, “Nobody is perfect,”I don’t know why I did that,” or “My bad.”

If it’s true that we’re imperfect and bad, then what else in the Bible might be true?

Maybe this statement: “…he shall save his people from their sins.”[4]

I submit to you that Jesus, and Jesus alone, can save us from the truth of our sin nature.

[1] Matthew 9:4 (Holman Christian Study Bible)
[2] Matthew 15:19 (HCSB)
[3] Dallas Willard, The Great Omission (Oxford: Monarch Books, 2006) 146-147
[4] Matthew 1:21 (HCSB)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Miracle Bicycle

Three of us were in the town of Tremont, Pennsylvania. It was a hot summer day. A church from the nearby town of Bethel was having an event in a park in Tremont.

 It was sort of a Christian carnival, offering several attractions to the local people. They had basic medical screenings by nurses. There was a distribution of groceries, household, and baby products for free. There were free drinks and hotdogs. There were bands and individuals playing music. There were face-painters for the kids, balloons, and they were raffling off several bicycles.

The organizer, Pastor Ted, had invited three of us working in Youth With A Mission to have a “Prayer Station” at the event.

A Prayer Station is basically a table with a banner over it. We simply offer to pray for passers-by. If they say yes, we ask what they want prayer for. If they refuse… no problem, they continue on their way. It’s a way of blessing people.

It was a fun event, but Pastor Ted hoped the love, generosity, and fun would have a spiritual impact on some. There were about 200 people there.

My friends, Chris, Bill, and I set up between the hot dog stand and the music.

It started out slow, but after a while a middle-aged man approached me. His name was Ron.

“What is this?” he asked.

The man looked haggard and weather-beaten to me. My immediate thought was he’d been a hard-drinking man. He had that look about him. We talked for a few minutes. Ron was not involved in religion in any way. He was not religious but curious that we were there.

 “Can I pray for you?” I asked.

He replied, “Why not?”

“Any specific thing I can pray for?”

“No, just pray,” he said.

So I prayed a prayer of blessing over him.

When I finished, after about 45 seconds, we opened our eyes.

Ron said, “I haven’t had a prayer like that prayed over me in 30 years!” He seemed really excited. So was I.

Immediately he asked, “Can you pray for my son?”

“Sure, ” I said.

“Andrew!" He called to a boy of about 12 standing nearby.

The boy came over and Ron said to him, “This man’s gonna pray for you. He just prayed for me. It was really good.”

Andrew looked sheepish and did not seem at all excited about prospect of being prayed for.  I waited for Ron to give a nod and then I prayed a short prayer, in Jesus’ name, for Andrew.

I encouraged Ron to get involved in a church, and read his Bible. He seemed genuinely encouraged as we said our goodbyes.

Later in the day, they had the drawing for the bicycles. There were three bicycles. The first two went to an adult and to a little girl. They drew a name for the third one, a really nice white bike. The name they announced was Andrew!  Andrew went forward and claimed his prize. I clapped!

Later, as I walked back from the stage to the “Prayer Station” table, Andrew and his dad were standing off to the side, about ten yards away looking at the bicycle. Ron waved me over.

Turning to Andrew he said, “See Andrew. See what God can do! God answers prayers!” It was the unchurched man who was now preaching Christ.

I’m not saying that if you pray, God will give you a new bicycle. He could do it. He did it that day. He’s good.

But my point is that Ron was convinced that God had answered prayer that day. He was teaching it to his son.

We find God in unexpected times and places.

Talk to Him today.

He is near.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Joy at a Stop Sign

Back in the early 70’s, my friend Pat said to me, “Do you want to go on a double date?” He was seeing a girl named Marilyn that he’d met at school in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She was a Christian. I was amazed that a religious girl would date Pat. As “wanna-be” hippies, he and I were into drugs, drinking, rock ‘n roll, and women. But this surprised me?

Pat said, “She has a sister. Do you want to go?”

 I did go… and we had a date, but I don’t remember it at all.

I remember the sister was cute. I called her to ask if I could go to Coeur d’Alene to see her. She said yes, and so I showed up at her house one evening. Somehow, it happened that her mother invited us to join her in going to see some friends. When we arrived, it turned out to be some sort of church house group.

We all sat in a circle. They did some preliminaries like singing. Then, at a certain point, my date’s mother said, ‘Now, let’s all go around the circle and each one share what Jesus means to you.”

I was not a Christian. I had not read the Bible. I did not go to church, although I could remember going to Sunday School at the Lutheran church as a young boy. I remember the Bible story comic strips. I really liked the pictures of Roman soldiers. That appealed to me. But that was long ago, and I was an unchurched heathen at this point.

I sat observing the 20-odd people, one at a time going around the circle, talking about what Jesus meant to them.

Finally my date spoke. I don’t think I heard what she said. I was busy composing my own speech mentally. Now it was my turn.

I sat there. There was an uncomfortable silence. All eyes were on me.

Finally I stood. I said something like, “Yeah, I think Jesus is cool. I believe in God.” I sat down.

The night ended. I never saw that girl, her mother, or her group again.

But I do remember an experience going home that night long-ago.

I drove from Coeur d’Alene to the Silver Valley in Idaho, listening to rock music as I always did. I pulled up to a four-way stop sign in Pinehurst.

As I sat there, I suddenly became aware of how good I felt. I felt absolutely joyful. There was a peace in my heart. I remember feeling clean. That was the feeling… cleanness. I had not known I wasn’t clean. But that night I had an immense sense of well-being as I sat at that stop sign.

Realization of how I felt produced in me a thought, “It was a good thing that I’d been with the people of Jesus.” It was a profound moment. I didn’t over-analyze what it was or why I felt it. But I have never forgotten that moment either.

I didn’t start to attend church right away. I didn’t start to read the Bible immediately. But that experience impacted me, and I would say it became one step in a process that took a year and a half before I ultimately committed my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ at an American Lutheran Church.

So what happened that night? I believe God allowed me to feel his presence. I felt what he feels and experienced what he is like. It was different. It made me happy. It made me want more, even though it would be some time before I got to that place.


Peace of mind.


Being clean. 

Those are some of the reasons why I am still a still a Christian after 43 years.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seeing the Invisible God

Paul  the Apostle, while preaching in the city of Athens, a city full of idols and images, said, “… he is actually not far from each one of us …”  (Acts 17:27-28) God is actually not far from each one of us

God is near to you and I. 

If so, why do we not see him? Why do we battle with doubts about his existence? Why does he seem irrelevant? Is there really someone living, and near us, that we cannot see?

A friend of mine was serving in the army in Vietnam. He was not a religious man. One night he stood waiting for a military transport to take him back to his unit. As he stood there alone in the sweltering Vietnam night, out of nowhere, a clear, vivid thought was impressed upon his heart. “Get to know me.” It was just that simple.  “Get to know me.” He instantly knew it was God. He told me that was the spark for him to begin to seek God. It wasn’t quick, the effect of that sentence lasted about five years. He had good times and bad times. He did many things he knew were wrong. But that one sentence spoken to his heart started it off. Today, he is involved in proclaiming the Christian message among Native Americans.

We can’t see God. Yet Paul says “He is actually not far from each one of us.” How can this be?

In a nutshell, it is because God is a spirit. The things of the spirit are not detectable by our five natural senses. The Bible teaches there is a God who loves you and is very near you, yet we can be oblivious to Him.

For my friend in Vietnam, it was an inner thought. Just a thought, yet it was so profound he did not forget it.

Is there a reasonable argument in favor of  invisible realities?

Yes. First of all there is Jesus. A real person who really lived miraculously, died on a cross, rose on the third day, and was seen by many. God showed himself up close and personal. Jesus said the spiritual realm is real.

Another intriguing thought about the existence of the invisible was put forth by Joseph Butler, an Anglican clergyman in the 18th century. He used the analogy of dreams. While we sleep, while we are unconscious of the physical world, and of our five senses, we still experience something real.

I once had a vivid dream where I was chased and shot in the arm by an alien weapon. I felt it. I then woke up and found that my arm was asleep. It was profoundly real. By analogy, Butler argued, that as in the unconsciousness of sleep, we have awareness, so too in the unconsciousness of death we will encounter reality.

Why does every nation, even remote, primitive societies, have religion? It is because man senses there is something real, something beyond us. That is spiritual perception, not physical.

So what keeps us from perceiving the spiritual world? Why are we so locked into the world of the five senses?

The Bible answer is that our sin keeps us from perceiving and knowing God.

God is holy. We are not. Therefore there is a separation.

Christ died though, to satisfy God’s justice and anger about our sins. If we believe in his atoning death and resurrection and his love for us, he forgives us. Our sins are removed in God’s eyes. Our "spiritual eyes" are opened.

So, since “he is actually not far from each one of us,” will you begin, more than ever before, to search for him? He is worth it. He is the most wonderful person in the universe.

Take a few minutes now, to talk to the invisible God. He is not far from you. He loves you. Tell Him what’s on your mind.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Meeting God in a Perkins

On July 1, 2015, my wife Lora and I were driving west on I-94 approaching Bismarck, North Dakota. We decided to stop in Bismarck and have dinner. We planned to drive further west to Dickinson and spend the night there afterward.

As we exited at Bismarck we began to see signs for the various restaurants that were available at that location. Lora’s eyes immediately caught sight of a Chinese place that featured a Mongolian barbecue. We both like Asian food. Lora loves it. She mentioned that option. I replied, “That sounds great to me.” I thought it was decided. As we approached the turning lane, Lora then said, “There’s a Perkins. Let’s try that.” I was mildly surprised, knowing her likes and dislikes. So I took a right in the parking lot which put us in front of the Perkins entrance. Even as I was turning I thought this is surprising. I hesitated briefly as I began to turn in, but she said definitely, “Let’s go to Perkins.”

We entered the restaurant and were seated at a booth at the window. The window was blocked by an exterior advertising banner. We sat down and got our menus. Lora left to the ladies room.

As she did, I sat facing the corner of the dining room. Two empty tables away from us, right in the corner, sat a family. It appeared to be mom, dad, and four kids, starting with a blonde girl aged about 13 on downward. They were in mid-meal. Mom seemed to be talking to them, in a somewhat serious manner, that made me think she was relating a story to them, or making a point to the whole family. I liked how she seemed to be relating to the kids.

Then I felt a surge of compassion for the family. I had a strong urge to pray for them right then and there. I silently prayed, still feeling this intense compassion. I prayed for their marriage, that it would be strong. Then I prayed for their relationship with the four children, that it would be blessed. As I finished these two short, sincere prayers, I had an impression that I was to tell them they were an awesome family. For whatever reason I did not act on that.

Lora returned. I didn’t say anything to her about what I’d felt. We talked about the menu.

The family was getting up as their meal ended, and mom and some of the kids left the table. Since I needed the restroom, I got up, and hoped to speak to the family on the way. I did see the blonde girl near the cash register. I thought of telling her “you guys are an awesome family,” but I didn’t. It seemed better to speak to one of the adults. I returned to our table without seeing either of them.

We decided we should change tables, as the banner totally blocked our view. We couldn’t see the waitress. Lora said, “Let’s do it.” She got up and I followed, and she went to the window table right beside the family. As we sat down, only the dad and an adolescent boy were still seated. Dinner was over and obviously they were just about to leave.

Once we were seated, the dad immediately said to us with a grin, “Do you want some free coffee?” He held up his pitcher. We laughed. As he and his son slid out of their booth and stood to go, he paused and talked about where they were going but included the phrase “We’re missionaries.”

I asked, “You are missionaries?”

“Yes, we serve in Russia, in the far eastern part of Russia.”

Being lifetime missionaries ourselves, I told him, “We are missionaries too. We work with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) We served in India for many years and now work at one of our mission’s training centers in the United States.”

Dad (Whose name was Steve) said, “Oh, my wife’s uncle works with YWAM in Mongolia.” As he finished that sentence, his voice trailed off as if he was trying to remember a name. He mumbled the word, “Simon.”

Surprised at a familiar name, I said, “Do you mean Bryan and Sandra Simon?”


“We know them. They received training with us in Pennsylvania before they went to Mongolia. We had hoped to recruit them to work with us. But of course, we’re thrilled that they ended up in Mongolia.”

“We have been considering leaving our mission,” Steve said, “we’re looking into YWAM. In fact after we go to Seattle for my dad’s surgery, we plan to go to Colorado Springs to talk to YWAM about possibilities.”

I told Steve about my prayer for him and that feeling of compassion.

After a little more conversation, Steve walked away toward the exit, and seconds later mom (Amanda) appeared. She said, “So I understand you guys know my Uncle Bryan. They are a big reason why I am in missions. They have inspired me a lot.”

“They are wonderful,” Lora said.

Then I told Amanda about how I’d felt deep emotion and had prayed for them. I said, “You guys are truly an awesome family.”

Amanda shyly put her arms around the 13 year old blonde girl’s neck from behind, embraced her, smiled and said, “This really seems like God is doing something.”

Being in amazement, we both replied, “Oh yes!”

We talked a little more. Then they went out into the parking lot, and as we watched, began to organize the mini-van and kids to continue their trip toward Seattle.

I was very excited. “Think of all the bits and pieces that had to come together for us to meet them here today,” I said to Lora.

They had driven from Minnesota to Bismarck that day. We had driven from Green Bay to Bismarck with a lot of tourist stops on the way. We got to the restaurant about the same time. We oddly chose the Perkins. Even though we were sitting two tables away from them, I had this strong impression to pray and to speak to them. Lora chose to move to the table beside them. Steve started a conversation. He mentioned being missionaries. He said the word “Simon.” We work in the mission they are considering being a part of.

I wondered how does God do that? How does he control all these circumstances? He moved two families, total strangers, together for a meeting and some words of encouragement. His power was working and guiding, but we only realized it after the fact.

As we ate our meal and watched them prepare to leave from the parking lot, the young boy ran over to our table and said, “My dad said to give this to you.” It was a $25 Perkins gift card. Our meal ended up being about $20 and with the tip, it was covered. As they drove out, Steve leaned forward and waved, and I returned the wave, feeling a rush of emotion. We were pilgrims on a journey with God spending some meaningful moments together.

“Lora,” I said, “This morning, if I had told you someone would buy our meal tonight at Perkins in Bismarck, North Dakota, what would you have said?”

She replied, “No way, I’d have thought, … impossible!”

 As we paid, the cashier said, “How was everything?” Excited, I wanted to say, “The food was good, BUT I MET GOD IN YOUR RESTAURANT TONIGHT!” But I didn’t. I knew he had no idea. That miracle was for us.

The rest of our two hour drive to Dickinson that evening was spent in talking over the nuances of how God had arranged and orchestrated this remarkable meeting.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

That Little Book

The man with a cardboard box handed me the small New Testament. It was in front of the University of Idaho library. I didn't know it, but he was with an organization called the Gideon's.

That little book wound up in a drawer in my apartment.

Later, on a night when I’d been drinking and was feeling melancholy, I thought about that little book, the New Testament with the Psalms and Proverbs. 

I got it out and laid down on my bed. I remember opening it and noticing a leathery smell. I’d never read it. I thought, “okay, so what are you all about?”

I started at the beginning at Matthew, Chapter 1. The "King James" version I read began with a list of archaic names. “What is this?” I thought.

Somehow I kept going. I read three chapters. Then I went to sleep.

The next night I read three more chapters.

And the next.

What I read about Jesus amazed me. The things he did. Once an angry crowd took him to a cliff to throw him down and “going his way, he walked through the midst of them.” How did he do that?

I began to experience a phenomenon when I read that little book. As I lay there thinking about the words, I would feel a peace, inside my chest. 

It was curious that reading made me feel that way.

Over time my life changed and my path was formed through reading that little book. - Mike

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Oh My Gosh, I Could Have Been Killed!

I was just a little bit crazy in my teenage years and early twenties.  Drugs were a prominent part of my life.

One day while I was high on drugs I was hitchhiking somewhere that I do not remember. O my gosh, I could have been killed. A man had picked me up and shared Jesus with me although I do not remember a word that he said.  He also gave me a copy of “The Living Way Bible.”    

I was drawn to that Bible many times out of curiosity. 

I believe that through this encounter and this man’s prayers, it started a chain of events of different things happening in my life that brought me to the Lord. This included checking into a mental hospital for methadone detox, falling into a nearly fatal coma, the birth of a son and then coming to the end of my rope when he was a few months old, and finally going into a Youth With A Mission ministry called Hope House. 

It was a process.

What stood out to me about God was His unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness for all that I have done, a father’s love that I had never known, and a sense of family from living in the YWAM community. 

– Tamara

Monday, April 20, 2015

Help the Environment. Turn Off Paper Statements

While using online banking recently, I read “Help the Environment. Turn off paper statements,” Well that’s a no-brainer. Why not!

Sounds like a large company that is concerned about the environment. While they probably are, we all suspect that profit-loss is the larger concern in there altruism.

If the bank sends a paper statement to their 3.5 million retail customers it will take roughly 200+ trees to produce that paper. Someone has calculated there are nearly 247 billion trees of a diameter of more than one inch in the United States.[1] The difference on the environment is microscopic.

The point is, they are saying something that seems valid at face value. But it’s more complicated than that. It is debatable at the very least, and may not even be true.

Another common refrain in the US is the call to buy now and save! If you don’t buy it now, you won’t save. It’s never about spending, it’s always about saving. So we spend more than we want to at the moment, because we know we’re saving.

On the day of the crucifixion the Roman Governor asked Jesus, “What is truth?”[2]

Someone I know who is facing a legal proceeding was told privately by his lawyer, “The truth doesn’t matter in this issue. It’s really not about the truth.”

Really? No law firm would ever advertize that.

Every culture I’ve been in has blind spots. Things they believe that are not true.

Here in the United States many people more intelligent than I believe the oceans are here as the result of meteor hits. (Picture)

We believe that individual rights trump broad society-wide freedoms.

We believe we’re smarter than past generations.

Not everything we believe is true.

The Roman Governor's question had been triggered by something Jesus said. "… the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.[3]

[1], “interesting Facts About Trees”
[2] John 18:38
[3] John 18:37

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Could We Relate to Jesus?

Did Jesus ever cut himself accidently? Did he ever stub his toe? Did he ever get sick? Did he ever give the wrong answer to a math question or any question?

We know he never sinned. He never acted outside of love. He obeyed God perfectly, even though he was fully human. That’s remarkable.

John tells us that Jesus was weary. In other places we’re told he was hungry. He got angry. Sad. I would suspect that was the case as a boy too. If he never hit his shin on a piece of furniture in the dark, that would be astounding. All of us have injured ourselves.

If he was always right about everything… 100% on all questions on all subjects… then his siblings would conceivably have had to deal with raging jealousy. Inferiority too.

Did Mary favor him over his siblings? He certainly would have been unique and one of a kind. If she was partial to “my little Jesus,” then again, the seeds of family dysfunction could have been deeply imbedded in Joseph’s clan.

You see, his mom and supposed father Joseph, and his siblings were human. They were like us. They would have hurt themselves, gotten sick, and been wrong in answering some questions. If Jesus was not like that how could they have related to him? “The whole family are down with colds, but not Jesus, he never gets sick.” “That really hurt to bump my head on the door post, but Jesus wouldn’t know, he’s never done that.”

I like the story of Jesus when he was 12 years old and sitting in the temple area talking to the learned men. The Bible records that the youth, Jesus, was asking questions. Asking questions. Learning. It seems he wasn’t a “know it all.”'

His cousin, John the Baptist, didn’t know he was the Chosen One until that day by the Jordan River. Maybe Jesus had just seemed ordinary before that? Really nice, but ordinary.  A boy who gets hurt, gets sick, is sometimes wrong in his facts, gets his tongue tangled, etc.

Something changed about age 30. That day at the Jordan. The power and presence of God’s Spirit came upon him. And from then on, He was extraordinary, especially in his knowledge.

All this tells me that he knows and that he cares. Small things matter to Him. 

You matter to him.

Quotes of Note ... The Invisible World

“Spiritual warfare is learning to recognize the strategies, refusing to cooperate with them, and aggressively cutting off the schemes of the devil in Jesus’ name.” Dean Sherman

“those who protest that God cannot exist because there is too much evil evident in life… Evil exists; therefore, the Creator does not. That is categorically stated… If evil exists, one must assume that good exists in order to know the difference. If good exists, one must assume that a moral law exists by which to measure good and evil. But if a moral law exists, must not one posit an ultimate source of moral law, or at least an objective basis for a moral law? By an objective basis, I mean something that is transcendingly true at all times, regardless of whether I believed it or not.” Ravi Zacharias

“But the Devil is no big threat to God’s purposes; he is not even remotely comparable in power. He has been given a limited time before his final judgment to try to prove his case, just as all other moral beings who have chosen to live in rebellion against heaven.” W.A. Pratney

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I've served as a life-long missionary in Samoa, the Pacific region, India, and now in Pennsylvania. The Christian faith is reasonable and works in real life. It is true to the facts. Hope you enjoy some of the thoughts. I appreciate feedback.

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