Monthly Archives: April 2013

It’s me, it’s me, it’s me oh Lord…

The church is comprised of individuals, and the state of the church reflects the spiritual state of the individuals within this community.

If then, the church is you and I, are we not responsible for the state of the church? If therefore there is any need for change must it not come through you and me? By the same token are we not also called to be guardians of the church – we the ordinary Christians?

As D. L. Moody wrote:

“If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent.”

D. L. Moody certainly was such a man. He applied for church membership but was rejected. One church officer told him, “Young man, you can serve God better by keeping still.” (Nice guy).

Alexander Whyte, agreeing with Moody, said something along the lines of, “God has determined that the church will grow by the work of simple people with simple methods.” The Hoi polloi.

We are certainly glad Moody didn’t take the church officer’s advice, which should encourage us to disregard such advice by wellmeaning people.

Of course both Moody and Whyte echo the words of Paul to the Corinthian church in 1 Cor. 1:26, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;”

Sure there are gifted people as we read In Exodus 35:30-34, but they were thus by the power of the Holy Spirit for a particular task or ministry.

“Then Moses said to the Israelites, ‘See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills.’”

Admittedly the true saints will always be few in number, but as Jesus reminds us, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Not only are we few, but as far as the world is concerned – insignificant.

But who cares about the opinion of the world? As Tertullian said, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

Whatever God asks us, the not-specially-gifted, to do is simple so that the least of the least of the saints can do it, and that is PRAY!

“…Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Eph. 6:18

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven…”
2 Chronicles 7:14

We need to return to being “prayer-closet-people”. Surely there are many among us who hunger and thirst for righteousness who, like the Psalmist, cry out, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Psalm 42:1

But for most Christians this seems too simple; we do not believe in the power of prayer! We want a “Method Driven Church”, methods to attract crowds.

Paul’s lament in Galatians 3:3 is mine: “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Are we deaf to the Word of God that he spoke to Zerubbabel, “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6. Haven’t we grasped Judges 6:34? “So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.”

Karachi 1956 - working as carpenter

I am convinced that the work of the church, its growth and its protection from heresy must be done by men and women of average talent, driven not by a methodology but by sound theology – a theology that proudly proclaims, “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6.

I have found on the mission field that we, simple people by the simple method of loving and caring and often by desperate prayer, can find for ourselves, and thereby for Christ, a place in the hearts of people. I don’t love people so that they become disciples of Jesus Christ, but I want them to become disciples of Jesus Christ because I love them.

I want to echo in my life that which was said of Jesus: “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Acts 10:38

I know it is said, “Let others praise you”, but it is sometimes nice to do it ourselves; so let me tell this: The other day three of the young fellows who cook for Bapu and me were sitting in my room. After a lot of chewing the rag one commented in all sincerity, “Bhaisahib, you are like God to us (meaning most of our kids).” It was not that he considered me God, but that he perceived God’s care and love demonstrated through what I did for them –through a simple ordinary man.

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Don’t quit! Don’t run away! Hang on a little bit longer…

Just around the corner is God’s, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’swell done happiness!” Matthew 25:23.

When I became a Christian in November 1964 I made myself the promise never to run away from a bad situation; there were many times when I was sorely tempted to break that promise. There was no money; often I struggled to feed the kids; I felt what I did was not considered important or appreciated. There were other missionaries doing this and that in the kingdom of God. There was Mark Buntain’s work in Calcutta and the Prasad’s beautiful school in Bokhara to which visitors flocked — while I only looked after a bunch of raggedy kids in buildings, where in days of yore the boys vied with the bedbugs for space … I never envied anybody anything, I just wished I had some of it. But I didn’t quit! I didn’t run away! I hung on a little bit longer and a little bit longer…

In the olden days before the advent of the computer I hammered out my letters on an old Remington typewriter; at times I was so weary I felt like vomiting, but I told myself, “Just one more letter.” That one became two and three and…

I am often under considerable stress because continually people come to me for financial help. I have often cried, saying over and over again, “Father I can’t, I can’t, I can’t! I have no money.” Then I surprise myself and – I can!

We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful, to hang in there and do the best we can with who we are and with what we have. The successful part is God’s job.

God’s formula for success is enshrined in Joshua 1:8. It is a formula that any man or woman, any pastor or missionary can apply.

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

What God told Joshua, he keeps telling us; we just don’t want to listen as it seems too easy, too simple – after all we are educated, sophisticated, intelligent people. The real problem is that being twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, in the Word seems asking a bit too much. This besides it isn’t very glamorous.

But there is no special approach to the ministry unless working your butt off and a lot of “stick-to-ity” is considered a special approach. The beauty of that is that you don’t have to copy anybody else to do it. Still remember, “Success doesn’t always equal effort.” Hudson Taylor said, “To be a missionary you need three things, patience, patience, patience.” This is time honored advice; so is Winston Churchill’s, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

We are oft so blinded by the few mega churches and mega ministries that dot the American continent that we do not see the many, many who like us struggle with dwindling members and dwindling resources.

Let us admit to ourselves that most of us are not mega-church-pastor material; we don’t have the charisma, the flair, but most of all we still answer the distraught jailor’s plea in Acts 16:30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” with “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.” Or the crowd in Acts 2:37-40 who cried out, “Brothers, what shall we do?” with Peter’s reply, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

If you have been faithful in that – you have been faithful, and the “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” will greet us on the portal of Heaven.

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Ask for the Old Paths — The Good Way…

Ask For The Old Paths — The Good Way…

This is what the Lord says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Jeremiah 6:16

The words of Jesus find an echo in Jeremiah 6:16.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. ”

Matthew 23:37

Are the old paths – the teachings of the Bible – important to us? If not, can we then still claim to be Christians?

I shudder at the thought that so many Christians go through life without a shred of knowledge pertaining to the matter of their salvation or to the nature of God, revealed in the Bible, Crossroads_2whom they claim to love.

Does it matter to our salvation or can we even claim to be saved when we know nothing about such truths as: the immortality of the soul, the sinfulness of human nature; the work of Christ for us as our Savior; the work of the Holy Spirit in us, forgiveness of sins, justification, conversion, faith, repentance. If knowledge of those teachings doesn’t matter than why not throw the Bible away? It then has no value.

My heart aches for the church, a church where the majority of its members have no knowledge of the doctrines that should govern our life of faith. How can anybody glibly, if ever, recite the creed?

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…”

How can we Sunday after Sunday repeat these words without a shred of knowledge as to what we affirm and claim to believe?

How can we find peace in the words of the Palmist when the One who speaks those words is an unknown to us?

 “Be still, and know that I am God:
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth
.”

Psalm 46:10

We are strangers to God’s attributes; how can we possibly “Be still”, “relax”, “let go”? We don’t know the power of the One who says “Be still”!

The daily fare of many Christians are the “How to do books”. “Thirty days to become holy”; “Thirty-one days to know your Bible”. I hate these “How to do books”. For many people they have taken the place of the Bible. But it is of the Bible that Joshua 8:1 speaks;

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

The Apostle Paul writes,

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

Imagine that to happen in 30 easy lessons. Well does Jeremiah express Jehovah’s lament;

“My people have committed two sins:
 They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,

 broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Jeremiah 2:13

But, “Nature abhors a vacuum” therefore the world fills the vacuum left by the church. It fills it with its own teachings, with its own philosophies, with its own religions; we are losing the battle for the hearts and souls of our people but cry foul and blame governments – the governments of our own creation.

Rather – those of us who still call themselves Christians, when walking by a structure of another religions in our cities, should beat their breast and confess, “I added a brick to this building; I added a bell to this temple. When reading about laws promulgate contrary to our faith, confess, “I helped, by indifference, to promulgate this law and that law.”

Shall we now not heed the voice of God?

“Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.
Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?'”
Malachi 3:7.

The answer:

The Book Our Mothers Read

John Greenleaf Whittier

We search the world for truth; we cull
The good, the pure, the beautiful,
From graven stone and written scroll.
And all old flower-fields of the soul;
And, weary seekers of the best,
We come back laden from the quest,
To find that all the sages said
Is in the Book our mothers read.

Let us return to the old paths – the good way – The Bible.

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