VOLUME VII, Number 13 The Foolishness of Missionaries
Many years ago, when the Fiji Islands were first civilized, there was great interest in bringing commerce to this primitive society. This was a daunting prospect, considering that the natives had a particularly harrowing reputation for brutality. Yet seeking to take advantage of the opportunity, a young merchant visited the Islands in the hopes of getting in on the ground floor. It just so happened, as he visited the home of a certain chief, that he noticed a Bible prominently displayed, which he took to be evidence of missionary influence. This prompted the young man to comment, “What a shame that you have listened to the foolish nonsense of the missionaries.”
The chief, taken aback by this remark, responded saying, “Do you see the large white stone over there? That is a stone that just a few years ago we used to smash the heads of our victims.” Then, pointing toward the center of the village, he asked, “Do you see that large oven over there? That is the oven where just a few years ago we used to bake the bodies of our victims before we feasted on them.” The chief then leaned into the face of the young man and added, “Had we not listened to what you call the nonsense of the missionaries, I assure you that your head would have already been smashed on that rock and your body would already be baking in that oven.”
The message of the cross is one of love and reconciliation. Wherever it has been genuinely heeded, peace has replaced animosity, kindness has replaced brutality, and acceptance has replaced hostility. Its transforming power dismantles old ways of life and replaces them with the peacemaking ways of God.
That’s because God has given each and every believer the task of bringing peace to our world. 2 Corinthians 5:18 tells us that through the message of the cross, God “has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (NKJV). Having been reconciled to God ourselves, we are now commissioned members of God’s peacemaking task force.
VOLUME VII, Number 12 Revenge Always Fails
In a series of articles on the greatest acts of revenge, grunge.com writes, Mariya Oktyabrskaya was a telephone operator, the wife of a Soviet army officer, and the proud owner of a T-34 tank, with which she used to kill enough Nazis in World War II to earn her the title of "Hero of the Soviet Union." After the outbreak of war, Mariya was evacuated to Siberia, while her husband went off to fight. He was killed almost immediately, though the news didn't reach Mariya until nearly two years later. Driven by rage, and with nothing left to lose, Mariya sold her house and belongings in exchange for a T-34, which she donated to the Soviet Union under the condition that she be the one to drive it.
... Though her unit was initially skeptical of what they saw as nothing more than a publicity stunt, their opinions quickly changed after her first battle, in which she eliminated numerous machine gun nests, artillery guns, and the Nazis who manned them. When her tank was hit and immobilized by heavy enemy fire, she immediately jumped out to repair it. For this action, she was promoted to Sergeant…
Unfortunately, after many battles and many dead Germans, her luck caught up with her in January of 1944. She was killed during a battle near the village of Shvedy, while making yet more repairs to her immobilized tank. She did not, however, die before eliminating several machine gun nests, trenches, a self-propelled gun, and yet more Nazis for good measure.
Revenge is a powerful motivator. It has the power to motivate a wife to sell everything, buy a T-34 tank and kill Nazis. What it doesn’t have the power to do is to motivate us to forgive, to heal or to restore. Although Mariya Oktyabrskaya's story is one of great courage, but there is nothing redemptive about it. That's because there is nothing redemptive in revenge.
Love, on the other hand, also has the power to motivate us to make great sacrifices. Jesus was motivated by love when He left it all behind and came to earth to fight the powers of sin and death. The difference is that once He accomplished His mission, He secured forgiveness, healing, and restoration for all mankind.
No doubt the Apostle Paul was thinking of Jesus’ example when he wrote, “love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8).
"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord" (Romans 12:19).
VOLUME VII, Number 11 The Bug Letter A story is told of a man who was on a business trip and stayed in a hotel that had a bug problem. There were bugs all over his room. He complained about this to the management and later wrote a letter of complaint to the main office of the hotel chain.
Sometime later he received a letter signed by the President of the company. It said: “We are humiliated that a man of your integrity, a man of your reputation, a man of your importance in the community should have had this experience in one of our hotels. We are deeply sorry.”
This made the man feel somewhat better about the situation until, as he was folding the letter to put it away, he noticed a little piece of paper at the bottom of the envelope, obviously not supposed to have been included. It was in the President’s handwriting and it read: “Send this guy the ‘bug letter.’”
Unfortunately, this is the way we sometimes treat other people. We send them the ”bug letter,” the form letter. We give them the old cliches: We ask them: “How are you?” when we don’t really care. We say “have a nice day," or "I'm so sorry,” when really we couldn’t care less.
The Lord said that we should be compassionate. We must truly care about others. Each day we come into contact with people who will have one thing in common: they're struggling with something. They will tell us about loved ones who are sick, loved ones who have died, loved ones who have problems. They will share with us their sufferings, their heartaches, their fears. Perhaps Mark Twain was right when he said, “You should never tell people your problems because 80 percent of them won’t care, and the other 20 percent will think you deserve them!”
Let us not send them the “bug letter.” Let us listen carefully and mean it when we say we care. Jesus never sent anyone a “bug letter.” We shouldn’t either.
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12).
VOLUME VII, Number 10 Never Try To Catch the Catcher
In the world of trapeze performance, there are "flyers" and there are "catchers." Imagine yourself a trapeze flyer sailing through the air, flipping as you go. Then at the end of your rotation, as you hang in mid-air, you see the catcher. Your natural impulse is to reach out and grab for him. That’s certainly what I would do. I’d grab anything I could -- his hands, his arms, his shirt, his hair. It wouldn’t matter. I’m grabbing a hold of something, anything, and hanging on to it for dear life But the flyer is trained to resist this impulse. He understands that it is preemptive for him to attempt to catch the catcher. Any such attempt would actually prevent the catcher from performing his task. In the world of high wire acrobatics, this principle has been reduced to a well-known axiom, attributed to Rodleigh of The Flying Rodleighs, which says, “The flyer is the one who lets go and the catcher the one who catches. The flyer must never try to catch the catcher!”
One of the great lessons of the spiritual life is to learn not to strive when God has called you to rest, or rest when God has called you to strive. The most important place of rest and trust is in the promise of salvation. The Bible says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). In other words, don’t try to catch God, let God catch you! When it comes to the salvation of your soul, you are the one who must let go and trust God to catch you. Those who insist on catching God will only prevent Him from doing what He has promised to do. It isn’t your job to finish the work of Christ, but to rest in the finished work of Christ. This means you must cease from striving to earn your salvation and put your trust in God’s promise to save you. As Jesus declared, “It is finished!” So, let the Catcher catch you!
VOLUME VII, Number 9 The Japanese Adopt Adult Men
Lianna Brinded, with Business Insider, writes: In Japan, 98% of adoptions are actually adult men, aged between 20-30 years old — not children. That is according to government data cited by economist Steven Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner in their book "Freakonomics," as well as a number of other reputable media outlets also citing government data.
It all started hundreds of years ago when Japan’s civil code dictated how a family's wealth would be passed on after the death of the family elder.
In households which only have daughters, a family would look to adopt a son, so they could fulfill the role of carrying on the family business as well as receiving and being custodian to the family's cash and assets.
Nowadays, legal adoption of this kind is paired up with an arranged marriage — known as "omiai" — of a daughter, meaning the adopted son becomes son and son-in-law at the same time because he changes his name to the wife's family name ("mukoyoshi").
In Japan, there are even matchmaking companies that recruit voluntary adoptees for Japanese corporates. Some of Japan's most famous companies have remained a "family-run" businesses because of "mukoyoshi," such as carmaker Toyota, which was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937.
Suzuki is also famously run by adopted sons — in fact, the current chairman and CEO Osamu Suzuki is the fourth consecutively adopted son to run the group.
In Japanese culture, adoption is a practical solution to perpetuate the bloodline in the absence of an heir. God has a similar dilemma. Since “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God,” God has also turned to adoption! No one is born a citizen of Heaven. Every son and daughter of God is so by adoption.
“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable” (1 Corinthians 15:50).
“He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will” (Ephesians 1:5).
VOLUME VII, Number 8
Woman Faces Court for Parking Two Seconds Too Early
Richard Hartley-Parkinson reports:
Known only as Sarah, she ended up in court after it emerged that she had broken parking rules by arriving at a bay two seconds too soon.
... Judge Frank Caprio from the Providence Municipal Court, read details of the case which stated that she had parked in a bay at 9.59am and 58 seconds.
Parking was not allowed in the area between 8am and 10am.
He told her in mock anger: ‘You violated the city ordinances.’ He added: ‘Our parking enforcement offices are second to none in the country.’
She explained her actions by saying her car clock said 10am.
Judge Caprio laughed the charge out of court in Rhode Island after hearing details of the case.
He said: ‘I think 9.59am is close enough to 10am, matter is dismissed.
Is this what you imagine will happen when you stand before God? Are you hoping that He will, likewise, release you from the finer details of His moral will?
That’s not how it will work. You will either stand before God to be judged by the minutest details of your non-compliance, including the thoughts and intents of your heart, or you will stand before Him having been credited with the minutest details of Christ’s compliance. There is no middle-ground. There is no third option. It's either law or grace. You decide!
“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law” (Galatians 2:16).
"Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin" (Romans 3:20).
VOLUME VII, Number 7 The Feasts God gave Israel three vital revelations. The Law, to reveal our rebellious hearts, the Temple to picture the sacrifice that would be paid for our transgressions, and a set of Feast days to point to the fulfillment of God’s redemptive promises.
When Jesus came to die for the sins of the world, He was crucified on the very day the first of the seven feasts, Passover, appeared on the Hebrew calendar. As the Jews celebrated how God’s judgment passed over the Israelites due to the blood of the Passover lamb, Jesus was shedding his blood for us! On that very day! Remember, the Last Supper was a meal in preparation for the Passover.
The pattern continued. His body lay in a tomb as a sinless offering as the Jews observed the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Leaven represents sin and the Israelites were to remove all leaven from their homes during this Feast.
Jesus then rose from the dead on the third day, the very day the Jews were celebrating the Feast of First Fruits. The New Testament tells us that, "Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have died" (1 Corinthians 15:20).
Jesus then appeared to His disciples for 40 days before His ascension. But just before His departure He instructed them to go to Jerusalem and to wait there for the promise of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the Church. Jesus didn’t tell them how long they would have to wait, He just told them to remain there until this event occurred (Acts 1:7-8).
Imagine yourself one of those disciples. Perhaps you would have noticed that Jesus had just fulfilled Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits on the very day these Feasts appeared on the Hebrew calendar. You might have thought about the fact that the next Feast would be in 10 days, the Feast of Pentecost, which celebrates the beginnings of a new harvest season. You might have even turned to the other disciples and said, “I can’t be sure about this but based on this pattern, I think the Lord will send His Spirit and begin this new thing called the Church in 10 days, on the day of Pentecost." And, of course, you would have been right.
But there are three more Feasts that also speak of God's redemptive plan that have yet to be fulfilled. These Feasts pick up at the end of the growing season in Israel, in the Fall. The first one, and the next in line for fulfillment is the Feast of Trumpets. It is the celebration of the bringing-in of the harvest. The Apostle Paul wrote that it will be “at the last trump” that the Church would be gathered at the end of this age, a reference to the last of a series of trumpet blasts that take place during the Feast of Trumpets in Israel. So we see that the next Feast in the line of succession just happens to correlate perfectly with the next event promised to the Church in the New Testament.
Let me conclude by emphasizing that the New Testament does not reveal when the Lord will return. Like Jesus' disciples who didn’t know when the Holy Spirit would descend, we don't know when Christ will return. But just as they should have had a heightened expectation as Pentecost approached, we should have a heightened sense of anticipation for his arrival.
"It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed" (1 Corinthians 15:52, NLT).
VOLUME VII, Number 6 The Power of the Locomotive
The power of a locomotive boggles the mind. Some trains are more than TWO MILES in length, yet the locomotive can pull these cars across the entire country – loaded with coal and oil and lumber and ore and manufactured goods and all manner of heavy cargo. And they pull them up steep inclines, through mountain passes, and over all manner of terrain. It seems as though nothing could stop them. The combination of the sheer power of the locomotive and the focus of placing that strength upon two narrow rails results in a mechanism that can accomplish tremendous things.
But do you know what can render a locomotive completely ineffective? It’s easy – simply remove it from its tracks. Despite its great power, if the train’s engine is not on the tracks, it will be unable to move the train (or even itself) a single inch! Unless it is returned to its tracks, it will never accomplish the purpose for which it is intended.
So it is with those of us who follow Christ. God has filled us with the power of the Holy Spirit, and has equipped us to accomplish amazing things for His kingdom. But unless we remain “on the tracks,” we will become completely powerless. We must be on guard for anything with the potential to derail us and thus remove us from our God-appointed mission.
"Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons" (1 Timothy 4:1).
VOLUME VII, Number 5 Man Robs Bank to Get Away from Wife
KANSAS CITY, Kan. Associate Press reports: A 71-year-old man who said he robbed a Kansas City, Kansas, bank so he could get away from his wife blamed his actions on depression.
A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced Lawrence John Ripple to six months of home confinement and 50 hours of community service.
Ripple went to the Bank of Labor — a block from the Kansas City, Kansas, police headquarters — last September and gave a note to a teller saying he had a gun and demanding money. After he was given money, Ripple waited for police.
Court records indicate Ripple wrote the robbery note in front of his wife and told her he would rather be in jail than at home.
He must have been thinking about the verse found in Proverbs: “Better to live on a corner of the roof [or in prison!] than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9).
Who hasn't attempted to avoid facing their problems? But the real lesson here might be the punishment Mr. Ripple received, and how well it fit the crime. But rather than allow him to escape his dysfunctional home life, the judge sentenced him to six months of home confinement! Perfect!!
Sometimes God puts us in circumstances we can't change to force an inner change in us. It's not that the punishment fits the crime as much as the challenge fits our need to grow and mature as a believer.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2-3).
VOLUME VII, Number 4 When Are You Going to Die?
Richard Carlson, Ph.D., was an author, psychotherapist, and motivational speaker, who became famous with the success of his book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff... and it’s all Small Stuff (1997). The book became one of the fastest-selling books of all time. It is divided into 100 brief chapters.
The last chapter is entitled, “Live This Day as if It Were Your Last. It May Be.” Carlson lived his last day on December 13, 2006. He died of a pulmonary embolism during a flight from San Francisco to New York, leaving his wife and two teenage daughters.
Carlson said that he ended his book with this chapter as a reminder of how precious life and loved ones are. He wrote: “I often wonder, when listening to the news, did the person who died in the auto accident on his way home from work remember to tell his family how much he loved them?” Carlson started the 100th chapter asking, “When are you going to die? In fifty years, twenty, ten, five, today? Last time I checked, no one had told me.”
He died suddenly and unexpectedly nine years later at the age of 45. We do not know when our last day will be on this earth but we can live every day to the fullest.
"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).
VOLUME VII, Number 3 Were Lost Sailors Really Lost?
Lost at sea for nearly 5 months, two women had harrowing tales of survival that included shark attacks. They also claimed that 6 forms of communication all mysteriously and simultaneously malfunctioned. The Coast Guard, however, suspects that for some reason these women did not want to be found.
That's because it gets even weirder: Besides the malfunctioning of all forms of communication, there was also an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) on board their vessel. This device should have virtually guaranteed their rescue. Yet, for some reason, it was never turned on. Their excuse was that they never felt they were "truly in distress."
I wonder how many lost people simply do not want to be found. Perhaps they're afraid that coming to Christ will mean a change of lifestyle. Or, maybe they're like the prodigal son who had to hit bottom first.
Sadly, many know of the saving grace of Christ but choose to remain adrift, lost at sea, believing they have time. They know the EPIRB is on the boat, but they don't feel the urgency to turn it on.
"For he says, 'In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2).
VOLUME VII, Number 2
Fishing for a Friend?
The Independent reports:
The fish friend programme caught the imagination of the internet after radio producer Michelle Cook tweeted a picture of the fishbowl and sign. The caption read: “My friend is staying in a hotel in Belgium. They've offered her the option of renting a fish for the night, in case she's lonely.”
... Hotel manager David Dillen told The Independent that the fish rental service has been running for several years and is popular with guests.
He said: “We started a few years ago. The idea was to surprise our guests, as we always try to do.
“It’s brilliant to see how people react to it. They smile, they take pictures to put on social media. We rent a few fish per week.”
There are a lot of ways to deal with the problem of loneliness. You could order a fish. Or, you could get out of yourself and focus on trying to help someone else. Whatever might be said of Jesus' followers, it should never be said that they are lonely.
First, you’re never alone when you walk closely with Jesus. He is constantly by your side. Also, He compels you to seek and serve others—particularly the lost. His promise to every faithful follower is that He will make them fishers of men. So, the next time you're feeling all alone, don't hang out with a fish, but go fishing!
"Come, follow Me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19).
VOLUME VII, Number 1
The Half-Life of Facts
David Mcraney writes:
In medical school, they tell you half of what you are about to learn won’t be true when you graduate — they just don’t know which half.
In every field of knowledge, half of what is true today will one day be updated with better information, and it turns out that we actually know when that day will come for many academic pursuits.
This is what author Sam Arbesman calls “the half-life of facts.” The premise is that for every domain, silo, discipline, and school of knowledge, the facts contained within are slowly being overturned, augmented, replaced, and refined — and in medicine, for example, the rate of that overturning is high enough that if you never really complete your education. Medical school, in other words, never ends.
... For instance, in physics, about half of all research findings will be disconfirmed within 13 years. In psychology, it’s every seven. In other words, if you graduated with a degree in psychology seven years ago, half of the information in all your textbook is now inaccurate.
By contrast, the Bible claims to be the very “Word of God.” The fact that millions of people the world over have found that claim to be credible for 3500 years proves that the truths that matter the most are not nullified by the passing of time or rendered passé by better information.
There is no half-life to the truth that God loves us or that Jesus came into this world to die for the sins of mankind. These truths are grounded in God’s unfailing nature and will never be overturned or replaced.
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
“For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).