Sunday, October 24, 2010


My daughter-in-law Debbie, whose birthday is tomorrow, has been in the Democratic Republic of Congo two and a half weeks, attempting to bring back their newly adopted infant daughter Anaya. She left Oct. 7 and was to return Oct. 30, but now a government passport mistake could force a delay. I would like to ask that all who receive this WEEKLY MESSAGE pray for her. You can use this prayer if you wish: "Dear Lord, please help Debbie and baby Anaya come to America as soon as possible. Keep them safe and healthy. Your will be done, Lord Jesus, Amen."

I will give an update next week. Three plus weeks is a long time to wait in this chaotic African nation. Many of the adoptive parents with her have been complaining, but Debbie has decided to use this time to observe and write about the Congolese way of life, so she one day will be able to describe to Anaya a little of what her homeland was like. Public photos there are illegal, so she can use only words to describe what she sees.

Due to ongoing war, there are over 5 million orphans in the Congo. There is great poverty, but still a spirit of joy and hope among the Congolese that's especially evident in their Christian worship. Accompanied by drums, a plastic whistle and a chorus, the people sing to God with their whole hearts. Despite the squalor and lack of necessities, they are kind towards each other, especially the children, and have learned to face each day with determination.

The oppressive heat and lack of creature comforts are overlooked. As they have for centuries, people walk everywhere and carry most things in baskets on their heads. Those who run the orphanages must depend on the goodness of fellow citizens to donate food, beds and clothing. They must face the daily challenges of having a hundred or more children to feed without any government support, and they make this their life's work. Time is much slower there. Something that would take a half hour in the states may take all day in the Congo.

Debbie met a government official in worship Sunday who promised to help her get the papers she needs to return home on time. We can only hope and pray he can and will do what he said. But however long it takes, Debbie will help Anaya and the rest of us know that God answers prayer.

If today you experience struggle or delay, pray rather than complain. Pray for yourself and for those around you. Trust and believe that God is watching over you. May God continue to bless us with patience towards all those annoying little things that may have an eternal purpose for us and those we love.

"Dear Lord, help Debbie and Anaya return home quickly, amen!"

Monday, October 18, 2010


Last week most of the entire civilized world watched the rescue of the 33 trapped Chilean miners. It was emotionally moving to see each of them come to the surface and immediately show their relief and gratitude. Most of the world, however, missed the fact that each miner emerged wearing a shirt that said, "Thank you Lord" on the front, and on the back, "To Him be the glory and honor." On one sleeve of each shirt was the name "Jesus." 

It's obvious all these miners were grateful to God for saving them. One of them told a reporter, "God and the devil were fighting over me and God won."  Another said, "I always knew they would get me out. I always had faith in the professionals here in Chile and in the Great Creator." Another miner, when he came to the surface, knelt down to pray and pointed to heaven, giving thanks to God. The youngest miner, 19-year-old Jimmy Sanchez, had written a letter that was sent up to the surface prior to their rescue that said, "There are actually 34 of us, because God has never left us down here."

It doesn't matter that the press didn't report this, but we can be sure that faith in Christ surely was the center of life for those 33 men as they endured the 68 days of being trapped a half mile underground. Being no fan of the deep underground, I can hardly imagine how they would have gotten through those days without trusting in Christ.

There are many times in life when we are faced with forces beyond our control. Waiting for government to act, waiting for help to come, or struggling to find a solution that eludes us, we must rely on help from the One who has the whole world in His hands. Sometimes help comes quickly, but however long it takes, we must wait and trust in God's best solution and in His best time.

Psalm 31:15 says, "My times are in Your Hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me." We truly give thanks when people are rescued from disaster by brave and resourceful people such as we saw in Chile. May we, like Jimmy Sanchez, also realize there is another One with us when we feel trapped, One who will never leave us nor forsake us, One who will bring us to the surface and to the Light.

To Him be the glory and honor!

Monday, October 11, 2010


My ignorance of biology is almost embarrassing, so I've begun reading some good books on the subject. In one such volume, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, by Philip Yancey and Dr. Paul Brand, the authors not only explain the human body, they compare it to the Body of Christ in fascinating ways.

In Chapter 22, Dr. Brand describes the problem of rheumatoid arthritis. While the cause of this disease is unknown, we recognize it by what it does. Rheumatoid arthritis produces a hypersensitivity within the cells of joints. A joint becomes flooded with enzymes that normally occur when bacteria or abnormal cells are present and call into action the body's defensive mechanisms. But in this disease, there is no apparent "enemy" present, only the body's perception of one.

In rheumatoid arthritis, a healthy joint turns cannibalistic, destroying parts of itself. Yet when the joint is opened for examination, no "enemies" are found, only the body's defensive cells attacking healthy cartilage and ligaments. It's like a civil war has broken out in there and the defensive mechanism itself has become the disease.

The authors liken this pathology to some activities in the Christian Church. Members become hypersensitive, taking offense at real or imagined criticism, and their dignity or position becomes more important than the harmony of the group. An individual or a small group may grab a minor doctrinal or practical issue and make agreement on it the essential factor for unity - or else!

The lesson is obvious, but needs to be recognized. Is there friction and tension in your church or church body? Could it have resulted from righteous indignation against perceived wrongs? Could "righteous" anger be causing more damage than the "wrongs" which anger some people?

We may think Christians should be less susceptible to friction in the body because we believe in Jesus and His eternal ideals and goals. However, sin is always present to cause irritation, create friction, and make resulting tensions cause damage. Some folks may want to "do it right" so completely that all the good accomplishments get damaged by anger and harsh words.

Faith in Jesus Christ does not give us immunity to conflict. There's no innoculation against sin, no matter who we are. But there is One who gives us His eternal aid. Jesus brings us the spiritual medicines of forgiveness and reconciliation. He brings us peace and harmony on earth, and promises a life of no conflict in heaven.

The authors write, "The human body goes to incredible lengths to prevent friction, and the Body of Christ should be as careful to lubricate itself against possible conflicts as we move in common activity." (p. 182) I highly recommend this book for both its biological and spiritual insight.

Are you contributing to tension around you or working to overcome it?

Monday, October 4, 2010


Ever wonder why maps of the whole world have funny shaped edges, or why they make some countries bigger than they are on a Globe? Cartographers have found there's no perfect way to draw a round surface on a flat map, so they distort the shape of certain areas in the north and south, for example, making Greenland look bigger than Australia.

Christians can have problems with distortions as well. When we try to understand spiritual truths within the limitations of a sinful world, we can end up exaggerating the minors while minimizing the majors. Not all spiritual teachings have equal importance. The liturgy of worship, for example, is not as important as the doctrine of Jesus Christ. How we pray is not as important as to Whom we pray.

Distortion can also happen in what we consider to be sin. When confronted with what science says about certain actions, we may be tempted to believe some wrongs are no longer wrong. What we've always believed to be right can be placed in doubt by popular notions disclaiming what is right.

The New Testament addresses distortions that come when the teachings of popular teachers become more important than the teachings of Jesus Christ. Sound biblical teaching does not distort the basics found in the Bible, nor does it divide the church. Rather, it unites believers and builds up the body. "New" teachings can often be old sins in a new disguise.

Attempts to explain God and His will fully and completely are usually inadequate. Those who think they can explain all the mysteries of God usually end up distorting our priorities, confusing our thinking, and flattening our understanding of what it means to be a child of God. What's really important is what we believe about Jesus Christ.

St. Paul may have had this in when he wrote 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power."

Relying on Jesus Christ can keep us from distorting the truth.