Guest Vlog: Joni Eareckson Tada Sings Songs of Suffering

Joni Eareckson Tada was paralyzed from her neck down when she dove into Chesapeake Bat on July 30, 1967 at 17 years old.  While she regained some small usage of her arms, her hand and legs are limp; her pain is constant.  And the accident happened 55 YEARS ago!

This is a recent video of her story as she looks forward to the end of her life on earth, now 72 years old.  She is one of the people with whom I will want to shake hands when I arrive in Heaven (after Noah, Moses, David and John the Baptist 😉).

A friend who will probably watch this vlog is Caz of Invisibly Me.  She, too, is a jewel that deals with chronic pain.  I do not understand why Father has not healed either of these women (among many other nonhealings I don’t understand; and among many, many things I do not understand).

But I trust His heart that He loves these as much as He loves Jesus, His Only Born Son.  And someday, maybe on the other side of the veil that hides the unseen world from our mortal eyes, He will make it all clear.  For now we see in a mirror dimly (a blurred reflection), but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12 (Amp)

The 13 minute, 15 second video is well worth a quarter hour of your time today.  At about 7:15 she discusses her pain.  “It makes my quadriplegia seem like a walk in the park; I can do quadriplegia, but, whooo, it’s hard to do pain.”

Songs of Suffering by Joni Eareckson Tada:
“Suffering will teach you who you are. It’s a textbook that will show you the stuff of which you are made. And sometimes it’s not very pretty. Suffering will squeeze that out of you. We say we know Christ. The next time you suffer hard, find out what comes out of your mouth. That will show you how much you know Jesus. And in that sense, it’s good, in a strange way.”  Joni

For more on Joni Eareckson Tada see: https://www.amazon.com/Joni-Unforgettable-Story-Eareckson-Tada/dp/0310364191/

Today is The Day of the Christian Martyrs

The links on this paint file will not work, but you can get to the site if you go here: https://www.persecution.com/.

2022-06-29 Wordless Wednesday - VOM

For more on John Chau, see https://capost2k.wordpress.com/2022/06/18/who-will-take-my-place-the-john-chau-story/ or for the full story see https://capost2k.wordpress.com/who-will-take-my-place-the-john-chau-story/.

Who Will Take My Place? – The John Chau Story

June 29 is the Day of the Christian Martyr.  More than 4000 Christ-followers are killed every year (11 every day), not because they cause trouble, but simply because they claim Jesus as their Lord.  We who live in luxury and comfort need to be aware that the freedom we now have to share the gospel could disappear overnight.  Are we ready? … But that is a question for another blog.
John Chau was part of my blog on December 03, 2018.  Here is the “the rest of the story” as told by the editors of The Voice of the Martyrs.  For the sake of my shorter blogs, this is an abbreviated account.  The full original article is available HERE.  And well worth reading!

Who Will Take My Place? – The John Chau Story

2022-06-18 John Chau Title Pic

A LIFE OF PREPARATION
John spent almost a decade preparing to take the gospel to the Sentinelese, one of the last uncontacted people groups. His journey began in 2008, the year he turned 17, when he became what he described as “an apprentice to Jesus.”

2022-06-18 North Sentinel MapAfter taking his first missions trip the following year, he began to pray about spending his life serving as a missionary. “I know that God used that time to mark my life,” he later said. In his prayers, John asked God where He wanted him to go, echoing Isaiah’s affirmation – “Here am I! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)

Soon after making that prayerful commitment, John found information online about the Sentinelese people, who live on an isolated island and have never heard the gospel. He sensed that God was calling him to go to North Sentinel Island to share God’s love with them.

“Once I said yes to Jesus,” he said in a video for a church that sponsored his work, “I was committed. I was all in.”

Every decision John made for the next nine years was in preparation for going to North Sentinel Island, living among the Sentinelese and sharing the gospel with them. “He had conditioned his body, his mind, his spirit,” said a former representative from the student missions office at Oral Roberts University (ORU), the school John attended in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “He was one of the most prepared men I’ve ever met.”

Since little is known about the Sentinelese language, he took a linguistics course through a branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators hoping it would help him communicate with the islanders. In addition, he undertook medical training and became certified as a wilderness EMT (emergency medical technician) so he could provide the Sentinelese with basic health care, knowing their immune systems would be vulnerable to imported Western viruses, and he underwent laser eye surgery so he wouldn’t have to worry about keeping his contacts clean.

2022-06-18 North Sentinel PictureJohn was so focused on preparing to serve on the island – an arial view of North Sentinel hung on his dorm-room wall – that he needed a reminder to keep serving in the here and now. An outreach leader at ORU challenged John not to wait, but to start immediately serving and reaching out in the name of Jesus. And John took the challenge to heart.

Because of his love for soccer, John became involved with a ministry that ran a soccer program for immigrants from Myanmar. He was not the most high-profile leader, standing in the spotlight or preaching a sermon, but his love for people and his bedrock faith began to shine through.  “Coach Chau” became a friend, mentor and coach, taking every opportunity to point young men to Christ.

When John reached out to the ministry, All Nations, which had overseen one of his college mission trips, a member of the executive leadership, Pam Arland, took notice that John’s email was the second mention of the Sentinelese people she had seen in a week. And prior to that, she had never even heard of them. Was God at work to reach this unreached island, she wondered.

Pam invited a coworker to sit in on a call with John and help determine whether he was the right person for such a dangerous mission trip.  “John is actually one of the most well prepared and intentional missionaries I have ever met,” said Mary Ho, executive leader of All Nations in a VOM radio interview (VOMRadio.net/JohnChau). “He would call us and say, ‘How do I prepare myself to know more about cultural anthropology?’ We would say, ‘OK, here are 10 [or] 20 books on the subject.’ He would say, ‘Oh, I have read half of them.’ Literally two weeks later he would be like, ‘I have finished reading them. What’s next?’”

A SOLO MISSION
In 2015, John took the first of four scouting trips to the Andaman Islands, a union territory of India located so far east in the Bay of Bengal that it’s much closer to Bangkok than Bangalore.  As he flew out of Port Blair, capital of the Andaman and the Nicobar Islands, John gazed out at the blue ocean below and saw an island come into view that he recognized immediately: It was the same island he had stared at on his dorm-room wall all through college.

“A sense of clarity and peace came upon me,” John said later, “A sense of knowing that I’m going to be going there one day. I took that as confirmation. I’ve only had that sense of clarity and deep sense of knowing a few other times in my life, and each time I can say it was definitely God that was speaking to me.”

John had a natural inclination toward planning, and it was now in full flower. He planned what to take with him, sorting and re-sorting his gear, then deciding how much would fit in the cases he planned to cache on the island before he met the islanders. He wrote plans for the first day, for his early goals and even a contingency plan in case things didn’t go well.

Plan A was to make contact with the islanders and live among them for as long as it took to learn the language and culture. Then he would tell them about the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. John knew it would take years and maybe decades. His meticulous planning also included a Plan B, the possibility that tribes would not welcome him and might even kill him, just as they had two fishermen who drifted ashore on North Sentinel in 2006.

John was at peace either way. He had committed his life to seeing the Sentinelese people worship Jesus Christ as their Savior. Either he would live on the island as a guest and a light for Christ, or he would give his life on the island and enter eternity. Like Paul, he knew that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

“ADVENTURE BRO”
In case the world did hear John’s name, he had done his best to protect Christian friends in the islands and make sure any publicity would not hinder further efforts to reach the Sentinelese with the gospel. His Instagram feed is filled with adventure images from far off places. He blogged about traveling the world, climbing, kayaking and diving with great white sharks. If John’s name became known, anyone searching the images and blogspots would simply think he was an “adventure bro” who stepped too far off the beaten path and paid with his life.

After John’s death, a friend posted some thoughts that John had shared before the trip. “Death is inevitable,” John had said. “I can die in a car crash, [from] snakebite, [from] cancers. There are many ways we can die. I’m going to the islands this November and I don’t know what is going to happen, but I’m ready. I’m ready to lay my down life down for the gospel.”

In August 2018, the Indian government removed the requirement – in place since 1963 – that foreigners visiting 29 of the Andaman and Nicobar islands first apply for and receive a Restricted Area Permit. Media reports listed islands that no longer required a permit to visit – including North Sentinel Island. The change was designed to promote tourism, but also eliminated one obstacle to John’s mission.

FINAL PREP AND FIRST CONTACT
As the time approached for John’s trip to the island, Mary Ho received a four word e-mail from another member of the All Nations executive team: “Mary, are you sure?” Her response was equally to the point, from Romans 10:14: “How are they to hear without someone preaching?”

On the afternoon of November 14, before boarding a fishing boat and heading toward the island, John wrote this prayer in his journal: “Thank you, Father, for using me, for shaping me and molding me to be your ambassador. … Holy Spirit, please open the hearts of the tribe to receive me and by receiving me, to receive You. May Your kingdom, Your rule and reign come now to North Sentinel Island. My life is in Your hands, O father, so into Your hands I commit my spirit.”

The next morning he kayaked along the shore, hoping to show his good intentions by delivering fish and other gifts to the Islanders. “My name is John,” he called out. “I love you and Jesus loves you.”

2022-06-18 John at the Island

The first islanders to appear carried their bows with unstrung arrows. Later, when they strung arrows in their bows, John paddled out of range and back to the boat. He approached again that afternoon, delivering more gifts and getting close to an islander before a young Sentinelese launched an arrow that lodged firmly in the waterproof Bible he was carrying.

The tip of the arrow stopped on a page that ended with the first two verses of Isaiah 65: “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am’ to a nation that was not called by My name. I spread out My hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices.”

On that second contact attempt, John got out of the kayak, hoping to appear less threatening. But when the islanders, one with a bamboo knife, got between him and the kayak, he had to leave it behind – with his US passport inside – and swam back to the boat. After that eventful day, he poured out his heart in the pages of his journal, which the fishermen later delivered to Christian friends.

2022-06-18 Journal Entry 1

Later that evening, John added another entry.

2022-06-18 Journal Entry 2

According to his notes, John planned for the fishermen to drop him ashore the next morning. John hoped he would seem less threatening without the boat waiting offshore. And he also hoped to protect the fisherman: “If it goes badly on foot, the fisherman won’t have to bear witness to my death,” he wrote. John closed most of his journal entries as well as letters to friends and family with the Latin phrase Solo Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone).

ON THE BEACH
On November 16, 2018, John went ashore on North Sentinel Island for the last time. When the fisherman returned the next day, according to the police report, they saw “a dead person being buried at the shore which from the silhouette of the body, clothing and circumstances appear to be the body of John Allen Chau.”

Following his death, a storm of vitriol was unleashed on John, his family, All Nations and, at times, anyone who would dare to think of sharing the gospel with another human being. The fisherman who took John to the island were arrested, as were other Christians who had spoken with John in the Andaman islands. Their trial began in November 2021.

The story of John the adventure bro quickly turned to John the misguided missionary, the colonizer, the thoughtless disease spreader. The mocking memes on social media and criticism in a variety of media came in waves. Some comedians even used the story of John’s murder in their acts.

More concerning was the criticism from Christians who attacked John’s [mis]perceived lack of preparation and insensitivity to the culture. Some even questioned whether the Great Commission might be outdated in 2018; perhaps they posed, it does not apply to tribes that have no contact with the outside world.

NOT THE END OF THE STORY
“I believe the measure of success in the Kingdom of God is obedience,” John said a few months before his death. “I want my life to reflect obedience to Christ and to live in obedience to him. I think that Jesus is worth it. He’s worth everything.”

John followed in the footsteps of faithful Christians throughout history, beginning with the martyrdom of all but one of the original 12 apostles. In the 1800s, only one in four missionaries survived his first term in the Congo (see From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya by Ruth Tucker). In 1866, Robert Thomas died on a riverbank outside Pyongyang while trying to take the gospel to Korea. Five men were speared to death in 1956 while trying to share the love of Christ with the “Auca” (now called the Huaorani) tribesmen. A willingness to “die trying” has always been a requirement for taking the gospel to places it’s never been heard.

The end of John’s life on earth should not be viewed as the end of the whole story; we know how that story ends. In one of John’s last journal entries, he wrote “The eternal lives of this tribe are at hand. And I can’t wait to see them around the throne of God worshiping in their own language as Revelation 7:9–10 states. Every tribe, every people, every language, worshiping King Jesus together.” John longed for the day when he would introduce his Sentinelese brothers and sisters to other members of the body of Christ.

Perhaps in eternity, we will see John standing among the Sentinelese gathered around the throne, crying out in a loud voice with them, “Salvation belongs to our God!” Those who knew John well on earth will expect a toothy grin on his face, a twinkle in his eye and a thumb raised in his trademark “It’s all good” gesture.

2022-06-18 John Chau Thumbs Up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNksqCzMKkk&t=206s

https://www.persecution.com/martyr/?_source_code=WEBI19E2

https://www.persecution.com/free-magazine/

Swimmers in the Sky

IMG_5720

Angels from the Throne in Glory
Come to earth to tell a story
Of One who came to testify
We can live even when we die.

The realms of Heaven and earth collide
Leaving us with no place to hide.
All is clear to Him on the Throne,
He sees both worlds; they are both His own.

But with love He looks on what He has formed
And bids us each to be reborn;
To accept His life coming from On High
And join the swimmers in the sky.

(Thanx to Ariela for challenging me to write a poem on the Swimmers in the Sky.)

Law vs. Grace – An Artificial Dichotomy? A Guest Blog by John Leonard

With minor edits this is an excellent balancing article about accurately assessing law versus grace.
by humble Theology | January 5, 2022

2022-02-05 Law vs GraceWhen reading the Bible most Christ-followers hear the word “law” and immediately have a negative connotation form in their mind as being conditioned on the premise that we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). The argument goes something like this: Christians, being under grace, no longer need to obey God’s law. This is a false conclusion for a few reasons, but to get started, we need a bit deeper understanding of what the law even is, and how many ways it can be taken to mean.

First is the law as the moral character of God. When we talk about God being a God of love, we are also saying that He is therefore necessarily a God of law (Matthew 5:48). Love and law are predicated upon one another in any covenant relationship (John 14:15). We see this as the summary of the law is to love God and neighbor, and in the marriage/bride illustrations within Scripture. A bride both loves the groom, and as such willingly submits to laws that typify the exclusivities of marriage. For example, a bride does not seek other lovers any more than someone who loves God goes after idols. This perfection of character is both of the nature of God, and perfectly displayed in the person and life of Christ.

As we are to be a reflection of God’s glory to the world, and take Christ as our example, we are no less expected to love than to follow the laws that God expresses (John 6:38). Some may say that the Christian law is to love, and yet we see what that law looks and acts like in the Ten Commandments (as well as some of other laws of Exodus and Leviticus) (1 John 2:3, 1 John 5:2). There are three uses of this moral law. Within many Presbyterian, Calvinist, and/or Reformed circles the moral law is found to have three main uses.

  1. The first is that the law shows us our sin, and thus the need for grace. Because the law is the perfect reflection of God’s righteousness, we see (as in a mirror) that we do not meet that standard.
  2. The second use is that of a civic standard for law and order. The law cannot change the heart, but its threats can have a restraining effect upon all who are subject to it.
  3. Third, the law is a guide for the Christian (as already mentioned) that shows us the perfect will of our Father. These laws, commands and such direct us as His kids, as to what pleases Him, and what we can do to glorify Him. We do not and cannot do so for any merit, but we submit to them in gratitude.

Second, the law is also seen as civil code. Throughout scripture there are laws by which civic order is established and wrongs can be righted. These are not salvific in nature, that is they do not earn salvation, but are meant to preserve the common peace of the community so far as sinners can submit to them. These are the rules of the land and can be as simple as the “golden rule” (Matthew 7:12). Christians, so far as they are a dual citizen of Heaven and their land, are to observe the national rules/laws, so far as they do not conflict with God’s laws (Acts 5:29).

Third, law in Scripture is understood as ceremonial practice. There were many ceremonial laws prescribed to Israel as a theocracy and under the rule of kings. These have passed with time, and yet the things they foreshadowed in practice are still shown with greater clarity in the New Testament practices (like Communion and Baptism). Although fewer in number, and salvation is by grace through faith, these practices extend and show salvation visually, as expressly confirmed by the Word. Ceremonies do not save, but they are the sign and seal of God upon His people to show that they have been called according to His Word and such ceremonies are the outward exhibits of faith (Colossians 2:11-12).

Law is not salvific, that is, effective for our salvation. The law does not and cannot save. Even under the covenant of works, the main premise was not law keeping, but for Adam to love God to such a degree that to obey would be a daily joyful act of gratitude, not a chore. Think of a marriage where the two do not reflect on their legal obligations to each other nor the prohibitions against seeking love in another. They simply love one another and seek each other’s happiness and welfare.

Scripture proposes that the law is opposed to grace when it is incorrectly taken from its moral sense and used or interpreted to suggest that following the law is effective for man’s salvation before a Holy God. In these instances, as in Romans 6:14, Paul can say, as should we, that we are not under the law as a system of salvation, but under the covenant of grace, as our rest for salvation. This does not free us to be disobedient children, as we still have our Father’s rules to follow, but we are not following them, as if some sense of merit accompanied them.

The law is always a good thing, when used lawfully (Romans 7:7-12). Paul, as well as Jesus, criticized many of the religious leaders of their time because they missed grace and had made the law into something it is not. So, we have to understand that condemnation of the wrongful use of the law, is not the same as condemning the Law as given by God. When Jesus says that He has come to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), then it can hardly be said that there is anything wrong with it (as Jesus becomes its fulfillment). Yet if taken from that context and used as any type of merit system, even if combined with grace (penance), it is to be condemned as not a true and accurate use of the law.

Law was part of the Covenant of Works. Certainly, there are commands within the Covenant of Works, under which Adam was directly told to be fruitful and multiply, and was commanded not to eat of the tree in the center of the garden. The law was to be followed, not for the sake of earning something, but out of love, reverence, and awe of God, he was to keep the relationship going. Adam was already created good, and so enjoyed a harmonious relationship with God. Yet with the option to sin, Adam fell from this original estate by not only breaking the law, but also refuting his love for God. Those not “in Christ” by His grace, die and go to an eternal hell based upon the results of this covenant breach of Adam, imputed to all. It is this breach and all other actual sins of believers only, that are atoned for on the cross. Jesus took the penalty they must exact upon Himself.

2022-02-05 Law And GraceLaw remains in the Covenant of Grace (New Covenant). Since the fall, and now, man is only ever saved by grace, whereas our performance to keep the law is not a factor. But law keeping is a factor of our salvation (James 1:22). Jesus kept the law on our behalf in two senses. First in a passive sense, Jesus kept the law to prove He was the spotless lamb of God, able to bear the sins of sinners on the cross. Actively Jesus kept the law throughout His life so to have accomplished what Adam did not do, thus earning the righteousness which He gives freely to us. If Jesus just forgave sins, we would be back at square one like Adam, and we would have to maintain our relationship with God, by our love and works. But because Jesus imputes to us His righteousness, there are no other works that can be added to His own to earn any other higher standard of relationship with the Father.

So, the Law is not a merit system for getting into heaven; it cannot and does not function that way. Those that try to make it salvific (effective for salvation) are condemned in the Bible for their abuses of the law, and forsaking grace. Yet, the Christian (in grace) should always strive to keep the commands of God, in gratitude, as those actions we know please our Father and bring Him glory. 

Mountainside Ministry Training Center

The Mountainside Ministry Training Center, operated by International Messengers, is located in Libby, Montana and trains international workers who have hearts for the lost in other nations.  “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

2022-01-19 Mountainside Ministry Training Center - Photo by Ben FancycameraPhoto by Ben “Fancycamera” 😉

Guest Blog: My Six-Month Experiment with Christianity Turned into 12 Months, Then 24 …

How the son of a Hindu priest gradually made his peace with the “unfairness” of the Cross.
by Dr. Chris Goswami

2022-01-08 Chris Goswami

Even at the distance of over 40 years, I still remember having my fingerprints documented for my criminal record. It was the first time in my life I had felt ashamed about anything.

The young police constable was pleasant enough as he gently guided me through the process of fingers, thumbs, and ink pads. He was sensitive to the sense of grief originating from a single sound in the room: the uncontrollable weeping of my distraught mother sitting a few feet away, as my father tried quietly calming her.

As recent immigrants to the UK from India, they were confused and shocked. They had wrenched themselves from established lives as schoolteachers. They had traveled to England by sea, working in a shoe factory and selling bus tickets so that my brother and I could go to school. For families immigrating from the Indian subcontinent, providing an education for their children was (and still is) the driving priority. So when my parents discovered that their teenage son had spent years secretly engaging in arson and shoplifting just “for fun,” they could barely comprehend it.

Sometimes it takes the tears of a loved one to stop us in our tracks and focus our minds on where we’ve gone wrong. But what exactly was I ashamed of? My mother’s grief had brought sudden clarity about the damage I had caused to my family — shameful, lasting damage. It dawned on me that there really is a moral law in the universe, and I had overstepped it. Actions had consequences, just as my family had taught me. The Hindu idea of karma, I had learned, is that you get what you deserve. Here was karma, spectacularly demonstrated.

Debating Christianity
I am the son of a Hindu priest who was himself the son of a Hindu priest. In the working-class English town where I grew up, life revolved around our close-knit Indian community. We regularly met in temples or public halls to celebrate religious festivals and holidays. I never once heard the gospel in my first 18 years. My understanding had always been that “Christian” meant you were white and British, and no one ever suggested otherwise.

But then I left home for university and — by some divinely orchestrated coincidence — got to know a bunch of Christians. To me, they were do-gooders: nice enough people who just did not have their heads screwed on straight when it came to being rational. They would take me along to meetings where someone would present a Christian message or testimony. Afterwards, we would debate what seemed (to me) like the many holes in their arguments. Despite my skepticism, these good Christian students adopted me as some kind of “project.” I did not share their faith, but their friendship and concern moved me.

You see, there was always one roadblock on my journey to understanding Christianity, one concept that, in my view, was immoral and unacceptable: the idea of grace. The notion of someone else suffering shame and pain for the wrongs I had chalked up was absurd and repugnant. To me, grace and karma were complete opposites. Karma is logical; it feels right. It is fair. Karma is what happened in the police station that day.

This attitude persisted for some time, until one of my friends, Alex, commented thoughtfully, “Chris, you can argue forever about the unfairness of the Cross. In many ways you’re absolutely right. Or, you can accept that this man Jesus died because he loves you. It’s up to you.”

Still carrying my doubts, I worked out a way to give this Christian thing a try: Make the commitment, say the prayer, and see what happens over the next six months. I reckoned I would know in that time if it was true or not. What was there to lose?

The six months became 12, and then 24 (mainly because I continued to enjoy the social life of church). I graduated in engineering and began studying toward a PhD. But I was a lazy Christian. I barely picked up a Bible, prayer was an annoying afterthought, and I only went to church if I felt like it, which was not often.

One day, my Anglican minister, David, made a suggestion. He said I should get baptized. I was appalled at the thought. Genuinely horrified. The exact words in my head were: “Baptism is something you Brits do to your babies — why are you talking to me about this?” I had seen infant baptisms on TV — was this fellow seriously suggesting wrapping me up in a white gown and dunking my head in a bowl?

Despite my recoiling, David persisted, and he showed me in Scripture where the baptism of adults took place. I was still unnerved by the whole thing. It sounded crazy. But David gently advised that I should make a decision: Accept the faith, all of it, or reject it. Eventually, I consented. And so, one quiet evening in March 1984, I found myself at the first baptism service I ever attended — my own. I still recall my bewilderment as I noticed the sprinkling of water falling from my head onto the pages of the service book in my hands and wondered, for a second, if I might get into trouble. I did not! And God honored that small act of obedience.

The Wilderness Year
Within days, even hours, of my baptism, I felt a restless urge to quit studying and “do something different.” (Only much later would I come to understand what it means to experience a baptism of the Holy Spirit.) After a few unsuccessful applications for jobs in Zambia and Kenya, I got a position lecturing at an engineering college in India.

I had grand ideas — mainly based on English college life — of what my sojourn in India would look like. However, it was nothing like that. The school, only partially built, was located in a remote part of the country. I was told to teach computing with no computers, and for several months I had a “laboratory” with nothing in it — just a bare room. Meanwhile, I lived in a small village outside the college town, in a humble dwelling with intermittent power, no running water, and scary wildlife — including “snakes and scorpions” (Luke 10:19) — wandering around outside.

Worst of all, I felt suddenly and terribly alone. Though eventually I made some truly great friends, those first few weeks were unbearably lonely. There was no church, and there were no other Christians. In short, I hated it. In the evenings, I could just see airplanes flying into the horizon toward distant lands. I dearly wished I was on board. There were frequent tears — I couldn’t understand what I was doing.

Later in my faith journey, I could see that this was a “wilderness” experience of the sort many other Christians have shared. It’s a model we receive from Jesus himself. Sometimes it is exactly what God needs to break through a hard heart.

After some weeks, I discovered a small fellowship that met in another town. Every Sunday morning, I would ride a jam-packed bus to get there, which involved struggling mightily just to climb aboard. This was hard but encouraging all at once. I remember distinctly hearing God say, “Chris, when your fellowship was a short walk down the road in England, you could not be bothered to go. Now you will fight to go.” I was broken, but I was also being remade.

Those surprised and wonderful Indian Christians welcomed me from the day they set eyes on me. Every Sunday became an entire day at their house, complete with meals, conversations, love, and support. During those months, with their help, I grew enormously in faith. I began devouring Scripture — sometimes for hours in a day — and I discovered a God who wanted me to depend on him, a God who knew me and spoke to me. A God who was not a six-month experiment.

That year included another unexpected blessing: a chance to travel north overnight and meet my previously unknown set of cousins, aunts, and uncles. They are Christian. (My mother had actually given up her nominal Christian faith when she married my Hindu father.) And they were able to introduce me to a much wider range of Indian church experiences.

At the end of that year, on my return to the UK, folks in that small Anglican church (who had also supported me through the year with letters and recordings) barely recognized me. “You’ve completely changed!” they would invariably say.

Incomprehensible Grace
Since then, I have married my lovely Christian wife, Alison (I think she also adopted me as a project!). We now have three wonderful daughters in their 20s. Around 10 years ago, while working in the telecommunications industry, I began training as a Baptist minister. Today, I help lead a small English church while keeping a part-time role in the tech world.

God has answered many prayers over the years, while leaving many others unanswered. We have endured our share of family crises, but in Christ I have an anchor in those storms. If you’re looking for an easy ticket through life, the Christian faith is not it. But if you want purpose, meaning, and direction, here is a narrative, a grand story, in which you have your own essential part to play. And most importantly, you get the incomparable privilege of intimately knowing the Author.

I should say that my mother’s driving ambition was also fulfilled. I ended up with a bunch of university degrees — I really hope it makes up for that day in the police station! But she got more than she bargained for, becoming a Christian during her own life crisis, after my father left us in my teens amid considerable family sadness. She passed away a few years ago as part of a loving, faithful congregation in that same small town where we grew up.

I don’t understand grace, even now. The Cross is appallingly unfair. I suspect I’ll never have it entirely figured out, at least in this lifetime. But I’m thankful that because of God’s grace, I can love Him and commit my life to Him even as He and his grace lie outside my capacity to fully understand.
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Chris Goswami, PhD, is Associate Pastor at Lymm Baptist Church, Vice President of Communications at Enea Openwave. His writing appears on his website, 7minutes.net.

A Last Look at Love, Marriage and Sex in 2021

Today I will take a last look (for the present time) at love as it applies to marriage and then next week we will begin to look at some current issues in the news.

2021-12-04 Wedding BandsAs I have mentioned in previous blogs, there is one and only one distinctive that defines a marriage.  Every service and provision except one that a husband and wife give to each other can be done by another.  This is evident in how The 5 Love Languages and Love and Respect can easily be applied to other relationships.  Even in His Needs, Her Needs, many of the emotional needs can be met by someone other than one’s spouse.  In fact, that is what Dr. Harley warns against, simply because if someone other than one’s spouse meets some of those needs, this could result in the development of an affair.  Thus his text is subtitled, Building an Affair-Proof Marriage.

Yet, many spouses may be handicapped or have some disability that prevents them from supplying one or more of those basic emotional needs, and there are people who make their living supplementing what a spouse cannot; e.g., companions who take people to shop or provide recreational outlets, financial advisors who regulate purchases and manage a spouse’s money, housekeepers who supply domestic support, etc..  But there is one service that others cannot supply without significant consequences.

James notes that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”  That is to say that all sin IS sin, and that the most important issue is WHO is sinned against.  In his thinking, there is no difference between the various sins listed in the law as all of them are offenses against God’s holiness.  However, the apostle Paul makes a distinction of one sin that is different from any others,  He says in 1 Corinthians 6:18 that “Every sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”  Furthermore, Jesus even indicated there are differences in ‘levels of sin’ when He told Pilate, “He who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:11)

So it is that the distinct aspect of sexual copulation is reserved for those in a committed relationship, a covenant of marriage.  This is more than a contract.  In a contract, Party 1 says, I will perform function A if Party 2 performs function B; Party 2 agrees to perform function B as long as Party 1 performs function A.  Contracts are mutually accepted constraints and responsibilities that remain dependent on the performers.  If Party 1 fails to provide function A, Party 2 is released from being required to provide function B, and vice versa.

But the Bible sets up marriage differently: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”  (Genesis 2:24)    Notice, the first responsibility is on the husband; nothing is said in Genesis about a wife’s role in the marriage, other than the sexual union of becoming one flesh.

This is consistent with the rest of Scripture that puts the onus on a husband to love his wife as he loves his own body; to be faithful to the point that even the Lord’s disciples said, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” (Matthew 19:10)  There is a mutuality to this relationship as Paul explains in his letter to the Corinthians, but it starts with a man’s responsibility to provide conjugal relations and affection for his wife, and then moves on to instruct that neither the husband nor the wife has final say about their own bodies, but rather the other party is in charge.

So where does that leave us in the covenant?  The current emphasis on “covenanting” in marriage is that even if one party does nothing to fulfill his or her part, the other party is still fully responsible for doing whatever they agreed to in the marriage ceremony: to love, honor, cherish, keep oneself only for one’s spouse, etc.  One friend once explained, “Any marriage that is based on a 50-50 agreement is dangerously close to dissolution.  Only a marriage based on 100-100 is safe.”

Drs. Harley and Eggerichs both point out in their books and websites that if someone attempts to do the exercise of providing for a spouse’s needs based on the idea, “I’ll try this for a couple of weeks and see if I get feedback that is acceptable,” he or she is likely to be sadly disappointed.  The issue is not to get your way in the marriage, as if The 5 Love Languages, the Energizing Cycle or supplying emotional needs for a spouse were means to manipulate a spouse into doing what you want them to do!

The bottom line for the Christ-follower, whether man or woman, is to please our Master, Jesus.   Suppose a husband said to his wife, “Let’s not talk any more.  We have enough memories of all our conversations and I have no desire to converse.  We can always text, email or even write letters, but let’s stop talking.”  Or imagine a wife who says, “Let’s not have sex anymore.  We have enough memories from our bedroom and I have no desire to do it anymore. We can always cuddle and hug, but let’s stop lovemaking.”

The responsibility to provide your spouse’s needs are not dependent on their willingness to provide for yours!  Our responsibility is to the author of life, our Creator, and He will judge or reward us according to what we have done while in these bodies.  NOTE: this is not about salvation, which is accomplished by the blood of Jesus and His resurrection, but He will reward us based on the work we have done as His followers. (See 1 Corinthians 3:10-14.)

So whatever your relation to your spouse is like, it is up to you to fulfill your responsibility to speak your spouse’s Love Language, to show Love and Respect unconditionally, to provide for their basic emotional needs, and to enjoy The Gift of Sex that is exclusively reserved for those in a covenant of marriage.  It is that which expresses most clearly our relationship to Christ as part of His church.  It is the distinctive that defines a marriage and no one else is allowed by the Creator to supply.