If Jesus Arose from the Dead, Why Didn’t He Stick Around?

Why would Jesus have to go away and send the Comforter, also called the Holy Ghost?
Why could He not stay on earth and daily “prove” that He was the resurrected Christ or Messiah (Anointed One) sent from God to redeem the world from sin?
Could He not hold news conferences to show that He was alive from the dead?
Could He not show His wounds in His hands, feet and side in a continual world tour?  Although He would have a lot of ground to cover!

Consider in history when God DID show up in unmistakable experiences.  He revealed Himself through Moses and Aaron in spectacular fashion to both Pharoah and the Egyptians as well as the Israelite community living in the land of Goshen in northern Egypt.  He led them for 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai (they were not wandering; they followed a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night).  (See Exodus 13:17-22; and chapters 1416.)

And look how often they grumbled against Moses and God who had delivered them!  So much so that an entire generation was forced to die in the desert before their children could inherit the Land of Promise.  Apparently even God’s obvious Presence was not enough to discourage sin in the camp!

In Craig Keener’s book, Miracles Today, he perceptively asks “How much evidence does it take to convince someone [a miracle occurred]?… If I am adamant that miracles are impossible, in principle I might reject any amount of evidence. If I already trust God, I will thank God for even the smallest details of life… God doesn’t do miracles for our entertainment.”

Likely a true anecdote, in the story of Poor Lazarus and The Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), the rich man is in anguish having gone to hell while Lazarus is comforted at Abraham’s side (a ‘pre-Heaven,’ so to speak).  The rich man begged Abraham to allow Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water to cool his tongue.  When Abraham said this was impossible, the rich man asked if Lazarus could go back from the righteous dead and warn his five brothers, so they could avoid winding up where the rich man was.

“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, Father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (verses 29-31)

On another occasion (Matthew 12:38-40), Jesus was asked for a “sign” to prove His divine credentials.  “But He answered them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”  I.e., He was announcing that He would rise from the dead!  This was a frequent claim of Jesus, so clear that His opponents even asked for the sealing of His tomb to prevent a fraudulent claim that He had done so.  (Matthew 27:62-66)

These were people who knew Jesus could heal the blind, restore shriveled arms, open deaf ears and even raise the dead (John 11:38-53)!  Yet, their hearts would not believe, no matter what evidence they saw.  Think logically, and how do you kill someone who can raise the dead!?  Yet that is what they proposed to do.  In John 12:8-11, they even plotted to murder Lazarus because he had been raised from the dead!!  Couldn’t any of them spell “irony” in Hebrew?  How do you kill someone if Someone else can just raise him from the dead!?

“Faith” in the Bible is more than just mental assent.  In the Complete Jewish Bible, the words both from the Hebrew and Greek are most often translated as “trust.”

A little boy was asked to define “faith,” and he said “It’s believing something you know just ain’t true.” 😁  But obviously, that is not the case in the Bible.  Faith is trust; it is accepting the evidence with an open mind and relying on God to do what only He can do – save lost people from hell and give us eternal life.

Let’s suppose for a minute that Jesus DID stay here on earth in His resurrected body.

  1. First, how would He prove that He was really 2000+ years old?  Maybe the history books, all obviously written with His approval, are like claims of Roman Emporers being gods.
  2. Second, how would He prove to ME that He had really died.  If I only live 70-90 years, how do I know that He is not just longer-lived and will not die after me?
  3. Third, how do I know the wounds in His hands, feet and side were not inflicted just before I was born?

In order for ME to believe that He could come back from the dead, I WOULD HAVE TO SEE HIM DIE ALL OVER AGAIN! … unless I trust Him and His followers.  And if I do not trust them, why would I trust Him even if He arose from the dead in MY presence again?

Abraham’s words ring true: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”  We know this is true because He arose from the dead, and the Pharisees of His time still tried to quash the rumor that He was alive.  Yet they could not produce a body nor show where He was laid, because He IS RISEN!

Jesus knows what is in our hearts, and how we resist the truth as the unbelievers of the first century did.  So He sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to woo us, to persuade us, to open our blind eyes and allow us to see the Evidence That Demands a Verdict.  Jesus promised Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29)

Who will you believe today?  Jesus?  His disciples who died rather than admit to a lie?  Or the Pharisees who said, “They stole the body,” but could produce no proof?  (Matthew 28:11-15)

Two Destinations – An Almost Wordless Wednesday

“For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  Jesus

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/

What is the sign of the end of the age? Do NOT be DECEIVED!

“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  (Matthew 24:3)

2022-05-21 Do not be deceived

Many people read the words of Jesus following this question, and without looking at what He really said  think false prophets, wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution of Christ-followers, betrayals and lawlessness are the signs of the end of the age. 

But we must pay attention to what Jesus actually said: All these are but the beginning of the birth pains,” NOT the signs of the end.  He provided ONE and only one sign of the end of the age:
“This gospel [good news] of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (Mathew 24:14)

Now we do not know exactly what Father evaluates as a “nation” or ethnicity (a more accurate translation of this word, ἔθνεσιν).  Could it include the Sentinel Indians that John Chau was trying to reach?  Nor do we know what the “testimony” involves: someone announcing it on a soapbox or a Bible translation in the native language?

Deception Island's Whaling RemainsIn any case, we should not think that because Russia is invading another country, THIS is it.  The tragic 2015 earthquake in Nepal was not an indication that Jesus was coming soon.  The 21 Coptic Christ-followers that were beheaded by merciless ISIS Muslims was not the end.  The summer riots of 2021 in Seattle, Portland and other cities of the U.S. were not indications of Jesus’ return any more than the Watts riots of 1965 or the Dead Rabbits riots of Irish immigrants of 1857. 

2022-05-21 DeceivedJim Jones was one of many false prophets to flit across our television screens depicting crazy guys who led many people to their deaths when they “drank the cool-aid” quite literally.  He simply followed the path of previous devious leaders like Joseph Smith of Mormon fame and Pope Julius who sold indulgences to enrich the coffers of his organization.  Such wars, rumors of wars, natural disasters and false teachers will continue until Jesus returns.

Jesus main emphasis in describing all this was to say, “See that no one leads you astray!”  He mostly wanted His followers to be careful not to be deceived by miracles and false prophecies.  He laid down a basic principle for future prophecy in John 14:29: “Now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.”  Though this was in regard to specific things coming the next day at His crucifixion, the postulate is applicable across the board for all Bible predictions of coming events.

We need to study the future prophecies of the Bible to have some ideas of what to expect, but we likely will not be able to predict stock market crashes, where the next riot will occur, when the tsunami will break over the Northwest coast or who the Anti-Christ is . . . until he is revealed.  (BIG hint: he’s probably not Donald Trump nor Joe Biden.🙄) The important thing is to keep in tune with the Spirit of God and be able to understand what is happening in the world as it unfolds.  And BE READY!   Scripture (Matthew 24:17-20) suggests events will occur so rapidly that one will not even have time to grab an extra coat!  It will happen as fast as lighting‼️

So what is The Sign?  Tell everyone that Jesus is returning.  Tell everyone that sin is forgivable.  Tell everyone that there is hope, even when the world seems to be reeling out of control.  Tell everyone that Jesus is God, that The God Who Is has revealed Himself in Jesus who died to take away our sins, MY sins, YOUR sins.  Preach this Good News to all the world all the time until everyone has had an opportunity to accept or reject the claims Jesus made.  Then the end will come and the redeemed will be saved, the blind will receive sight, the oppressed will be set free and God’s will will be done in earth as it is in Heaven.

Whatever we believe about the End Times, they will happen according to God’s timeline, not ours.  They will happen according to His plan, not any man’s.  But the End Times will happen. 
Know and love the truth.
Do not be deceived.

Before the Resurrection

“As many were astonished at you, his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.”  Isaiah 52:14

2022-04-16 Jesus On The Cross

Resurrection Sunday came, but not before THIS happened.  Is it any wonder that as a man, Jesus was so strained in the Garden of Gethsemene, that being in agony He prayed more earnestly; His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44)  Hematidrosis is a rare medical condition in which one oozes or “sweats” blood from the skin even thought there is no cut or injury.  Though usually not fatal of itself, it has most often occurred in people as they died or in prisoners facing execution.  He knew what was about to happen.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=125baeLbGvU

Not just the physical torture He was about to endure, but He knew the spiritual battle that we will never see – the acceptance of sin for which He was not guilty, sin that was none of His doing; all the pride, greed, lust, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth that you and I have committed; all the hatred, lies, murder, abuse and wickedness that men and women have perpetrated since the beginning of the earth until its end!  He was looking forward to bearing ALL that in a matter of hours.

2022-04-16 Jesus In The TombAnd should we expect God will deliver us from all troubles?  Yet, “God did not keep bad things from happening to God Himself and there is no darkness into which He has not descended.  He knows the texture and taste of everything [we] most fear.”  (Tish Harrison Warren, Prayer in the Night)

Western Christians have become so soft and comfortable that the idea of suffering for Christ seems completely foreign.  Anticipating Sunday’s Resurrection, we glide through the pleasant days before with nothing to mark us but a little ash on our foreheads. 

So many “prosperity gospel” preachers have pounded out verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” that we have come to believe any time we have a problem, we can just go to Jesus and He will fix it in a matter of minutes.  They ignore the context of Jeremiah’s encouragement that was in a letter to EXILES“To the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”  Note, to the surviving elders!  Many had died; many more were taken into captivity in chains or herded like cattle between soldiers on horses.

Yes, it is a nice plan, but the prophet warned it would be 70 years❗, an average person’s lifetime, before God would start working out His plans for their welfare.  And so Jeremiah warned, Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in My name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.”

Friend, if you want an easy life; if you want to avoid controversy; if you want to skate along with the culture, do not become a follower of Jesus!  If you are looking for prosperity and the “wonderful plan for your life” that some gospel peddlers offer, just take up their pitch and rest easy.  Go with the flow when government orders you to do something; obey every rule and do not make trouble.   Remember that the Nazis loved to quote the Bible in Romans 13:1, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”   But they avoided Peter’s assertion in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”  And after beating the apostles, they let them go.

Stay with me here: the apostles did not go back to their little prayer group or life-affirming friends and say, “Oh, it was so terrible!  Those guys were so mean to us.  Please pray that Jesus will protect us from them and we will never encounter that again!”  On the contrary, they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name.”  Then they kept on boldly teaching in the religious government’s headquarters (their Temple) and from house to house.

Are you willing to suffer loss for the sake of following our Lord?  Are you willing to be ostracized as a narrow-minded, anti-science freak?  Are you willing to “Count it all joy,… when you meet trials of various kinds?” (James 1:2) Have you read the Bible, the words of Jesus in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”  This “cross” is not some illness or natural difficulty you may encounter.  “There is something frustrating that occurs on earth, namely, that there are righteous people to whom things happen as if they were doing wicked deeds; and, again, there are wicked people to whom things happen as if they were doing righteous deeds.” (Ecclesiastes 8:14 CJB)

The cross to which Jesus calls us is a choice to obey Him against what your family will call “common sense.”  Your friends will wag their heads and say, “Well, they went off the deep end!”  Even some religious advisers will warn you not to get too radical.  But for many of us, to follow Jesus will mean just that – a radical commitment to a God who was willing to suffer to redeem us.

Oh, and there is a reward, but we may not see it in this life!  Do not be so hasty for Sunday morning that you miss what happens before the Resurrection.  Are you willing to believe in a God who is willing to die for you?  Are you willing to die for a God who will save you?

Are You Ready for What Is About to Happen?

2022-04-09 If the world hated me it will hate you“If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will also keep yours.” John 15:18-20

In the western world, dominated for over a century by the USA, religious liberty has been one of our rock-solid principles, delineated in the Constitution of the United States, in the First Amendment.  It was not, as many have portrayed it, a “separation of Church and State,” but rather a constraint on government to not regulate religion.  However secularists and those with aberrant religious views (e.g. Church of Satan, etc.) have modified the principle of the first amendment to mean that no religious views… except that of the secularists… are to be tolerated.

Aberrant religious views from Jim Jones style cults to some mainline churches have contributed to this confusion by making absurd claims and trying to defend themselves with the First Amendment.  Claims by religious “organizations” that investigations by government agencies constituted intrusion into “Ecclesiastical Abstention” muddied the waters so that sexual abuse or drug use that was condoned or tolerated within an organization could be hidden from public scrutiny and legal consequences.  Now, the “public good” is at stake when someone claims “religious exemption” from vaccination, and those who truly believe they should not be vaccinated are left struggling for an argument that will hold up in court.

All of this is to say that views that were once mainstream in America are soon to be considered deviant and dangerous.  Marriage, universally and trans-culturally, has always been between a man and a woman, as is Biblically mandated.  A child was a human from conception historically in almost every part of the world.  Gender followed the science: if you have a penis, you are male; if you have a vagina, you are female.  Espousing these views now is labeled as homophobic, patriarchal, anachronistic and damaging to others who disagree.

2022-04-09 Päivi RäsänenThe recent court case in Finland where Päivi Räsänen was charged with “hate speech” for sharing her faith-based views on marriage and sexual ethics, in a 2019 tweet, a 2019 radio debate, and a 2004 pamphlet ended well… so far.  The prosecutors may appeal.  But the fact that she and a bishop of her church were faced with having to defend what they believed to be Biblical teaching under threat of fines and imprisonment is telling; this in a country known best for its limited government and respect for basic human freedoms.

Here in the USA, we still have a large voting block that is “Christian” in name, but lacking in the zeal of previous generations of believers.  And the tide continues to turn, especially as globalism goes “global.”

The privilege and freedoms associated to being a Christian in a “Christian nation” are going to evaporate faster than snow in the Arizona desert.  In their place will be lawsuits (think Jack Phillips), job losses (the Navy finally had to allow religious exemptions over the government’s protests), and ostracization by those who claim moral superiority based on cooperation with a secular view of history, biology, and culture.  And this is the world that either hated or did not care about Jesus.

When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” he was admitting to his lack of perception that there was a right and wrong.  To him, there was only political expedience and this life, one of getting whatever one can and enjoying the ease that comes with advancement in the world’s systems.

If you are a Christ-follower, you need to be thinking about what it may cost you in the near future to identify as a disciple of Jesus.  When laws are passed allowing “abortion” to be committed up to 28 days AFTER birth, when a man can go into a public restroom that your wife wants to use because today he claims he is a woman, when you are challenged to state what you believe in the middle of a PTA meeting about evolution, what will you do?

Make no mistake.  We are not called to take up weapons of the world, but we must be prepared to identify ourselves as followers of Christ.  Many pastors and churches are still teaching so much about the love of God that they are about to miss the opportunity to call their congregations to follow Jesus in His suffering.

Paul invited the Philippians to this fellowship that most Americans would find strange: “Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:7-11)

We want the love and protection of God; we want to be able to walk through fiery furnaces unharmed; we want the prosperity and blessings, but we hate the idea of suffering for the sake of Christ.  But that is what some of us will be appointed to; to bear the Name before a hostile world that will persecute us.

This is already true in most of the world.  More people have been murdered because of their stated belief in Jesus in the last 100 years than in all the 1,900 before combined!  Prepare your children, your grandchildren, your nephews and nieces and any that are coming behind you!!  We must be ready for what is certain to come.

Be warned, as the apostle Peter said, Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
(1 Peter 4:12-17)

Guest Blog by Thompson Lengels

Personal Meditation on Death and Dying
by ThompsonLengels / March 19, 2022
(with minor edits for spelling, syntax and references)

Fear of Death

Satan has a season when he loves to prick the saint’s conscience — their dying day!  Alas, he comes with all those failing spots to which the saint has succumbed! (Psalm 90:7-8)

When he comes, we may as well say to him:  It is true, Satan. I have failed often, more so, broken asunder to despair and despondency.  But also, listen.  Christ accepted me in my wicked state; died for me while a whore, a swearer, a guiler, an idolater, adulterer, a fornicator, and all the filthy exercises about which you think.  I say Christ died for me in all this mud of sin (Romans 5:8).  All that is good in me is but by His unmerited grace, undeserved mercy.

Death, to a Christian, is a doorway to glory.  To live in Christ is to keep in step with Christ.  So also, he that would die well must never put off the inevitability of death — he must live as a dying man.  The Christian’s death is the ending of his troubling sins, an entrance to a land where sin and sorrow are no more.  We must look at death as a thing we must meet, and look upon ourselves as a thing with which we must part.

It is never too soon to make friendship with death.  We never get what we think we want because God always gives us what we need.  One day our need will be death.

SkullDeath is gain; freedom from doubt and unbelief.  In Heaven our faith will be turned into sight.  Here the best are liable to doubt about their personal piety, and often experience many an anxious hour in reference to this point.  In Heaven doubt will be known no more.

Death is the grave of all temptations.  A Christian’s death delivers them from the second death.  Put another way, a Christian dies natural to live eternal.  In Heaven there are no graves, but eternal grace.

After our death, we will be met by our believing loved ones who went ahead of us to be with Christ.  O beloved Christian, why fear death?  It is natural to fear death, but we may meet it with faith in Christ.

Time PassingWhen death knocks at your door, don’t murmur and grumble about it.  Rejoice, you are going Home at last!  Does the prisoner, long confined in a dungeon, dread the hour which is to open his prison, and permit him to return to his family and friends?  Does the man in a foreign land, long an exile, dread the hour when he shall embark on the ocean [or the sky] to be conveyed to where he may embrace the friends of his youth?  Does the sick man dread the hour which restores him to health; the afflicted, the hour of comfort?  The wanderer at night, the cheering light of returning day?

And why, then, should the Christian dread the hour which will restore him to immortal vigor?  Which shall remove all his sorrows?  Which shall introduce him to everlasting day?  Smile at death when your time draws nigh.

Death is an awful reality to men who have made this world their only home and the things of this world their only possessions.  Do not waste any unnecessary time below here.  Let us live as diligent laborers in a field full of harvest, harvesting men to Christ Jesus.

Live as men who appreciate the world, but let us live like men who are more in love with the world to come, the world of Christ Jesus.  To die and be with Christ is the final pilgrimage of the wounded saint.  The saint finally meets with Eternal Rest and Blessed Felicity.

The door of death is inscribed thus: “Prepare to meet your God!”  Christ is best!

Death is sleep. “The girl is not dead but sleeping.” (Luke 8:52)  The natural man is tempted to laugh.  You’re wise and know how to apply.  Death will very soon reveal the children of God and the devil.

We must have our heart and mind in Heaven if we are to look at death with courage in Christ.  “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2).  So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

Beware of head-knowledge in the face of death!  It will not comfort you.  How is your heart and way of life instructed by your accumulated knowledge on the things of God?  Do you know God, or things about God?  That’s the question!  Be honest with yourself!

I’ve observed humble men die well.  Improve life by dying daily to self and enrich the soul by being alive in Christ.  I am homesick for Heaven.

You’re not too young to die.  Make peace with God.  This old fellow knows his time is nigh.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Make no permanent nest in this world.  Death is a golden carriage that lifts the soul to a golden city, a celestial city.  Fellow mortal, cease playing Immortal.

Cemetery at GettysburgThe whole world is a big cemetery of dead men walking.  Those that resolve to repent tomorrow intend to be wicked today.  A delay of repentance breastfeeds and strengthens our sin — and the wages of sin is death!  (Romans 6:23)

The conversion of the thief at the cross is not a canon that all of us are guaranteed conversion to Christ at our death-bed.

We read in the Holy Scriptures of men who were called at their infancy such as Jeremiah, Samuel and John the Baptist.  Some were chosen in their prime age of youth like the four Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel.  Others were called in their advanced adulthood such as the disciples, John, James, Peter, and Andrew.  Other were called while carrying out their business of the day as Matthew, the tax-collector and Luke, the physician.  Others were called while in their sin-business as the forgiven harlot and the woman at Jacob’s well.  Others while gazing at a fig tree or climbing a sycamore as Nathanael and Zacchaeus.  Still others were called in their old age as Joseph of Arimathea and the Jewish scholar, Nicodemus.  And last of all, at their death-bed — the thief at the cross!

Dead TreeThere’s no such thing as purgatory and indulgences.  When you die, you are dead!  And all must die!  If not now, tomorrow.  If not tomorrow, the next day.  If not the next day, then, the following day.  If not the following day, … then the next!

We can only sing, “Death has lost its sting,” (Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:55) if we truly understand what the cross of Christ accomplished for us.

Rest In Peace

Death laughs at bags of gold.  Death is a level ground where the rich and poor; proud and humble; high and low; prince and peasant, all lay and become wholesome meal for the worm. (Job 21:23-26)  A man’s life, however great it was, is always summarized by this little word — Death!

Jesus Christ not only died.  He conquered death by death itself!  Christ stung death to death!
He is our resurrection!

NOW is the day…

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)

In Kentucky, people still go to the grocers, take their kids to school or get them ready for a school-bus; they attend church meetings and school assemblies for their kids; city councils still meet and debate whether to widen a road or how to change the construction code; my neighbors hired guys to put in a new fence and I am going to the garden center to discuss what to plant in front of my house to replace the yews I may remove tomorrow.

In fact, life in these United States and most of the world still plods on for most of us without houses crumbling in from missiles nor energy plants being shelled.  No convoys of invading tanks, only a peaceful bunch of truckers who want to protest vaccines and masks that are about to be ended so the politicians will face less voter wrath next year.  (I was told that state legislatures are considering bills to order men in city subdivisions to pair up with each other and go get a coffee or beer together once a week; but they are not going to call them laws… they’re going to call them man-dates. 🙄)

See, we even make lame jokes here, while an entire country is evacuating except for those willing to put their lives at risk and kill invaders from the neighboring nation.  Some are kneeling in public squares to fast and pray for safety.  Reports of deaths range from a couple hundred to a few thousand when you include invaders that have been crushed.  Nuclear arms stand ready for a diabolical finger to push a button and blow an entire city off the map in a nation that does not have nuclear weapons.

Digression: On July 28, 1914, Serbian puppets of Russia assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie, in Sarajevo.  Exactly one month later, August 28, with German support the Austrian emperor declared war, followed by Russian retaliation and World War 1 began, eventually leading to over 100 countries from every continent becoming involved. 
“The War to End All Wars?”
Only in 21 years, in August of 1939, Hitler’s Germany amassed troops on the border of Poland and demanded a meeting in Berlin with the Polish ambassador (a plenipotentiary).  His feet were hardly warmed at a fireplace when Germany invaded Poland on September 1 with a “blitzkrieg” to begin World War 2.  This time 191 nations entered the war!  (There are only 195-199 in the world, depending on who is counting.)
In the meantime, WW2 resulted in changes in China that culminated in Mao Zedong claiming the founding of the PRC, chasing his opponents (about 3 million) to Taiwan.
And the world has been at war ever since, whether in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Kashmir, “Kurdistan,” Iraq, Iran and much of Africa and the Mideast.
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”  (Matthew 24:6-8)

Back To The Point: All this is to say the end is still to come!”  And the question on everyone’s mind is, WHEN?  With a conflict that could easily erupt into World War 3, which a Russian spokesman says will be nuclear, this is not a time to play games with life and with The God Who Is.  Such an event would happen so suddenly, that while diplomats try to lie and say it is unlikely, most of the world will be shocked and caught off-guard. 

So the question that should be on everyone’s mind is not when the end will come, but “Will I be ready if it happens tomorrow?”  You can know that you are ready, and such knowledge removes the fear that is motivating so many political debates and military discussions.  Knowing Jesus is not just knowing about Him, like reading a biography (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and getting the facts together.

Knowing Jesus is to meet Him.  Granted, most of us will not have visions or dreams in which we actually shake His hand or see His face.  But by praying and inviting Him to come into your life, if you ask with belief that He will answer, He will come into your heart.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

This invitation is to you.  No matter where you have been, what you have done; there is no ethnicity, color, language group or nationality that is excluded.  You can come to Jesus just as you are.  Simply repent (i.e. turn away from your selfish choices and anything opposed to godliness) and ask Jesus to come and live in you by His Holy Spirit.  And HE WILL!   Invite Him to lead your life from this day forward and be submissive to what He tells you.

He will usually speak first through the Bible.  Read it!  It is not a single book, but a collection and there are tons of helps for reading and studying it, to understand the basics of what it means to become a disciple of Jesus.

He also speaks through your conscience, if you have not seared it with persistent sin or disobedience to what the Bible teaches.

Be open to instruction by followers of Jesus who have been following Him longer than you.  They are not “the last word” on how you should live for Jesus, but rely on their wisdom to begin to consider how you should live.

Even if a world war is not imminent, no one gets a guarantee of tomorrow. “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.” (Isaiah 46:10, New Living Translation) And He is not telling most of us how many days we have left on earth.  And even if you are younger than 70 years old, no one here gets out alive!

So do not wait.  Do not hesitate.  Do not say, “l’ll do it tomorrow.”  Do not put it off for “a more convenient time.”  Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2, NLT)  Do not let anything stop you.  Trust in Jesus today.

Email me (capost3k@gmail.com) if you want to connect to Christ-followers in your city or discuss anything else about this decision. 

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Can You Spot the Counterfeit?

2022-02-12 The Counterfeit Looks So RealMany years ago a friend took a job as a bank teller at a bank in Rhode Island and for the first week after her initial training in bank procedures, almost all the bank had her doing was counting money from other tellers’ tills.  She began to wonder how long this would go on, if she would ever have her own till.  I do not recall how many days she sat there counting, but one day she noticed a bill that simply ‘felt’ different, she said.  She showed it to her manager, and he commended her for catching a counterfeit.  She counted a couple more tills and each one had at least one counterfeit bill and some had more!

Her manager explained as he again commended her, that each of the tills she had counted after her first week had been ‘seeded’ with a counterfeit bill.  She had finally begun to ‘feel’ them and was given her own till.

Within the past year I have encountered lots of blogs with false teaching, some very subtle, some not so much, some that really do not matter, some that matter very much.  Note that many genuine Christ-followers may participate in one or more of these false teachings.  Not all incorrect doctrines come from wolves in sheep’s clothing.  Simply, not all believers see eye to eye on many important topics (i.e., KJV Only, Water Baptism, etc.), but that does NOT make them false teachers.  It certainly does not mean they are going to hell‼️  It is exclusively up to Father to determine the heart of anyone who calls on the Name of the LORD.

The following Top 20 list will give you an idea of what you may encounter “out there:”

  1. Baptism in water should have ended in the first century as it was a Jewish custom, and not for the Church.
  2. You are not saved unless you have been baptized in water.
  3. If you have enough faith, God is required to heal you and make you wealthy.
  4. God does not answer prayers as He did in Bible days; that closed with the completion of the New Testament.
  5. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer functioning as that ended with the completion of the New Testatment.
  6. The Church has been ‘raptured’ already spiritually, and continues with everyone who accepts Jesus; there will not be a literal “Return of Christ;” or Jesus has already returned.
  7. The Anti-christ has already come.
  8. God does not send anyone to hell for eternity, but only until the ‘lost’ learn their lesson or have paid for their sins; or more simply, God does not send anyone to hell.
  9. You must observe the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath since it is one of the 10 Commandments.
  10. The Sabbath does not need any kind of observation.
  11. Following Jesus means we do not need to obey the 10 Commandments.
  12. Since the New Testament church held everything in common, followers of Jesus should not own their own personal property anymore.
  13. The Bible ‘contains’ the Word of God, but one needs to identify it from the legends or errors.
  14. We need to identify and call out anyone who teaches false doctrines.
  15. God has forgiven all your sins: past, present and FUTURE.
  16. To get extra help with prayers, you should pray to angels or to saints who have gone before us.
  17. Mary was born sinless and is a co-Redeemer with Jesus.
  18. The ‘name’ you have for God is not significant as long as long as you believe in something that makes you a better person.
  19. Mother Nature or the Universe is the same thing you call God.
  20. Porn may be good for you, especially if you do not have a committed partner, as it can keep you from actual adultery or fornication.

2022-02-12 Wolves in Sheep's ClothingAnd this is just a sampling of the wolves among the sheep.  It is more than anyone can reasonably address in a single blog to refute each of these false teachings, but there are common threads that run through them.  Like my friend at the bank, the best practice is to regularly read and study the Bible the way she had to count bills for so much time.  Recognizing false teaching becomes easier if you have ‘handled’ the real thing enough, if you know Jesus as your savior and Lord, and if you follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

False teachers can most easily be recognized by certain traits.
First, they are most often motivated by pride and seem to need ‘followers’ who agree with every detail of their false teaching.  There is little tolerance for disagreement.
Secondly, this follows that they are inclined to emphasize ‘special doctrine’ that sows controversy and disagreement.  They are argumentative and will not let you rest until they decide you are beyond hope or you change to agree with them.
Their ’special doctrine’ is, of course, not called that, but is un-Biblical and is contrary to a major teaching of the historic Christian church and its consistent self-examination against the teachings of Scripture.
Many can be recognized by an obvious desire for cash, prestige or special privilege indicated by special garments or magical/theatrical styles.

Like Job, we can approach God in all righteousness and genuine faith, but when we see Him face-to-face, we will each (yes, even I will) say:

“I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’
I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you;  therefore I despise myself,
and repent in dust and ashes.”
  Job 42:2-6 (ESV)

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.
____________________________________
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.