Sunday, March 31, 2013

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!

Ahh, the most joyous of Christian holidays!  Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!

The Christ has overcome death, that last foe.  He has freely given himself on our behalf.  He has set the example, such that, we cannot possibly live a better life than one in imitation of the Christ.

"Greater things than these, you will do..." Jesus promised.  Wow!  That is some pretty great stuff!

"Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him."  Lk 12:4-5

"As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him.  And He did not let him, but He said to him, "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you." Mk 5:18-19

Let us rejoice today in the Joy of the L^rd and the joy of our Salvation.

Christ is risen, He is risen indeed!


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Taking out the Trash

As many of you know, I have a calling from G^d to pick up trash in my path, wherever my path may lead.  So I have picked up trash in lots of places around the world, now including Botswana.  In some ways I am surprised that there isn't too much trash here.  In some ways, I am shocked that there is so much trash which seems so unnecessary.

The UB campus is nicely landscaped, with some very nice buildings, and new ones going up as we speak.  The grounds crew faithfully sweeps the grounds anywhere there is no grass.  But, folks seem to ignore all this and drop their trash wherever they happen to be, without thought.

I get strange looks when I pick up the trash, but I do it anyway.  Admittedly, it is a bit strange, but admittedly, if a few more people joined it, it would be a cleaner, brighter, world.  The problem seems to be a lack of taking responsibility.  Why should I clean up the world?

I'll admit, picking up trash seems a futile undertaking, and it certainly is not the most pleasant ministry.  But, nevertheless I count on these and other Scriptures to keep me going:

1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.
John 15:14 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jesus’ speaking)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Children Leading Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday at Open Baptist church, and the Children are leading the program.  There are two services, and the number of children in the second service is astounding.  They come in, many carrying palm branches.  Somehow here palm branches seem a bit more realistic than back in Alabama.  Inexplicably, tears come to my eyes as the children file in, under heavy supervision.

The children sing a number of great songs and there are length Scripture recitations by some of the older kids.  Parents snap pictures, but not nearly as much as in the USA.

After the kids finish, there is a skit with one of our favorite kids in the leading role.  Josiah represents someone tempted by the forbidden.  Most of us should be able to relate.

 After considerable temptation, he finally yields and touches.  Next thing you know, sin has latched hold of him and he cannot let go. 

Sound familiar?

After the service we go brag on Josiah to his parents and to him.  His mom is totally shocked.  She tells us that she never knew Josiah had it in him to ham it up so.

"Takes after my dad, the preacher."  she tells us.

These skits seem pretty popular in churches here, as this is the fourth one we have seen.  And, I think it is an EXCELLENT means for communication in our day.

Truth is conveyed in a way that demands attention, and is entertaining as well as educational and practical.

G^d speaks to us in a myriad of ways.  But...

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."  Jesus said... more than once!

L^rd open each of us to hear your voice... and obey!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fun with Kidney Stones

Ever had a kidney stone?

I woke at 2:03 AM with a stabbing pain high in my right back.  Unfortunately I knew what it was, because I have been here twice before.

Renal Calculi (official name) form in the kidney sinus and as long as they stay there, they aren't much of a problem.  BUT, when they begin to head south, they can be a big problem.

I awoke again at 3, again at 4, again at 5.  I was amazed I got to sleep in between.

I walked a few miles pacing around our 858 square feet.  Brenda did her best to comfort me, but there isn't much to be done.  I took some analgesics, but didn't get much relief.

As I was writhing in pain, I thought of the suffering of the Christ during the Passion on good Thursday.  I was hurting in one spot, the Christ was beaten, kept up all night (I can relate to that part), had nails driven into his wrists and ankles, and hung on a cross.  There were no analgesics.

He succumbed to orthostatic intolerance voluntarily.  He was NOT killed, he gave up his life, willingly, and for us sinners.  John 19:30 clearly says that he GAVE up his spirit.  Recall He could have summoned angels, conquered Jerusalem, come down from the cross and destroyed any and all.

If I had a way out of my pain, I would have taken it.  Yet the Christ endured.

If we comprehend exactly WHAT the Christ did, our hearts will be filled with gratitude, even in the midst of pain.

Thank you G^d for your grace and mercy delivered many ways, but most substantially in the Christ.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oxygen for Easter

We attended an evangelistic outreach tonight in a tent on the S side of Gaborone.  It was well attended and well done.  One of the things we liked was a skit done by two young congregants.

The skit was about the guy trying to convince the girl that OXYGEN exists.  As the skit conveyed it, oxygen is tasteless, odorless, invisible, and largely undetectable, unless you know what you are doing.  Likewise, oxygen is vital to life, though many people can't explain why, or how.

Fortunately, oxygen saves our lives.  Fortunately the Christ saves our souls.

As we look towards Easter, let's recognize that we don't have to "prove" G^d to anyone but ourselves.

The Easter miracle is two fold, that the Christ overcame death, but, perhaps more importantly, the Christ overcame our sin.

Happy Easter.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Worlds Largest Waterfall (by Volume)

Victoria Falls is impressive.

Victoria Falls is huge.

Driving east you can see the mist from the Falls LONG before you get there.
Victoria Falls is hard to see, unless the wind is blowing the right direction.

Victoria Falls will soak you if the wind is blowing the right direction.

It is about an hour almost due east of Kasane to Victoria Falls.  First you have to cross the border into Zimbabwe.  Crossing the border into and out of Botswana is unlike any other border crossing I have ever seen.  First you go through immigration on the Botswana side.  You do this every time you leave Botswana by auto.  Then you go through immigration on the Zimbabwe side.  Coming back you repeat the entire process again.

 We were at Niagara Falls several years back (1998).  We enjoyed it, but I am definitely glad we did it BEFORE we did Vic Falls.  Once you've seen Vic, I don't think you'll be impressed by any other.

G^d gave us a special kinship with water.  Perhaps this is because the Holy Spirit is often represented by water.  And what a water sight are these Falls.
Like cold water to a weary soul is good news from a distant land. Proverbs 25:25.

But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!Amos 5:24.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  John 4:14.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dumb Holy Week Ideas

I can speak with authority on dumb ideas, because in 63 years, I have had more than my fair share of them.

It strikes me that the first dumb thing of Holy Week was when the chief priests and elders conspired to Kill the King of the Universe.  Dumb idea.

Then Judas tries to force Jesus' hand.  Dumb too.

Then in Jesus' most diffiuclt hour, the 3 key disciples fall asleep when they should have been pryaing.  That was dumb.

Pilate blew off his wife's advice,  "to have nothing to do with that righteous man."  Dumb.

Then the denials of Peter, the "Rock" were obviously not smart.  Dumb, I say.

Then the women go to the tomb to anoint the body that He told them wouldn't be there.  Dumb.

Then we have a dumb Emmaus Road incident.  Double Dumb.

But, though they are dumb, I don't fare much better.  I have the whole testimony recorded in detail, and yet I dumb things up far too often.

Thanks be to G^d that His grace, His Blood, is poured out for us sinners, of whom I am chief!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"Real Africa"

During Mid-semster (yeah I keep wanting to call is Spring Break also) Break, Brenda and I head off on an 1800 km trek to the extreme NE corner of Botswana know as the Chobe District, after the River of that name.

It will take several posts for me to recount the highlights of that trip without boring you totally.

The trip is not without some degree of trepidation.  When I told a couple of faculty members, on two different occasions about our plan, they were very apprehensive.

"Your going with a group, aren't you?"

"Be very careful of animals.  Don't blow your car horn under any circumstances. I took a class on this."

But, we have  been cooped up in Gabs for the last two months, and one of my students had described the Chobe area as "Real Africa", so we had to go.

We had prepared.  I had fix-a-flat in the car along with jumper cables, 5 L of water, and a tow rope.  A travel agent friend told us to take plenty of cash because some petrol stations didn't accept any credit cards. A friend loaned us his GPS.

We were prepared as we could be, so we struck off at 0645 because everyone agreed driving at night in Chobe was just asking for a collision with an elephant.  The auto never wins these.

We made it the first day with limited issues, except for the horses, donkeys and cows that walked across the highway at will.  Elephants, no problem, cows- now there's a cause for concern.

Our first stop was at Elephant Sands.  We got there in time to do a "game drive" which is driving back roads looking for wildlife.  We were Blessed that our guide was the owner of the property, a 60 year old named Ben.  (That's also Inge, the Dutch lady who runs day-to-day ops).

Here's a couple of photos from our short game drive.

Here's our "chalet".

Brenda and I felt GREATLY Blessed by G^d.  We were finally in "Real Africa".

G^d is good indeed!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Road Hazards!!

In NE Botswana the road hazards are a bit different from central SE Botswana where we live.

Down here, cattle are the big hazard, along with goats and an occasional horse.

When you get up above Nata, things are MUCH more interesting.  Take a look at this sign for a big hint.

Actually our first hint was seeing huge piles of Elephant dung along the highway. 

 Our first sighting besides semi-domestic animals was a single large elephant.  A few km up the road and there were three giraffes, right there beside the road.  A few km further were two beautiful male kudu, the first males we have seen.

A couple of hours later, Brenda pulls over so we can get a good luck at a herd of elephants ambling down the roadside.  There is a baby elephant in the group and our pulling over apparently communicated a threat to the herd matriarch.  She responds by charging our car!!

Go! Go! Go! I advise Brenda calmly (sorta calmly).  We quickly run to safety.  It is a thrill we will remember a long time.

That female elephant reminds me of G^ds jealousy for us.  I am not sure all that means, but I know it is true.

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Ex 34:14.

Friday, March 22, 2013

I Presume you are Disoriented, Dr. Livingstone

The first westerner to see Victoria Falls and live to tell about it was the great missionary, Dr. David Livingstone.  Livingstone is a legend in more realms than anyone I know.  He was a great missionary physician, an explorer, an anti-slavery advocate.

Among his discoveries was the great falls on the Zambezi River, locally known as, "the smoke that thunders" (Mosi-oa-Tunya).  Unfortunately this beautiful descriptive name was replaced by, "Victoria" Falls, after Queen Victoria.

Despite all his efforts, reportedly Livignstone only had one convert to Christianity, a chief in the Kw√™na tribe of Tswana people, Setshele.  Allegedly because Setshele was the local rainmaker, and gave up his rainmaking, Livingstone  was run out of the areas.  Later, allegedly, despite Setshele's testimony, Livingstone denounced him as a Christian. Setshele is reported to have told Livingstone "I shall never give up Jesus. You and I will stand before him together."

I think this story is instructive from several perspectives.  Livingstone, if he actually had the problem described, made the classical Christian mistake of imposing western standards instead of Christian ones.  Additionally, people underestimate Livingstone’s work.  Whether or not there are more is unknown, and can never be accurately known.  He sent five of his children to be educated by another missionary, Robert Moffat.  who knows the impact these five had on the spread of Christianity.

The lessons are for us also.  We may labor for years, as did Livingstone, with limited demonstrable results.  But, remember the goad is obedience to the true and living G^d, not notches on our Bible.  We will never know the influence we have had; we walk by faith, not by sight.

G^d give us the boldness, the patience, the energy, the perseverance of Dr. David Livingstone. L^rd give us the desire to follow your path for us.  Wherever it may lead!

Oh, and I think Setshele was correct rather than the Dr.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

International Christianity

Did you ever consider the wide, wide impact of Christianity and Christian Organizations.  I recently recounted the testimony of a Greek born in Zimbabwe, living in the USA, who came Christ through reading a Gideon Bible!

Here in Gabs we have:
  • Navigators Student Ministry
  • Cru (Campus Crusade)
  • IFES (Inter-varsity)
  • YFC
  • And there has been Baptist Student Ministries

Most Christians in the US will recognize many of those fine organizations.  One of the Churches we have attended is supported by a church in Atlanta.  The conference/retreat we attended as churches in USA, France, Venezuela, Ecuador, as well as in Africa.

It has been comforting to us to recognize these groups, and to participate in several of them.  Just as we have fellowship with other Believers across cultures, we also benefit from our knowledge and involvement with these great Christian groups.

It's also encouraging to see G^d at work in these distant locales.  It reminds us of our small size and G^d's immensity.  We Believers are part of something really, really big.

We ought to be:
  • Awed
  • Encouraged
  • Amazed
  • Grateful
  • Humbled.

Thank you L^rd that you are BIG ENOUGH to fill the whole Earth with YOUR GLORY!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hairdresser>Drug Dealer>Harem member>Minister

At the Church retreat last weekend, we met a lot of marvelous, interesting Christians.  One of the most enthralling and encouraging was CK.

CK was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, to Greek parents, and when she was about 16 her father was shot by thugs trying to take his business payroll.  Her father was paralyzed, and her family was in turmoil.  At 16 years of age, CK followed her sister's profession of hairdressing and moved by herself to the Soho district of London to learn the trade.

Soho was a wild and wooly place, and in addition to learning a skill she acquired a wild lifestyle including drug addiction.  When the UK police got too close to throwing her in jail, she moved to Limosol, Cyprus and continued her self-destructive path.  History rec-cycled, and she left Cyprus after spending a time in jail, moving to Houston with an Arab Sheik.

She was part of his "harem" for a while, still doing drugs with abandon.  He would send her to pick up drugs in the worst parts of Houston.  In a rage, she once flushed thousands of dollars worth of cocaine down the toilet.  She had a loaded gun at her head on many occasions.

She was cutting the hair of Christian ladies who lived down the street, and the ladies would share Christ with her.  She was afraid of legalism.  She fled to Boca Raton, Florida to escape the sheik.  The shiek bought her a house, car, boat, everything to try to win her affection.  In FL she picked up a Gideon Bible and was converted through the power of the Word.

She moved back to Zimbabwe and told someone about becoming a Christian.  They encouraged her to come to church, but she was still wearing her suggestive clothing and felt that she would be condemned.  Instead the congregation accepted her, and she was loved into fellowship.

The church members recommended she move to Mauritius and join the Christian community there.  She has lived with the pastor and his wife the last 18 years, and travels the world videoing sermons, conferences and the like, and that's how Brenda and I met her.

The power of G^d in a person's life is indeed and awesome thing, and CK's story is just one more bit of evidence to that effect.

CK, may your tribe increase!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Picture This!

In Sweden, a lot of Swedes looked at me like I was crazy.  I took pictures of:

  • "Sand" (light gravel spread on snow)
  • Piles of doggy poop
  • Snow
  • Snow on things
  • Statues
  • People, kids (w permission)
  • Me brushing my teeth in prominent places
  • Dogs.

I have gotten some of the same looks as I photograph:
  • Trees
  • Bushes
  • People standing in line (one guy was reluctant about giving permission)
  • Food
  • People working
  • Bread slicer.

I typically ask permission when there are people involved.  In Sweden, I was only turned down a couple of times.  Yesterday I asked to take a picture of some dried mopani worms which are a popular snack food here.  One lady said "no", adamantly; another said 10 pula to take a picture.

I'll wait for a more willing subject.

Yesterday, Brenda and I were outside the UB soccer stadium and were snapping a picture of the big statue of the Cape Buffalo, the team mascot.  Two young guys of about 10 and 8 ran up and wanted to be included in the photo.  Here they are:

Photos are neat because they let us share experiences.  Sharing, especially with dear friends, is a great joy.

Thanks for sharing, and thanks for being a friend.

"A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."       Prov 18:24

Monday, March 18, 2013

Arguing for the ^

I have always admired Judaism.  This was G^d’s ordained theocracy.  Like everything else, when we fallen creatures added our own touches, we corrupted it.  As in Noah and the ark, when we humans had so corrupted G^d’s creation that there was little hope for salvaging it, G^d started afresh with a small group of survivors.  Hence the birth of Christ and Christianity.
But there are some very useful aspects of Jewish tradition.  The menorah, the marked door posts (mezzusah), the Shema, the Chekky yanu (spelling?), the reverence for the name of the L^rd, all serve as good reminders of the WHO and WHAT of our great and only G^d.

You probably have noted that I never spell out L^rd, or G^d.  The observant Jews would, and many still, never spell out these words, lest the paper they are written on be accidentally disgraced.

So, since I am not Jewish, why observe this “superstition”.  

The simple answer is, I am looking for all the help I can get.  As Chesterton observed, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting.  Rather it has been found hard, and not tried.”

In my experience, becoming a Christian is very easy, living as a Christian is a substantial challenge.  Most everything in the western world cries out to be selfish, be materialistic, keep up, buy up, live it up.  “You only go around once in life…” (I bet you know the rest of that beer commercial.  See what I mean).

So, if a little spelling reminds me of the Holy, Righteous, Awesome, L^rd, Savior, Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, Sovereign, G^d; so be it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Anyone have any Questions?

I began class today in my  usual manner.  “Does anyone have any questions about anything we have covered?”
A girl in the class of about 100 students shyly raises her hand.  “What’s a t-test good for?”  Although I have explained it at least three times before, I assure her I’ll do it again in just a minute.

Another girl a row back raises her hand.  “Yes, what is your question?”
“Could you repeat the last lesson?” she asks without timidity.  She is asking me to repeat a 2-hour class in a one-hour time slot.  Furthermore, the majority of these students heard that lecture on Monday.

“Were you in class Monday?”  I ask.  “No”, she says.
I give a very unusual answer.  “No!”  I rarely turn down student requests, but I make an exception this time.

I don’t fault her.  I guess it was worth asking.  Class attendance is not very good.  Every student is on scholarship, as I mentioned in an earlier post.  Students get a monthly allowance, just for being enrolled.

“Jesus, Holy Spirit, G^d, will you repeat for the 1000th time the same lesson you taught just yesterday?”

G^d is infinitely more patient than I am, but I suspect at times, G^d too says, “No!”  I’m not sure of this, I just know that Jesus never seemed to force people to believe, or trust, or obey.

Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." Gen 6:3

I'd say 120 years is pretty patient!