Frank’s December 2016 Update

A joyful and peaceful Christmas be yours!

Frank’s December 2016 Update

Dear Saints and Aints.


“In 1492 Columbus sailed the Ocean blue.”

It is said that when he left he did not know where he was going. When he arrived he did not know where he was. When he returned he did not know where he had been.

This, no doubt, can be applied to some of my letters. Yet, a Christmas letter should actually be easy to produce.

Christmas! What a tapestry of wonderful themes! Themes resplendent with Ivory palaces, a lowly hay-filled crib, a poor baby with glorious angels and lowly shepherds in attendance. A choir of angels floating above, proclaiming “Glory to God in the Highest” joined by the bleating sheep who, more or less, “proclaimed” the same only in  a different “language”… like the poem below:

“The mighty stars above
His wonder do proclaim;
The little dew drop in the grass
Does very much the same.”

What contrasts! Yet, what unity in purpose – to proclaim the Glory of God in the highest!

And in the crib – the baby – of whom John the Baptist says, “Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.”

Senseless mockers dismiss this as a fable. The Nativity narrative is not a fable; it is not couched in the language of a fable – “Once upon a time…” but is replete with historical facts, figures, and places as we read in the Gospel of Luke:

1In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)And everyone went to their own town to register … So, Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David…” (Luke 2:1-4)

Saints be encouraged; rejoice! We are celebrating a real event that took place at a real location, enacted by real people at a real time – the birth of Jesus Christ, our Savior. About the events in the Gospels Peter wrote:

“For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
(2 Peter 1:16)

The apostle John concurred:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
(1 John 1:1)

This should inspire any self-respecting wordsmith to produce a masterpiece for that selfsame purpose – to bring:

Glory to God in the highest!

One need not be a wordsmith to express that sentiment; one only needs to look about, and the words of the hymn “When all thy mercies, O my God…” spontaneously come to mind.

 “When all thy mercies, O my God,
my rising soul surveys,
transported with the view, I’m lost
in wonder, love and praise.
Ten thousand thousand precious gifts
my daily thanks employ;”

To mind come our kids, whose faces are often draped in joy, and the sound of their laughter, being not far behind the Angels’ “Gloria in excelsis deo.” Their garments however, never mind how hard we try, do not qualify them to become a member of that heavenly choir; though the lowly shepherds might not have objected to their presence in their midst…

Right now they are preparing themselves for Christmas dramas, dances, and a host of other activities to dazzle their audience. We have amazing kids! If there was a way to prepare their tummies for the Christmas dinner that, no doubt, would take precedence over all other activities…

Then there are our volunteers and Ethan who are busy teaching English, guitar and a host of other things. Ethan continues to work on the Childcare project. Ben Albrecht prepared a beautiful, brief Christmas video; to see it just follow the link below.

Praise is due to God for the multitude of friends – you Saints – angels in work clothes, who through your gifts and care and prayer make the radiant joy on the faces of our kids and the sound of happy laughter possible.

I praise God above all for Bapu, for the gift of a successor. He is the mover behind all that moves; bearer of all the burdens. The little kids love him! He patiently and carefully listens to them, and, unlike me, he never raises his voice.

Do pray for him for courage, wisdom and strength, and that he will have the good will of all powers there be. Pray for us all!

Frank, Bapu, staff and all the kidlets


Christmas Video:

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The Boy and the Sparkler

My Christmas story for my boys

Adopted for my audience from: The Little Match Girl, by Hans Christian Anderson

That particular Christmas Eve was exceptionally cold, even for Delhi. The wind blew through the streets making late shoppers hurry to get home. Unnoticed by the dwindling crowd, a 9 year old boy, Arun, called out, “Sparklers, sparklers, Christmas sparklers”, holding out a box of sparklers. Nobody paid attention to him; he was just another one of the myriad of boys and girls, large and small, peddling their wares.

As the evening progressed, one by one the lights went out as the shopkeepers downed their shutters. And with the darkness came the fear.

Already, a big beggar boy had beaten Arun on his face with a stick and forcefully removed his slippers – slippers that had belonged to his mother. Though too big for him, they had protected his feet from the numbing cold.

As the prospect of selling any of the sparklers dimmed, he briefly considered going home, but he dismissed the thought. There too was fear, as his father would certainly savagely beat him for coming home without some money to buy his country liquor; neither would there be an escape from the cold, as the wind was blowing through the many cracks in the walls of the shack he called home. As for hunger, he would not escape from that at home either, as there was not a scrap of food in the shack that his father would not have already eaten.

Not knowing what else to do, he curled up against the back wall of a big bungalow, only for a moment, he told himself, to escape the wind. There was no way to escape from the cold, neither from hunger and fear. When he could not fight his fear and cold any longer he decided to light a sparkler; “Only one,” he promised himself.

Sparkler Start

The sparkler burst into light. In the light of the dancing sparks he saw, to his amazement, that the wall he was leaning against was transparent, and he saw tables laden with food for a Christmas party. With a little shriek of joy he reached his hand through the wall to grasp one of the dainties. Then the sparkler sputtered out, the mirage disappeared, and the darkness returned – his hunger unassuaged.

Having forgotten his promise he quickly lit another sparkler, “The last one,” he promised himself. This time the sparkler conjured up a new scene. The side of the shop he was facing suddenly lit up, the walls became translucent and displayed shelves and tables stuffed with warm blankets and beautiful clothes. He leapt up with a squeal of joy trying to grab a blanket, but before he could reach it, the sparkler sputtered out, the mirage vanished, the oppressive darkness returned, and the cold seemed more intense.

Then the tears started, tears which he had kept in abeyance; boys don’t cry, but now the sheer weight of disappointment and loneliness of hunger and cold overwhelmed him.

Let his father do to him what he wants; he was beyond caring; he lit another sparkler. The next scene must have resulted out of his loneliness that bore down on him, for he saw a beautiful garden with children running and playing and singing. Then there was a man; he was far away, but then suddenly Arun recognized him from a picture he had seen somewhere. “Jesus,” he whispered. “Jesus!” now louder as he reached out to the distant figure, pleading with the sparkler to hold on a little longer, “Just a little longer, please!” he pleaded. His last “Jesus” mingled with the sound of the dying sparkler. And the darkness returned. The loneliness became unbearable.

Sparkler End

No power in heaven or on earth would stop him from lighting the last sparkler. He had to see Jesus again! His shaking hand just managed to make it catch the flame from the dying match. As the sparkler blazed into life, he was not disappointed. Yes, the same garden, the children were playing and, yes, there was Jesus. He was very close, now looking at him. He cried out “Jesus” in desperation and with all his strength, stretching out his arm with longing. Just then the sparkler started its death sputter, but before it died, the hand of Jesus reached out to him, drew Arun to himself. This time – the darkness did not return.

The next day the shopkeeper found the emaciated body of a little boy on a heap of garbage next to his shop. His face marked by an angry bruise, a bruise that still could not hide the happy smile. He didn’t know why; he saw only the body; the spirit was with Jesus.

This is the real meaning of Christmas: Jesus came from heaven to take us to heaven.

Some might accuse me of having produced a tear jerker; my children were entranced as they entered the reality of little Arun’s life. This accusation is born out of ignorance of the real situation in which even some of our boys lived in the slums. One lady brought some pillows and clothes for our kids for Christmas. She told a friend of ours, “These children are very happy.” Indeed they are, because they know what they have escaped from. Sure they enjoy going home for a “holiday”, because they return there as “tourists”; living there as “citizens” is a different matter. It often is hell.

Some of my readers have used up many sparklers in pursuit of many things that briefly illuminated their life – only to have the darkness return. Of those which we have left shall we not use one to reach out to Jesus, to call out to him? Then, when that last sparkler sputters out – the darkness will not return.


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The Woodpeckers in the Ark!

Any news about the persecution of Christians is sure to catch the attention of the church. In Iran a Christian pastor is under the death sentence. Seventy percent of Christians murdered in 2012 were killed in Nigeria. A recent report said that two churches in Sri Lanka are closed due to opposition by Buddhist monks. Much more is happening around the world that goes unreported by the media.

In a way the killing of Christians is an admission of failure by the various religions. They can’t handle the competition; it is like breaking another runner’s leg to win. It is a compliment! (This however does not mean that our hearts do not go out to our suffering brothers and sisters around the world.)

But as Martin Luther, in the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”, says:

“The body they may kill;
God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.”

These attacks will not harm the church. They can kill the messengers but not the message.

The real danger to the church is in wholesale rejection within the church of the authority of the Bible. The foundation is under attack not by gun wielding non-Christian zealots but by smooth talking wolves in sheepskin from within the church. As it has been said, the most dangerous animal that Noah took into the ark was the woodpecker…ark

One pastor said, “I rather have heresy in my church than schism.” Yeah? Hear what Elijah said to the people on Mount Carmel: “Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing.”

What this pastor is saying is that the Word of God is not important – heresies are not founded on the Word of God – but peace. Jeremiah says, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:11)

“They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:5, 6)

“If we compare what the Apostle John said with what a famous Church Growth advocate says, we encounter a problem. John says that the world will not listen to a true, unsullied Christian message. Rick Warren says that anybody can be won to Christ if we discover a message that will interest them through promising to meet their felt needs. The Church Growth idea is that we must study man (using the latest sociological, psychological, and anthropological insights) to determine how to create a church that will grow and a message that will be popular through appealing to a target audience. These concepts are contradictory. The Biblical idea is that we must speak God’s unchanging message of the gospel whether the world hates us or not: ‘If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you’ (John 15:19). Someone is wrong here and I do not think it is the inspired Apostle John.” Bob DeWaay

Paul tells Timothy, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

But God is not interested in what we want to hear rather in what he wants us to hear. Look at the Schema, Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

“HEAR O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart …”

If somebody advocates a method that will work if followed closely, then God is not needed any more, because it is the method that brings the results. If a closely followed method will turn us into a saint where is the need for the Holy Spirit? Is sanctification the result of following a method or abandoning our lives to God, to Christ? Are we turning into spiritual Pavlovian dogs?

The failure in such method-oriented growth program promises is that God, whose name is tagged on to show it is Christian, will not cooperate; He will not show up. The Almighty will not be manipulated.

We must preach the whole counsel of God. It behooves us to listen carefully to what is prayed, what is sung and what is preached; is it Biblical?

If we water down the Gospel to please all, then to paraphrase Paul, “In that case the offense of the cross has been removed” (Galatians 5:11).

Martin Luther says that, “When the cross is abolished, and the rage of tyrants and heretics ceases on the one side, and all things are in peace, this is a sure token that the pure doctrine of God’s Word is taken away.”

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Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go…

I just got my Indian visa renewed for another year. After 41 years in the country that should have become easier, but – it hasn’t. But neither has my love for this country nor my commitment to it abated.

If you ask me, “Why do you love this country?” as some of my Indian friends do, I am hard-pressed to explain it. It certainly is not a mushy, romantic love; a walk through a slum or some backward villages or seeing how some people live in the big cities will disabuse you of such a kind of love. I think it is a love bent on the good for people. It is sort of like the Bible says of God, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…” This certainly is not a mushy, romantic love. Whatever, I believe it is a love the Holy Spirit poured into my heart. I am immensely privileged.

When some people talk about going to work in another country, their commitment is summed up in, “Let’s wait and see what it is like.” The old cliché “Missionaries are not those who cross the sea but those who see the cross,” certainly cannot be applied to them. The cross speaks of supreme sacrifice and sacrifice is certainly not in vogue with the “Let’s wait and see what it is like” types.

It contrasts strangely with the commitment of missionaries of old. Below are but a few of the many that though unknown to the world or the church laid their lives on the line for their Savior and by doing so heard the Savior’s “well done thou good and faithful servant.”

William Carey died 9 June, 1834 (aged 72) in Serampore, India

Hudson Taylor died 3 June, 1905 (aged 73) Changsha, Hunan, China

Adoniram Judson died 12 April, 1850 (aged 61) at sea in the Bay of Bengal

Amy Carmichael died 18 January, 1951 (aged 83) Dohnavur, Tam, India

Ida Scudder died, aged 89, at her bungalow at Kodaikanal

Mark Buntain died 1981, in Calcutta, India.

Father Damien, Before...

Father Damien, Before…

...and After

…and After

Another beautiful story of commitment is that of Father Damien de Veuster. He began ministering to leprosy patients on the remote Kalaupapa Peninsula of Molokai Island, where some 8,000 people had been banished amid an epidemic in Hawaii in the 1850’s. The priest eventually contracted the disease, also known as Hansen’s disease, and died in 1889 at age 49.

“He went there (to Hawaii) knowing that he could never return,” “He suffered a lot, but he stayed.”

Admittedly the visa restrictions in many countries make things difficult and uncertain, but at least we should come with the attitude, “Here I will stay till the Government does us part — and not an unpleasant situation”. The latter you will meet in abundance and so “legitimate” reasons to quit – if you want to quit.

Enshrine in your heart the admonition of St. Paul in Galatians 6:9,

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper
time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up.”

Place these lines on the wall of whatever dwelling place you will inhabit:

“I wanted to commune with God
I went upon the highest steeple.
God said to me,
‘Go down again, I live among the people.’”

Times will come (and I am an expert on the following) when you want to run away from people, away from hearing the constant pleas for help. But you will only still their voices in your ear, not still their need, not their pain.

Jesus in the high priestly prayer in John 17 prayed, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18.

When we figure out why God sent his Son into the world and under what conditions he lived and ministered and finally died, we can figure out what it means for us to be sent into the world.

If anybody is not prepared to meet these conditions then what a church officer said to D. L. Moody, when he applied for church membership, could very well apply to you:

“Young man (or young woman), you can serve God better by keeping still.”

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It’s me, it’s me, it’s me oh Lord…

The church is comprised of individuals, and the state of the church reflects the spiritual state of the individuals within this community.

If then, the church is you and I, are we not responsible for the state of the church? If therefore there is any need for change must it not come through you and me? By the same token are we not also called to be guardians of the church – we the ordinary Christians?

As D. L. Moody wrote:

“If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced that it must be done by men and women of average talent.”

D. L. Moody certainly was such a man. He applied for church membership but was rejected. One church officer told him, “Young man, you can serve God better by keeping still.” (Nice guy).

Alexander Whyte, agreeing with Moody, said something along the lines of, “God has determined that the church will grow by the work of simple people with simple methods.” The Hoi polloi.

We are certainly glad Moody didn’t take the church officer’s advice, which should encourage us to disregard such advice by wellmeaning people.

Of course both Moody and Whyte echo the words of Paul to the Corinthian church in 1 Cor. 1:26, “For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble;”

Sure there are gifted people as we read In Exodus 35:30-34, but they were thus by the power of the Holy Spirit for a particular task or ministry.

“Then Moses said to the Israelites, ‘See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills.’”

Admittedly the true saints will always be few in number, but as Jesus reminds us, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Not only are we few, but as far as the world is concerned – insignificant.

But who cares about the opinion of the world? As Tertullian said, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”

Whatever God asks us, the not-specially-gifted, to do is simple so that the least of the least of the saints can do it, and that is PRAY!

“…Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.”
Eph. 6:18

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven…”
2 Chronicles 7:14

We need to return to being “prayer-closet-people”. Surely there are many among us who hunger and thirst for righteousness who, like the Psalmist, cry out, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Psalm 42:1

But for most Christians this seems too simple; we do not believe in the power of prayer! We want a “Method Driven Church”, methods to attract crowds.

Paul’s lament in Galatians 3:3 is mine: “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Are we deaf to the Word of God that he spoke to Zerubbabel, “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6. Haven’t we grasped Judges 6:34? “So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.”

Karachi 1956 - working as carpenter

I am convinced that the work of the church, its growth and its protection from heresy must be done by men and women of average talent, driven not by a methodology but by sound theology – a theology that proudly proclaims, “’Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6.

I have found on the mission field that we, simple people by the simple method of loving and caring and often by desperate prayer, can find for ourselves, and thereby for Christ, a place in the hearts of people. I don’t love people so that they become disciples of Jesus Christ, but I want them to become disciples of Jesus Christ because I love them.

I want to echo in my life that which was said of Jesus: “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Acts 10:38

I know it is said, “Let others praise you”, but it is sometimes nice to do it ourselves; so let me tell this: The other day three of the young fellows who cook for Bapu and me were sitting in my room. After a lot of chewing the rag one commented in all sincerity, “Bhaisahib, you are like God to us (meaning most of our kids).” It was not that he considered me God, but that he perceived God’s care and love demonstrated through what I did for them –through a simple ordinary man.

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Don’t quit! Don’t run away! Hang on a little bit longer…

Just around the corner is God’s, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’swell done happiness!” Matthew 25:23.

When I became a Christian in November 1964 I made myself the promise never to run away from a bad situation; there were many times when I was sorely tempted to break that promise. There was no money; often I struggled to feed the kids; I felt what I did was not considered important or appreciated. There were other missionaries doing this and that in the kingdom of God. There was Mark Buntain’s work in Calcutta and the Prasad’s beautiful school in Bokhara to which visitors flocked — while I only looked after a bunch of raggedy kids in buildings, where in days of yore the boys vied with the bedbugs for space … I never envied anybody anything, I just wished I had some of it. But I didn’t quit! I didn’t run away! I hung on a little bit longer and a little bit longer…

In the olden days before the advent of the computer I hammered out my letters on an old Remington typewriter; at times I was so weary I felt like vomiting, but I told myself, “Just one more letter.” That one became two and three and…

I am often under considerable stress because continually people come to me for financial help. I have often cried, saying over and over again, “Father I can’t, I can’t, I can’t! I have no money.” Then I surprise myself and – I can!

We are not called to be successful; we are called to be faithful, to hang in there and do the best we can with who we are and with what we have. The successful part is God’s job.

God’s formula for success is enshrined in Joshua 1:8. It is a formula that any man or woman, any pastor or missionary can apply.

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

What God told Joshua, he keeps telling us; we just don’t want to listen as it seems too easy, too simple – after all we are educated, sophisticated, intelligent people. The real problem is that being twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, in the Word seems asking a bit too much. This besides it isn’t very glamorous.

But there is no special approach to the ministry unless working your butt off and a lot of “stick-to-ity” is considered a special approach. The beauty of that is that you don’t have to copy anybody else to do it. Still remember, “Success doesn’t always equal effort.” Hudson Taylor said, “To be a missionary you need three things, patience, patience, patience.” This is time honored advice; so is Winston Churchill’s, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”

We are oft so blinded by the few mega churches and mega ministries that dot the American continent that we do not see the many, many who like us struggle with dwindling members and dwindling resources.

Let us admit to ourselves that most of us are not mega-church-pastor material; we don’t have the charisma, the flair, but most of all we still answer the distraught jailor’s plea in Acts 16:30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” with “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.” Or the crowd in Acts 2:37-40 who cried out, “Brothers, what shall we do?” with Peter’s reply, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

If you have been faithful in that – you have been faithful, and the “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” will greet us on the portal of Heaven.

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Ask for the Old Paths — The Good Way…

Ask For The Old Paths — The Good Way…

This is what the Lord says:

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls.
But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

Jeremiah 6:16

The words of Jesus find an echo in Jeremiah 6:16.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. ”

Matthew 23:37

Are the old paths – the teachings of the Bible – important to us? If not, can we then still claim to be Christians?

I shudder at the thought that so many Christians go through life without a shred of knowledge pertaining to the matter of their salvation or to the nature of God, revealed in the Bible, Crossroads_2whom they claim to love.

Does it matter to our salvation or can we even claim to be saved when we know nothing about such truths as: the immortality of the soul, the sinfulness of human nature; the work of Christ for us as our Savior; the work of the Holy Spirit in us, forgiveness of sins, justification, conversion, faith, repentance. If knowledge of those teachings doesn’t matter than why not throw the Bible away? It then has no value.

My heart aches for the church, a church where the majority of its members have no knowledge of the doctrines that should govern our life of faith. How can anybody glibly, if ever, recite the creed?

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…”

How can we Sunday after Sunday repeat these words without a shred of knowledge as to what we affirm and claim to believe?

How can we find peace in the words of the Palmist when the One who speaks those words is an unknown to us?

 “Be still, and know that I am God:
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth

Psalm 46:10

We are strangers to God’s attributes; how can we possibly “Be still”, “relax”, “let go”? We don’t know the power of the One who says “Be still”!

The daily fare of many Christians are the “How to do books”. “Thirty days to become holy”; “Thirty-one days to know your Bible”. I hate these “How to do books”. For many people they have taken the place of the Bible. But it is of the Bible that Joshua 8:1 speaks;

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

The Apostle Paul writes,

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

Imagine that to happen in 30 easy lessons. Well does Jeremiah express Jehovah’s lament;

“My people have committed two sins:
 They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,

 broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

Jeremiah 2:13

But, “Nature abhors a vacuum” therefore the world fills the vacuum left by the church. It fills it with its own teachings, with its own philosophies, with its own religions; we are losing the battle for the hearts and souls of our people but cry foul and blame governments – the governments of our own creation.

Rather – those of us who still call themselves Christians, when walking by a structure of another religions in our cities, should beat their breast and confess, “I added a brick to this building; I added a bell to this temple. When reading about laws promulgate contrary to our faith, confess, “I helped, by indifference, to promulgate this law and that law.”

Shall we now not heed the voice of God?

“Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them.
Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.
“But you ask, ‘How are we to return?'”
Malachi 3:7.

The answer:

The Book Our Mothers Read

John Greenleaf Whittier

We search the world for truth; we cull
The good, the pure, the beautiful,
From graven stone and written scroll.
And all old flower-fields of the soul;
And, weary seekers of the best,
We come back laden from the quest,
To find that all the sages said
Is in the Book our mothers read.

Let us return to the old paths – the good way – The Bible.

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What Divides Us?

Recently, while discussing a situation in a Christian Bible College in India with an acquaintance, trying to solicit my understanding and sympathy, he remarked, “We are both foreigners and we understand each other”. No doubt that is true but after 41 years in India, understanding a situation and agreeing with the solution is a different thing.

At our church in Nagpur, The New Hope Church, one of the teens, in absence of the keyboard player, grabs the keyboard – which he cannot play, to accompany the pastor who is sometimes off-key when he sings. Add to that a group of boys who sing out of harmony you have quite a concoction of sound. It bothers nobody but me. I finally convinced myself that if everybody enjoys it, and enjoy they do, I must be wrong. Also, after all I go to church to praise God and not stew about the atonal noise emanating from the sound system – even if it sometimes gives me a headache. Being deaf on one ear and having only 80% hearing on the other ear of course helps.  In the past I used to rage in my heart over the table cloth on the communion table that was always askew. I would sometimes get up and straighten it out. Once Bapu plainly told me, “This is our church not your church”. This means if it doesn’t bother us why should it bother you? A good question.  I needed that reminder! Now, the table cloth during communion is straight, the curtain in front of the backdoor on the platform is closed – just to please me not because it makes any difference to them. These are but a few of the things that bothered me and I must confess – some still do. But as Bapu rightly observed, “This is our church not yours.”

In dealing with another culture we should remember it is not our prejudices but theirs that count. It certainly would solve a lot of problems.

The Church professes to have but one Head – the Lord Jesus Christ; one authoritative voice – His voice. The old hymns states: “We are not divided all one body we…” To any observer this seems wishful thinking; the instructions issuing forth from one head to its various members does not give contradictory orders. Yet, we are divided. Where are we going wrong?

The Gospel speaks only one language!

Looking at Christ’s commandments, the life of the church should be super-simplistic;

The first one: “…and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30-31 (NASB)

The second one is: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19 (NIV)

The problem comes in when we insist that others should fulfil these commandments our way. They should love God and men our way; they should disciple people our way. Who says?  They not only bring the seed (gospel) but also a bag of cultural soil to plant it in.

Rupert Brooke epitomizes this in his poem The Soldier.

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;


“a richer dust concealed” says it all. My culture is superior to yours. The way I arrange the chairs is superior to the way you arrange them ad nauseam. My way of loving God is superior to your way; my way of making disciples of all nations is superior to your way; now get with it.

Admittedly this does not only apply to foreign missionaries but also to some missionaries from within our country – south versus north.

And so, when we move with the seed, the gospel, to another country, another culture, leave the soil at home. Let us remember, the soil you will find is qualified to nourish the seed, to produce it 100 fold yield.

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The Pancake Story: A Parable

The other day, Shamu one of the college students who cooks for Bapu, myself and whosoever comes, made pancakes.

Talking to Ethan a young man from Canada who is here helping Bapu, I said, “These pancakes aren’t very good.” Ethan who loves pancakes and is considered an authority on pancakes, muffins and assorted bakery stuff, countered, “They are good.” I continued, “He should have put bananas in”. Ethan’s reply, “But he did.” “Oh,” I said. “But he also should have added some vanilla extract that would have made them tastier.” “He did that too.” Ethan replied. “Oh!” I said again and then continued, “Well I really wouldn’t know; I didn’t eat any.”IMG_0052

I come across a Pancake Story all the time with young and even not so young people, people who visit or come as volunteers to our home in Nagpur, except it is not about pancakes but about the Bible. At the end of the conversation, though not admitted, it comes to the same thing; “Well I really wouldn’t know; I didn’t read any of it.” This is not fully true as at least they read the cover page, “Holy Bible”.

The other day I read that 80% of Christians don’t read their Bibles daily; and I am afraid, monthly and yearly would not be too much of an exaggeration. The obvious reason behind this is not just laziness but the deeply rooted belief that the Bible is not worth reading. That it contains nothing of value for their daily lives. It has nothing to offer. They come to this conclusion not because they studied the Bible but rather the reverse – they never did.

At my first year in Bible College, I am not sure it was discontinued; we had to fill out what I called the “weather report” – whether or not we prayed and read the Bible, and of course how long. I prayed three minutes or did what I considered to be prayer and read unconnected verses from the Bible. The bits and pieces I read, most of the time, didn’t make sense because they were unconnected to anything else. It all was drudgery.

It seems many Christians have not graduated from that perspective. We feel sort of proud just to have “labored” through today’s reading of Daily Bread. We are not interested to get to know God just fulfill a felt obligation. The idea is that every interaction with God be it prayer, Bible reading or ministry is an unpalatable duty. We are like the elder brother in the Parable of the Prodigal son, we serve our father out of duty not love.

That is why there is no joy in serving God. There is no “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Psalm 42; nor is there “I was glad when they said unto me; Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122.

Yet to read the Bible is no more a duty than looking at your GPS while driving. It is our ignorance of the Bible that makes us turn to famous people about their idea about Jesus Christ and are thrilled when they think he is a nice guy. We are disturbed by the late Gagarin, the Russian cosmonaut who flew around the earth in a spaceship and proclaimed, “I didn’t see God anywhere!” Or Stephen Hawking when he stated “there is no heaven.” No doubt for him there will not be. The only people who can talk authoritatively about God and the things of God are the people who read their Bible and are in constant communion with him.

Therefore, the majority of Christians are like a drying lake that has stopped being fed by a stream of fresh water. The level sinks below the outlet on the other end. And our dullness and dryness affects the whole congregation. After all, we cannot teach what we don’t know. And therefore there is no “…but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”

We are not doing any exploits great or small. We seek for job satisfaction and not for satisfying God – our ultimate employer. We seek for joy in what we are doing and not in him for whom we are doing it because – having surrendered the Bible to the attic of our lives we neither know him nor know what he expects from us.

And so the tragedy is rather than abandoning ourselves joyfully to the tasks we are engaged in we flee from job to job in the hope of finding God’s will for our life, the will he clearly stated in his word – “making disciples of all men!”


January 25, 2013 · 4:32 pm

May We Be Living Stones

Is the church sleeping? Is the church in decline? Is the church dead? Not so! Church members may be sleeping; the number of churches might be in decline; but the Church of which our Lord Jesus speaks is alive, vibrant and growing. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matthew 16:18. And of the members of that Church he says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” John 10:29

I am afraid we are confusing two entities, the Church of which Christ speaks and of which he says, “I will build my church…” and the physical churches with all its cantankerous, warring-against each adherent of various hues of orthodoxy and plagued by heresies galore. Somehow most people believe everybody to be a Christian who by accident of birth is called thus. In years past I associated a person with a Christian name with being a Christian. In that case Joseph Stalin could be considered one – but even the most compassionate saint would quail at that.

Basically the Church, the people who worship God in spirit and in truth, has not changed over the centuries in either numbers or quality. It seems Enoch didn’t have much company while walking with God; Noah had a congregation of 8 and Elijah complained that he was the only one left, but God, showing him his math was out, revealed that the number was actually 7,000. Paul lamented that everybody cares more for his own things than the things of Christ.

The worldliness of the church and in the church has also been lamented by many of God’s great men and women throughout the centuries and – still continues. Jonathan Edwards who shook his church with the sermon “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”, lost his job when he insisted that only born again Christians (as if there are any others) should take part in the Lord’s Supper. Apparently, the congregation had the numbers but not the saints. Edwards bewailed the fact that many who considered themselves eligible for heaven fooled themselves; they had a consonant too many in the word Saint – namely the first one.

Admittedly traditions change, the places of worship change and a host of other things. When hymns were first introduced in the churches those who believed that only psalms should be sung cried heresy just as others did when the hymnbook in many churches, made way for songs projected on walls and screens; musical instruments, when first introduced were considered as coming straight from hell. While I am tolerant, at one time though, when miniskirt clad teenage girls sat in the choir benches of some churches, I thought I smelled sulfur tainted smoke coming up through the floorboards especially when I noticed that the pastor for once had no problem getting the congregation to move up to the front…

Admittedly it appears the number of people in the various churches seems in decline and so the fervor for God and his concerns. As sort of an encouragement, John the apostle put his finger – or quill – on the issue of people leaving the church or though still there, have actually left the church:

“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” 1 John 2:19.

Jesus placed these people in the first three categories of the parable of the sower. Matthew 13:3-8. In the parables of the wide and narrow gate and the wide and narrow path he indicates that the dead stones will by far outnumber the living stones – the ones Jesus uses to build his Church.


I look at the various churches and congregations and denominations across the world as a huge quarry, a quarry from which the Lord Jesus Christ will garner the living stones – to build his Church – the Church whose number is ever increasing and the Church that the gates of hell will not overcome or rob it of its living stones.

And so rather than lament the decline of the churches in both quantities and qualities let us lament the decline of our own spirituality that prevents us from being living stones; a decline that shows itself in decreased church services, in decreased membership and closed churches and a decline that shows itself in dwindling support for missions and other church related activities. God forbid that it should be said of us, due to our indifference –

“Woe to you …! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” Matthew 23:13.

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