This past Sunday morning, our Worship Pastor read the following piece during out time together at church. Given that today is Thanksgiving Day, I hope everyone reading this post will take what all it says to heart, and then acknowledge God's blessings upon you. I know I have.
Several of my blog postings as of late have had to do with my recent trip to India. This being Thanksgiving week, I thought I would share one more. A common site along the streets and roads of India are the ubiquitous trash piles. They are, quite literally, everywhere.
They can be as small as twenty or thirty feet across; or they can go on for acres and acres and acres. What is sad is to see just how much life they sustain. Ones might expect to see rats and the like. But what is truly amazing is to see pigs, cows, and even horses browsing through the endless heaps of trash searching for sustenance.
And then, of course, there are the people - at times, hundreds of them. So many, in fact, that entire communities have sprung up in and around dumpsites, consisting of a maze of interconnected shanties and lean-tos which serve as permanent housing for otherwise homeless people.
Considering that a picture is supposedly worth a thousand words, I thought I would post a few here.
So, what do we make of this? Given that this is Thanksgiving week, the first thing I will simply say about all of this is: “Be thankful for how you have been blessed.” Most of us will never know this level of extreme poverty. Nor will we know the utter hopelessness that such circumstances instill within a human being. In truth, most people who reside here in the United States, as I do, have been blessed beyond measure by comparison with these people.
But I am speaking about much more than mere stuff. I am not just talking about what you have been given, but the overall circumstances of your life. As citizens of this great country, we have been blessed with freedom and with opportunity. For most of us, even if we do not like our current circumstances, at least we have the possibility of changing them. For that, too, I hope we are all thankful.
The second thing I will say is that, having been so blessed, it strikes me that we are obligated to try and do something to make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate. Granted, you may not be able to go to India, or any other third world country for that matter.
But we all know that there are numerous worthwhile organizations that provide opportunities for us to make life-changing contributions designed to help people in such circumstances. Most all of these are just a web search and a mouse click away on the internet.
And then, of course, there are a few who actually feel led to go to such people themselves, and to devote their own lives to trying to bring change to those of others. We call these people Missionaries. I will tell you that the older I get, the nobler I consider such a calling. This is because I have finally begun to appreciate what all this entails. Few of us will ever know the sacrifices many of them make in order to serve the Lord.
And yet, most all of them would tell you that it is well worth it. For the missionary, in his or her endeavor, attempts to alleviate, not just physical hunger, sickness, and darkness, but also spiritual hunger, sickness, and darkness. And this is commendable above all other pursuits. And my strong suspicion is, in its own unique way, it is every bit as rewarding as it is commendable.
In my last post, I referenced the work of a man named Doug Nichols. I thought today that I would post one more of his stories. I hope it speaks to you as much as it did me.
WITNESSING IN THE MANILA GARBAGE DUMP
It was in the early 1980s that Aries, a Filipino coworker, and I were standing at the top edge of the Manila (Philippines) garbage dump, in those days known as "Smoky Mountain," nearly ten stories high. Below us lay a village which was home to 15,000 people who eked out an existence at the dump.
It was early morning, around 5:45am, and the sun was just coming up. Aries and I had met at the dump to pray. We were asking God to assist us and the other team members in effectively reaching these extremely poor people with the Gospel of salvation in Christ.
As we prayed, an old man approached us. He had begun his day's work, scavenging at the dump. He was gathering aluminum cans to resell, but was too weak to carry many at the same time. He asked if we would guard the cans he had already gathered while he looked for more, and we gladly said yes. I guess it is okay to guard cans and pray at the same time. We continued to pray.
The old man came and went with his tin cans as Aries and I discussed and prayed about evangelism and church planting among the poor. After our prayer time, the old man approached with another load of cans. Since it was now daylight, I could see that he was really quite elderly. He was not wearing a shirt, had wrinkled skin, and was very skinny.
It is respectable in the Philippines to ask older people their age. I greeted the man, commented on the fact that he was up so early to work, and politely asked his age.
With a big smile, he answered, "Oh, it's wonderful that you asked. Today is my birthday! I am 78 years old today!"
Aries and I gave our congratulations and then broke out singing "Happy Birthday!" As we finished, we shook his hand and gave him a hug. He was so excited and thanked us very much for being so kind to him and singing for him on his birthday.
We then asked him if he was prepared to go to heaven. He did not know what we meant. We proceeded to share the Good News of salvation in Christ. After some time, this early morning can-gathering old man, this garbage dump resident, turned from his sins and in joy trusted Jesus Christ as Savior!
What a place to receive Christ— on the top of the Manila garbage dump.
The old man then invited us to his little shack to meet his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. During the next several weeks several in his family also trusted the Lord Jesus Christ.
I guess you could call this event "From the Dump to Glory"! All this came about as the result of a simple prayer meeting on top of a dump and in the process guarding a few dirty cans for an old man.
Anybody could have done the same.*
And again I will simply say, “Amen!” Thank you, Doug, for hearing the missionary call. Thank you for doing Kingdom work. And thank you to all others who hear and respond to that same missionary call. For, as the Apostle Paul says in his New Testament letter to the Romans (10:14-15):
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
From time to time, a story that I have been led to use in the pulpit seems to connect with people in some particularly special way. On such occasions, I am often asked for the source. This past Sunday morning, I was attempting to make the point that “people will not care how much we know until they know how much we care”. As I did, I read one such story.
It was one wherein Doug Nichols recounts how God gave him the opportunity to be an effective witness for Jesus while confined to a Tuberculosis sanitarium in India. It came directly from Rev. Nichols' web page.
So, for those who asked, I am posting it here today, along with the citation at the bottom of the page. I hope it speaks to you as much as it did me.
While serving with Operation Mobilization in India in 1967, tuberculosis forced me into a sanitarium for several months. I did not yet speak the language, but I tried to give Christian literature written in their language to the patients, doctors and nurses. Everyone politely refused.
I sensed many weren't happy about a rich American (to them all Americans are rich) being in a free, government-run sanitarium. (They didn't know I was just as broke as they were!)
The first few nights, I woke around 2:00 a.m. coughing. One morning during my coughing spell, I noticed one of the older and sicker patients across the aisle trying to get out of bed. He would sit up on the edge of the bed and try to stand, but in weakness would fall back into bed. I didn't understand what he was trying to do. He finally fell back into bed, exhausted. I heard him crying softly.
The next morning, I realized that the man had been trying to get up and walk to the bathroom! The stench in the ward was awful. Other patients yelled insults at the man. Angry nurses moved him roughly from side to side as they cleaned up the mess. One nurse even slapped him. The old man curled into a ball and wept.
The next night, I again woke up coughing. I noticed the man across the aisle sit up and again try to stand. Like the night before, he fell back whimpering. I don't like bad smells, and I
didn't want to become involved, but I got out of bed and went over to him. When I touched his shoulder, his eyes opened wide with fear. I smiled, put my arms under him, and picked him up.
He was very light, due to old age and advanced TB. I carried him to the washroom, which was just a small filthy room with a hole in the floor. I stood behind him with my arms under his armpits as he took care of himself. After he finished, I picked him up and carried him back to his bed. As I laid him down, he kissed me on the cheek, smiled, and said something I couldn't understand.
The next morning, another patient woke me and handed me a steaming cup of tea. He motioned with his hands that he wanted a tract.
As the sun rose, other patients approached and indicated they also wanted the booklets I had tried to distribute before. Throughout the day, nurses, interns, and doctors also asked for literature.
Weeks later, an evangelist who spoke the language visited me; and as he talked to others in the sanitarium he discovered that several had put their trust in Christ as Savior as a result of reading the literature!
What did it take to reach these people with the Gospel? It wasn't health, the ability to speak their language, or a persuasive talk. I simply took a trip to the bathroom. Anyone could have done that!
For my own part, all I can add to this beautiful story is a hearty “Amen!”
Today’ post is somewhat of a digression from my normal approach. It is primarily for those friends and members of our church who have asked me for the specifics of our recent trip to India. Accordingly, I thought I would post a brief itinerary of our trip, which lasted from Monday, 10/28/13 to Friday, 11/08/13.
On Monday, 10/28/13, we left McGhee Tyson Airport in Knoxville around 2:40pm and flew to Detroit. After a brief layover, we then flew to Paris, France. After yet another brief layover, we then proceeded on to India. We arrived in Delhi on Tuesday, 10/29/13, at around 11PM, and transferred to our hotel for the night. The next day, we returned to the airport for a flight to Bhopal, which lies some 500 miles further to the south.
We were met that evening by Rev. Mathews Varghese of Good News Bhopal (http://www.gnccbhopal.org/). Over the next three days (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, 10/31/13-11/02/13), I spoke five times at a Ministry Conference at Good News Bhawan (Hindi for "house") in Bhopal. The conference was sponsored by the Good News Center in Bhopal, and was designed for indigenous church planters and pastors in the greater Madhya Pradesh region. Approximately 60 pastors were in attendance - several of whom, I was told, travelled as much as 18 to 24 hours by train in order to participate.
During this time, my wife and the other members in our party were working with the children at the Jeeevan Jyoti School, as well as at the orphanage, both of which are run as extensions of the Good News Center in Bhopal (http://www.gnccbhopal.org/services/anmol-kids/).
Among many other activities, they also visited and worked in the women’s tailoring and literacy program. This ministry uses hands on methods as a means to change women's lives, teaching both sewing and literacy as ways to improve their personal standards of living and also to impart hope. (http://www.gnccbhopal.org/services/anugraha-tailoring-and
On Sunday, 11/03/13, I was privileged to speak at the Morning Worship Service at the Good News Center Church (http://www.gnccbhopal.org/about-us/). That afternoon, we departed for Agra.
The following day, Monday, 11/04/13, we visited the world famous Taj Mahal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taj_Mahal) as well as its sister monument: the Agra Red Fort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agra_Fort). Late that evening, we departed by train for Delhi, where we once again lodged for the night.
On Tuesday, 11/05/13, we travelled by high speed train trip to Haridwar, the famed Hindu Holy City on Ganges River (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haridwar), as well as Rishikesh, another famed pilgrimage site for Hindus in the foothills of the Himalayas (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rishikesh).
Later that evening, we travelled by car to Dehradun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehradun), the capital city of the state of Uttarakhand in the northern part of India. On the
way, we rode through the famed elephant corridor. Fortunately, we did not have any elephants cross our path. We made it to Dehradun and then spent the night at the Luther New Theological College (http://www.ntcdoon.org/).
(Just one short week later, a passenger train very near to where we were plowed into a herd of elephants, killing 7 of them and further injuring 10 more. Check out the story at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/speeding
ndia-8939117.html. Be advised, though, as the pictures are somewhat sad.)
The following day, Wednesday, 11/06/13, I was privileged to speak at another conference for members of the faculty and staff, as well as church planters form Northern India. Afterwards, we were given a guided tour of the facility by the founder, Dr. George Kuruvila Chavanikamannil. His is an inspiring story of leadership, especially of the power of vision and the reward for commitment. That afternoon, we returned to Delhi by high speed train and lodged again at the Hotel Southern.
On Thursday, 11/07/13, we spent the day sightseeing in Delhi. We visited such sites as Mahatma Gandhi’s Memorial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raj_Ghat_and_associated_memo
rials); the Qutub Minar, at 73 meters, the tallest spire in India, and, like the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qutub_Min
ar); the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official home of the President of India (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rashtrapati_Bhavan); the world famous Connaught Palace from colonial India(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connaught_Place,_New_Delhi); and the India Gate (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India_Gate).
A highlight of the day was the opportunity to ride an elephant through the streets of Delhi.
We finished the day with a little shopping and a hearty meal. Late that evening, around 11pm, we departed for the airport and our flight home. After travelling from Delhi to Amsterdam, we flew on to Atlanta, and then back in to Knoxville, arriving late in the evening on Friday, 11/08/13.
The total travel time, with layovers, is around 29 hours. Of course, the fact that one has to cross numerous time zones confuses everything, especially the internal clock in one's body. For my part, I went straight to McDonald’s and consumed massive amounts of beef. I then went directly home for a long hot shower. Thereafter, I crawled into bed and slept until Saturday afternoon.
It took another full week to get my internal clock back in proper working order. (In fairness, however, time change did occur while we were gone; and this most certainly had some impact on the length of time I needed to readjust my internal clock.)
The title of my post today is, of course, borrowed from E. M. Forster’s famed novel (which is itself borrowed from Walt Whitman's poem of the same name in Leaves of Grass). It is about a British lady who visits the country with the intention of seeing the "real India". For my part, I am thankful I got to go to India once again. I say again because this was my second trip.
On my first trip, 17 years ago, I went to dedicate the library at the New Theological College. The college itself is named in honor of the husband of a lady in the church I formerly pastored back in Georgia. Mrs. (Dr. Janie) New had given a substantial amount of money to Dr. George Chavanikamannil to help found the college in her late husband’s memory.
George's vision had been to train up one thousand, young, indigenous Indian pastors to share the Gospel in their native land. By God’s grace, they have now trained over two thousand graduates, and currently have over 330 students enrolled and studying for the Christian ministry.
That 1996 trip was a much shorter one for me. Both my sister (who was with me on the trip) and I got a severe case of "Delhi Belly" by eating the students' home-made brownies and drinking Kool-Aid made with unpurified water at the dedication ceremony. In fact, it was so severe that she wound up in the hospital; and we had to cut the trip short and fly home.
This time around, I was far better prepared. We managed not to get sick, to stay the full length we had planned, and to see much more of the country than before. Having been raised up reading Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book tales, I am happy to report that much of the wildlife for which India is noted is still there.
26,000 elephants along with untold numbers of monkeys still abound almost everywhere. While most of the tigers are restricted to national parks, they do, on occasion, still come down from the mountains and attack people. The Times of India has stories of several such examples posted online at: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/keyword/tiger-att
Also, the monuments of India are as breathtaking as they are purported to be. It is virtually impossible to gaze upon the Taj Mahal and not be filled with wonder. Ancient temples and other ruins abound throughout the countryside.
But the "real India" is most assuredly to be found in her people. And I do believe I was able to see the real India - especially in our visits to places like Bhopal and Haridwar. The emptiness evident in the faces of people (especially the eyes where there is such a blank stare) caught up in idol worship will tear your heart out. As will the utter hopelessness of people trapped in seemingly endless cycles of poverty.
Much of this is fueled by the fatalism one readily senses among them. This comes, in part, from their religion. But it also comes from the very rigid caste system. Although technically outlawed, this system of social stratification is still alive and well among the social life of most Indians (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste_system_in_India).
But, thankfully, that can all be contrasted with the authentic joy that is so abundantly evident in the countenances of those precious few Indians who have come to know Jesus Christ. They have been genuinely liberated and they know it! To be sure, the Christians of India are comparatively few in number - estimates are that only 2.5% of the country is Christian. But as my wife noted, these believers quite literally have a sparkle in their eye that most all other Indians do not.
Of course, as fellow believers, we know the reason for that. We know it is because they have found life, and life to the full (as John 10:10 says). We can only hope that other of their countrymen will do the same. India has officially outlawed evangelism by outsiders. Only indigenous missionaries can share the gospel there.
That is why I was very careful to speak only to people who were already believers while I was there. I was personally forbidden from sharing the gospel with non-believers. But I praise God for what He is doing through the faithfulness of those Indians who are believers.
Person after person that we met at the worship center at the Good News Center was a first generation believer. So were many of the Pastors, having given up everything to come out of Hinduism and follow Jesus Christ. Please pray for them as they continue their tremendous work there. For I am convinced that if there is a genuine picture of the New Testament church anywhere on this planet today, it is in India!
And I am glad I was able to witness it firsthand. It may very well have something to teach us here in the west as we find ourselves becoming increasingly counter-culture. I am also glad to continue to support it – both in my prayers and in other more tangible ways. I hope you will feel led to do the same.
A certain much ballyhooed boxer with a tattooed face has been in the news again this week, this time explaining why his fabled 58 match career did not go as he had planned. Apparently, his reason is that he was high on cocaine most of the time.
This would certainly explain a lot of his abhorrent behavior - like, for instance, why it was that he once bit one of his opponent’s ears half off! It might also explain his conviction for rape and the resultant prison sentence, among lots of other things.
Now, to be sure, my own career in the ring was no where near as long nor as controversial as his. By comparison, I only had a total of two bouts. The first occurred in the fourth grade before a sold out homeroom crowd. Sadly, my opponent, Richard, bested me.
Albeit, it is arguable that he cheated in order to do so. I seem to remember that he got me in a headlock from which I could not extricate myself. Obviously, from my perspective, this was a major violation of the rules in the WGSFF (World Grade School Fighting Federation). In fact, I am quite positive that I should have carried the day.
The second and final match saw me pitted against the terror of the eighth grade: a bully named Curt. As it was his nature to pick on people, he was enjoying repeatedly bumping into the back of my head while in the lunchroom assembly prior to home room. Little did he know, however, that he was playing with fire on that particular day! You see, I was facing an algebra test in first period for which I was clearly not prepared. Suffice it to say that my agitation level was already somewhat elevated.
As a result, when he repeatedly failed to comply with my polite requests that he cease and desist his annoyance, I decided to take my own stand against bullying. In short, I basically transferred my mathematical frustrations right on to his face! It was all over in a flash. As Opie told Andy, “I lit into him like a windmill in a tornado!” In the end, we both got a paddling from Mr. White; but Curt got a black eye to boot, while I got feted by my fellow classmates as 1973's version of “Jack the Giant-killer”!
In truth, I have never had too many fights. The reason for this is that I really have tried to follow the admonition of God’s Word in the Apostle Paul's New Testament Letter to the Romans (chapter 12: verse18, KJV), which says: “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
And yet, of course, no one can live a conflict-free life. Hence, my own two bouts referenced above. But even those fights, if indeed they may properly be called that, were, in reality, spats. They were merely petty disagreements resulting in squabbles over matters of very little consequence.
While on a recent trip to India, I witnessed something altogether different. I saw two young men fighting for an entirely different reason. They were fighting because, in point of fact, they were utterly desperate. They were fighting to survive. And neither could afford to lose. It happened this way…
We were at the train station in Bhopal early in the evening preparing to leave for Delhi. Two young adolescent boys got into a tussle over a shirt. One of them had on a pair of pants and a ragged shirt. The other had on only a pair of pants. Both of them were barefooted. That was pretty much the extent of their respective wardrobes. I would add, however, that neither appeared to have had either a meal or a bath in quite some time (if ever).
Apparently, one of them - I do not know which - had come upon a shirt. Equally apparent, the other felt as though the shirt should go to him. In short order, the argument grew until it erupted into violence. For our part (both me and those with me in my group), we stood, more or less stupefied, as the whole affair unfolded in rapid succession right before our eyes.
Despite that fact that the train platform was teeming with people, no one else seemed even to notice. And those who did obviously did not care, not in the least bit.
In fact, the only person who did seem to care was the station master. After a very brief moment, wherein the two young boys had beaten each other reasonably senseless, he came rushing out of the office and proceeded to punch and to kick them both soundly, as he sent them scurrying from the platform.
Now it appeared for all the world that that the only concern he had in the entire matter was that they take their issues elsewhere. The obvious facts that they were poor, homeless, naked, hungry, and utterly desperate never once seemed to enter into the equation.
I have thought about this episode many a time since it all unfolded. I have thought about the fact that these two young boys were utterly destitute. As the Psalmist once said (142:4) in the Old Testament, no one cared for their soul. For that matter, neither did anyone care for their body, or their mind, or any other part of them.
After all, in a third world country of 1.3 billion people, in a city of 15 million people, in a train station packed with thousands upon thousands of people, most all of whom live in absolute squalor, who could be bothered with two miserable and pathetic little street urchins?
And then, I have invariably been reminded of the words of Jesus in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew (25:31-46). More than reminded, I have been haunted by these words...
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
If I had it all to do over, I would have rushed in and offered to mediate that fight. True, it all happened so fast that we were caught off guard. True, I did not speak their language (as I spoke only English and they obviously spoke only Hindi). True, I may not have known all the extenuating circumstances.
But I could have easily stepped forward and parted with enough rupees to ensure that they each had a new shirt, and a meal, and a bath, not to mention a brief respite from their “dog eat dog” existence.
But alas, regrettably, I did not. Because it all unfolded so quickly, I simply did not react soon enough. And I cannot do anything now to go back and change that experience. In effect, I lost that round to the Evil One.
But while I cannot change what happened in the past, I can change what happens in the future. And I, for one, do not intend to lose another round to the Devil. It may be quite a while before I return to India, but I venture into similarly mean streets every single day, right here in America.
And I hope that, as God gives me opportunity, I will be faithful to minister in His name. You see, I may have lost to Richard the first time out; but I rebounded with a definitive win over Curt the second time around.
In a similar manner, I may have lost the first round to the Devil on an obscure train platform in Bhopal, India; but I intend to rebound the second time around, and knock him flat on his face right here in my own backyard!
For, my suspicion is, the only record that will really matter when I get to Heaven is not who all I did and did not defeat; but who all I did and not minister to in the name of Jesus Christ, as I was given opportunity.
In light of this, may God give me many more chances in the future to contend on His behalf. And may I have the opportunity in the process to compile quite a winning record in His name. And may that storied career include many a knockout against the Evil One along the way!
What is the fastest you have ever travelled? For me, two times stand out. The first was the fastest I have ever travelled at ground level. This was when I once attended the annual "Open House" event held at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
While there, I drove my best friend’s Pontiac Firebird around the track. That was all of 120 miles per hour! Needless to say, that was quite exhilarating! But that does not even begin to compare with the other, which is what I experienced on my recent flight to India, and which is the fastest I have ever travelled period.
We were aboard an Airbus A330, a wide-body twin-engine jet airliner made by Airbus, a division of EADS (the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company). It had a range of 4600 miles and could accommodate up to 335 passengers along with 70 tons of cargo.
While crossing the Atlantic Ocean, I kept an eye on the various screens placed throughout the fuselage. These were busily detailing the progress of our eight hour trans-Atlantic flight.
The huge plane sored to a height of 35,000 feet; and at one time actually topped 40,000 feet. (For those of you who are perhaps vertically challenged, that is between one and two miles above the height of Mount Everest!) In the rarified air at that height, we averaged over 500 miles per hour.
What is more, at one point in the journey, we were actually traveling at the astonishing speed of 618 miles per hour! How was this possible in a plane with a purported top speed of 545 miles per hour? The answer is easy: we had a 115 mile per hour tailwind that propelled us to this astonishing speed!
Now, given that the sound barrier is broken at approximately 768 miles per hour, let’s just say that this was clearly moving on! In point of fact, we were skipping along at just over 80% of the speed of sound!
By comparison, at other times, the plane seemed to be creeping along, barely making 470 miles per hour. What was the difference? I soon realized that it was the difference between flying with a head wind instead of a tail wind. The difference between working against the wind and working with it is apparently as much as 148 miles per hour in one’s speed!
It strikes me that life is much the same, especially for those who follow Jesus Christ. We can either work with the Holy Spirit or against Him. But, rest assured, one way will always be much more productive. The life of the Apostle Paul illustrates this fact well.
Chapter 9 of the New Testament book of Acts tells us that he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the early church when he encountered the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. After being knocked from his mount, Paul cried out as to Who it was that he had encountered. Verse 5 (KJV) gives the answer: “And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”
Pricks were well known to the people of that day. They were iron goads, commonly used for urging oxen, horses and other beasts of burden to go forward. Jesus was clearly saying to Paul that he was working against the will of God; and that because of this, his way would indeed be hard, and even painful.
But, after his conversion, Paul began to work with the Holy Spirit as opposed to against Him. In so doing, he found his going much easier. To be sure, there were times when he continued attempting to go his own way, such as when he desired to go to Asia in Acts 16, only to have God close the door. But he soon learned that it was better to go with God than against Him.
For my part, I am also learning to “Let go and let God”! I am finding that I am far more fulfilled when I do. And it is not only easier, but more productive as well. As the old hymn says, “Taught by the Bible; Led by the Spirit; We’ll walk the Heavenly way!”
What about you today? Are you travelling your spiritual journey with a headwind? Or with a tailwind? One way will always be much easier than the other. And very often, the difference is only determined by which direction you are headed. Of course, that can be the easiest of all problems to resolve. It just takes a simple change of direction. And when you learn to travel with God as opposed to away from Him, the going can only get better and more productive.
As the Old Testament Prophet Jonah discovered, going down to Joppa, and down into a ship, and down into the sea, and down into the fish is a lot tougher than going up onto dry land, and up on to your feet, and up to Nineveh, which is, of course, where God had intended him to be going all along anyway!
“Welcome Home!” After showing him my passport, I was privileged to hear these very words from the U. S. Customs Agent at Atlanta’s Hartsfield - Jackson International Airport late yesterday evening. And may I say that they are some of the sweetest words I have ever heard - especially having just spent 29 straight hours in transit travelling home from a two week trip to India!
For those of you who follow my blog regularly, you now know why I have not updated much in the last two weeks. Suffice it to say that internet access is rather sparse in India, especially the rural parts. I might also add that the same thing is true for such basic necessities as soap, food, and clean water. Nonetheless, I survived; and I am none the worse for the wear.
When we got home, we went straight to Mickey D’s for "burgers and fries". Meat, of course, is not widely available in a land dominated by Hinduism. Needless to say, with numerous cows, pigs, and goats literally meandering about all over the streets and roads, and with only vegetables and rice on the plate at meal times, this farm boy found himself day-dreaming a lot: mostly about roast beef, steaks, hamburger, bacon, sausage, and ribs. Hey, near the end, even pig’s feet began to look good!
Having satisfied our hunger, we made our way home and enjoyed our first hot showers since we left. Then, about ten o’clock last night, we promptly crawled into bed, whereupon we promptly fell into the deepest of sleep. In fact, we slept so much that that I did not get up until after lunch today! Having spent the day unpacking and washing our things, I am just now getting around to other responsibilities, including my blog.
I am reminded that there will come a day when we will once again hear those glorious words: “Welcome home!” When we cross the threshold into Heaven, how sweet it will be to hear our Lord and Savior say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joys of thy Lord!” My strong suspicion will be that there will then follow some of the most glorious feasting and sublime resting that we will have ever known! May the Lord hasten that day!
Until then, we soldier on. I spent the last two weeks travelling the length and breadth of India, a land that is not my home. While there, I spoke seven different times; and our Mission Team ministered in conferences, schools, women’s centers, and orphanages. Along the way, we exhausted ourselves, to be sure. But it was all for the glory of God. At the end of the journey, we were tired; but we were well satisfied because we had given our all.
I can only hope that when the day does finally come that my journey in this world is over (a world which is not really my home, but one on which I am only passing through), I will have the satisfaction of knowing that I have fully given my all for God. No doubt, that will make my entry into Heaven all the sweeter. Until then, I will soldier on – serving the Lord with gladness.
Over the next few weeks, I hope to write about several of our experiences while in India. Until then, I intend to catch up on my share of sleep - and also on my share of quarter pounders! And that’s no dream!
Cleo E. Jackson, III
Occasionally I will add