From the monthly archives:

January 2011

Ten hours of travel and we were back in the very place we left.  The little airport in the mountains was too foggy to land and so the planned ministry had to be left to another day.  Two attempts into the small landing strip in the big jet was enough for the pilot.  The stewardess held up her thumb and index finger inches apart.  “This is how much space a little plane needs to land,” she said.  Holding both hands several feet apart she said, “This is how much space we need.”  Disappointed?  Yes, but she made her point.

Sputtering smoke, rickshaws, motorbikes and people, people, people...

The fog of the mountains were traded for the smog of Calcutta.  Tickets canceled, we found a taxi to head back through the mass of sputtering smoke, rickshaws, motorbikes and people, people, people, everyone moving at breakneck speed in the dark.

And then it happened.    Our taxi was three abreast on a two lane road.  The women and children were all ahead on the right.  They were laborers, tribal women and children who carried long poles used for scaffolding on their heads.  Like deer on the the side of the road one moved into the traffic, hesitated and ran.  The others followed, some trying to make it across, some stopped, others (thankfully the children) ran back before the traffic came on them.  Our cabbie was going slow and was able to stop but the motorbike next to us clipped a young girl and I caught her out of the corner of my eye lying in the road, her load scattered about, the driver staring at her; it was her face that took my breath away.  Terrified by the shock, pained, aghast, she screamed at him and got up only to collapse again as soon as she was off the street.

We never stopped.  Within seconds our taxi sped forward without a care in the world.  All of this in 10 seconds, mind you.  Ten seconds that I cannot get out of my mind.  We would have been arrested in the U.S.  We would have been vilified for not stopping to render aid.  Excuse the cliche, life really is less than cheap here especially the lives of the less… Dalits, tribals, homeless, women, slum dogs.  They go by different names but they are so devalued no one really calls them anything.

Before you feel better about our own country, estimates run as high as 10 million African’s that were enslaved in the America’s.  That number pales in the light of the 46 million infants killed by abortion since 1973.  From 1890 to 1910, child slavery in textile and coal mines increased to 2 million. Our own sins have bloodied our hands and once your hands are bloody there is no use in pointing fingers at other’s whose sins are supposedly worse.

What is the problem?  How is it possible that we devalue life yet love our own selves so much?  The set up has been the same since the first sin, by the way.  Man chooses for himself.  Left in privacy, my choice is first to satisfy my own need. You cannot throw money at the problem.  You cannot upend thousands of years of caste or slavery.  You cannot flagellate your own conscience to mollify your guilty soul.

But this you can do.  You can love Jesus more.  And by that alone, your heart will change.  How?  John said this…

We love, because He first loved us.

Love is a funny thing, isn’t it?  Try to explain the undying love of a parent for a wayward child or a wife for a husband or a silly teenage crush, it simply defies our rationale.  But when you heighten the bar to a holy God who unabashedly loves beyond our comprehension… well, it cannot be explained.  It can only be felt through the words of the Lover of your soul.  Hosea recorded God’s words…

My heart is turned over within Me, all My compassions are kindled.
For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst
and I will not come in wrath.

All my compassions are kindled…I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst… We love because He first loved us. The only hope we have to change our ways is to first accept this fact.  I can do nothing to make God love me.  I can do nothing to earn His affection.  He chooses to love me despite my bloody hands, calloused heart and self loving choices.  He does it because He chooses to, that and nothing more.

Paul recorded these words in the great book of Ephesians.

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience.  We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us.  Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.  Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!

How do you begin to love others like God?  You begin to believe the miracle of grace that it took for God to love you.  Then, you simply ask for the power of God to love people the same way God loves you.

An extra day in Calcutta.  What to do?  I went to visit the Mother Teresa House where her nuns still live and where she is buried in the heart of the city.  It is simple, plain and holy.  Some of her words are printed out on simple sheets of paper and stapled to the wall.  She said, “God has created us so we do small things with great love.”

God did great things through His greater love.  It is not too much to ask you to do small things because He loved you first.  For someone you know, those small things may be the best sermon they ever hear preached.


Oh, Calcutta

January 22, 2011

The streets of Calcutta

And when He approached, He saw the city and wept over it…  Luke 19:41

Travel in India is like watching the rice grow in the silky green marshes that press against the roads throughout Kerala.  The country is maze-like with endless turns that meander and wander through village after village, city after city.  These confusing paths are the definition of labyrinthine… “a convoluted, mystifying and baffling path.”  At the end of the path? A train, plane, bus or another car… always waiting, always full.  Today’s travel is to Calcutta.  The exotic and blight filled city of a million gods as well as 18 million people, the largest city in this land.

Have you ever known anyone who wanted to go to Calcutta?  Ever heard anyone say, “lets vacation on the beaches,” or “I can’t wait to go to Calcutta”?  No, most likely.  The city is known for the wretchedly poor.  The image of Mother Teresa comes to mind as it is Calcutta where her mission still holds the dying babies day after day.  I know more people who have come to serve her mission than any other purpose.  In fact, I know of no other reason.

You drive through a city that has never learned the word “repair.”  Buildings that were built 75 years ago are never given thought of again.  The exteriors are rotting, landlords are not responsible for repairs, the city looks ridiculed by age, until you turn the corner or cross the bridge or look ahead to the skyline.  There you will find the most exquisite buildings found in any city in the world.  The British influence abounds, until you turn the corner again.  Then poverty (a poor choice of words… too common for Calcutta) increases, the street narrows, the people crush against the constant steam of taxis and bicycle rickshaws.

But today it is not a mission to the desperate and dying.  Today is a ministry of life. Inside this great mass of human existence are churches that are intent on rescuing these people from this hell on earth as well as eternity.  Most every major Christian mission has at least one station in the city.  These are the elite soldiers of the cross… hearty, wildly adventurous, fearless in a way that the safe world of Christianity would deem reckless.  They are serving in what well might be the outer bounds of hell itself.  Oh, Calcutta… God shed His grace on thee.

I would offer this to you.  Calcutta is macabrely honest about their world order.  It does not cover or hide the devastation and constant dishevelings of sin and its effects.  There is a principality that reigns that is noticeably evil.  Death and hell are worshipped here yet the light of the gospel first preached well over a hundred years ago continues to force a militant grace upon this place.  What the casual Christian would deem too hard the Calcutta Christian embraces as their life’s work.  Mind you, these are not those who come for a season but those born here as well as Indian Christians who choose to live here because of the battle.

St. Paul’s Cathedral is a famous landmark honored by all faiths in the city.  Hindus stop and fold their hands when they pass and all the city walks the seven acres to sense the peace of God within the church’s bounds.  The 201 foot tall cathedral in the heart of the city was constructed in 1847 and is a remarkable testimony to faith and perseverance.

Inside are marble testaments to the Brits who died during the colonial battles that raged during the 1800’s.  One such memorial is to a British officer who excelled on the field of battle until he fell.  The heroics of this man are spoken of followed by these final words, “He was an ornament to his regiment.”

When I read those words, I thought of what the Lord might say to me on that day when He greets me face to face.  In a brief second, I was reminded of petty complaints, selfish lusts and fleshly indulgences that my safe world allows every day of my life.  Before me was a testament to a man who gave all for the allegiance to an earthly crown.  His own men noted him among the thousands of others as their “ornament”, the one whose sacrifice made their difficult task beautiful.

I can not imagine that my simple task of pastoring and teaching will ever attain to that high praise.  Yet here I am in the presence of great ornaments of God’s Kingdom.  Pastors, converted Hindu’s, Christian brothers and sisters, entire families who live life here in this city because Jesus loved Calcutta first.  Pray for these brothers and sisters, won’t you?  Their joy is unsurpassed, their service and allegiance unashamed.  Their passion for this place on the edge of hell relentless.

Tonight I will share with them the story of Jesus healing the blind man in John 9.  Pray that God will open the spiritual eyes of Calcutta to the light of His Gospel.


Return to a Pure Gospel

January 20, 2011

The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Genesis 11:7 The people of Babel sought to make a name for themselves by building the tallest tower in […]

Read the full article →

My Wandering Ways

January 17, 2011

There is something about American rock and roll played in India that lets you know that you’re not in Kansas anymore.  “Groovy Kind of Love” played on a synthesized flute is like screeching chalk in the coffee shop where I look for the boiled eggs I’ll safely eat for breakfast.  I’m in Hyderabad, India and […]

Read the full article →

Sowing Seeds

January 13, 2011

Kenny G’s sax was playing “Ave Maria” in the background as she poured the coffee with the flair of an Olympic podium event. Dark complected and tall, her management training position in the hotel was far beyond the boundaries set for her mother as well as generations of women before.  Supporting herself as well as […]

Read the full article →