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Daniel

As we continue examining some of the “Heroes of the Faith” that I’ve come across either historically or personally, this week I want to focus on some long standing friends of ours, who are among those who would definitely qualify.

A few weeks ago, their baby died.   He was actually almost forty, but because of a freak event where his mother revived him from SIDS and some pretty random genetic stuff (less than 25 known cases worldwide) he ‘grew up’ functioning at the level of a 6 month old.

The reason we knew this family was because for many years we worked together with them on and off as missionaries to the Japanese.  Daniel, as well as their other two kids were a part of our lives and we have some great memories together. These always included Daniel, usually smiling and cooing from his backpack or stroller.

You cannot say Daniel was not an individual, with likes and dislikes, opinions and personality. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you can remember the joys of having babies around. But part of the joy is in knowing that those adorable kids will move on and grow into toddlers, teenagers and adults. Daniel, tragically, never moved on.

The heroes I mention today are the parents as well as Daniel’s brother and sister who each made their own sacrifices.   At one point in time, Mom told me that not a day passed when she didn’t cry.  But she laughed as well.  She loved her family, she loved us and the Japanese with whom they worked. She loved God, and still does, even though the road has been tough and often very difficult at times to understand.

Daniel’s dad even today looks like a teenager, always enthusiastic and ready for the challenge. I remember marveling when I’d see this couple from a distance. You’d never know that they had a care in the world. Together they’ve made a real difference in everyone they touched.

When our own son went from healthy to dying rather suddenly at 16, Daniel was about 12 and, as least in our minds, more than ‘ready to go’. His mom and I cried together about our inability to understand God’s timing.  We both agreed that we’ll never know God’s mind……. but then, that’s why He’s God.

As I sat bereaved after Trevor died, I tried to feel sorry for myself, (and I confess that I did).  But I kept thinking of all the unsung mothers out there who had “lost” their babies, but not to death.  Those precious children somehow slipped off the rails and became a source of grief that never seemed to get any better. I felt so sorry for those families, whose burden was made all the more horrible because it seemed that no one came by to see if they were all right, or how they now felt about God and his Sovereign will. These are the real ‘left behinds’ in a grieving world.  My heart went out to them then, and still does now.

Daniel’s in Heaven now with a perfect body. We firmly believe that, even though it sounds like a trivial ‘pat answer’ to help a grieving family.  But that’s the “Hope of Heaven”, after all, and made all the more wonderful because it’s true.

Real Heroes do it tough, even when people don’t even seem to know or understand. Maybe that’s what makes them heroes, at least in my mind.  I want to thank God that I have these people in my life.

Please pray for this family as they adjust to their ’new normal’.

Marsha

Lessons from a Cow

Good morning to all,

Hope you had a super BLESSED Easter. We really did!

Today, I’d like to borrow again another “Heroes of the Faith” by J. John, the English Vicar. Some would call it blatant plagiarism, but first, I think since I’m attributing it, I’m okay, and second, I hope you’ll understand my desire to share these thoughts from someone more eloquent than myself.

I find this article interesting for a number or reasons. Who would think because you were impoverished by your father’s death, you’d have to give up the ministry and become a doctor?  Times have changed.

But what didn’t change is the persistence of using sound thinking and not giving up just because people find your reasoning contrary to theirs.  I think this story also carries a rather important message for us at this time as COVID drags on and on.  We seem to face daily yet somehow new ‘wonders’.  We wonder what is happening or we wonder about how our life is going to look in the future if we can’t get this world pandemic under control. Life is hard right now for a lot of us, physically, mentally and especially spiritually.

So I hope you’ll take a moment to read the following and understand with me that many of our problems are not new, in fact they’re very old, and yet our God is eternally the same.  What we need to do is just have courage and soldier on.

Have a great week!

Marsha

Heroes of the Faith: Edward Jenner

It has been said of Edward Jenner that ‘his work saved more lives than any other man on earth’. It’s an extraordinary claim for someone who spent his entire life as a country doctor, but it may well be true.

Edward Jenner was born in 1749 in Berkeley, Gloucestershire, England, the son of the local vicar. His family had a long tradition of sending people into the church, but the death of Jenner’s father left the family impoverished and forced the young man to take up another career. From an early age Jenner had a great interest in science and the natural world and was apprenticed to a doctor. Learning the trade, he went on to work in London where his skills both as a physician and a scientist were soon recognised. He was invited by Captain Cook to be part of the science team on his second voyage to Australasia. Jenner, however, had no love of either travel or London life and soon returned to his home village as its doctor.

Jenner’s reputation as a caring and wise doctor grew among his community but he continued to pursue his long-standing fascination with nature. He was particularly interested in birds and his careful studies of cuckoo behaviour gained him such respect in the British scientific community that he was elected to the prestigious Royal Society.

The great medical curse of the age was the killer disease smallpox. In Europe, around 400,000 people a year died from the disease. Typically, when smallpox swept through a village 20 to 50 per cent of those infected died. A third of the survivors of smallpox went blind and many more were scarred for life.

People were so desperate to avoid smallpox that they sought to be deliberately inoculated from sores of those who had a mild form of the disease in the hope that this would give them some immunity. It was a risky procedure with limited success: the great American preacher Jonathan Edwards died as a result of it. It was a disease without a cure.

In thinking about smallpox, Jenner pondered a dairymaid’s intriguing comment: ‘I shall never have smallpox for I have had cowpox.’ Cowpox was a mild infection of animals which could be caught by humans with little harmful effect. Jenner concluded that there must be a possibility that smallpox could be prevented by inoculating people with cowpox. Yet as a scientist he knew that to be of any worth, any experiments had to be conducted carefully. When an outbreak of cowpox occurred locally, Jenner deliberately inoculated a young stablehand with it. The boy suffered only mild effects and when, a few months later, he was inoculated with smallpox, he failed to catch the far more serious disease. Encouraged, Jenner persisted with more inoculations and in 1797 sent a short communication to the Royal Society describing his results. His paper was rejected on the grounds that it had only 13 samples. Disappointed but not deterred, Jenner went away and carried out more work, eventually publishing his results at his own expense.

Jenner called his new procedure vaccination after the Latin word for cow, vacca. Despite controversy, his method spread rapidly throughout Britain and was soon taken up across the world. Jenner refused to make money out of his discovery – he inoculated the poor for free – and in encouraging the careful use of the new technique he bankrupted himself.

There is very little to say about the rest of Jenner’s life. He continued as a doctor and consultant, kept up his interest in the natural world and died in 1823. His old adversary, smallpox, outlasted him but not for long. Increasingly confined to remote parts of the world, it was finally eradicated in 1980.

Despite the turbulence of the times in which Jenner lived – the Napoleonic wars were raging – his fame became enormous. He was soon considered one of the most famous men in Europe and honoured everywhere, even by Napoleon, who had his entire army vaccinated.

Edward Jenner was a committed Christian. He was typical of many believers in every age who demonstrate their faith through the way they live their lives. An amiable, quiet, warm-hearted Christian, ever ready with the appropriate Bible verse, Jenner was anxious that his discovery would be used as widely as possible. He was particularly concerned that praise should be directed not to him, but to the God who had made and used him.

I find many challenges in the life of Edward Jenner.

First, I’m challenged by what Jenner achieved. In Christian circles, it is still sometimes held that the highest calling that anyone can have is that of being a full-time minister of the gospel. Circumstances demanded that Jenner never made it as a preacher but it’s hard to imagine a life of greater value than his.

Second, I’m challenged by how Jenner let his Christianity guide his work as a doctor and a scientist. His faith supported and regulated all that he did as a doctor and scientist. His science – apparently still impressive two centuries on – overflowed with virtues: enquiring, accurate and honest.

Third, I’m challenged by his determination. Jenner’s first efforts at publishing his results were rejected. Instead of giving up, he simply went back and got more data until his work was accepted. Vaccination then, as now, was controversial and Jenner had more than his fair share of criticism. Nevertheless, trusting in his knowledge, his studies and his God, he stood firm against his critics.

Finally, I’m challenged by Jenner’s immunity to fame. Here is a man who became quite literally a household name across the world, yet his celebrity status left him unchanged. Jenner remained to the end of his life a man who was gentle, humble and gracious.

So at a time when the word vaccination is widely heard, spare a thought for Edward Jenner, the man who started it all. A true hero of the faith.

J. John
Reverend Canon

Crosses in the Sky

So here we are on Easter Sunday. We’ll be sending it out a little early today because thru a set of unforeseen circumstances, Tony will be preaching 3 times today (once in Japanese) and that doesn’t include the dawn service or the evening celebration, which of course we’ll try to attend as well.

I hope you’re looking forward to a wonderful day, hopefully COVID free.  This last week, we had only a five-hour notice before a surprise “Lock Down”, much like a pop quiz. It was imposed on anyone who’d been in the Brisbane area in the last week!  The self-imposed lockdown was only for three days, but we’d gone up to Brisbane (an hour away), last Sunday for the Japanese Church that meets there. For a moment, we considered just not fessing up, but then remembered that we had “logged in” as per government rules, so big brother was watching.

All this came about because of an unexplained CoVid outbreak, with four people testing positive. The authorities panicked and shut everyone down.  It didn’t hurt us as much as our grandkids, (who’d also been up there for a basketball game).  They were in the last week of their first term of school, which was brought to a screeching halt.

Now, as I’m writing this, we’ve been ‘released’ for Easter and the school holidays, as long as we wear masks.  This is a first for us, but I don’t think we’ll get much sympathy with all you readers who have been subjected to this for over a year now.

But this morning I’m here to talk about Heroes.  Of course the obvious one today would be Jesus, don’t you think?  What would we do without Him and His wonderful Resurrection!

But I’d also like to mention a guy from 312 AD.  He was the Roman Emperor Constantine.  You may or may not have heard of him and I’ll let you decide if he was a hero or not.

As most of you know, in his role as Emperor, he was gearing up for a big battle. On the eve before he would be meeting the enemy at a place called the Milvian Bridge, Constantine looked up in the sky, and saw what he was convinced was a cross glowing out of the sunset.  Then that night, he had a dream where he claimed he saw Jesus. The message he heard was loud and clear: “Carry the Cross into Battle”.

The dream, along with the heavenly vision, convinced him. Royal flag makers were rousted out of bed, and told to replace his elaborate war banners for ones with a large cross on them. The next day, Constantine had an unprecedented victory.  This convinced him to become a “Christian” immediately, and furthermore to put an end to Christian persecution.

Researching his story might leave you wondering if this was a good or bad thing for Western Civilization in general and the Church in particular. Imagine a world where one day you were meeting in small groups while hiding from the law, and the next day those lawmen were coming to your church and telling everyone that they had to be baptized!

But the fact is, this event opened the way for the acceptability of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.  Constantine’s mother actually became a true believer, and set out for the Holy Land, in search of all the places mentioned in the Bible where Jesus lived and worked. Using all that was available, the 300 yr old oral tradition, she identified many of the places that are still popular, so if nothing else, the tourist industry owes her a huge debt of gratitude. We all believe the things actually occurred in the Holy Land and it’s nice to have an idea where it could have possibly happened.

Constantine is also credited for initiating the 326 AD Nicene Creed, a convention of over 300 reigning church fathers,  which we still recognize today. That declaration of belief states that Jesus is both ALL God and ALL man, not created but begotten.

And one more thing….. he started the first recognized Christian ‘event’ we call Easter. Now, without prejudice or persecution, we all can celebrate Christ’s resurrection!  Aren’t we happy about that?

Hopefully you can gather with others today and thank Jesus again for dying and resurrecting so that we can have eternal life!

And maybe we could have a little shout out to the Easter bunny, totally pagan but much loved, who in Australia at least, shuns the real eggs and focuses completely on the Chocolate ones!

Till next week, hopefully with no surprise government edicts,
Marsha

Chasing Needles

I’ve been enjoying writing this little self-made series on “Heroes of the Faith”.  I love sorting thru my mind to see what (hopefully) God will bring to it.

Several of our friends have been scurrying  around here getting “The Jab” as Aussies call it, to immunize themselves against the Corona virus.  We are sitting in the back, verrrry quietly hoping that more time and research will pass before we’re required to line up.

But all this furor made me remember something that happened a long time ago. And instead of avoiding the Jab, we were trying to get it!
It all started when our mission asked us to run over to Hong Kong for three months to pave the way for the arrival of another missionary family who would be taking on the Japanese church there. It was good timing, since we needed to pull away from our ministry in Japan long enough for them to call a Japanese pastor, something they might never have done if we had stayed in the area. So we were delighted to go. Son Nathan would keep up his home schooling and 6-year-old daughter Nicki would enter the Japanese school there. There were operating on the same curriculum as Japanese schools in Japan, so she never missed a beat.

As we were making plans for Hong Kong, we were also setting up for a three-month assignment in Ethiopia. It had occurred to us that our children had become way to “citified” and needed to be exposed to REAL missionary work in a jungle somewhere. But that’s another story.
So there we were in Hong Kong.  We were on a very restrictive budget as the whole Ethiopia-jungle-encounter was not covered by mission funds, and we’d have to foot the bill for the experience. We’d be working in a refugee camp 500 miles from the nearest asphalt, so we figured saving money while there would be a cinch.

We began re-thinking that idea when all the lists of required vaccinations started coming in, but hey! This was what real missions was all about, we told the kids.
Our first Sunday in Hong Kong, we met the nicest Chinese couple. He was a prominent doctor (and still is) and they had such a heart for the Japanese people in Hong Kong that they attended our service every week.  They also hosted a Bible Study in their home. The number of people they continue to influence for the Kingdom is legendary.
He, being a doctor, as soon as he heard we were headed for Africa announced, “I’ll provide your immunizations so you won’t have to worry about that expense!” We were greatly relieved, because that alone would have cost us most of our budget.

But then we hit a little snag.  The Yellow Fever immunization, because it is a live virus, can only be administered by the Health Department in Hong Kong.  We didn’t say anything to our friend, but we found out that it would be hundreds of dollars.  We asked the Lord again about the wisdom of this adventure, and continued on, looking right and left for a ‘sign’.

We didn’t say a thing to anyone else either.  It’s mostly better not to let everyone know you’re on a fool’s errand, especially if it’s at the cost of normal living. And then one day at the Bible study, the Dr’s wife handed me an envelope. I didn’t have time to look at it as we hurried out the door to catch the train, but standing on the platform, I teased the envelope open.

Tears blurred my eyes as I read the note.  “Here’s a little something for you to be able to enjoy a bit of Hong Kong.”
How did she know that the amount she put in the envelope was the EXACT amount we needed for the immunizations? And as for “enjoying Hong Kong”, there was plenty of that, thanks to the doctor, his wife, and all our new friends at the Japanese church.

We went to Ethiopia.  I think it grew all four of us in our faith, because it wasn’t safe and sometimes it wasn’t fun, but God was with us in amazing and obvious ways like only He can be! One of these days, I’ll share that chapter of our lives with you. Or, if you can’t wait, read about it in our memoirs, Weaving Sunlight.

Years later, we talked with the doctor and his wife, telling them about the amazing “coincidence” that day when our needs were so fully provided, thanks to their generosity. They insisted that she just opened her wallet and didn’t even count the wad of cash she put in the envelope.

Isn’t living a life with God fun?? Unknown, even to themselves, Heroes of the Faith………

Heroes at the Sushi Shop

Hello from Rainy Sydney!

Today I want to tell you about a couple of heroes that are actually alive.

The first one is our friend, more like a brother since we go way back to college days.  His name is Bob Gierhart.  We met him over 50 years ago right after we were married in Colorado, where we both grew up.

Soon we were off to see the world together, in a group called “Journeymen” which is a short-term branch of our mission with the Southern Baptists.  He went to Japan and we were sent (where we hadn’t asked, but were thankful in the end) to Africa.

Three years later, while attending the same seminary, Tony was Bob’s best man in his wedding.  Several decades later our son was their son’s groomsman.  As you can see, we’re related.

But Bob has a vastly different personality to us.  He has principals that he is willing to fight for.  He is steady and faithful.  Dare we call him a ‘prudent non-adventurer”? He is happy to stay at home and think lofty thoughts, work incessantly without a thought of personal needs, and never forget (with the help of his wife) the least of all of God’s creatures.

By what some would call a ‘twist of fate’ but we prefer ‘God’s call”, we both landed in Sydney Australia in 1998, tasked with establishing a ministry with the Japanese living here.  By now, we’d both been in Japan for 20+ years and had fallen in love with the people.

Getting here was a story in itself, and they’ll be happy to tell you, but we both went to work in a struggling little Japanese church. We settled in and made friends, did our bit to attract people to church, helped with the preaching and teaching……… all the stuff most missionaries do.

Bob and Gail settled down and didn’t swerve.  He didn’t take days off.  They were not tempted by ‘days out’ even when we tried to lure them into irresponsible behavior. If no one showed up to a meeting, Tony and I packed up and hit the road.  Bob and Gail stayed for another hour.

Then came along a Christian Korean wife with a Japanese husband who lived way out in the western suburbs of the city.  The husband somehow indicated that he would consider a Bible study but it had to be tailored to his needs because he owned a sushi shop and it didn’t close till 10PM…….. every night.

Of course, I’m guessing if we’d been asked to do this, we’d have stopped listening when we heard the address, much less the hour, but Bob took the bait.

Off he went.  FAITHFULLY for weeks……..then months, and before anyone knew it, it was a year……  once a week, every week, arriving at closing time and coming home in the wee hours.

Gradually, the world of salvation opened up and this man became genuinely interested in what was being said.

Finally the day came when he opened his heart to the reason he was created and became a Christian.  It wasn’t long before he exchanged the sushi shop for Bible school. Today, he’s the pastor of the very church where the Gierharts and we had invested some of our lives.

And largely the reason we came down to Sydney this weekend was to visit this church, and what a visit it was!  The church was FULL, the people were engaged, the singing was wonderful.

Really a huge blessing to us, but most of all to see it so capably led by someone we might have looked over if it hadn’t been for a true hero of the faith who was willing to do whatever it took to bring this man to salvation.

God uses us all according to his purposes, and we’re glad for our peer-heroes, Bob and Gail Gierhart.

A Unique Hero

Hello Friends,

Today, getting back to my theme of “heroes of the faith, I want to share with you the biography of a man who seems to qualify absolutely. In the words of my grandson, who insisted on his own vow of poverty, here was one who embraced the simple life because accumulating wealth would mean “having too much stuff to put away.”

I’ll be borrowing from one of my favorite guys, Reverend J. John, who is a Vicar in England and who has inspired me more than once. To my knowledge he has no “bad press” against him, and furthermore, what he is sharing has really meant something to me.  In the interest of space, I’m going to paraphrase J. John in places, but if you want the original in its entirety, drop me a line and I’ll send you the links. Here’s what J. John has to say about this “Hero of the Faith”:

“One of the fascinating things about Christianity is how very different the great men and women of God are. George Müller (1805–1898) was not just different; he was unique.

Müller was born in what was then the Kingdom of Prussia (now Germany). He was no stranger to the local jails, having been involved in a variety of petty crimes and scams. However, in 1825, he attended a prayer meeting where he encountered Christ. With a call to mission work, he ended up in London working amongst Jews. But it soon became evident that he was a gifted preacher and evangelist, and so became the minister of a chapel.
Soon he and his wife moved to Bristol where they became involved in creating Christian schools and supporting missionaries. Müller established 117 schools that offered Christian education to tens of thousands of children.
However, he is remembered above all for his extraordinary achievements with orphans. In the Britain of the early 19th century the combination of large families, extreme poverty and a high level of adult mortality had resulted in many orphans, most of whom ended up on the street. The state ignored them and in 1836, Müller and his wife began taking them in. Soon, a home for 300 children was built. By 1870, five homes housed 1,700 children. By the end of Müller’s life, he had housed, clothed and educated over 10,000 orphaned children.

This achievement alone would justify Müller’s hero status, but what is astonishing is that in doing what he did he never made requests for financial support. He simply prayed that God would supply all his needs and left it to him to supply them.
And in fact, God did just that. Müller was a meticulous administrator and his detailed accounts reveal that in his lifetime he received £1.5 million pounds in money and gifts; a figure that today would be over £100 million. But always astonishingly generous, he refused donations for his own well-being and died in near poverty.

These figures disguise an astonishing reality. There are many well-attested accounts of how, when he and his staff seemed to be on the point of running out of either food or money, last-minute unsolicited donations or gifts arrived. On one occasion, Müller found himself with 300 orphans assembled for breakfast and no food at all. He simply sat them down at the table and confidently said grace. At this point, a knock at the door occurred. It was a local baker who had woken up at 2 o’clock in the morning with a feeling that he needed to bake more bread than usual and take it to the orphanage. Shortly afterwards a milkman arrived to say that his wagon had broken down outside the orphanage and he wanted to offer his milk to the children. Along with his orphanage work, Müller spent 17 years as a missionary, traveling over 200,000 miles teaching and preaching. His funeral in 1898 brought Bristol to a standstill with tens of thousands of people standing along the route.

Two things must be said. First, Müller was a unique individual and it was his personal decision to never ask for money. He felt that this was what God wanted for him and that it would demonstrate that a miracle-working God still existed. It may also have been due to his pre-conversion tendency to raise money through fraud.

I am reminded of my favourite George Müller quote: ‘Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.’ Indeed that was true then and continues to be true today.”

This next weekend Tony and I will be in Sydney visiting our original Japanese Church.  We are very excited about seeing everyone after about 2 years thanks to Covid.  We’ll have a more ‘current’ hero story for you next week, so stay tuned!

Always, Marsha

Fallen Heroes

As you already know, I’m doing a series for a few weeks on “Great Heroes of the Faith”.  Last week I started with a missionary who gave her life, talents and heart to Japan.

This week I want to talk about a recently ‘fallen’ hero.  As you may have picked up, this blog is often more about me processing stuff than any inspired thought which might be of any benefit to you.  I thank you for your patience.

So if you’ve never heard of Ravi Zacharias, you have now.

Ravi has often been labeled one of the best Christian Apologists of our times. His book “Walking from East to West” made me want to have a ‘do over’ on my entire missionary career, just based on the insights he had on Eastern thought vs our Western ways.

I listen to his sermons most mornings as I walk on the treadmill and come off it both physically and spiritually invigorated.  I pass on his quotes to people I don’t even know on the train……. that’s how much he has influenced me.

And now, a year after his untimely death at 73, the ‘reveals’ have started happening.  At first no one believed it, but more and more so-called ‘proof’ has surfaced, verifying that he had made some inappropriate moves on some of his massage therapists. The independent investigation has been published on Google, and I believe none of those ‘moves’ were reciprocated, but still ……. I stopped reading after awhile because it made me so reviled.

His huge organization, RZMin, either didn’t know or kept it swept under the rug, as in a single case that surfaced in 2017.  You know the drill, as every high person seems to go thru this lately from presidents to lowly preachers with chronic back pain.

I’ve spent a few weeks denying that this could have even happened.  Especially to one of my heroes!  When I was young and more naive, I cried when someone fell, and believe me, in a mission as large as ours, there were a few.  But now I’ve lived a little longer in this broken world so that now I’m somewhere between that original naivety of youth and the old crones who sit back and snarl, “I knew it!!”

I’m beginning to think the following about Ravi. I welcome your comments to tell me if you agree with how I feel, or if I need to go back and take up crying again.

We live in a fallen world.  Why wouldn’t Satan take extra time with a man who was/is influencing so many?  I heard somewhere recently that temptation isn’t the sin, but giving in to temptation is. It may be of some comfort to remember that Jesus was the only one who actually was able to completely resist temptation.

But then there are my Bible heroes.  David went up on the rooftop. Moses hit the rock in anger. Lots daughters did some pretty weird stuff …… the list goes on.  RVMin, in their expansive public apology asks forgiveness for not building in enough ‘accountability’ in their organization, particularly pertaining to the founder himself.  We missionaries all know the patented “Billy Graham Rule” where no one is ever alone with a member of the opposite sex while working at the ministry, apart from their spouse. I believe this has been ‘upgraded’ to the Mike Pence Rule because of his adherence to it as well.  This is not so much for the participant’s protection but unfortunately for what the media of today can do with it. They say as he lay dying, Billy Graham always had two round the clock nurses on duty.

I want to make excuses for Ravi; after all, he was raised Hindu before his conversion as a young adult and we can click our evangelical tongues and say we all know those guys have no morals, but seriously, what we’re taught as a child does have ramifications.  And there’s Billy Graham and his insistence that, “Sin is Sin”. That means making rude suggestions to women is sin. I don’t want to let him off by saying, “Boys will be boys”, because what he did was wrong. But I also think there are other equally sinful sins out there. For example, is this any better or worse than overeating, smoking, or involvement in anything that harms your body? No.  Sin is sin, and it doesn’t come in a prioritized list.

But I prefer my husband’s standard reply to all the juicy gossip I bring home, usually with the comment that, “I wonder if …. such and such”.  His answer is always the same.  “This person will stand before God and HE is the only one who knows what really happened, so you don’t need to worry about it.

King David wrote some beautiful psalms, some of them undoubtedly growing out of the grief of sin he so often brought on himself.

I think Ravi’s preaching and teaching will live on, and some of us will try to get past this besmirching.

Ravi will still and always be a hero for me. Not for the last things he did, but for the inspired teaching that came from him over the years before. I may have to give him a rest for awhile till I forget the hurt, but I’ll go back.

Next week we’ll reach out further to some really old heroes who started out bad and turned out good!!  But then the media didn’t exist back then, so as Tony said, “Only God Knows”.

Have a good week!

Real Treasures

After my grandson’s comment last week about not wanting to be rich, since that would mean “too much stuff to put away”, I decided to look into the lives of a few folks who have typified that attitude by the way they lived. The first name that comes to mind is Rennie Sanderson Otani. She just passed away this last Valentines Day, so she’s been in my thoughts lately.

When we went to Japan in 1978, she’d already been there 18 years and was making a tremendous impression on Japanese mission work. Let me tell you about her.

She was born into a Mississippi minister’s little gaggle of girls in 1927, surrounded by music, church and the love of the Lord, all wrapped up in southern happiness.  But it wasn’t long before she left all that behind, headed first for Southwestern Seminary in Texas and then from there to Japan as an appointed missionary by the Southern Baptist Convention.  She arrived in Yokohama in the spring of 1961 and immersed herself into language school.  As soon as she graduated, she moved to the far south of Japan where she taught for several years in our Baptist School there.

Then she came back north to be the minister of music at Oi Baptist Church in Tokyo, a responsibility she kept faithfully for the next 27 years.  Oh, but wait, there’s more.  Living a simple life, she never accumulated much, but in 1969 she found and married a real treasure. He was the assistant pastor of the church, Keigo Otani. That was in 1969, coincidentally just a few months before Tony and I were married.

Rennie and Keigo planted their lives in Japan. While we Baptist missionaries were enjoying retreats and seminars and all things American, she served as the music professor at Tokyo Seminary and taught students who serve in churches all across Japan. She directed the choir for the Baptist 100 year celebration in Fukuoka in 1989, and served as editor for the New Baptist Hymnal. She wrote countless hymns, sometimes music only but often music and lyrics together. Besides all that, Rennie taught and mentored many Japanese in church music, directing music, playing the piano, etc. She also wrote “Rennie’s notes” which was shared with our mission family for years and encouraged many women as she served. She was always close to us missionaries, and just about all of us knew her well, even though most of her daily life was spent in direct ministry with the Japanese Convention, where her heart and soul would always remain.

After their retirement, Rennie and her husband continued to work as usual, even pastoring a Japanese church in Singapore and other mission points.  They never accumulated a lot of “stuff” over the years, but never lacked for anything. They were a real tribute to us all; a perfect example of a life given completely to God, and in their case, given through their work with the Japanese.

Talk again next week, okay? This blog is going out late because we’re finally getting around to celebrating son Nathan’s 40th birthday!  It’s hotter than usual today, but the pool was wet, so a good time was had by all.

Marsha

Decluttering

My youngest grandson was sent to give himself his nightly bath.  He’s just turned 5 and is very proud of this responsibility, but with all the excitement of older brother having a birthday and the cake being readied for the festivities, I guess he just gave himself that extra measure of autonomy and filled the bathtub right up to the top.

Mother swung by in her rounds and ‘noticed’ the flagrant abuse of conservatism in a house where money spent on water is one of the things they govern quite carefully.

She said to me, “Mae, would you go in there, I’m just too busy and since I’m a bit perturbed, I might be a bit too hard on him”. So I did.

“Well well”, I said casually, as I looked thru the bubbles and saw a very happy child. “I guess you’re just having a luxurious bath, aren’t you?” I continued.

Then, seeing his puzzlement, I asked him if he knew what “luxurious” meant, and he clearly didn’t. So off the top of my head, I began to explain…

“It’s like rich people, who have such a nice time in life, treating themselves to so many extras,” I continued, faltering a bit thinking about how I had chosen to describe “rich people”.

“Oh NO!” He sat up and with a serious look on his face, and, wiping a stray bubble from his brow, continued with great conviction. “I never want to be rich.  Rich People have WAAY too much stuff to put away!”

In Tony’s words, “That’ll preach”.

The Bible has some things to say about this ‘problem’.

For example, Hebrews 13:5, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

In the next few weeks, I want to highlight a few ‘saintly’ people, some known to you and some only known to history, who have not held their blessings back. Instead they have invested in others, leaving very little to ‘put away’ except in the lives of others.

Stay tuned!!  I’ll be talking about some people you may know who have gone to glory recently in our mission, but next week we’ll probably start with that wonderful woman named Mary with her bottle of perfume and what my Japanese pastor had to say about her so many years ago.

Face the Light

Okay so maybe you’re thinking that this whole “properties of light” series is going on forever, and I’m glad you thought of that, since today is the fifth and last “enlightenment” I’m going to share with you.

I mentioned already that light is (1) the source of all life, (2) the source of all power, (3) it’s everywhere, ie, omnipresent, and (4) it’s constant and unchanging. Now here’s #5: Light is infinite, which is to say, eternal.

Think back: do you remember a time when you took a flashlight (“torch” to you Southern Hemispherers) and pointed it at the stars? That beam of light is still going, you know. It’s dispersing as it travels, the beam getting wider and wider, but it’s still going, constant speed, never stopping.

Astronomers tell us that the universe, which as I said earlier is that area encompassed by light, is expanding. You get a big telescope, and every direction you look, you’ll see the light moving … and it’s moving away from us.  They can tell that by something called “red shift”. Look it up when you have a chance.

Even if there is an edge to the universe, it’s expanding, and it’s expanding at the speed of light.

Discussions like this are hard for simple-minded people like me, but when we speak of the universe, we have to speak of it in terms of infinity.

Now look with me to Revelation 22:13,  “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

If we speak of God, we have to speak of Him in terms of infinity. God is infinite, just as light is infinite. Wait, that’s not quite right. Light had a beginning, when God spoke it into existence (Genesis 1:3).

So what’s the point? Shall we establish a new religion, and worship a light bulb? If we did, it wouldn’t be new. Generation after generation have come to the same conclusion, that light is somehow synonymous with our Creator. But here’s the point: The men who wrote the Bible thousands of years ago gave God the same five properties of light that Albert Einstein discovered and described in 1938. And then in places like 1 John 1:5, they said, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.”

This is an amazing analogy that that could not have been made before 1938, unless it was made as a direct result of the inspiration of God.

And the analogy doesn’t stop there. When it comes to inspiration, it’s good to point out things that show the truth and depth of the Bible, but it’s even better to understand the message that those things are telling us. Is it possible that there are some among us who are not totally in the light?  In our own lives, are there corners of darkness that persist, blinding us to Who God really is, and who we are before Him?

A Christian who doesn’t know what God wants him to do is standing in darkness.

A Christian who is unaware of the gifts God has given him when he invited Jesus into his life is standing in darkness.

A Christian who is unaware of his own authority as a child of God is standing in darkness.

Anyone who does not know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is lost in darkness

As we soldier on into this new year, let’s re-discover the light that is ours. Come out of the shadows that may have frightened us, discouraged us, or led us into blindness. Let’s face the light, and show the way for those around us who are still stumbling.

I hope when we come to this time next year, we’ll be able to look back on 2021 and say, “It was a good year, made even better by the guiding light that brought us through it.”