Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Right to Choose

I was thinking about the “pro-choice” rhetoric Hillary is throwing around, and the fact that rarely do pro-choice advocates ever finish the sentence.  Choose WHAT?  Suddenly it struck me.  Why didn’t I see it so clearly before?  When we “choose” to kill an innocent person, we are choosing against one of the Ten Commandments.  “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13). 

So, if we think we are smart enough to reframe one of God’s commandments, what is to stop us from reframing all of them?  We just come up with a few arguments out of our creative imaginations and call it the “right to choose.”   If we can choose to kill, we can surely choose to steal or lie or commit adultery or throw our parents under the bus or worship idols or .... well, anything at all.  We can make it a law or failing that, bring it to the Supreme Court and hope they will make it a law.

But—to paraphrase words President Obama is fond of using—at some point, we have to decide if that is the kind of people we want to be.

And if in reading this you realize that you have fallen short of keeping God’s laws (as I surely have), please know that there is forgiveness and restoration in Jesus Christ, when we turn from our sins and call on Him for salvation.  He can even give forgiveness and healing for those who have killed their own children.  What a great salvation!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Inspired by the Scudder family

I just finished reading “Dr. Ida,” the life story of Ida Scudder who served in India for 50 years as a missionary doctor.  Why did I let this book sit on my library shelves so long before I opened it?  What a treasure!

Dr. Ida was a third generation missionary.  Her grandfather, Dr. John Scudder, Sr., was a physician in New York.  One day he picked up a booklet lying on the table at the home of one of his patients.  His interest was picqued by “Conversion of the World or the Claims of the 600 million…”  God convicted his heart and he went to Ceylon first and later to India as a missionary.  His eight children all followed in his steps, the six sons becoming missionary doctors and all serving in medical missions in India.

Ida was the daughter of the youngest Scudder son.  She lived in India till she was five, and they were very tough years as a great famine left a trail of death.   Young Ida hated the helpless feeling of seeing so many die without being able to help them.  She vowed she would never be a missionary and never return to India.  She built a carefree, social life in the U.S. until when she was a young woman, her mother fell ill in India and needed her as a caregiver.  Vowing that she would stay only until her mother was better, Ida returned to India.

One night a Hindu man knocked at her door, urgently seeking help for his fourteen-year old young wife who was in great distress in childbirth.  He wanted Ida to come, but she was no doctor and no midwife.  The man refused help from her father.  He could not accept the shame of another man looking upon his wife. 

Later that night a Muslim man knocked on her door with a similar request.  Like the Hindu man, he turned away, accepting that his young wife must die rather than be seen by a man.

Again the same night another Hindu man knocked with the same problem.  He went away sad, saying that his wife must die rather than be seen by a man.

The next morning Ida received news that all three of the young wives had died during the night.  But this time, she was not a helpless child who could do nothing to alieve their suffering.  This time, the message was clear and she knew it was from God.  She must return to the U.S., but not to an easy, social life.  She must become a doctor and return to India as a missionary.  God had shown her  a great need, and He had shown her how she could meet it.

Dr. Ida returned after medical training.  She started a one room clinic which grew to become Vellore Christian Medical Center, the biggest and best-known hospital and medical training college in all of India.  Ida died in 1960, but the hospital she founded continues, treating over a million patients every year, all in the name of Christ.

Dr. John Scudder’s eight children were not the only ones to follow in his steps.  In four generations of the Scudder family, 42 family members became missionaries, giving over 1,100 years of combined missionary service, mostly to India but also to several countries of the Middle East, and to Ceylon, Tanzania, and Japan.
Lord, I invite You to work in our family according to Your will, causing our descendants to choose paths that make an eternal difference for your Kingdom, just as You did for Dr. John Scudder.
Lord, I, too, am a writer as part of the ministry to which You have called me.  I invite You to help me write things that will help call, encourage and strengthen new generations of missionaries, just as You used that little booklet, Conversion of the World, to accomplish such great things.
Do it, Jesus!  Amen.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Encouraged by slaves who broght an African kingdom to Christ

I was encouraged today to reread an historical sketch that I wrote 14 years ago.  It involves two brothers named Frumentius and Aedesius who lived in the 300’s.  They were living in Alexandria, Egypt when they accompanied a merchant relative to India.  On the way home their ship had the ill fortune to dock in Ethiopia, where it was attacked and everyone on board was killed except for the two brothers.  For some reason, they were enslaved instead, and given as a gift to King Abreha.  They had become Christians in the Coptic church in Alexandria, and as slaves God gave them boldness to preach Christ to their captors.  The King did not listen, but his wife, although she did not convert to Christianity, liked their teaching and insisted they teach the young prince, Erazanes.  Somehow God gave them the courage and faith to resist bitterness over their fate and to courageously use the opportunities given to them.

When King Abreha was near death, he offered the brothers freedom.  What a chance!  But the queen begged them to stay, to continue teaching the prince, and to advise her on how to rule until he reached adulthood and became king.  As I thought about this, I wondered if they debated the value of one child in comparison to a lifetime of freedom for themselves.  But these far-sighted brothers saw more than just one child, even a royal child.  They saw the opportunity to influence a kingdom for Christ.  They refused personal freedom, and stayed.  Eventually Erazanes became king Ezana, but for all their teaching, he still had not come to faith in Christ.  He continued to worship the idol Michren.  Coins minted in that era show pictures of the pagan gods, and Erazanes’ royal inscriptions gave credit to pagan gods for victories in battle.  The brothers must have been disappointed and perhaps discouraged, but they kept on sharing their faith, ministering to businessmen trading in Ethiopia.  Neither were ordained as pastors, so Frumentius requested Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria to send them a pastor.  Instead, Athanasius ordained Frumentius himself. 

Finally, toward the end of his rule, King Ezana finally did come to Christ.  His conversion seems to be genuine.  He no longer minted coins with pagan symbols, but rather with the Christian cross.  He began to give credit to “the King of Heaven” in his royal inscriptions.  He built churches and named Ethiopia as officially a Christian country, although of course the majority of the people were still idol worshipers.  At last Christians were able to share Christ freely and the door was opened for other missionaries to enter.

Frumentius learned the Ethiopian Ge’ez language, developed its script, and translated the first Ge’ez New Testament.  Slowly, a strong Christian church emerged.  In fact, it grew so strong that when Islam was born and swept out of its birthplace in 639, assaulting all of North Africa with wave after wave of Islamic jihad, giving Christians and others the ultimatum of Muhammed’s infamous three choices:  Islam, slavery (dhimmitude), or death, the Ethiopian church stood firm.  Only it stood firm, and this in spite of the fact that it had many cultural and linguistic similarities with Arabic.  It seems to me that only a deep and genuine faith could have withstood the assault, century after century. 

As I reflected on this, I was amazed at how God honored the faith, vision, humility and commitment of those two young men, Frumentius and Aedesius, who refused to surrender to their difficult personal situation.  Maybe they had discovered the “bloom where you are planted” philosophy. 

I realize that they did not convert Ethiopia alone.  God had long been at work there, from the God-seeking Queen of Sheba in Solomon’s time, and their son, King Menelik I (according to Ethiopian tradition), to the Jews who took shelter in Egypt shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C., to the Jews who settled in Egypt in the time of Alexander the Great and the Ptolemies.  Philip brought the queen’s treasurer to Christ, and tradition says Matthew evangelized in Ethiopia until he was put to death.  The persecution of Christians brought Christian witness to Ethiopia, since in 308 A.D., maimed Christians were sent as slave labor in Sudanese mines.  Many faithful men and women had spoken and lived for God in Ethiopia before Frumentius and Aedesius.  But when this pair added years of patient, faithful testimony to that of others, God brought forth fruit.  He did great and mighty things because two young men were willing to use what influence they had where they were and regardless of circumstances.  They gave up their personal rights, and God honored their witness to bring the Gospel to many generations that followed.

God, make me faithful to bloom where I am planted, not seeking anything for myself, but using every opportunity for Christ.  Thank you for the encouragement of these brothers who lived so long ago, but whose influence persists to this very day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Open invitation to try Conservapedia

If you are tired of the liberal bias that is often so evident on Wikipedia, and if you are a conservative or Bible-believing Christian, or at least it doesn't make you angry to read such viewpoints, I invite you to try Conservapedia.  It works just like Wikipedia, except that you won't find it listed first when you do an internet search.  You'll probably have to type it in and then search for the subject you want.  This is simply because Wikipedia gets so many more hits.

I say this from experience.  I write for both, and I am glad for any contribution I can make to Wikipedia, but it's really hard to temper an article that's been written from a viewpoint that I as a Christian find objectionable.  Most often contributions are reverted almost as soon as they are made.  I'm still trying to contribute what I can, but I want to let you all know that there is another alternative.  Conservapedia is well worth using, and if like me, you are a writer with a purpose, it's worth writing for.

You can still find articles that are skewed on Conservapedia, but corrections and adjustments are accepted much more readily.

I invite you to try it out, and let me know what you think!

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Back in 1980, our family was preparing to go as missionaries to what was then called Zaire (now DR Congo).  I was leaving many ministries in which I had been involved in the US, some of them in our local church.  I had put my whole heart into those ministries.  Now that we were leaving, I had been praying about what I might do to help my local church in a longer term way—something I might do now that would still help while we were in Africa.  I had done some teacher training for the church, so one idea I had was to make tape recordings of my ideas for different areas of ministry.  Those who came after me could learn from the recordings.

I was quite enthusiastic about the project.  During Junior church one week, my helper taught the memory verse.  I felt I had a lot of ideas that could help her, so I made my first recording on teaching the memory verse.  It was designed to be part motivation and part instruction.  I gave her the recording.  The next week I was very gratified at how much more engaging the memory teaching was.

The subject came up with a friend who was related to the memory helper, and I mentioned how helpful the tape had been.  Right away she snapped, “Did she tell you that?”  I stared at her with my mouth open.  I was confused.  My helper had obviously done a much better job, so I had assumed that the tape had been helpful.

“She doesn’t want to have to be listening to all that just to teach the memory verse,” my friend explained.  It’s too much.

Her words stung.  Had I been presumptuous to think that I had some ideas that other teachers might want to hear?  Did God want to humble me to that I would not go to the mission field feeling I had all the answers?  Was the recording just a little too long?  Had I mistaken God’s voice entirely in telling me to make the tapes?  I still don’t know, but I never made another recording, nor did I ever again loan out the first one I had made.  In fact I entirely gave up the idea of doing something before I left that might help my local church after I was in Africa.  As I look back on the incident, the only thing I am sure of is that it taught me the power of a discouraging word.  It showed me how quickly a single discouraging comment can bring a project to nothing.

Fortunately, it was many, many years before I again was the recipient of such discouraging words.  Thank the Lord, in the meantime, many people spoke positive, encouraging words into my life.

The experience left one thing with me very profoundly:  Whether other people’s attempts at ministry are all they should be or not, I want to be an encourager and not a discourager.



Who Judges Which Books Are False?

I recently discovered Google Books--a neat way to check out books I want to read but haven't decided if I'm ready to invest in buying them.  A neat way to quickly connect online references for books so that others can check them out.

One slight problem.  I notice that most of the books that we might label "politically incorrect" or that present a conservative viewpoint have been assigned URL's that end in f=false.  Everything else in the URL has to do with the title, except for that final designation.

Hmm.  I wonder who decides these books are false.  I wonder what standards they use.

I wonder, but I've seen enough that I think I can already take an educated guess.

Google, you are now the new censor of the world?  Oh, you're modern.  You don't burn books.  You just label them false.  That keeps them from being used effectively in online reviews.  Clever.

I can only say, that based on my experience and the books I've checked out on Google Books, I'd advise readers to look for the books labeled f=false.  If they do, I think they're much more likely to find the truth!

Monday, October 27, 2014

At Least It's Never Dull

Last Saturday evening was our annual ECM Fundraising Banquet here in IN.  By the time next year's banquet rolls around, our dear colleague Mark Luckey will have taken over the directorship position, so our board, staff & friends surprised & honored us with gifts and kind words.  It always feels good to be appreciated, of course.  But sometimes I feel a little embarrassed by the attention and the implication that we have given up so much to serve God.  I hear so often, "They could have had a nice life."  I understand that what they mean is, we could have had a more comfortable life.  We could have made more money and accumulated more things.  We could have driven a nicer car.  But every time I hear these things, I want to interrupt & shout, "We had a GREAT life!"

Yes, our missionary life has been challenging.  At times I have felt very discouraged.  More than once, I've quit (in my own mind--only to re-enlist again before I got the resignation written).  But it has certainly never been dull.  It's not just that it's exciting.  It's more like it's been rewarding.  Friday night, in my response, I said "I can't think of anything I would rather have done with 30 years of my life," and I meant it. 

Today I worked on writing Bible lessons for Congo in the Kituba language we learned when we lived there.  This afternoon, I completed the lesson on the call of Abraham.  God called him to do a very hard thing--to leave his country, his family and his home to go to a land that God promised to show him.  In one sense he gave up everything.

But I was also struck by what he gained.  God did show him a land, and gave it to his descendants.  God promised him a big family and great honor.  God promised to bless those who bless him and to curse those who curse him.  God promised to use him as a channel of blessing to others--in fact, to bless all the families of the earth through him.  I believe that includes at least the fact that his descendants gave us the Bible that we treasure, and also gave us our Savior.  God used a Jewish maiden to bring His eternal Son into the world.  That's why the very first verse of the New Testament shows that He was a descendant of King David and a descendant of Abraham.  I was looking only at the first time God promised Abram great things (Genesis 12:1-3).  Yet even there, I saw that he got far more than he gave up. 

That's how missionary life is.  In fact, I think that's how life is for any follower of Jesus.  We give it all up, it's true.  But then we get more in return than we had ever dreamed possible.

I've had the joy of hearing my own children say, "Thanks, Mom, for introducing us to Jesus."  I've also had, just this week, the joy of getting a Facebook message from a former Sunday school boy in Congo who as an adult told me, "Mama, I remember so well the things you taught us.  I will never forget them."  Yes, I have had a wonderful life indeed.