Dr. Turner was sick yesterday, so I ended up teaching three class periods. Consequently, I was able to finish up my Malachi class this morning. I have the devotional time tomorrow, and I probably will preach in Dandi or somewhere on Sunday, but other than that, my responsibilities are almost over. I covered the 4th chapter of Malachi today. It’s mostly a warning about the coming “day of the LORD” with its judgment on the wicked and the satisfaction and joy of the righteous. It was a little bit smoother sailing than yesterday. There are several verses in chapter 3 that are difficult to translate, and therefore difficult to understand and apply. The biggest difficulty in chapter 4 is deciding whether or not John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah’s return in verses 5 and 6. John’s dad prophesies that he will minister in the spirit and power of Elijah, and Jesus says that John the Baptist was Elijah, if you can accept it. But John the Baptist explicitly said that he wasn’t Elijah. The answer is possibly found in Matthew 17, where Jesus says, “Elijah comes” after John the Baptist died. So, it seems that John was the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1 but not Malachi 4:5-6. Elijah may be one of the two witnesses who stand in the streets and preach for 3 ½ years during the Tribulation (if you can accept it). Aren’t you glad you read that paragraph? Time well spent. Anyhow, there was a power outage shortly after class, so that put a damper on my plans to do laundry. I had some battery left on my computer, so I went online to check e-mail and chatted for a few moments with a high school buddy, Rick, and my erstwhile Yahoo! Spades partner, Weezy. Rick just got back from a missions trip to Yakama Indian Reservation, so we chatted about that a little, until I ran out of battery. When the power came back on, I did enough laundry to get me through the rest of the trip. Doing laundry is a blog of its own, but the short version is: You fill 2 or 3 buckets of water from a faucet in the shower. You dump them in the washing machine and add some soap. Then you put the clothes in and start the timer. The timer ticks but the machine doesn’t agitate. You decide the load’s too heavy, so you take some clothes out. You continue taking out more and more clothes. Soon all the clothes are out, but it’s still not agitating. You worry that you burned out the motor. You go ask Mrs. Turner if there’s some trick to making the washer agitate. She suggests flipping the switch on the outlet. You go back to the bathroom and flick the switch. The washer begins agitating. You put the clothes back in. You take the jeans back out, because they’re too heavy. After a few minutes, you take some other clothes out and put the jeans back in. After a few more minutes, you take all the clothes out and drain the water into the shower. You rinse out the washer tub and add 2 or 3 more buckets of water. You put the clothes back in, sans jeans, natch, and rinse for a while. Etc., etc. You get the picture.
I led devotions again today. This time, I focused on the story of Jehoshaphat from 2 Chronicles 20. If you don’t remember the story, I would encourage you to read it for yourself, but I’ll give you the synopsis with a few things I gleaned from it. Jehoshaphat was about to face a big problem. The Moabites and Ammonites were getting ready to attack Judah. Then, Jehoshaphat gets a message that the Edomites have decided this would be a good time to launch their attack as well. So, Judah is facing three armies, any one of which would stand a decent chance of destroying them. I drew from this story three keys for facing our enemies.
The first thing Jehoshaphat did was called all of the people in Judah together for a time of prayer and fasting. Jehoshaphat gathered the people in the temple courtyard and prayed, “Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. . . . We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” The first step in facing our enemy is to acknowledge our weakness and God’s strength; we do that through fasting and prayer. When I was an associate pastor at El Dorado Springs, I really saw this put into action. When Pastor Joe first came to the church, he preached on prayer every service for weeks in a row. At first, the people thought they had made a mistake in calling such a “one-track” pastor, but eventually they got the message and began to pray. Many prayer ministries started—pastor’s prayer partners, Week of Waiting, 24 hours of prayer and fasting, 40 days of prayer and fasting. One of the most powerful ministries was Gideon’s Army. This was a group of about 50 people who met every Sunday night following the evening service. They would choose one unsaved person in the community and corporately agree to pray for that person during that week. They specifically prayed that God would bring conviction to that person’s heart. Many times, that person would be in the service the following Sunday, white-knuckling the pew in front of them. We saw many people come to Christ as a result of the prayers of Gideon’s Army.
The next thing that happened in Jehoshaphat’s story was that a prophet named Jahaziel stood up. He gave some words of encouragement that God had heard their prayer. And then he gives some strategic advice. He tells Jehoshaphat that the battle is not his; it’s God’s. Jehoshaphat won’t even have to fight. “Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you.” That sounds like pretty good advice in theory—just stand still and let God fight your battle for you. But it’s a lot harder to put into practice when the enemy is (or three enemies are) marching toward you. Many of us have a hard time with standing still. We have our own ideas about how our enemies should be handled, and they rarely include inaction. But that’s what Jehoshaphat had to be willing to do. So, that’s the second step—patience and faithfulness.
Finally, the morning comes, and it’s time for Jehoshaphat to go and face the battle. He chooses an unusual strategy. He puts the choir in the front lines of his army. Not swords, not lances, not cavalry, not archers—singers. They march to the battleground, singing and praising God. Apparently they got a late start, because they missed the entire battle. While Judah was still on their way, the armies of Moab and Ammon allied against the army of Edom and destroyed it. Then, a dispute broke out between their two armies and they completely annihilated each other. So when Jehoshaphat and the army/choir of Judah arrived, there was nothing left to do except pick up the spoils of war. Pretty cool, huh?
So, in case you weren’t paying attention, the three steps were: 1. Prayer and fasting 2. Patience and faithfulness 3. Praise and worship (anybody have a synonym for worship that starts with F?) If we could really learn to put those three things into practice, we might find that God fights a lot of our battles for us and we could enjoy more of the blessings he wants to give us.
We made it a little farther in Malachi today. I only have three more days to teach, so I need to accelerate it a bit. Today, we finished up discussing his second oracle, which is about honoring God, and started into his third oracle, which is about being faithful (or, at least, not being unfaithful). In Malachi 2, he gives us a good picture of what a minister should be, probably drawn from the life of Phinehas. You may not be a vocational minister, but you might find these good qualities to develop in your own life: 1. He revered God. He always showed God proper respect and honor. 2. He stood in awe of God’s name. 3. True instruction was in his mouth. 4. Nothing false was found on his lips. 5. He walked with God in peace and uprightness. 6. He turned many from sin.
Yesterday presented a new challenge. Pastor Linus Justin arranged for me to come to his church and preach in the morning service. I had brought a few sermons along for just that eventuality, so I wasn’t too stressed (although I wasn’t really sure what the best approach for this particular congregation was). I had to preach through an interpreter, but I’m getting lots of practice teaching with translation in our Bible class. This was a little different, though, because Linus’s native tongue is Gujarati, but he was translating from English into Hindi. Can you imagine trying to translate from your 3rd language into your 2nd language? Of course not. You’re American; you only speak one language. Preaching wasn’t the challenge, though. The congregation sings songs in both Hindi and English, but Linus wanted them to learn some new English songs. So he asked me to teach them. Some of you have had the distinct, um, privilege of hearing me sing; some of you perhaps remain yet unscarred. At any rate, I plunged ahead and taught them “Holy, Holy” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” A capella, no less. As part of my welcome, I was again presented with flowers—this time, a heavy garland to wear around my neck. The church meets in an apartment building. Most of the residents are Hindu, but they have not given the church any problems. The church has over 50 members. Most of them are migrants to Vapi from other parts of India; that’s why the service is held in English and Hindi. Vapi is a major industrial center, drawing workers from around the country to its factories. Often, church members have to work on Sundays, so we had about 35 in attendance. Honestly, that’s about all the chairs there were. Some latecomers sat on a carpet in the front of the church, until they were invited to take the last available chairs. Most of the congregation came forward and shook my hand after the service. After many had departed, Linus introduced me to several of the non-Christian visitors to the service. One was a Hindu family that he is meeting with each Friday. Linus brought each member of the family to me and told me a prayer request for them. I would then lay my hand on that person’s shoulder and pray over them. One was beginning a job as a teacher; one was beginning college. Another was suffering from physical problems; another looking for a job. Finally, he introduced another lady to me who still has not converted but is reading the Bible every day. She asked me to pray that she would understand what God is trying to tell her through the Scriptures. It was so incredible to have that one-on-one contact with these people and to pray over them. We stopped for soft drinks on the way home and chatted some more and then came back to Pardi for lunch. We had a bit of a nap, and then I had a good chat with the Turners about our future ministry endeavors. Tiffany and I will still have a lot of conversation and prayer about this before it’s all over, but I felt like this talk really did help narrow my focus a little bit. For the evening meal, we went to the house of Seema’s family. Seema is Linus’ wife. The food was excellent, and topped off with some ice cream. We spent some time looking at the wedding photos of Seema’s brother Anand and his bride Joyana (who was there also). It looks like there are a lot of similarities with American weddings, but a few differences. This morning, I led the devotional time. I talked about the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. I have used this a few different places, so I may have blogged about it before. If so, just hear it again. Here’s the short version. 1. Elijah preaches a sermon. It’s a great sermon, but the peoples’ response is silence. 2. Elijah proposes a program. He suggests a contest between Yahweh and Baal; the peoples’ response is: “Yeah, that’s a good idea.” 3. Elijah prays and God shows up. God sends fire that consumes the sacrifice, the wood, the rocks, the dirt, the water. The peoples’ response? They fall on their faces and say, “Yahweh is God! Yahweh is God!” Moral of the story: You can preach great sermons, you can have wonderful programs, but if you’re going to really see people respond, you’re going to have to pray for God to show His power.
This morning, we went to visit the Wesleyan English Medium School in Vapi. We have over 700 students attending, from nursery to 10th standard (whatever that means). We had a quick look inside their computer lab and then were ushered onto a dais, where we looked out at the entire student body gathered before us. The students had charge of a special welcome program for us. They gave little speeches of welcome, sang a welcome song, sang a prayer song, personally welcomed each of us and gave us each a bouquet of flowers. Then, each of us had to make brief remarks to the students. Finally, we were released from being public spectacles and allowed to continue touring the school building.
I woke up this morning at about 5:30. The Turners were up shortly thereafter, and we had breakfast together. At 8:30, we met with the students for a devotional time. Dr. Turner is doing a series of devotionals on life lessons from the story of Noah. He will give devotionals for the rest of this week. I’m not sure but I may be in charge of giving devotionals all next week.
I teach the first class period from 9:00 to 9:45. Yesterday, I gave the students a bit of an introduction to the book of Malachi. Today, we began to tackle the actual content. It’s a little challenging to teach with a translator, but Linus does an excellent job. We only covered the first 5 verses of the book today, but because the book only has about 45 verses, we should be right on track. I’m not sure I can actually fill 10 days of class with the content I have right now, but we’ll see. I have about 32 pages of notes, but I’ve gone through 7 of them in 2 days. The students seemed to be tracking along, and some even responded when I asked for questions at the end.
The first five verses of Malachi are about God’s great love for his people. Israel had enjoyed many, many blessings from God. He had chosen, by his own power and grace, to bless Jacob’s descendants more than he blessed Esau’s descendants. To Israel, he had given the Law, the temple, the priests, the judges, the prophets, etc. Both Israel and Edom had become wicked, and God punished them by sending them into captivity in Babylon. But, because of God’s great love, he brought Israel out of captivity and restored them to their homeland. One hundred years passed. Israel was under Persian domination, the crops were less than satisfactory and God had not yet ushered in his Messianic kingdom. In the face of these negative circumstances, Israel began to complain that God didn’t love them. They overlooked 1000 years of God’s loving provision and blessing to complain about the few things they didn’t have in the present. They forgot about the covenant God had made with Abraham and Isaac. They forgot how God chose them before Jacob was even born. They forgot how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. They forgot how God had protected them in the wilderness. They forgot how God had given them the land of Canaan. They forgot how God had sent judges to deliver them from the messes they got themselves into. They forgot how God had brought them out of captivity, while he left Edom under Babylonian bondage. They forgot how God had allowed them to rebuild their temple, while the Edomites were again attacked by the Nabatean Arabs and forced out of their land. Their current circumstances blinded them to the overarching love God had shown them.
Malachi does a great job of pointing out the ingratitude typical of the human experience. God gave Adam and Eve thousands of trees in the Garden, but they fixated on the one tree they weren’t allowed to have. Are you there? Do you focus on one negative in your life, forgetting a long history of God’s gracious acts toward you? I know I really struggle with cynicism and a complaining spirit. I’m praying that God will help me to remember how he has worked in my life, so that I will never ask accusingly, like Israel did, “How have you loved us?”
Well, enough preaching for one blog. After class, I got online and posted my blog from last night and read a few e-mails. I tried to talk to Tiffany, but she was probably putting Elijah down for his nap. I went back to the apartment and continued class preparation. I think I’m more or less prepared for the rest of the time I will spend here. We talked a little about my plans for the end of this trip. I don’t fly out until the evening of the 24th, but I may try to go to Mumbai on the 23rd and spend the night in a hotel. That would give me a chance to run out and get the geocache on Elephant Island, do some souvenir shopping, and still get to the airport in plenty of time. Hopefully, I could leave my luggage there for a while, so that I don’t have to lug it all over the city. I’m still keeping my ear to the ground about the situation in Mumbai, though. If things heat up any more, I will scrap the whole thing, go directly to the airport on Monday evening and get out of the country with the least bother possible.
I’m really hoping I get a chance to do one day of sightseeing. I really am seeing a very tiny slice of India. This village is about 50,000 people, but we don’t really leave the campus. We may do a little grocery shopping or something tomorrow; I’m not sure.
I’m in India! On Monday afternoon, I flew from Manila to Bangkok on Thai Airways. In the Bangkok airport, I met Dr. and Mrs. Paul Turner, the Asia area directors for Global Partners. We flew on from Bangkok to Mumbai, arriving around 10:30 p.m. India time. After a long wait at the baggage carousel and a stop at the currency exchange to buy some rupees, we were greeted by Dr. Samuel Justin and his son Linus. For many years, Dr. Justin was the regional superintendent for the West India conference of the Wesleyan Church; his son Joel now holds that office. We got into their vehicle and immediately headed for the village of Pardi in Gujarat State. It was raining (this is monsoon season), so it took a little more than three hours for us to reach our destination. The time here is 2 ½ hours earlier than in Manila, so we had basically been up all night, although I did doze off and on along the way. When we arrived in Pardi, the Justins showed us to our apartment. It’s a two-bedroom apartment in a building consisting of a chapel, classrooms, etc. The accommodations are a little primitive by Western standards but very satisfactory for our needs. I put up my mosquito net, climbed into bed and fell asleep immediately.
Tuesday was, more or less, a day of rest and preparation. After we were all up and around and had a very late breakfast, we headed to Vapi, a nearby industrial center. We went to a grocery store and picked up some supplies—breakfast items, snacks, etc. While there, we were privileged to meet Linus’ wife Seema, who is the headmistress of the Wesleyan English Medium School, as well as one of their computer teachers. The school has just added the tenth standard and has about 700 students. I was given a very attractive school magazine with lots of color photos, student artwork, poems, etc. We also stopped at a local pharmacy, where Mrs. Turner ordered some medicine, available here at nearly ¼ of U.S. prices. We spent most of the rest of the day in rest and preparation for classes. We are taking our lunch and supper with the Justins. I can’t easily describe the food, except to say that it is very agreeable. We usually have rice of some variety, although it is different from what we eat in the Philippines. There is always chapatti—bread made by grinding grain into flour and adding water to make dough, which is then kneaded, rolled, and baked flat. There is also some kind of similar bread that is fried in oil. The main protein dish is usually some kind of meat or lentil stew, flavored with curry and/or other spices.
Tiff's been complaining about the fact that our back yard turns into a swamp every time she does a load of laundry, and I wasn't too thrilled about it myself. Today, I decided it was time to fix it. The current situation was a 2 1/2 inch elbow coming out of the wall with a pipe going down to the ground and an elbow shooting the water out into the yard. I told Jasson, our helper, that he could start digging a ditch, because we would lay new pipe to take the water out to the treeline. I went to work in the library until the battery on my laptop ran out. I came back and got Jasson and we went to VJ Cruz hardware store. They said they didn't have any 2.5" PVC, only 3". So we jumped back in the car and went to Northern hardware store. I told them I needed 2.5" PVC. The guy asked me blue or black. I was, like, I don't care; it's going to be underground. Apparently, though, the color corresponds to the quality. All they had in 2.5" was blue which was going to be more than $1 per foot and I needed about 40 feet. There wasn't much option though, so I told them I'd take it. "I need 3 couplings," I said. A little research revealed that they didn't have any. The proprietor's wife said I should use 3" for drainage anyhow. Again, I didn't have much choice, so I went for the 3" pipe. Fortunately, it was available in black--much cheaper. And they had the elbow that I needed. Eventually, we were back at campus with everything we needed. The only tricky part was trying to wedge the 3" pipe under the elbow barely protruding out of the wall. It just wasn't budging. I thought the elbow was metal (why I would think this, I have no idea). I tried prying it out a little with a crowbar. Of course, it was PVC and it shattered. So now, I just had a 2.5" hole in the wall. I got the boys' monitor there to help. He decided we could melt the end of a 2.5" pipe, stick it in the hole and attach an elbow to drain into the 3" pipe. So, we were running back and forth to the kitchen, melting pipe over the stove and going back outside to try to cram it in the hole. I think it's going to work. We'll see on Tiff's first big laundry day.