Monday, December 26, 2011
I write passionately about Nigeria – the country of my birth. I write to memorialize a world of tropical bliss, filled with friends, family, adventure, and God’s presence. But like so many or our childhoods, the world I knew is gone.
For Nigeria, many things contributed to the nation it has become today. The discovery of oil in the Niger delta is one contributor. The current world strife between the Moslems and Christians is another. This clash is especially pronounced in northern Nigeria, a predominately Moslem area with some Christian enclaves within its borders. One of those enclaves is the city of Jos. This city was established by Christians and in fact the name, Jos is an acronym for the words “Jesus Our Savior”.
Today – one day after Christmas. While many of us are enjoying a relaxing post-Christmas time with our tummies full and our hearts warmed, northern Nigerian Christians are reeling from Christmas Day attacks. A story about these cruel attacks can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/25/nigerian-church-bombed-christmas-prayers
Please pray for our Nigerian brothers and sisters in Christ as they struggle to remain faithful even while under persecution!
“Lord, there is no one besides Thee to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us O Lord, for we trust in Thee.” 2 Chronicles 14:11
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Then Came Love
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NASB)
What does love look like? If someone asked you to draw a picture of love what would you draw? Ask a child that question and he might draw a heart, but does that really convey the essence of love? The Bible tells us love looks like a baby in a manger - like approximately seven pounds of helpless flesh sleeping contentedly or perhaps crying in hunger just like any other baby. But this baby was not in a warm, clean crib in a brightly painted room; no this baby was in a stable full of dirty animals because there was no bed for Him among humans.
Love also looks like a young man in the prime of life bleeding and dying on a cross. It looks like this man willingly giving up His life so that others might gain theirs. Love looks like the everlasting God in all His glory……wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Sing sweet and low your lullaby till angels say “Amen.”
A mother tonight is rocking
a cradle in Bethlehem.
As wisemen follow in the dark, a star that beckons them.
A mother tonight is rocking
a cradle in Bethlehem.
(Lyrics from a song on the late Nat King Cole’s Christmas album.)
Monday, November 28, 2011
I read in the paper today that Ojukwu has passed away in a London Hospital at the age of 78. That name may mean nothing to you but the man changed my world.
In 1966, I was a little girl playing happily in the Nigerian town of Ogbomosho. I had trees to climb, sprawling yards of green grass to run in, pet monkeys and parrots to make me laugh, and friends I loved. But also in 1966, unbeknownst to me, this man – Chukwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu declared the Eastern Region of Nigeria to be the new sovereign nation of Biafra. This part of Nigeria included the oil rich Niger River Delta, where I was born but it did not include Ogbomosho where I lived. This man’s declaration changed my world forever.
Thanks to this man, a civil war broke out in Nigeria and I had new experiences. I learned new words – like hate, war, fear, danger, death, and prejudice. Finally in 1968 when my parents left Nigeria, never to return, I learned the meaning of the terms separation, loss, and sadness. Isn’t it funny how one person’s life impacts another? I never knew this man and he never knew me but his life changed my life’s direction.
But as I think of this today, I am not sad. Why? Because My Lord was directing my steps all along, even through the experiences of war, loss, and separation. And I am reminded of some words from the prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah 6: 1 he writes, “In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.”
What was Isaiah’s reaction to the uncertainty of political change around him? He saw the Lord, high and lifted up! May we keep our eyes on Him no matter what changes are occurring in our lives today!
Friday, November 11, 2011
The Weekend President Kennedy was shot – Part 2
There is more to the story of the burglar who broke into my family’s home that fateful weekend in November 1963. This story is best told by my friend Ron Wasson. Ron was a year older than me and a very close friend of mine. While I was trying to get home from my local leave trip, he and his family were encountering the burglar who called himself “Terrible.” Here is Ron’s story:
My Name Is Terrible
"Terrible!" answered the enraged intruder when my Dad asked, “What is your name?”
It was November of 1963, a typical warm, dark, night during the early dry season in Ogbomosho, Nigeria. Mom had gone out to visit other missionaries that night and was just returning in the car. Dad was home in the living room, on the couch, reading. My younger brother, sister and I were already asleep in our bedrooms.
Suddenly, without any warning, a Nigerian man yanked opened the screen door and stood in the doorway holding a knife in his right hand and a broken Sprite bottle in the other. He demanded money from my Dad and threatened to kill him if Dad did not have any money to give. Although greatly startled, Dad calmly got up from the couch and asked the man his name. He replied “Terrible!” Then he once again demanded money as he lunged toward Dad, threatening him with the knife. Dad could tell from the look in his eyes that he was not in a normal state of mind, perhaps he was on some type of drug. Dad remained composed and told the man he had no money. Then with a firm voice, Dad cautioned him to be quiet so as not to awaken his sleeping children. (This specific response would later become the talk of the mission and beyond, that although faced with a possible life threatening situation; Dad’s priority was to not wake his children!) The man was obviously confused and perplexed at Dad’s response. He didn’t notice that Dad was slowly approaching him, closer and closer, until Dad grabbed the heavy wooden door and slammed it into the man. The glass window in the door shattered when it hit the man’s outstretched arm and he fled quickly still holding the knife or bottle.
Meanwhile, Mom had parked the car just a few yards away when Dad started shouting, “Stay, Stay” (as in don’t come this way, stay there). Mom thought he was saying “Snake, Snake”. She thought a snake was in the house and had climbed in bed with one of the children. (Snakes were known to find their way into houses.) She had a flashlight and kept walking toward the front porch, thinking nothing of her potential danger. At this point, Dad was frantically worried; he didn’t know what direction Terrible had fled and did not want Mom to encounter him. As it turned out, Terrible ran in the other direction and Mom was never in any danger.
I remember waking up to the breaking glass and Dad’s yelling, but I didn’t get up and must have dozed off again. I later came out of the bedroom when Mom and Dad were sweeping up the glass and was told everything was OK and to go back to bed. Evidently, they didn’t want me to worry about what had happened and have problems going back to sleep. Completely unaware of any problem I soon fell back asleep.
The next morning, everyone was excited and talking about what had taken place. I learned more about the events of the night before. Another missionary house just three houses down was robbed and ransacked during the night. The missionaries were gone at the time. The thieves (not sure if Terrible was involved) were able to get in through the back door of the house. I remember seeing the inside of the house after the police had been through it. They allowed us in but we were told not to touch anything. It was a mess! Nothing was left undisturbed. Drawers were pulled out; clothes, furniture, kitchen utensils - everything lay scattered about. One thing that has stuck in my mind all these years is that that the thieves did not disturb a small matchbox that one of the missionary kids was using as a “piggy bank”. I guess the thieves never thought that money would be hiding in a matchbox.
Soon after, we learned that Terrible was a murderer who had escaped from prison. A few days later, we heard yelling in the streets of the nearby town. The yelling sounded like what might be heard at a ball game as a crowd reacts excitedly to a great play. As it turned out, the crowd was reacting to the news that Terrible had finally been caught, but not before stabbing and wounding a policeman during his capture. Terrible still had the cuts on his hand from my glass door.
I remember visiting the policeman at the Ogbomoso Baptist hospital where my father was the pharmacist. It didn’t take long for word to spread throughout the town about the white missionary man who was not afraid to stand up to Terrible and chase him away. Dad’s action that night made him a hero to the local people. He was being referred to as “John Wayne”. Dad never thought himself a hero though, after all, he was simply doing what any parent would do – trying to let sleeping children sleep. His actions to prevent the awakening of his children despite the danger he faced as he stared down a crazed murderer has been discussed and laughed about for years and happily continues on even to this very day. A short time later, all the windows on the mission houses were outfitted with expanded metal to prevent anyone from getting in from the outside and they still remain there today.
That same day, we had learned about the assassination of President Kennedy. I remember seeing a newspaper with the headlines “Kennedy Assassinated” on the back of a policeman’s motorcycle parked outside the house that was robbed.
So, whenever someone asks, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot”? I always have an interesting story to tell.
Monday, October 24, 2011
The Weekend President Kennedy was Shot –Part 1
They say anyone who was alive at the time President Kennedy was shot will always remember where they were when they heard the news. Though I was a half a world away, I remember it too! The weekend he was killed was one of the strangest of my life.
My family had been on “local leave” - the missionaries’ term for vacation. Every year, each missionary family had a week or two of local leave. Usually, it was spent somewhere away from a missionary’s home base; to get away so to speak. My family was no exception. That year we spent the week in another city, miles away from our home city of Ogbomosho.
On the day we were to return, our car broke down a couple of hours down the road. We were stranded. Back then there were no cell phones to call for help, no AAA to provide roadside service, and gas stations were few and far between…so we waited by the side of the road hoping another vehicle would come along.
After a while, a “lori” came by. A “lori” was a stripped down version of a truck. The lori driver stopped and offered to take us back to the city we had just left. Our plan was to go back to the missionary family whom we had been visiting and get them to drive us back to our car the next day. After some repairs, we hoped to set out for home again.
The only place to ride in this lori was the open bed in the back. My entire family climbed in and sat down among others who were hitching a ride that night. A few miles down the road, it began to rain. It was cold. We huddled beside each other in the dark of the night, in the pouring rain. The rain pelted down directly on us. It stung as it hit my face and arms – and I was very cold! My mother took a sweater she had and held it over the heads of my siblings and me as best as she could. It was a miserable ride that seemed to last forever.
Finally, at long last, we arrived back at our friend’s home only to be met at the door with the news that President Kennedy had been shot! I was not sure how this news impacted me personally but by the looks on the adult’s faces, I could tell it was very grave news indeed!
The next day, with the help of our friends we resumed our trip home. We finally arrived back in Ogbomosho; I was so glad to be home! But to my dismay, we were met by local police with the news that our home had been broken into and we could not return to it just yet.
A day or two later, we moved back in and took inventory of our loss. The burglar had stolen some of my parent’s possessions and my sibling’s money. (We kids received a shilling a week as allowance. This was usually spent fairly quickly in the local market on peppermint candy called Trebors or peanuts sold by the peanut lady who sat outside of the hospital gates.) But the burglar had not stolen my money (all 1 or 2 shillings of it). I had kept my money in a match box which he passed over presumably thinking it was matches. I felt so clever for having hidden my money so well.
Friday, October 7, 2011
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
- Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith
Who Knew? I turned out to be a Writer, after all!”
(This article, written by me, 1st appeared in “Writer’s Weekly” May 11, 2011)
1976 – Our nation celebrated its bi-centennial anniversary. My town held a writing competition. Students from several area high schools wrote short essays called “Bi-centennial Minutes”. I participated because I had to…it was a required assignment in my English class. A few weeks later, a reporter and a photographer from the local newspaper walked into my school and interviewed me - because I had won the competition!
Another spring a year or two later, at my high school’s awards ceremony, my name was called as a “Laurel Leaf” winner. This was a writing award and no one was more surprised than me! You see, I could not spell or punctuate – at all! I punctuated written pieces like some people sprinkle salt and pepper on their food; I just sort of sprinkled some around in my written pieces…or so it appeared. I grew tired of all the red marks my papers collected so when college came - I majored in nursing!
Several years ago, someone I loved struggled severely and I struggled along side of her. I longed to be able to pray more effectively for this person. I began a personal study of prayer, journaling as I gained insights. After a few years, my friend was better and I had a manuscript written. I discovered I loved writing, now that computers are available…computers that can spell and punctuate for me.
Then one summer, I read a newspaper blurb about an upcoming writer’s conference in my area. I longed to attend but I was not a writer, at least not a published writer. I showed the article to my husband, sheepishly confessing my new silly dream of becoming a writer. He encouraged me to attend. I laughed as I made plans to attend. After all, I had written a manuscript. I decided to simply declare myself a writer.
The conference was wonderful! The speakers were great. I came back encouraged and hopeful. In one of the sessions, I learned how to submit articles to magazines. I learned about writing query letters and tips for finding magazines in need of material. Participants were strongly encouraged to try our hands at article writing.
In the few months after the conference, I began writing, and submitting articles and devotionals. That was less than two years ago. Today I have a growing list of credits which include over 20 published pieces. The money I spent on the conference was earned back and turned a small prophet in the first year. And guess what? I turned out to be a writer after all!
Monday, September 19, 2011
Like Moses in the Bible, Moses Nwoke’s life was threatened at his birth. Also like the Biblical Moses, he too was born near a river. But that is where the similarities end.
Moses Nwoke was born in a small village in eastern Nigeria, in the Niger River delta. His mother died giving birth to him. The village his family lived in held a superstitious belief about babies like him. Steeped in black magic, the villagers believed a baby whose mother died while giving birth was possessed with an evil spirit. This, they believed was the reason the mother had died – the evil spirit in the baby had killed her. Her death was sufficient evidence of the existence of this spirit in the eyes of the villagers. So, they had a solution to the problem; they threw such babies in the river in order to get rid of the evil spirit and appease their god.
Moses’ fate would have been sealed at his birth were it not for a group of Christian women from a nearby village who knew this practice was wrong. These women had a practice of their own. They always asked to be given babies like Moses. They even renamed their little village “Graveyard” (or rather the native word that meant graveyard) This enabled them to tell the neighboring village they could still appease the gods by honestly telling them these babies had been put in the graveyard.
Moses Nwoke was one of the first babies saved in this manor. He grew up in “Graveyard” reared by these women. My parents knew Moses as one of the first and most trustworthy nurses at the little hospital in Joinkrama where they served as missionaries.
After some time, Moses rather abruptly quit his job at the hospital, taking another more lucrative job with one of the oil companies which had begun to drill for oil in Nigeria. My parents were sad to see him go. His new company moved him away to a larger city.
Some years later, my father received a letter from Moses. In this letter, he told of becoming quite prosperous. He told of living in an air conditioned building. He had electricity and was sleeping in a real bed with sheets for the first time in his life. But he also confessed that he had wandered away from his faith. He had stopped attending church and had ceased reading his Bible. Then one night, while sitting in his air conditioned room, he saw his Bible among his belongings and decided to open it. This was the first time he had opened his Bible in a very long time.
That night, by divine providence, Moses opened his Bible to Mark 8:6, “For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world, yet lose his life?’ (HCSB) Moses looked around at his comfortable environment – his bed with sheets, his electric light. And that night Moses realized what really mattered in life. He finally understood what held real value.
Moses left his lucrative job with the oil company and came back to his little village. In his later years, he served as the head nurse of the pediatric department of Methodist Hospital in Iliasha where he contributed greatly to curing the problem of Kwashiorkor in children. This is a condition that results from a protein deficiency due to malnutrition. In the end, Moses Nwoke, a man who was rescued as a baby by fellow believers, spent his life rescuing children and restoring them to health.
Friday, September 2, 2011
A Lion Has Roared!
“Surely the Lord does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets. The lion has roared – who will not fear? The Lord God has spoken – who can but prophesy?” Amos 3:7-8 (NIV)
"Prophecy" – How does that word make you feel? Does it thrill you are scare you? Does it fill you with excitement or dread; eager anticipation or fear? Or does it just confuse you? Perhaps your response is a mixture of all of the above.
Personally, I love prophecy. I have studied many of the prophetic books inductively. I still do not fully understand everything – by any means! But there are now a few things I do know. These I will pass on as helpful hints for studying Biblical prophecy.
1)Do not be dogmatic about your position. Be opinionated, yes - but not dogmatic. Remember Biblical scholars more learned than you (or me) do not fully agree on the various interpretations of Biblical prophecy.
2)Study prophecy in the context of the whole of scripture. God’s word is the authority on God’s word. When we do not understand a passage cross referencing it with other passages is often helpful.
3)Do not shy away from prophecy. It is part of God’s word and those who study it receive great blessings.(I know this first hand!)
4) Do not focus solely on prophecy at the expense of other scripture. 1st Corinthians13 reminds us that now we know in part but someday we will know fully. Until then, we have work to do in God’s kingdom. That work is the great commission as given by Jesus in Matthew 28 – to go into all nations baptizing and making disciples.
So, study Biblical prophecy! Dig deep and learn much. Listen to the lion's roar. But also … Be about your Father’s business!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
This story 1st appeared as a devotional in the web based devotions, www.christiandevotions.us on July 14, 2011
Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3 NAS
When I was a child, my parents served as missionaries in Africa – in the country of Nigeria. At one point while they were there, chicken pox outbreak ravaged the area where we lived. On a particular Wednesday night, the missionaries were about to meet for their weekly prayer meeting. My father was a doctor and he had just left the bedside of a little boy who died from Chicken Pox. Dad's struggle to slowdown the spread of Chicken pox, while healing those who suffered was all that was on his mind.
Chicken pox is spread through droplets which float through the air and my father knew a good rain would wash down the floating droplets. So he prayed for rain at the weekly prayer meeting....but there was a problem with his prayer.
Nigeria, like so many other tropical countries has only two seasons - rainy and dry. For six months of the year, it rains at least once a day and for the other six months, it doesn't. This chicken pox outbreak was in the middle of dry season. My father was so focused on the problem, he momentarily forgot how unreasonable his prayer request was.
After the prayer meeting, some of his fellow missionaries teased him about his prayer. But that night while they slept, a rare and strong storm blew up in the middle of the dry season. The storm was so fierce, part of hospital's tin roof blew off. The chicken pox outbreak died down.
My father would tell you from his experience this scripture is true, even under the most unlikely circumstances.
In Jeremiah, God tells us to call to Him and He will answer. My son once told me he knew "God's phone number" -- it was Jeremiah 33:3. God has a phone number and unlike us, His line is never busy when we call. We never have to leave a message. Although it may sometimes feel like we are leaving a message and waiting for Him to get back with us, we are not. God hears us when we pray. My father would tell you from his experience this scripture is true, even under the most unlikely circumstances.
Never doubt the power of God. Bring your needs to Him and present them at His feet.
Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Bush fires were an interesting occurrence. They happened every year at the end of the dry season. Well, they didn’t just happen – they were purposefully set. Back in the years of my childhood, the Nigerians had a tradition of setting their fields (or the bush as it was called) on fire every year at the end of the dry season. This served many purposes. The bush had become so dry; it was a fire hazard anyway so this practice burned away the hazard in a controlled manor. It also cleared the brush for a new growing season, when the rains began. But it had another benefit too, it caused the little field animals; rodents, snakes, and such, to run out of the brush to avoid getting burned. The Nigerians stood at the edges of the fields with hatchets and knives waiting expectantly to kill these animals which they would then consume as food. This was especially nice at the end of the dry season since food had become scarce by that point in time.
The bush fires were always an adventure to me and the other missionary children. The smell of the fires filled the air and little flecks of ashes dropped down upon us as they were carried by the wind. This was fun. We tried to catch the dropping flecks of gray and black which usually disintegrated in our hands. These flecks which filled the air were not an annoyance, at least to us children. To us it was an adventure.
Some of the boys got in on the animal hunt. They would stand near their Nigerian friends with a knife or cutlass in their hands too… or if nothing else, a “rat stick” which had been made out of wood. A friend of mine recently reminded me of these sticks. They were about waist high and increased in diameter from top to bottom. At the bottom, the fat end curved slightly making it a club, somewhat like a golf club. The design was simple but it enabled the user to swing it fast and hit the animal in the head. The boys would go to great heights and dares in order to find the perfect stick for making a “rat stick”. They loved the hunt, but I was never that brave. I enjoyed the excitement from a distance, standing just far enough to feel safe.
After the hunt, the bounty was taken home to hungry families. But sometimes, the Nigerians made small campfires in the back yards of some of the missionary boys who had helped with the hunt and cooked a few of the animals. When this happened, we could try meat that we had never tried. Again, I usually didn’t like these new delicacies, and often didn’t even try them…but there was one food worth hanging around for – roasted corn! Nothing matches it in the USA! We may have roasted corn here but it is just not the same as when it has been cooked over an African camp fire alongside of rats, snakes, and who knows what else! Seriously, the taste of corn that has been pulled directly out of a fire, with the husks still on is amazing! When the charred husks are pulled back, the corn which was sometimes a little charred too has a flavor like none other! …I learned early, there were some nice things about hanging out with boys.
“Sing a song of seasons, something bright in all; flowers in the summer, fires in the fall.”
- a poem by Robert Lewis Stevenson, but in my case it was flowers in the rainy season, fires in the dry.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Quotes from my friend Susan and other equally “famous” people.
Quotes about God
“God loves you just the way you are but He also loves you too much to let you stay that way.”
-from the movie, “June bug”
“God is an artist. They make messes before they finish their masterpieces.”
“Mother Theresa spoke of God as the great artist with our lives and the events that occur being made into a beautiful piece of art that brings Him glory. I pray as she did, ‘May I be a pencil.’”
-an anonymous friend
“Those who abandon themselves to God always lead mysterious lives and receive from Him exceptional and miraculous gifts by means of the most ordinary, natural, and chance experiences in which there appears to be nothing unusual.”
-Jean-Pierre De Causade
“There are three stages in the work of God; impossible, difficult, done!”
-James Hudson Taylor
“The King is on the move and many people are going to be astounded at His accomplishments.”
-Jack Miller from his book “Come Back Barbara”
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Quotes from my friend Susan and other equally “famous” people.
Quotes about God
“It is not the level of spirituality that you can depend on, it is God and nothing less than God. For the work is God’s, and the call is God’s, and everything is summoned by Him and to His purposes; the whole scene, the whole mess, the whole package –our bravery, our cowardice, our strengths, and our weaknesses. The God who could take a murderer like Moses, an adulterer like David, and a traitor like Peter and make of them strong servants of His is a God who can redeem savage Indians using as the instruments of His peace a conglomeration of sinners who sometimes look like heroes and sometimes look like villains.”
-Elizabeth Elliott from her book “Through Gates of Splendor”
“I know I cannot trust in anything other than God…certainly not in not dying which is not guaranteed. Safety is not the basis of trust. Instead, our faith needs to be in God, inexplicable God, dangerous God, other than ourselves God, who does not order this world according to our will but knows more than we do and loves more deeply.”
-Dr. Jennifer Myhre (missionary to Uganda during the 2007 Ebola outbreak)
Susan’s response when I told her that I felt as if I was pestering God over and over with the same requests; “I know, I do it too. I say, ‘Ok God, Let’s just go over this one more time; you’re God and I am not. You can do something about my concerns and I can’t. So teach me to release it to you.”
-Susan Siami (friend)
Sunday, June 5, 2011
My Father’s words of Wisdom
Last year at Mother’s Day and Father’s Day I wrote rather serious blogs about my parents, but this year I am choosing humor. In keeping with my Mother’s Day blog, “God’s word from my mother’s mouth”, I will share two humorous verses I learned from my father.
This first one was not his original thinking. It came from an elderly single missionary woman. Nevertheless, I wouldn't know the story had my father not told it to me. My dad told me about a missionary friend who when asked why she had never married always responded that her reasons were biblical. It comes from Romans 1: 13 in the New American Standard version where it says these words, “I would not have you – ignorant brethren…” Look it up! It really says that!
The other one is unique to my dad.
My dad had three daughters, I am the middle sister. At the breakfast table one morning my dad announced with a twinkle in his eye that he had found a Bible verse about him and his daughters. Then he opened his Bible to Proverbs 30:15 and read, “The leech has two daughters crying “Give, give!” He explained that a leech was a physician so that was him and then he read the verse again, “The leech has two daughters crying “Give, give!”
Well, my witty younger sister (the youngest of the three daughters) quickly responded with, “That verse isn’t about me! It says the leech has two daughters and it was written before I was born!”
Friday, May 13, 2011
“There is no book that has less quotes of the Old Testament than the book of Revelation but there is no book that uses the Old Testament more than then the book of Revelation.” – Dr. Peter Gentry
Dr. Gentry happens to be my Sunday school teacher. He is also a professor of Old Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a brilliant man. I am very blessed to hear him teach every Sunday morning. This blog entry is derived from a point he made one Sunday in class. After saying the statement which I have quoted above, he explained that rather then quoting the Old Testament directly, it is alluded to in Revelation….Let’s explore this a little to see what Dr. Gentry meant.
“…And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; in the middle of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His breast with a golden girdle. And His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow….” Rev 1:12-14
These two verses contain numerous allusions to the Old Testament.
Seven golden lampstands - In Exodus 25:37 and 37:23, Moses speaks of the people making seven golden lampstands for the Tabernacle and in Zechariah 4:2 the prophet Zechariah has a vision where he saw a lampstand with seven lamps on it.
A son of man - Ezekiel saw “a figure with the appearance of a man” sitting on something that resembled a throne in the expanse that was above the people’s heads.(Ezekiel 1: 26) Daniel had a vision in which “one like a son of man” came up to the Ancient of Days and presented himself to Him. (Daniel 7: 13)
Robe girded with golden girdle - Daniel also saw a “man dressed in linen whose waist was girded with pure gold.” (Daniel 10:5)
Hair that was white like wool - In Daniel 7:9, the prophet Daniel saw the Ancient of Days and “His vesture was like white snow and the hair on His head was like pure wool.”
...With this verse things get interesting. The Old Testament prophet, Daniel associates the snow white appearance and wool like hair with the Ancient of Days but the New Testament apostle, John uses those words in association with the son of man. This must have messed with the minds of the Jewish people at the time John recorded his vision. They did not understand that God was three, yet one. Remember when Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin? The Chief priest asked Him if He was the Christ, and tore his robe accusing Jesus of blasphemy when Jesus answered in the affirmative! Why? Because they believed there was only one God. They did not understand the trinity.
Yet, in his vision, John sees the son of man with traits that are the same as the Ancient of Days!
And that is only in two verses! Just think what we would discover is we looked at the entire book!
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
God's Word from my Mother's Mouth, or in other words, The Gospel according to Alice
“My God sent His angel and shut the lion’s mouths and they have not harmed me.” Daniel 6:22 (NASB)
From my mother’s mouth: (Spoken to one of my siblings who had confessed to having said something to someone which she knew she should not have said and later regretted.)
“Honey, if God can shut the mouths of the lions in the lions den, then He can shut yours too! You need to ask him for help next time. (I have remembered this comment from my mother many times when I wanted to eat that extra dessert – If God can shut the mouths of the lions; then I guess He can shut mine too!)
“By the sweat of your face you will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:18-20 (NASB)
From my mother’s mouth:
“Get in here right now!! I told you to clean your room…but just look at the mess I found under your bed! And you forgot to sweep your floor. The Bible says from dust man came and to dust man will return, and you’ve got a man either a coming or a going one underneath your bed. Now get your broom and start sweeping!!”
Saturday, April 2, 2011
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord. And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen.’” Luke 24:1-6
He is Risen!
Rev. Adediran had been a pastor for 30 years when he came to Oke Lerin Baptist Church in the Nigerian city where my parents served as missionaries. The members of this church got a bargain! They hired Rev. Adediran for less money than they otherwise would have paid because he was retired. Retired or not, he served at Oke Lerin - for another 29 years! Rev. Adediran was in the ministry for 59 years and only served two churches.
When his wife died, all who knew them suffered a great loss. My parents attended Mrs. Adediran’s funeral. Inside the church, a crowd had gathered. Some were sitting in pews while others stood around in small groups talking quietly. Church members were there as well as other people from the town. My mother began to cry as she entered the church.
Seeing my parents from a distance, Rev. Adideran approached them quickly. With urgency in his voice, he told my mother, “My sister, do not cry! The people will see you! Some here are not believers. We have said that death is different for believers. We have a hope! My wife is in a better place. She is with her Savior! You and I know that - but if the people see your tears, they will think we do not really believe what we tell them. They will think we have no hope.”
But we have a hope! Our hope is in Jesus. Praise God – the tomb was empty!!
“The perishable must put on imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortal…then will come about the saying, ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”(1st Corinthians 15: 53, 54b NASB)
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Springtime and Earthquakes
Spring has finally come! This has been a long, hard winter here in Kentucky. My youngest child missed more days for snow this past January than I can remember in the 28 years that I have lived here. February and early March were not much better, except that the cold snow turned into cold rain….but today has been beautiful! The sun was out, flowers are beginning to bloom and the temperatures are climbing higher and higher.
As I am enjoying the joys of a new, warmer season, others half way around the world are suffering beyond belief. Oh, the agony our friends in Japan are going through after the devastating earthquake last week. I have lived through many difficult days in my life but I don’t think any compare to what the Japanese people are experiencing right now. They are in my thoughts and prayers.
How does a person make it through such loss? The words of Habakkuk come to my mind. In Habakkuk 3: 17-19, the prophet wrote:
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
And there be no fruit on the vines,
Though the yield of the olive should fail,
And the fields produce no fruit,
Though the flock should be cut off from the fold,
And there be no cattle in the stalls,
Yet I will exult in the Lord,
I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
The Lord God is my strength,
He has made my feet like hind’s feet,
And makes me walk on my high places.
May the people of Japan come to know God and His faithfulness in this difficult time.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
Hear my humble cry,
While on others Thou are calling,
Do not pass me by.
Let me at a throne of mercy
Find a sweet relief;
Kneeling there in deep contrition,
Help my unbelief.
Hear my humble cry,
While on others Thou are calling,
Do not pass me by.
These are the words to a famous hymn by the late Fannie Crosby, but do you know where the words; “Do not pass me by” appeared in the scriptures?
… Do you give up?
Abraham said these words in Genesis 18:3. The setting was by the oaks of Mamre, where the Lord appeared to Abraham. In verse 3 of this passage he said to the Lord, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by.”
Saturday, February 5, 2011
Prejudice - What does it mean?
“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all” Romans 10:12
Awudi came to live with us when I was about three months old. We lived in Joinkrama at the time. She was a new convert to Christianity. In choosing her Lord, Awudi truly gave up everything.
Before becoming a Christian, she was married with three young children. But when she accepted Jesus as her savior, her husband issued an ultimatum. She had to either renounce her faith or he would divorce her. In those days, a Nigerian woman gave up everything if she divorced. There were no divorce courts or lawyers to help her - women held no power or authority. Her husband simply declared them divorced and sent her away. Because Awudi would not renounce her faith, she lost everything. She lost her home, her husband, her children, and she was never allowed to return again. She was banished!
And so she came to live with us. While both of my parents worked at the hospital, Awudi stayed at our home with the children. She was like a second mother to me. All of my first memories are filled with Awodi’s presence. She bathed me and my siblings, dressed us, fed us, and loved on us. For her part, she was happy to be around children again. It made the loss of her children a little easier to bear. She poured her love on all of us, but she had a special place in her heart for me, because I was a newborn when she came to our family. She called me her baby. When I grew, she changed it to “big baby”. I can still hear her saying in her broken (or Pigeon) English, “You ah ma Beeg Bebe!”
After a few years in Joinkrama, the mission moved my family, first to Oyo for language school and after that to Ogbomosho. Most of my childhood was spent in Ogbomosho.
When I was ten, the Biafran war broke out. This was a difficult time for everyone in Nigeria. The Eastern part of Nigeria where Joinkrama was waged war against the rest of the country in a futile attempt to gain its independence. At its core, it was a tribal war. The Igbo tribe living in the East was at odds with the other tribes. The conflict hit home at our house because Awudi was Inguini (a small tribe which was closely related to the Igbos and supportive of their cause). At the time we lived in Ogbomosho which was Yoruba land (where the Yoruba tribe lived).
Fearing for Awudi’s life, my parents arranged for her to travel back to her region(the part that was trying to become Biafra). This was a wise and gracious move on the part of my parents and God blessed it. Awudi made a safe journey back and lived many more years among her own people. But it was devastating to me!
I could not understand it! My parents tried to explain to me that Awudi would be in danger if she remained among the Yorubas. They tried their best to help me understand the term prejudice. But I had never experienced it before and just could not wrap my brain around the idea that someone might harm another just because of the tribe he belonged to (or the color of his skin, or all the other equally absurd reasons people have for hating one another). I begged my parents to let Awudi stay! She was the embodiment of love to me and I simply could not understand why anyone would want to hurt her.
You know, to this day I do not fully understand prejudice. I was a white minority child in an African world and knew only love from those around me. To this day, I do not fully understand how people can hate others they do not know. I hope I never outgrow this aspect of my childhood.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Job’s Restoration - A Lesson in Prayer
(This article 1st appeared in "The Christian Journal", May 2010)
The book of Job is very familiar to most Christians. However, there is a special lesson about prayer buried in Job’s story that is not so familiar. In fact, this little nugget of wisdom is usually overlooked by those reading or studying Job. To find this nugget, it is helpful to briefly recall Job’s story.
Job experienced tremendous adversity! He lost his children, his personal wealth, and even his health. He lost everything except his wife, and his faith. During his trials Job’s friends were anything but helpful. In fact, they drew God’s anger with their notoriously bad advice and false statements. Nevertheless, at the end of the book, God does a work of restoration in Job’s life.
Job 42:7-10 tells us, “…the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: ‘My anger burns against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has…And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly…So Eliphaz and Bilbad and Zophar went and did what the Lord had told them, and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (ESV)
Eliphaz, Bilbad, and Zophar were three of Job’s closest friends; but unfortunately, they offered him very poor advice throughout his personal ordeal. At the end of the book, God held them accountable for their poor advice while at the same time exonerating Job. This is how most people remember the story’s end. The friends face the truth of their shortcomings, Job is honored, and God restores back to Job twice as much as he had before. This understanding of the end of Job’s story is accurate, but I think there is something more. I think there is a profound lesson on prayer hidden away in the story of God’s restoration of Job.
Let’s re-read the last verse of this passage, “And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10) Is it more obvious now? The restoration of Job’s fortunes occurred when he prayed for his friends. I don’t think this was a mere coincidence. I think it contains a lesson about the importance of praying for others.
It is certainly alright to pray for one’s self. This truth is demonstrated many times in the Bible – Hannah’s prayer to conceive is one such example. But also it is very important to pray for others even if we ourselves are in dire need of prayer. Job did this. In fact, he was asked to do this by God, Himself.
My prayer group jokingly calls this the “Job Method” of praying. We tease that our prayers for others are selfishly motivated because we are hoping that like Job, God will restore our fortunes too as we pray for our friends. Actually, there is no simple formula to prayer. The study and practice of prayer is multifaceted – but the importance of praying for other is one facet we would do well to remember.