Friday, 17 April 2009

"I testify concerning the Jews, that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge"

From the fall of Man to the present, mankind seems to know instinctively that he owes his life and well being to someone larger than himself. This instinct needs little prompting in causing men to seek a god who bestows such favor and blessing in this life. No man is immune from life's difficulties and trials and eventually even death overtakes us all. It is precisely our impotence that most often forces us to our knees and causes us to seek whoever might be listening and then to offer some sacrifice in exchange for help. If we could fix life's problems ourselves or hire men to do it for us, we would! Oh, but the hands of men are weak and feeble! And who but a close circle of family and friends can be said to love us with any depth or regularity?? It is for good reason that man has learned not to depend on the "arm of the flesh" for life's most pressing issues. To whom ever and where ever man goes for help, he goes because he lacks the might to fix it himself, or else he would. Even if we were to hire the most skilled surgeon in the world, would we still not pray that God would guide his hands?
     What is the criteria for measuring a god? In which god should we trust? What is the process for examining whether or not a god has answered you and granted you your requests? How can we be certain it wasn't just dumb luck? How do we measure the strength of a god? Do men ever really inquire of their gods before deciding to serve them? Questions like: How old are you...how far back do you go? How vast is your knowledge...is it infinite? Are there limits to your strength? What do you require of me!? Dare we ask him if there other gods higher than he? One must exercise great caution when choosing a god or gods who will ultimately be in charge of their temporal and eternal well being.
    Christianity is the only religion in the world where God is the one who chooses those who will be His worshippers! Jesus told his disciples, "You did not choose me, but I chose you!" and again He told them, "Many are called, but few are chosen." Jesus also said in another place, "No man can come unto me, unless my Father, who is in heaven, draws him first." We would think it was absurd if a child told one of it's playmates that they chose their parents. We all agree that it is a sovereign act of parental choice to bring children into this world, never the other way around. Is the living God any different? Can human parents not tell the difference between their own children and someone else's? Can God not distinguish His own children also? Jesus told a group of Pharisees, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, because I came from God...you are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires." Are all men really the children of God...or do many belong to someone else? Why did Jesus say, that in the judgement, when He is seated on His throne, that "I will separate My sheep from the goats"?  Why are we so surprised at this...didn't He expressly state that, "I lay down my life for my sheep"? Who is a God like this?...who chooses His children before they are born and then upholds that choice at the final judgement? Does this sound like a God who's favor can be bought with offerings from this world? Can forgiveness of sin really be obtained through such empty trinkets? The bible says of Him, "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness of it" and in another place we read, "He owns the cattle on a thousand hills". What can we possibly offer to a God who already owns everything?? If men would just pause for one moment, and consider this point alone, how much closer to the kingdom of heaven they would be!  And when the scripture says to men that "salvation is of the Lord" and that "it is the gift of God" they scoff! "Surely I must do something!" is their objection. But I would ask them this one question, What did you require of your own children before you brought them into this world? And what did you make them pay you, before you granted them life? Consequently, they shall be brought as witnesses and plead God's case!
      Micah knew well the futility of "earning" Gods favor by offering sacrafices of earthly origin. He said this, "With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my loins for the sin of my soul?" But what does the bible reveal about how his chosen ones will express their zeal toward God, and how does this true knowledge instruct them to draw near? We read, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" This offering is of heavenly origin...not earthly! A salvation who's Author is God himself. He is the one who planned it and gives it to whomever he chooses. We read, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" and again we read, "All that the Father gives to me shall come to me, and he that comes to Me I will in no way cast out."  Not one part of it is left to us! From our Conception, to our Royal Coronation in heaven, He alone is our Savior!
     
In His Majesty's Service,
Mark 
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Saturday, 11 April 2009

"To give light to those who sit in darkness and who dwell in the shadow of death"

How telling are the words of the Lord when He described the utter foolishness of idolatry. We read in Jerimiah 10:5, "Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber patch, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them because they cannot do evil, neither is it possible for them to do good!" I couldnt help but be astonished when a young, well dressed Thai woman, paused when passing this shrine, bowed her head and placed her hands together in prayer. Thailand is filled with the lifeless images of men long dead. Cold, tarnished brass that is stained with the manure of sparrows cannot save a man in the hour of his distress...neither can it fight for him when the enemy of his soul wishes to consume him, nor feed or heal him when he is sick or hungry.  I am no different than that young Thai woman and were it not for the grace of God, I would be enslaved to the same fear and binding superstitions as her. 
     The Lord tells us in Romans 1:19-21, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it known to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly understood, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened."  This is the spiritual darkness of which the scripture speaks, "those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has the light shined!" The light they saw was God who came in the flesh. A very living and powerful God who did not need to be carried, neither was He deaf, nor did He stand watch over a cucumber patch because that was all He was fit for. This God was the creator of light, the one who spoke out of darkness and said, "Let their be light!, and there was".  A loving God who said to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, "Come unto Me all of you who are weak and heavy laden, and I will give rest to your souls, for My burden is easy and My yoke is not wearisome." A mighty God who swears, "And I will save them to the uttermost!"
     Long ago King Solomon said, "He is a wise man that wins souls". We all toil and labor to win money, possessions, security and happiness...but what was the conclusion of the wisest, richest and most elevated man who ever lived? That the one who labors to obtain this prize...they will be called wise. "Labor not for those things which perish" is the Lords council in all generations. May we all be better stewards of the time and spiritual gifts that God has given to us!
Happy Easter everyone, rejoice! Our God lives!
In His Majesty's Service,
Mark

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Streams of Blessing

Hi Everyone,  I moved to Nonthaburi the day before yesterday and will be staying at the Streams of Blessing Church. I have included a photo so that you can see their building. They are a poor church which rents this former public elementary school from the 1940's for approximately $750 US a month. By the way, Head-Masters in the public school system still whip the children with a switch when the misbehave or disrespect authority! No wonder why Thai children are so well behaved. The architecture of this building is British Colonial and the entire construction is of Thai mahogany, including the timbers. Thailand has since deforested its entire country and must import all of its lumber. I am staying on the third floor in a small back room with mahogany shutters...it is simple but meeting all my needs. Pastor Ohm is letting me stay here until my apartment in town (approx. 1/2 mile away) is vacated by its present occupant. This very large city is located on Thailand's largest river and has it's share of crime and depravity. I began Thai lessons today and worked on learning the consonants and vowels. I have begun to realize that building a language is a lot like planning a city, it is best laid out before it begins to grow. The Thai language does not have a lot of logical, consistent rules that once learned, apply in each case. My teacher told me that the Thai did not have their own language, but it is wholly borrowed from India and Burma and is of ancient origin. Tradition and pride has probably been the main reason why their forefathers never made any necessary and helpful changes centuries back when it could have done some good. My teacher also commented sadly that such difficulties and impediments have made the language unpopular to the arts. I guess that means there will likely not be any great operas or broadway shows written in Thai. All of that being said, God is sovereign and what impedes in one place, shields in another.  One thing I find attractive about the Thai language is that it is very "resolute" in tone. There is not much in it that is superficial or lends itself to quibble. Such a language will be a superior medium for preaching the Gospel! My sense overall is that God has "many" in this place whom He has elected, and that I need to be faithful one day at a time.
Thank you all for praying. Believe me as one who has no reason to lie that prayer is a very covering grace. I am trying to use the member's group as a prayer list to remind me to pray for all of you too! Thanks for posting your photos.
In His Majesty's Service,
Mark

Monday, 6 April 2009

"By a people of strange tongues..."

Hi Everyone,
I just wanted to take a moment and let you know how my first Lord's day went. I attended Lat Phrau Baptist Church. They are a congregation of about 50 people in the city of Bangkok. Christian churches here are rare...sound bible churches are virtually non existent. It gives new meaning to the words, "looking for a good church"! I included a video clip of the worship time there so that you can get a better feel for the language here. The pastor's name is Jesida and he has been a christian for about 20 years. He has an amazing testimony about how he got saved and the many challenges of being born again in a country of Buddhists. After the morning service we all went upstairs and dined on amazing home made Thai food! I spent the afternoon with Tom Godet...he is an American missionary that works on translating theology books into the Thai language. I think he is going to be an tremendous resource in the future. Tomorrow I am moving to the city of Nonthaburi where I rented a Townhouse near the church that I will be working from while I am learning the Thai language. The church there is called Streams of Blessing, and the pastor's name is Ohm. He studied in America at Bob Jones University (but I wont hold that against him!) I will be taking Thai classes 4 hours a day, 4 days a week! Please continue to pray for me, that my time would be well spent and that I would have a mind to study and retain such things. Thank you for posting your photos in the member section of my blog, it is encouraging to see all of your faces and it reminds me that there are friends who are looking in on me!

In His Majesty's Service,
Mark
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Thursday, 2 April 2009

One Night in Bangkok

Hi everyone, thanks again for your prayers and keeping me in your hearts. I was able to have my first video conference with my Pastor back in New England via Skype! Accountability is very important to me and being able to talk and fellowship with those who are shepherding me is critical in missions. Next month we are planning to have a live Skype conference with my entire church in the morning service. This technology is wonderful and I think it will serve to better bring home the realities of mission life and help to prevent missionaries from becoming a forgotten face on the "missions wall" in church. I think the saints are benefited when they can see and experience how their prayers and support are actually working! Please pray for me regarding a few things...tomorrow I will be spending the day with a pastor here in the Bangkok area who's name is Ohm. He is going introduce me to his lawyer regarding a church work visa that may allow me to stay in the country indefinitely. Also, I will be looking at more suitable long term housing while I am studying the Thai Language. The last thing is the language acquisition itself. Please pray that the Lord will grant me extra ordinary gifts and abilities to really make this as short as possible. I included a photo...it is of the sun setting over Bangkok! If you click on the photo it will expand to full screen so that you an see it better. God Bless you all! In His Majesty's Service,
Mark

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

And it was Morning, and it was Evening, the first Day!

Hi Everyone, this is my first post of my first  day in Thailand. The Lord was gracious in my journey over here, as there were a flew delays in Boston and JFK but, I made all my connections and the flights were generally smooth. I arrived at my hotel in Bangkok around 8 p.m. in the evening and needed some sleep (I hadn't slept for about 2 days by then). Thankfully, my luggage made it here with me, and all in one piece too! The jet lag is making its presence known about now, but the stress of the last 4 weeks helps to sleep just about any time. My residence for the first couple of weeks will be here at Chawamit Place Hotel on Lat Phrau Rd.  I was fortunate to get wifi in my room and the AC works great (it was 94 degrees today) but is a welcome change from the long New England winter. I started practicing my Thai with the Rosetta Stone software that George Trainor bought me and it is really helpful. They call it dynamic immersion. It would be very helpful to work with someone who knows both languages so that I could ask questions. Thank you again for all of the prayer support and encouragement! 
In His Majesty's Service,
Mark