When missionary Adoniram Judson entered Burma (Myanmar) in July 1813, he found an unreached people in a hostile land. Today, there are some 3,700 congregations who trace their origin to Judson’s pioneering ministry. His primary legacy, however, is the complete translation of the Bible into Burmese—still in use today. Judson’s path was difficult, for he faced opposition, rejection, imprisonment, serious illness, pain. He also lost two wives and seven children to death. But through it all he persevered for the cause of Christ.
Which of these two questions causes you to squirm the most: Why do seemingly honorable people suffer? or Why do the people who do bad things prosper? I wrestle with both of them. For instance, it makes we wonder why people who strike unethical deals and cheat on their contracts seem to get away with their schemes and even prosper, while someone who is seeking to live for Jesus struggles to pay his or her bills.
In the 1800s, British missionary Hudson Taylor sensed God’s call to reach the people of China with the good news. During decades of ministry, more than 800 missionaries were established and 125,000 Chinese became believers in Jesus. Taylor once said, “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.”
A beekeeper friend recently had an interesting encounter with what he thought was a swarming, hostile hive of bees. The bees were perched outside the opening to their hive enclosure—a wooden structure in which they lived. My friend thought that a swarm was imminent, but upon closer inspection he realized the bees had moved outside of the hive because it had gotten too hot due to sweltering weather. They weren’t hostile, but simply chilling out in the daytime breeze.
I joined the line inside the bank and waited to talk with the teller. Within minutes it was my turn, and the teller asked if I was a “privileged customer” of the bank. It dawned on me at that moment that I was in the wrong line. Soon I was standing at the back of a long line of regular customers. I simply lacked the credentials to get priority service.
Marcus was a convicted criminal on death row. He had previously apologized to the family of the teenager he raped and murdered. Now, just before he was executed by lethal injection, he said, “I’m going home to be with Jesus.” Apparently, during his time in prison he had received Jesus as his Savior. His words remind me of a certain criminal who died next to Jesus 2,000 years ago.
Bible scholars disagree on the exact number, but most believe that Jesus has fulfilled some 350 Old Testament prophecies—stretching from Genesis to Malachi. And hundreds more will be fulfilled in the future. In his book Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell shared a study that shows that the probability of a person fulfilling just one prophecy is 1 in 300,000; and for 8 fulfilled prophecies, the odds are an astronomical 1 in 1017 or 100,000,000,000,000,000!
The Bible presents many suffering people who were miraculously healed in response to prayers. Miriam was healed of leprosy (Numbers 12:1-15). King Hezekiah, who was terminally ill, was given 15 years more to live (2 Kings 20:1-7). Job suffered too (Job 2:7)—enduring months of it before he was restored (Job 42:10).
Nine-year-old Willie might have saved his life simply by singing a praise song. The boy was kidnapped from his driveway by a stranger. But the kidnapper then dropped him off unharmed after driving around for hours. Willie says he continued to sing the song “Every Praise” by Hezekiah Walker until the kidnapper grew tired of cursing and telling him to shut up.
Heart attacks are the No. 1 cause of death in many parts of the world. In the US, a heart attack occurs every 20 seconds, with someone dying from heart disease every 34 seconds. In Singapore, one in three deaths is due to heart disease or stroke. We need to pay careful attention to what medical professionals are saying about heart attack prevention: reduce stress, don’t smoke, exercise regularly, and watch your diet. “Guard your heart above all else” is instruction that we ignore to our own peril (Proverbs 4:23).
Whether it was the 10-hour TV series The Bible or the movies Son of God and Noah, the world has watched a lot of stories based in varying degrees on the Bible in the past few years. But what do people truly believe about God’s Word?
US President Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, was angered by an army officer who accused him of favoritism. Stanton complained to Lincoln, who suggested that Stanton write the officer a letter. Later, Stanton told the President he was ready to send the strongly worded letter. Lincoln said, “You don’t want to send that letter. . . . Put it in the stove. That’s what I do when I have written a letter while I am angry. It’s a good letter, and you had a good time writing it and feel better. Now burn it, and write another.”
From a Distance,” the 1991 Grammy Song of the Year popularized by Bette Midler, describes what the world looks like from a distance: “From a distance the world looks blue and green . . . there is harmony . . . And no one is in need. And there are no guns, no bombs, and no disease . . . We are instruments . . . playing songs of hope, playing songs of peace.” The song ends with the lingering refrain: “God is watching us from a distance.”
In a speech given during the commencement of a newly formed missions agency, my friend—who heads up the ministry—spoke of its mission and vision. He also gave everyone a clear picture of its goals and plans.
Imagine this scene. Joseph leading a donkey-drawn carriage towards Bethlehem. Inside that carriage sits his pregnant wife, Mary. She was found to be pregnant before they had consummated their marriage! This would be the scandal of the town. Imagine the gossip and stares. Surely she was a promiscuous woman. And both of them are guilty of premarital sex!