Biblical Messages, India 2013

“Dispenser of India’s Destiny”

Today, it was my joy to share with the St. Paul’s Church family about my mission trip to India.  Joining me in the dialogue was Lina van der Wel, myP1030320 dear friend who was part of our Team, all of whom were sent through the Tyndale Spiritual Formation Centre.  Lina is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Tyndale University College & Seminary.  It was hard to compress into a half hour what a three-week journey was like, but by listening to it you should be able to get a tiny picture of our experience.  Psalm 72 was read before our presentation.  You can listen to our dialogue by clicking here.  The title, “Dispenser of India’s Destiny”, comes from the English translation of the Indian National Anthem, which can be ready with decidedly Christian eyes.

At the close of the message, we showed a photo montage from the trip.  The photos were contributed by several members of the Team.  The musical accompaniment is “I will never be the same again”, from Hillsong’s “Shout To The Lord” CD.  You can watch the photo montage in QuickTime here and in Windows Media Player here.  (Note:  These are large files and may take some time to download.)

This presentation has been immensely helpful as I process what God is doing in my own life through this trip.  My prayer is that it has in some small way encouraged others to grow an interest in mission involvement.

India 2013

India 2013: Home, sweet home

Our India mission team arrived home safely on Thursday afternoon.  It was a bit of a bumpy ride into Toronto, because of the wind, but we landed without incident and all our bags arrived with us!  We all are so grateful to God for his kindness in preserving us through this whole trip.

We also are grateful to God for the prayers of so many.  While we were in India, we witnessed all kinds of spiritual warfare.  The church is a small and sometimes persecuted minority in India, and those believers need our prayers.

After crawling home in snowy traffic, I had a shower, Diana and I had supper, I called my parents, and we went to bed.  Nine hours later, I awoke, and I’m really hopeful that this will be the extent of my jet-lag…but I’m not sure that’s the case.  We’ll see how the next few days pan out!

I’m sure I will muse more about this trip in the coming days and weeks, but I wanted to thank you for your part in our journey.

Encouragement From The Word, India 2013

Vision matters!

Many, many thanks to those of you who have prayed for me and the team with whom I travelled to minister to the staff, faculty and students of the South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies in Bangalore, India, these past few weeks.  We have been blessed in many ways, and we hope we have been a blessing.  God has ignited a fire in the community there to give personal spiritual formation a greater role in the life of the school.  If we accomplished nothing else, that would be enough – though we did find that many men and women found themselves spiritually nurtured through our ministry of spiritual direction and sharing the Word in chapel services and small groups.  We were honoured to be so warmly welcomed by everyone there.

What is especially exciting is that the key administrators of SAIACS now have a vision to see the foundational principles of spiritual formation more intentionally integrated into the academic life of the community.  There is a vision that the Lord has given, and the leadership there is prepared to do what it takes to make that vision a reality.

The news this week reported that Queen Beatrix, the reigning monarch of the Netherlands, is going to abdicate her throne in favour of her eldest son, who will become king.  Her mother did this for her, as did her mother before her.  This shows such a clear sense of vision on the part of the Queen!  She could hang on until she dies, and she’d have every right to do so.  But she wants a new generation of citizens of her country to be inspired through the leadership of a younger monarch.

As I’ve said before – not originally – having vision is like planting a tree under whose shade you will not sit.  And sometimes, that vision requires sacrifice.  In the case of the Queen of the Netherlands, it’s abdication of a throne rightfully hers.  In the case of the administration of SAIACS, it’s stepping outside a comfort zone of pure academics – knowing about God – in order to encourage everyone to know God better.

What vision has God given you?  And what sacrifices will you have to make in order to see that vision come to fruition?

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good ,pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12.2, NIV).

India 2013

India 2013: the legacy we leave

To say that we are encouraged by our two weeks at SAIACS would be an understatement. To be sure, we are all very tired and very much looking forward to being home with our loved ones. But what really excites us is the fact that the key administrators want to see what we’ve done carry on, rather than be a flash in the pan.

Seminaries are known for being academic institutions, and rightly so; the students go to be trained. But we are realizing more and more that with the informational training must come spiritual formation. As I said in my chapel message on Friday morning, information fills the mind, and formation shapes the person. Both are needed for effective ministry to result from a good seminary education.

We are excited that God has brought this about, and look forward to learning how this may unfold over the course of time.

For now, we will enjoy a few days of debriefing and rest in the seaside city of Goa before heading back to winter, and those we love.

We have been blessed to serve, and to serve together.

Encouragement From The Word, India 2013

A zeal for truth-telling

I’ve been blogging a bit while I’m in India, reflecting on the work I’m seeing God do in this most interesting country.  In a recent post, I reflected on the fact that India, while one-third the size of Canada geographically, has 36 times the population!  What’s more, only about 2% of India comprises Christians, so the church here plays a very minor role, both presently and historically.

However, what I see in the people I am meeting at SAIACS does not reflect the statistics.  One might think that a faith group that is such a minority might just barely be holding on, but the church in India thinks big.  I am meeting people whose heart for mission and evangelism is as big as the nation itself.

There are parts of India that are already thoroughly evangelized; one area in northeast India, I’m told, is 100% Christian.  By contrast, there are parts of south India where hardly a church is to be found.  Clearly, the need is great, but at the same time, there is great zeal for the work to be done.

I wish that in Canada we had the same passion for mission and evangelism that I see in my Indian sisters and brothers.  They have a willingness to sacrifice much – including the admiration of their friends and sometimes even connections with their families – to reach people for Jesus Christ.  And when they see God work in power, these people receive the Lord.  In some cases, they have experienced the complete inaction of their own gods in contrast to the powerful action of the Lord, and they respond.  It’s a bit like Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:  the prophets of Baal keep pleading with their god to act, but he never responds.  Elijah, by contrast, throws buckets and buckets of water on the altar, and God still sends fire from heaven.

We serve an awesome God who loves to be in relationship with us.  We all know people who are far from God.  True, their life circumstances may be so different from those of the people of India that they feel their own affluence is sufficient to carry them, but if they are shown the care and compassion of God, who loved us so much he gave his only Son, they, too, will come into a love relationship with the Lord.

What will you do today to demonstrate the love of Jesus to someone in need?

The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25.40, NIV).

India 2013

India 2013: a spiritual battle, and sometimes a physical one

Here at SAIACS, there is a spiritual battle going on which is sometimes more obvious than one might expect.  There is a Hindu temple across the road from the seminary campus family residences, and its greatest weapon is a large loudspeaker.  There have been times that their “songs” and proclamations have been ridiculously loud.  It seemed funny to us at first, a bit like bad karaoke, until we realized that it is a sign of a spiritual battle.  One family living on campus has one member who is sensing a sometimes debilitating physical oppression because of it.  On Wednesday evening, our team gathered to pray for the family, and for the blessing of their home.  At one point, the “music” started while we were praying.  I felt a pressure in my chest, and raised my hand in the direction of the music, against it.  It stopped.  As we prayed around the property, one of my teammates had a vision of angels, but those angels looked badly beaten and war-wounded.

The church here is sometimes an oppressed ministry.  The battle is significant, but it belongs to the Lord.  He will gain the victory, because he is greater than whatever those across the street may conjure up.

I also met with a young man who is a relatively new believer – a wonderful and not uncommon thing in India.  This fellow is different, though.  He was, you see, an Imam – a Muslim cleric.  He had a special responsibility:  to re-convert Muslims who had become Christians, back to Islam.  While studying Arabic, he was taught about the Christian faith, and decided to read the Bible.  He discovered that what he had been taught was a pack of lies, based on what the Bible said, and as he read, he became convinced that Jesus died for him.  Through a variety of connections, he met with a Lutheran pastor who became his Christian mentor, leading him to Christ and to some theological training.

When his family found out, they tried to kill him.  But God had a better plan.  He was hospitalized, and then jailed (since his family fabricated the idea that he had come into their home as a thief), but the case was thrown out.  He was safely taken into the care of Christians, and now is working actively to re-convert those he had re-converted!  His zeal for the gospel is nothing short of amazing, and I praise God for him, because he is perfectly positioned, knowing the “inside story” of Islam, to help Muslims come to know Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord.

Sometimes, the battle is spiritual, and sometimes it is physical.  But God is greater than the knife wielded in hatred.

India 2013

India 2013: putting things in perspective

During a break, I did a little research, for my own interest.  There are about 1.2 billion people in India, in a space of just over 3.2 million square kilometres.  That means that in a geographical space just about a third the size of Canada, India holds 36 times as many people.

I must admit that I thought the country was geographically smaller; in fact, if you look at  Mercator projection of the world, it is deceiving – but Canadians like the Mercator projection, because it makes Canada look much bigger than the United States!  On that projection, India looks to be about the size of Ontario, but it is about twice that size.

Roughly 2% of India’s population is considered Christian, though there are some regions where that number is as high as 100%.  The national average, though, is quite small, meaning that the opportunities for mission and ministry are massive.  However, 2% of India’s population equals about the population of Canada.  There are many very enthusiastic believers in this country, with a high commitment to mission; I have been privileged to meet some of them during our time here at SAIACS.  Yet there is a high cost, for many, to be engaged deeply in their Christian faith.

Some have told me that their Hindu friends will tease and taunt them for their faith if there is any illness or difficulty in their lives, as if God were expected to make everything perfect all the time.  Others, especially those in pastoral ministry, often find that the culture demeans their role in church leadership, as if they couldn’t cut it in a secular job, so they “had to” resort to ministry.

In Canada, we do not yet experience these sorts of persecutions.  While only 10-15% of Canadians engage in Christian faith on a regular basis, there still remains a reasonable tolerance for Christian practice; it is, after all, the foundational tradition for our nation.  But would we be willing to accept the sacrifices that our Indian sisters and brothers face?  And can we be as committed to mission as they are?

If Canadian Christians were as devoted to sharing Christ as Indian Christians are, I dare say that the face of the Canadian church and nation would look much different.