The One Percent Christian

Jesus-in-Bangkok

Before leaving on my trip to Bangkok, Thailand, I asked God to show me His people while I was there (“I have many people in this city”).  Bangkok is a Buddhist city of 8.5 million people and less than 1% are Christian.  A couple of days into my trip, I wandered into this shop.  I had found the 1%.

I asked the young Thai girl in the shop about the Jesus picture hanging on the top shelf.  With very broken English, she told me she was Christian. Wanting to know more, I asked her if she attended the Catholic church I saw down the street. She said no, she was Christian (probably indicating Protestant) and she gave the name of her church but I couldn’t understand.  There are a total of 2 Protestant churches and 4 Catholic churches in all of Bangkok.  I asked her if I could take a picture of the Jesus picture in her shop, but she misunderstood and thought I wanted to take the actual picture.  She offered to take me in a taxi to a Christian shop where I could buy one.  Finally she understood that I did not want to take the actual picture, and then she offered me a smaller one that she had stapled in her notebook.  I told her thank you, but no, I wanted her to keep that one.  She told me  “God bless you” as I left the shop, and I was very humbled by her generosity and eagerness.

The first Christian church in Bangkok was founded by Portuguese missionaries in the 1780’s and was provided through a land grant from the Thai King.  I wonder what made the King give the land to a group of people who probably seemed very strange to their customs.  For the thousands of years prior to that, Thailand had only known Buddhism.

I thank God for that beautiful young Thai girl who proudly said, “I am Christian,” with a smile on her face.  It made me realize just how important our missionaries are to the world.  They bring beauty and smiles and hope, in the name of Jesus Christ.

“I am the light of the world.  Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” Jesus (John 8:12)

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Look for Hope

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My first experience after arriving in Bangkok was the taxi driver who was taking me from the airport to my hotel, at 1 AM, after having been in an airplane for 24 hours.  He got us lost.  We wandered through the dark and narrow one-way streets of Bangkok, circling around and around, looking for my hotel.  It is supposed to be a large, well-known American hotel chain.  How could he not find it?  “It must be on a main road,” I said.  “I’m sure there is a large entrance sign leading up to it…”, my voice trailing off as I look around at the streets that appear to be nowhere close to where we should be.  That was my first cultural surprise.  I was expecting large American style.

The taxi drove by the same obscure street at least four times.  I remember it well because I saw a Christmas tree in the window of a café every time we passed by.  How strange, I thought.  It’s early November, and in a city full of Buddha statues on every corner, here is this lone Christmas tree in the window, which seemed to shine off a light so I could see the silver garland appearing through the dark, unlit window.

When in distress, look for Hope.
In the dark, look for Hope.
Hope wins over fear.
Hope wins over evil.
Hope wins over despair.
Hope is Faith of better things to come.
Hope brings Peace.
Hope is Jesus Christ.

The taxi driver eventually found the hotel.  How did he find it?  He changed his view. He got out of the taxi and looked up into the sky so he could see the hotel towers rising above the dark buildings that were surrounding us.

This picture is not that same Christmas tree or hotel, but it is one I saw outside the window of my office building when I arrived back home.  In this old hotel converted to  apartments, one window stood out with a Christmas tree in it, in early November.  It reminded me again to always look for Hope.  Do you see it?

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I have many people in this city. – God

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“Don’t be afraid, but keep on speaking and don’t be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.” – The Lord said to Paul in a night vision. (Acts 18:9-10)
What if Paul had not listened, or had not traveled as much as he did?

God’s people are everywhere.  His angels are everywhere.  Jesus is not limited to our earthly space or rules.  Jesus is living, always with us in our hearts and souls, and he extends his Saving Grace to everyone who sincerely asks.

Tomorrow I will be boarding a plane to Asia.  I am excited to get to see some of God’s people from the other side of the world.  Although it’s a business trip, I am sure I will come back with a new appreciation for God, for all of His people, and for God’s plan for the world to know Him and His Son.  And I’m sure I’ll have a few more stories to tell too.

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The Truth

truth

What is truth?” Pontius Pilot famously asked of Jesus. (John 18:38)

“Is this true?” the high priest asked of Stephen before he was martyred. (Acts 7:1)

Stephen’s response and final speech, where he explains all things from the beginning, is recorded in Acts 7.

“…And when they heard these things, they were enraged in their hearts and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, filled by the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw God’s glory, with Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said,  “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”  Then they screamed at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him.  They threw him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul…”  (Acts 7:54-58)

Saul helped kill Stephen.  He was a cruel and powerful man.  Later, Saul became a follower of the very same people he persecuted.  He gave up everything – his reputation, his money, his status – all to be willingly persecuted himself.  There is only one thing that would make a person do that – the truth.  And today, there is only one thing that would make 21 Coptic Christians in Egypt not waver in their faith as they are being beheaded – the truth.  It was clearly not the response their executioners were expecting.  One of the 21 was an unnamed African from the Muslim Brotherhood, who had recently become a new follower of Christ.  When he was asked to return to Islam in order to spare his life, he said he would rather stand with his Christian brothers and Jesus Christ.

“…And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus.” Revelation 20:4 – Apostle John’s vision

Many people debate truth, but no one would disagree on the importance of knowing it.  I cannot think of another thing more important than knowing the truth, though it’s not always the most popular.  Popularity and majority do not equal truth.  There is no price tag on knowing the truth, and there is no substitute.

As we go through this Easter week, with celebrations and remembrances, stop and think on the truth.  Are you willing to live for the truth?  Some are even willing to die for it.  The more serious we take our belief in who Jesus is, the more serious we’ll take our responsibilities and actions here on earth.  For there is no salvation without a Savior.

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The Rocking Chair Experiment

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Someone challenged me recently to “stop, drop and roll” every morning when I get out of bed.  They were referring to living a life of prayer, whereby we should stop as soon as we rise in the morning, drop to our knees on the floor, roll over to face the bed and begin our day with prayer to God before doing anything else.

I decided to give this a try.  However, I am not much of a morning person.  The first few times, my knees popped and cracked as I immediately fell out of the bed and onto the floor.  I rolled over to face the bed, put my head down… and fell back asleep.  It seemed like a great idea but was not working too well for me.  Then I noticed the rocking chair just a few feet away from my bed.

This was the rocking chair I once used to rock my son to sleep at night, from the time he was born until he was old enough to crawl out of my lap.  Every night for those first few years, I would rock my son back and forth in that chair, singing to him as he fell asleep.  It was my favorite part of the day.  I always sang “Amazing Grace” to him, and the words and melody made me very happy.  I believe God was listening and smiling down on both of us, and it was a very special time in my life.

My son is way beyond the rocking chair these days.  Sometimes I would glance over at that rocking chair, not really knowing what to do with it.  It seemed empty.  But now I had a new idea.  I would modify the “stop, drop and roll” to be “stop, sit and rock” instead.  Now each morning when I wake up, I walk a few steps and sit down in the rocking chair to pray, before I go any further.  “God, I thank you for giving me this new day,” and then I pray for those things most urgently on my mind that day.  It only takes a few minutes, but it orients me in the right direction before I have a chance for anything else to occupy my mind.  The rocking chair is a sign of comfort for me, and holds good memories of a special time when I felt very close to God.  Now when I sit in the chair each morning, it feels like God is wrapping His arms around me.

But I will see Your face in righteousness;
When I awake, I will be satisfied with Your presence.
Psalm 17:15

The experiment worked.  It is similar to setting your GPS for the day or looking at a compass.  It will change the direction of your life.  After trying it for awhile each morning, I decided to also add it to the end of my day.  Before climbing into bed, I stop once more by the rocking chair to sit for a minute, thanking God for the day and for bringing us home safely.

I encourage you to try it too.  Find your own thing, whatever works for you, but do it first thing in the morning – stop and pray.  And during the day when things come up – stop and pray now!  Life a life of prayer.

Why would Jesus be nailed to the cross for our sins and then disregard our prayers?
– Max Lucado

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