Thursday, October 4, 2007

Evangelical Truth Bites from India

A couple of months ago, while driving back from meetings in New York, I stopped at an Ohio Turnpike Rest Stop. I was driving the Nineveh's Crossing van, which, under the logo, is written: Exploring Faith, Values, and History Through Digital Media. As I returned with my bottled water (I had given up finding anything to eat) I noticed a distinguished Indian man in his 60s or 70s standing near by van on the nearby grass. He approached me and asked what "Nineveh's Crossing" meant. He may have also noticed the license plate that reads simply: "NINEVEH". I explained, trying to provide my audience a brief history of the Old Testament story of Jonah, Nineveh, and the reluctant prophet's adventures. At first the man tried to bate me by implying he was Hindu and I needed to explain things to him.

But there was glint in his eye, he wanted me to rush past the story of Jonah as if he was very familiar with it, and then, when I asked, he told me his name -- "Matthew." I almost laughed out loud, and I surely grinned ear-to-ear. Yeah, right! Some Hindu, named after the author of the first book in the New Testament. Give me a break.

Matthew was smart, engaging, and I figured he was one of the long line of Indian Evangelists (some of which I've known both from here and India) who have mastered that delicacy between passion for the Bible and their Christian faith, and a wonderful respect and dignity for the person they're evangelizing. I did not mind being at the other end of what I figured was a seasoned preacher practicing his trade, here on the lawn next to one of America's great turnpikes. There was a Pauline essence to the scene -- and I let it soak in. Matthew really didn't preach at me, but he asked me a lot of questions about my "evangelization" and I ended up giving him a copy of Common Ground.

As it turns out he lives only a few miles from me here in the suburbs of Detroit, and occasionally I receive from him a letter. If you've ever been in a job with some public exposure, you've probably received letters or large envelopes with multiple news clippings or manic letters ranting about something germane or obscure. A while back we received a large envelope from someone (the sender's names are never included) with photostat copies of headlines and articles going back to the 1950s about everything anyone ever associated with the Catholic Church had ever, supposedly done wrong. Scrawled on the margins were rants against Catholicism. But strangely enough the sender had also included some articles about Judaism and Hare Krishna. We had an interesting chuckle and then threw collection away. Two weeks ago, when TBN aired Common Ground in the middle of the night, the 800 lines started to right at 3:30 AM. (Yes the business and production offices, and warehouse for SWC Films and Nineveh's Crossing are in our home). I finally answered the phone and the caller said quickly: "Why don't you people just praise Jesus instead of trying to get Protestants and Catholics to talk to each other? (CLICK)" Go figure. I have no idea what that meant in a rational world. (The phone rang for the next two days. A lot of orders. for the DVD.)

But, when we get letters from people with names and addresses attached I always read it all, and often, if necessary, answer...until we get essentially the SAME letter...proving that my earlier reply was not read, ignored, or not understood.

But when I get a letter from Matthew, it's different. The envelop (usually a stray Hallmark card's was pink) are addressed to "Bro. Stanley D. Williams". The sticker on the back reads "ABORTION: The foundation on which to build a violent society." (I love this guy's sentiments.) The writing is a flamboyant print-cursive not unlike India and Urdu script. He writes in blue ink on think white, thinly lined paper, both sides, no margins, and his lines overlap slightly. His proofing marks, additions, and embellishments are in red, written between the lines. The pages have all the characteristics of a manic "crazy" conspiracy theory radical. Except they read like classic sermons. And here is a selection:
Beloved Bro. Stan,

Loving power (lightening symbol) greetings to you in the Wonderful Holy Jealous name of our Lord, Master, Savior Jesus Christ.
As a sequel to sending the second letter I read the Book of Jonah. It was edifying....It takes a little violence to inherit the kingdom of heaven here on earth. It is a mystery -- the mystery of truth. As the Psalmist prays intently, pleads passionately: Send out your truth (Ps. 43) and your light and usher me into the 3rd day - the day of wonder. Nineveh was a 3-day journey (across). But one day's journey (by Jonah) created such revolutionary change, just imagine had he gone the full course.

But for us God has opened the way to enter the Holy of Hollies and worship him there in Spirit & Truth in the beauty of holiness. You are meant for that! (Jonah 1:6 The captain of the ship said to Jonah: "Rise up and call upon our God! Perhaps God will be mindful of us so that we may not perish." Ephesians 5:14 "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.")

[SW: It's interesting that the ship's captain prophesied and foreshadowed what would happen in Nineveh and in the Passion of Christ.]

Matthew continues: Save and Compare is a popular marketing strategy here in the U.S. Just apply, extrapolate it to the spiritual market of truth and fables. Compare and Save yourself from this untoward generation. That is Peter's prescription. (Acts 2:40). Note verse 41. As I choose, so I eat, and I am what I eat. We have Angel food and Devil's food in the market - literally!

Mask or Manifest (Eph 5:13)
Perish or Flourish (Gal 1:16)
Perversion or Perfection
Slavery or Mastery
Blackness or whiteness as wool & snow (Isa 1)
Flee from or flee to (Heb 6:18)
Pit (of corruption) or Palace (like Joseph's protocol order)
Lying vanities or True value
Corruption or Correction
Select or All (Acts 3:22)
Shadow or Light
Preach for hire or Preach what I bid thee
1 day's journey or a full 3-day Journey

The choice is ours, purely personal. Let us personalize. God spare you. So arise, let Christ shine upon you and pity you. Amen.
I've often heard Christ's reference to his own death and resurrection, as signified by Jonah's three days in the whale. As Jonah goes into the whale, so Christ descends to hell. Coming out of the whale, and out of the grave brings salvation. But Jonah only preaches for 1 day, and the city repents. Imagine if Jonah had gone the extra days? What would have happened if Jesus had only spent 1 day in the grave, instead of 3. The lesson here is perseverance in the face of adversity, and choosing repeatedly, while in the belly's stomach, what is good.

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