Hello everyone. Its been a little bit longer since my last update. Things have somewhat slowed down for us and Mark and I are slowly getting into more of a rhythm. Here's what our typical day looks like: wake up around 11 or 12, go get lunch, read or nap through the hot part of the afternoon, then around 7 we get dinner and begin our rounds of seeing our friends. This usually takes us late into the night sometimes as late as 3 am. Or in the event of a wedding we just stay up all night until dawn. So for all you morning people who think we are being lazy, this is why we sleep until 11am. This schedule has been good because it is giving us some stability in our work here. We feel less like we are aimlessly wandering the streets of India.
Last night we were invited to go to a dirga celebration. A dirga is a Muslim shrine commemorating holy men or "saints" within the Muslim heritage. The idea is that these saints were extremely dedicated to shuria or "the way of Islam" and that Allah gave special favor to them. So now Muslims believe that if they offer their prayers to these saints that the saints will in turn offer a more effective prayer to Allah on their behalf. So Mark and I travelled along and participated in the cerimonial washing of the head, face, arms and feet. We then made our way to a shrine that contained a tomb where we saw people kissing the tomb, touching it with their faces and praying to the tomb. Contrarily, Mark and I sat in the corner and offered prayer to the very much alive Jesus Christ, our one mediator between God and man. This was a very interesting experience and spurred some good conversation after we left. The guys that we spend time with now want to look at the Bible and see what it says. We are excited about this because we know that it is God's Living Word that has power to change hearts and we are looking foward how God is going to work through His Word.
While I've been here I have been reading a great book called Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. It is basically an explanation and understanding of Jesus' continual use of the phrase "the Kingdom of God" within the Bible's Gospel accounts. It is plain to see that Jesus was not just referring to the Kingdom of God as heaven after we die. Surely heaven is God's kingdom but then what does Jesus mean when he says that the Kingdom of Heaven has "come near" or "is at hand"? The idea is that because Jesus is now on the scene, access to God's Kingdom and God's Kingdom kind of life is now available or "at hand." The key passage of the Kingdom kind of life is found Jesus' discourse in Matthew 5-7, also known as the Sermon on the Mount. Here Jesus explains what the Kingdom looks like and what it should look like when it controls the hearts of men from the inside out. I was really moved by a realization I came to after reading Dallas Willard's interpretation on the Beatitudes at the beginning of Matthew 5. The Beatitudes were not just another list of smothering legalisms that said "to earn blessedness in the kingdom of God you must do these things." They are an announcement to the world about who is now blessed because Jesus is on the scene. Contrary to popular belief those poor in spirt (which really is better translated as lacking any spiritual depth or ability), or those who are meek and so on, are now blessed because Jesus has come to show that the Kingdom is for everyone who trusts him not just those who have it together or can get it together, whatever "it" is. What has really stuck with me is that God's Kingdom is actually for these people; the down and outers, the stepped on, and forgotten. God's Kingdom is not just for them like a gift is for somebody, but God's Kingdom is for them like in the statement "God is for us, not against us." God and his Kingdom are cheering wildly for anyone who would come and trust Jesus as their access into his Kingdom kind of life. This thought has forced me to take on a very different perspective when I walk down the street here in India. Everyday here I rub shoulders with the very people of which the Beatitudes are speaking. I am being changed to see that every person I pass has an equal share in the availability of the Kingdom of God, regardless of their age, appearence, or even their smell. This has allowed me to see Jesus' message truly as Good News. Because of Jesus, the Kingdom is at hand for all of these people. It is as close as the nose on their face. At the same time I am forced to look around and exclaim "the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." In light of the Kingdom of God being for everyone, there must be someone to proclaim it to them and this is a daunting task in a country of over 1 billion people, most of who have never heard about Jesus and his available Kingdom. This is our task: While we are going, wherever it may be, we are to be making disciples of Jesus. I would encourage you as you go about your daily activities to stop and realize that everyone around you has an equal share of "blessedness" in the Kingdom of God. This is great news! Share it with others. The Kingdom is for them. Who doesn't want to hear that the God of the universe is cheering for them and has made provision for them to enter His Kingdom through faith in his Son Jesus.
I'm sorry to write such a long blog, but for my faithful followers I thank you for enduring to the end. I hope to update you soon with some more of what God is doing here. Thank you for your prayers and please keep on praying for what God is doing.
Grace and Peace