God’s Plan Succeeds

By Jill

God’s purpose from the beginning was to send His son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior (2 Tim 1:8-10b). Zechariah’s song (Luke 1:67–75) shows several ways that Jesus is our Savior. First, he came in the flesh, was born, and lived among us (John 1:14). Second, Jesus’s name means “Yahweh is salvation” (Mounce, Matthew, Understanding the Bible Commentary, 11). His name reveals his mission. Third, he came to redeem, to save us from our sins. Fourth, he delivered us and bought us by his life, death, and resurrection (Rev 5:9). He loved us (1 John 4:10) and gave himself for us (Gal 1:4). More than a military liberator (Evans, Luke, Understanding the Bible Commentary, 37), Jesus liberated us from the power of sin and death. This liberation leads to eternal life, by God’s grace. Fifth, he reconciled us to God through his death and resurrection, initiating a changed, unobstructed relationship and continued fellowship with God.

Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus, such as the virgin birth (Isa 7:14) in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Jesus even explained “what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Lk 24:27). God’s plan is universal—not just for Jews, but for all people throughout the whole world.

The people of the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke all heard God’s voice, believed his word, and obeyed him. They heard God’s word through angel appearances, dreams, and stars. An angel told Zechariah he would have a son who would prepare the way for the Messiah. He needed some assurance but obeyed in the end. Mary was told she would bear God’s son. She believed and obeyed even though it would be difficult. God told Joseph to marry Mary. Joseph obeyed immediately each time God spoke to him. The Magi came from afar to worship Jesus. They helped keep him safe by obeying God to return a different way. John the Baptist, the long awaited for son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, was to be set apart to God. He obeyed by being a Nazarite. The shepherds were told of Jesus’ birth and left their fields to worship him and spread the word. God revealed his plan to each of these people, and they helped God’s plan succeed.

Do you listen to God’s voice, his word? Do you believe what he says? Do you obey what he says? “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (John 5:24). “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God has called you from the beginning. YOU are part of his plan.


Ordinary Superheroes

Acts 4

In today’s complex world, believers face many Darin's Online Photo Smalldifficulties. Difficulties come from within and without. We may encounter direct persecution from those who oppose us or indirect resistance from those who prefer a relativistic worldview. We may experience challenges even in the midst of spiritual victories. For instance, when we have overcome a spiritual problem, we may become prideful—but pride is already a sin! Conversely, we may adopt an inferiority complex, thinking that spiritual superheroes can do things better than we can.

In today’s passage, the first Christians also faced challenges that came about due to a great spiritual victory. Great success brought great resistance. Peter and John had performed a great miracle, healing a forty-year-old man crippled since birth (Acts 3). This healing resulted in many people hearing and receiving the Good News. This, in turn, caught the attention of the authorities, who arrested Peter and John.

We may think that Peter and John were Christian superheroes. But the authorities were actually correct to noticed that they were just “ordinary men” (Acts 4:13 NIV). They were ordinary people, transformed by spending time with Jesus and emboldened by the power of the Holy Spirit. Their fellow believers recognized that they, too, needed the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome resistance to the Good News. Boldness in the face of spiritual challenges is for ordinary believers, not only for Christian “superheroes.”

The Apostles received power by spending time with Jesus, not just before His death, but even after His resurrection! This was a privilege that the new believers could enjoy, as well. And the new believers recognized the importance of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. They prayed, asking specifically for boldness to declare the Good News despite the opposition. Acts 4:31 reports the dramatic answer to that prayer: “The place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (NIV).

Today, we too need to recognize our need for help in the face of spiritual challenges. Like the early believers, we must ask for God’s help when we need it (which is always, by the way!). We must rely on Jesus, and we must rely on the Holy Spirit. As the Holy Spirit gives aid, like the early Church we must proclaim the Word boldly and strengthen community by selflessly working together.

What would you do?

[Warning: Contains graphic descriptions]


“Never will we forget”

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is just two blocks from my hotel here in Cambodia. The Museum is housed in the former prison itself, also known by its Khmer Rouge codename, S-21.

I took time to visit the Museum this afternoon. It is sobering, to say the least. I entered the very rooms where prisoners had been kept like animals and methodically tortured. I saw photographs of many of the victims, pictures that had somehow escaped the evidence-destroying attempts of the fleeing Khmer Rouge prison guards. I examined some of the torture implements, including a replica of a “water board,” now so infamous in the so-called US War on Terror. I shuddered at paintings of how these implements had been used—paintings by two of the twelve confirmed survivors of the horrors perpetrated here, saved because their artistic skills had proven useful to the regime. I witnessed the skulls of some of the prisoners who had been executed.

I paused to pray at the memorial stupa, asking God to have mercy on humanity so that such atrocities may never occur again. Asking, too, for wisdom and courage to resist such atrocities if it is ever in my power to do so.

As I turned to leave the Museum, I started to pass through what appeared at first to be a simple souvenir shop like those found at museums worldwide.

I read the sign: S-21 Survivor. The two artists whose work is displayed in the Museum were selling books of their paintings. In person, like an author at a book signing.


What would you do?

  • Avoid eye-contact because their presence makes the whole experience too personal, too real?
  • Buy one of their books as if that could make restitution for humanity’s inaction to stop Pol Pot’s madness?
  • Make a show of interest by perusing their books, then leave without buying?
  • Silently condemn the commercialization of such a tragedy by people whose suffering, though real, did not approach that of those who did not survive?
  • Pass by without emotion, immediately betraying one’s resolve never to let the inhuman treatment of others that had taken place there happen again?

Where in the House is the Gecko?

We are quite used to the geckos in our house in the Philippines. They used to be out mostly at night and stay on the walls and out of our way. Lately they have gotten bolder. Now they are out during the day and sometimes on the floor (where we can step on them) or on the counters (which I do not tolerate). Even twice on our pillows – yuck. But this last one takes the prize. I opened the ref (refrigerator) door and I saw what I thought was a gecko run INSIDE. I took out the drawer and couldn’t see anything, but I wanted to make sure. I shook a few things and sure enough there was a gecko in our ref. I did not want to have a gecko popsicle, so I got a broom to try to chase him out. He came out and plopped right down in front of the ref where I was standing. I had to sweep him away from there so he wouldn’t go back in.

Where in the house is the gecko? It is getting more interesting every day.

“a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.” Prov. 30:28 NIV

Gecko 2

(gecko pictured is different than the gecko mentioned)


I shed tears every year at graduation.

Tears of pride in our students. For all of their years of hard work and study is culminating in their graduation. Knowing many of the difficulties they have overcome during this time.

But also tears of sadness as we are saying goodbye to those we have come to care about. We share daily life together: working, sharing meals, playing games, praying and worshiping together. We share life events: birthdays, weddings, babies, memorials. The students become part of our hearts. Many of them we may not see again in this life time.

Mostly we are happy to know they are fulfilling God’s call on their lives. And we will be excited to hear from them in the future (I love Facebook) and how God has been working in their lives.

God bless you all!Jill & Mamre

Unfinished Business

1 Kings 2:1–11

Darin's Online Photo Small1 Kings 2:1–11 relates the deathbed charge of King David to his son, Solomon. After delivering typical advice fit for a new ruler, David leaves Solomon with three specific tasks. Arising out of events in the course of David’s own reign, these three tasks comprise David’s unfinished business. David should have dealt with these items himself, but he had left them undone for a variety of reasons—some legitimate, and some dubious.

The first charge that David left Solomon is “Do not let [Joab’s] gray head go down to the grave in peace” (v. 6 TNIV). From David’s description, it seems clear that Joab had been guilty of criminal activity (v. 5). As a result, David (and his dynasty) was guilty by association. Leaving Joab unpunished was tantamount to tacit approval of Joab’s criminality. Upon David’s death, Solomon moved quickly to deal with this issue, having Joab executed even though he sought refuge at the Lord’s altar (v. 34).

The next item of unfinished business related to Barzillai, who had treated David well when he fled Jerusalem during the revolt of his son, Absalom (v. 7). David tells Solomon to show kindness to Barzillai’s children. The word kindness here translates the Hebrew word, hesed. This word is often translated as “loving kindness,” and frequently describes God’s covenant faithfulness to His people. Commentator Simon John de Vries calls it a “‘deed of loyalty,’ that… demands reciprocation” (Word Biblical Commentary). This “deed of loyalty” is similar to the Filipino utang na loob, or “debt of gratitude.” David could not forget that he still owed utang na loob to Barzillai. Sadly, he left it for his son to do.

At the same time that Barzillai acted in kindness toward David, another man cursed him in his moment of need (v. 8–9). That man was Shimei. Interestingly, David had seemed to forgive Shimei for his curses, but his deathbed charge to Solomon clearly shows that he still harbored resentment. Solomon handled this charge by compelling Shimei to stay in Jerusalem. Years later, when Shimei returned to Jerusalem following an unauthorized absence, Solomon used that as a pretext to have him executed (v. 46).

Thus, David left Solomon with three pieces of unfinished business. David’s failure to complete them set Solomon on a trajectory that ultimately damaged him and the Davidic dynasty. It forced Solomon to engage in the kind of violence that leads either to further violence or to the forcible suppression of enemies. Rather than leading to good governance, the course was laid for an uneasy peace that unraveled after Solomon’s death. Instead of leaving his unfinished business for Solomon, David should have dealt with these matters himself. He should have confronted Joab with his sinful behavior; he should have found a way to repay his debt of gratitude to Barzillai; and he should have truly forgiven Shimei. What about you? Is there someone you need to confront, repay, or forgive? Do it today!

This week we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. Like David, Jesus was facing the hour of His death. But unlike David, Jesus took care of His business. On the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30). By His death, Jesus had accomplished everything needed to win our salvation. His work was completed! Nevertheless, there is yet some unfinished business that Jesus left for us. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:18–20 TNIV). The world is waiting for each one of us to do our part to finish this unfinished business!

Water, No Water

faucet 1Paul says “for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Phil. 4:11b NIV May it be so for me also.

This week was one of those times where you remember to appreciate something because it is gone.

For several weeks our air-con (what we call air conditioners here in the Philippines) was leaking water, and sometimes it even shoots out ice pieces too. So we have a bucket in the spot where is it leaking to collect the water.

Anyway, on Tuesday our running tap water was having problems. It would run at low pressure for a short while and then nothing. Later it would run again & then nothing. Come to discover that the pump that sends the water up to our house (at the top of the campus) was broken. Oh no, who knows how long a broken pump could take to fix or replace?

So water was coming out where it isn’t supposed to (the air-con) and not coming out where it is supposed to (the faucets). Thankfully we have drinking water from another source. We were also able to use some of the water in the bucket from the air-con leak to flush toilets. Wonderfully, the water was running again by Wednesday afternoon. Hooray!!!

It may seem strange, but the lack of water made me grateful.

Grateful that we have an air-con in this hot climate.

Grateful that we have clean running water (most of the time).

Grateful that we have a wonderful hard-working maintenance crew that was able to repair the broken pump.

Grateful for the opportunity to be serving the Lord in this place.

Grateful that we have many friends & family that look out for us & pray for us.

Grateful to the Lord for all things and how he cares for us (and our little things too).

“If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11b NIV