Here is a quick follow-up on a few conversations I’ve had recently.
First of all, the Indian colleague that I had lunch with last week who’d agreed to go to church after our talk: I had said that I would research good churches for him based on his address that he texted me and I did. As God’s Providence would have it, the closest church to his house, literally a 4 minute drive, is also a church that my best friend attends. And to top it off, my Indian colleague also knows this Christian friend of mine from a company that we both worked at previously! That gives him not only a place he and his family can go where he already knows someone, but also, a church that I’m comfortable is a doctrinally solid, Bible preaching church. I was thrilled about how God arranged all that. So I reported this information back to my Indian colleague and he replied “Thank u sir for all ur help. Plz send me his number and I will call him up. Thx again”. So, apparently, he seemed willing to go. I pray that it in fact happened yesterday. I will probably find out this coming Thursday.
Secondly I had a doctor’s appointment Friday morning, and the doctor I was meeting with was named Bethany. So while I was in the waiting room for my appointment, knowing that her name was a biblical name, I did a search on my nuggets website for the name Bethany in the Bible. It appears 12 times in the Bible. Here are the search results:
|Matthew 21:17 (niv)
||17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
|Matthew 26:6 (niv)
||6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper,
|Mark 11:1 (niv)
||1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples,
|Mark 11:11 (niv)
||11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
|Mark 11:12 (niv)
||12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.
|Mark 14:3 (niv)
||3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
|Luke 19:29 (niv)
||29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them,
|Luke 24:50 (niv)
||50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them.
|John 1:28 (niv)
||28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
|John 11:1 (niv)
||1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
|John 11:18 (niv)
||18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,
|John 12:1 (niv)
||1 Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
So I kept the search results up on my phone screen. When I got called into the office the first thing after some small pleasantries, I said to her, “Bethany, I don’t know if you knew this… but while I was waiting in your waiting room, I did a search on your name in the Bible. Did you know that your name appears 12 times in the Bible?” She said, “No I didn’t know that!” She said she knew that her name meant “House of God”, but she didn’t know that it appeared in the Bible (now, looking the meaning up here and here, I think she may be wrong). So I motioned her over and showed her the search results of her name in the Bible. They were all in the gospels. I said not only does your name appear in the Bible, but it is a very significant name. In fact, Jesus spent quite a bit of time there:
- After He died and rose again, He ascended to heaven from Bethany.
- At His second coming, He will return at the Mount of Olives, which is in Bethany.
- Also, Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead lived in Bethany with his sisters Mary and Martha, who are also featured in several Bible accounts.
- Simon the Leper lived in Bethany
- Jesus stayed overnight in Bethany.
- Bethany is about 2 miles from Jerusalem.
She was shocked to see that her name was referenced so often in the Bible. She commented, “I’ve read that book! I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools through 8th grade.” When she said, “I’ve read that book”, I thought to myself – the Bible is not a book that you’re supposed to read just once. It is not like a novel …. But I thought I would just keep that to myself. Anyway, she thanked me for telling me that and told me she learned something new today! That was pretty much the end of our conversation. I hope that she goes home and researches more about her name in the Bible.
Then, when I got to work, there was hardly anyone in the office, it being the day after the 4th of July (Independence Day) which is a holiday. I had a short conversation with 2 of the people that were in the office (a Hindu and a Muslim). One of them indicated that he was going to be leaving the company and actually moving out of the country back to the Middle East — I won’t name the country, but it is a Muslim country. So I asked him, are you a Muslim (before this conversation, I didn’t know)? He said yes I am. I replied, “I didn’t know that…” We were looking at a map showing the country that he was moving too, and of course in the region of the Middle East, this is where Mecca is located, so I asked him, “So being a Muslim, have you ever been to Mecca?” He said, “No, but I really hope to go there one day, and Jerusalem as well.” I commented, “Oh, that’s one of the five pillars of Islam. A pilgrimage to Mecca.” He said, “Well, actually, it’s not a pillar of Islam.” So I just kind of let that slide, but I’m pretty sure it is a pillar of Islam. However, did I mention that saying the shahada is also a pillar of Islam. And he said, “Yes, there is no God but one…” And I said, “Isn’t it, ‘there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger’?” And he corrected me, “One of his messengers.” I thought this to be very interesting. In the short couple of sentences, I could tell that he was not a very strict, conservative or well-informed Muslim. In the past, this individual and I have talked a little bit about Christianity and Jesus — in particular His death and Resurrection. During those conversations in the past, he didn’t seem to have any push back or comment on it. I would think a devout Muslim would have really took exception with the idea of Jesus’s crucifixion and Resurrection. I hope and pray that I will be able to talk to him more before he leaves.
Finally, yesterday at church, I was able to talk to the girl who just graduated from high school that I had previously talked to while serving at St. Vincent de Paul. She is the one who indicated she’s “not quite there yet” on Christianity and her faith. This time I was able to talk to her during the fellowship time after the service. I asked her if she’d be willing to share more about her prior comment that she’s “not there yet”. Initially she was saying that it was more something that she needed to “discover on her own”. I asked her if she would be willing to give me a try, “What is it that you’re struggling with?” She said that it has to do with all of the evil and suffering in the world. She said that when she’s asked questions of Christians before, they all gave the same answer. I asked if she could try me 🙂 I would like to compare my answer against theirs. She said “They say that God gives man free Will and that’s why we have all the evil.” So, I asked her, “What do you think God should do about the evil and suffering?” After pondering for a moment, she said, “I don’t know”. Then I re-phrased the question, “What would you do about it if you were God?” Again, she said, “I’m not sure.” So, I followed up and said, “Do you think God will deal with the evil and suffering ‘one day’?” She said that yes, probably he would. I said to her that if there is a God who created the universe and everything in it, He would have to be incredibly powerful and intelligent. So, our knowledge would be just a small slice of all the knowledge He has and maybe, just maybe, He has better insight into how to deal with all this than we do. She seemed to agree. We then had a discussion about the difference between moral evil (e.g. Hitler) and natural evil (e.g. earth quakes and hurricanes). I told her that if there is no God, then Hitler, who killed 13 million people total and 6 million of them Jews, just “got away with” what he did. Yet, if the God of the Bible is real, He promises there will be justice for people like Hitler. She said that she’s having a problem with trusting Him. I told her that I’m glad she used the word “trust”. Faith is a biblical word, but it has a lot of baggage. Faith really means trust in a God who you have good evidence to believe exists.
I asked her if she’d be going with us to feed the homeless again next weekend and she said yes, she was planning to and possibly bringing a friend – she said she likes charity. I said that’s great and was looking forward to serving again along side her and the rest of the group. I’m thinking now of possibly buying her a book and giving it to her next weekend. That book is “Is God a Moral Monster?: Making Sense of the Old Testament God” or possibly, “The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between”, which also has a good chapter on the problem of evil and suffering. I pray that God works in her life to cause her to understand and accept these difficult things.
I continue to try to be alert for ways to start spiritual conversations that will lead to fruit. 2 passages are relevant here:
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
1 Corinthians 3:5-8
What then is Apollos ? And what is Paul ? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one ; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.