By Bobby L. Graham
The following brief meditations were prompted by experiences the writer had in a recent fifteen-day trip to the Central American country of Belize, the former British Honduras. The Lord’s work is going well there, guided by Dana Whisler and Jesse Hightower, its pioneer who soon will move to Guatemala to proclaim the gospel to its people. Dana and his family remain there as dedicated and beloved servants of God. Remember them in prayer and in financial support as you can.
Fear of Exile
One of the early contacts with whom we studied after arriving in Corozal, Belize, was Felipe Cruz. Felipe is from Guatemala but lives near Orange Walk, which is south of Corozal. His little abode is quite humble compared to our American style of residence. It consists of numerous tree- trunk poles gathered from the bush and placed side-by-side with a thatch roof overhead, making a quite cool residence for those hot Belizean days.
Quite content with his meager possessions in this foreign land, to which he had brought his family to escape an earlier Guatemalan conflict, Felipe was very much concerned about a threatened exile of non-citizens to their native countries. In his latter years such an upheaval in life could be quite upsetting and unsettling. It should be reported to his credit that Felipe, not yet a Christian, did not allow this fear of exile to hinder his study of the Bible and his travel to the meeting place of the Corozal congregation to study more.
The Christian is not unlike Felipe in his unsettled condition in relation to this world and to his own country. Here he has no permanent abiding place; he is an alien, a stranger, and a pilgrim. He looks for a city, whose builder and maker is God. All of his hopes and confidence relate to the heavenly land, not to this passing scene. He must abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul (Heb. 11; 1 Pet. 2:11). When the child of God does have to dis- embark in death (for such is nature of his departure, 2 Tim. 4:6), he can loosen his grip on this earthly existence in the confidence that a better one awaits.
Rejection of Jesus’ Deity
Late on a hot Sunday afternoon we stopped at a roadside store to buy soft drinks and found Ernest Will the proprietor sitting outside, interested in talking. He immediately made known his belief in “Jehovah” but not in Jesus as divine. He made confusing reference to some of the tenets of Islam, but he also betrayed non-Islamic convictions. Ernest did refer to Isaiah’s majestic description of Jehovah in Isaiah 44:6: “Thus saith Jehovah, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; besides me there is no God.”
After his confusing statements, which made it clear that he was unclear in his beliefs, I asked him about Isaiah’s at- tribution of deity to Jesus in 7:14. Did not Jehovah call the Messiah here Immanuel (God with us) through the prophet? Could not the prophet speak credibly concerning Jesus, just as he did about Jehovah? If we can believe his testimony about one of these matters, why can we not also accept it on the other matter? Think about this matter, friend, and understand that your faith in Christ is well supported by the testimony of God himself, who knows better than the skeptic, the agnostic, or the atheist. He also is the One who thundered from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him” (Matt. 17:5). Ernest said that he would study this passage. Will you?
Divorce — A Serious Matter
Gregorio Huerera seemed anxious to find Dana Whisler after seeing his car along the side of the road. He located him in a nearby house, where some of us were studying the Scriptures with some new converts. He was happy to be able to ask about a marriage that the Adventists were advising him to finalize to the woman with whom he had been living. Gregorio knew enough of the Bible to be skeptical of their advice, for he wanted to know more about marrying this Adventist woman who had been previously married and divorced.
When Dana referred him to Matthew 19 and he read some of the verses for himself, particularly verse 9, he seemed to chuckle a bit and remarked, “This is serious.” It is dead serious, so much so that Jesus advised becoming a eunuch for the sake of the kingdom a bit later! Is it a serious matter to you? Would you ask about marriage before planning it? Does it make a difference to you that God has declared some people ineligible for marriage? Are you that concerned about pleasing God? God has spoken on this matter, and doing right demands pleasing him, not just going through some forms or observing some externals. We serve God and honor Christ only from the heart (Matt. 22:37).
Johnny Mash is not a Christian, but he and his wife have shown some interest in God’s will and Word. During a study in his tiny, elevated house I noticed a deadbolt lock on the front door. He obviously wanted to secure his residence as much as possible in a country where thievery abounds. Jose Morales slept in his unfinished, one-room, concrete-block house to guard what he already had.
Protecting one’s investment, keeping what one has: it sounds familiar, doesn’t it? For this reason people insure their houses, cars, voices, and other things valuable to them. Ought we not to exercise even more care for our spiritual possessions?
Our faith, hope, and salvation far outweigh any earthly belonging, but we frequently disregard them in the decisions and choices we make. Warnings to take heed, beware, and hold on are sounded in the Bible to urge people to protect their spiritual security. Salvation can be lost (1 Cor. 9:27; 10:12). The Lord also admonished such spiritual guarding in Revelation 3:2 and 11. “Establish the things that remain, that were ready to die.”
“Hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown.” Which do we value more highly, as reflected in our spiritual alertness and diligence — our material possessions or our soul’s salvation?
The Day When Everything Went Right
On our first trip into Mexico from Corozal, just nine miles from the border, we experienced the typical hassle of border crossings on a hot and sultry day, bumpy and dusty roads part of the way, a car filled with passengers, poor driving, the distrust of the moneychangers who waited at the border to give us pesos for our dollars, and a traffic ticket in Mexico for making an improper turn. All of this was but a precursor of what was coming — no Little Debbie products at the Chetumal grocery store, which is supposed to have those American products that so many of us want. On the way home there were additional problems — a locked gas cap which would not come off at the gas station (it had to be forced off back in Corozal), forcing us to drive some 15 miles with little gasoline in the tank, and then locking the car keys in the trunk after getting back close to home. The thought did occur to me that nothing was going our way on that day.
Upon further thought, I realized that no one/nothing had really been hurt, lost, or stolen. The problems all related to things that didn’t matter very much. Things that matter the most went right that day. In reality, a day when much seemed to go wrong was a day when everything went right.
After refusing to become a judge in an inheritance dispute between two brothers, Jesus warned us all: “Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). If we keep ourselves from this and other excessive material concerns, we will be able to focus on what really counts in life — God, his Word, our faith and practice, and helping others along the heavenly journey (Matt. 6:33).