Chinese New Year in Bangkok

Chinese New Year brings a festive atmosphere if nothing else. Many of my students told me of how they are going to a grandparents or elders house to celebrate the holiday. They will eat tons of food. Tina’s students gave her a lesson that they need to eat something from the air, ground and sea…usually duck, pig and fish (but chicken can substitute for duck).
In 2009, the year of the ox replaces the year of the rat. As a Harvard High School alumnus and big fan of Harmilda in the middle of our town, I prefer to call it the year of the cow.

Many of my teen students told how they looked forward to the tradition of the elders (parents and grandparents) giving them money. I asked one brother and sister the amount…and they replied, 6,000 baht (roughly$200. I think we should have adopted this tradition in my family while I was a teenager. I tried to get adopted into a Chinese family for the food and hope to look young enough to still get the payment from the elders.

Here is a link to places in Bangkok to celebrate the festivities….

Finally here are some pictures from the BBC around the Pacific Rim of the celebration…

Useless to Useful: The Story of Onesimus

The one who was useless becomes useful

I’m going to give a summation of the message this weekend on the story of Onesimus.


Intro: We have recently started a series on heroes and villains. Heroes show character and determination to overcome problems. What about villains…what makes a great villain.  Turn to some one next to you and share two or three of the worst villains, maybe from a movie, book or the Bible (Satan doesn’t count; we all know he is the worst). Now let’s look at an illustration of a terrible villain. A movie clip from Narnia I showing Edmond running away from his brothers and sisters to the White Witch only to turn them in.

He was greedy, selfish, a little evil, but mostly lacked moral character.


We will look at a little known villain from the pages of scripture today to see what we can learn from him. His name is Onesimus and he was a run away slave. In order to know his story we need to look at the key characters in this narrative.


I.                    Paul, Missionary to the gentiles and early church planter, now imprisoned

II Corinthians 11:22-29

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I. 23Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

Paul gave everything to spread the gospel. If


II.                 Philemon, a rich person in Colossae who sponsored a church in his house.


Philemon 4-7

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, 5because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints. 6I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. 7Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.

Often in that day, a wealthy person would be a patron to a house church, providing food for the church as well. This put Philemon at a highly respected status in both the community he lived and the Christian community he served. Paul begins to appeal to his generosity, compassion and value for community. Compassion here is talking (Greek splanchna) literally guts or entrails. The depth of love that comes from experiencing love and capacity to love. Also Paul uses the famous Greek word, Koinonia meaning community with shared purpose. The Christianity community has each person belonging to one another and essential for fulfilling the God-given potential in each of us. Paul is thanking Philemon for his godly service in order to ask him a huge favor.


III.               Onesimus, runaway slave and thief, here is a good link to tell his story…


Philemon 10-13

I appeal to you for my son Onesimus who became my son while I was in chains. 11Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.  


12I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel.

Onesimus found Paul and turned his life around. He was useless and now is very beneficial to both Paul and Onesimus. The term here for useless to useful refers to moral character. Onesimus ran away costing Philemon a great deal. He certainly would owe a great debt to Philemon. Paul does not however write to Onesimus that slavery is wrong, but uses this case to make an exception to who Onesimus could be. Slavery was an accepted practice in the Roman Empire. An escaped slave would be forced to return to his master under Roman law. The Old Testament gave an opposite decree, as those under Judaism were required to harbor runaway slaves. In the Roman culture, slaves were given opportunities to move up the social order and even purchase their freedom. There were bad conditions for those that worked in the mines and low jobs, but Paul always wrote regarding household slaves. Often, free peasants would sell themselves into slavery for a better life. Anyway, here is a cultural background quickly pulled from IVP’ Bible Background Commentary.


Here are a few lessons learned from the story…but first a note on how humorous the letter is. Paul begins the request by saying, I’ll ask this favor of you even though I could force you to do this…then he appeals to his old age and imprisonment laying on the guilt trip. I am sure Philemon wasn’t laughing, but reading it as an outsider; I have to see it as humorous. After making the appeal he says whatever Onesimus owes you, I’ll put it on my account, and I won’t mention that you owe me your very Soul. Remember Paul’s story above. Philemon really owed him much as do all who found Christ due to Paul’s great sacrifice. I love the way he can say, I am not going to say this, but goes ahead to say it. I am reminded of the political scene last fall. If I were to say something against my opponent, it would be this, but I won’t stoop to those levels…hee hee. And finally, Paul says to Philemon to prepare a guest room for him as to imply he will come check up on him. Well, we can assume Philemon took to heart Paul’s request and granted it as the letter has been preserved for us.


Lessons to be learned

I.                    We are all useless without Christ; the way of the world is selfish, greedy and corrupt. Christ turns us around and changes our life


II.                 Community is necessary…We need each other to grow and reach our God-given potential.


III.               Forgiveness restores relationship

Romans 4:7, Ephesians 1:7, I John 1:9, Matthew 18:21-22, Paul asks Philemon to forgive and restore Onesimus in the same way Jesus paid our debt and forgave us. Jesus went before us and told the judge, I’ll pay their debt.



IV.              We never know who God uses to accomplish his work…William J. Seymour…a son of a slave turned preacher. No one gave him a chance, because of his social status, blindness in one eye and fringe belief that he Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues was for today, but in the early 1900s his passion to seek the fullness of God sparked the greatest revival since the apostles, the Azusa Street Revival.


The second service I used the story of Aimee Semple-McPherson. A single mom and poor in a day when women were fighting for the right to vote. She began to preach the simple message Jesus, savior, healer, baptizer in the Holy Spirit and soon coming king. A movement began and now we have many churches around the world and countless people who have come into the kingdom of God, because she was willing to serve.



Her first sermon is the key…

Who expected anything from her…?,1.html



Under the Knife

Limpoma that is the good news…Let me explain the story of a fatty cyst on my arm and so on.


I found a little growth just above my elbow on the inside of my arm a couple of months ago. I continued to inspect it and wonder what it could be. The lump was not disappearing, so curiosity gave way to concern. I decided to ask the doctor, a nose and throat doctor, while being checked up on a cough. He said I should have it looked at. Hmmm… But who as we wanted to find some one good, we asked around in Tina’s hi-so ladies class. They always have a good recommendation for doctors no matter. They told us about Dr. Gon near one of their villages who was expert in this field. Soooo, just before leaving for Christmas in the US, I took one of my Thai friends to find this place way down our road.


Let me explain the clinic. We walked through the sliding glass door into an entry way with enough room for us to stand in front of the reception desk. From behind the secretary, Dr. Gon welcomed us back to his office…or little cubby.


I could barely close the door around me as I squeezed into the office next to his desk. His humble office did not diminish his ability to look at me. He asked the appropriate questions and inspected the lump on my arm. He decided it was a tumor on the lymph node, but since I didn’t have any other symptoms or growths on other lymph nodes, he said for me to come back in a month to see if there has been a change. I went home reminded of the email prayer request I received that morning about a friend of a friend who been diagnosed with lymphoma cancer (the end of her story was a miracle healing).


Understandably, I let my concern grow a little as my imagination ran with endless possibilities. Thai doctors are not as quick to eliminate any possibility of cancer like in America. Maybe the American doctor really wants his patients to have peace of mind, or maybe the American doctor wants to cover their backside from lawsuits…but I waited for the month to pass and return to Thailand for a follow up.


But as I took the taxi back to our apartment, I realized I didn’t pay any money for the check up or receive a bill. I asked my Thai friend, and he said the doctor didn’t do anything, so you don’t owe him any money. I told him in America, seeing a specialist would be very different and very expensive.


After returning to Bangkok, Dr. Gon checked me again confirming in his mind that it wouldn’t be anything malignant, reassuring me that it was benign. He scheduled a biopsy for two weeks later, but said I could get it cut out earlier if I wanted to go to the closer hospital. I just wouldn’t have him doing the surgery as he was booked for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t wait, so I went to the surgery unit at Ramkhamhaeng Hospital just around the corner.


The doctor looked at me the same as Dr. Gon saying it was 95 percent not cancer. Tina and I looked at each other and said, we like it to be 100 percent. Even though he recommended and insisted it was not necessary, and the only reason to remove them is for a problem aesthetically. We determined that we wanted to have it removed and the pathology done for our peace of mind.


He said, okay, and sent me to the O.R… Things move pretty quickly when you have the money to pay for them or insurance here in Thailand. They put me right in there and got me ready. My mind wondered as I pondered the procedure.


He had my arm getting prepped. The local anesthetic would numb the pain as he cut out the growth, but I would be lying awake just thinking about my arm open wide as he cut and cleaned it out. Then I had the shot of anesthetic three times to make sure the arm would stay numb. Eek…  About five or 10 minutes later he finished and taped it shut. He let me feel the tumorous growth. It felt like a rubbery, squidlike little blob of fattiness called a limpoma.


One funny thing was when I asked him what was next, or what part of the procedure he was on as I couldn’t feel my arm and wasn’t sure how much more he had to do, he said, now is the time for my coffee break. Pause…and then he said just kidding, it is done. Just cleaning you up and getting you ready to go.


Just like that, I was an out of the hospital and back to my routine. A few days later, we went into the hospital to hear the result. The doctor saw us in the waiting area, and said come on in. He told us it was benign, and we had nothing to worry about.


We went back on Wednesday for the stitches to be removed. I’ll leave you with this fun note to get an idea of hospital expenses in Thailand. We had to pay for the medical equipment he used for the removal of stitches which came to 109 Thai baht, or roughly three dollars. Good thing we have insurance with no deductible.


My arm is healing up just fine despite being deformed by a small, unnoticeable scar. Turns out limpoma is pretty common in, and I may get more of these fatty cysts, but at least I know they aren’t cancerous. That is the good news; the bad news is that limpoma usually shows up in people during the middle aged years. At least I keep hearing that I look young.

Heros and Villains

It has been too long of a break from the blog…but here are some thoughts I have had lately to get back into the flow of blogging…Heroes ignite admiration and inspiration in the common person. At the same time, no hero could be great without an epic villain.
Some of the greatest Heroes and Villains fill the pages of the Bible and God’s story to give each of us hope and life lessons from their individual stories. The modern heroes of Superman and Spiderman embody the transcendent values of a hero, selfless, just, strong etc., but the true humanity seen in the Biblical characters like Samson, Gideon, Noah, Daniel and most inspiring David who defeated Goliath, give a greater reality to heroic ideals…
The idea of heroes and villains gave birth to a new series at the Foursquare church here in Bangkok, Our Home Chapel. We are looking at more obscure and little known characters from the pages of scripture. This week, I am speaking on the narrative of Onesimus.
What’s that…who is he, you say? That is a good question, and this weekend we’ll find out more of his back-story and how his life illustrates God’s story in such a poignant way. During my look at the text regarding Onesimus, I find that Philemon is one of the more humorous books of the New Testament.
As I look into Onesimus’ life, and think through heroes and villains the next few weeks, I am interested in this question. Who is your favorite hero and villain of the Bible…why…What from their life gives you wisdom and guidance for your life?