Evaluating Our Motives

In Luke 12, Jesus reminds us, "Life is more than food and the body more than clothing." Birds have all they need and the flowers are so beautiful, but neither does anything to make it so.

We all so easily lose sight of our loving Lord. We feel blessed when we have good clothes, a nice house, and a little extra stored away in savings. Those things are fine, but Jesus tells us in these words to store up our treasures above instead of here on earth.

"Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail...For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Our Dong brothers and sisters struggle with this just like we do.


Learning to Pray

"Lord, teach us to pray." After Jesus had just prayed, one of the disciples voiced this request. Did the disciples see something wholly different about how Jesus prayed? They must have recognized something they did not have in their prayers if they asked him to instruct them.

Without any lengthy, lofty prayers, without wordy dissertations on the aspects of prayer, and even without much explanation, Jesus gives them a brief, but loaded model prayer. It is so pivotal to the Church that even if we have never tried, most of us have it memorized, and well we should.

Not only does it have all the aspects of prayer built in, but it has the purpose of prayer, aligning us with the will of the Father as we seek to see his kingdom established here on earth.


The Dong Man and the Samaritan

If, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, a Jew was asking Jesus who his neighbor was, then why did Jesus not make the injured man a Samaritan and the one who helped him a Jew? Would that have not been a better way to show the Jewish listener a good example of who his neighbor was?

If he had not switched the story around and it was a Jew doing the good deed, it would much more easily have just been a story with another Jewish hero, enough to evoke pride but not a humble and repentant response in practical life. Instead, Jesus wants the listener to feel he is in the place of the one lying on the road, not the hero but the victim.

Of course, if lying half dead on the road, few of us would cringe about who helped us, we would just accept the help. So, when we are not the ones lying on the road, we should use the same distinction in determining who our neighbor is.


Wealth in Their Hearts

In Luke 9, Jesus makes the statement, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." He was a homeless wanderer, a ragamuffin, and though he does not call all people to that same ministry, he does call us all to live with the same ruthless trust in him that we are willing to give up all these things for him.

The state of our hearts is the important matter. Jesus looks past whether we are technically obeying the law (which, by the way, is usually made by man, not God) and looks instead to our hearts. Christians should be homeless deep in their hearts, trusting not in the roof over their heads, but the Lord over their hearts.

Most of the Dong young people have spent years longing for something better. Very few are content in what they have, much less content in even less. They want to move to the cities, make money, have a car and a nice home, and not have to continue a seemingly demeaning life of working the earth for their daily rice.


A Spiritual Reality

How many of us really feel like the countless stories of Jesus casting out demons really apply to our daily life? It is truly outside the understanding and experience of many of us, but for the Dong people, stories like the one in Luke 8 is much more of a reality.

It is easy for us to read right past yet another story of Jesus casting out a demon, yet there is a wealth of information in each one. For us who seek to pray with understanding for the Dong people, these stories make up an excellent training course in the spiritual realm which can inform us of some aspects of the slavery and trickery under which the Dong people live.


What a Relief

Everybody needed a little clarification about the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus, even John himself. Though Jesus gave yet another riddled answer to John's inquiries, it seems to have brought up a topic Jesus had wanted to talk about.

When the people hear Jesus's glowing words for John, confirming he came to prepare the way for the Messiah, they seem to be very relieved. "They declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John" (7:29). They had accepted the message of John and now are accepting the message of Jesus, but did not quite know if that was ok, as if to say, "Are these two guys in agreement or have we accidentally switched sides."

It is much like the situation with the Dong. They do not quite know who is with who, which message is right, or whose message is more important. "Do I listen to this foreigner or that Chinese guy?" "Are they preaching the same message?" It is all a little weird to them, really.


Plain and Simple

"But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil."

Now, who of us does not have a problem with this? "You mean I am supposed to continue to loan my money to that guy who never pays me back? That's bad money management." "I should be kind to that lady in the office who just spreads lies about me?" This is why the Gospel is polar opposite to every other religion out there.

We want to be praying for specific requests for the Dong people, and this is most certainly an issue for Dong Christians, just like it is for just about every Christian on this planet. Though incredibly simple, this message is probably one of the hardest things we will ever attempt, for we have to go against the very core of our sinful, selfish nature to follow the way of Christ.