Saturday, March 26, 2011


Yup, this is my annual cricket special. The World Cup is on and India is in the semis. Makes the jetlag after my recent trip to S. Asia worthwhile—I am awake at odd hours to watch games halfway around the globe!

Here’s what happened the other day in the India vs. West Indies match. You see, usually a batsman waits for the umpire’s decision when the opposing team appeals for an “out.” Not this time.

It was an unclear decision to all watching. The batsman had swung at a ball which he had seemingly missed and it was collected by the wicket-keeper behind. The fielding team appealed, just in case, but the umpire shook his head. The batsman was not out, in his opinion: he had not gotten a touch on the ball.

But the one man who knew for sure that he had made contact didn’t wait for the umpire’s signal. The batsman. He turned on his heel and walked off. To deafening silence from the 30,000+ Indian fans gathered to see their hero play. The dude had declared himself out. He knew the truth. Even if no one else did. Putting his bat under his arm, without so much as a glance at the umpire or the rest of the opposition, he headed off back to the dressing room. He walked.

Sachin Tendulkar, the pint-sized (5’ 5”) Indian star, widely regarded as one of the greatest batsmen in history, the man who has broken pretty much every batting record there is to break, in the process collecting a humongous total of over 30,000 runs under his 37-year-old belt.

He had a lot to lose. He is just one paltry century away from his 100th international century (he has scored 100+ runs on 99 different occasions!). His team relies on him. This is the World Cup for goodness’ sakes. We need the guy. His reputation is at stake as a master-player. He could have stayed at the crease and continued his batting operations. Business as usual it would have been. Lawful it would have been. Within the game’s parameters it would have been. Hey, even the umpire said, “Not out!”

But, no, our man walks!

This, in a day when no one does. In fact, just a few days before this event, in another game, one player confessed that he knew he had actually touched the ball, but refused to walk, because the umpire—here, also—had adjudjed him “Not out!”

Thankfully, India did win the game. And Tendulkar remains the highest scorer in the current World Cup. He won more than a game.

That’s integrity for you.

How we behave when we think no one has seen, or no one is looking, or no one will observe. For God sees!

And there is no creature
hidden from His sight,
but all things are open
and laid bare to the eyes of Him
with whom we have to do.
Hebrews 4:13

Integrity—living, not as under the eyes of men, but under the gaze of God

… not as pleasing men, but God
who examines our hearts.
1 Thessalonians 2:4

And examine, He will, gauging our faithfulness to Him and to His standards. Our integrity tested.

The refining pot is for silver
and the furnace for gold,
but the LORD tests hearts.
Proverbs 17:3

So let us live (“walk” in the Greek is an appropriate cricketing synonym for “live”) for God.

Whether, then, you eat or drink
or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Integrity. At all times.

Friday, March 18, 2011


This is where it was shot. The actual bridge in David Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). Far from Kwai. Far from Thailand. In Kitulgala. In Sri Lanka (where I was a few days ago with friends Vinodh and Suchi).

(Souvenir collectors completely dismantled the bridge, beam by beam, stone by stone, soon thereafter!)

In the movie, based on a fictional story by Pierre Boule, British Colonel Nicholson (Alec Guinness) is the protagonist who is a POW in Western Thailand. He is forced by his Japanese captors to lead his men in building a railway bridge over said river. Now you need to know that Nicholson is an outstanding officer, a man of the highest scruples, and unimpeachable integrity, committed to excellence in any mission he undertakes. So the bridge he builds, though it was to serve enemy purposes, is a remarkably excellent one, built with as much quality he could muster. So far so good.

But by the end of the film, Nicholson is obsessed with his bridge. His fellow British officers are planning to destroy it in an attempt to keep the Japanese supply trains from using it against the Allies. And Nicholson, so caught up with his goal—excellence in all he does—is in the utterly unethical position of defending the bridge—his bridge—from attack.

Consumed by the goal—his goal, his way—he forgot his purpose.

There's a chilling moment of realization, right before Nicholson, mortally wounded by another soldier, falls upon and detonates the bridge. That’s when he utters the famous line, “What have I done?”

Goal obsession or fixation. A good thing, except when skewed. And when the broader purpose is neglected, resulting not in good, but in damage to institutions and people and self.

In a famous study by Darley and Batson (1973), Princeton Seminary students were recruited to go from one building to another with varying amounts of urgency, some of them to deliver a talk on the story of the Good Samaritan. Along the way they encountered a man slumped in an alleyway, coughing and moaning. Ironically, very few stopped to help this actor, even when they were going to expound the story of the Good Samaritan. Some literally stepped over the victim on their way to their task.

Consumed by the immediate goal, the overall purpose and mission are hijacked.

That can happen to all of us.

The scribes were in danger of goal obsession. Wanting to be “great” in the religious schema, they forgot the greater commandments. Wanting to be “acceptable” before men, they forgot what it was to be acceptable to God.

In His teaching He [Jesus] was saying:
“Beware of the scribes who like to
walk around in long robes,
and like respectful greetings
in the market places, and chief seats
in the synagogues and
places of honor at banquets,
who devour widows’ houses,
and for appearance’s sake
offer long prayers;
these will receive greater condemnation.”
Mark 12:38–40

Their goals. Their way. Gone astray. “What have I done?”

Here’s God’s purpose. God’s way. The greatest commandments.

One of the scribes came and … asked Him,
“What commandment
is the foremost of all?”
Jesus answered,
“The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is one Lord;
and you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
The second is this,
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no other commandment
greater than these.”
Mark 12:28–31

The larger mission of love!

Sunday, March 13, 2011


It’s the noise that catches your attention. Of course, the traffic itself is bad and people drive like maniacs. The rules of the road are for the birds: if you want to understand Judges 21:25, you need to drive in India.

In those days there was no king in Israel;
everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Judges 21:25

I’ve been driven on the wrong side of the road. I’ve been taken up one-way streets—the wrong way, of course! I’ve been chauffeured at night without lights. Drivers have blithely been chatting away on their phones as they negotiate the horrendous traffic with their nail-biting, hair-pulling, head-clutching passenger behind.

[That unfortunate soul (yours faithfully) is in South Asia on some preaching and teaching assignments.]

But it’s the noise. The honking. The blare of horns. Decibels to deafen. And it is non-stop, from around 6:00 in the morning to midnight. In fact, most commercial vehicles, like the truck above, command other vehicles coming behind them to “Sound Horn.” Yup, you are to “sound horn.” That’s how you announce your presence to everyone else. After all, no one is looking at the road.

I thought people in these parts of the world drove by faith not by sight, in perfect concordance with the biblical mandate.

For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

Substitute “drive” for “walk” and you’ve got it. That’s driving in India.

Or so I thought.

Till I realized that they are not driving by faith. Obviously they are not driving by sight, either. Rather, they are driving by sound. “Sound horn!”

Even a blind person could drive here: “For we drive by sound, not by sight.”

Sound is important for believers in Christ, too, not just for drivers in South Asia.

How then will they call on Him
in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him
whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear
without a preacher?
Romans 10:14

It is by the hearing of the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, that faith begins to germinate. As one hears of Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection, the atoning of sins by this only God and Savior, one believes, placing one’s trust, putting one’s faith in the salvation He provides. Good news, indeed.

And for the preacher, sounding Jesus’ horn is an august, yet delightful, responsibility.

How will they preach unless they are sent?
Just as it is written,
“How beautiful are the feet of those
who bring good news of good things!”
Romans 10:15

Preaching lead to hearing leads to believing.

So faith comes from hearing,
and hearing by the word of Christ.
Romans 10:17

And those with ears must hear.

And He [Jesus] was saying,
“One who has ears to hear,
let him hear.”
Mark 4:9

Of course, it is not just hearing that matters, but the belief, the faith in Christ and the consequent bearing of fruit.

And those are the ones on whom
seed was sown on the good soil;
and they hear the word and
accept it and bear fruit,
thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.
Mark 4:20

And so we who have heard the Good News must “Sound Horn”—announce the presence of Jesus and proclaim His saving Name.

We have heard the joyful sound:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Spread the tidings all around:
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Bear the news to every land,
Climb the mountains, cross the waves;
Onward! ’tis our Lord’s command;
Jesus saves! Jesus saves!
Priscilla J. Owens, 1882

“Sound Horn,” indeed!