My First Adventure in India


(Click on any of the photos in this post for a better look.)

I really had no idea what to expect. It was February 2003 and I was travelling to India with my friend Mark Simpfendorfer for the first time. We were invited by Richard Kahn, Senior Auxiliary Secretary of NWIA, The Bible Society of India. I was going to ride, Mark was going to capture our adventure on video.

Recently I was looking through some old photos and the memories of that amazing adventure came flooding back. Even though it was around fourteen years ago some memories are as fresh as if it was yesterday. At the time I was working for the Bible Society in Western Australia, coordinating the Bike for Bibles program. The plan was to lend a hand in starting some form of Bike for Bibles in India.

We flew into Delhi feeling apprehensive, but the moment that I walked out into the carpark of the international airport and saw a few cows wandering past I felt relaxed and ready for whatever we were about to experience.

A major part of our trip was a ride from Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, to Delhi. I had my trusty Mountain Bike. There were several young locals who joined me on their Indian bikes. The cycling was a lot of fun but the people we met and friendships we forged made our time there unforgettable.

When we rode into Delhi there was a huge ceremony at India Gate.

There were hundreds of school children among the crowd there to enjoy a number of performances from dancers and even Bollywood singer turned gospel performer, Vijay Benedict.



We were welcomed by many dignitaries and church leaders including the Chief Minister of Delhi at the time, Sheila Dickshit.

There was also a large media contingent waiting for our arrival.

The event was widely reported with articles such as the one below from the Hindustan Times.

Biking For The Bible, Olsen Has The Right Spirit
Meeta Mishra (Hindustan Times – February 2003)

Cycling down from Agra to Delhi threw a lot of surprises at Rodney Olsen, and traffic was not one of them. “Riding here is similar to that in Australia. We ride on the same side of the road. The highway between the two cities is wonderful. It took us three days to reach Delhi but it is a lot of fun because at every kilometre there is something different to see. What is striking about the people here is that they are so giving,” says the Western Australia coordinator of Bike For Bibles.

On his first visit to India, Olsen was here to lead the bicycle rally organised by The Bible Society of India, North-West India Auxiliary, to mark its Golden Jubilee celebrations. The rally was organised to promote peace and prosperity. Olsen and Mark Simpfendorfer, a video cameraman accompanying him, were felicitated at India Gate by chief minister Sheila Dikshit on February 8. The funds raised from the rally will go into spreading literacy in India. “This is also a way to strengthen the ties between Australia and India,” said the 39-year-old cyclist.

This is not the first time that Olsen has cycled down such a long distance, he has been part of Bike for Bibles Fund Raising since ’87 when he covered the ride from Perth to Canberra.

Olsen has also worked at Perth’s Christian Radio Station. As he packed to leave for his home country, the cyclist says the predictable: “I’d like to return and explore other parts of India.” He is, of course, welcome.

There were many other articles written about our ride. More than 15 newspapers carried stories on the event as well as a lot of attention from both radio and television.



That first visit gave me a real love for India and its people. I’ve had the opportunity to return a couple of times since then and I certainly hope I’ll make it back there again some time. It’s an amazing country.

As I mentioned, my great friend, Mark Simpfendorfer joined me on that trip and captured the trip on video and produced this short clip. Here’s the clip to give you a quick idea of the two weeks of that trip.

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Who is that man?

Jesus Christ

I wonder if we’re prepared to think for ourselves when it comes to the big issues of life, or do we just go with the prevailing thought? Do we believe that truth can simply be decided by a majority vote or is truth something deeper?

Whether you’re a believer, apathetic or completely opposed to the person of Jesus, you’ve got to admit that his very existence has shaped much of the world. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing, it’s simply fact.

With that in mind we really should decide for ourselves who Jesus is or was.

There’s an interesting exchange in the Bible about this very thing.

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

I suppose that if we reset the scene in modern times it might look more like:

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say you’re a good man; others say a teacher; others say a religious leader; others say a misunderstood man; others say a fictional character; others say an irrelevant historical figure; others say a prophet; others say a bigot; and still others, that you’re a guy who gives us a couple of days off each Easter and at the end of December.”

Then comes the question that should be directed to each one of us.

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Jesus was very wise in the way he asked his question. (After all, he is Jesus.) He says to his disciples, “Firstly let’s clear up what everyone else is saying about me.” It can be very easy for us to parrot someone else’s idea of who Jesus was or is. There are so many options that we can easily pick one that sounds reasonable to us.

But Jesus doesn’t give the disciples that option. After clearing up the range of things that others were saying, he focuses in on the individuals in front of him and says, “But What about you? Who do you say I am?”

I believe he’s doing the same today.

We need to be aware that there are many ideas of who Jesus is but in the end we need to answer that second question for ourselves.

Jesus looks at us all saying “But What about you? Who do you say I am?” Not who do your parents say I am; not who do your workmates say I am; not who does Richard Dawkins say I am; not who do your philosophy books say I am; not who does your pastor say I am; not who does your church say I am, but “Who do you say I am?”

Whether we say we believe the Bible’s idea of who Jesus is or not, we can’t afford to just grab someone else’s ideas on this one. We need to be open enough to have our views challenged. We need to look at how we came to hold the views we do and decide if that’s a good enough reason to think that way.

All the arguments about what people believe about Christians and their views are secondary and irrelevant until we decide what Jesus is about.

If we truly look at the evidence for ourselves and decide that Jesus was just a man we’ve got nothing to lose but if he was who the Bible claims and we don’t acknowledge it, our life could be at stake.

I’m siding with Peter on this one when he answered, “Who do you say I am?” with “The Christ of God.” Exactly what that means for me and the way I live my life is something that I will continue to grapple with for the rest of my life.

Who do you say Jesus is?

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The Jesus Question

cross

Each year as we approach Easter we tend to hear some more ‘out there’ theories about who Jesus was and about the Easter story. There are lots of thoughts and ideas floating around but whether we consider Jesus to be someone of importance or a fairy tale, we need to make up our own mind over claims made about him.

I wrote this a few years ago when I’d been thinking about a few lines from the good book. They come from Luke’s account of what Jesus did when he walked the earth a couple of thousand years ago. In Luke 9, just before Jesus tells his disciples that he’s going to killed and then be raised back to life, which is the story of Easter, he asks them a couple of interesting questions.

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

I suppose that if we reset the scene in modern times it might look more like:

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say you’re a good man; others say a teacher; others say a religious leader; others say a misunderstood man; others say a fictional character; others say an irrelevant historical figure; others say a prophet; others say a bigot; and still others, that you’re a guy who gives us a couple of days off each Easter and at the end of December.”

Then comes the question that should be directed to each one of us.

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Jesus was very wise in the way he asked his question. (After all, he is Jesus.) He says to his disciples, “Firstly let’s clear up what everyone else is saying about me.” It can be very easy for us to parrot someone else’s idea of who Jesus was or is. There are so many options that we can easily pick one that sounds reasonable to us.

But Jesus doesn’t give the disciples that option. After clearing up the range of things that others were saying, he focuses in on the individuals in front of him and says, “But What about you? Who do you say I am?”

I believe he’s doing the same today. We need to be aware that there are many ideas of who Jesus is but in the end we need to answer that second question for ourselves.

Jesus looks at us all saying “But What about you? Who do you say I am?” Not who do your parents say I am; not who do your workmates say I am; not who does Richard Dawkins say I am; not who do your philosophy books say I am; not who does your pastor say I am; not who does your church say I am, but “Who do you say I am?”

Whether we say we believe the Bible’s idea of who Jesus is or not, we can’t afford to just grab someone else’s ideas on this one. We need to be open enough to have our views challenged. We need to look at how we came to hold the views we do and decide if that’s a good enough reason to think that way.

All the arguments about what people believe about Christians and their views are secondary and irrelevant until we decide what Jesus is about.

If we truly look at the evidence for ourselves and decide that Jesus was just a man we’ve got nothing to lose but if he was who the Bible claims and we don’t acknowledge it, our life could be at stake.

I’m siding with Peter on this one when he answered, “Who do you say I am?” with “The Christ of God.” Exactly what that means for me and the way I live my life is something that I will continue to grapple with for the rest of my life.

Who do you say Jesus is?

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What’s the real Christmas story?

gifts

While you’re unwrapping your gifts this Christmas I wanted to take a few moments to unwrap the real Christmas story.

We all enjoy giving and receiving gifts on Christmas Day but it’s important that we take time to remember what Christmas is really all about. It’s more than just the gifts and the jolly man in the red suit. It’s more than a ‘feeling’ or ‘spirit’ that makes us feel warm inside. It’s more than time with family enjoying good food and good times.

While it’s generally accepted that the 25th of December isn’t the actual date that Jesus was born, it’s the day that has been chosen for celebrating Jesus’ birthday. That means Christmas is really a big birthday party.

So why should we be invited to the birthday party? Jesus was born around 2000 years ago. Why do we still celebrate his birth?

Christians believe that Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, and this is where it gets tricky, according to the Bible, Jesus is actually God in human form so this is no ordinary birthday.

Here’s a little bit of the Christmas story from the Bible. This account is from a book of the Bible written by a guy named Luke.

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no vacancy for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.’

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.’
When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.

Aha! So that’s where the manger and the shepherds come in.

That’s pretty much the story of Christmas. God living among the people he created. It’s an amazing thought but it’s even more amazing when you thread the whole story of Jesus’ life together. After all, usually when we celebrate someone’s birthday we don’t just remember the day they were born, we celebrate who that person has become and what they’ve brought to the world.

If we’re still celebrating the life of someone born around 2000 years ago, we’ve got to assume that they lived a remarkable life. If you want to find out more about the remarkable life of Jesus, I’d encourage you to grab a Bible in an easy to read translation and then read one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) to find out about Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection.

(This is a post that I republish each year around this time.)

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How Do We Hear from God?

sunset

Does God speak to people today? If so, how do we hear from God? How can we be sure that we are following the direction he has set for us?

Throughout history people have claimed to hear from God and used that as an excuse to say and do some very ungodly things. Is there a way to know if we’re hearing from God or just following our own agenda?

My regular Wednesday morning guest on 98five Sonshine FM is Rev Dr Ross Clifford who is the Principal of Morling College in New South Wales. Each week we chat about a range of issues relating to spirituality and belief.

Today Ross talked about hearing from God. We talked about some practical steps that will help us discover where God is leading us. Ross also gave some warnings that are helpful in seeking direction.

You can hear our discussion by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

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