Characteristics of Christian ministry

“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before his face into every city and place where he himself was about to go. Then he said to them, ‘The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few, therefore pray the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold I send you out as lambs among wolves. Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road’ ” (Luke 10:1-4).

The limited missions of the twelve apostles (Luke 9:1-6) and the seventy disciples (Luke 10:1-12) occurred before the death of Jesus, the establishment of the Church, and the giving of the “Great Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). Those “missionaries” operated under different rules and procedures than did the Apostles and early Christians following Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:7-8). The limits placed upon the earlier groups no longer apply; therefore we often skip past the stories of their activities believing they have little or no relevance today. That is a mistake. Principles were established in them which continue to influence the way we approach mission and ministry today. Continue reading “Characteristics of Christian ministry”

Fear of the unknown

“And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen strange things today” (Luke 5:26 NKJV).

My first international travel was in 1983 and since then I have made between 50 and 60 foreign trips. For the past 20 years or so I have mostly gone back to the same places and have become quite familiar with the geography, customs, and procedures of those places. I do not notice that I experience any anxiety on those trips – they have become part of my routine.

On the other hand, when I do go to a new destination I usually become at least somewhat nervous about what I will face and whether I am fully prepared. This in spite of my experience and regardless of how strange or hazardous the new destination might, or might not, be. Obviously, if I were to go to a place known for chaos and violence that nervousness would escalate, but even a peaceful, orderly place may present new challenges. That which is not known is to be viewed with caution at the very least. Continue reading “Fear of the unknown”

Not if but where

“Then Jonathan said, ‘Very well, let us cross over to these men, and we will show ourselves to them. If they say thus to us, ‘”Wait until we come to you,'” then we will stand still in our place and not go up to them. But if they say thus, ‘”Come up to us'” then we will go up. For the Lord has delivered them into our hand, and this will be a sign to us’ ” (1 Samuel 14:8-10 NKJV).

The battle between Jonathan (assisted by his armor bearer) and the Philistine garrison as recorded in 1 Samuel 14 is one of the great “victory to the underdog” stories of history. Better armed and much greater in numbers, the Philistine army dominated Israel. But King Saul’s son took on a detachment of the enemy aided only by his apprentice and won definitively, inspiring his fellow Israelite soldiers to join the fight and drive the invaders from their country. Continue reading “Not if but where”

Giving thanks

“In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV).

When I first began traveling to South Asia I was told that there was, until recently, no word in their languages for “thank you.” The word, “Dhanyabhad” had been invented during the period of British control and is now shared by several south Asian peoples to express gratitude. But until that occurred there was little thanksgiving acknowledged.

Generally speaking, if a culture lacks a word in their language for a thing (whether tangible or intangible) that thing is unknown to, or at least unused by, them. If they don’t say “thank you,” it is safe to conclude that gratitude is not a valued emotion. Continue reading “Giving thanks”

A good place to visit

“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul. Having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12 NKJV).

We have all heard the saying, and probably said it ourselves, “That is a good place to visit, but I would not want to live there.” There are many beautiful and exciting places on this earth which God has made, but not all of them provide security and comfort. It is one thing to visit the Himalayas of Nepal for a few days or weeks, but would you really want to live at 10,000 feet, grow your meager food in tiny terraced fields, and go without electricity, nearby water, competent medical help and other necessities? Most of us would quickly say “No, thank you.” Continue reading “A good place to visit”

Pressing on

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12 NIV).

At one of the seminars I held in South Asia, a preacher told me of the money his congregation was saving for a modest church building. They needed about $1,500 and had accumulated almost half of that over two to three years of effort. He knew it would still take considerable time to complete the task, yet his joy and enthusiasm at their progress so far was palpable. Continue reading “Pressing on”

By the skin of God’s teeth

“For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? ‘And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the Godless man and the sinner’ ” (1 Peter 4:17-18 NASV)?

I have ceased trying to identify and remember how many close calls I have experienced while traveling in South Asia. After all, many threats and near disasters may occur without really drawing attention to themselves. When trekking in the Himalayas on steep trails any stumble or brief loss of balance could easily result in a fatal fall. Any drive on the narrow twisting roads could end with an accident causing injury or death. In addition to those everyday dangers, there is the constant possibility of a terrorist attack or violent crime. Whenever I come home safely I am aware that I am fortunate, and may honestly feel that I “barely made it.” Continue reading “By the skin of God’s teeth”

Why here?

“And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense” (1 Kings 13:10 NJKV).

I am frequently asked, “What led you to do mission work in the countries to which you go?” On one level the answer is relatively easy – I chose to work with a particular congregation which had established work in those countries and they gave me the opportunity to become a part of that work. The rest just developed naturally.

But that may not be the whole story. Continue reading “Why here?”

Complete in him

“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principles and power” (Colossians 2:9-10 NKJV).

Since the earliest days of Christianity there have been those who sought to add elements to the gospel message which were not originally a part of it. Jewish Christians sought ways to include the requirements of the Mosaic Law – specifically circumcision (Acts 15:1; Galatians 1:7). Others proposed various elements of pagan religion and philosophy (Colossians 2:8, 18-23). Continue reading “Complete in him”

Be safe

“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13 NKJV).

When I first began traveling in South Asia I was continuously shocked at the lack of guard rails and other protective structures in places of danger. One can go onto the roof of a 10 story hotel (or much higher) and there is no wall, rail, or barrier at the edge. Similarly, roads and paths have little or no barricades at dangerous curves and drop-offs. When I commented on how “unsafe” this is, my companion smiled and said, “You Americans are spoiled; we watch where we are walking and driving. Continue reading “Be safe”