Joyful noise

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:1-2 NKJV).

Many of the congregations of Churches of Christ in Asia use rented facilities (often in apartment buildings) in which to assemble for worship. Occasionally one of them is compelled to change meeting places because of complaints from neighbors against outsiders coming into their building and especially because of the noise of the singing in worship assemblies. Continue reading “Joyful noise”

The ultimate visual aid

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15 NKJV).

Any teacher – or for that matter any student – can attest to the importance of visual aids. Whether or not it is true that “A picture is worth a thousand words,” it is certainly true that the more one can use multiple senses in acquiring knowledge, the more complete that knowledge is likely to be.

Most travelers are familiar with the frustration which results from trying to share one’s experience in strange places with those at home who just don’t get it. No matter how much we try we soon realize that our report gets filtered through their experience and expectations and they just don’t understand. Third world poverty for example translates as “just beans for dinner with no dessert” rather than three days of starvation. Yes, we know there are starving people over there, but we just can’t quite empathize with their suffering. We don’t feel it. Those who have “been there and done that,” however, know it on a much deeper level. Continue reading “The ultimate visual aid”

God is good

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:1-5 NKJV).

As our party traveled by foot to a remote village in the middle hills of Nepal we came to a pool in a river where two men were washing something that I first took to be clothes or at least rags of some kind. As we got closer, however, I realized they were washing out the intestines of an animal that they had slaughtered. Continue reading “God is good”

Eyes that do not see

“Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; for the hearts of this people have grown dull, Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them” (Matthew 13:14-15 NKJV).

I admit that my eyes are not as sharp as they may have once been, nor my ears as sensitive. Yet I am still amazed at the ability of the people of South Asia to see tiny details at surprising distances. When going through the jungles of the national parks, our local guides will see deer and other animals bedded down in thickets that I can barely detect even when they are pointed out to me. Here on our campus birds that are well within the canopy of leaves are identified long before I can catch even a flicker of motion. Continue reading “Eyes that do not see”

“Too much trouble?”

“But God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV).

Some years ago three Americans, including myself, were sitting in a restaurant in Kathmandu, Nepal discussing our experiences. One of the others told of a congregation he had visited which had difficulty meeting on Sunday for worship because Nepal considers Sunday a weekday, with all offices and schools open. He said he had told them “not to be legalistic” and to meet on whichever day they found it most convenient. He then asked what I would have done. Continue reading ““Too much trouble?””

Face to face

“So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved’ ” (Genesis 32:30 NKJV).

I am preparing for another trip to South Asia, which will be my first time there for almost a year. With today’s modern technology I have been able to maintain contact with Christians on the other side of the world, but there are limitations to what can be accomplished at that distance. There are some things that are just better handled “face to face.” Continue reading “Face to face”

Getting rid of pests

“Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes” (Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV).

Mankind has, since his expulsion from Eden, battled against nature in his quest for food and shelter. Animals large and small seek to eat the nutritious grains which people plant for their own benefit. Some invade our homes in their own need for shelter from the elements.

The foxes in Song of Solomon are probably a metaphor for a childhood sweetheart of the speakers’ sister, whom they hope to see wed to the king. Like a fox stealing tender grapes, this young man would rob them of the advantages which a royal marriage promised to bring to the family of a famous beauty. We understand their concern. Continue reading “Getting rid of pests”

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”