“For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest. . . . But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:18, 22 NKJV).
What is it about mountains that is so compelling to us? Any list of the greatest tourist attractions on earth will include the Alps, the Andes, and the Himalayas, not to mention Pike’s Peak, Clingman’s Dome, McKinley, Kilimanjaro and many others. Mountains figure prominently in human history (e.g., Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps), and in many of our personal histories.
My wife and I, for example, spent our honeymoon in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. More recently I have been often into and near the Himalayas of Nepal and northern India. It has been some of my greatest experiences to cross high passes in order to preach the gospel of Christ in remote villages. Mountain scenery is spectacular and hugely memorable. Those mountain adventures are very special. Continue reading Up on a mountain
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment'” (Matthew 22:37-38 NKJV).
Two radio personalities, both avowed Catholics, were discussing their attendance at mass. One asked the other, “Does your conscience bother you when you check your cell phone for messages during mass?” The response was, “I leave my phone in the car; I don’t take it in with me.” The first person did not accept that response and again asked if there was not some guilt at using the phone during worship. Again the reply was that the phone stays in the car. But this time there was an additional explanation, “That (mass) is my God time; I don’t want it interrupted.”
To the vast majority of confessing Christians today, religion is a distinct element of life, usually kept well separated from other elements. There is family, work, school, recreation, rest, personal time, and oh yes, a little “God time.” Not only is religion considered distinctive, it is isolated and not at all interconnected with other phases of existence. Continue reading God time
“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers'” (Matthew 23:1-4 NKJV).
While on a trip to report to supporting churches, I was invited to attend a gathering hosted by the local Jewish Synagogue. The Rabbi explained that those present were mostly members of a society dedicated to promoting Judaism and self-awareness within their community. As a means of explaining their activities he stated, “We encourage people to engage Judaism a la carte, at whatever level of commitment and activity they choose.”
What a perfect description of the modern attitude towards religion, with particular relevance to Christianity. All of my life I have been encouraged to “join the church of my choice.” Today one may choose not only between denominations, but also between conservative, radical, moderate, or progressive (i.e. liberal) branches of any particular denomination. Continue reading Religion as you like it
“And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’ . . . But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 1:21; 2:10 NKJV).
Some of the greatest questions faced by humans are those related to suffering. Why does suffering come? Why do innocent people suffer? Why do some seem to suffer disproportionately? These have no easy answers and contemplation of them causes great anguish to many. Continue reading Why me, Lord?
There is a photograph floating around that depicts five old African men sitting on a bench, holding hymnbooks and singing. Four of the men are black men, their faces distorted, their thoughts transposed by the beauty and intensity of the words they sing. The bench is as sturdy as a politician’s promise.
The fifth “old African man” is my father, his face similarly transfixed by the Shona hymn they sing. He is one of them, melded and fused, the third sekuru (grandfather) in the picture. Their voices are in harmony, their thoughts in unison.
He is an African, one of them. Forty years of working with, crying with, rejoicing with, worshiping with these people will do that to you. Continue reading The bench
“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11 NKJV).
I spend a lot of time in what are often referred to as “third world countries.” This designation primarily reflects levels of economic development, with the third world lagging well behind other nations in terms of wealth, standard of living, technological development, education and other similar categories. Continue reading Just where is the real world?
“For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live; but do not seek Bethel, nor enter Gilgal, nor pass over to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nothing'” (Amos 5:4-5 NKJV).
Over the years I have done a lot of souvenir shopping in Nepal. That country has much tourism and therefore much more on offer for visitors to take back home.
Katmandu is the capital and largest city, hosting hundreds of hotels and guest houses and literally thousands of shops and venders. One can buy items there to fit most any budget and taste. But there is one caveat for the cost conscious – be careful where you shop.
Stores close to five star (i.e., expensive) hotels often sell exactly the same handicrafts and costume jewelry available at out of the way bargain places. The difference is, they will cost a lot more in the former locations. One would do well to move off the glittering streets before purchasing. Continue reading Where should we look?
“This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind” (Ephesians 4:17 NKJV).
The average Nepali man living in villages and in the mountains does not stretch much over five feet in height. Since materials for buildings are expensive and must sometimes be transported considerable distances, houses are built with lower ceilings, and doorframes are much shorter than those to which the normal American is accustomed. A frequent warning issued to me when I am entering those structures is “Watch your head.”
On my last trip to the mountains I came home with at least three healing scars on my head from careless encounters. And that did not count the time I tried to leave the barn we were sleeping in in the dark and hit a roof beam so hard it literally knocked me down. Yes, sometimes I seem to be a slow learner. Continue reading Watch your head
“Now David said, ‘Solomon my son is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord must be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all countries. I will now make preparation for it.’ So David made abundant preparations before his death” (1 Chronicles 22:5 NKJV).
I have attended several gatherings of missionaries (some prefer “evangelists in foreign lands”) and one common characteristic of a great majority of those present is white hair. Most (thankfully not all) missionaries in the church today are well past middle age.
A common theme of such meetings is the need to replace ourselves with younger workers. While that is essential, David taught us by example another necessity. We must also provide from our experience and accumulated resources the tools, materials, and knowledge that the younger generation must have to be successful. Continue reading Making preparations
“On that very day some Pharisees came, saying to him, ‘Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ And He said to them, ‘Go, tell that fox, Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected'” (Luke 13:31-32 NKJV).
Increasingly there seems to be fewer hours in the day and days in the week. There is so much to be done, and so little time in which to do it. But here in South Asia there are continuous interruptions to further complicate matters. Hartals (strikes; known as “hartals” in Bangladesh and “bundhs” in Nepal) are called frequently, which halt all business and travel. They may be local or national, for a few hours, or for one or more days. They may be political protests, part of demands for better working conditions, or attempts to procure reimbursement for the victims of a traffic accident or other tragedy.
Even when there are no strikes there is the continuous problem of inadequate power supply. Most of the less-developed nations do not have enough generating power to meet modern demand for electricity. Nor do they have the economic strength to purchase power from outside sources (if those are even available – most of their neighbors don’t have enough for themselves) or to build or operate additional generators. Continue reading Are we interrupted or permanently distracted?