Tag Archives: missionary

Buffet

Religion as you like it

“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

Book of Job

Why me, Lord?

“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?

Grandfather

The bench

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

the world

Just where is the real world?

“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?

lookingintothefuture

Where should we look?

“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?

low-ceiling

Watch your head

“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

temple

Making preparations

“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

Strike

Are we interrupted or permanently distracted?

“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?

Standing in Line

Is patience really a virtue?

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:3-5 NKJV).

How would you like to spend three days and nights in the cab of a heavy truck on the river bank, waiting for your turn to cross on the ferry? Or to sleep all night sitting in a doorway so as to ensure that you would be able to buy a ticket on the train to go home for the holidays when the counter opened at 9:00 a.m. the next morning?

Such experiences are commonplace in Bangladesh and other densely populated countries of Asia. The vast number of people combined with inadequate infrastructure means that it takes a long time to do almost anything, and waiting one’s turn is simply an inescapable fact of life. Add regular floods that destroy such infrastructure as there is and the problem is magnified even more. Continue reading Is patience really a virtue?

Poverty is not always depressing

by Michael E. BrooksContentment

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NKJV).

A friend in the U.S. is of Korean descent. We were talking about going to Nepal and he remained silent for a moment, then said, “You know, my family lives all over Korea, some of them in rural undeveloped areas. I don’t really enjoy visiting them, sitting on the floor, sleeping on a hard surface, and seeing how little they have. It is depressing to me.”

We talked about that for a few minutes, and I finally said, “I have found that many of the poorest people who have the least ‘stuff’ seem as content and happy as anyone. I don’t always know what it takes to make one happy, but I am certain it is not simply things.” He quickly agreed.

Habakkuk had learned the same lesson. Early in the book he complained to God about how evil and injustice was prevailing and prospering in Judah. The wicked people had more things than the righteous (1:1-4). That just did not seem right to the prophet.

God’s reply was that justice would be done, and the wicked would receive punishment. A mighty nation from the north would invade and take all their possessions (1:5-11). But that also seemed unjust to Habakkuk. Those Gentiles were even more wicked than the unfaithful of Israel. How could God allow the wicked to devour those more righteous than themselves (1:12-17)?

In all this argument the prophet seems to be defining righteousness and justice in terms of prosperity. It did not seem just for the unrighteous to oppress the righteous and to be more prosperous. How could God allow that kind of inequity?

Jesus gave the answer several hundred years after Habakkuk’s death. “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). But Habakkuk had already learned that lesson. The Lord had taught him that his ways were not always plain to humans. We must be patient and trust him (2:2-20). The prophet’s response was humble, “O Lord, I have heard your speech and was afraid” (3:2).

The final chapter of the book is Habakkuk’s prayer of repentance and acceptance. He submitted to God’s will and patiently waited until God revealed all his purposes. The final verses stand as one of the greatest professions of faith in all Scripture. He simply confessed, “Whatever I have or lack, I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Just as our happiness cannot depend only upon our possessions, so too our faith in God must not be based only upon material blessings. How many have we known who questioned, doubted, or even denied God because of sickness or death? How many turn away in times of economic hardship, feeling that God has failed them?

The truth is that our material circumstance is never a reliable indication of our relationship with God. Paul stated, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content” (Philippians 4:11).

Do we prefer abundance of possessions? Most of us clearly do. Must we have them for life to be successful and happy? Certainly not! Life is more than just things. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).