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An Unexpected Visit, and an Unexpected Question

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“Can I stop by?” Came the familiar voice on the phone.  A friend that had moved to Bangkok was in town and wanted to come and visit.  I was excited to hear his voice and gladly asked him to stop by.  When I got home, he had already arrived at my home.  After talking about some of our current life circumstances, he asked; “What do I need to do to change my religion to Christianity?” The question caught me off guard, and I was quite excited he had asked.  At the same time, I knew that this question did not cover the depth of his underlying inquiry.  He went on to explain how he’s disappointed with religious activities.  He said he likes what he sees in Christianity and has had many Christian friends who he looks up to.  He shared that he really wanted to seek my advice, but would also seek the advice of his parents, his wife and others who he respects, before making any commitments. He wanted to respect his family and knew how a decision like this would affect the entire family.  I commended him on his consideration of his family, and encouraged him to trust in Jesus Christ alone.  He is now reading the Gospel of John, and although he has returned to Bangkok, I hope to continue to encourage him to follow Jesus and to share the what he learns with his family.

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The Power of the Tongue

“Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” – Proverbs 26:20

    It seems that in our current generation, the fires are raging with plenty of wood, and the wisdom of God is seldom relied upon.  We hear of it on a worldwide scale, with false news and slanted news flooding social media.  We hear about hurts caused by this or that statement.  We also see it in our personal relationships, sometimes with people saying things like; “I don’t want to be a gossip, but just thought that you should know….” sometimes even adding, “so that you can help / so that you can pray for them.”  Proverbs 18:12 says; “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.”  So what are we using our tongues for?  We would say that it depends on what we are filling our hearts with.  Jesus said “…for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

There has arose one of these “wood fire” situations between a number of the local Christians.  Some things were said through digital messages (fire started with wood), which led to more messages (wood added to the fire), which has led to hurt on both sides (burns from the raging fire).

As we have been praying for this situation and working to see forgiveness and reconciliation between those involved, we have come to Colossians 3 a number of times, specifically verses 12-13; “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” These verses tell us to “put on” compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.  Why are we to “put on” these things? Because we have been chosen by God, we have been set apart holy by God, and we are beloved by God.  Do we treasure these things that God has accomplished for us with our all of our hearts?  Are we overwhelmed by the fact that we are chosen by God, set apart by God, and loved by God?  If not, its likely that we will not have compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and forgiveness towards others.  These verses continue by telling us the basis of our forgiveness of others, “as the Lord has forgiven you.”

Our being forgiven, and knowing what Jesus Christ has done for us, how He has forgiven us much, is the starting point in our forgiveness of others.  Are we overwhelmed at how God could forgive us, and what He did in order to forgive us?  If we are not, we probably will not be anxious to forgive others.  However, if we know how much the Lord has forgiven us, we will be very anxious to forgive others, as both a privilege of who we are in Christ Jesus, and as an opportunity to share Christ Jesus’ love with them.

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Will you join us in praying for Christians around the world to stand in Christ Jesus, put on garments as God’s chosen ones, and to extend forgiveness in order to stomp out the fires of dissension!

Faith by Hearing

Last week, we listened as one of the Christian ladies shared how she was really relying on the MP3 player with an audio Bible, Christian songs, and testimonies, in order to learn the Gospel.  She is unable to read, and said that when she does not listen to the word of God daily, she feels as if her faith dries up.  We often use portable MP3 players, containing the audio Bible, Christian songs, and teaching to assist in evangelizing and discipling those who can’t read.

This is just one of the many stories we have heard of the value of the audio Bible, Christian songs, and teaching.  It seems that it maybe the majority of Isaan people are preferred oral learners.  Though many are literate, they still prefer to learn though oral forms, which includes hearing.  We are thankful that there seems to be a growing desire from many to produce high quality audio resources, which can be used in both evangelism, and also in ongoing discipleship.

fullsizeoutput_1800In addition to the immediate value of people being able to hear the gospel, we have also heard a number of testimonies of people, who were once illiterate.  However, as they listened to the audio Bible, while reading along, or as they listened to Christian songs while singing along with them from a Christian song book, God has opened their eyes and now they are able to read on their own. They now have such a joy in the fact that they can read the Bible themselves!  We pray that the lady who is currently hearing the Gospel through audio files, will one day also be able to read the Bible for herself.

Do You See Anything?

These words are recorded in Mark 8, as Jesus heals a blind man in Bethsaida.  I recently read this story, along with the story directly preceding it in Mark.  In that preceding story, Jesus had just fed the four-thousand, the priests came and argued with Him, demanding a sign.  Then, Jesus sets off in a boat with his disciples.  On the way, the disciples are concerned that they only have one loaf of bread with them in the boat, Jesus says to His disciples; “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”  With this, the disciples began discussing that they had no bread.  Did they even hear Jesus?  Why didn’t they ask Jesus what He was talking about? Jesus Himself asks them; “Are your hearts hardened?” and “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?”

Then we come to the story of Jesus healing the blind man from Bethsaida.  After Jesus led him out of the village, spit on his eyes, and laid His hands on him, he asked; “Do you see anything?”  The blind man looked up and said; “I see men, but they look like trees walking.”  So, then Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again and he opened his eyes and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

I was challenged with this story and who I am more like.  The disciples seemed to have missed a great opportunity to learn from Jesus, because they seemed to be blinded, deaf and consumed with the fact that they “have no bread.”  While the blind man held onto every word that Jesus said, and answered honestly; “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.”  I won’t unpack all of the lessons that I have been learning through this story, but I would encourage you to look at it again, and consider what Jesus maybe teaching us in this story.

National Children’s Day

This coming Saturday, January 13th, is National Children’s Day in Thailand.  It is a day to celebrate children and many places will sponsor special free events for children on that day. Last year, our local church participated in the celebration with our local government office.  We hosted a booth where kids could play some simple games and to win candy and a cartoon gospel booklet.  In addition, we displayed a video presentation of the gospel for children and their parents who were waiting in line.  It was a great day, and we had many positive interactions with residents and with the government officials sponsoring the celebration in our village.  As we prepare to participate again this year, please pray that the churches involvement in this community will help to display the love which Christ has for each of these precious people!

Still Bowing to Spirit Houses

IMG_2393One day, I was giving some of the new Christians a ride into town in our car.  As I drove, I noticed that one of the elderly Christian ladies raised her hands and bowed as we passed a prominent spirit house that was located on the road into town.  It had been set up near a particularly steep portion of the road.  She was a very new Christian and my first instinct was to tell her that she should not bow to other “god’s/spirit’s” since she is now a Christian.  However, as I prayed, I felt led to not just tell her what she “should do.”  Instead, on this occasion, I should help her to know how to find answers in the Word of God, and allow the Holy Spirit to bring conviction and transformation.  As I continued to pray about how to respond to this, God led me to share in that week’s gathering from Acts 17, where Paul uses the “unknown god” in Athens to disclose to them the true and Living God who can be known!

That week, as we were discussing the application and use of this passage in our lives, one of the older men of the group looked at me and then said that since they now know the True God, then they should not be bowing down to any other gods or sacred objects anymore.  As he said this, some of the other people present agreed and they looked around and decided as a group at that moment to hold one another accountable in this matter.  We praise God for their discovery and that as a group decided to honor God in this matter of their lives.

We have now been meeting with this group of Christians for a couple years and have often passed this spirit house and others in our travels, and have not ever seen them bow to any of these spirit houses again.  Please pray that this group of Christians will continue to honor God in more and more areas of their lives.

May God be honored in our lives and in this land!

Ears are to Hear!

This statement may seem obvious, but in Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer says, “The tragedy is that our eternal welfare depends upon our hearing, and we have trained our ears not to hear.” As I read these words, I was struck with their significance.  I see this practically in my own life as I consider the many times in which my wife or children were calling to me, but I did not hear them.  I also see it in my children’s lives, as I continue to be amazed at how difficult it can be to train them to hear.  It can be seen in the church as well, as we are bombarded by cares, technology, and numerous other distractions, which I believe are training our ears not to hear.

Jesus similarly says on several occasions, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”  If we continue to look through the New Testament, we will see this exhortation repeated in Revelations warning the churches.  We can see that although we have ears, it does not mean we necessarily hear or are attentive to what is being said.  Do we desire to be a people who train our ears to be attentive to the authority of the word of the Lord, so that our souls may live?  Are we training our children in hearing authority, for their eternal welfare depends on it?  Finally, may we never neglect teaching others to hear the word of the Lord, for their lives depends on it!