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Learning from a different world

Wonderful enrichment for life and haunting warnings await us if we just travel into the Bible with our hearts open and ready to learn.

BIBLICAL PREACHING AUTOR 108/Peter_Mead 25 DE MAYO DE 2023 10:30 h
Photo: [link]Jed Owen[/link], Unsplash CC0.

Travel can be transformational. By travel, I don’t mean layovers in airports en route to somewhere else (I’ve unsuccessfully visited some significant countries this way!)  No, I mean genuinely visiting.



Let me share two examples and then make my point for us.



 



A “third world country”



How often have you heard people return from a missions trip and say that the local people taught them so much? It is a consistent message! I remember visiting an East African country and experiencing a completely different life. 



There was the food, the wildlife, the weather, and the transport. The cultural differences hindered my teaching, but then again, they also supported it. There was that more remote tribe where the children could pick out their friends in a picture on my camera.



And yet they could not recognise themselves because they had never seen a good reflection before. And there was much to learn from the simple lifestyle, not to mention the sacrificial hospitality. It was like stepping into a different world, and I came home changed by my visit.



 



A “second world country”



I visited an Eastern European country some years ago. We walked past the jail where political prisoners, including pastors, used to be held and tortured. Communism never has room for dissenters, free thinkers or any God except the state. Therefore church leaders and Christians are always a threat. 



I remember asking a man driving me to a meeting what it was like to live under communism. He spoke of how some things worked, but nobody was free. He gave me two examples.



He described living in a world where one in three people worked for the government as an informer. It meant that you would never speak openly about politics or religion. You never knew who would inform and lead to your arrest and the suffering that might also come to your family.



And he described how everyone would dutifully buy the newspaper, signalling that they were good citizens. But they would never read it because everyone knew it was all government-controlled lies.



I have thought a lot about that conversation over the years. It was like a haunting warning from another country at another time. I often think about how our culture is moving towards that kind of community spying.



We now live around people ready to call out anyone who breaks the brand new moral codes related to gender, sexuality and race. And we have technology constantly monitoring every click of the mouse, message from our keyboard or even word uttered by our mouth.



And perhaps most concerning is the number of people who digest the messaging disseminated through our news media but don’t realise how controlled the messaging is.



It is not hard to imagine our world morphing into another iteration of communism with millions of people naively celebrating such a sinister transformation of society! After all, it always comes out of a crisis for the good of the people.



 



The bottom line



Travelling to a different culture and meeting people who’ve lived in other times can hugely impact us. It should have a significant impact on us. Insightful lessons that will enrich our lives. Haunting warnings to protect us. If we have the privilege of travelling and go eager to learn, it will change us.



So, what do we do as Christians when we open our Bibles? What happens when we preach the Bible to others? We get to travel to a different world.



 



1. A different world geographically & culturally



Good bible study and biblical preaching will take our imaginations to the battlefields of ancient Israel, the throne rooms of ancient kings, the living rooms of ancient peasants, and the discussion forum of ancient philosophers.



We will visit the Sinai peninsula’s wilderness, the fishing villages of Galilee, the arid hills around Jerusalem, the stormy Mediterranean sea, and strategic cities around one section of the Roman empire.



 



2. A different world educationally



Good bible study and biblical preaching will take our hearts right into the crowd hearing Moses preach. Or we might join the crowd hearing an Old Testament prophet proclaim God’s message. We might sit on the grass and hear Jesus teach. Or perhaps overhear the apostles announcing the resurrection.



We will spend time being mentored by the experience of a young shepherd fighting for his nation, a want-away prophet running from his calling, or a height-challenged tax collector hiding in a tree.



Wonderful enrichment for life and haunting warnings await us if we just travel into the Bible with our hearts open and ready to learn.



 



3. A different world entirely



Good bible study and biblical preaching take us to faraway lands and insightful mentors and, beyond that, give us a glimpse into another world.



The Bible is not an old travelogue. We are earthbound and tend to think very “down here” kinds of thoughts. But heaven has broken into our world, and we can hear from the world of love where God is forever reigning, without caveat or coup.



We might pray, “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” In the Bible, we get not only those words to pray but also the life-changing revelation of what that all means. 



Every day we have the privilege of travel with all its life enrichment, haunting warnings and unique mentoring opportunities. Open your Bible with an open heart.



And every time we share our biblical travels with others in conversation or preaching, we can take them with us. Don’t shortchange yourself or others by simply grabbing for an applicational point or a quick anecdote. 



Too many of us visit the world of the Bible like a traveller in transit through an airport. We might pick up a local bar of chocolate in a kiosk, but we haven’t truly been to the country, and our lives show no evidence of impact.



What would it look like to really go? To meaningfully visit? To spend time with the people, to see the sights, to be lastingly changed?



Here are some observations that are true of all these “worlds” . . .



It is hard to learn the lesson from here



An East African tribe and environment is typically only familiar as an image on a nature documentary. An Eastern European recollection of living under the tyranny of communism generally feels like a report from history that is moving further away from our time.



In the same way, the Bible seems very long ago and far away. And from here, it is hard to feel the impact that we should be feeling. That is why we must read our Bibles with imaginations both informed and active, and our hearts both eager and responsive.



 



It is easy to dismiss lessons that feel remote



While most would not express it verbally, there is an automatic tendency to dismiss lessons from contexts outside our own.



That might explain why missionary reports of native sacrificial hospitality tend to garner smiles rather than change. That might also explain why the warning of communism tends to fall on deaf ears even when the contemporary plan of the elites to reshape the world is not hidden from sight.



That might be a big part of why so many Christians feel so little impact from their Bible engagement – it simply remains too remote.



 



It takes humility to learn lessons from outside my small world



Humans always tend to think that their little neighbourhood is really the centre of the universe. And we tend to think our age is marked by the greatest level of sophistication ever known on earth.



So, by default, our minds don’t believe we have anything substantial to learn from over there, or back then. Thus we can essentially ignore the tribal church leader with their insights on life, or the former communist church member with their warnings about the signs we are ignoring, or the biblical writer with their revelation of God.



Human nature, naturally, will always scorn even the revelation of God himself. Our natural instinct is not humility and teachability when it comes to God’s Word. Hence the necessity of humility in genuine Christianity.



And so, what is true of travel geographically or historically, is even more true of our daily incursions into the world of God’s revelation.



Be sure to go. Be open and eager to learn. Be humble and teachable. Be thankful that we have the Bible in our language – we don’t need to fly across oceans, or have access to the right people, or travel through time.



We can open our Bible with open hearts, and enter into a world that God designed and inspired to rock our world!



Peter Mead is mentor at Cor Deo and author of several books. He blogs at Biblical Preaching


 

 


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