My heart is sighing, crying for thy fullness, Lord, for the breath of heaven has now touched my soul; I can no more linger in Judea's plain, I must flee to the mountain top. Hear me, Oh Lord. Hear my soul's deep yearning. Hear me, Oh Lord, for my heart yearns for Thee. As the thirsty panteth for the water brook, so panteth my hungry soul after Thee.
During one of my many telephone conversations with Brother Philip Thomas, the pastor of Trichur Christian Fellowship in the state of Kerala, India, he expressed his heart in the words of this song. Brother Elden McNabb and I accepted his invitation to visit him in the month of January. We knew right away, that this brother, and the saints with him, are truly seeking the truth of God, and are among those that "sigh and that cry for all the abominations" that are being done in the Christian world today.
I was amazed to learn that, while there are obvious cultural differences between India and America, Christians are the same there as they are here: some are truly devoted to God and obedient to His word, but many (if not most) are nominal believers, attracted by ministers who preach what they want to hear - a commodity of which, I am sorry to say, there seems to be no shortage.
Today, people think that the mission work is synonymous with humanitarian aid. "Missionaries" find hungry people and feed them. They find homeless people and build shelters for them. While it is important to, "as you have opportunity, do good to all men," humanitarian efforts seem to be a secondary or even tertiary, but certainly not primary, goal of the missionary work of the Early Church. The primary purpose of the mission work was to expound the way of God more perfectly.
It was in this capacity that God sent us on a missionary trip to India. We did not go to see the sights, but to minister to God's people by the Word. That having been the purpose for our trip, it was certainly successful.
The saints we found there were very precious. Bro. Philip Thomas and his church were certainly men and women of God. We spent many hours in prayer, praise, worship, and the Word, and it was obvious almost from the very start that God was directing us into the unity of the faith.
Brother Thomas faithfully preaches the truth about the need for the Church to go on unto perfection, and for the people of God to prepare for the coming persecution against the Lord's faithful, and the Lord's provision of a place of safety during that time. He preaches against the abominations that have found their way into the churches: from the adoption of "christianized" pagan holidays, to doctrines of men (like prosperity) which are as prevalent in countries like India as they are in the Western world. While such a stand is not very popular, and does not lend itself to the creation of the mega-churches that so many people seek today, this small group of believers have chosen obedience to the Word of Truth over fame and fortune, both of which are, at best, fleeting.
Bro. Philip was very concerned about our general comfort, and with what we would be eating. He encouraged us a number of times to go to a hotel if we wished, but we refused, submitting ourselves, rather, to his hospitality, which Brother Thomas and his family had in abundance. He said, "I just want you to enjoy yourselves while you are here." To which I replied, "Well, do you enjoy yourself here?" While the menu was a great deal different than what we are accustomed to, it was very enjoyable. I was touched by the devotion and sincerity by all the members of his congregation, and particularly of his family. His wife Sally, daughter Hephzibah, and three sons Josiah, Joel and Jabez opened their hearts and home to us in a very special way. We knew immediately that we were among our own family.
God's sweet Spirit was so wonderful as we gathered together in Jesus' name throughout the week. While a few of the members spoke only Malayalam, the language of Kerala, most spake at least some, if not fluent, English.
Brother Thomas is planning to come to the U.S. this summer. If the Lord wills, he hopes to be here for our celebration of the Feast of Pentecost at the end of May.
The truth of God is not popular, and pop culture makes it as difficult as possible to abide in it. That is true for the saints in India, as well as for us here in the States. We are often tempted to think that the other guy has an easier time living righteously in this present world, since he is not faced with the trials that we are faced with. The Bible shows us that in every circumstance there is the opportunity to serve God, or to fail Him. Solomon said, "Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, 'Who is the Lord?' or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain" (Pro. 30:8-9).
In poverty or in riches, the tempter will try to turn our thoughts away from God. Let us continue to lift up our brethren in prayer, whether here or there, because we all stand solely because of God's matchless grace.
It is God's plan to build again the Tabernacle of David, the place of God's throne, among the Gentiles, and it is saints like the ones with Brother Philip that are hastening unto that day. God will have a perfect Church, a glorious Church without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Oh, how I want to be in that number! And God is, even now, beginning to gather His people, that they may come together to form the Body of Christ: the Bride, the Lamb's Wife.
Soon we shall see the Elect of God come together in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ, and the Lord will return according to His Word! Glory, hallelujah!
Even now, I can hear the voices of the congregation in India resonating in my soul as they sing the second verse of that song:
"While geese are fleeing, flying from the winter's night; Like the lily trying just to see the light; I hear the Bridegroom calling in my innermost being; I must flee to the mountain top. Hear me Oh, Lord, Hear my heart's deep yearning. Hear me, Oh Lord, for my heart yearns for Thee. Like the thirsty panteth for the water brook, so panteth my hungry soul after Thee." Amen.