Spiritual hunger in Cuba

tonyOne of the great things about working at Hope For Life / Herald of Truth is the fact that I get to work with some amazing people in other countries. One of them is Tony Fernández, who continues to inspire with stories of his work in Cuba. I’ve shared the following in several places, but wanted to share it here as well:

Neat story from Tony Fernandez in Cuba. He was coming back from Havana, and several other drivers warned him of a police control on an upcoming bridge. Sure enough, as Tony approached, the policeman was waving him over. Tony started getting his papers ready, but the policeman said, “Please, put your documents away. I just want to know if you can get me a Bible. That’s always been my dream, but I’ve never been able to get one.”
Tony didn’t have any with him, but told him where to hear the Herald of Truth radio program and gave him the post office box number so he could write in.
Reminds me that the thousands Herald of Truth raises every year for Bibles in Cuba are going to good use. And reminds me that we have faithful brethren around the world working hard to spread the message every day.

Travel update

airplaneJust a note about where I’ve been the last few weeks:

  • Cuba — Feels funny to say that I went to a women’s conference. Actually, I wasn’t at the women’s sessions much, but did get to speak to a group of preachers that gathered at the same time. I also translated for some of the group from the Beltline Church of Christ in Decatur, Alabama, as they addressed the men. Beltline sponsors the women’s conference. Most of the time, however, was spent with Tony Fernández, visiting radio listeners and studying a part of the province where he hopes to begin new mission churches soon. (Tony’s congregation has planted more than 40 churches over the last 10 years)
  • Kansas — I got to go to Lawrence, Kansas, doing my Christ and Culture seminar for the Southside Church of Christ there; that’s part of what I do for Hope for Life / Herald of Truth Great people, and they felt like the content I shared was very timely for their group.
  • Nicaragua — This is part of Herald of Truth’s Central American Project. Steve Ridgell and I travelled to Managua, meeting with radio listeners and preaching an evangelistic campaign. We also met with a brother who works in the area south of Managua, making plans to expand our work to that area in 2016.
  • Silver Spring, Maryland — I was invited to do a men’s conference at the Silver Spring Church of Christ, as well as speaking for their whole Hispanic group on Sunday morning and for an areawide event Sunday night. Another great group. It’s always encouraging to see what God is doing around the world.

What have you been up to?

Manuel Manrique

I shared this in a private group on Facebook yesterday:

A week ago, I stood at the bedside of a giant. Manuel Manrique is 90 years old. He was a preacher in Cuba before the Revolution and never wavered from that. He would go out on a bicycle with a sign saying “Only Christ Saves,” handing out Christian literature. Ruffians would regularly beat him up, tearing off the sign, saying “Let’s see Christ save you from this.” He would go home, make a new sign, and head out on his bicycle.Now Manrique is lying in bed with a broken hip. Inoperable. He’s in terrible pain, waiting for death. When Tony Fernandez and I walked into his bedroom, he got very excited. He spelled out for Tony exactly which Bible verses to put on his tombstone so that other people can continue to hear the Gospel after he’s gone.The next day we took a group of preachers to visit Manrique. We sang with him (sounding like a bunch of preachers!), and some of these younger preachers got to see a man that I hope will stay in their minds and hearts as an example.You’ll never see him on the lectureship circuits. Probably never hear of him again. But he’s a giant of the faith.

‘The goal of this command is love’

Bible and heartOn Wednesday, I mentioned one of the talks that I gave last month at the National Preachers Conference in Cuba, a class on elders. The other talk was a keynote lecture on “Doctrine.” Because the theme of the conference was 1 Timothy, I had been assigned 1 Timothy 1:3-5. And like so often happens, I learned something new when studying this passage again.

I had just heard James Thompson teach a class on 1 Timothy 2, so that was an advantage right there. Taking a cue from him, I went through 1 Timothy looking at descriptions of “unhealthy doctrine” and “healthy doctrine” (which is a better translation than “sound” doctrine; in the 21st century we don’t think of health when we hear the word “sound”). I summarized by saying that sound doctrine is centered on God; not on man, not on philosophy, not on works. It is also reflected in an upright life; moral, not seeking financial gain, with a focus on a healthy family.

Then I turned to the last verse that was assigned to me:

“The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5)

That was the one that I had forgotten about in this context. What an important verse it is! Paul calls on Timothy to stress sound doctrine… so that love may result.

I mentioned to the group that I had a document with controversies that had impacted the churches of Christ. I told them there were 28 reasons on the list. Then I said, “Oops! There’s another page.” And I kept using that technique, going from 28 to 57 to 85, all the way up to 171! (I actually left one off. The list I received included “Pretzels”; if anyone knows what the great pretzel controversy was, I’ll up the list to 172)

I told them that we couldn’t afford to be like that. We can’t divide over every issue. I then reminded them that we had another letter to the Ephesian church, written decades after the letters that Paul wrote to Timothy. In that letter, in Revelation 2, Jesus praises the church for their sound doctrine, but chastises them for their lack of love. And he tells them that if they don’t recover that love, they’ll lose their right to be called a church of Jesus.

As we study controversies like gender roles and homosexuality and pacifism and worship questions, we have to keep in mind this important fact: the goal is love. If love isn’t the result, we’ve missed the goal.

photo courtesy of MorgueFile.com

New book: A History of Churches of Christ in Cuba

Cuba history book coverI’m pleased to announce that A History of Churches of Christ in Cuba is now available. Tony Fernández and I worked on this information over the course of several years, and it’s nice to see it in concrete form.

Any history of the churches in Cuba is going to be incomplete at this point. There are too many stories that can’t be told yet.

I’ll also mention that I made an appeal for information last year at a meeting of people who work in Cuba. Only one person sent me anything. Because of that, I’m sure that some people from here in the States will not have received the mention they would have liked to have. If so, I’ll hope they’ll send me info for the next edition!

Anyway, the book can be purchased from the Herald of Truth website. You can find it on this page: http://www.heraldoftruth.org/resources_books/a-history-of-churches-of-christ-in-cuba