After his seminary education in the United States, Tial Thanga returned to his home country of Myanmar in the early 90’s, which at that time was under a military dictatorship. Since then, Tial has been instrumental in development of schools and churches throughout the country. In 1995, Tial started Reformed Seminary in Yangon.
Tial’s most notable featured is his good natured simplicity and the childlike curiosity he brings to his work developing the next generation of Christian leaders in Burma. I sat down with Tial in my 5th-story hotel room in Yangoon. We had just finished a week of discipleship training with some of his leaders and I wanted to hear more of his story as well as some of the unique opportunities and challenges of discipleship in a Buddhist Burmese context.
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WDA’s Restoring Your Heart Ministry had a busy and fun week meeting all kinds of counselors, lay leaders and ministers at The American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference.
We redesigned out RYH webpage to provide plenty of information about how the RYH Group Experience can work along a Counselors group setting and also how a Pastor or Leader in the Church can begin a RYH Ministry.
Sometimes God’s designs and ways are cloaked with mystery. (Proverbs 25:2) But other times His works and miracles are simply overlooked or misinterpreted due to selfish preoccupation, faulty presuppositions, or crass disobedience. In Galatians 4:4, the Scriptures declare that “in the fullness of time, God sent His Son to redeem us”. The “fullness” mentioned in this passage was the fulfillment of an Old Testament prophecy that provided insight into the time of Messiah’s appearance.
Calculating forward from Daniel 9:24-27 and Nehemiah 2, the first century Jewish leaders had good reason to believe that The Advent was upon them. Even the location was public knowledge. (Matt. 2:1-6) But a misplaced concern for Jewish nationalism (and ensuing political power-mongering) blinded them to the larger Kingdom agenda set forth by God. This, in turn, led to an inability to perceive “the fullness of the times”. Isaiah prophetically warned of this condition, and Jesus testified to the outworking effects. (Isaiah 6:9-10; Matt. 16:1-2)
Instead of waiting in expectant faith, the rabbinical leaders become despondent due to the loss of their national sovereignty. One tradition reports that in response to the taxation census of Caesar Augustus mentioned in Luke 2:1, they sat by the roads outside Jerusalem mourning yet another evidence of Roman rule. Instead of prompting repentance, this event fostered their questioning the goodness and sovereignty of God, and the immutability of His Word. They reportedly shouted, “The scepter has departed from Judah, and Shiloh (Messiah) has not come!” (cf, Gen. 49:10)
Ironically, as they tore their robes and tossed dust over their heads, a young couple, wearied from their journey from Nazareth, passed by on the way to Bethlehem to register for the same census. The woman was riding on a donkey and expecting a Baby who was the fulfillment of the times and all hopes. But they didn’t recognize Him or the signs of His coming. Their agenda was too earthbound to see or participate in the heavenly visitation.
This makes me wonder what I’m missing. Too often, I’m troubled by the loss of personal privilege, or angry when reminded that I don’t retain any real control over life’s issues. In response, I grumble inwardly, questioning the goodness of God and His wisdom. (I grumble in silence because I’m too proud to allow my colleagues to actually hear me complain and question my maturity.)
As a leader in the contemporary church, I’m too often preoccupied with matters other than discipleship and the care-of-souls. Externals matter more than internals. I pay lip-service to Christlikeness evidenced by sacrificial love, but do I actually practice it? (This is beginning to sound and feel a lot like those other religious leaders who missed the First Advent. Might I be unprepared for His Second Coming in the same way, and for the same reasons, they missed His First?)
I remember Jesus pointing out that wisdom is a prerequisite for being prepared for His Second Coming. He warned that there were two sets of maidens who were anticipating the arrival of The Bridegroom. (Matt. 25: 1-13) But only one group retained wisdom. The second suffered for their lack of preparation. It’s interesting that at the conclusion of The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advised that the man who hears His words and “puts them into practice” (emphasis mine) is considered wise, able to withstand the storms of life. (Matt. 7: 24-29)
Putting truth into practice seems to be a necessary requisite as we prepare for His Second Advent. When “The Final Storm” comes, only the man with a heart of wisdom will be adequately prepared, and his house will stand in that deluge. (cf. II Pet. 3: 3-14) I wonder if this isn’t what Jesus intended when He urged His disciples before His Ascension to “go into all the world and make disciples… and teach them to put into practice, (emphasis again mine) everything I commanded you”?
Often Christian leaders emphasize the first portion of The Great Commission, but there doesn’t seem to be the same emphasis on the latter portion: teaching disciples to “put truth into practice.” This raises a question: When we emphasize one part of Scripture to the neglect of other parts, aren’t we in danger of falling into the same error of the first century Jewish elders who missed His First Coming?
Oh that God might raise up modern day “Sons of Issachar” with the ability to understand the times in which we live. (I Chron. 12:32) Will you join me in praying that God will open our eyes and help us see opportunities to put His truth into practice, thus enabling us to see clearly? Blessed Advent Season!
Consider making a end of year gift to WDA. Your gift is tax deductible and most importantly enables our staff to equip people to put Christ’s teachings “into practice” and continue to make mature followers of Christ.
The Christmas I was six we lived in a small white frame house on Washington Road in Augusta, Ga.
It was a scary time of life…my family had just moved from Dallas, Texas to this strange southern city.
Along with that, I started first grade later than all the other kids so I didn’t learn how to correctly pass scissors and I had a new baby sister who got too much of my parent’s attention.
I also had weird nightmares about a tiger getting its middle chewed out.
Washington Road was being widened so there was a ditch the size of the grand canyon in front of our house and we were warned daily about slipping into it and never being able to get out. My brother and I must have been angry a lot, because my mother hung pillows from a tree in the back yard and told us to hit them instead of each other when we got mad.
Our house had a furnace in the hallway and the heat never seemed to get to my bedroom. In the mornings, my brother and I would grab our clothes and run to the heater where it was warm, to get dressed. Our house was infested with mice, so each day there was a fresh supply of flattened mice in little mousetraps. I lost my first tooth and when it fell out of my mouth it completely disappeared so the tooth fairy couldn’t come.
Yes, it was a scary time.
That is probably why I remember Christmas Eve so well the year I was six years old.
I remember the anticipation of Santa Claus coming and all that it meant; magic, new toys, possibly candy, something special just for me. I lay in bed on Christmas Eve trying to go to sleep but I was just too excited. I kept getting up and getting sent back to bed by my parents. I was so excited I felt like I would explode.
Then I heard it! The sound of Santa’s sleigh hitting the roof. It was unmistakeable! What should I do? I remember lying in bed paralyzed with excitement and fear at the same time. Suddenly Santa Claus himself appeared in my bedroom door, peeking in to check on me.
Then it was morning. There, under the Christmas Tree was a magical array of toys and gifts that Santa had left. Special gifts for each of us, for me!
When I think back on the year I was six, this is the one event I remember with awe and wonder. In a very scary, very new, very unsettled world, I found hope and wonder in a gift…for me.
The feelings I had at six and the experiences of my world then seem to me a perfect picture of the true Christmas Story. A dark and confusing world, into which God sent His Son, a special gift, just for me…just for you.
My hope for you this Christmas is that you will experience the excitement, fear, awe and wonder of the absolute mystery of God’s gift to you in the person of His Son Jesus Christ. That you will feel and know His love for you. That you will be comforted in this dark and confusing world by God’s Son.