One week on the mission field: priceless

Last night I returned from one week of ministry in South Korea. My heart is full, my mind alert, and my body is still 13 hours ahead of everything else on this side of the planet. Here are some things I appreciate more having been away.

I have a greater appreciation for my family. About a week away is all I’m good for and then my heart turns towards home. Every 6 year old that runs past me in the airport brings a smile to my lips as I remember the toothless grin of my own. Young adults talking or texting cause me to miss my own teenagers, and wonder what’s going on in the heart of my kids. And each couple that passes by, young or old causes me to miss my wife, to be thankful for what we’ve had, and to imagine what the future holds. Truth be told, as I get closer to the end of the week, I look at those pictures more, and my heart gets ready to return to my family.

C.S. Lewis was fond of imagining that this world is the far country, and heaven is our real home. What if we actually began to think that way about the temporal and the eternal?  Maybe we wouldn’t think of all the things we want to do on the earth-side. Perhaps we would look more longingly towards heaven. The apostle Paul communicates that yearning when he reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20).

I have a greater appreciation for God’s work in other people’s lives.

When I fill out my customs declaration, they always ask questions of the value of what I’m bringing back to the states. I’m tempted to write invaluable, priceless, or million-dollar-memories. How do you put a price tag on the new friends you have made, and the old friendships you’ve renewed. There are real names and real faces of real people locked in my memory. 

The part I love the most is bringing back the stories. The first-hand accounts of an 8 year old running for the protection of the Americans while bombs are going off all around him. How the same child, now in his 70’s, learned his English from the American GI’s, while he polished shoes for chocolates and cigarettes. He would pocket them and bring them home. His mother would in turn sell them at the market so this family of five brothers and two sisters would have a handful of rice for dinner.

I shake my head in disbelief when I see the sacrifice of missionaries and their wives who spend more of their life on the foreign field then they do stateside as they seek to make a difference for eternity.

I love the passion of students who have just met Jesus, and want to know him more. I keep thinking: is this what eternity is going to be like, as we live and relive the sovereign hand of God in each of our lives?

Samurai swords for my sons: 8 dollars. Tea cups for my girls: 12 dollars. One week on the mission field:  Priceless.

How the blood of the martyrs changes history

This week I have been teaching Bible College students on Jeju Island off the coast of South Korea. In preparing for class this morning I came across the remarkable story of Robert Thomas a missionary to Korea in 1866. As I teach Korean students in just a few hours I am reminded that Christianity often grows best in soil stained by the blood of the martyrs. I am forever grateful for those who have gone before and opened up doors by paying the ultimate cost.

Robert J. Thomas was haunted by the thought of Korea. A Welsh missionary to China, he knew that the people of the “Hermit Kingdom” needed the gospel. But Korea, observing how westerners had mistreated China, closed its doors to foreigners. Burning with evangelistic zeal, Robert felt he must do something about the people’s ignorance of eternal life.

On this day, September 13, 1865, he arrived on the coast of Korea and began to learn what he could about the people and their language. By his action, Robert became the first Protestant missionary to the ancient land, whose name means “chosen.” Roman Catholics, however, had converted many Koreans starting in the late 1700s. They were so successful that in 1863 eight thousand were slaughtered by a government that feared foreign influence.

Lacking Korean language material, Robert handed out tracts and New Testaments in Chinese. He soon had to return to China, where, the following year, his wife died.

In 1866, Robert learned that an American boat, the General Sherman, was going to try to establish trade relations between Korea and the United States. He offered to accompany the boat as an interpreter in exchange for a chance to spread the gospel.

That August, the General Sherman sailed up the Taedong River toward Pyongyang. Robert tossed gospel tracts onto the river bank as the ship proceeded.

Korean officials ordered the American boat to leave at once. The Americans defied the warning. They paid for their arrogance with their lives. The schooner ran aground and stuck fast in the muddy bottom.

The Governor of the province, Pak Kyu Su, attacked the ship. When the Koreans tried to board, waving machetes, the Americans opened fire. Over the next two weeks, the Americans held the Koreans off, killing twenty and wounding many more. By September 3, the Koreans were fed up. They launched a burning boat down river at the General Sherman to set it afire. Now the Americans had to dash ashore or burn to death.

As the sailors fled from the boat, the Koreans killed them. Robert had to flee with the rest. True to his mission, he leaped from the boat carrying a Bible. “Jesus, Jesus!” he cried in Korean to the attackers, offering them the Bible. His head was whacked off with a stroke of a machete according to one account, but others think he pleaded for his life and was beaten to death. We may never know the truth, nor if Robert tried to prevent the Sherman’s foolish defiance of a sovereign power and its butchery of civilians. Seemingly Robert’s efforts had been in vain.

But God worked in the heart of the man who killed Robert. Convinced by Robert’s beaming face that he had killed a good man, he kept one of the Bibles, wallpapering his house with it. People came from far and near to read its words. A church grew. A nephew of Robert’s killer became a pastor.

Today 40% of South Koreans are Christians and the nation has some of the largest congregations in the world but the North remains largely closed to the gospel (written by Dan Graves, MSL)

Sometimes Acts 1:8 needs Acts 8:1

The book of Acts opens up with a very specific command from Jesus found in Acts 1:8.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Jesus wanted the good news of the Gospel to spread from Jerusalem outward. The message was to transcend cultures moving up to Samaria and out the ends of the earth. For several hundred years God had been preparing the way for the message to spread quickly using both the Greeks and the Romans.

The Greeks were all about education and culture. So when they ran the civilized world they set up universities and learning centers from Egypt to Italy. The result was a common language among the people of different nations (Not unlike the international popularity of English today). The New Testament would be written in Greek and the message could spread rapidly.

The Romans were all about military advancement. They weren’t looking to control by education. They were looking to control by force. To manage those kinds of armies you needed well-developed roads and superstructure. So Rome built them. God used those roads to create safe and rapid travel for those 1st century missionaries.

There was only one problem. The Christians liked Jerusalem and they loved their fellowship with one another (Acts 2:44-47).  They weren’t interested in leaving town.

That’s the setting for Acts 8:1. Following the stoning of Stephen we read,

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles (Acts 8:1).

It was the uncomfortable truth of persecution that would drive those early Christians from Jerusalem; they would take the message with them, and spread it to the entire world.

Sometimes God uses persecution (Acts 8:1) to accomplish a witness of the gospel (Acts 1:8). Sometimes Acts 1:8 needs Acts 8:1.

Are you praying for the persecuted church in places like: North Korea, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, and Iran? A great source to develop your prayer list for persecuted Christians is:

Are you considering with whom God might have you share the Gospel?

Having my heart moved by the world’s need for the gospel…

One of my earliest memories of my grandparent’s house, were the missionary prayer cards taped on the inside door of their kitchen cabinets. Every time you wanted a glass of water you were reminded to pray for the missionaries.

When it comes to our responsibility to the share the good news about Jesus with the world, John Piper has said, “Go, send, or disobey.”

While neither of my grandparents were missionaries, their prayers and financial support were part of the sending process that touched multiple countries with the Gospel.

As we enter the new year, this video serves as a convicting reminder that each of us is to play a part in the spreading of the good news in the  hour in which we live. If you are receiving this via Facebook or email you may need to go to the homepage to view  the presentation.

Following Jesus means leaving somethings behind

In 21st -centuryAmerica with all of its amenities, finding Christians living out their relationship with Christ at the highest level is not an easy thing. As we go back in history though, it is not as difficult to find these individuals.

C.T. Studd was born into a wealthy family, was reportedly handsome, and was an international legend as a sports hero in England. However, when his brother George fell deathly ill he writes that “honor and riches and pleasures had become as nothing to my brother. He only cared about the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ; and God taught me the same lesson.”

C.T. Studd left it all – the fame and the fortunes for the foreign mission field. First in China with the Cambridge Seven. Six other young men of the same affluence, who arrived inChina, put on Chinese clothes, and with pigtails and shaven heads marched into the “up-country” of China. They wrestled long and hard to master the Chinese language, and before long they began to see many come to Christ.

But the country of Chinawas not enough, and so C.T. Studd began to pursue Africa. He founded the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade (WEC), and after a recruiting tour to the universities ofAmerica, he plunged into the ministry in Africa whole-heartedly. Upon his death two-thousand tribesman stood in the pouring rain for hours to attend his funeral.

 For C.T. Studd becoming a missionary meant leaving fame, wealth, and family. It meant going to a foreign country (before the days of instant E-mails). Learning their language and their culture. And all of this because he recognized that people without Jesus Christ needed to be introduced to Him. It is more than a little humbling to realize that heaven will be populated with people who have that level of commitment. Why study men and women like that? Because it introduces us to people whose love for the Lord surpasses our own, and it challenges us to live differently as a result