Tuesday, March 30, 2010

East Asia

I had the opportunity to go on a week-long vision trip to East Asia over Thanksgiving break. Here is a glimpse of my experience:

The first night we ate dinner with the long-term missionaries. Walking back from the restaurant, I was overwhelmed by the general darkness and despair. As we darted through the crowded streets, I was heartbroken by an old man playing a traditional instrument, as his empty and deeply sorrowful music seemed to be the cries of a lost heart.

The next morning we went to the university and began meeting students. I was overwhelmed by the graciousness of the East Asians. One girl approached me and offered to buy me lunch. She sat me down, ordered my food, and then served me—only to tell me she needed to go to class!

Later that day, my partner and I were able to share the Gospel with a girl who had never heard of Jesus Christ before. She shared how she felt empty inside—and yet her deep spiritual hunger did not result in an acceptance of truth. Instead she responded in the manner every person I talked with did: “We 'East-Asians' do not believe in God.”

East Asia is a spiritually dark place where Satan has a stronghold. He is using the government to disseminate lies and block out the truth. Take for instance, Wang, another girl I talked with. Specifically, when I asked her if she felt like something was missing in her heart, she paused and responded: “You know here in East Asia we honestly do not have time to think about deep things.” I was heartbroken beyond words.

Despite Satan’s manipulation, Jesus Christ is victorious over darkness. People here do respond to the Gospel and over the course of the week my team saw one person accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. His response, I believe, illuminates an even deeper spiritual reality: East Asians need a Savior just as much as people anywhere else in the world.

No clearer is this evidenced than in the suicide rate: Monday night one of the long-term missionaries debriefed us, explaining how students are responsible for supporting their parents and both sets of grandparents, as there is no social security or health care. Pressured to succeed, students work extremely hard during high school to get into the university, and while some assume acceptance to the university will allow them to relax, they soon discover that competition is high at the university as well. Some fail tests and classes, and rather than face the disappointment of their families, many ultimately resort to suicide. I was horribly burdened and heartbroken by the fact that people take their lives because they simply have no hope.

Tuesday my partner and I had three spiritual conversations. We shared the Gospel with a junior, who like the rest expressed that there was emptiness within his heart. Following our conversation with him, my partner and I talked with two freshmen. The one looked horribly depressed, and when we asked him about his experience at the university he explained how he did not enjoy it and wanted to go home. As we continued talking, we discovered he had questioned the existence of God and had a Bible in his room. My partner and I went through the Gospel, and looking back I now see God’s sovereign hand at work: Our friend had a Bible, but he did not understand it. God, therefore, used my partner and I to explain what Jesus had done.

Ultimately, our friend had to leave for class, leaving my partner and I the opportunity to talk with his friend. He had little exposure to Christianity, and yet he said something quite profound: “You know, if there is a God, I think He must be love.” My partner and I both readily agreed, and we pulled out our bilingual Bible to show him 1 John 4:7-9: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” My partner and I proceeded to go through the Gospel with him, and at the end we prayed for him, asking that Jesus would give him a real experience of Himself. It was very powerful to pray for him, and I pray that as the long-term missionaries follow up with him the Lord will be working in his heart.

Wednesday I spent time with a girl I met on Monday. When I asked her about her religious traditions and beliefs, she explained that she worships her ancestors. I asked her if she ever felt like her prayers were left unanswered and she responded with a resolute yes. She admitted, moreover, that something is missing within her heart. I shared the Gospel and again I heard those paining words: “We 'East-Asians' do not believe in God.”

Thursday we had our main outreach. Specifically, we hosted a Thanksgiving party for all the people we had met throughout the week. I was paired off with Wang and her friend Mary. After making a craft project, we each shared what we were thankful for. When it was my turn, I shared that I was most thankful for Jesus, to which Mary responded: “Oh I know about Jesus. He makes you warm in your heart.” I proceeded to ask her if she followed Jesus, and she said she didn’t although she had searched for information and wanted to know more. I explained that I could tell her more and we went through the Gospel together. Neither Mary nor Wang accepted, but in sharing truth I planted seeds which prayerfully God will make grow.

Friday evening we had a final team dinner. Two professed Asian believers from the university attended and each shared what God had done in their lives. I was particularly affected by the last testimony shared—namely that of a young man who had wanted to kill himself until, by the grace of God, someone shared Jesus with him. I was moved to tears by his story, mostly because it was a faint glimmer of hope: The East Asian people do not know the relentless love of Jesus Christ because their government, like the horrific pollution of the city, darkens the light. They do not know a hope that never fails and they do not have salvation. And yet God is moving. He is victorious in the darkness, as He is victorious in the light. His truth is as real in East Asia as it is in the rest of the world, because the Gospel deals with the deepest and truest realities of the human heart. Everywhere people struggle with sin. Everywhere people turn away from their Creator, seeking fulfillment in other things. And everywhere people have emptiness which can only be satiated by the love of Jesus Christ, who endured the cross to redeem all peoples and nations.

I went to East Asia a sinner and I return one. I am still, and will always be, a sinner redeemed solely by Jesus Christ’s unmerited grace. And yet, His truth has become more real and alive in my life and heart. While I do not fully know yet what God desires and wills for my future, I know one thing is for sure: I want to live the abundant life of experiencing and sharing His love.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Go, Send, or Pray

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked" -Luke 12:48

It is estimated there are 2.75 billion unreached people within the world (www.joshuaproject.net). 2.75 billion people who have little or no access to the Gospel of life! 2.75 billion people who are perishing apart from Jesus Christ!

In the United States we have access to Bibles, churches, and community. We can gather in public and freely proclaim our faith. I can write this blog post without fear of being placed in jail by my government. These freedoms are the exception not the norm!

I do not deserve to have access to the truth, but God in His providence chose to entrust this knowledge to me. The question is: How can I best steward His blessing?

Can I with an unsettled heart choose to pursue a life of comfort and security while thousands are perishing apart from Jesus Christ? I pray that God would burden me in such a way that I cannot...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Relentless Love

Jesus Christ loves me with a relentless love. Though I am faithless, He remains faithful. His love never fails.

Though I did not love God, He loved me and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for my sins. He laid down His life that I may have Life.

Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost. He came to seek me. I am deeply in need of a Savior.

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). 2 Timothy 3:1-5 describes my life before I knew the Lord. I was consumed by a consuming self-love, and while I told myself I was happy, deep within I was empty, broken, and hurting.

I was awakened to the Gospel when I was awakened to my brokenness. Jesus became beautiful when my sin became detestable.

I nailed Him to the cross. It was my sin that held Him there. Oh what great love that He would die for a sinner like me!

Jesus Christ has set me free from myself and given me new life. In my emptiness He has brought fulfillment. In my brokenness He has brought redemption. In my hurt He has brought healing. His mercy and love I do not deserve.

Jesus gave everything for me. Oh for grace to give everything for Him!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jesus Wants to Redeem the Saints

"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" -2 Corinthians 3:17
Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost. He came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. He came to deliver us from the dominion of darkness to the everlasting Kingdom of light. He came to break the chains of sin that we may experience liberty in His grace.

As followers of Christ, we are called to proclaim the good news of the Gospel to the world. How can we, however, proclaim freedom for the prisoners when we have not been freed ourselves?

The Christian walk is not about what we can do for God. It is about what God does through us by the power of His Spirit. All chains of sin are unbreakable by our power; by His power, however, we are more than conquerors.

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead also lives within us. The Lord is fully sovereign, and NO sin or stronghold of Satan is unbreakable by His power.

Dear friends, Jesus Christ died upon the cross not merely to forgive our sins—HE DIED TO SET US FREE. And so, let us seek Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us. May He reedem us into His likeness and deliver us from bondage that we may experience true freedom.

Do You Know Him?

When we seek obedience for the sake of "Heaven" we will fail. When we seek obedience for the sake of Christ we will be victorious.
Compelled by a fear of Hell, I sought to live a moral Christian life while growing up; the problem, however, was that the abstract notions of Heaven and Hell were never enough to compel me to complete obedience. Why? Living for myself was more immediately fulfilling than the intangible and distant promises of Heaven.

Having been awakened to the love of Christ, I now realize why the promise of Heaven was never enough to yield full obedience: I had lost sight of the Author and Perfecter of my faith, Jesus Christ.

Christianity is not about gaining entrance into some abstract paradise called Heaven. It is about knowing Jesus Christ personally. In fact, knowing Jesus is Heaven. ”Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

Knowing Jesus Christ Himself is the only thing more fulfilling than living for myself. I crucify my desires for the sake of knowing Him more, because knowing Him and His love is better than life.

"But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith" (Philippians 3:7-9).

Do you know the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus Christ?