Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Words from China

This post was not written by me. It was written by three Chinese House Church leaders (Brother Yun, Peter Xu Yongze, and Enoch Wang) who share a vision for evangelizing the countries between China and Jerusalem. This "Back to Jerusalem" movement is moving many in China to become missionaries and go to these very hostile countries. Below is a selection of quotes from their book that explains their movement. As I read their words I was convicted and moved. I hope you will be as well.

“If we lose our first love and start to focus on our own needs, our spiritual life will shrivel up and die. As long as we strive to obey God's call to take the gospel...revival in China will continue.”

“We encourage Christians and churches around the world not to focus on their own needs and desires! If you do, you will surely shrivel up and die...When you make missionary outreach to nations that have never heard about Jesus the priority of your church, you will not fail to be blessed and revived.”

“Christians and churches that seek blessing for their own pleasure and enjoyment are in danger of idolatry.”

“So many Christians are doing their own thing, and don't know or even seem to care that God's cloud and pillar of fire have moved on! Let's decide to wake up and find out what the Lord is doing and see how we can get involved! The difference between mere “Christian activity” and being a front-line soldier in the Lord's battle is as wide as day and night.”

“If a man picks a hot stick out of a fire and runs with it, the movement will fan the flame back to life. If he sits down and watches it long enough, the fire will diminish and finally be snuffed out altogether. The christian life is one of action for Jesus, not inaction.”

“Some Christians seem to have got the idea that “missions” is “the West to the Rest”. But nowhere in the Bible does it say that missionaries have to be white! They don't need to come from wealthy countries, nor do they need to have graduated from Bible school or seminary. A missionary only needs to be someone who loves the Lord Jesus and has passion to reach the lost world for him.”

“Who then can be involved in the Back to Jerusalem movement? All whom the Lord calls, and who are willing to start by living the Back to Jerusalem life wherever they are. What does this mean? It menas that if you are willing to spill your blood and die for the vision, you are truly a partner of the Chinese church as we march on the strongholds of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.”

“Why is there still a need for the Back to Jerusalem vision after twenty centuries of Christianity? The problem lies in the kind of christianity practiced by the majority of believers today. For countless millions of people, following Jesus is little more than a cultural experience. Joining a church means little more than joining a social club where they can meet new people and exchange pleasantries about inconsequential matters. If the Bible is read at all, it is from a sense of duty rather than as part of a relationship with its real, vibrant, and life-changing author.”

“Millions of churches around the world, including inside China, are bound by legalism. Obeying man-made rules has become more important than taking the hand of Jesus and walking with him in the cool of the evening.”

“One thing is certain: the billion Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus we are targeting in the Back to Jerusalem vision will never be reached by passionless Christians.”

“Christians are called to exercise “faith, hope, and love”, but for millions of churchgoers in has been replaced by hopelessness, hope has succumbed to disillusionment, and love has been swallowed up by cynicism.”

“True disciples are usually people that few understand. They are viewed as potentially unstable fanatics. Often the same governments that tolerate the existence of mere believers will stop at no ends to completely eradicate any disciples within their borders.

Believers try to follow God, but their prayers and commitment are clouded by indecisiveness. Their prayer goes like this: “Oh Lord, I am so weak. Please send your power. I am weighed down with sin. Please come and relieve me.” If they ever hear the King's call to go somewhere and do something for the sake of the Kingdom, they feel they need extra encouragement before they can safely step out: “First let me check with my wife, my pastor, my boss, and my mother-in-law to see if it's OK with them.”

A believer always seeks assurances that nothing will go wrong if they step out for Jesus. Only when they are are convinced that the coast is clear and no harm will befall them are they willing to take their fist step!

Disciples have a different attitude. In China many disciples beg God to give them just a little of his dynamite power. They pray, 'Oh God, If you will send me just a little spiritual dynamite, I promise I will take it to the darkest area I can find, place it there, and pray you will send your fire from heaven to explode it.'

God always does.

This is how the Gospel has spread so quickly in China."

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Unknown

In exactly 36 days from now I will be departing this country, the land of my birth and youth and life and language, and traveling to the far side of the world. And I won't return for 365 days thereafter. Crazy.

Sometimes I still can't get my mind around that. One Year. The Other Side of the World. China. Perhaps I never really get my mind around it. Maybe there are simply times when I am more comfortable with the idea than others. What I do know is this: whenever I think about this undertaking, it stands before me as a wall of the Unknown, sheer and high.

After all, there isn't much about this next year that I can put in the “Known” category. What does a middle-class white-boy born to a Christian home in a land of religious freedom know about living in an atheist and communist and by-the-way-Asian country? For that matter, how much does a newly graduated college student know about living in the “real world” in general? To be honest—not much. Yes, compared to the towering mountain of Unknowns, the things I “Know” about China (and life in general) are a small and unimpressive pile.

It is human nature to fear the unknown. So you might assume that as I face all these unknowns my heart would be filled with fear—but you would be wrong. It is not fear that fills my heart, but daring! You see, it is true that what is before is Unknown and daunting—but that is what makes it grand! For the Unknown is only terrifying to those who feel insecure. The Unknown fills them with fear because they cannot predict it, control it, or systematize it. They aren't sure if they will be able to preserve their security through their white-knuckled, jaw-clenching grip on reality. But what does insecurity have to do with the Christian?

Nothing. None whatsoever. I am not insecure, but eternally secure! Faith means I have no need to control reality. And so at the thought of the Great Unknown my heart does not fall, but instead it rises!

I feel on the edge of a grand adventure, a story book quest, a thrilling chase. A great mountain waits to be scaled; a vast ocean waits to be traversed; an undiscovered country waits to be explored. There is a challenge to face, a dragon to slay, a great and lofty purpose to fulfill!

Yes, the Great Unknown awaits me--but I call it The Great Adventure.

Let the Adventure begin.

With eyes lifted upward to the throne of Christ and heart drawn forward by the mission of Christ,

~J.L. Smith~

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Summer's End

Well summer is finally coming to a close: kids are back in school, teachers are back to the grindstone, and the days only get shorter from here on out. Supposedly, summer is supposed to be a time of relaxation, rest, and fun. At least that is what T.V. and movies say. Perhaps the phrase "the lazy days of summer" applies to some, but for this missionary's summer the word "lazy" wasn't even in the dictionary.

My whole summer was spent raising support for this big thing on the horizon called "China". Apparently living in a foreign country for a year isn't free--even if it is communist. So, through the providence of God, I was fortunate enough to book seven weeks of summer camps and VBSes to help raise the cost. I say fortunate not primarily because doing summer camps is a good way to raise support (though it is), but because through summer camps I would have an opportunity for ministry all summer long. Booking 7 weeks of camps was fortunate because it gave me the opportunity to pour out my passion for Christ on others and try to set their hearts on fire for Christ.

Now, one week of summer camp is a tiring jog. A whole summer is a marathon. And so up and down the state of Florida I traipsed my metaphorical 26.2 miles of ministry: Tallahassee to Macclenny to Daytona to Keystone Heights to Lake Wales to Port Orange to Kissimmee--and some of them more than once!

I could tell you about playing earth ball with middle schoolers or teaching the missionary song to little kids or experiencing the Holy Spirit's power as a group of counselors worshipped together; I could tell you about whacky scavenger hunts, powerful messages, funny incidents, campfires, and baptisms--but I am afraid that to write about all that happened this summer would take another whole summer in itself. And heaven knows that none of us has the time (or the desire) to devote that kind of time to this blog.

So instead I will just say this: travelling this summer was such a blessing! To experience the heart and generosity of so many kids and counselors really took my breath away. To look and see first hand that someone is sacrificing for you-- it is deeply touching. I went into this summer with the intention of pouring myself out in ministry, to try and fill others up and love them. But I found that for every attempt I made to pour myself out, God filled me up all the more. Blessing after blessing rained on me this summer through the Church, and it was amazing to experience! Support and love and friendships and community and joy all sprung up like a banner harvest around me.

Now don't get me wrong. It was hard. This summer drained me emotionally and spiritually. I faced trial and temptation in weary desert valleys of the soul--but even these were for my own building up and good. The hardness of things doesn't in any way detract from the sheer Goodness of those same things. In fact I think it makes them all the more joyful.

So I guess what I am trying to say is thank you. Thank you to all who offered their prayers and dollars toward my mission in China. Thank you to all who offered the hand of friendship. Thank you to the Church, the Body, the Kingdom of God for redoubling in me all that I invested in you. And thank you to my God and King, the author and the continuing perfecter of my faith, who has put up with endless wandering on my part and matured me through it all. I will never remember this summer as being easy. But I will always remember it as being Good.

Grace and Peace,

~J.L. Smith~