Making disciples of all nations.

Category: Overseas stories

E62 – Missions, PTSD, and Mid-life Crises

Many prepare for the initial sacrifice, but few think about the costs the rest of their lives.

Its been a while since we posted anything.  After I posted this episode I thought of a dozen different things I wish I had said or added, so maybe I’ll make a part 2 down the road.

In faithfulness You have afflicted me

The other day I was reading a portion of Ps 119 and verse 75 stood out to me.  In the old NIV it says,

“I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

That last portion really caught my attention.  “in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have had a number of friends afflicted as they were removed from the work they had poured their life into.  I’m not talking about a business they started, or a job they devoted themselves to.  No, they poured their lives into God’s work, and in faithfulness He afflicted them.

My friends left under stress and pressure with no time to close up relationships.  Some lost many of their belongings that they didn’t have time or room to take with them. Others just lost their ability to communicate with brothers and sisters in Christ that they had poured their lives into.  Gone.

As I look at the situation, it appears there will be a lot of tough times ahead for many of my friends who are still in the country.  I fear many of them will feel the afflictions of Christ in ways much harder than I ever have.

Why does the Psalmist under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit write, “In faithfulness you have afflicted me?”

I cannot give a clear answer, but I know it is true. In my own life, I have seen that I grow closer to God when I am afflicted.  I know God better through my afflictions.   Later another author under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would write “I want to know Christ, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings…” (Phil 3:10)

Perhaps, just as I “afflict” my children with consequences in order to shape their hearts and minds, God in His love and faithfulness afflicts me to shape and mold me into His character. God, as a good father, knows that at times nothing else will accomplish His will except affliction.  In our sinful condition, it is necessary.

I do not enjoy affliction, but I have come to appreciate it. Affliction drives me to prayer more than anything else. Affliction shapes me in ways prosperity and blessing cannot.

Its not a topic we as American consider offen, but suffering and affliction are all through the Bible, and they are not necessarily spoken of as bad.

Hebrews 12:6 – The Lord disciplines those He loves
James 1:2 – Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds

So, the next time you feel afflicted, remember it is in faithfulness He has afflicted you.

E16 – Todd Tillman – Disciple making with a full time job (part 1)

How do you make disciples with a full-time job? It is one of the biggest questions we hear.  Todd shares some of the challenges he has faced in learning to make disciples while still holding down a 40+ hour a week job and taking care of his family. He’ll also share what he has learned along the way and what his discipling strategy looks like now.

Bonus Episode: John Allison – Mission work, partnership, and strategy in Japan

Bonus episode. What does it look like to partner cross-culturally?  How can a short-term team be used well?  How do we strategically engage in mission work?

My favorite books of 2017

2017 has ended.  2018 is officially here, and so has ended all my chances to read more books in 2017.  When I look back on the ones I read here are a few that really stood out. If you have made a goal or resolution to read more in 2018 here are some good ones to start with.

Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery by David and Paul Watson.  Using personal experience with a people group in India and observation of other large movements of God, David and Paul break down seven different strategies Disciple Makers need to have in place in order to create a Disciple Making Movements.  When I read the book I realized I was only focusing on two of the seven.  I should do a whole post about this book because it has been very influential to me.  If you would like God to use you in a big way in your life then definitely put it on your reading list this year.

The Insanity of Obedience: Walking with Jesus in Tough Places by Nik Ripken.  Ok, a little confession, I haven’t actually finished this one yet, but I’m on the way.  In this follow up book to The Insanity of God, Nik continues to focus on what it will take for the church (and individuals in the church) to take the good news of Jesus into the persecuted places of the world.

Larson, Duke of Mongolia.  Written in the early 1900’s by Larson this book gives a lot of great information about the Mongolian culture and living conditions 100 years ago.  Larson found himself often rubbing elbos with the leaders and princes of Mongolia, and writes from a very pro-Mongolian perspective. If you find Mongolians fascinating this is a great read.

Far from Cold (Our Stories Book 1) by Gillian Newham chronicles the birth of the modern Mongolian church.  I put this one on the list because Mark and Gill are good friends of ours and I respect them so much. This is her first book about the Mongolian church. They were in Mongolia almost from the beginning of the modern Mongolian church.  Her account is a very sincere account of God’s work in building His church in Mongolia.  Gill shares the goods and the bads in a very earnest straightforward way.  In reading the book, you see how God was working not just among the Mongols but also in Gill and Mark. I enjoyed this book, and I’m looking forward to her writing another one.

In the Arena by Isobel Kuhn.  I always love reading old CIM (now OMF) books of some of the earlier missionaries in China.  I usually find I am more encouraged and learn more from biographies than I do from other books.  I stumbled upon this one as I was packing up and deciding which books to take and which ones to leave behind.  I had gotten it from another worker who was making the same decisions.  The core idea is that God has us in the arena and the hardships we go through display His glory. Isobel goes through a lot.  I am always encouraged when I read how the old CIM missionaries lived out their faith.  I always find it challenging to me.

One last honorable mention, and just to show you I read some fiction also, I stumbled upon this book and enjoyed it immensely even though it is a little out of my normal genres. Pawn (The Strategy Series Book 1) by J.C Ahern.  Its a combo of chess, humanity being enslaved, and one girl who is still a slave but some how able to play outside the rules.  Its a great mystery to unwind as you figure things out along side the protagonist.

I wish you all a very literary 2018!

Inoculating Your Children from the Good News of Jesus

我不太了解耶稣。I must have gotten a funny look on my face because what that means is “I’m not very familiar with Jesus.”

The evening started with me calling a DiDi car (the equivalent of an Uber). Somewhere along the way I mentioned God and he proceeded to tell me that he was also a Christian. I was excited and I asked when he believed. He said his parents were Christians.

A long history here has led me to the point where the statement, “I am a Christian,” is no longer enough for me so, I pried a little deeper with a question or two. Then, I asked him to tell me his favorite story about Jesus. He replied, “我不太了解耶稣。” (Translated: “I’m not very familiar with Jesus.”)  In other words, “I am a ‘Christian’, but I don’t know Jesus.”

Unfortunately, this is not a completely unusual response. I have met a number of Chinese people in the last few years who said they were Christian and referenced their parents’ belief rather than their own. It is sad, but often these older believers have completely failed to pass on a faith to their children. Instead, what they have passed on is a cultural version of Christianity where the practitioner refers to himself as a Christian, but actually has no idea what that means and has no faith in Jesus. It is sad but true.

I can think of few things more heartbreaking than to have a grown child who professes Christianity, but has little knowledge of Jesus. Our children are our primary discipling responsibilities. We cannot delegate this task to a Sunday School teacher, pastor, or anyone else. We are to disciple our children. Other people can help us, but it is our responsibility.

The driver and I talked about faith a little more, and I told him it was not enough for his parents to have faith. He needed to have a faith of his own.

I do not know what happened with him, but I pray some of my words soaked through and made him re-examine his belief. However, he did not seem especially interested. Had he been inoculated from the good news by his believing parents?

What about you? Are you inoculating your children from the good news? What are you doing to make sure your children are really getting connected to Jesus and not just to a “Christian” cultural identity?

Power of prayer in a border town

There are times we pray and we do not see anything. It is only by faith we continue in prayer, believing God is working something we cannot see at the time. However, there are other magnificent times when God lets us see Him answer prayers in real time. Yesterday, I was recounting one of those stories to a couple of friends.

I had just finished college and some friends and I were on a trip overseas sharing God’s good news. After arriving in the provincial capital we took a six to eight-hour bumpy van ride to a rougher border town high on the steppes of Asia. The hotel had a sauna we visited, but we soon realized it was a rather seedy place.

Over the next few days we explored the city and tried to meet people, but it was as though the city was closed to us. People stared and people talked about us, but we could not get into a decent conversation with anyone. We were in the city, but the city was closed to us.

After a day or two of this we realized it was not going to work and we needed to change tactics. So the next day we split up into groups of two and prayer-walked the town. It was probably the most effective Spirit-led prayer walk I have ever had before or since. As my friend Dave and I walked down the streets we seemed to have no lack of words or things to lift up before God. (We also found ourselves holding sample products and taking pictures at a business opening, but that is another story.)

That night we went back to the square and it was like a completely different town. We were meeting people. People liked us. God had opened the doors of the city to us.

That night we met a Mongolian teenage girl named Gowa. There was one girl in our group, Brook, who lived in this country and so she and Gowa went off around the square to look at things and to visit. After a while the guys and I all kind of got tired and were about ready to wind up the evening and go to the hotel.

The two girls were still off visiting, when all of the sudden I got this strong sense that we should pray for Gowa and Brook. I told this to the guys and we begin to pray.

Meanwhile over on the other side of the square Brook had tried several times to turn the conversation to spiritual things, but each time Gowa had seemed uninterested and would change the topic. Brook looked over toward our group and thought, “It looks like they are praying.” (Mind you, we were not bowing our heads or holding hands as that would have been the wrong action in the middle of the city square.)

Brook realized we were praying and then turned back to her conversation with Gowa. From out of the blue, Gowa turns to Brook and says with all sincerity, “How can I believe in Jesus?”

Gowa became our sister in the Lord that day, and I can trace it back very directly to prayer. First our prayer-walk through the city, second our prayer right before Gowa asked about Jesus. It was awesome and we were all pumped up about it. We encouraged her while we were there, and then Brook stayed in contact with her after we left.

I have always been grateful for that trip and for the clear evidence of God directing us to pray and then to His answer of our prayers. As I write this it makes me wonder why I do not pray more often. I think it is because often I do not see the answers to my prayers. It is much harder to pray when we are only able to see the results through faith.

As we rejoiced in the border town that day, I am sure there were other people whose prayers had an effect on Gowa, but the majority of them never saw it. There were all the people back in America who were praying for us. There were the prayers of the missionaries who had lived and traveled through those areas over a hundred years ago without having much fruit.

Our prayers have a huge impact on the Kingdom of God. Sometimes God is kind and allows us to see their results, but often times we can only see the results by faith. We need to spend more time doing just that. Praying and praying and praying… even when we do not see results… praying and believing that God is answering our prayers even when we do not see the results with our eyes.

What is the number one thing you could do to start praying more?

Bicycle “John”

I met a Chinese guy the other day and heard a great story of how he became a believer.  While his story was awesome there was something else that really struck me.

“John” was in his late 30s or early 40s and was biking from Yunnan to Tibet (1425 miles)  in southwest China. Along the way he stopped in a small poor village for a little break. While he was there he met a family from Canada with lots of children who lived there.  Somehow he found out they were Christians, I think they prayed when they stopped to eat.

It was just really moving to him to think about this Canadian family living somewhere so poor and giving up so much to be there.  In China, village life is hard and poor.  Everyone is trying to get out of the village and move to the city where the living conditions are better and there are more opportunities. Because of this, it was really moving for John as he realized what all this family was giving up in order to be there.

He continued on his way, very moved, but not changed. They didn’t send him on his way with a Bible or anything. Just that one interaction and a prayer before a meal  they shared together.

Three years later he was working at his university when one of his colleagues mentioned he didn’t work on Sunday mornings because he went to church. Immediately John remembered the family from Canada. He asked his colleague to take him to church, and John became a follower of Jesus.

A few years later he lead a trip with his church back to Yunnan. The people in Yunnan prepared the places they would go. Where did they end up at? Back in the village where he had met the Canadian family! In the village he met a pastor and many of the believers. It was amazing and refreshing.

I asked him, “Did you meet the family from Canada?”

He shook his head and said, “No.”

They had already went back to Canada.

It is a great story about his journey to being found by Jesus, but what moved me most today was to think about the family from Canada. They never knew what influence they had. They don’t know the fruit they bore. Maybe they saw lots of fruit in China, but it is quite possible they left not believing they had accomplished as much as they should have. They may not know they bore fruit in this man’s life who was just bicycling through town. Yet God used them, maybe in their strengths, but probably in their weaknesses, in their trials, and in their hardships of living in a poor area of China with lots kids.

It was a blessing from God to hear the story and be reminded that even if I don’t see the fruit I want to it doesn’t mean that I am bearing no fruit. It may very well be that God is using me in ways I don’t know to touch people’s lives.

The family from Canada doesn’t know they ever bore any fruit in John’s life… but God knows they did, and some day He will tell them!

What about you? Are you discouraged?  Remember God may be using you in ways you do not know.  Just be faithful to keep following Him…


You know every blog seems to start with the blogger talking about all the things they are going to do or not do with their blog.  Then about 4 posts later you never see anything else again. 🙂  Nevertheless, here is my manifesto on the goings on here on this site.

I have been greatly moved in the last few years by the stories of God.

First, there are God’s stories.  The ones He recorded for us His storybook called the Bible.  There are lots of great stories in there!  Some we know vaguely, others we know more thoroughly , but very rarely do we really take time to experience the story.  We rush through it or gloss over it looking for the spiritual truths there, or we dig in so deep to each jot and tittle trying to find the obscure meanings hidden inside the text.  However, we rarely ever stop and experience the story.  These are real stories.  They really happened.  There was really a certain expression on Jesus’s face when he said, “How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me”  We don’t know what that expression was, but it was really there.  I’m not opposed to digging into the stories, in fact that is good.  BUT I don’t want to dig in so deep that I miss the story itself.  Sometimes we are guilty of slicing up the Bible into such small bits that the people we are trying to help grow can no longer see the story.  God’s stories are great and we need to spend time just learning and experiencing them.

Second there are the stories of God.  The stories about what God is doing in people’s lives today all around the globe.  I think there is a lot to learn from these stories.  As we see what God is doing in people’s lives and we learn about how someone is following Jesus and applying His teachings it is encouraging to us.  I have often said, outside of the Bible, “The Spiritual Secret of Hudson Taylor” has been the most challenging book to my faith.  I have learned more and been more changed by that book than any other except the Bible.  My goal is to bring you more of these stories that will do the same for you.

A few years ago, I came to a point in my spiritual life where I realized God’s command to make disciples was one of His most important commands, and at the same time I realized I didn’t really know how to do that. That lead me on a several year journey of learning how to do that, and now it is one of the things I work on doing most intentionally.  It is also something I encourage others to do as well.  If we as the church were actually making disciples we wouldn’t have all of the problems that we do in the Church and in America. Lets learn to make disciples.

Lastly, as I am a follower of Jesus whom He has called overseas at various times I want to share some of those stories as well.  I love America.  I also love the rest of the world, and it breaks my heart to see so many places where they do not have access to the incredible news that Jesus has died for them and has paid for their sins.  It is our shame as a church that this situation still exists.

Lastly lastly, I’ll talk about whatever else grabs my attention at the moment that might be a work of encouragement or challenge in our life of following Jesus.  I hope you find in these pages encouragement to follow Jesus with all your heart and to surrender everything to Him.

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