“By This Shall All Men Know Ye Are My Disciples…”
While in Bangkok I needed a place to prepare my messages and found just the spot in the office of the Center for East Asian Religions, one of the General Conference study centers dedicated to learning how we can best share the message of hope in Christ with those of other faiths. The director was sharing about the upcoming conference they were having, which I had written off for various reasons, time and money being the main ones, but as I listened I realized I needed to pray about attending. Well, I am so grateful I went as a rich blessing was gained. Many people from ten countries were there and shared what the Lord has been doing all over Asia in ministering to Buddhists and others. We had set aside three times throughout the day for united prayer and I was blessed with an open mind and a realization that trying to share Christ here the same way we do in America is not going to work.
Christ said in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” So often, we want to show we are His disciples by how much we know, at least I did. It is easier to talk about a belief or a religion than to live it, but when the people you are seeking to serve are under the belief that your feelings dictate what is true, the Buddhist philosophy, then any amount of information will not make up for the experiences of their past. Only seeing the message will bring home the truth. The Buddhists here who know about Christians see them as a group that feel they don’t have to be good people, who can do whatever they want and still receive the promised blessing now because Jesus saved them. Far from the truth, but this is what the Christians they meet are ‘preaching’ by their lives. The theme of the conference was ‘Hosting Personal Encounters with God’ and isn’t that what we are called to do? We are called to be His body; we are the ones He wants to use to reveal Himself to the world, but if we are so focused on our arguments and knowledge and not connected to Him, then how will anyone see Christ in us? We have to be the medium in which Christ is able to connect with those who don’t know Him yet. I know what many are thinking; “obvious statement” “easy to say, harder to do”. That is very true, but we MUST do it, or all our efforts will be useless.
So often we start out strong, seeking God and desiring Him to work through us, being humble because we have little knowledge. But we grow in our understanding of the Bible and start gaining confidence in ourselves. Then what happens when things get challenging and our faith is tried? We fall into the trap of relying on our own wisdom and understanding. We take more time in preparing a sermon/Bible study to share with others than we do praying that God will guide us and the ones we are sharing with. This is backward. When we truly understand just how little our part is in the whole plan of salvation, we will stop working so hard in our own strength and will spend more time in surrendered prayer, seeking for Him to work out consecrated service through our lives, following Him as He leads.
Being here in Thailand, realizing that all I know about the Bible means nothing to 98% of the people, is a humbling experience. While it has taken a long time for the realization to sink in, it is slowly making an impact. Love is how we are going to reach the world. In this conference, it was discussed that different approaches need to be taken in different cultures, and while that is true to a degree, full surrender to Christ and allowing Him to love people, in a practical, as well as spiritual, way, through us, is something that is cross-cultural and will be of greatest value.
I am not sure what each of your ministries are, but I ask you to evaluate the service you give the Lord and ask yourself if the focus of your labor is more toward converting peoples minds through information, or if the focus is on the heart through love. We have a very unique message as Seventh-Day Adventists and it does have a lot of information. I am not saying that is not important, but taking the statement that “the truth shall set you free” and applying that simply to sharing information is a misuse of the text. Christ IS “the Truth” and He sets us free through a relationship with Him, not just knowing ‘about’ Him. May we seek for greater service from and for the heart and be granted the ability to see where we are laboring to receive glory for ourselves and the humility to accept that realization and seek God to change us for His glory.
Please pray for us as we continue to seek the Lord’s guidance for the direction of our ministry as well as our health Burn season has begun in the north and the pollution level is at dangerous levels according to the weather. We have purchased a filtration machine but it is only big enough to use in one room. Please pray that Asher, our son, will not have complications from the smoke. Also, that God will grant us a greater love for the people here and we can build deeper, more meaningful, relationships.
From our heart in love,
Jessica, Brian and Asher (Bangkok Project, Thailand)
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;