Weeping for North Korea

This post below comes to you via a re-post of an article at the Desiring God Blog. I had a special interest in this article because, during my time of teaching at the Bible College of Wales (now Trinity School of Theology), we were continually stirred to call on God in prayer and intercession for North Korea. This was because we had quite a few students from South Korea.

To be honest, I don’t think about North Korea as much these days. So I am grateful for this article to refocus my prayers for that nation. So here is the article, which you can read the original version here:

Tonight for the first time in my life I wept for North Korea.

On the second night of the Third Lausanne Congress taking place in Cape Town, South Africa, an 18 year-old girl from North Korea shared her story.

She was born into a wealthy family, her father an assistant to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong II. Eventually her father’s political fortunes shifted, and after being politically persecuted by the North Korean government, he, his wife, and his daughter escaped to China.

In China a relative brought her family to church where her parents came to know Jesus Christ. A few months later, however, her pregnant mother died from Leukemia. Her father started to study the Bible with missionaries and eventually the Lord gave him a strong desire to become a missionary to North Korea. But in 2001 he was reported as a Christian, was arrested by the Chinese police, and was returned to North Korea. Forced to leave his daughter behind in China, he spent three years in prison. During this time the girl shared that it only “made my father’s faith stronger” and that he “cried out to God more desperately rather than complain or blame Him.

After three years he was able to return to China where he was briefly reunited with his daughter.  Soon after, however, he gathered Bibles having resolved to return to North Korea to share Christ among that hopeless people.  He was given the opportunity to go to South Korea, but he turned them down.

In 2006 he was discovered by the North Korean government and was arrested. There has since been no word from him. In all probability he has been shot to death publicly for treason.

In 2007 this girl, who at the time was not a Christian, was given the opportunity to go to South Korea. While still in China waiting at the Korean Consulate in Beijing to go to South Korea, she saw Jesus in a dream. Jesus, with tears in his eyes, called her by name and said, How much longer are you going to keep me waiting? Walk with me. Yes, you lost your earthly father, but I am your heavenly Father and whatever has happened to you is because I love you.

She knelt and prayed to God for the first time and realized that “God my Father loves and cares for me so very much that he sent his Son Jesus to die for me.” She prayed, “God here I am.  I just lay down everything and give you my heart, my soul, my mind, and my strength.  Please use me as you will.”

Now God has given her a great love for North Korea. She shared that, Just as my father was used there for God’s kingdom, I now desire to be obedient to God. I want to bring the love of Jesus to North Korea.

She closed with the following words:

I look back over my short life and see God’s hand everywhere. Six years in North Korea, 11 years in China, and a time of being in South Korea. Everything that I experienced and love, I want to give it all to God and use my life for His kingdom. I hope to honor my father and bring glory to my heavenly Father by serving God with my whole heart.

I believe God’s heart cries out for the lost people of North Korea.  I humbly ask you, my brothers and sisters, to have the same heart of God.  Please pray that the same light of God’s grace and mercy that reached my father and my mother and now me will one day come down upon the people of North Korea… my people.

How many of us so easily choose the path of comfort and safety. The path that is our answer to the question, “What is best for me?” But so many of those whom God has used to make some of the greatest Kingdom impact have been those who have not made decisions based on “what is best for me?” (at least “best” in a worldly sense). They made decisions, or perhaps for some it seemed like there was really no decision to make at all, based on an undeniable, unshakable, “illogical”, “foolish” passion for Jesus Christ and for His kingdom glory among the lost.

For this girl’s father there was a “safe” path before him.  The door was open for him to go to South Korea where there was political freedom and religious freedom, where he and his family could have been safe.  No prison, no persecution, no pain.  Instead he chose the path of danger that led him, Bibles in hand, back to North Korea, the homeland that he loved.

And now his daughter has determined to follow that same path.

Paul wrote the following words in 2 Corinthians 5:13-21.

If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

May God grant us the grace to serve with undeniable, unshakable, illogical, and foolish passion for Jesus Christ and His Kingdom glory among the lost.  And may we discover the joy in knowing that such a life is a part of the glorious answer to the question of what is truly best for me.

Reading Too Much

I saw this quote by John Newton over at Desiring God. Quite interesting.

It is far from my intention to depreciate the value or deny the usefulness of books, without exception: a few well-chosen treatises, carefully perused and thoroughly digested, will deserve and reward our pains; but a multiplicity of reading is seldom attended with a good effect.

Besides the confusion it often brings upon the judgment and memory, it occasions a vast expense of time, indisposes for close thinking, and keeps us poor, in the midst of seeming plenty, by reducing us to live upon a foreign supply, instead of labouring to improve and increase the stock of our own reflections.

– John Newton in his letter “A Plan of a Compendious Christian Library” (Works of John Newton, Volume 1, 236).

I am also reminded of these challenging words by the wise teacher of Ecclesiastes:

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Ecclesiastes 12:12b)

I love to read, theology and spiritual-devotional books. I love to study, especially theology. Even so much that, at times, I can find myself delighting in it above Him who is to be our greatest delight. Father, guard my heart. Father, guard our hearts

John Piper on Spiritual Gifts

Yesterday, John Piper posted an article of interest at his blog, Desiring God. He starts about by reminding us of nine different points to remember about spiritual gifts:

1. God wants us to know about spiritual gifts.

“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Corinthians 12:1).

2. Objective truths about Jesus govern subjective spiritual experiences.

“No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).

3. Different Christians have different spiritual powers given to them by the Holy Spirit.

“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:4).

4. For example, these different spiritual powers include the following:

“Wisdom . . . knowledge . . . faith  . . . healing . . . miracles . . . prophecy . . . ability to distinguish between spirits  . . . tongues . . . interpretation of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10).

5. The Spirit of God is sovereign over when and to whom he gives such powers.

“All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” (1 Corinthians 12:11).

6. The aim of all the gifts is the common good of the church.

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7).

7. The variety of gifts is like the variety of our body parts, such as eye and ear, hand and foot.

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:14).

8. Therefore, if a spiritual power is not used, it’s like the human body not hearing.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? (1 Corinthians 12:17).

9. Therefore, we should avail ourselves of the spiritual powers God gives us through others.

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’” (1 Corinthians 12:21).

But then Piper looks to specifically connect these truths with the reality of unanswered prayer. He lists some realities of why our prayers might go unanswered, yet he then shares some thoughts on a reason we may have never considered:

But here is a reason we may not think of very often. God may intend to give us the blessing we long for not directly in answer to prayer, but indirectly in answer to prayer—through the spiritual gifting of another believer. And the reason we don’t receive the blessing is that we don’t avail ourselves of the power God intends to channel through the gifts of his people.

Yes, the gifts of God are given for ‘the common good’ (1 Corinthians 12:7) and for building up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:26). Paul even challenges us to ‘strive to excel in building up the church’ (1 Corinthians 14:12).

So, whatever the gift, let us build one another up, and who knows, as Piper points out, that ministry expression through the spiritual gift might just be the answer to our petitions before God.

What Do Christ’s Afflications Lack?

No doubt, for the evangelical, the title of this article leaves one desiring an explanation. Christ’s afflictions, His suffering on the cross is fully sufficient for the salvation of mankind and forgiveness of sins, right? Of course Christ’s death is all-sufficient for mankind (see Hebrews 9:11-14). So, why the title? What does the title of this article refer to?

Well, let me first say that I love to frequent John Piper’s blog, Desiring God. I have always enjoyed the teachings of Piper, whether it be his messages or his writings. Therefore, as I was browsing the Desiring God blog the other day, I discovered a very powerful message. The title of this particular blog article is actually the title of that recently discovered message on Piper’s blog. What was the message about? It was delivered at a recent mission’s conference and was specifically based around Paul’s words found in Colossians 1:24:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.

So, what do these somewhat enigmatic words of Paul mean? Click here to listen to the message, download, watch the video, or download his notes. I hope you are challenged as much as I.