What More Can We Do To Help Persecuted Believers? How About This: Stop Sinning

WLO_visitremember“I’m praying, I’m giving financially, but I really want to know: What more can I do to help persecuted believers?”

I get that question a lot when I speak about North Korean underground believers at conferences on Christian persecution.

Hebrews 12:1-2 offers a unexpected answer: Stop sinning.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

This is actually a corollary of rather than an alternative to Hebrews 13:3, which says, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”

In other words, if we really were in prison with persecuted believers, one of the things we (hopefully) wouldn’t be doing is regularly giving in to our besetting sins.

So if we are regularly giving in to our besetting sins at present, that’s a sign that we’re not preparing seriously for persecution…which is a sign that we are not taking the suffering of our brothers and sisters seriously.

“Yes,” we may say. “But I really want to do something to help them.” 

Good. And that’s of course why we should not neglect prayers and financial support.

But imagine if you were a persecuted Christian, and you received a steady flow of letters from fellow believers around the world saying, “Your suffering has caused me to get serious about my Christian life. You have inspired me to throw off every weight and lay aside every sin that so easily besets me and instead run with perseverance the race God has set out for me.”

What greater help could we give a persecuted brother or sister than to let them know how God is using their life to disciple and bless many in the wider body of Christ?

Posted in Visiting and Remembering | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Need More Help To Memorize Scripture? How About The Topical Memory System?

WLO_searchingscripturesOut of all the blog posts I (Pastor Tim) have written, which by the way isn’t very many (163 to be exact), I was surprised to find out what my most popular post is.

Far and away, it is a post I wrote in December 2013 entitled A Unique Way to Memorize Scripture. Needless to say, it is quite encouraging to see the level of continuing interest in Bible memorization despite the overall decline in biblical literacy in the Western Church.

A little over two years ago, I was convicted when I saw the example of the North Korean underground church. Most Christians in North Korea have almost no access to the Scriptures, but when they do receive a verse or two they immediately commit it to memory. Since that point my family has tried to memorize a different Scripture passage every week, often reviewing the passages on a yearly basis to ensure that we’ve really memorized them for the long-term.

That being said, I certainly haven’t learned any method that makes the practice effortless! That’s why I’m always on the lookout for helpful hints and encouragement from others.

Matthew Johnson from Seedbed.com recently wrote a blog post on why he started memorizing scripture. In it he referenced the Topical Memory System (TMS) as a great place to start. TMS was started by the Navigators as an easy-to-use system to help believers memorize Scripture verses. It divides the Bible into key topics and gives a list of Scripture verses for each topic. For example, under the topic of “Proclaiming Christ” is listed Romans 3:23, Isaiah 53:6 and Romans 6:23, among many others. If you buy the official TMS it comes with perforated cards to help your memorization.

There are some similarities between the TMS method and the way my family has memorized Scripture the past 2 years. We’ve studied a different topic area each month (we organize Scriptures by Work of Mercy) and memorized Scripture passages related to those topics.

But one of the dangers I see with the Topical Memory System is memorizing Scripture verses out of context or with no context at all.  My friend from Bible College, Michael Surran said,

Many Christians treat the Bible as a buffet. They go straight to the “promise” verses, you know, the “ask and you shall receive” verses. Like a buffet, they’ll take two or three helpings from the promise “table”, but you won’t see them anywhere near the “we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God” table. It’s human nature – many of us find the dessert bar much more attractive than the salad bar. But it is also very dangerous.

My own remedy for this problem is memorizing whole passages of Scripture rather than just individual Scripture verses. For example, instead of memorizing Isaiah 53:6, we memorize all 12 verses of Isaiah 53. It sure seems like a lot, but I bet you’ll be surprised that memorizing a passage of Scripture does not take much more time than memorizing a single verse.

This past month my family was studying discipleship. We memorized three passages related to making disciples (2 Kings 2:1-15, Matthew 28:16-20, Luke 9:57-62). Along with memorizing passages, we’ll also often read the chapters before and after to understand what is truly happening.

Matthew Johnson said these words about Scripture memorization, but they might as well have been my own.

I began following Christ when I was 15 so it took me nearly twenty years before I got into this discipline, but it has been one of the most rewarding practices I have ever experienced and I would love for you to join me in hiding God’s word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).

Posted in Making Disciples, Preparation | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

A North Korean Defector Realizes Years Later Her Father Was An Underground Christian. His Breakfast Spoon Was The Giveaway.

WLO_prayingFrequently North Korean defectors in South Korea will look back on peculiar behaviors of parents and grandparents in North Korea and realize with great astonishment that their family members were actually underground Christians.

JBM, one of our Underground Technology students, recently shared just such a story with us. Think on this as you eat your breakfast this morning and your children or grandchildren silently observe your behavior:

My father studied medicine at [X] University in Japan. After he graduated, he opened a hospital in [NK city] and worked as a health minister in NK. My mother was a housewife. Because of my father’s background, I lived well when I was young and had enough food to eat. My mother was also from an educated family. Because my father was a doctor, he was respected by many people. During that time, the Korean War occurred and we ended up being separated from my father and we did not have any news about him. I was left with with my mother and sisters and my brothers were left with my grandmother. We had to be scattered and live separately. From that moment on, we had no contact with my father and even now we do not know what happened to him.

Whenever I remember my father, one thing always comes to my mind. My father always closed his eyes and said something while holding a spoon before he would have a meal. I was just five years old at that time, so I did not know what he was doing. However, now I know that he was praying to God before having a meal, and the song he used to sing was a praise song to God. After I came to SK, I realized that the song is from a hymn. The lyrics were “make me whiter than snow,” and I found it in a hymn book. I was so surprised to hear the song the first time in SK that I shouted, “Oh, this is the song my father used to sing before!” Also, one of my relatives was an elder in the church who was killed in the war. I thought that his name was Elder, but later I came to know his duty in church was as an elder.

With my first daughter’s help, I came to SK through Mongolia. I did not know about God, but I just blindly folded my hands and prayed for my safety. It was the winter season and I suffered from frostbite. There was one NK man in my group of defectors who was a Christian. He was always praying to God and told us to believe in God. His words encouraged me a lot. After I came to SK, I came to know more about God and had the desire to be close to him and know his Word more. I realized that it was all the blessing of God throughout my life in NK and it touched my heart and encouraged me.

Perhaps it gives you a little insight into what (or, perhaps more accurately, who) the father was praying for as he held his spoon and called on his God as his world and family life were slipping out of his human grasp. And perhaps you will note that God answered, decades later, in another country, long after the pray-er was silenced.

Because God never forgets what we pray. And he answers more frequently than we can imagine, just beyond the reach of our awareness, patience, and control.

Posted in North Korea | Tagged , , | 10 Comments