Our mission: To ensure that the voice of the martyrs never falls silent…

The mission of Voice of the Martyrs Korea is to ensure that the voice of the martyrs never falls silent but is instead carried forward in our own voices and lived out in our own lives.

By “martyr”, we mean the faithful witnesses to God in Christ across all geography and history who “loved not their life even unto death” (Rev. 12:11, ASV). By “voice”, we mean the teachings, sermons, and testimonies of these faithful witnesses. This extends back to the Scripture itself. God did not cause the Bible to suddenly descend from heaven, complete. Instead, he gave us his inerrant, inspired word through faithful witnesses. That word even uses the name “the faithful witness” to describe Christ himself (Rev. 1:5), which shows the centrality of faithful witness to the Christian life. While only the Scripture itself is the inspired, inerrant word of God, Scripture teaches that the testimony of faithful witnesses—the voice of the martyrs—is an essential part of how God equips the church to triumph over the accuser (Revelation 12:11).

In our fallen world, faithful witness to Christ can indeed entail death. But it is important to remember that for Christians, martyrdom is not focused on death. It is focused on faithful witness. The Greek word, martyr, means witness. That is why the mission of Voice of the Martyrs is not to report on acts of violence against Christians, nor simply to pray for survivors. Instead, our mission is to make sure that the voice of the martyrs is never silenced by the violence enacted against their faithful witness.

Rev. Richard Wurmbrand, the global founder of Voice of the Martyrs, was a faithful witness for Christ in Communist Romania. He wrote the story of a fellow inmate in prison. Although a prisoner, this man was preaching. Guards dragged him out of the cell, beat him, and threw him back in the cell. But the man picked himself up, dusted himself off, and said, “Now where was I?”

Sometimes faithful witnesses are not able to return to where they left off because of murder, torture, or imprisonment. Voice of the Martyrs Korea picks up where they leave off: seeking out the words of these martyrs and finding ways to keep their words alive in the places and languages where they were first spoken. We also translate the messages into Korean, English, and Chinese so that those words can find new hearing in our lives as well.

This work also takes us across history. Sometimes the voice of the martyrs is simply forgotten with the passage of time, or neglected as the church struggles to remember what it once knew. That is especially true in the case of the early Korean Christian martyrs, who, though still honored by Korean Christians, are rarely heard as important voices in church gatherings or everyday life. Through preaching their words in our Covenant Renewal services and radio broadcasts, and through sharing their teachings in our Underground University and discipleship training programs and resources, we foster the renewal of the martyrs’ spirit in the church in Korea. Through partaking of the Lord’s Supper whenever we gather, we remember that we are one body in Christ with these early Korean Christians and with all those who faithfully died in Christ before us.

There are three reasons why we undertake this mission:

First, we can never be the true church unless we are one body with all believers across all of geography and history, speaking in one voice and one witness with them. Think of martyrdom as a cross. The horizontal bar of the cross represents the martyrs around the world today. The vertical bar of the cross represents martyrs throughout history. The witness of the church across geography and history is our treasure and responsibility, and we are held accountable by God for its stewardship and transmission.

Second, we grow to fullness in Christ as we make the voice of the martyrs our own voice. All who follow Christ are called to martyrdom. Whether or not we ever face physical persecution and death is in the Lord’s hands, but is certain that when we commit to follow him, we covenant to die to ourselves and the world and be alive only to him. Thus, martyrs are produced not by acts of violence but by the waters of baptism. How do we learn to live the life of the faithful witness? By carrying forward as our own personal witness the witness that Christ has entrusted to the church across all geography and history.

Third, it is God who keeps the voice of the martyrs alive. When we join him in that work, we are privileged to serve as his instruments. Scripture says that God never forgets a faithful witness. Psalm 116:15, says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” Even though the world seems to be able to silence faithful witnesses to Christ, God ensures that their voices will reverberate throughout the world until the end of time. As 1 John 2:17 says: “The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.” God does not call on us to idolize the martyrs or memorialize their lives in museums. Rather, he calls on us to “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also” (Hebrews 13:3, NKJV). Even when their bodies die, we are “chained” together with the martyrs and their message in the one body of Christ. Through these “chains”, we are honored to be able to be a means by which God keeps the voice of the martyrs alive: first, in our own lives; second, in our homes; third, among the believers with whom we fellowship; fourth, among the Christians in our nation and around the world; and fifth, as faithful witnesses to those who do not yet know Christ, but for whom he died.

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Why Does God Not Fulfill Some Promises?

To watch other Voice of the Martyrs videos, visit the Voice of the Martyrs Video Page!

 

Acts 16

Imagine for a moment that you are Timothy.

You’ve given up everything to follow Paul as he follows the Lord. After being circumcised and saying farewell to your parents, you take to the road with Paul and Silas. Along your journey, you visit groups of believers from around the world and share with them instructions from apostles and elders in Jerusalem.

At first, the experience is exhilarating.  Every step of the way, you are being instructed by Paul, Silas, and the global Christian community. You watch in awe as your mentors direct their steps according to the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit. Although you are still a student and several things about Christianity remain elusive, your faith has never seemed so alive! Like Peter, John, and James on the mount of transfiguration, you want to stay awash in Christ’s glory forever.

But then Paul has a vision.

When Paul first tells you and Silas about the vision, you are all excited. Recently on your journey, Paul and Silas were barred from visiting Asia or Bithynia by the Holy Spirit. For a while, you had no idea where you were headed. Now, however, Paul has been given a destination.

In the dead of night, Paul saw a vision of a Macedonian man begging him for help. So the three of you set course for Macedonia right away.

The three of you arrive in Philippi, the largest city in Macedonia, with great hope. Through Paul’s vision, God led you to Macedonia, so you figure that God must have great plans for this city. After everything that you’ve seen on your travels with Paul and Silas, you can’t wait to see what he has in store!

Within a matter of days, however, Paul and Silas have been dragged from the marketplace, stripped, beaten, and humiliated in the stocks. Now that evening has fallen, Paul and Silas have been taken off to prison and you, Timothy, are left behind to contemplate these recent events.

If God had led Paul to Macedonia and Paul had faithfully followed his instructions, why had Paul and Silas been arrested?

Why had God’s promises turned sour?

This is a question that both North Koreans and Eritreans are all too familiar with. These brothers and sisters find that sometimes the only reward for faithfully serving the Lord has been prison or persecution. Scripture has told them that their God is the God of miracles, the God of healing, and the God that is bigger and more powerful than any government. Yet these brothers and sisters often find themselves in situations where all of the promises of scripture seem false.

If God is who the scriptures say he is, why do his children find themselves in situations like this?

Standing before a crowd of our North Korean Underground University and Underground Technology students, Pastor Temesgen, an Eritrean pastor who has suffered much for his faith, said this: “Even if we are in a bad situation, we must give praise to God.”

Pastor Temesgen was not speaking empty words. Although Eritrea is not as infamous as North Korea, it is a country that takes pride in being called the “North Korea of Africa.” It is a small country, but it is one of the biggest offenders of human rights worldwide—especially when it comes to Christianity.

Eritrea and North Korea are very similar—namely, because the Eritrea government purposely tries to emulate North Korea. There has never been an election in Eritrea, as the country only allows for one political party: People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). This party is vehemently opposed to the West, and has a history of befriending countries with equally nefarious human rights records (North Korea, Communist Russia, Fidel Castro’s Cuba, etc.).

Since Eritrea has repeatedly postponed the creation of constitutional clauses pertaining to individual freedom, the people of Eritrea can be arrested and imprisoned at any time and for any reason. There is a forced and indefinite conscription into the army. Citizens are denied any form of independent media, which limits their source of information to the government’s official channels.

Just as North Korean defectors are constantly trickling into China, Eritrean defectors find ways to cross the border into Ethiopia. Crossing the border in both cases is incredibly dangerous, and so potential defectors often seek help from brokers and smugglers. Unlike North Korean defectors, however, Eritrean defectors do not receive a stipend from the government upon arriving at their destination. Eritrean defectors are tossed into a shanty town, where they are forced to build houses from mud and straw. Conditions are squalid and, despite the government’s best efforts, the defectors are often underfed.

Suffering is an old and familiar friend to Pastor Temesgen. But—just like Paul, Silas, and Timothy—Pastor Temesgen tells us that we must give thanks to God in the midst of our suffering.

“Even though Christians who defect from Eritrea have no food, they still give thanks to God because their faith is strong,” Pastor Temesgen told our North Korean students.

Although Paul and Silas may not have expected to wind up in prison, scripture tells us that they worshipped while all the other prisoners were sleeping. Just as Paul and Silas were ignorant of their imprisonment when they followed God into Macedonia, they were now ignorant that God would soon release them. Yet, they worshipped.

“We need to remember that at five in the morning, the world is always very dark, but one hour later, the sun lights up the world,” Pastor Temesgen reminded the students. “So when you are in a dark time, give thanks to God. He will bring the sun again.”

How do we know that the sun is coming? Because we know God’s character. We have learned about God’s character from Paul and Silas’ experience in Macedonia. But we have also learned about God’s character from the experiences of our brothers and sisters from around the world.

“It is true that many Christians in Eritrea are sent to prison,” Pastor Temesgen explained. “But it is also true that God has used these Christians to transform prisons into churches.”

When Christians are imprisoned and they remember to faithfully give thanks even in the darkest of circumstances, others notice. Eritrean prisoners are always drawn to Christian prisoners because of their unconditional joy. Even prison guards are drawn in by the Christian prisoners. Pastor Temesgen has seen both prisoner and guard alike becoming missionaries and pastors—all because Christians were sent to jail.

This was Paul and Silas’ experience as well. Because of their witness, they were not only able to impress their fellow prisoners, but were also able to impress the same guard who had so emotionlessly put them in the stocks.

“Governments can bind a body into prison, but they can never bind the gospel,” Pastor Temesgen said.

When Pastor Temesgen speaks of God’s work in Eritrea, it is easy to see God moving. However, what about North Korea?

“Compared to North Korea, Eritrea is more open. That is why you hear more stories about God moving in Eritrea than in North Korea. However, when North Korea opens, I know we will hear many stories about how God was moving in North Korea, too,” Pastor Temesgen promised the students.

Whether we are Christians imprisoned at the time of Acts, underground North Korean believers, or Christians in the free world, we must remember to give thanks to God in every circumstance. When we do this, we remind the world—and ourselves—that God is moving in every place, in everyone, and in every time.

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How to Not Be a Goat on Judgment Day

To watch other Voice of the Martyrs videos, visit the Voice of the Martyrs Video Page!

 

Matthew 25:31-46

In Matthew 23, Jesus isn’t just frustrated with the Pharisees; he’s frustrated with religious people as a whole (see this blog for a better explanation). Instead of rebuking the Pharisees for being ignorant of the law, or for not following it, Jesus calls them hypocrites and rebukes them for “[washing] the outside of [their] cups and dishes, but leaving the inside with nothing but greed and selfishness” (Matthew 23:25).

In other words, Jesus is frustrated that the Pharisees know and follow the law but refuse to allow their hearts to be changed by it.

We, too, fall victim to this sin when we reduce Christianity to a mere checklist of Christ’s commands. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.”

Christianity is not about perfecting one’s own actions, but about allowing God to shape one’s own heart in the way he sees fit.

The Nicene Creed tells us that God is “the Creator of Heaven and Earth,” and the scripture tells us that in the beginning, God created mankind—with his own hands and breath—in his own image. However, we should note that God’s idea of creation is very different from our own.

When human beings create, we (1) often toss aside creations-in-progress that we feel are “irredeemable,” and (2) gradually lose interest in creations after they are completed. Even the best foods are eventually forgotten, and the newest cell phones are eventually tossed aside in favor of new and improved models.  Furniture and clothes are disposed of when old or even “unfashionable.”

Creation, to God, however, is a continuous process. He does not create human beings as wind-up toys, content to wind them up once and watch as they walk about until their energy dissipates.  Rather, as Paul says in Acts 17:28, “in him, we live and move and have our being.” Our every heartbeat is proof that God’s hands—the hands of the potter (Isaiah 64:8)—are still shaping us. If God removed his hands from us—for even a moment—we would cease to exist.

Human potters spend their days hunched over hunks of dead clay. This clay lifelessly submits to the direction of the potter’s hands. If the resulting pottery is marred, the fault lies squarely on the potter’s shoulders: dead clay cannot sculpt itself.

God, however, is a potter who lovingly sculpts living clay. Unlike the human potter, God has imbued his medium with the freedom to choose whether it will submit to his direction or not. When his fingers attempt to carve pieces of us away, for example, we, unlike the dead clay, are able to resist his instruction. When God’s hands press on us, we can submit, or we can choose to join our cry with Satan’s, claiming that we are no man’s servant; that we will be shaped by no hands but our own.

Whatever we choose, we will always be clay—and clay cannot shape itself.

Whether we are a saint, a devil, or anyone in between, we need to realize that all we are is clay. We can choose, like the saint, to submit to God’s hands. Or, like the devil, we can choose to resist. Resisting, however, does not make us independent—our every breath reveals that God is continuing to support us despite our rebellion.

Whether we accept God’s guiding hand or not, our finished form will always reflect our father: Depending on our choices, we will look like our father, God, or our father, the Devil.

However, in the meantime, “what we will be has not yet been made known” (1 John 3:2). It’s never too late to do the right thing. Even if we’ve made a mess of our lives, God can sculpt us into something beautiful—regardless of how little time remains.

Since every single one of us is clay in the hands of a potter, and we can all choose to bend (or object) to the potter’s whims, God expects us to treat one another in a certain way. As Christians, we must see other people as unbelievably valuable because they are not only created in the image of God but are constantly being created by him.

There is a reason why Victor Hugo once said, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

However, even God’s creation process is not infinite.

There will come a day when we are no longer able to choose between submission and rebellion. On this day, we will be judged, and (as our scripture this week, Matthew 25:31-46, says) we will be given the inheritance of the father we chose. God’s children are given his kingdom, but the devil’s children inherit nothing but “the eternal fire.”

How, then, are we judged?

Jesus does not say that people are judged according to their good deeds. There are no scales of justice (Egyptian mythology) or scale of deeds (Islam) in Christianity by which Jesus judges our heart according to the amount of good we did versus the bad. However, Jesus also does not say that we are saved solely by our belief in him. In fact, in Matthew 7:22, Jesus tells us that many people who believe in him—and who even prophesied in his name!—will face the same punishment and those who do.

What we are judged by, however, is our heart.

It is interesting to note the goats’ response to Jesus in this chapter. Not only do they not repent of their sin, but they demand that the Lord tell them when they neglected to minister to him. Almost as if they had been feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting people in prison and fulfilling any number of Christ’s own commands. One can almost see the Pharisees in this group, insisting that they fulfilled every one of God’s 613 commandments.

Simply feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting prisoners is not enough to warrant sheep status. Doing these things is “washing” only the outside of our hearts and it’s the inside that we need to wash most.

God puts in us a new heart for anyone willing to receive Christ—but how do we know that we have received this heart? If we look at the hungry, the naked, and the prisoner and see not a pitiable or contemptable person, but someone who is in the process of being created, then we know we have taken our first steps into receiving this heart.

No matter how useless, how horrid, or even how evil someone else seems, our new heart will see the very face of Christ.

When we see Christ in the face of others, it’s impossible to remain indifferent. To the hungry, we’ll give food; to the naked, we’ll give clothing; to the prisoners, we’ll give our time and love—even if we don’t know anything about them. We’ll do this not because we’re good people or because we’re kind, but simply because, no matter how broken they are, we can see the image of God shining through them.

Instead of cursing and judging others, we realize the truth of what Paul said in Romans 14:4: “Who are you to judge the servants of someone else? It is their own Master who decides whether they succeed or fail.”

God judges us according to how we judge other people. If we judge harshly, God’s judgement of us will be harsh, too.

The sheep are not the people who did everything right. They aren’t the people who dedicated the most time their church. They’re not even the people who knew the most about the Bible. The sheep are simply the people who, because of the new heart put in them by Christ, looked at the “foolish,” “worthless,” and “irredeemable” people of the world and found their hearts filled with love.

When they fed the hungry, they fed Christ. When they clothed the naked, they clothed Christ. When they visited the prisoner, they visited Christ.

The goats, however, may have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the prisoner, but they never did any of these things to Christ.

If we simply feed the hungry because we are commanded to (or even simply because we pity them), our help will not be effective. We will pass a can of beans to a homeless man who is too poor to afford a can opener, we will fill food banks with nutrition-less foods, or we will refuse to form deep relationships with any of the homeless people at the homeless shelter we volunteer at every week.

The person who sees Christ in those who are hungry, however, sees a friend in need. They will provide not just a meal, but a relationship. They will take the hungry man to a sit-down restaurant instead of passing him a can of beans; they will cook meals for the poor family that lives nearby, and they will form relationships with the men and women at the homeless shelter at which they volunteer.

And they will never consider this action to be “enough.” In fact, people who see Christ in others almost always think that they have not done enough. After all, Christ died for them while they were still Christ’s enemy! How could something as small as taking Christ to a restaurant begin to covering everything that he’s done for us!

What frustrated Jesus about the Pharisees wasn’t their adherence to the law; it was the fact that they were using the law to escape God’s guiding hand. Feeding the hungry is easy; seeing Christ in the hungry, and supporting God’s creative hand in their lives, is the surprising criterion of judgement, according to the words of Christ.

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