Earth's City Lights

In light of (no pun intended) the power outages around Kentucky this week, I thought this picture was pretty fascinating.  Over 100 years have gone by since the invention of the lightbulb, but as you can see many areas of the world remain thinly populated and unlit.  Yet it comes as no suprise that the United States is well lit and urbanized much like Europe.

What shocked me most about this picture, however, is that some of the most lighted countries are most spiritually dark.  I already mentioned the U.S. and Europe, (which are becoming increasingly secular) but look at Japan for example.  My twin brother, a missionary in Japan, has told me that this country is only 1% Christian.  Clearly urbanization does not equal salvation.  But, like many have noted, we must reach these urban areas for Christ since they are the hubs (if you will) for the rest of the world. 

Just think if these bright, well lit cities of the world, would actually become the “lights of the world?”  Imagine the impact.  So let us think globally and act locally–doing whatever we can where God has us now and praying all the while for the well lit, dark cities of the world.

  • Read this post by Al Mohler called “A Reflection On Our Electric Lives”

Today I got a little hungry for Christian biography.  So, I went into our church library, browsed for awhile, and finally pulled off the shelf, The Story of John G. Paton.  I had heard about this missionary before but never read the full story of this man who was called by Spurgeon, “The King of the Cannibals.”  

So far I’ve been most influenced by Paton’s father.  What an example he was to his kids.  Look below and learn from this dad in the way he prayed, disciplined his children, and loved his wife.  He may be dead, but his legacy lives on. 


His Prayers

John and his brothers and sisters often heard their father praying for their salvation, as well as for the heathen people in distant lands who had never heard the gospel.  Even when he was still only a young boy John began to cherish the hope that one day he might, by God’s grace, have the privilege of taking the gospel to some part of the world where the inhabitants lived without the knowledge of Christ.

His Discipline

Of course, there were times when one or more of the children had to be punished.  When that happened John’s father would first go to his ‘sanctuary’ and there pray for God’s wisdom that he might do what is right.  Then before dealing out the punishment he would carefully explain the reason for what he was about to do.

His Love for His Wife

John’s mum and dad truly loved each other and their love filled the home with great joy.

My twin brother, Mark, and his family will return to Japan next week.  This is a picture of him speaking at my parents’ church in Iowa.  Please pray that God would continue to embolden Mark and Maki to share the love of Christ to the Japanese people.  If you’re interested in getting Mark’s email updates about his ministry in Japan, please let me know.  You can also visit his blog here.

This morning I said “good bye” to my twin brother, Mark.  We had a great time together, but it was very hard to hug him and then watch him drive away. 

As many of you know, Mark, and his wife Maki, are missionaries in Japan.  They have a son named Noah and are now on furlough for a few more weeks in the States. 

Last night they spoke at my church about what God is doing in their lives and ministry.  One of the big things I continue to learn from Mark is the power of relationships in evangelism.  Both he and Maki make it a priority to open up their home and their hearts to the lost.  Most Japanese feel unaccepted and unloved so Mark and Maki try to build friendships of care and trust that often grow into conversations about Jesus.  They also believe that true discipleship happens best in smaller environments (one to one, small groups, inviting families over for dinner, etc.)  Ironically, I share a similar passion–hence the title of this blog–Life Together so that others may live.

Though we often hear missionaries tell their amazing stories of what God is doing, it was also refreshing to hear that Mark and Maki have their struggles too.  Both of them admitted their weakness and dependence on God in reaching the Japanese people.

All in all, I’m so glad we got to see them again.  Mark and I had fun remembering our younger years.  It’s amazing how much we shared together.  From silly little songs and shows we watched on T.V., to our similar stories in how God brought us to himself, we share a lot of memories. 

One person in our church asked me, “It must be tough to have a twin brother that lives so far away.”  I agreed.  It is tough.  In fact, I don’t know the next time I’ll see him again.  But I thank God for my twin brother and fellow partner in the gospel.  After all, there is coming a day when we can hang out forever together with no time restraints, but until that day we must be about building Christ’s kingdom.

Sometimes we forget that we are in a war.  It’s easy to remain unaware and therefore unaffected by the ongoing turbulence and fighting overseas.  Indeed, the “War on Terror” is not all that terrifying as we sit down each night in our comfortable lazyboy chairs watching America’s Got Talent

But we are at war.  Each day people are being killed.  Though we can’t see it, it’s happening.  The same is true in the spirtiual realm.  It’s easy to forget that we are at war–a war that is far greater than any we have studied in our history books.

Paul told Timothy to “fight the good fight” (1 Tim. 6:12) and to “wage the good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18).  He also said to “put on the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:11) because the kind of war we fight in is “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

Life is war.  But, as John Piper says in his book Let the Nations Be Glad,

Most people do not believe this in their heart.  Most people show by their priorities and their casual approach to spiritual things that they believe we are in peacetime not wartime.

In wartime, life is different.  At least it used to be different.  Last week we had a “family movie night,” and we watched a movie called, Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front.  My girls loved it and so did we.  Here’s a brief description of the movie:

Growing up during World War Two, Molly experiences many changes. Her dad is overseas caring for wounded soldiers, her mom takes a job at the local aircraft assembly plant, and Emily, an English girl, comes to stay with Molly’s family to escape the bombing in London. Through it all, Molly rallies hope for her family and friends and learns the importance of pulling together—just as her country must do to win the war.

I’m so glad we watched this movie together.  It showed me what a wartime mindset looks like.  During World War II people united together.  They made sacrifices.  They lived on less.  They asked, “How can we help?”  They knew there was no time to think about themselves and all that they needed because there was a greater need, a greater cause bigger than them.

I wonder what it would look like if we really took on a wartime mindset in our churches.  Think about it.  If everyone knew that there was a real spiritual battle where the casualties of this war would not just lose their lives but enter hell and everlasting punishment, how would it change us?  If we really knew we were living in wartime and everybody was affected, would we come together as a close community and volunteer to serve wherever we could?  Would we spend our money differently–living on less so that others could be freed up to go and take the gospel to the hard places around the world?  And would we think of this not as a duty but a joy and honor to follow after the One who laid down his life for us?

If we want our churches to change we must change first.  I must change first.  I want a wartime mindset.  I know I’m too comfortable.  But what does it look like to live this way?  I’ll let Ralph D. Winter answer that question with this challenging word:

The essential tactic to adopt a wartime lifestyle is to build on pioneer mission perspective and to do so by a very simple and dramatic method.  Those who are awakenend from the grogginess and stupor of our times can, of course, go as missionaries.  But they can also stay home and deliberately and decisively adopt at missionary support level as their standard of living and their basis of lifestyle, regardless of their income.

Todd Heistand, pastor at The Well in Philadelphia, has put together a helpful outline and powerpoint for a class he recently taught to his church called, Introduction to the Missional Church.  He says, “it’s basically a very broad overview of the topic and a crash course in how we do things at The Well.”

No, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth!  I’m vacationing with my family in good ole’ Iowa.  As you may have noticed, blogging will be minimal so I can maximize the time with everyone here.  Most of all, I’m looking forward to seeing my twin brother, Mark, and his family who are flying in from Japan on Thursday.  Mark is passionate about missions and reaching this world for Christ.  He and his wife, Maki, will stay in the states for six weeks and speak at my church on August 3rd.  Take a look at their blog, pray for them, and if you’re a member of LBC plan on attending the Sunday night service in August.

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