The Harvest field

Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, and then comes the harvest ‘? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white for harvest.

When we think about the state of the world, we may see all the sin, all the terribleness, all the falleness. It seems like the world is becoming more and more distant from God, growing colder and colder toward God. And society is becoming more and more godless.

Watching the news, hearing about kids and their destructive sinful behaviors and patterns – it is easy to become discouraged and become hopeless.
Yet, I believe there is a harvest out there.

Jesus said “Look!”
“Lift up your eyes and look
the fields are ripe for harvest.”

Another place He says “The Harvest is Plentiful.

There is fruit. There are people out there ready to receive the Gospel, ready to follow Jesus. ready to give their lives to God.

Here are a couple stories:

A girl made the decision to invite Christ into her life recently… she shared…how she’s believed in God her whole life, despite teachers and society telling her that God isn’t real.

She said that before believing in Jesus, it was like the lights in a room were on, giving small spaces of light in the darkness of life. These were the God’s laws of the universe – like gravity, chaos, or creation. They showed her small parts of the picture. But after being introduced to Jesus, the living Word of God, it was like the sun began to shine in her life and she could see everything clearly.

…she wrote accepting Jesus into her life was the best thing that happened to her this year.

What an amazing story. This semester in East Asia, the two teams have seen close to 50 people make decisions for Christ!

Another girl is an international student here at Ball State.
While in Asia she became curious about God. She had heard of the bible but never read it.
After arriving here, she came to a few of our events and asked one of our staff

“Can you explain Christianity to me?”

After a three hour conversation, she gave her life to Christ. She has continued to grow in faith, learning to forgive others and falling in love with God’s Word. She attened the winter conference and is excited to reach out to others on campus.

A HARVEST.

This work is not a shot in the dark.
It is not about us being masters of ministry.
It is not a work that results from a lot of hard work.

God produces the harvest. He is at work in people’s lives.

The only thing missing are the laborers. He is working in people’s hearts, revealing Himself, drawin them to Himself.
And He uses us to go and share the message of Jesus, and people are responding.

The problem is not that people are too sinful to follow Jesus.
The work of God is greater than their sin!

The problem is we believe the sinfulness of man is too wicked for God to work!
So we either don’t do anything or we rely on ourselves and do too much.

But the good news is Jesus has already come. He has seen and continues to see the needs of the lost- those who are like sheep without a shepherd. And He did an amazing work, so they can be saved, so they can be in a relationship with God and transformed.

He has already done the work.
And the Holy Spirit is at work in people, convicting of sin and revealing Christ.
And He tells us the Harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.

So how do we respond?

  1. We believe God’s Word is true and we act that way. Believing there are people out there ready to receive the Gospel
  2. We pray for more laborers
  3. We develop laborers & send laborers
  4. We act as a laborer

Notice Jesus’ command was not go do something about it – but to pray.
And what does He tell them to pray?
Not for the people to change but for people to go.

Who needs to change?
The Christian, the one who follows Jesus needs to change- to go into the harvest, to be part of God’s work in the world.

We may look at the lost and focus on the need.
Jesus looks at the lost and focuses on the harvest.

Since God is at work in people’s hearts, and since Christ has already done the work for salvation. We can go out in confidence to share the Gospel, and we can pray boldly for more laborers for the harvest field. We need to repent of our unbelief and trust in the power of the Gospel and pray and take steps of faith.

Next week, Universities across the US will begin having Spring breaks – and thousands of students will go to PCB to party (get drunk).
But there to meet them will be hundred of christian students sharing the Gospel. And every year hundreds of students surrender their lives to Christ. They will understand that the devil comes to steal and destroy- that the things of this world do not satisfy and leave them even more empty- and that Christ came to give them life and life abundantly.

Others will go to East Asia and other parts of the world, choosing to use their spring break to take the Gospel to the uttermost parts of the world.

Please join in praying for students to go be laborers in the harvest field, and pray for them as they go, that many will hear the Gospel, and many will turn from their idols to the living and true God!

My marriage charge

Today is our 6 year anniversary. It was quite the miracle. I thank God every day for my wife. I love my Soo, and I am glad to be married!

Matt&Soo_Wedding-9378.hi2

God has blessed us greatly. Yet, it has not always been easy and we feel like we fail often. It was somewhat a surprise when we were asked to give a charge at a wedding last summer.

We were so honored. And not only did we give the charge but Halle was the flower girl and Josiah was the ring bear(er).IMG_6063

After presenting the charge, many came up to us saying they appreciated what we shared. We were a little anxious about it, but really the charge was a reminder for us as well- and today as i approach our anniversary, i want to review the charge i gave someone else as a charge to us as well.

Many people think marriage will be easy or solve all problems. Recently watched master of none and the marriage scene was kinda  funny as they exchanged their vows and all the other couples rolled their eyes.

While the charge was personal to them, i think it could be helpful for others- i certainly think it would be helpful for me to listen to.
Here is the charge we gave:

Ben, as I have known you, you are one who loves adventure- and you are about to embark on the greatest adventure of marriage…
I also know you as one who has followed the voice & direction of the Holy Spirit. And you will need his empowerment and direction as you embark on this new journey with Sarah together.

And so I give you this charge from God’s Word

Be filled with the Spirit… Husbands, love your wife as Christ loves the church.

It’s simple right? Love your wife.

Not really.

You spent a year in India, and I’m from Indian decent, so I’ll share this. In America, you marry the one you love. In India, it’s love the one you marry. You have a great blessing to marry one you love, now you have a great challenge to love the one you marry.

Love you wife, as Christ loves the church.

That means you love Sarah sacrificially. You not only are willing to give up your life, you give up your life. Giving up your life  may not mean taking a bullet and dying for her- it will mean something much more difficult – dying to self, dying to your dreams, dying to your rights. You love her sacrificially by giving her time even when you don’t feel like it, when you feel like being by yourself or with your buddies or watching a movie. You love her sacrificially by investing in the things she enjoys.

Loving as Christ loves the church means being gracious, being faithful, being kind, being a servant. That is doing good to her, when she has done wrong to you. Speaking words of encouragement when you feel put down. Serving her when you feel she should be serving you.

And if you are to love her as Christ loves the church, you are going to need to continually fill yourself up with God’s love. So I charge you to walk with Christ, and look to Him to fill your needs and satisfy you.

I pray you will know the width & length and height and depth of God’s love. And that Sarah will know that as well thru you. And then you can be fruitful and multiply that love to others.

Sarah, You are a beautiful bride, and today is such a beautiful wedding. We know you love weddings and you have been looking forward to this day for a long time. But today is not the culmination but the beginning of your beautiful marriage.

You may be tempted to look to Ben to be the one who makes all your dreams come true and to satisfy every longing of your heart, but he won’t. Marriage does not bring an end to insecurity or solve all problems. Only Christ can satisfy, only Christ will bring contentment.

And so the way Matt ends, I begin: I charge you to look to Jesus to satisfy your heart, for ultimate comfort and perfect peace. Do not allow Ben to become your savior. Seek first Christ, make time with God a priority.

You are the bride of Ben, but marriage reflects the relationship of the church with Christ, so just as you prepared & planned for this wedding day, prepare your heart to meet your Savior by pursuing holiness and purity of heart for the Lord.

And thus, when you are commanded to submit to your husband, you can rest in the Lord as you respect Ben’s leadership.

Respect Ben. Respect him unconditionally. Don’t make him earn your respect by figuring out what to do for you or by doing everything perfectly. Give him your respect before he even deserves it. Affirm him and encourage him. Do things that he enjoys. Go with him on journeys that sometimes may feel uncomfortable. Be honest with him, respecting his care and love for you. Learn to show respect to him, even when you are feeling rejected. Reject opportunities to be critical and instead show grace.

You will need the power of the Holy spirit, so I charge you as you develop your marriage, rely on the power of God, rather than your own strength and intuition, which will often be your first instinct, but be filled with the Spirit.

Ben & Sarah we charge you to make God known thru your marriage first to one another, then to the others around you. We love you and we are so excited for how God will use you to bless each other and the community you are in.

Here’s the truth about marriage:
1. Marriage does not eliminate loneliness & insecurity.
Some may think if they just got married they would feel secure. They always have someone with them- but just as a person can be ain crowded room and feel all alone, many feel that in marriage. Furthermore, Soo has pointed out- now fear is even stronger. What is something happens to my spouse? Death is going to happen. And though Divorce is not something we even contemplate, it is all around us, so we can’t escape the fear… Especially when there is Difficulty- which will happen, and which will make the insecurities abound – is there something wrong with me? Why can’t i ever do things right? Which leads to the 2nd and third truths…

2. Marriage is not easy
One may think if i am with the one i love, with my best friend – then, well, it’s easy. But think about it- the people who have shown us the most unconditional love and care are often the ones we have the most conflict – our parents. The more we know someone, the more we see their sin- and worse, the more they see of our sin. There will be conflict, there will be trouble. It will become difficult to love sometimes.

3. Marriage does not bring satisfaction.
And often the reason we have these troubles is because we are looking to marriage to something it can’t fully do. Marriage is good, but only God satisfies. And if i make an idol out of my spouse- my sorrows will multiply(Psalm 16:4). I only burden my wife when i do this, and only frustrate myself. Surely Soo is a blessing, someone who brings much joy in my life and one who loves me and who i love deeply. But she isn’t ultimate.

Here’s another truth- Marriage is good.
Good in that we are blessed by another.
Good in that it was designed by God.
Good in that God uses it to reveal and shape our heart and to point us back to Jesus.
We need His strength and power and presence to make marriage work, to love and respect.
And marriage reflects our relationship with God – a relationship that God desires to show love and a deep intimacy He desires, and a relationship that will truly satisfy- the relationship with Him.

i thank God for Soo and thank God for these 6 years and looking forward to the next 60! i thank God that He is cord that binds us together.

We do celebrate each other and celebrate our marriage. More so we celebrate the God who gave us each other, and the God who gave us Himself.

The one with Hope for Muncie

A couple years ago, our good friends the Holowells announced they were leaving staff with Cru to plant a church in Muncie.
Though they left staff earlier than we thought, we were glad to know they were staying in town. But it left us torn as well.
We love the Holowells, but we love our church here at Ball State. The Gospel is preached every week. The teaching is great, the liturgy edifying and the doctrine sound (even though i don’t agree with everything they hold to).There is a good mix of young and old, contemporary worship and old hymns.
The community is solid. And our kids love it. A big part were the Holowell kids who are the same age and bestest of friends, but they were developing other friends…

Then they said they were going to plant a multi-cultural church, and that made it EASY – we would not be going with them.

Multi-cultural churches are hard to get going and even harder to maintain. There would be awkwardness and difficulty. Worship styles, teaching styles, personalities… too much work, too inconvenient, too uncomfortable…

But as we continued to hear about it and pray about it, the more Lord laid it on our heart to go.
It was a vision on my heart when i initially joined staff. God in making me Indian and making my wife korean, has given us plartform to connect with people; There are less barriers for us than many others face; we are given more grace. And we have experience working in other culturals – America being one of them, as well as living overseas and working with internationals.

We have bought into the Vision- Hope for Muncie.
In some ways it feels like there is a church on every corner- why another church?
But a multi-cultural church? One that is trying to bring people together from different social, economic, cultural backgrounds?
We are excited to be part of a dream that is an extension of a dream we celebrate today on MLK.
Surely there are many good churches in the area that are effective in reaching out to the community. We are not opposed to them or in competition with them. We want to work alongside them, and create attention for Christ in a community that has mostly forgotten Him.

We don’t all of a sudden think it will be easy.
People in churches where people are very much alike have conflicts- how about one where the people are very different?

But we are not choosing the easiest thing for us, but the best for us- the best for God’s Kingdom purposes.
We will have to leave a comfortable environment, a familiar one – to help plant a church and make a difference in a community.
Church is a place to worship, but also to serve. A Community that provides an environment for others to worship – not by taking people from other churches, but gathering families that are not worshipping, or not worshipping fully.

And by being part of a multi-cultural church, we are committing not just to a comfortable community, but to the kingdom. God’s kingdom is about all peoples. People who are not like us. Bringing together people who are not naturally friends- and making them family!

In Ephesians, Paul writes that Christ has done thru His flesh what nothing else could- He has broken down the dividing wall of hostility. HE Unites Jews and Gentiles. HE is our peace who makes us one.  He brings the far near.
HE reconciles us all – to God, and to each other!
And James tells us that God shows no partiality – be it rich or poor.
Heaven will be a beautiful place of many colors.

They don’t let kids sing this anymore – but – Jesus loves the little children- all the children of the world: Red, Yellow, (Brown), Black, White – they are precious in His sight!

We feel by taking this step of faith, we will see God’s heart, see God’s power, and our faith will be stretched. We will gain a greater vision for eternity. We will be blessed beyond measure as we gain new friends, and exposed to the beauty of diversity.
And we trust God will take care of us along the way.
Yet, ultimately, it is not about us- but the Glory of God.

As we consider our involvement, we are now praying about moving into downtown Muncie.
Downtown Muncie may not be like downtown Chicago or downtown LA, but it is not the suburbs either. At first I thoght it doesn’t matter.
But, there is crime, there are drugs. Muncie may be the highest producers of meth in the country. There are certain risks.
And because of that. Lord-willing, I want to move there.
Soo grew up in an environment like that- and she is walking with Jesus now.
But if it is dark place, well then it needs light, it needs hope.
We want to be there to provide it.

Long ago, i went to Chicago on a Spring Break trip. They gave us “With Justice for all” by John Perkins, and shared his model for ministry. If we want change for communities, we need to go there and live there. We need people to live in these communities to be the light, to show the love, to be like Christ and go live among them.
Reading Tim Keller’s Generous Justice concreted that in my mind.
The goal isn’t just a church, but restoration.

We’ve committed to going (Lord-willing of course), we would love for you to join us and bring hope for Muncie.

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ,alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken downin his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself onenew man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,[d] but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by[e] the Spirit.

Remembering the death & life of my sister

It was 20 years ago today that my sister passed away from this life and entered the next. 20 years!
but I still remember where I was and what happened.

I was a sophomore in college on a ski trip in Michigan. It had been a rough day, but I was finally with some people learning how to ski, when someone approached me and told me I needed to call home (This was well before cell-phones mind you)

I unstrapped my skis and frantically ran in ski boots clomping away unevenly shouting “NO! NO! NO!”  but i knew the answer would be yes.

I called home and heard a group of people singing in the background as an auntie handed the phone to my mom “She is with the Lord now,” is all she could say.

Friends and family had gathered in our home to comfort my parents as well as praise the Lord. The mood was somber, yet they were still praising the Lord.


I, on the other hand, by myself and 5-6 hours away didn’t know what to feel. i was dumbfounded, silent, confused. My friend Paul- who was leading a Bible study i was in found me and gave me a big hug. i was so glad he was there, as a few weeks earlier he asked me to remind him of my sister’s name because he had been praying for every night – which may have been more than me.

I don’t remember what i did, i may have cried a little, i think i just wrapped myself in Paul’s embrace.

i was 19 at the time, meaning i have spent more time on earth without my sister than i have with my sister. That is crazy to think. She was with me for 19 years and has been gone 20. Yet the impact my sister had on my life is so profound!


I didn’t know what to think then, and even now it is a bit strange to think of.
So many people in my life i barely see, it is hard to really grasp that she is actually gone.
From time to time however, I do think about her and wish she was here.

Oh! what a wonderful sister she would have been to Soo. Just as she was a bridge to my family for myself, Liz would have been that connection Soo really needs. I imagine they would be the closest of friends. Maybe not- my sister was not perfect- but i think she would have done so much to love Soo, to welcome her and her family.
And the kids! Oh, they would love Aunt Lizzy! She would shower them with gifts and hugs and visits. i certainly could imagine her coming to play with the kids and then spending the evening connecting with Soo.
Of course, Liz would be so encouraging and supportive of our ministry. Not only would she give generously, she would pray faithfully and write us encouraging notes and come and help us on occasion.

But there is the rub of course…

If my sister hadn’t have got cancer, if she had not died – would I be in the place I am now? Would I be the person I’ve become?

 

As i waited in Michigan in a hotel room by myself, waiting for someone to come pick me up, i was left alone with thoughts.

i finally picked up the hotel Bible (we didn’t have phone apps back then- not that i would have had a Bible app on my phone at that time). Inside it said to go to Romans 8 for times of trouble or sorrow or something – i suppose it wanted me to read Romans 8:28 which says all things work out for the good… i’m not sure if i would have believed that at the time… however what i did read was this

For this present suffering is not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed to us in Christ Jesus. ~ Romans 8:18

A flood of truths came over me. She is no longer suffering, and though she is dead physically, she is alive with God! And she is enjoying wonderful glory and beauty and everything awesome!

And it was my friends, the people around me – they were the ones who were really dead, who were really suffering.

Apparently right before my sister died she said “see.” My parents thought she wanted to see something on tv and turned on the tv, meanwhile she passed away while they sat on both sides of her. They remembered after that earlier she said “I see God.”

Around the time she passed away, i was sitting in snow by myself after a failed experiment with cross-country skiing, and prayed for my sister, asking God to take care of her and submitting her to Him.
i never thought He would take her away.
i guess i never wanted to entertain that thought.
i had been around her on thanksgiving and Christmas, and i couldn’t stand it.
i wish i would have spent more time with her.

However, i rarely think of what could have been, but instead i think of what is going to be!

One day i will see her again!
And she will not be the one crippled by brain cancer, barely able to speak or communicate her thoughts- she will have a new body, a glorious one!
And i will introduce her to my wife and my kids, and to many friends- whose livs were changed because of her.

See, throughout her cancer, she never gave up her faith, and she never stopped loving people. She was still buying gifts, still thinking of others, still praying, still trusting God.
In many ways i wanted to give up on God for what He was putting me through, and yet my sister’s faith was strong.
She was a model for me.
No she was not perfect. And we didn’t always get along.
But she always loved me even when i was a brat.
And she always trusted God, even when everything was taken from her.

It’s not just that though, God used her life and her death, her faith and my doubt – to reveal more of Himself to me and to put me on another path. To put me in a place of real surrender (something i had learned about a few weeks before she passed at IndyCC), to live with an eternal perspective, to give me a heart for the lost, and to move me to genuine faith.

If Jesus really is who He says He is and did what the Bible says HE did, and gives what HE says He will – i should act like it. And it shouldn’t matter what else i suffer here. Christ suffered so much more- the future glory is SO WORTH IT!
And so what do i feel now?

Yes, i wish my kids could know their Aunt.
But we talked about her tonight- and Halle is looking forward to seeing her in heaven- even as she is saddened that grandma and grandpa may die – or that we will too.
Yes, i wonder from time to time what it may be like if she was around.
And sometimes i even feel regret for how i mistreated her, and the missed opportunities to show her love and kindness

but mostly…mostly
i feel

JOY
i feel
HOPE.

i feel
triumph.

God used that dark situation, that horrible cancer to make something good. So that my life could be changed, and countless others as well.
i would have never shared the Gospel with my friends, never gone to the other side of the world, never influenced others who influenced others.
And i myself would never have had the joy of intimacy with God. (Sure, God could have done something else- but He knew what i needed).

And that is just from my side of the story – how much more were others impacted by her faith, by her life?

But the triumph is more – the TRIUMPH is the triumph Christ had over the grave. He could not be held down. He would not be defeated – NOT EVEN DEATH!
He is the victor.He has overcome.

And my sister- one who did many good things — and many bad- well, she is not defeated by death either. She is not suffering, because Christ suffered for her!

I don’t think she is in Heaven because she was a mostly nice person or even because she had sincere faith. I know she is in Heaven because Jesus came to earth and died for her sins and sealed her with Holy Spirit.

And so I rejoice.
I sing praise to God.
I thank Him vehemently.
And i look forward to Heaven with hope! True hope.
I will see my sister again.
And together with a multitude of others we will see God.

And
the
glory
will
far
outweigh
the
suffering.

would you like to know God personally?                  https://youtu.be/s6duzVn5M6E

The thing about Commitment

Last post i wrote about starting something- it is the first step, but of course you can’t stop there. The first step may be the hardest, but if you only take one step, you’re not getting very far.

There are many people who have had good intentions, who took first steps, but didn’t make make good impact, who didn’t last. There are many who shoot up quickly, but just as quickly fade away…

Commitment is mandatory for something to continue.
Because nothing is easy, nothing is effortless, nothing comes without hiccups and problems and inconveniences.

Commitment has been a big topic among many friends and colleagues recently. It seems there is no commitment these days, or perhaps a different definition of commitment.

One friend suggested commitment has a different meaning today than it used to.

So, when you think of commitment- what do you think of? How would you define it?

Today, i think commitment means doing something with all my heart as long as i feel like it.

In essence I will do something until it gets difficult or until i don’t feel like doing it anymore or until it stops serving me. Which really seem like the oppositte of commitment to me.

It seems people only commit to something as long as they are receiving benefit from it, and then they stop.

The meaning of commitment is- while they are committed, they give a lot to it. And if they can’t give a lot to it, well, then they won’t commit.
Or if it will require a lot, they won’t commit

So many don’t commit to anything to begin with. And others give up as soon as the feeling wears off or as soon as sacrifice or difficult comes in.

i would define commitment as giving yourself to something, making sacrifices to see it through, and being there until the end with little or no exceptions.

i guess i could see how this current view of commitment has formed however.
Where do we most see commitment modeled? In marriage.
And how do we see most marriages play out?
Parents divorce when things get difficult, or when they don’t have that feeling anymore, or when it doesn’t benefit them anymore.
So, why should we expect children to act any differently?

With everything in culture being about me me me- who would commit to anything that doesn’t serve me?
The only commitments we in America seem to have is to ME and feeling good.

So, how can i commit to something, until i know it will help me, help me feel good.

Commitment tends to bring responsibility and sacrifice- how will those things make my life better or easier?

So, if my job doesn’t fulfill me, i quit. If my feelings in a relationship change, i look somewhere else. If i don’t get the same rush of emotions at church or don’t feel moved – i find a new church.
If God isn’t doing His part, i go my own way.

i used the pronoun I in those statements – for why i see predominantly in younger folks, i see it in me as well. i don’t like committing to things or to people. i’d rather be selfish. i’d like to say i am committed to something or someone, but i don’t want to put inthe work that a commitment requires.

But what is a commitment if you’re just going to give up when you don’t feel like it anymore?
See a commitment is supposed to mean sticking with something even when it is hard. Sticking with something when it requires sacrifice, time, energy, money.

A commitment is a big deal. So we need to find something worth the commitment. And we need something to help us keep our commitments.

Jesus is worth committing to. And the things He calls us to, we need to be committed too. Thru Him, persevering on our behalf, we can continue to labor. As Paul  said to the Colossians

              1:29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Paul  was committed to the cause of Christ. Giving everything he had, continually. And doing it with the energy Christ gave him.

We won’t make it in ministry or in marriage or in much – without a commitment to Christ or without His commitment to us.

Fortunately we know He is faithful, and He will always do His part. Will we?

Others can be a factor in helping us keep commitments. More so, God will help us. He endures with us and He empowers us to endure. We can commit to others because of the commitment Christ made for us. The Gospel empowers.

So as we shepherd others, perhaps we don’t need to challenge to less, but challenge to more, that is challenge to a deeper commitment, a true commitment – and one that will cause people to cling to Christ more.And we need to help them see the commitment of Christ going to the Cross, and how He gave us His Spirit to show His commitment to be with us and use us for His purposes.

We can commit because of Christ.