I can't get over how incredible this is! My friend, Tadd Grandstaff (from Liberty U days), was interviewed earlier this week by none other than Tom Brokaw and the NBC nightly news. Tadd just recently planted a church in Burlington, NC (Pine Ridge Church) and they are blowing the doors off. NBC chose to highlight Pine Ridge as a means of reporting on the trend of young evangelical church plants sprouting up all over the US. Pretty incredible! Be sure to tune in tomorrow night (Friday, Nov. 30th) to NBC nightly news to catch it (But, according to Tadd, this could change at the last minute). You can read more about the interview and get current updates on Tadd's blog.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Today in church history marks the death of John Knox (11-24-1572). Knox was instrumental in the Protestant Reformation, particularly among Scottish churches. He was deemed "The Thundering Scot" as he boldly preached the truth of the Gospel in the face of corrupt officials in the Catholic church as well as in public office. If he were alive today, he would most certainly show up on CNN being guilty of intolerance and bigotry. But Knox teaches us what it means to stand for truth when it falls contrary to popular opinion.
Upon his death, Richart Bannatyne, Knox's secretary, honored Knox with these words: Knox was "the mirror of godliness, and patrone and example of all true ministers, in puritie of lyfe, soundness in doctrine, and boldness in reproving of wickitness" (www.opc.org).
Thursday, November 22, 2007
This is the final installment of my series of posts on things I'm thankful for. Never done a series until now. Think I kinda like it. Here's what I'm thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day 2007: I'm thankful for a tiny little building on the campus of North Greenville College in the boondocks of Tigerville, SC. This little building is called Hayes Ministry Center. It was in this building that I met the woman who was to become my wife, Tasha Joy Litke. It was during our time playing in the BSU (Baptist Student Union) praise band at North Greenville that we met, dated, fell in love and well, the rest is history. It was in Hayes Ministry Center, the location for our weekly worship gatherings, that I first laid eyes on Tasha, the hot violinist that added an unbelievably sweet vibe - the only musician who really knew what she was doing out of the whole band of ragamuffin, second-rate, musician wannabe's. She was more than the icing on the cake. She WAS the cake.
It was in Hayes Ministry Center that Tasha and I began hanging out after each worship service getting to know one another. But it didn't happen right away. Little did I know that, under normal conditions, she could pack up her violin and be out of there in about 30 seconds, but for whatever reason she began taking longer and longer to pack up her stuff. Oblivious as I was, it took me several weeks to catch on to the fact that her lingering was intentional and strategic. Finally, one night I caught on. We talked. She gave me a ride back to my dorm room. We were married 2 years later. Now, 7 years and 2 beautiful kids later, we are even more in love with each other and with our awesome God who brilliantly orchestrated every event and brought our lives together.
I'm incredibly thankful for my wife, Tasha Joy. I'm thankful that she balances me out. I'm thankful for her stunning insight into child-rearing, her thoughtful and provocative counsel into my life, and her desperate and passionate quest to know her Savior more and more intimately. I'm thankful to know her as my best friend, as my partner in life and in ministry, and my perfect companion for a lifelong marriage commitment.
I'm thankful for a little brick building on the campus of NGC where it all began.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Today I'm thankful for grapes and bananas. Grapes and bananas are wonderful fruits, but they, in and of themselves do not create the feelings of thankfulness and gratefulness that well up in my soul. It's not because they are luscious and succulent. It's not because they are naturally sweet and good for you at the same time. It's for other reasons.
Grapes and bananas remind me of my kids. My kids love fruit, especially grapes and bananas. This morning, Zeke ate about 500 grapes and his diaper will show it in a few hours. His hair shows it now - a beautiful canvas of cheese mixed with fruit layered in his thick blond mop. Later, the canvas will end up in his diaper with a slightly darker shade. I'm not exactly thankful for dirty diapers, but I guess that's better than them never pooping at all and getting some kind of GI tract infection. That would not be good, but then again if it did happen, I'm thankful to live in a country where they could receive adequate health care attention for such disorders. But I digress.
Fruit reminds me of my children, which conjures up thoughts of thankfulness and gratitude to God for having such incredible kids - kids that keep me on my toes every second of the day because I never know what kind of new word or new game they will come up with. Right now Zeke is pushing around a baby stroller made for Rainy's dolls. I'll have to fix that later, but for now I'm just thankful. I'm grateful for parents that raised my wife and me both in the fear and admonition of the Lord, and that we get to do the same through their influence and example. Not that we've got it all figured out, by any means. But each day is a new journey of learning and growing, mistake-making and mistake-fixing. Back and forth.
I'm thankful for fruit because it reminds me of my kids. I'm thankful for my kids because they remind me of my Heavenly Father - a Father who knows every hair on my head - a Father who knows how many hairs on my kids' heads are currently caked and coated with processed cheese and grapes. I'm thankful to be a dad.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
This morning I woke up to a world of incredible possibilities. I woke up to a morning with the sun piercing through the blinds and I was reminded of the mercies of the Lord that are renewed every day. I was reminded that I live in a country where I can worship freely.
I was reminded that Christ wants all of me, and in so giving everything to Him, the possibilities are endless as to what He can do with a life fully committed to Him. I'm thankful for that. I'm thankful for His amazing gift of salvation - salvation that is completely undeserved or unmerited. I'm thankful that I don't have to earn it. I don't have to earn His attention either. I don't have to say, "Hey God, look down here and see what I'm trying to do for Your kingdom." Because He sees it anyway. And He could actually care less what I'm trying to do for Him. He wants me to stop trying and let Him do it. I'm thankful for that.
I'm thankful that in His kingdom, it's not a competition. It's not God's Idol. If I miss a proverbial note or lyric, He doesn't blast me out. He knows I'm a screw up in and of myself. So, I'm thankful that He uses screw ups. He uses ragamuffins. He uses the least of these. His kingdom is made up of a band of misfits. That's what I'm thankful for. There's enough competition in this world and in my life. I'm thankful that God's kingdom is not one of them.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Wow! 2 blog posts in a row! That's never happened before.
Yesterday was a great Lord's Day. In the morning, we led worship for South Pointe Fellowship in Pageland, SC. South Pointe is a brand new church plant, led by Pastor Kevin Qualls, that launched on Easter Sunday of this year with 30 people. Now, the Lord is faithfully adding to their numbers with 170 in worship yesterday. Pretty awesome.
As South Pointe searches for a full-time worship leader, Tasha and I have offered our assistance for a few Sundays as they continue their search. Yesterday was our first Sunday to lead for them and what a great experience it was.
The worship set:
1. All Hail the Pow'r of Jesus' Name/Raise Up the Crown (trad. chorus Chris Tomlin)
2. Indescribable (Laura Story)
3. Jesus, Lover of My Soul/It's All About You, Jesus (Paul Oakley)
4. The Wonder of This Sight (Via)
Last night we were back at Ridge Church for one of the best nights of worship so far at Ridge. The Lord's Spirit was evident as we exalted His name.
Setlist at Ridge:
1. I Am Free (Ross Parsley and Desperation)
2. Marvelous Light (Charlie Hall)
3. Rescue is Coming (David Crowder)
5. Majesty (Delirious)
Many of you are wondering if I ever successfully made it back from Korea. Rest at ease. I'm back. Jet lag has never really been an issue for me until now. I guess I'm getting old. I've been dizzy all week, falling asleep at the dinner table, hallucinating while rolling on the floor with my kids. Pretty amazing. But the best part of all about Jet lag is the 3 am wake-up calls from your internal alarm clock. So, during those brief moments between sleep and slumber and dusk and dawn, I roll out of bed, make my way to the kitchen to devour an entire box of Nilla Wafers and down a jug of orange juice. Sure beats Kim Chee and jellyfish salad! Thanks for stocking up, Tasha!
You can read on my last post about how the mission trip ended up. But here's a quick summary: We experienced a real moving of God in the churches where we served. The relational nature of Koreans stretched me out of my comfort zone as we made countless home visits to people who were desperate to receive the love of Christ. One of the things that really overwhelmed and amazed me was the ripe condition of the Korean people, as a whole, to the Gospel message. In a country whose technological advancements make the U.S. look like the stone-age, the hearts of the people are not altogether hard and indifferent toward the message of Jesus like Americans. Koreans are searching for the truth. And they're willing to hear you out as you explain the simple message of the cross. It's a harvest field that is ripe. Praise God for that. Maybe one day, America will once again experience this type of openness to the Gospel.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
This is the final post from Korea. Tomorrow morning our flight leaves at 9:30. What an incredible time we've had. This afternoon I had the privilege of leading the college worship service at Su-Do Church. They are familiar with many of the modern worship songs coming out of America, UK, and Australia right now, so I did many of them. It was awesome to hear them lifting their voices to our Savior in Korean as I sang in English. After the worship I gave them a challenge from this verse. I challenged them not to waste their life - not to look back on their life in 40 or 50 years and realize that they missed having an intimate relationship with their Creator. I challenged them to make Jesus the center and the focus of their life, from this day forward. It was a really awesome way to finish out our week of ministry here.
Thank you Jesus for the souls saved out of darkness and out of the hands of the enemy into the marvelous light of our awesome Savior - into Your hands that are mighty to save!
Thank you all for praying. Here's the report we got tonight at our celebration dinner: With all of about 12 teams combined, roughly 1500 Koreans placed their faith in Jesus Christ over the course of this week. Praise the Lord! (Chan yang hey-o!) Thank you for interceding on behalf of these new brothers and sisters whom we will one day worship with for all eternity at the throne of our great God.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
I tried to post this earlier but the video didn't work. Sorry if you got confused. But above is a typical morning celebration at Su-Do Baptist Church just before going out to make some home visits. The pastor is the one with the mic. A wonderful man. The love of Christ just sort of oozes out of him. And people run behind him with serving spoons to scoop up the leftovers. I've learned how to say, "I love you" in Korean and I keep telling him that for kicks and giggles every time I see him and he laughs. I even told him that from the stage tonight in Korean. Everyone erupted in laughter. He loved it. I could tell.
And I can also tell that he enjoys leading worship during this celebration time. He's funny because even during the evening worship he insists on leading additional worship songs after the worship leader is already done. Just in case you missed it the first time, I suppose. Icing on the cake, if you will. Pastor Rob, I think it would be a sweet touch if you could maybe start leading in some worship at Southbrook after Dan and Return do their thing!!
Friday, November 09, 2007
The past 2 days have been absolutely slammed with activity. We've hardly had time to collect our thoughts much less write a blog. But it's been a good kind of busy. We are now at Su-Do Baptist Church in Seoul. When we arrived on Thursday afternoon, about 50 of their members were waiting at the church to greet us with the warmest welcome I've ever had anywhere. The people here are amazing. They have such a drive and passion to see their lost friends come to know Christ. Yesterday, we spent all day visiting the homes of friends and relatives who need Jesus - specific people in whose lives they have been planting seeds and investing time. In my group, we made about 8 visits during the course of the day and out of these 8 I think we had 5 people put their faith in Christ. Praise God! (What I haven't figured out yet is why each home has a really nice sofa, but everyone insists on sitting on the floor anyway.)
The interpreting has been much better since we arrived back here in Seoul, so we have much more freedom in sharing with people; whereas before we had to basically read word for word the English-Korean tract we were using. Thankfully, we have good interpreters here at Su-Do.
The food continues to be a minor issue. I'm sure I'm losing weight. It's hard to put on pounds with jellyfish salad! I did try the octopus spaghetti though just to say I did. It was like chewing on a rubber fishing lure dipped in tobasco sauce. It was one and done for me.
The girl in the middle that I'm standing with, Mrs. Kim, accepted Christ in a home visit I made on Thursday afternoon. When I walked into the home, there were about 9 ladies there who had all gathered to hear from this American. What I didn't realize was, they were all followers of Christ except this one girl. They had all come to support her. They had been investing their time and love in her life and she was very ready to accept Jesus. They did whatever it took. As a friend of mine says back home, "They tore the roof off to get their friend to Jesus" (Mark 2:1-11).
God, give us this sense of urgency back in America to do whatever it takes to get our friends to Jesus.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
We began our day today by doing some ministry in an English classroom at Hannam University - a campus that practically shares a backyard with Daejeon Central Baptist Church. One of our interpreters is an English professor there and he was able to get us an audience with one of the classes for a 50-minute block. Dad shared his testimony and it was one of the best I've ever heard him share, especially in a small classroom setting like that. I could tell the students were engaged and hanging on every word. Then I shared a bit of my testimony and played a couple of songs for them. It was really funny because as soon as I mentioned I was married, a gasp rose up among the students as if to say, "You're way too young to be married." Then I gave them the kicker. I told them I had two children and their jaws about hit the floor. It's not untypical to find 25 and 26-year old college students in Korea, so they were basically bumm-fuzzled (I've been waiting to use that) when I broke the news.
Tomorrow we head back to Seoul to finish out the week at another church. I'm not sure how e-mail will be, so this may be it for a while. We'll see.
Please continue to pray for the church here in Daejeon as they continue to reach their community. Please especially pray for their outreach to the younger generations. In many ways, outreach to college students and the younger culture here in Korea carries the same types of challenges as in the US. The culture here is changing so rapidly that the church is struggling to be seen as relevant by unbelievers. Philip told me that he was especially concerned about this. Thank you for praying.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Each night we head back to Daejeon Church, our host church, for services. This is a clip from the worship tonight with my new friend Hyo Suk (Philip). He's the 27-year old kid I mentioned earlier who spent a year in Bangladesh as a missionary. Yesterday he related to me and dad some of his experiences.
While in Bangladesh, he served alongside a local pastor and director of the evangelistic outreach in their city. Sometime before Philip arrived, the pastor was told by muslim authorities that he must discontinue his evangelistic efforts. After refusing, Philip's pastor-friend was attacked by four muslim men. His jaw was then ripped open with a knife as punishment for preaching the Gospel. When he told us this, we asked Philip if he himself had ever been hurt or threatened while in Bangladesh. Here's what he said.
During his year there, a famous news journalist caught word of his ministry in the city in which he was working. After anonymously attending a service in the church where Philip was serving, the journalist went back to the papers and wrote an article completely defaming Philip's name and creating lies. He claimed that Philip was coercing young muslims into Christianity through gifts and bribes. The authorities soon arrived at Philip's home and told him to stop evangelizing immediately or it would mean disaster. Philip looked at them and said, "Or what? Are you gonna kill me? Go ahead and bring the knife then!!" Amazing! Philip told us he is ready to go back to Bangladesh long term.
Philip is teaching me what it means to really follow Christ when there's a cost involved. So when you see him worshiping the Lord in this video through the musical gift that God has given him, you know that it's from a heart of overwhelming gratitude toward Jesus Christ. It's real. It's sincere. It's costly worship. And that's what I'm still learning.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Today was our first full day of ministry here in the city of Daejeon, Korea. It's a city of about 1.5 million people and has been recognized as a premier city in all of Asia for its scientific advancements. That means there's a ton of smart people here. It would probably be comparable to the Research Triangle in North Carolina.
We had 3 services today. 11:00 - Main Service - Dad preached - 2:00 - Children's service - Another american dude on our team preached - and 4:00 - Youth and college service - I sang and preached. It went really good. We had several people saved in the first service.
We played b-ball tonight with some of the youth and college kids from the church. It was awesome. They're all great kids who really love the Lord and have a hunger for Jesus. One of them, Philip, 27, just returned from a year-long mission trip in Bangladesh and he plans to return there in the future as a life-long missionary. It's awesome to see how God is raising up His people outside of the U.S. who are catching His vision to see all nations worship Him. It's pretty exciting.
Tomorrow I think we begin some home visits during the day and then have the revival meeting in the evening. I think that's pretty much the schedule until the end of the week.
Let me tell you a little about the food thus far. It's been interesting, to say the least. Lunch was held in the fellowship hall of the church and provided by the sweet ladies of Daejeon Central Baptist Church. [Disclaimer: This has nothing to do against them.] The menu consisted of rice, 5-year old pickled garlic stalks, processed seaweed, kim chee (this is basically boiled cabbage covered in Texas Pete), mystery meat sandwiches layered with apples, and rice cake!!! My mouth is watering as I write this!
Tonight, the staff of the church took us to a traditional Korean quisine - sitting indian style on the floor and the whole 9. The menu consisted of more kim chee (I'm realizing it's a staple), various and sundry vegetables that I never knew existed such as a boiled root of the ginseng family, onion/wasabi sauce for dipping EVERYTHING, more rice (rice is our friend right now), and beef and shrimp. The beef and shrimp would have been easier to handle had they not been all cooked together in the same boiling pot resting on the center of the table. Since the beef finished first, it was to be eaten along with the raw juices of the shrimp, which finished cooking later. There's something just wrong about eating beef that smells and tastes like the ocean. It's unbiblical I think. It's in Leviticus somewhere. Anyway, all of that to say that our food experiences have been interesting and would make for some rather good material for the food and travel channels.
Please continue to pray for receptive hearts to the Gospel message. We have had some issues and minor frustrations with the interpreting so far, so just pray that the Lord would get His Word through to the ears of the people, and that they would hear what He wants them to hear. Thanks a bunch.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Dad and I finally made it to Seoul, Korea. The flight was a grueling 14 hours, but we made it. I watched more movies than I ever care to watch in any given stretch of time ever again. With the time difference the way it is, we basically missed Friday altogether. It's 7:00 am Friday morning Charlotte time and 8:00 PM Friday night our time and we're about to hit the sack. We're doing good though. We're at the Hilton for the first night and then tomorrow we'll have a breakfast orientation with the rest of the team, receive our assignments and head out from here.
I'm a bit dizzy from the trip and I'm getting frequent waves of nausea from lack of sleep. I can never sleep on airplanes, try as I may. Even with the whole air neck pillow thingy. I gave that up a long time ago. But after tonight, I should be good to go.
How to Pray: Pray for the churches and church leaders we'll be ministering alongside - that God will give them wisdom - that we will be as effective as possible. Pray that the Gospel will penetrate hearts. I found out that Franklin Graham just did a crusade here a couple of weeks ago, so we are praying that there will still be a sensitivity to the Gospel that has carried over from that.