Ross and Christine Paterson's Blog

Reflections from Our Journey

Month: November 2017

Podcast: Cross Cultural Mission Experiences That We Can Learn From Abraham

Abraham, the father of our faith and of cross cultural mission!


Hi, this is Ross Paterson, I'd like to take a brief opportunity to share with you from a very important passage regarding cross cultural mission work. Many writers, many of those who share our heart for mission, turn to this passage. It's kind of the Old Testament equivalent of Acts 1:8. So, let me start with that passage.

God’s Word to Abraham in Genesis 12

Genesis 12."God had told Abraham, or Abram, 'Leave your own country behind you and your own people and go to the land I will guide you to. If you do, I will cause you to become the father of a great nation. I will bless you and make your name famous, and you will be a blessing to many others. I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you; and the entire world will be blessed because of you." Or in the more recent translation, "And all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

If you have heard this passage, you will know the reference here to what is called top line-bottom line, which I think is very relevant to our generation and to where we stand today. The top line, of course, "I will make you famous, I will make you become the father of a great nation, I will bless you, you will be a blessing to many others; I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you."

And that's the top line, it is the sense of God's hand upon us, God's blessing upon us, of God's goodness and favour upon us. But there's the bottom line, too. "And the entire world will be blessed because of you." In other words, with God's blessing comes a definition of the purpose of that blessing, and the definition of the purpose of that blessing is a very simple one; that others, indeed, in Abraham's case, the whole world. should be blessed because of you.

Equipping of the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:8

Now, just a minute or two ago, I made the observation that this is really the Old Testament equivalent of Acts 1:8, that you'll be familiar with. “You'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you”, that great promise of the empowering, of the equipping of the Holy Spirit. But that is the top line; the bottom line, of course in Acts 1:8, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and Judea, and Samaria, to the ends of the earth.” There is a very, very important balance there. Now, looking at this recently, four basic points struck me:

Firstly, there is a bottom line to this top line. There is a sense that God is calling Abraham, not just to be particularly blessed out of all the people upon the face of the earth. But also, at the same time that God is calling Abraham to take responsibility with that blessing, as one writer said,

"It is a timeless reminder of God's plan to bring man beyond judgment into His purpose. With the call of Abraham, that purpose began to unfold as God's programme for men's restoration; not just Abraham's, but for all men's restoration, and it became expressed through a very specific individual.”

God blesses us so that we can be a blessing unto others

And so, my first point is, and it's obvious from what I have been saying so far, that God's intention, when He bestows blessing upon us, is not just that we would be blessed, but that we would, in the equipment of that blessing, go out and become a blessing to others; specifically, in Acts 1:8 terms, that we would not stop until we are witnesses for Him to the ends of the earth, to the far corners of the earth. And every man, and woman, and child in our generation should have the opportunity to hear of the saving grace of the Lord Jesus.

Now, in a limited recording here, without going into that in too much detail, I believe that's a very, very, very crucial word for our generation. That we would come to the point of seeing that God has called us not just to go from conference, to meeting, to book, to this and the other, to be blessed. Legitimately, in my view, that is; but at the same time, it would be our heart's desire to use that blessing to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to others. Then we wouldn't just seek more and more for ourselves - though I don't have a problem with that in one sense - but that the equipping should be for a very specific purpose, that men and women might hear of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God works through relationships

Secondly, very importantly, God's work flourishes in our lives through relationship. God told Abraham, verse 7, "God spoke to Abraham, then immediately after this, then the Lord appeared to Abraham and said: "I'm going to give this land to you and your descendants."

Very, very important also, that as one writer said, "These Abraham narratives begin to show what relationship with God can look like in the meanwhile, before the Lord Jesus, what for human beings in the fallen world, it can be to be God's friend. We see Abraham gradually beginning to understand who God is and what it means to trust Him.”

Knowing God And Being Hungry For God

Though when we receive the Lord Jesus we come into a personal knowledge of him, that's the fantastic truth of real Christianity, yet at the same time it is also true that God calls us to grow in that knowledge. There is, at the heart of Christianity, this divine dichotomy, if you like. We know Him, and yet we need to know Him more and more. We do know Him, and yet, we don't know Him enough.

One of the little tests that I personally would have as a focus, is the question “Am I Hungry”? Are you hungry to know more of God? I've been a Christian for over 50 years, I've been in full-time Christian service for over 40 years. It's 40 years since I went out as a missionary to Asia. But I have to say, I am hungry to know the Lord better. Praise the Lord, He speaks, He comes to us.

God speaking to Abraham in understanding and openness

Even in another passage, that actually I was reading in my quiet time this morning, in Genesis 18, just a few chapters later. It says, "The Lord appeared again to Abraham when he was living in the oak grove of Mamre." This is the way it happened. One hot summer afternoon, as he was sitting in the opening of his tent, he suddenly noticed three men coming towards him. He sprang up and ran to meet them, and welcomed them.

And it says later in the passage, verse 10, "Then the Lord said: 'Next year I will give you, and Sarah, your wife, a son.’" God has something important to say to Abraham, this is the occasion when Sarah laughs, and the Lord said: "Why did Sarah laugh?" And Sarah said: "I didn't laugh", then he said: "Yes, you did." I looked at the Scriptures this morning, where it said that it is not a fierce rebuke from the Lord, it's a simple: “let's walk in truth, but I also understand why you laugh, because at 90 years of age, you did not think you could have a child.” Very understanding, but very open and honest too.

And my point here is that God comes, the Lord comes to Abraham, the Lord visits Abraham in person. And as I just read, it says that as he was sitting under the tree, and they came towards him, I take it to be a pre-incarnation or a visit of Jesus plus two angels, Abraham leaps up and greets them. Now, I can talk as well as you like about Eastern hospitality and all this kind of thing, and that's true. But there is a parable there too. Am I keen to meet with the Lord? Morning by morning or whatever, do I do that, am I keen to meet with Him?

Being blessed is not the same as having experiences with God

You see, if I run these two points together, my first point and my second, could it be that many are getting blessed and having all kinds of experiences, but they are not, in that sense, meeting with the Lord? That is, they are not hearing what God is saying concerning His purpose, His destiny, His intention for their life. How many come into powerful experiences of the Holy Spirit, but are not listening to hear the Father say: "This is for the Gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and indeed, to the ends of the earth"?

Mission Work Requires Leaving Things Behind

Thirdly, and logically from here, in Genesis 12, it meant ‘going’. "Leave your country behind you and your own people." As another translation says, for Genesis 12:1, "Go out from your land and from your kindred and from your father's house to the land I will show you." There was no fluffing around in this. Almost every translation, New King James, Revised King James is clear on this point, "Go out of your country and from your kindred and from your father's house into a land that I will show you." At the heart of real spirituality, at the heart of real Christianity, is the ‘going’.

And I wonder again, whether many do not go because we are afraid to leave the comfort of our Father's house, if you'd like. One writer said, "They knew very well," this is Abraham, and those with him, "That responding to God's call meant that they would never see their country or their family again."

This was not Boeing 747. This was not a 2-week mission trip. If they went, they might never - and I do not think they did - ever see that land again. They knew very well that responding to God's call meant that they would never see their country or their family again. They responded anyway, even though they realized that the only point of stability in the new land would be their relationship with the Lord, the Lord that they were just beginning to know.

Would that be enough? That is a powerful point, is it not? Is it a fact that so few are really willing to go on mission, because whatever we say, and do, and read, and attend, and whatever; the reality is that the only point of stability in the new land would be their relationship with God, with the God that they were just beginning to know?

Why we run a cross cultural mission school

That is one of the reasons why we run a school of cross cultural mission. Actually, we run one both inside China, for those wanting to serve the Lord in China, and we run another one in Asia for Chinese-speaking people wanting to go into China to serve. Yes, we want to teach cross-cultural stuff, and history of missions. But more than that, we actually want to find out how well do people know the Lord.

Things to consider in cross cultural missions

And I would encourage you to consider these things. To consider maybe if you have been on a mission trip with us or with others, to consider the school of missions. Because it would be my sense that many actually can conceal our lack of knowledge of the Lord, our lack of that real dependence as the only point of stability our lives while in ordinary church life. That is not a criticism of church, it is just that we are in our own culture. There is something about being thrust into a new culture that is testing.

So, there is my challenge. Why not find out how well you know the Lord and take the opportunity to know the Lord better by venturing out? When I went to Soviet Russia, in about 1963, smuggling Bibles and Billy Graham books into communist Russia, at a very powerful point in their history, you quickly found out how well you knew the Lord, and you quickly grew in the amazing truth that He is with us.

God uses ordinary people - even if they mess up!

The fourth thing, and very important. God comes to Abraham, and He says, "Leave your country, I'm going to make you a great nation, I'm going to bless you, etc. etc." Yet the incredible reality is that Abraham is an ordinary guy.

Abraham’s mistake

The second half of Genesis 12, it says: "There was a terrible famine in the land, so Abraham went on to Egypt to live. As he was approaching the borders of Egypt, he asked Sarai - later Sarah, his wife - to tell everyone that she was his sister. 'You're very beautiful', he told her, 'And when the Egyptians see that, they will say 'This is his wife, let's kill him, and then we can have her.' If you say you're my sister, then the Egyptians will treat me well, because of you and spare my life.'"

What a coward! I mean, I hope we would not actually do that, if we are married. But here is this man of power for the hour, this man of destiny to the nations. The first thing he does after hearing God is lies his head off and acts like a coward. And you probably know what happened. The Lord sent a terrible plague against the Pharaoh’s house, so Pharaoh drove Abram out. He said: "What is this you've done to me? Why didn't you tell me she was your wife? Why were you willing to let me marry her, saying she was your sister? Here, take her, and be gone!" And the Pharaoh sent him out of the country under armed escort, Abraham and his wife, and all his possessions.

What a hugely embarrassing thing. I mean, here is Abraham getting dismissed from the country because he is a liar and a cheat. And one writer said: "They went to Egypt to find food, and also found trouble. Maybe God's knowledge that trouble really was to follow him, caused Him to ensure their return under armed guard and shame to the land of His promised Presence. It is encouraging to realize that unwise decisions do not automatically mean the end of a previously accepted calling."

God uses ordinary people

Ordinary people. It is so fantastic that! Let me read those sentences again. "It is encouraging to realize that unwise decisions do not automatically mean the end of a previously accepted calling." We make mistakes, we do stupid things, we sin, but God can restore and bring us again into His purposes, even under an armed Egyptian guard dismissing us from the country. Be encouraged, God uses ordinary people, fallible people. Peter - what more examples do we need? - and be encouraged also.

If at some point you have blown it, there is a way back through the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Go back into God's calling on your life. I say that strongly. Return to God's calling on your life, because actually, that's where He destined you to be. And that's the only place of real prosperity and blessing for you.

Conclusion

Bless you then, I am just sharing with you a few thoughts from Genesis 12. There is a bottom line to it. There is a top line of blessing, there is a bottom line of God's heart for the nations. Get involved in that on a mission trip, praying, supporting those who go, or going on the school of missions or something long-term. May God help you, and bless you, and keep you. And like Abraham, keep us all, one way or the other, in His purposes.

“Lord, we commit ourselves to You. Have Your way in our lives, we pray. In Jesus' Name, amen.”

Thank you for reading and listening to Cross Cultural Mission Tips From Abraham's Experiences. 

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Why Did J.O Fraser Leave England To Do Cross-Cultural Mission In Remotest China?

In my first blog about J.O. Fraser, I expressed my surprise that a missionary so amazingly used by the Lord should at the same time be so hidden from the lists of outstanding cross-cultural missionaries. Of course we acknowledge that his success in cross-cultural mission was the Lord’s not his, but yet there had to be his courage, his persistence and his vision towards the Lisu people.

A Simple Question

In this second blog I want to ask a simple question – what motivated J.O Fraser to leave the security of a good engineering career and a potentially stellar musical career in the UK and go and serve God by doing cross-cultural missions in the remotest parts of China, indeed amongst a people group where a church had never been planted, and which was, to say the least, primitive.

Fraser’s Possible Excuses

On the surface Fraser had every reason not to go. In 1906, he was studying engineering at Imperial College London, and he had been a Christian for less than two years. There was every excuse for him to plead that he was too young in the Lord to seriously consider the call to foreign mission. Moreover, it seems that in those early years he had very little connection with the challenge of cross-cultural mission, or of the work of the China Inland Mission in China.

He had a bright future ahead of him

But there were other more challenging reasons. He had excelled in both mathematics and in engineering in his studies. There was a bright engineering career ahead of him, and he could justify a conventional approach that said he would serve locally in the English church, excel in his professional life, and simply witness to those around him.

His family had a successful professional life

But there were even stronger reasons for ignoring the challenge of mission. He came from a broken home. It seems his mother came from an upper-middle-class family, dressed carefully and well, and offered a model of English comfort. At the same time she was a spiritual woman. His father was a mixture of Scottish and Canadian, and was in his own right a successful veterinary surgeon.

According to Eileen Crossman, his father rose to be president of the Royal College Of Veterinary Surgeons, the top of his profession. Fraser's father was also “an able public speaker, nominated for Parliament several times”, though he never went forward to an election. His father was “a staunch Methodist and in later years turned more and more to the Bible.” According to Crossman he later wrote to his daughter with the words “every word of it (the Bible) is true, you know”.

And so it seems from both parents, to a greater or lesser extent, there was a model of classic British Christianity of the time and that generation, whether ecclesiastical or evangelical. That of a successful professional life or a good domestic life, in which Christianity played an important part. It would have been easy for Fraser to settle into that, as indeed many, many folk do today – whether in Britain or elsewhere.

Other Possible Paths To Follow

And if he needed an alternate track, one of his siblings offered that. That brother became a leader of left-wing politics at Cambridge University and later joined the Communist Party. So if Fraser wanted to be different, the options were not lacking!

And then there was his music. He had given considerable time to practising and studying music, and at the age of 22 was soon to give his first London piano recital.

The Divine Invasion

And then God stepped in. Crossman records that “a fellow student had given a booklet to him two days before, while they had been experimenting with steam pressure. A conversation had developed between them, and the leaflet was produced." The words in the leaflet were challenging and life changing, and bear repetition to us today:

"If our Master returned today to find millions of people unevangelised, and looked, as of course He would look, to us for an explanation, I cannot imagine what explanation we should have to give. Of one thing I am certain – that most of the excuses we are accustomed to make with such good conscience now, we shall be wholly ashamed of then."

The challenge of the leaflet was as simple as it was obvious. That multitudes remained unreached with the eternal salvation that lies in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and yet there were the excuses given above (demands of career, opportunities offered by musical talent, political views, a broken home, the British – or other national – models of Christianity, and many other excuses that we offer, “excuses we are accustomed to make with such good conscience”).

Believers then and we today can easily excuse our way out of the challenge they bring. But the words of the booklet challenged Fraser, and anyone else then or now who chooses to take those words seriously, that those excuses one day in the Presence of Christ will seem threadbare to say the least!

The Divine Change

And so Fraser wrestled with the challenge he had been given out of the blue. Crossman says that the conclusion of that wrestling was “for James an experience like John Wesley's at Aldgate Street: his heart was ‘strangely warmed’ and, for the first time, he understood the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ."

The critical importance, which Crossman also explains, is that “he lost interest in the things that had absorbed him before and began to streamline his life like an athlete for the Olympics.” “There is no record of his feeling he had renounced anything: he had quite simply found earlier love eclipsed by a new passion.” And that is a critical point. That it was not a grudging duty to serve a demanding God, but a finding of his call and the purpose of his life that liberated him into a new level of joy and relationship with His Master.

I share that view! As I write this I am 74 years of age, and have been 50 years in full-time Christian service, most of which has been spent in cross-cultural mission. With Fraser, I can only express joy that the Lord showed me that this was His path for me. I would, looking back, have it no other way than this great privilege I have been given by Him.

A Final Challenge to Us Today and a Christian Missionary Quote

Let me close this blog with the words that changed Fraser's life and direction, and in fact changed the lives of multitudes of Lisu people. And ask that you reflect and consider them carefully.

"If our Master returned today to find millions of people unevangelised, and looked, as of course He would look, to us for an explanation, I cannot imagine what explanation we should have to give. Of one thing I am certain – that most of the excuses we are accustomed to make with such good conscience now, we shall be wholly ashamed of then."

Come back to me at ask@fieldpartner.org and let me know which you think really matters to you; or do you think I’ve missed anything? Let’s help each other succeed! There is plenty more material about cross-cultural mission to help you on your way at www.fieldpartner.org

-Ross

Source of quotations and material: Mountain Rain by Eileen Crossman (J.O. Fraser’s daughter). OMF books. Read it for yourself!

Want to learn more tips about cross-cultural mission? Check out our podcasts here!

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J.O.Fraser; Hidden Missionary Hero, Forgotten Lessons

Who is J O Fraser?

James Outram Fraser (J O Fraser) is one of my spiritual heroes and missionary mentors. We never met in the flesh, but the impact of his life on me is huge. And yet despite his immense success he is not as famous as other ‘top’ missionaries. In his book “The Second Act”, Stuart M. Simpson writes: “The story of James Outram Fraser (1886-1938) is not as familiar as other famous British missionaries such as William Carey (the so-called ‘Father of Modern Missions’), J. Hudson Taylor (founder of the China Inland Mission, now called OMF International), or David Livingstone (the great missionary explorer to Africa). Every year Urbana is one of the largest student missions conferences in the world. In their blog entitled, ‘21 Missionaries You Should Know’, you will not find James Fraser mentioned.” Simpson adds: “The mission movement I have been with for over twenty years, Youth With A Mission (YWAM), has published a range of books in a series entitled ‘Christian Heroes: Then And Now’. This includes many missionaries, but Fraser, once again, is not included. However, he is one of the most successful missionaries in modern times!”

I also agree he should be ranked up there with those other heroes. Not because I want in any way to idolise a man. But because there are such special and relevant lessons we can, and indeed must, learn from his life and ministry. Logically, if we do not know who he was and how and why God used him, it will be hard to learn anything at all from his life!

What was his impact?

The results of James Outram Fraser’s ministry in China amongst the Lisu minority people speak for themselves. “Going to China with CIM (the China Inland Mission), he was stationed in the then remote province of Yunnan to work with the local Chinese. The first 7 years of his ministry there were marked by work amongst the Lisu, with strong prayer for them – and there were very little if any results to show for his labours and his intercessions. But by 1918, sparked by family evangelism carried on by the people themselves, 600 believers had been baptised.” (Wikipedia).

According to OMF International estimates, as of 2008, there were over a million Lisu Christians in China’s Yunan province and in Burma. Yet when Fraser began his ministry amongst the Lisu there were no believers and no Christian churches. Today, “Christianity is thriving in the Salween River valley, where the Lisu live nearly 70 years after the death of Fraser. Of the 18,000 Lisu who lived in Fugong in 1950, 3,400 professed faith in Christ. As of 2007, there are estimated to be 80–90 percent of the 70,000 making the same profession. In Yunnan it is estimated that there are 100,000–200,000 total Lisu Christians in the Lisu Church. More than 75,000 Lisu Bibles have been legally printed in China following the explosive growth.” (Wikipedia)

Why is his work important?

In this day and age where the spread of the Gospel is met sometimes by hostility or indifference, surely it is worth studying this man’s life. He started in a totally spiritually barren field of work. But the result of his labours under God is that the Lisu people group, one of China’s perhaps 400 or more people groups, have the highest percentage of believers of any such group.

I first encountered Fraser after I had already served 10 years on the mission field, having worked in Taiwan from 1969 to 1979. I returned at that stage to England with my wife and then one child and was invited to work with OMF to help launch their “resurrected” China programme, as China began once more to open up to the outside world in the 1980s. As part of my UK-based duties I offered OMF books for sale at the churches I visited. I quickly found myself promoting Fraser’s “The Prayer Of Faith” as much as any other book! Through that book I had the privilege of making Fraser’s acquaintance, at least in a literary way. Like many, up to that point Fraser had been hidden to me, and I don’t believe I’d ever heard reference to his name before working with OMF.

What I discovered is that the lessons we can learn from Fraser’s life are integral and vital to our own success as cross-cultural missionaries and indeed as believers in whatever call God has on our lives. Whether it be the lessons from his life about the missionary  experience. Or whether it be his walk with the Lord, his emphasis on prayer, his engagement cross culturally with the people with whom he worked, or a number of other factors – all these things are so critical to our instruction today not just as cross-cultural workers but as those who send cross-cultural workers from our churches or missionary sending agencies.

And so in the days to come I would like to share some of the lessons from his life. I hope to be challenged and encouraged afresh myself; and I hope Fraser’s amazing life will do the same for you!

 

Ross Paterson

Taipei August 22, 2017

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Sharing from Ross: Thought for the day

Thought for the day: How important is the Bible to me?

Acts 11:26 says: “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Selwyn Hughes connects the first and second half of this verse in an interesting way. He writes:

“This text in Acts 11:26 tells us that, seeing the great need of these new disciples at Antioch, ‘Barnabas and Saul taught great numbers of people’ in Antioch. Now, as then, new Christians need teaching in the great truths of the Gospel and in practical Christ-like living. It is not enough for large numbers to come to Christ; they need to be taught. Now, as then, new converts need to be ‘detoxified’ from their pagan ways of thinking and behaving. Converts learnt to demonstrate over time how they were learning to live and behave like Jesus. The Early Church brought about this spiritual detoxification by ‘catechesis’ – a process of discipling new converts that could take up to two years. Only when they had been fully instructed were they baptised and admitted to the Lord’s Table. This was not legalism but reflected the Church’s determination to ensure, as far as possible, that newcomers were converts in fact and not just word. It was not enough to profess faith in Christ; converts had to show over a period of time that they were learning to live and behave like Jesus. Decisions were not enough; making disciples was what mattered. So Barnabas and Saul taught the believers in Antioch for a whole year. What a wonderful experience that must have been, to be taught personally by these great men. These were not just Bible studies for the curious. The teaching of Barnabas and Saul was intended to shape the hearers’ lives.

Eventually, when those inside the Church had grown to live like Jesus, to act and react in Christ-like ways, then those outside the Church, perhaps rather mockingly, or possibly affectionately, started to call them ‘the Christianos’ – the Christ people!”

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