Archives for March 6, 2013

Preaching in Busan, Korea (February 25–28)

With Lead Pastor & Conference Chairman, Busan, South Korea

With Lead Pastor & Conference Chairman, Busan, South Korea

I flew to Busan, South Korea, to speak at a large conference. On the 13-hour flight over the Pacific (Chicago to Tokyo—the snow-capped mountains in Alaska were breathtaking from the air), I spoke with a young Chinese woman who had very little knowledge of Christianity. She seemed quite interested in learning more, but it was a bit challenging to communicate with her. I’m afraid that I gave up too quickly.

Though this is my seventh trip to South Korea, I had never been in Busan before. It is a quite impressive city of nearly four million people. At the request of the conference organizers, I gave an address on “Puritan Worship” to a conference of 10,000 people, of which 5,000 or more were ministers. Afterward, some ministers approached me to say that they needed to hear the Puritan emphasis on all worship being grounded in the Scriptures. Pray with me that the conservative Puritan principles for worship that I was called upon to underscore will bear fruit in many Korean churches where the regulative principle in worship is increasingly being watered down.

As usual, the Koreans go over the top in showing kindness and respect to speakers. They won’t even let you carry your Bible and your iPad.

It felt strange to fly all that way to give one address, then fly home again the next day, but that was God’s providence for this trip. On the way back over the Pacific, I spoke at length with a middle-aged woman from Mexico who had just spent six months in southeast Asia traveling on her own. Her English was impeccable. She said that she would have no problem returning to Mexico City to get a new job due to her bilingual gift. She grew up with no religion at all, she said. “My father was Roman Catholic and my mother Lutheran, so since they couldn’t agree, they decided early on in their marriage to drop all religion.”

“So they believe in nothing?” I asked, to which she replied, “That’s right.”

“And you?” I asked. She laughed, “I guess I don’t believe in anything either.”

“Really?” I said. “So you don’t believe that there is a God who created this world and who made you?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

“Are you an atheist?” I asked.

“I’m not really sure,” she said, “I guess, to be honest with you, I never think about whether I believe in God or not.”

So our conversation began. We ended up talking about “what life is all about” (she never thinks about that either, she said). We talked about how we were created in Adam for the purpose of living to God’s glory, about sin and selfishness, about our need for salvation and God’s provided Savior, about our need for spiritual food (just as we need daily food) which we get from the Bible, about what the Bible is and why it is so important, and about the joy of knowing God and serving Him and living for the purpose for which God made us.

I then found out that neither she nor her parents have a Bible. She has seen a Bible before but has never read a single page of it.

“Do you have any friends that are Christians?” I asked.

“Well, not really; I have a few friends who are Roman Catholics, but they never go to church. They don’t really believe what they say they believe.”

“Has no one ever shared the gospel with you the way I am sharing it with you now?” I asked.

“Never!” she said emphatically.

“Would you like a Bible?” I asked.

“Sure,” she said. “I would like anything that makes me happier!”

We then talked about happiness for a while. I explained that we never get happiness from seeking to be happy, but happiness is always a byproduct of holiness, of finding salvation in Christ and then seeking by His grace to walk in God’s ways. I was surprised at how well she seemed to grasp this.

In the end, I promised to send her a Bible (she wanted an English rather than Spanish copy as she loves getting to know her English “even better”) and several books. She promised that she would read the Bible and the books and let me know what she thought of what she read.

Unknown to us, the couple behind us, Todd and Bernadette, was listening to our entire conversation, and couldn’t refrain from joining us. Bernadette was born with a serious disease that has crippled her body. She was supposed to die by the age of 8, but is now 46 years of age. Her husband cheerfully carried her from her seat to the bathroom three or four times on the trip back. She travels the world, with him always at her side, giving her testimony of God’s grace to different audiences.

Bernadette smiled at my friend from Mexico City, and said, “Everything this minister told you is right. God is so good. He makes me truly happy in his Son.”

God’s providence is wonderful. This dear couple reaffirmed everything I said. My new Mexican friend could not help but be impressed how this crippled woman was just beaming with joy at the goodness of God shown to her. Who can tell?