Lessons Learned Abroad

I just returned from a trip that, because of security reasons for the Christians who are there, I can give few details as to where and what I did.  Suffice it to say, every time I return from one of these trips, the Lord impresses upon me a number of meaningful lessons.

1. Acts of selfless service always open doors for the gospel.

On this trip, I was working in a culture that is dominated by a religion that teaches salvation is earned by works.  One of the detrimental side effects of this is that people absolutely reject that something can be done for nothing.  In other words, no one does anything for anyone without some expectation of payment in return.  So, when our team showed up to do a project completely free of charge with no expectation of remuneration, they were more than amazed.  Selfless acts illustrate the gospel of grace.  Salvation is possible, not on the basis of what we have done to earn it, but on the basis of what Christ has done on the cross to give it. Rom. 6:23- “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The gospel of grace was put into effect by the selfless act of Jesus (Phil. 2:5-11).  We are called to have this same attitude of selflessness.  When we serve others with no expectation of return, it illustrates the grace of God.  In our society we are often consumed with our “rights” and what we “deserve.”  But the call to follow Christ is about giving up our rights and serving Him by selflessly serving others.  What is the result of selfless acts of service?  One man in the village we were working in said to us, “The religious leaders have told us for years they would help us [with tangible needs], but they never have.  You have come from your country and the path you follow [Jesus] and helped us. The religious leaders preach about doing good to others, but there is no change in anyone’s life.  But I can tell you are different.”  Selfless acts show the world we are different and points them to the grace of God.

2. I know so very little of persecution for my faith.

Every time I travel to this country, I have some run-in with the fundamental religious authorities.  They seek to control the people through oppression.  To live in this place and become a Christian means you run the risk of losing your family, your job, having the utilities turned off at your home, etc.  The worker we are partnered with looked at me and said, “What would you do if they came to you and said, ‘Recant of your belief in Jesus if you want to see your wife and kids again.’”  What would I do?  Does Jesus mean that much to me?  Tough, penetrating questions.  Yet, this is reality for countless believers across the globe.

3. I love my country, but this world is not my home.

Someone once said to me, “Nothing will make you appreciate this country more than leaving it.”  How true.  What a country we live in in terms of standard of living and freedoms.  I walked through airports and saw so many men and women in uniform serving our country.  How grateful I am for them!  Yet, God always reminds me that as a Christian, I am not to find my identity as an American, or in my education, or pedigree- but I am to find my identity in Christ (Gal. 2:20).  Furthermore, this world is not my home.  Paul reminded the Philippians that their citizenship was not to be identified in their pride of being a Roman colony, but “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

4. We must develop a passion to engage the lost with the gospel because hell is real.

I know this sounds like I’m a hellfire and brimstone preacher, but let’s face it: What does the Bible teach?  The issue of hell is something we candy coat and don’t like to talk about.  Rob Bell’s latest book is proof of that.  We all know John 3:16.  But what do the next two verses say? “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”  Why do we take mission trips?  Why do we place missionaries all over the world?  So they can tell people about the gospel. Faith in Christ is the only way to be saved.  The reality of hell is something we often forget or choose to soften.

This was the first trip where I worked side by side for continuous days with people who were unbelievers.  Typically, we work with people in an established church and build relationships with them while we serve people from the community.  However, on this trip I grew to befriend men who were not believers.  It burdened me at the end of the week that these men I had come to know did not know Jesus.  The reality of hell is a difficult thing.  It means we must form a passion and concern for those in our lives who are lost.  We must engage them with the gospel of Christ through our selfless acts and by communicating the truth to them.  I am convicted in my own life that I basically have no friendships with lost people.  Everyone I work with and am associated with through service on boards and teaching at seminary are Christians.  God forgive me for this.  I pray I can do better at engaging a lost world with the hope that only Christ can give.

Below are some pics from my journey.

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One Response to “Lessons Learned Abroad”

  1. If you figure out what N T truely believes, let me know, lol!
    I don’t think he believes in imputed righteousness. I have his book
    on The ressurrction of the Son of God. It’s quite exhaustive but good.
    p.s. That title may be a little off in wording. Sounds as if your trip prompted an introspective time os assessment. Those are good for us.