Tipped Over

Last Thursday I attended the graduation ceremony of eight Korean kindergartners, four girls and four boys, and delivered the congratulations address. I wrote a speech in English that I hoped was at their level of interest and understanding and stood center stage to speak to them, four children with the surname Kim on my left, the four others (one with the surname Kim) on my right. The students laughed at the moments I hoped they would, and it turned out that people usually addressed the parents at these ceremonies, not the children. Once again, I discover how much of anomaly I can be here in Korea.

I have been coming to KONIS, the Kids of the Nations International School, for almost two years now to share encouraging words from the Bible with the staff members at one of their weekly staff meetings. My messages are filled with grace and finished work truth and God's love, and it seems that often this message can be an anomaly in this country. I have heard Korean believers tell me that they don't hear this kind of message in their church, about what God has done for them, how the key to Christian life is receiving the life of God, resting in God's love, trusting God to complete the work of grace He has begun in their lives, and believing what God thinks about them as they walk by faith.

My initial reception at KONIS was awkward. I showed up on Monday afternoon in the company of Pastor Steve DeVries who had agreed to come to KONIS and minister and then realized he already had a regular Bible study at a hospital at the same hour. He took one week away from his hospital students to bring me to this school we had no prior connection to and introduced me to the head of school and the staff of native English speaking lead teachers and their English speaking Korean co-teachers.

When we arrived, it was not hard to tell that the staff were not sure why we were there and not enthusiastic about having additional minutes added to already-long-enough end of the day weekly planning meeting. Being professionals, they listened politely and thanked us for coming. The husband and wife owner and principal team who had requested we come were not there that day. It was...uncomfortable, but I was delighted to be in a school environment.

We have come a long way from that first awkward meeting, and I have gotten to know the teachers, the principal, and the owner much better, and now I participate as much as I can in major school events. I have been asked to come more often to help encourage teachers in their faith, which I am very happy to do. One teacher has twin sons who attend the school, and they have overcome their shyness and like to joke around with me. I have also gotten to know the adult sons of the owner, and they have gotten to know me, the story of my life and how God brought me to Korea, and the message that I preach and teach.

The older son contacted me the other day, asking if I had any time to have a cup of coffee with him and a friend of his who is a new believer. At first I was hesitant to say yes, because that is my nature. (You can read my last blog if you wonder why.) I was afraid I would have to travel a long distance to meet these guys, that it would be at night and I would have difficulty getting home, that the meeting would be awkward for me and this friend who had never met before, etc. I was also trying to recover from what was either food poisoning or a stomach virus, and I had not eaten much for three days. But by faith I said yes.

And here is the part of this long, perhaps boring, narrative that I initially set out to share - I had a wonderful evening last night that reminded me once again why I believe God called me to Korea, and I was glad. I met a 31-year-old Korean guy named Jimmy who came to Christ after coming to the end of himself, a man who had been through so much already in his life who took an honest look inside himself and realized that he was empty and that there had to be more to life than how he had been living. His honesty and openness were surprising and refreshing. He wanted to hear and to be heard. I'm a listener by nature, so the second part was easy. I just asked questions and let him talk. When the Spirit prodded me or when this man asked me a question, I spoke a bit and shared what God had done in my life.

Last night brought me back to the evening I spent talking to another Korean man in his early thirties on the island of Jeju during my first visit to Korea. It was that night of conversation when God spoke to me and told me that He wanted me to come live in Korea. I didn't understand the reason for God's call then, but perhaps I do now. God needs vessels.

In the first century, God spoke to a Christian named Ananias of Damascus about a man named Saul who was a Jewish religious leader on a mission to exterminate Christians and the Christian faith.

"But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name..." Acts 9:15

 God has chosen to use people like you and I to be vessels of His life - His love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness - to receive it for ourselves and then to let it flow into the lives of others. That evening on Jeju, and again last night in the coffee shop, I experienced the joy and the honor of being a chosen vessel. You realize in those moments, "God, you brought me to this place at this time to meet this person to express this life, this truth, and oh, I am so glad that you did." You recognize, "This is what I was made to do, to be - God's vessel, God's chosen vessel."

As I sat across the table from this young man who bared his soul and poured out his heart to us, the thought came to my mind, "This guy is God's chosen vessel to bear His name," and God's love for him was so evident in that moment. Jeremiah 48:11 speaks of being "emptied from vessel to vessel." That's the purpose of our Christian lives, to be emptied, to be poured out into the vessels, the lives of others.

Sometimes I think of myself like the woman in 2 Kings 4:2 thought of the resources in her home - "nothing...but a jar of oil." But that "nothing" became quite something when it was tipped over and poured out into other vessels, miraculously filling each one from a seemingly endless source which was not the jar itself. I'm always amazed when I let God tip me over, because what comes out is Him. Maybe that's God's lesson for me today - As Christians, we are God's chosen vessels and we should let God tip us over and pour Himself out wherever we are in the world.


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