From the McNerneys…
Dear brothers and sisters,
Thank you for your prayers for us over these past couple months. The Lord has shown mercy to us in a multitude of ways.
Thanksgiving for healing. As I write this I am grateful for God's mercy in sustaining me through a variety of physical infirmities lasting roughly the past two weeks. I've had a hodgepodge of throat and ear pain, conjunctivitis, significant fatigue, and a rash. No single knock-out punch but the combination wore down my body and spirit. By God's grace all of these symptoms are nearly gone. What is more, the Lord taught me a needed lesson about continuing to trust in Him and not “complain of adversity” (Numbers 11:1).
Ending English Bible study involvement. After prayerful consideration and discussion I (Robbie) decided to end my regular participation with a Friday night evangelistic Bible study group. We had just finished studying the book of Matthew. Over the past couple of years significant gospel seed has been invested in a few unbelievers. This has been a precious opportunity, and I pray the Lord will yet bring forth fruit which remains. Yet I sense the Lord is happy for me now to move on from this good work to pursue other good works, in particular sowing the word more broadly among unbelievers (Mark 1:38).
More man-to-man. I also believe the Lord is leading me to pursue additional man-to-man ministry opportunities. I continue to meet weekly with Phong and pray the Lord might open additional such doors and prosper this effort. At present I have several individuals in mind, each of whom I'd like to meet up with and test the waters during the coming month or so.
Khuong's story (longer). Two weeks ago the Lord arranged for me to have a one-on-one follow- up meeting with Khuong, a young man I first met at English Park. In a previous meeting at the end of August Khuong had shared with me his challenging situation. A new believer in Christ, Khuong was facing stiff opposition from family members over his faith. Back in August Khuong's questions showed he really had been thinking things over (I'm translating into English as memory serves):
"Will Jesus punish someone who denies Him? Is this forgivable?"
"Do you think Satan can impersonate someone's (deceased) parents in a dream in order to entice them to ancestor worship?"
“Do you think Satan can cause someone to get sick, and then heal them after they go and consult a medium (fortune-teller) who tells them to offer sacrifices to idols?"
At that time we looked together at some relevant Scriptures and discussed what the Bible taught regarding his questions. Then I modeled a brief quiet time together with him and encouraged him to begin a regular devotional habit of Bible study and prayer.
When Khuong and I met one-on-one for a second time two weeks ago, to my great sadness it seemed as if he had already decided he wouldn't follow Jesus if this meant he couldn't retain his family and cultural traditions of ancestor worship and Buddhism. Shortly before this second meeting, Khuong's family had ganged up on him and given him an ultimatum – they would cut off all support to him if he chose to continue with Christ. Khuong is currently a college student in the city dependent on his family for financial support. We looked at some more Scriptures together, and I offered solemn exhortation for him to follow the example of the Lord Jesus and many of His faithful disciples in ages past and suffer for the sake of righteousness (Matthew 5:10-12, 10:34-39 & 16:24-27). I also offered to introduce Khuong to a Vietnamese brother in Christ whom God has enabled to endure the same kind of persecution from family members. I explained that when one part of the body of Christ suffers that gives the rest of the body of Christ opportunity to demonstrate their love in practical ways.
But it seemed that Khuong had already made up his mind, and just wanted to confirm that there wasn't some kind of “third way”, a syncretism combining Christianity and his ancestral traditions. In Khuong's own words, “the [censorious] voice of the community is very powerful”. He realizes that he would face costly criticism and persecution from his family and traditional Vietnamese society as a whole if he abandons the practice of ancestor worship.
As way of background, filial piety is a strong virtue in Vietnamese in society, but has been perverted into emphasis on idolatrous rights directed toward the deceased patriarchs of recent generations in one's family. Almost all non-Christian Vietnamese families have a “family altar” for such rites permanently installed in a prominent place in their home. Not participating in such rites is considered an abominable offense and can result in being disowned by one's parents.
I told Khuong that I appreciated his honesty and frankness. I gave him a tract that explains the concept of filial piety and its proper practice from a Biblical perspective. I told him that I would continue to pray for him and invited him to contact me at any time of day or night.
Please pray that God would shine His light of the unsearchable riches of Christ in Khuong's heart, and enable him by grace to choose to be mistreated with the people of God rather than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of man and his rebellious society (Hebrews 11:24-28).
Please pray the Lord would lead me in love to some of His lost sheep, and teach me His wisdom so I can speak clearly to them of the unsearchable riches of Christ, to His glory.
"I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” John 10:16 (NASB)
Snatched from the fire by Jesus, Robbie & Minh Loan McNerney