Category Archives: Missions

There’s The Plow


Decisiveness is the fulcrum of true discipleship.  Luke says that Jesus “resolutely set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)  He’s about four months away from Calvary and the language that Luke employs emphatically illustrates our Lord’s decisiveness in seeing His mission through to the end.  It’s more about His state of mind and not a geographical change.  It has nothing to do with His checking MapQuest or getting a TripTik from Triple A.  He knew who He was, what He was called for, and nothing was going to get in His way.


A few verses down, He encounters three would-be disciples.  He says to each of them, “Decide!”  Me?  Or the world?  Me?  Or your will?  Me?  Or your level of comfortability?  In each case they chose what was behind Door Number Two and left satisfied with that.


He says that a true disciple is one who has set his hand to the plow, or, in Elisha’s case burned the plow (see 1 Kings 19:21).  Jesus set His face (“like flint”, Isaiah 50:7) to Jerusalem and we are to set our hand to the plow.  Plowing is about harvest, and in the succeeding verses, Jesus sent out the seventy with this pep talk: “Pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send more plowers into the field.”  Some plant, some plow, some water…but the Lord gets His beautiful harvest!


Our Lord cannot use scribes (the first guy) who are worried about looking foolish to their rich buddies when they are found sleeping in caves or under bridges “for a carpenter” instead of their large-mortgage house.  He cannot use the ‘I’ll catch up with you down the road but right now I have a lot of personal stuff to iron out’ candidates (the second guy).  The call is NOW. And there’s the plow!  And He will pass over those who waver between two worlds and the Lord knows this world will usually win out (the third guy).


The call is NOW.  And there’s the plow.


 Who are the harvesters?  Who are the ones “pressing into the Kingdom” (Luke 16:16)?  They are people who will empty their entire life savings at His feet even though the religious tell them every reason why they shouldn’t.  They are people who will walk away from a lucrative career because their life and livelihood is in His hands.  People who will drop the nets at their feet, leaving every security behind because they see the Greater Incentive, a Treasure you cannot refuse.


We need to be more decisive than ever in these changing times.  Before I finished that last sentence I was interrupted by a call from someone I know who just won over $20,000 in the lottery tonight.  Isn’t that ironic?  The world will do stuff like that for us—anything to keep us from treasuring Christ.  Anything to keep us from pressing in, pressing on or setting our hand to the plow.  Tragically, the third certainty of life—after death and taxes—is that twenty grand’ll be gone in a few days, weeks or months.


Then what?


Decisively pressing in means fighting against that twinge that says, “man, I wish that had happened to me.”  It means being unimpressed by what the world offers because you know nothing can compare to the richness of knowing about a Greater-than-all Treasure and going after it.


There’s the plow.  It may look worn, earthy, scarred and rusty, but it’s Who you set your affection on at the far end of the field that really matters.     

Bringing Prayer To A Knife Fight

This blog post comes from  Bart Campolo, an inner-city missionary in Cincinnati, and its title caught my attention. The article reminds me that, as a suburban pastor to the predominantly middle- and upper-middle class, I live a highly sanitized life, far from the grit and grime of what others face every day.  In perusing Bart’s posts, I can say I don’t see everything the way he sees it, but it is clear he has some words for the Body of Christ.  And I cannot fault him for that, especially while sipping latte from my ivory tower. 


I Hate It When All You Can Do Is Pray 

I’m not friendly with the white-shirted drug dealers who work the corners near my house yet, but at least they acknowledge me as a neighbor now, instead of looking me over as a prospective buyer or an undercover cop. It’s not fear that keeps me away from them, I think, but rather cold, hard realism. Until they fall, those hardcore guys simply are not “get-able” for anything less viscerally exciting than street life. I hate to break it to all those Christian rappers out there, but loving God and loving people does not qualify in that category. 

The fact that I don’t walk up to those guys doesn’t mean that I don’t keep them in mind or pray for them when I walk by. On the contrary, I am fascinated by what goes on, and careful to notice if and when the kids we know start hanging around with the wrong people. And I am always on the lookout for Shareef. 

I first saw him on a drug corner two years ago, when we moved here. Shareef is 16 now, but back then he was 14 and looked even younger. He always seemed more like the dealers’ mascot than one of them, but he was a hard-looking mascot at that, and he was out there all the time. 

Everybody told me Shareef was a bad kid, so it wasn’t surprising that I only got to know him when he tried to sneak into one of our by-invitation-only dinner parties. I turned him away from that one, but, against my better judgment, I invited him for the following week and, to my great surprise, he turned up again, right on time. 

As soon as I greeted him, he handed me his cell phone and told me his grandmother wanted to talk to me, to make sure he was welcome. We’d never met, but as soon as I confirmed his invitation, she spoke directly. “You can feed him if you want, but don’t turn your back on him for a minute, or he’ll steal from you,” she said wearily. “I don’t care if it’s a church, he’ll steal or he’ll get in a fight if you don’t watch out. Understand, I love the boy … but I’ve got to warn you. He’s not right. He’s never been right.” 

It was a strange beginning to what continues to be a strange relationship, with a woman who’s had her heart broken again and again, and with a kid who’s had every card stacked against him from the beginning, save one. Shareef may be a streetwise, bi-polar, learning-isabled orphan with A.D.D., a drug habit, and a well-deserved criminal record, but he is so vulnerable and so oddly charming that his grandmother and lots of other good people keep trying to help him.

Unfortunately, at this point, it seems we’re overmatched. Sometimes, when we meet on the street or when he stops by our house, Shareef is energetic and funny, and he talks about getting a job, staying clear of his dealer friends, and doing positive things with his life. Other days, when I see him hanging with the older boys, his eyes are glassy and he barely acknowledges me. 

A few weeks ago, after going to the church where his grandmother serves as treasurer, he stole the offering before she could deposit it at the bank and disappeared. Knowing betrayal comes cheap on the street, she and his social worker posted signs around the neighborhood offering $50 to whoever brought him home. 

A few hours later, there he was, literally kicking and screaming as three of his “friends” carried him around the corner and threw him onto her front yard in front of a laughing crowd of bystanders. At that point Shareef’s uncle, a muscular ex-con just home from prison, pinned him against a fence and scared away the crowd. I was there, too, doing what I could to help, trying to talk sense to the boy while his grandmother called the police. They locked him up for his own good, but it was ugly. 

I hate it when all you can do is pray. I don’t understand prayer very well, and around here it often feels like a waste of time. I know that’s wrong, or at least wrong to say, so you don’t have to write back to me about it. Better that you should pray for me, eh? 

Anyway, yesterday I was sitting at the dining room table searching for a way to start this letter when I heard someone knocking at the side door. When I opened it, there was Shareef, grinning from ear to ear. 

“Hey Bart!” he exclaimed, “Can you come over to my grandmother’s house with me? I’ve got a new foster family, and I’m back on my medication, and I’m doing real good, and the man I’m living with is named Charles Smithson, and he wrote a book about overcoming drugs and police brutality, and in two weeks I’m going to a real high school, and I’m only visiting home for a little while so … can you come right now?” So I went, and got the whole story and more.

We sat on Shareef’s grandmother’s front porch, me and him and her, along with his uncle and his social worker, talking about Shareef’s good news and about Michael Vick (trust me, animal lovers, folks in the ‘hood see that one way differently than you and me) and about a bunch of other stuff that I never dreamed I’d be talking about a few years ago. I think I even got a relational “in” with the ex-con uncle. It was beautiful. 

Before I left, I asked everyone for a favor. We put our hands on the boy, and I prayed out loud, thanking God for what was happening and asking for more. At the end of the day, I may not understand or often enjoy prayer, and I may hate it when it’s all you can do, but I’m definitely not above it and I never hope to be.

Prayers (And Feet) For Son Jong

This was in my inbox today.

Let the Body of Christ feel the chains.

Let us rise up as one and pray.

May our pleadings before the Throne bring to ruin the purposes of the enemy.

Precious friends,

It is with anticipation and with some sadness that I share this story with you today. I am full of anticipation because I know our Lord does great things and can deliver anyone from a death sentence. He already has for those of us who follow Him. However, it breaks my heart that Christians all over the world are not living in freedom like we do here in the States. My prayer today is that some of the sadness I feel over this situation with our brother in North Korea, will subside as millions of you get involved and come to the defense of this precious brother.

The Voice of the Martyrs has set up a special webpage that will give you all of the information you need to get involved and to tell others how to get involved with helping the persecuted. But first, let me brief you on the situation.

Yesterday there was a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., concerning the situation with Son Jong Hoon’s brother. Senator Sam Brownback and representatives from VOM attended the Press Conference. The following is part of the press release from yesterday:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Son Jong Hoon, who is visiting the United States from his home in South Korea, today pleaded with the world to pressure North Korea to release his elder brother awaiting public execution for the crime of simply being a Christian. For more than a year, Son Jong Nam, former North Korean Army officer-turned-underground-evangelist, has been beaten, tortured and held in a bleak, North Korean death row basement jail in this capital city. He has been sentenced to public execution as an example to the North Korean people.
. . .

VOM was been joined in the initiative by Brownback, a noted supporter of human rights for North Korean refugees. Brownback sent letters last week, also signed by Senators Baucus (D-Mont.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Vitter (R-La.) asking U.S. Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to work to secure the release of the Christian prisoner

VOM is directing people go to its web site,, where they can compose a personal letter of support and encouragement to Son. The letter is to be mailed to the North Korean delegation to the United Nations, along with a cover letter asking the North Korean government to spare Son’s life, release him from prison immediately, report on his current status and deliver the personal letter to Son.

“We are asking for prayers for Mr. Son, but also that people around the world take action on his behalf,” said Todd Nettleton, director of media development for VOM. “Jesus said ministering to a prisoner was like ministering to Himself. Every letter and email can make a difference.”

To learn more about this situation please click here to visit the website set up specifically for this.

Please visit

Thanks Everyone and please pass it on,

Stacy L. Harp
Voice of the Martyrs