Category Archives: Writings

One Day at a Time: Trusting God with My Incurable Disease

Yesterday I had an article posted on Desiring God: “One Day at a Time: Trusting God with My Incurable Disease”. You can read the link here or pasted below:

 

In middle school, my mother started having some strange symptoms following a bad car accident. She easily felt dizzy, to the point that she couldn’t drive anymore. She began losing control over her muscles. She would kick her legs around uncontrollably, and she experienced constant twitching. We knew that something was wrong, but doctors could not figure out what it was.

During my freshman year in high school, a neurologist finally suggested that she fly to California to get tested for a specific neurological disease called Huntington’s Disease (HD). My mom and dad went together. The results came in. She did have this incurable neurological disease.

God Saved Me Through Her Disease

When I heard my mom’s diagnosis, I became incredibly depressed and spent many hours each day of my freshman year of high school looking at pornography. Depressed and hopeless, I realized that I could no longer try to fight through life alone. I felt the emptiness of my life.

But at my lowest point, the Lord began to slowly awaken me. I started going with friends to a Bible study on Wednesday nights. In a way I never would have expected, the Lord was using my mom’s disease to draw me to himself.

I soon became close to the youth pastor who led the Bible study, as well as with the other high school guys who went. For the first time in my life, I started to read the Bible on my own and asked lots of questions about it. I continued for another five years, still not truly committing to the Lord. It wasn’t until I was a sophomore in college that I fully put my trust in the Lord and became a new creation.

My mom’s disease awakened me to the Lord. I can honestly say that if not for this disease in my family, I may have never come to faith in Christ. And even since turning to Christ (about fifteen years ago), I can see how the Lord has used the disease to continue to sharpen and purify my faith in him. I believe with all my heart that the Lord was sovereign over all of these things. Even something as seemingly “terrible” as an incurable disease is still ordained by our good God who works out everything for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28).

I still remember my dad telling me that there was no cure for this disease, and that my mom would continue to get worse until she died. That’s what happened. During high school she was having too much trouble staying with us at home, so we moved her into an assisted living center. A few years later, as her disease grew worse, she was put into a nursing home. She was in the nursing home for a few more years, until she finally died in January 2007, in the middle of my second year as a missionary in China.

Testing for Huntington’s Disease

When my mother was first diagnosed with HD, our dad told my siblings and me that we had a 50% chance of contracting the disease. It’s genetic. Knowing this, I planned to get tested when marriage was on the horizon. So, when I was engaged in 2008, I thought that before Lynne and I got married, I should get tested for HD, so that she would know everything before we made our vows. We drove with my dad to Wichita to get tested. I got the results about a month later.

Before the man who showed me the results opened the envelope, I prayed aloud from Job 1:21, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” I prayed that even if I were to be tested positive for the disease, I may still be able to praise the Lord for his goodness and wisdom. We opened the envelope. Positive.

I had dreaded that day for many years. I had always assumed that I had HD, trying to lessen the potential blow if I did test positive. But really l had hoped deep down that I wouldn’t. When we saw the results, Lynne and I wept together and prayed in tears.

My Prayer

After receiving the diagnosis in 2009, I prayed for joy. I prayed that I would not just be able to deal with having the disease, but that I may be able to rejoice in the disease. I prayed for more trust in this part of God’s plan for me. Since then, I have seen God use these trials to build my faith. He desired to show the power of the gospel in my life, that through my disease somehow his name may receive glory and honor.

Fear is still a consistent temptation. My condition could begin to affect me more any time. The symptoms showed up for my mom in her mid-30s. Now I am in my mid-30s. God’s veiled purpose behind all of the uncertainty and waiting feels unbearable at times. Paul writes, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength . . . to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8–9).

HD took my mother, and it may take me, but it cannot take my hope. Because of my disease, I now constantly cry out to the Lord for mercy. I literally cannot rely on my own strength to survive. If we hope to escape the constant despair and debilitating fear that often comes with incurable disease — or whatever unique fears you face — we must rely on the Lord to carry us through and strengthen us, one day at a time.

My Article Today on China Source

Today I had an article on the website China Source.

Here’s the link:

Or you can read below:

In the “Teaching across Cultures” class I took last month with Dr. Craig Ott, he had us read The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently . . . and Why by Richard Nisbett. The crux of the book’s argument is that Westerners and Asians think differently because of their different ancient roots. Westerners are highly influenced by the ancient Greek mindset, which is to make laws and formations for everything around them. Whereas, Asians are most influenced by the ideas of Confucius, which do not put so much emphasis on making laws or explaining everything with rules.

Within the realm of theology, Western theologians always need to have air-tight explanations and arguments to explain everything from the Bible. Whereas, most non-Westerners (Asians, Africans, Middle Easterners, Hispanics) are not as concerned about making air-tight theological laws, but are able to accept the mysterious and paradoxical parts of the Bible (i.e. Calvinism vs. free will).

Pondering these factors interests me greatly. I think of my best Chinese-pastor friend who leads a small house church in northwest China. He knows all parts of the Bible incredibly well, as well as any Chinese person I know. However, he has never been interested in discussing the more debated theological topics that Westerners normally discuss. Those debates just are not important to him.

In my Bible-related conversations with him, we talk about things he has recently preached on. We talk about things I have been learning from the Bible. We talk about stories from the Bible. But for him, a book of “Systematic Theology,” where the information is organized in a list of common themes in the Bible, would be of little or no concern. This style of studying the Bible is targeted more towards a Western mindset, than a Chinese mindset. My Chinese friend would be much more interested in studying things that relate to his ministry. He has been encouraged much by the Chinese translation of the missions book Perspectives. It seems to me that overall his understanding of the Bible comes from reading the Bible itself, rather than reading books about the Bible.

My Book on Missio Nexus

On June 27th, the large missions network Missio Nexus put my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives on their website: https://missionexus.org/category/books/leaders-edge/

I was thankful Missio Nexus could choose my book for their monthly author interview on their Leaders Edge resources page. I did the interview with the VP Marv a few weeks ago. It was a great opportunity for me.

If you are a member of Missio Nexus, I suggest you to read what has been posted on that website about my book, and you can listen to the interview with me about my book.

working on book #2

I’m in the process of writing my 2nd book. I’m now looking for a publisher for it.

It’ll be about suffering and God’s sovereignty in our sufferings. Much of the book will be about a biblical understanding of suffering. Then the 2nd half of the book will be about some of my particular sufferings & how the Lord has carried me through them.

I started writing the book about two years ago. And I am nearing completion of the book.

I could use prayers for guidance & strength from the Lord in all this.

I think about Paul’s words: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17)

Review of my book in EMQ

Last weekend I came across another review of my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives. It was written in the January 2017 edition of the missions journal Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ).

You can read the review below, written by Dr. Ed Scheuerman, professor at Lancaster Bible College:

 

—Reviewed by Ed Scheuerman, professor of intercultural studies, Lancaster Bible College

Living among nationals is not enough to accomplish the goal of gaining acceptance in order to share the gospel. The missionary needs to seek to ‘become native.’ Drawing upon his ten years of living in China, Tabor Laughlin’s primer highlights the challenge of crossing the line from being among to living with those God calls the missionary to serve. He additionally calls the reader to “build deep relationships with them and to be intentional to share with them the gospel” (p. 8).

This short book (just 71 pages) is in three sections: (1) principles, (2) practices, and (3) take away. Each of the seven chapters ends with a few practical questions. The primary benefit of this book is its practical suggestions in such areas as language learning, food, dress, and identity among the local community. Laughlin wisely stresses the need for integrity in areas such as one’s visa.

The author seeks a level of acceptance where, “They will no longer see us as an outsider” (p. 37). But I don’t know that this will be entirely possible. Personally, one of the best days of my life in China was when I was told that I was “just like a Chinese.” I knew that this was a statement of acceptance but that I would never truly be Chinese.

Another slight concern is when Laughlin writes, “In such instances, when we realize that it’s actually our home culture that does things weird, not the new culture, maybe we should consider adopting the local custom” (p. 42). Neither needs to be “weird,” just different. We need to guard against making value statements (in either cultural direction) when customs are simply different. But the main point of adopting local customs is advisable.

Referencing Romans 14, the author wisely exhorts the reader to consult local believers when seeking to decide what would be a potential stumbling block for both believers and unbelievers in the local culture. “May the Lord grant you his wisdom in such cases,” he writes (p. 43). Laughlin similarly makes strong value judgements about children’s education and a wife’s language learning. “For her, studying the language should never be a higher priority than taking care of her family” (p. 58). I understand his intent here, but I would caution against imposing a Western value—in this case, of how one prioritizes family life. While I would not advocate imitating the family life of William Carey, I also don’t want to impose my Western understanding of family uniformly on everyone. The concern here, as with attempting to follow presumed “biblical standards,” is the need to recognize that how we interpret the Bible is also done with a cultural lens.

This book will serve well as an introduction for those about to get on the airplane to go overseas. But it can also serve as a challenge for all Christians to increasingly and appropriately seek to be in the culture in which God has placed them, regardless of their here and now.

Review of my Book in Southern Seminary Journal

There was a review of my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives in the Southern Seminary journal Towers last summer. I actually didn’t know this review was written & nobody told me about it. I just stumbled upon it earlier this week when browsing the Southern Seminary site.

 

Or you can read it below:

Review by Annie Corser

In Becoming Native to Win the Natives, SBTS alumnus Tabor Laughlin (pseudonym) speaks to Christians about missions in other cultures and nations. The book’s biblical foundation pulls from the Great Commission’s call to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth and make disciples, and Revelation’s display showing that heaven will be filled with people from every tribe, tongue, and nation.

“This book is not about how to preach the gospel in a cross-cultural environment, nor how to build deep relationships with those around you. It is just about the aspect of becoming like the native in all other aspects of life,” writes Laughlin.

Laughlin focuses on the characteristic traits needed for successful ministry: humility, service, love, and a burden for those you serve. With practical advice, he explains how to adopt cultural traditions not contrary to the Bible, like language, hobbies, and appearance.

A New Review of my Book

Yesterday there was a review of my book Becoming Native to Win the Natives in the Journal of Global Christianity, which is published by the organization Training Leaders International.

Here’s the link: http://trainingleadersinternational.org/jgc/81/becoming-native-to-win-the-natives-cross-culturally-becoming-all-things-to-all-men

The book review was graciously written by Jackson Wu.

 

Or you can read the book review pasted below:

For new missionaries, Tabor Laughlin’s Becoming Native to Win the Natives is a must read. His book has the rare combination of being practical, relevant and readable. Although a short text (just under 70 pages), Laughlin’s work is packed with counsel that only comes from years of experience.

Section One addresses issues related to one’s perspective and heart. In the second part, Laughlin talks about matters that every missionary faces. These include language learning, assimilating into the local culture, one’s appearance in the local community, and managing family life. Finally, he ties it all together in a concise conclusion.

Laughlin’s book is practical without becoming overly pragmatic. He specifically addresses the daily tasks that make up the missionary life. He equips and encourages readers with realistic expectations. Laughlin gives no space to idealism or abstraction. Instead, one finds advice that is immediately actionable. His stories draw from personal experience and so demonstrate what it might look like to “become native.”

Having served many years in China, Laughlin is able to offer counsel that is relevant to missionaries in every context. By contrast, other authors settle for mere principles in order to reach a maximum audience. Laughlin concludes his chapters with multiple questions that guide readers in application. These questions stimulate personal reflection and will direct missionaries as they consider the practical steps they need to take in order to flourish in their ministry. I envision many veteran missionaries also using Laughlin’s book to train, encourage, and mobilize newer workers.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the book is its readability. Given its short length, the book is a quick read. Laughlin writes in simple prose. He does not include a lot of technical terms and concepts that would otherwise confuse readers unfamiliar with missiological jargon. His tone is conversational and his message is clear.

Some might complain about the book’s brevity. I, for one, tend to steer away from such short works. Laughlin certainly could have said much more. However, he has spent much of a decade training newcomers to the mission field. As a result, his aim is simple: to write a brief text that people will actually read amid the stress of transition, language learning, and culture shock. In fact, readers will find more substance in this resource than is often found in much larger works.

I heartily recommend Laughlin’s book for anyone who wants to become native to win the natives.

My article today on Desiring God ‘Scripture Memory Made Simple’

Today I had an article on Desiring God. The title is ‘Scripture Memory Made Simple’.

Here’s the link: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/scripture-memory-made-simple

 

Or you can read the article below:

Whether we acknowledge it or not, we do have a lot of downtime in each day that we could be using to feed our souls. Often, we spend our spare minutes during the day doing other things like watching TV, playing on our phones, or surfing the internet. Maybe some of us are not seeing the spiritual growth we want because we don’t see the free minutes here and there throughout our day as a gift from God, but rather as a time for entertainment or productivity.

If you think about it, the accumulation of spare moments in our days quickly adds up. Getting dressed, eating breakfast, waiting at the bus stop, walking to class, waiting for the start of a meeting — usually our minds are unemployed during these moments, or occupied by social media. But for those who are looking to “make the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16), there is a means of grace perfectly suited to these short pockets of time: Bible memorization.

Ten Minutes for Treasured Truth

Ten years ago, when I worked as a teacher in China, I decided to take advantage of my free time throughout the day by memorizing Bible verses. I’d write a verse or a passage on an index card and pull it out throughout the day whenever I wasn’t doing anything else. In just a few years’ time, I had memorized over a thousand verses from God’s word — whole passages and even chapters from the Bible were locked in memory and doing their work in my heart.

To this day, I would count those stacks of Bible verse index cards among my most valuable possessions. I take them with me and still use them every day.

I’ve found that whether one spends lots of time in Scripture memory, or just a little time, it is always an incredibly valuable thing to do. It’s easy to consider our short breaks in the day to be “our own time” to relax or surf the internet or watch TV. While these are by no means bad things, we should weigh the value of these activities against the great gift of time to learn God’s word. I can assure you, whether you can invest ten or fifteen minutes each day into Scripture memory, or longer (or shorter) than that, any effort we make is time well spent.

For while rest and recreation have some value, memorizing Scripture has value in many ways. For example, here are four practical benefits of Bible memory:

1. We meditate on God’s word.

When we have the Scriptures hidden in our hearts, if we are regularly reviewing and learning them, we make the truth of Scripture available to our minds all throughout the day. We can be sitting anywhere, or doing anything, and suddenly turn our minds to think about Scripture that I’ve memorized — we can meditate on it day and night (Psalm 1:2).

2. We fight sin and resist the enemy.

The Scripture tells us that we should hide the word in our heart that we might not sin against God (Psalms 119:11). Paul says we must take up “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). This sword of the Spirit is what we use to fight the battle against Satan and against sin. Bible memory means we’re always armed.

3. We get a deeper understanding of the Bible.

This is a huge benefit of Scripture memory. By memorizing many verses covering the whole Bible, we gain a much better understanding of the Bible — not only in small segments, but also as a whole. I’ve found that I can recall key things about all books of the Bible from the top of my head. The more of God’s word we take in, the more we can see its architecture and design when we go to read it.

4. We are equipped for everyday life.

It’s often incredibly handy to be able to have Scripture “within reach” without pulling out our phones or opening our Bibles. We could be doing many things, like encouraging someone in our church, praying alone or in a group, preparing for a sermon, sharing the gospel with an unbeliever, writing someone an email or a paper or a book. Even with the modern ease of looking up info on the internet or on our smartphones, it can never be more convenient than knowing by heart the exact verse that you want to use whenever you want to use it.

Not Effortless, But Priceless

I encourage the readers to put in the time necessary to memorize Scripture. None of that time spent will be spent in vain. It may sound intimidating — just like learning anything, it doesn’t happen naturally. But it does happen simply. And the time you spend will be of great benefit to you and your life.

If you’re not memorizing Scripture right now, or even if you’ve never memorized a verse in your life, I’d encourage you to try with a simple goal of one memory verse every week or every two weeks. Do your best, not simply to memorize as much as you can, but to retain what you’ve already learned. In almost five years, I haven’t learned any new verses, but I still have hours’ worth of material to memorize every day, simply by reviewing. In this way, Scripture memory can be a lifelong means of God’s grace that will benefit you your whole life.

my article this week on Desiring God ‘Lay Aside ‘Lone Ranger’ Ministry’

This week I had an article on Desiring God titled ‘Lay Aside ‘Lone Ranger’ Ministry’

Here’s the link:

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/lay-aside-lone-ranger-ministry

 

Or you can read the article below:

As we ministered in our first city in eastern China, doing outreach to college students, our missionary team saw significant fruit among several students within our first year. What caused it to grow?

It was indeed the Lord who caused the seed to grow (1 Corinthians 3:6), and looking back, I also can see how the Lord made us his means and blessed our team with a tight bond. Not only were we close, but a lot of our time with the students was spent together as a team. We were intentional to spend time and minister to students not just individually, but also as a group.

For example, my friend Eric was ministering to a Chinese student named Jordan. He would get lunch with Jordan and talk about the gospel, among other things. Afterward, Eric and I would discuss how it went and pray for Jordan. Some other time, I would go get coffee with Jordan and talk about all kinds of things, but I’d also try to be intentional to share spiritual things. Afterward, Eric and I would pray.

Eventually, by spending time with different Christians individually and together with us in groups, Jordan became more interested in the gospel, until he believed. To this day, he continues to grow and persevere in that faith.

Partnering with others in gospel outreach can be powerful and effective. And we find that shared outreach is a very common model in the Bible.

They Shall Know by Your Love

A big part of our testimony to the lost is not only our words to them, but also our deep love for other believers. Jesus himself says in John 13:35 that “by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So, a huge part of our witness is how we love other believers. But if we are doing ministry on our own, it provides no opportunity for people to see our love for other believers and how we interact with them.

If we are committed to only doing outreach by ourselves, how will unbelievers see how we love each other? Certainly we need to proclaim the gospel through our words. This is vital, but it’s just one part of our witness. The other part of our testimony, biblically, is the conduct of our lives, including our love for other believers (Matthew 5:161 Peter 2:12). If we truly, selflessly love those in the church, others outside the church can see that and consider how this love may be unique to the Christian community. They may think this love expressed among believers as strange and be incredibly curious about the reason.

Jesus Sent Them Two by Two

In Luke 10:1–24, Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples in groups of two. One possible reason for this is so that they could hold one another accountable to the task at hand. If Jesus sent out seventy-two lone-ranger evangelists, it would be much easier for them to compromise the mission. But if they’re sent out with others, they can remind each other of their call and purpose, and encourage one another in times of discouragement and wandering.

Another possible reason why Jesus sent out the disciples two by two is for increased gospel witness. One person sharing a testimony can have great power, of course. But of even greater power is a complementary testimony coming from two or three people. One person may have a particular background or testimony that can hit someone with the gospel in a different way than another person who has a completely different background or testimony. The hearers can get multiple perspectives on the message, rather than just one.

Speaking to his disciples, Jesus said that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). In this place, Jesus is referring to acts of judgment within the church, following the Old Testament requirement of multiple witnesses to a charge (Deuteronomy 19:15). Nevertheless, it is easy to see how this principle applies more broadly to gospelwitness.

The testimony of two or three witnesses about anything is much more reliable and trustworthy than that of one witness. One person could just be confused, lying, or crazy. But having multiple people sharing a common testimony of truth is much harder to reject and brush aside. So when we are the only ones witnessing to someone about the gospel, it is quite a difficult task. It is much better to partner with another to deliver the gospel message with greater power and breadth.

Apostolic Ministry

Paul had a similar approach in ministry. Typically he was doing ministry together with others. Even when he was in prison, he often had other brothers with him. As he traveled on his three missionary journeys, he was not only traveling together with others, but also doing ministry with them.

On his first missionary journey, Paul — possibly one of the greatest evangelists of all time — did not go alone. In Acts 13:1–3, we see that the Holy Spirit himself told the church in Jersusalem to set apart both Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Barnabs ministered together in Iconium, “speaking boldly for the Lord” (Acts 14:3). They are not only in the city together, but they are boldly proclaiming the gospel together. This is just one of many examples in Acts of Christians sharing gospel ministry.

Feel the Freedom of Mutual Ministry

Once we see what the Bible says and shows about doing ministry together, we should be intentional to put it into practice in our lives. Consider cooperating with others in your church, or small group, to evangelize together, working together with other Christians in your neighborhood to try to reach your neighbors, or when possible, partnering missionaries with other missionaries on the field to minister to the local people.

Here’s a call to embrace the wisdom of the Bible in place of our own individual efforts and work with Christ’s body to make disciples both at home and among the nations, for his glory and the increase of our own joy (Philippians 4:11 Thessalonians 2:193 John 4).