As I am preparing for my fourth annual trip to Southeast Asia, I am faced once again with the simple question, “How much are the nations worth to me?”  From our first service until now, missions have always been apart of our church services both in giving and intercession.    First, we supported Teisa Nicole and her work with Heidi Baker in the orphanages in Mozambique Africa.  Then by divine appointment we started to travel and train churches in both Mexico and India.  

Acts 1:8, “… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Now, we are serving in Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Northern and Southern India, and Nepal.  In total there are over 100 pastors and 250 churches that call themselves Metro Praise and use the same vision and strategy in making disciples.  Therefore, every year since we took our first mission offering and prayed for the nations, the cost of missions to me, my family, and ministry has always increased.
I meet with our six Apostolic Elders every week where we pray, do devotions together, and share ideas to make disciples of the nations through strategic church planting.  Every week I am humbled and blown away by their humility and love for God.  I am consistently challenged by their moving stories and inspired by their amazing acts of faith.
Often times I hear prayer requests like this, “Pastor Joe, please pray for one of my pastors, he is in a village where the local thugs have threatened his life and said that unless he pays them an immense amount of money, he will have to leave or they will kill him.”  I have come to tears many times in our meetings because of gut wrenching stories like this.

Psalm 2:8, “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.” 

I taught “Intro to Global Missions” one semester at SUM and literally each time when I brought the Apostles in to share- I along with many in the class were brought to tears and deep intercession just by hearing their stories.  All of our leaders in Southeast Asia have been threatened, physically abused, and severely persecuted for their faith.  Plus, they are constantly in dire need of finances and proper health care. 
Sometimes people ask me, “How did your church get so many churches around the world?”  Or “How much money do you have to give the pastors to get them to work with you?”  I answer both questions the same, “God brought them to us, not because of money or our size, but because they found our materials online and wanted to partner with a church in the US that truly believed in Spirit-filled evangelism and discipleship.”
I write all the above to now ask this very important question, “What are the nations worth to me today?”  Are they worth my precious time and energy?  Are they worth spending all the monies I have in my bank account?  Are they worth all the monies in the church bank account?  Are the nations worth my ministry position here in Chicago?  Are they worth my life?  Are they worth my family’s life?

1 John 3:16-18, “16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

I have actually heard well-intentioned pastors say, “My primary and only mission is here in Chicago.  The US is all I am concerned with.  Let God raise up local pastors in those areas to reach the lost.”  I cannot even answer them back when they make those kind of statements because I know if I were to speak I would not even be able to hold back the tears.  I would be moved to weep in their presence before even being able to share the obvious Biblical reasons for a focus on world missions.

Matthew 28:19-20, “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

At this point some might think that missions and cross-cultural ministry comes natural to me, but those people don’t know me very well.  All those closest to me; my parents, wife, and close friends all know that I am the worst candidate for oversea travels in the natural.  (1) I cannot sleep on planes, thus I stay up for close to 48hrs each time I travel one way to India, (2) I always suffer from severe jet lag- it usually takes me 2-3 days to get back on track each way, thus I am up all night and sick feeling during the day, (3) Plus, I dislike heat, not being in control of my surroundings, I feel like a child not being able to speak the languages, and am easily annoyed by having to do everything in large groups… (4) Bottom line: I am my weakest on the mission field. 

1 Corinthians 2:3-5, “3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

However, my story of “temporary discomfort” does not even compare to the missionaries of ole’ or the ones serving full-time today in persecuted nations.  Stories of David Livingston, Hudson Taylor, Victor Plymire, John G. Lake, and Adoniram Judson bid me to pay a higher price for the nations than I have even paid before.  
I can imagine the Father in heaven asking the modern day American church, “Who wants the nations as an inheritance for my Son?”  One pastor quickly yells out to the Lord of the Harvest, “I’ll give you 10% of my church income to missions!”  Another pastor passionately bids back, “I’ll match that 10%, plus I’ll raise him with two missions trips every year!”  I can then hear these generals of the faith around the throne of God boldly declare, “We offered our entire lives including our families for the nations, that is why the Father gave them to us!  How can you offer Him any less, than your best!?”

Hebrews 12:1-3, “1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

As I am wrestling with this question the powerful quote from two Moravian missionaries who sold themselves into slavery to be a witness to the slaves comes to mind, “May the lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.” Here is the whole story, if you have never heard it before. 

The Moravians had learned that the secret of loving the souls of men was found in loving the Savior of men. On October 8, 1732, a Dutch ship left the Copenhagen harbor bound for the Danish West Indies. On board were the two first Moravian missionaries; John Leonard Dober, a potter, and David Nitschman, a carpenter. Both were skilled speakers and ready to sell themselves into slavery to reach the slaves of the West Indies. As the ship slipped away, they lifted up a cry that would one day become the rallying call for all Moravian missionaries, “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.” The Moravian’s passion for souls was surpassed only by their passion for the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. 

The closest I have ever come to this kind of sacrifice was when I was preparing to go to Pakistan for the first time.  I had been debating Muslims at the same time here in the US and one of my fellow apologist said that I should watch the “Muslim beheading videos” to be able to understand the truly wicked nature of Islam.  After watching these horrific videos I was scarred for life.  Thus, when I was getting ready to go to Pakistan I felt the Lord say, “Would you give your life for me?” 
I instantly began to think of my family, the ministry, and all that He had given me for the last 15 years of serving Him- and I was not able to answer.  Then I heard the Lord say, “If you would have died as a sinner, where would you have gone?”  I answered, “Hell.”  He then said, “In hell would you have been like the rich man in the Bible and cried out to be released even if you were made a beggar in this life?  Would you not have pleaded with me so badly to get out of hell and be given another chance to spend eternity with me that you would have endured anything just to not be in hell forever?”  And I answered, “Yes, Lord.  In hell I would have begged for any kind of life just to have a second chance to go to heaven.” 
Then I heard the Lord speak powerfully to my heart, “Then how dare you after being spared from hell and given 15 years of blessings now make those blessings I gave you a hindrance to doing my will!” 

Luke 14:25-27, “25 Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple. 27 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”

The Pakistan mission trip did not happen because our visas were denied due to political tensions.  However, the lesson burned deep into my heart.  At this time I hear the Lord speaking to me again saying, “Will you go on this mission trip even if it costs you all your monies both personally and in the church?”  Therefore, please pray for me as I totally submit my will to His so that when the Lord asks me, “How much are the nations worth to you?”  I can answer, “Everything.” 

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

If you are interested in our 2012 missions trip, please visit this link and watch the video.