Saturday, November 27, 2010

Watch a National Geographic show on Kaohsiung, Taiwan

If you get the National Geographic Channel - Asia, please tune in to its show Megacities on the 27th which is airing a piece on Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city. As you watch, please continue to pray. We would like to recruit a mission church planting team to target the cities and townships along the southwest coast of Taiwan. Taiwan needs more churches that clearly preach the Gospel and follow the full counsel of God in the Bible.

Megacities: Kaohsiung
Taiwan and cities like Kaohsiung are on the leading edge of carbon dioxide reduction technology, innovation and policy-making.
Next Showing: Saturday 27 November at 09:00 - National Geographic Channel

Monday 13 December at 08:00 - National Geographic Channel
Monday 13 December at 13:00 - National Geographic Channel

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Darkness, Bondage and Fear of Idol Worship in Taiwan

Recently, spurred by an article posted by Michael Kellahan (an Anglican pastor in Sydney, Australia), some Christians in Australia got into a discussion on whether western "idols" of the heart were equivalent to the worship of physical idols such as in Taiwan. One missionary to Taiwan, Phil Nicholson, entered the discussion with the following statements. As you read them, you will get more specifics of how to pray for Taiwan's people:

"Taiwan is an animistic society. Most people here are actively involved in worshiping idols, at home, in temples, at shrines. They pray to them, seek guidance through divination, offer sacrifices and truly believe that these idols represent spiritual beings with power to intervene and cause good or harm.

They are not one for one replacements of God since everyone recognises the gods represented have limited powers and sphere of influence. Nevertheless they are treated in many respects the way we are to treat God.

People look to the idols (and the gods behind them) to protect them, provide for their needs, give direction, etc.

At the same time they are still prone to what we would call idolatry of the heart. i.e. they look to money, possessions, love, etc to make them feel good, happy, valuable, etc. So what they are looking for from the physical idols is not actually the same as what people like Keller & Driscoll would say we look for in our functional saviours/idols. In fact their emotional response to the idols is often one of fear or detachment, not love.

They tend to read the passages of idolatry literally since there is a one to one correlation between the biblical context and their own context. And there is a real temptation for even Christians to rely on idols, charms, divination when life gets rough.

As I mentioned, I am not opposed to use idolatry as a useful way of looking at our sins, but at the same time it strikes me that these are not identical….

There is something particularly distressing about seeing people bowing down to idols and this is confirmed in the Bible. Idol filled places like Taiwan also seem spiritually very dark. And I don't think this is just our Western sensibilities or cultural prejudice. We are no less sinful in Australia, but when a people are given over to full fledged idolatry I think there is something degrading and enslaving that we in the Western have been spared from for many generations (but are now returning to).

One of the first things done when a household repents is to rip down the idol shelf. It is quite a celebration. Christians tend to replace this with cross or more often with hanging scrolls with scripture on them.

People know we don't worship idols so they don't find it odd, in fact doing things they find taboo can be a powerful witness to the fact that Christians have all they need in Christ.

If anything, people like the atmosphere of churches and the freedom Christians have. But fear is often a barrier that stops them believing."

-- Phil Nicholson, OMF missionary to Taiwan

The last comment bears repeating: "But fear is often a barrier that stops them believing."

If you look at 1 Corinthians 10:14-22, Paul specifically associated worship of physical idols with demon worship -- in that somehow demons particularly hang around and associate with such altars, idols and temples. That would account for the particular feeling of spiritual darkness mentioned by Phil Nicholson in his above discussion. I think the issue of demonic involvement in idol worship is a major distinction between "heart" idols and literal physical idols and altars. We all sin, and we cannot simply blame lust or greed or hatred on a demon's influence. These sins are closer to home -- "Out of the heart, the mouth speaks." In contrast, I think that in much of idol worship in Taiwan, there is in many cases an added dimension of demonic involvement.

1 Corinthians 10:14-22

"Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.

Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger that He?"

The kind of idol worship in Taiwan results in a strong bondage to fear. From what I have seen, people feel the same way about their gods and spirits they worship as a small businessman might feel about organized crime and an extortion racket where if you don't pay the "protection money" then the mafia will cause you trouble and ruin your business. And so the background culture in Taiwan constitute huge walls and barred gates to accepting the Gospel.

Praise be to God that Christ will build his church and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Christians fight with the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. By it we preach the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

1 John 4:18 "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us."

We want to thank again all of you who help send missionaries to Taiwan with your prayers and financial support. People all over the world desperately need to hear the Gospel and put their faith in Jesus.

- Joel H. Linton

(* all scripture quotes are NKJV translation)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Principles from Proverbs on Church Planting and also Church Revitalization

Today I visited a church and preached from Proverbs 27:23-27. This passage of Scripture can be applied to many areas of life although in this sermon I applied it specifically to the church.

As they keep track of supporters, maintain their communications, and give reports, missionaries also have to remember this passage of Scripture. It will encourage them in their active involvement with not just the nation to whom they were sent, but also with supporters who help to send them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Cultural Background of Taiwan

Here is an interesting analysis of the origins of Taiwan's hybrid culture.

Regarding Taiwan's background religious culture, I was reading from the book of Jeremiah this morning and noticed a chapter describing the prophet Jeremiah's interaction with the Jewish exiles in Egypt. Their worldview of idolatrous pragmatism seems to very much capture traditional Taiwanese religious experience. So go read Jeremiah 44 and 45.

The answer to that worldview can be found in Psalm 49 and Psalm 73.

Please pray for Taiwanese to come to the wisdom that the Holy Spirit teaches in the Psalms.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fun with Wildlife

Living in the center of a big city in Taiwan, the children do not have a yard or much outside space. So when they visit the U.S., they head outdoors.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Gospel comes to a local cafe in Taipei

Across a small park from our apartment in Taipei is a beloved little cafe called, Park Cafe. It is a Taiwanese family-owned restaurant run by two sisters. We walk by it all the time on our way to the subway rapid transit station. Last year we got to know these owners. Also, because of their excellent home-cooked Taiwanese-style food, some of the New Hope church members began to frequent their cafe.

As they observed their most frequent customers, the family of one of New Hope's elders, Aaron Heidel, they became curious about how these young children were so well-behaved. They got into many discussions with this elder and his wife about child training and that led to opportunities to share the Gospel.

(This elder's wife, Jean Heidel, is the one who translated Judy's infant care book. She also heads the translation team for New Hope's bilingual service. Jean is writing her own book this year about her experience trying to implement the methods of Judy's book. She also has a special chapter on adoption since the Heidels have adopted four children so far. We are especially praying that the adoption chapter will have an impact on Taiwanese culture since traditionally adoption is frowned upon.)

As several of us from New Hope began to visit their cafe, we all were able to gradually, more and more, share with them the love of Christ. We all became friends and the Park Cafe even hosted an outreach event where Judy met some of her infant care book readers. Last November, one of the sisters, Amanda, began visiting our church regularly; her whole family came with her. Joel spent a lot of time talking with her and her husband about the Christianity.

This spring, Amanda, professed her faith in Jesus Christ, received baptism, and joined the church. Please pray for her family: her husband and two sons attend New Hope regularly but have not yet come to faith.

Click on this link to see a video of her baptism. We were very sad to miss it, but we had already come to the United States for a year of furlough.

You can listen here to the testimony with translation into English:

You'll notice that Joel's coworker Rev. Daniel Cohee is now serving New Hope as pastor. After seminary and some internships in the U.S., and a two-year mission in Romania, he had come to Taiwan to serve under Joel as a missionary intern. Then he went back to the U.S. to take his ordination exams, and raise support; now he has moved to the field as a long-term missionary. Please also pray for Daniel as he studies Mandarin and pastors New Hope. We praise God that because he was able to come for an internship for over a year, he already was able to adjust to Taiwan and so this time was ready to start right into his labors. Daniel plans to continue as interim pastor while this church looks for a long-term full-time pastor. Please pray for New Hope's pastor search. As Daniel's language improves and he transitions out of serving as the full-time pastor, he plans to expand his work in training Taiwanese men for church planting.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Please pray for Judy's extended family this February 28 as they remember the suffering their family went through in 1980. Pray that they all may come to know the Lord.

Here's a history piece one news organization put out this year about Judy's family. There are video footage and pictures in this news report that I have never seen before. I do not understand all of the Mandarin yet so cannot assess how it is narrated (whether completely accurate or sensationalized), but the pictures say a lot about what they went through.

The P5 video contains an interview with Rev. Tīⁿ Jî-gio̍k who happens to be one of my former Taiwanese teachers, someone who helped me out a lot on my first ever Taiwanese sermon I preached. (Here are links to the sermon in Taiwanese and translated into English.)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jesus Loves the Little Children

Here's an article regarding Taiwan having the lowest birthrate in the world.

Here's an article about the longest practicing pediatrician in the world who retired at age 103 years, Dr. Leila Denmark of northern Georgia. She turned 112 this year. Judy wrote an infant care book based on the advice of my aunt with 11 children and their pediatrician Dr. Denmark, and Judy's book is not only helping to reach families with the Gospel but also helping to encourage families to have more children.

Click on the following to hear the testimony of one of Judy's book readers who became a Christian and then joined our Taipei church plant in 2009:

PRAYER REQUEST: Please pray for Judy and me as we plan to write a follow-up child-training book later this year. (Many of these families have been asking for one, and so we plan to write a book explaining what God has taught in His Word regarding how to train your children.) There are almost no Mandarin-language books from a Biblical perspective on the subject whereas there are some helpful English books out there, among them, To Train Up a Child, which gives very good practical illustrations about how discipline and training work out in many real-life situations.

Here is my sermon on Proverbs 13:24. I recently preached this passage at a church in Alabama.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Something to be encouraged about...

Brit Hume, a well-known and respected Fox News anchor, professes his faith on one of the most highly rated and watched news programs in the USA.