Report from ‘Round the World

Report from ‘Round the World

August 9th, 1970 @ 10:50 AM

Acts 14:24-27

And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. And when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down into Attalia: And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled. And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.
Related Topics: Choir, Communism, Ministry, Outreach, World, 1970, Acts
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Acts 14

8-9-70    10:50 a.m.


On the television and on radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas.  And this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled Report From  Around the World, turning again to a passage in the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Acts that concludes the story of the first missionary journey.

We flew over these places.  “And after they had passed throughout Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia”; those are ancient Roman provinces.  “And when they had preached the word at Perga,” a city down there on the southern part of Asia Minor, “they went down into Attalia” [Acts 14:24-25], which is a seaport.

And thence sailed to Antioch, from whence they had been recommended to the grace of God for the work which they fulfilled.

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how He had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

[Acts 14:26-27]

Which is exactly, precisely, what we are doing this morning hour.

We left Dallas and went to Seattle and from Seattle across the great northern route to Tokyo; from Tokyo to Kyoto, and Osaka, and Expo ’70; from Osaka to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, old Formosa, and thence to Hong Kong; from Hong Kong across South Vietnam and Cambodia, to Bangkok the capital of Thailand.  There the choir turned back to Singapore, to Hawaii, and back home.  And we continued on around the world, from Bangkok across Burma, across East Pakistan, across India, across Iran, to Tehran, to Tehran the capital city of Iran, ancient Persia; from Iran across Turkey, across Cypress, and to Tel Aviv in Israel; from Tel Aviv across the isle of Rhodes and the isles of the Greek nation, across Greece itself, across the entire length of Yugoslavia, Austria, West Germany, Belgium, and to London.  And from London across the north Atlantic, to Chicago, and back to sweet, dear Dallas.  The hardest thing about the journey is the day and the night.  I don’t know whether the mechanism of my anatomical reactions this moment are in the day, or in the night, or in between.  It’s a hard adjustment to make.  We arrived a little after seven o’clock last night.

Now in speaking of the journey, I shall speak first of things choral; things pertaining to our Chapel Choir.  Over there in one of those nations in the Orient, a man came to me, and he said, “I saw two groups of young people on the airplane.  One,” he said, “I understand belongs to you.  They are a choir from your church in America.  They look so fine, clean cut, washed; their deportment and behavior so fine.  The other group on the plane,” he said, “were a bunch of hippies from a great university on the eastern seaboard of America.  They were filthy.  They were dirty.  They were unshaven.  They were unkempt.  They stank.  They didn’t sit in their seats in the plane.  They sat on the floor in a heap in the corner.”

And he said to me, “Which is America?  Your young people or those hippies who filled the airplane with stench?  Which is America?”  I suppose the whole civilized world is asking that.  And it takes no thought on my part to answer that America is represented gloriously and beautifully by the clean cut, clean in heart, and life, and soul, and body of the young people who represent our Lord, this church, and the finest in the land over which waves  the Stars and the Stripes.

Where preparation was made for their coming, our young people did gloriously with tremendous impact upon those who attended their concerts.  In the city of Hong Kong, they had the privilege of singing in the city hall, their public civic auditorium.  It had been scheduled by the communists of Czechoslovakia.  But for some political reason known but to the enigmatic government there, the Czechs did not appear, and immediately the auditorium was offered to our young people.

When I went to the service, I thought, “Oh dear me, there’s a riot going on.”  There were hundreds and hundreds of people on the outside that couldn’t get in.  As I walked into the auditorium, a missionary said to me, “Please, would you see if you could find a seat for me?”  They sang like that to packed houses in concert halls and public auditoriums wherever preparation had been made; Hong Kong, Bangkok, Singapore, Hawaii, wherever.  They made the headlines.  They would appear for an hour and a half on television.  The whole nation knew of the coming of these dedicated Christian young people from America.

Nor have I ever been more moved in my life than at times when no preparation had been made, and the young people were blue and discouraged, as after a concert on a Monday night in Tokyo.  When I came back to the Imperial Hotel where all of us were staying, two of the boys met me in the lobby, and said, “Pastor, would you come up and pray with us?  Our choir is so discouraged.”  I went up to the mezzanine floor and looked, a very large, large and spacious area, looked to me as though there were half an acre of those young people.  They were in little groups, little groups, little groups, praying, and pouring out their hearts before the Lord.

I called them together, and stood in the midst of them, and said, “Dear young people, all God requires of us is to do our best.  And the rest is up to Him.  We can witness.  We can testify.  We can practice.  We can sing.  We can preach.  We can make appeal.”  It was a discouraging night.  When I made appeal for Christ after the concert, many of them got up and left.  It was discouraging.  But as I looked upon those teenagers, burdened before the Lord, crying out in prayer and supplication, I thought in my heart, “Dear God, the tears of these boys and girls and the burden of their intercession opens wide the gate into the very throne presence of God.  And the Lord will hear and answer by fire and by glory from heaven.”  And He did.

I speak next of things political and especially regarding our opposition to the aggressive military confrontation with Red Communism.  There are such deep, divisive cleavages in this world.  If you were in Tehran, the capital of Iran, of Persia, and went to Tel Aviv, you would naturally go straight in an airline from there to here.  But not so.  On the BOAC plane, the British Overseas Air Craft plane, we went from Tehran way up here into the middle of Turkey, and then cut down south across this area where Paul’s first missionary journey followed, across Cypress, and so down to Tel Aviv.  Why such a vast arc to get from there to here?  Because of the bitter and implacable hatred of Iraq and Syria toward Israel, and so much of the world is like that.  In Thailand, ancient Siam, they changed the name to Thailand, which means “free land,” a free people.  The Thais have never been in any colonial empire.  They’ve always been free.  Nor have the Thais been involved in warfare.  They’ve remained out and largely neutral.  But the missionary said to me in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, he said, there is a great foreboding and apprehension growing in the hearts of our Thai people.  For the first time in their history, they are taking a stand.  They’ve always been outside of the circumference of military conflict and the confrontation of world powers.  But the Thais are now in war.  And they have been led into that war by the United States of America.  Their soldiers are fighting by American soldiers in Vietnam.  And their police and their military are involved on the borders of Cambodia.  And our Thai people have been led to take that stand against aggressive communism by the United States of America.  But the Thai people are now,

the missionary said to me, filled with foreboding and anxiety because they are afraid that America has led them to take that stand in Southeast Asia to oppose the communist aggressor, and now having taken that stand and having become involved, they are afraid that America will withdraw her helping hand and her shield of guardian friendship and leave them to their own fate.

I can understand that apprehension in the hearts of the citizens of Thailand, for I hear these doves speak in the Senate and in the House, and through the press, and on radio, and on television, and I read of it in our newspapers.  They also read and hear, and they are afraid that America is going to forsake Southeast Asia and turn it over to the communist aggressor.

Oh, what thoughts arise in my heart as I think of the political choices of America!  I have said a thousand times, I say it again, somewhere, sometime, that line has to be drawn where the free world says to the communist aggressor, “Thus far and no further!”  That line can be drawn in South Vietnam, or it can be drawn at the Philippines, or it can be drawn at Hawaii, or it can be drawn in California on our Pacific seaside, or it can be drawn on the line between New Mexico and Texas, or it can be drawn at the Mississippi River.  But somewhere, sometime that line must be drawn, when America and the free world says, “Thus far and no further.”

We honored our treaty, called the SEATO Treaty, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization.  We were drawn into that conflict by honoring that treaty, whereby the sacred honor of America was pledged to the nations of Southeast Asia, that if they were attacked by the communists we would help them.  That’s why we’re there, in honor of a sacred pledge we made to those nations of Thailand, of the Philippines, of South Vietnam, and the rest in that treaty organization.  And they hear of our demonstrations, and they hear of our talking and our suggestions that what we ought to do is to turn over the country to whatever aggressor is able to take it.

Those men over there, when the plane flew over South Vietnam, some of the planes in which our group rode, went over at night––I went over in the daytime––went over at night, and they could see the bombs bursting and the artillery firing in the confrontation in South Vietnam and in Cambodia.  I think of those men over there.  More than forty thousand of them have stained the soil of Southeast Asia with their American blood.  And I think of the men who are standing there now.

Our choir went out to the largest bomber base, the Air Force base in the Orient, Utapau, and sang for the men there.  Those bombers roaring out every few seconds on their missions in the confrontation with communism in Southeast Asia, and as the choir sang, tears flowed down the cheeks of those American boys.  At a dinner in Bangkok, Lee Roy and the group had just come back, and as Lee Roy sat by my side, he couldn’t tell me about it for crying.  As they sang, the general stood up, just stood up, the men stood up, and with tears joined in their singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”  That’s the kind of America I want to belong to.  That’s the kind of America I want to be a citizen of.  That’s the kind of America I want to share with the world.  Not a dirty one, or a filthy one, or a cowardly one, but a brave one; one that dares to say, has courage to do.

I have a very distinct impression of the commies; a very distinct impression.  When I was in Hong Kong, I wanted to go to Macao.  First time I ever rode in a hydrofoil, one of those fast moving boats that pulls up out of the water and skims just about that high above it, took about hour and a half to get over there.  Macao is a Portuguese colony, settled there by the Portuguese before Columbus discovered America.  Hong Kong is the British crown colony.  Macao is the Portuguese.

And all of us read in 1967 of the riots by the communists in Macao and in Hong Kong.  In Macao, the people quail before the communists.  We had in that city a great school, our Baptist school.  And a communist woman took it over, a communist woman!  And they own it and run it.  And there they have their communist school, and we don’t have any part in it anymore.  We’ve lost it.  And the communists took over Macao, and Macao is nothing today but a window of Communist China out on the free world.  It is completely under the surveillance and under the control of Red China, Macao!  And they took it in the riots in 1967.

But in Hong Kong, those same riots went on.  But the people of Hong Kong stood by their police, and the people in Hong Kong stood by their government, and Hong Kong was, and is, and remains a free colony, a part of the free world.  My impression of the commies is wherever they are opposed, they wilt.  It was so in the missile crisis in Cuba when the United States government had enough courage for one time in its life to say to Russia, “You remove those missiles, or we are there with our bombers and our men.”  And Khrushchev took them out in minutes.

And I have a humble personal observation to make about the conflict in Vietnam.  That conflict would have been over in fifteen minutes had the United States government said to Hanoi and his commies, “You’re going to take your soldiers out of free South Vietnam, and we’ll give you fifteen minutes to order them out.  And at the end of that time, if they’re not out, we’re going to bomb your nation out of existence.  And you make the choice, one or the other.”  It would have been over in fifteen minutes.  But as it is, Hanoi and their commies think, by captured documents we know, that they think that there are enough doves in America, and enough spineless congressmen and senators in America, and enough spineless people in America, that, if they just hang on, they will finally beat us down and take over all of those little countries who look to us for salvation and for deliverance—things political.

Last, things ecclesiastical; things of the church.  I would not need to remind you of the bitter enemy that ecclesiastical liberalism has in your pastor.  I am its enemy as long as I have breath to breathe, as long as I have words to say.  If there was a hair in my head that was liberal, I’d pull it out!  And in this journey, I met it again to my sorrow.   I was there on a three month preaching mission in Japan in 1950.  The First Baptist Church of Osaka, a city bigger than Chicago, came out of that revival meeting I held in Osaka.  And out of that church, there are now fourteen other churches in Osaka.

But to my sorrow, my grief of heart, I learned that in Japan there is that radical, left-wing element that is in our Baptist churches.  And they are destroying out Baptist work and our Baptist witness.  That happened once again in the days of the Kumamoto band, a little over a hundred years ago.  It looked as if all Japan would be Christian.  The whole nation was to be won to the Lord.  It looked that way.  Then rationalism and liberalism and modernism entered the Christian movement, and decimated it, and destroyed it.  And the same thing is beginning to happen now and again in Japan.  You look upon it with grief in your soul.

How do they work and how do they do?  This is what they do.  They say the gospel message of Christ is not salvation.  It is social reform.  It’s not the Bible.  It’s discussion.  It’s not worship.  It’s talking about and seeking to overthrow the existing situation, the establishment.  So, what they do, they come to our churches in Japan, and they disrupt them.  They speak out.  They stand up, “We don’t want to sing these songs.  We don’t want to read this Book.  We don’t want to have a sermon.  We don’t want to have an evangelistic appeal.  What we want is to discuss social situations, social reorganization, social amelioration.”

So what happens is, they disrupt the services; and the pastor gets discouraged and quits.  And the have destroyed already some of our churches in Japan.  And the great Oimachi Baptist Church, to us small, but the biggest in Nippon, it is a shell of what once it was.  And in this evangelistic effort, they refused to have any part in it for they are social now.  They are left-wing now.  They are interested not in salvation or the preaching of the gospel, but they’re interested in discussing social problems.

The last night of the Baptist World Congress, Billy Graham had an evangelistic service.  And it was in a great auditorium like ours, in an arena.  And I sat here to watch.  I saw forty of those fellows come in, take their seats in the balcony, and sit together.  Didn’t know who they were, I just saw about forty of them march in.  When Billy Graham was introduced, as their habit is in the conference, they clap, and they clap all through a man’s address.  They clapped; and those forty up there didn’t stop clapping.  They kept on clapping loud and talking loud and making noise.  They just kept on.  That’s the way they do in the services.

These leftwingers have no consideration for God, nor do they honor man.  Their idea is to disrupt.  It’s to demonstrate.  It’s to make noise.  They are a loud, vociferous minority that is contemptible, whether here or whether there.  So as I sat there and watched them, there were supposed to be about two hundred of them, but according to a way that I haven’t time here to recount, their numbers were decimated, and about forty of them appeared.  So there they are up there on that balcony making noise.

When you went into the Baptist World Alliance meeting that night––and I haven’t time to read it––but here is all about cheaply done.  Oh, their definition of the gospel, which is not evangelistic, which is not salvation, but it is social, social betterment, social amelioration, social discussion!  And so they’re opposing the appearance of Billy Graham, and that’s what all that’s about.  And they hand that to you as you walk into the auditorium.  Now to oppose is fine, and to be free to speak is fine.  But to take advantage of freedom to destroy our institutions and to make impossible the worship of God in the churches, to me, is unthinkable and unspeakable and unimaginable!

So there I sit, and I watched those forty up there in the balcony.  They’ve come to make noise, to make a service impossible.  And what was done that night as I watched it, I think ought to be done every time they appear.  About two hundred of our fine Baptist young people, when they saw that forty up there and what they were doing, they swarmed to that place in the balcony, and they said to that forty, “You’re going to shut up, and you’re going to be quiet, and you’re going to listen, and you’re going to have a part in this worship service by listening, or we’re going to beat the tar out of you.  Now you tell us what you’re going to do.”  I don’t need to tell you what happened.  They wilt wherever somebody stands up and says, “By the grace of God, thus far and no further.”  They were quiet and meek as little, little baby lambs up there, as I watched them.  Those boys sat down among them, all around them.

But to go back to my original thesis, I came back from that journey with a renewed dedication, and consecration, and commitment to the Book, and to the Word of God, and to the preaching of the gospel, and to the evangelistic appeal.  But these sophisticates with supercilious scorn, look down their noses at people like us.  And they say, “Bibliolatry, bibliolatry, worshiping a book, a book.”  What about that?  I, once again, became doubly sensitive to my commitment to this gospel and the Book out of which it originates.

Mrs. Criswell and I, getting ready for these pastors’ parties, went to every antique shop in Japan, in Hong Kong, in Thailand, in Tehran, in London, and wherever there’s one in between.  We scoured the earth.  Among other things, we were looking for beautiful pieces of ivory to bring back and to offer to our people in these pastors’ parties.  Wherever we asked, the antique dealer would say, “It’s against the law to carve Chinese figures of the old China.  It’s against the law.  It cannot be done.”

Well, I thought that was an antique dealer’s gimmick in order to sell you what he’s got.  But every one said that.  So, when I went to Macao, I said, “I’m going to visit one of those big, impressive Red-fronted Communist Chinese department stores, where Red China funnels all of the wares of Red China into the store and offers it to those who will buy.”  So I went into the Red Communist store in Macao.

There the entire left wall of the large, large store was filled behind glass, was filled with ivory carvings, hundreds and hundreds of them, in a large display there.  I talked to the man who ran the store, and I said, “All these antique dealers say to me it’s against the law to make a carving in China now, of the old life.”  And he said, “That’s correct.  That’s correct.”  He says, “What we do now in Red China is, we are blotting out the past!  We are destroying the past, and we are presenting the new China!”  And he said, “All of the ivory carvings now in China are political carvings.”  He used the word himself, “They are political.  They depict the glories of the Chinese cultural revolution.”

So I looked at the shelves, and shelves, and shelves of those Chinese carvings in that communist store.  They all had a political turn.  And what were they doing?  The farmer, out there on the farm; and that little dealer in the shop in the city; and the father in the home, they are reading a little red book.  And in the ivory carving, it’s always painted red.  They’re reading a little red book.  And that little red book is the sayings of Mao Tse-tung!  I never bothered to pick one up there in Macao for I had picked one up for a few cents on the streets in Dar es Salaam when I was in Africa last February, the capital of Tanzania; pick them up for a few cents.  They publish these books by the millions and by the millions and by the millions.

When I turn the book, I see it says it is published by the People’s Republic of China.  Then here’s the picture of Mao Tse-tung, who runs Red China.  Then here is a forword by his chief minister, who says, “Study Chairman Mao’s writings.  Follow his teachings.”  Then in the forword, “Mao Tse-tung’s thought is Marxism, Leninism of the era in which imperialism is heading for total collapse and socialism advance into worldwide victory.  It is a powerful,” this, the little book, “it is a powerful ideological weapon for opposing imperialism.  Mao Tse-tung’s thought is the guiding principle for all the work of the party, the army, and the country”; this little red book!  Then I turn the page, “Once Mao Tse-tung’s thought is grasped by the broad masses, it becomes,” this little book, “it becomes an inexhaustible source of strength and a spiritual atom bomb of infinite power,” the little book, the little book, the little red book!

In Tehran, there were two university students, stayed up all night long when we arrived, to meet us; had a car, were so gracious to us all the time we were there.  And when we left, we all ate dinner together.  One of the boys was an Armenian Christian.  The other boy is a devout Muslim.  And the boy who was a Muslim had a gift for me, as we broke bread the last day together.  He unwrapped it.  It was this little book, the Koran.  And when he unwrapped it at the dinner table, he clasped it between both of his hands like this, and he kissed it like this, and he laid it in my hands.  The book, the book, the book!  And when I turn the page, I read in its introduction, “The Koran,” “the recital, the repetition, the recital, the words.”  For Muslims it is the infallible Word of God, a transcript of a tablet preserved in heaven, revealed to the prophet Mohammed by the angel Gabriel; the Book, the infallible Word of God to the Muslim, the Book.

Shall I be hesitant, or ashamed, or quail before the supercilious, scornful, sardonic, sarcastic castigation of “bibliolatry”?  Shall I quail before it when I say “the Book”?  No, the Book!  No, the Book!  Yes, the Book, the Book.  God’s Book.  The revelation of the living Word of the living Christ.  Should I be ashamed to kiss its pages?  the Book,  the Book, the Book!

In 1950, when we were in Jerusalem, the Jews at that time had captured just a part of Mt. Zion, David’s tomb.  It was filled with those color books, storybook rabbis.  They had a copy of the Torah, the books of Moses.  And as they read the scroll, unwrapping the scroll, they kissed it.  Read, unwrapped the scroll, and kissed it.  When they had finished their recital, their reading, they put it back into the container and kissed it.  Then they kissed the tassels.  Then they put it lovingly back into the ark, the Book, the Book!  That’s what we’re here for, to teach the Book!  That’s our assignment!  And in teaching the Book, we teach Christ.  You’d never know His name outside the Book.  When teaching the Book, we teach Christ.  In teaching the Book, we teach Christianity.  In teaching the Book, we teach the way to God, the way to heaven, the dignity of human personality.  When we teach the Book, we are teaching God!  This is God’s Word, spoken, incarnate, and written, the Book, the Book.

Sing them o’er again to me,

Wonderful words of life;

Let me more of their beauty see,

The wonderful words of life.

[“Wonderful Words of Life,” Philip P. Bliss]

The Book, the Book.  “Break thou, pastor, break thou the Bread of Life”—the Book, the Book.

How firm a foundation,

Ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith

In His excellent Word!

The Book.

What more can He say

Than to you He hath said,

You who unto Jesus

For refuge have fled.

[adapted from “How Firm a Foundation,” John Keith]

The Book.  The Book.

Thou truest friend man ever knew,

Thy constancy I’ve tried;

When all were false, I found thee true,

My counselor and guide

The mines of earth no treasures give

That could the volume buy:

In teaching me the way to live,

It taught me how to die.

[“My Mother’s Bible”; George P. Morris]

The Book.  The Book.  No, the Book.  No, the Book.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” [John 1:1].  The Book.  “The flower fadeth, the grass witherith, but the word of our God shall stand forever” [Isaiah 40:8].  The Book.  The Book.

Our time is far spent.  We sing our hymn of appeal.  A family you to come; a couple you; a one somebody you, decide now in your heart, and in a moment when we stand up to sing, stand up coming.  There’s a stairwell at the front, at the back, and on either side, and there’s time and to spare, come, come.  On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, come.  To give your heart to God, to take Christ as your Savior, to put your life in the fellowship of this dear church, as the Spirit of Jesus shall press the appeal to your heart, make the decision now, and when you stand up, stand up coming.  “Let’s go wife.  Here are our children.  All of us are coming.”  Or just you.  Do it now.  Make it now.  While we stand and while we sing.