The Church in China

I am sharing some information today that is not common knowledge here in America but I feel it is important for us to see the actual situation with the Church in China.  I do not know what the actual number of believers there are in China and furthermore, I’m not sure that anyone knows.  I hear reports of 40-60 million; another source says over 100 million and still another source says that the number may exceed 300 million.  What ever the number it is great enough for the Chinese government to feel somewhat insecure because of the shear number.  To put it in perspective, China‘s 2018 population is 1.42 billion, based on United Nations projections.  If the number of Christians there is 100 million that means that one in 14 people in china is a Christian.

The church historically has flourished during persecution while it has grown apathetic during prosperous times.  The hunger there for Bible knowledge is far beyond what it is in America.  This example is common for the church there in China.  Most churches do not own property or their own worship building and meet in homes.  They do not have access to the outside church in  that printed documents are not allowed.  Christians are quizzed as to the content of their worship services.  Outside speakers are forbidden and training is almost non-existent.  Bibles have been available in most areas but even that is now being limited.  A somewhat typical picture would be that an individual may have to travel up to two hours to meet with other Christians that they felt safe with.  They would meet in a home, sit on a plastic stool for two or more hours, visit, share, eat and then travel up to two hours to get back home.  They would arrive quite early, maybe a half hour or more and spend much of the time praying until it starts.  They would stagger their times of arriving so that only one to three at a time would enter.  They would take extensive notes as fast as they can, which they would study as they could.  They may be interrogated about their activity at any time.  Should the authorities find anything that they had deemed illegal then they could be imprisoned and their properties confiscated.   Those not imprisoned would be “retrained” and forced to sign an affidavit saying they recant of their former profession and pledge allegiance to the government.  It is not illegal to be a Christian but you are forbidden to evangelize or propagate your belief.  Under this type of conditions the Church has grown to amazing proportions.  Yet in America the ratio of Christians is somewhere between 1 in 50 to 1 in 100.

Within the actual worship the spirit is one of a shared love.  There is an absence of greed but rather one of sharing and giving.  The hunger is real and deep and sincere.  They want the truth about God and are willing to pay the price for it.  The leadership is mostly untrained and inexperienced, yet they possess the ability to recognize the truth where they find it.  If you are real and have the truth of Christ, they will love you deeply, but if you are a fraud, they will not only recognize it but will also give you a wide birth.  Never have I seen a greater hunger or a deeper need than in China.   More later.

Customs

I knew that customs differ in other parts of the world but I did not know how much.  While I was in China, I had the opportunity to observe this first hand.

After our first session we were enjoying some food together and I noticed that there were different ones that would suddenly place additional food on my plate without me indicating in any way that I wanted more.  At first I thought that they were just excited to see an American and wanted to show special attention.  But then I noticed that there would be two or three bringing me more food at the same time and I began to wonder what was going on.  I would be eating my soup and someone would be pouring more soup into my bowl while I was eating it.  Another would peal an orange or open a fig, or add more meat.  I was getting full and I couldn’t keep up with their hospitality.  I said that I didn’t want any more but it kept coming.  I certainly didn’t want to offend anyone but I didn’t know how to stop the flow of food, either.

I was raised in a country setting in southern Missouri.  We were very poor and food was quite simple.  It was beans and taters for the most part.  Occasionally we would fry a chicken and if we got tired of the menu we could switch it around and have taters and beans.  In the summer we also added the garden veggies and rarely we would have beef or pork if one of the neighbors were butchering.  Because times were tough we didn’t waste anything and my parents taught us to always clean our plates.  It was the courtesy of the times to show your appreciation by eating everything.  The cleaner the plate the better.  I also taught my children to clean their plates.  The thought of wasting food was never entertained.

Then I went to China and learned that the custom there is quite different.  You show your host that you are full by simply to stop eating.  If you clean out your plate it means that you are still hungry so they put more on your plate.  I didn’t know that so I was trying to empty my plate and sending the wrong message.

I think that sometimes we study the Bible without knowing the customs and miss a lot of it’s meaning, in the same way I did by not knowing the customs and setting.  One of my tools in my library is a book titled, The Life and Times of Jesus, The Messiah” by Alfred Edersheim.  If you don’t have the book, I suggest that you try to get a copy.  It will help you to understand the customs of how it was in Jesus’ time and add meaning to such places as the Lord’s supper and many others.

 

Returning from China

Wow!  What a trip.  It took me 10 days to experience the trip so there is no way that I can share it in one or two short blogs.  I will try to keep my focus on what I share so that it is a complete and concise topic and will post them from time to time.  Also, I want to be considerate of the Christians in China so that they do not incur additional persecution from the forces that oppose them.  And finally, I do not want to misrepresent our Lord to the government as they have a responsibility to govern their country and I do not desire to inflict any conflict between them and our Lord or His people.

That being said I want to first say that I left here with one concept of who the Chinese are and came home with an all together different opinion.  I had envisioned that theirs was a country of poor living conditions and way behind in the cultural world.  In fact, their conditions are comparable to those in our country.  The streets are clean, the conveniences are modern, and  I found the people to be quite wonderful with much the same dreams as ours.  They were more than gracious and considerate, and they have many qualities that I wish were here as well.  They do not seem to value possessions the same as we do and are content with what they have.  For an example, they would travel for two hours or more to meet with people of like faith, then sit on a plastic kids stool for another two hours without fidgeting or complaining, another hour visiting and eating and another two =/- hours returning home. and do it again the next day.  They were not tardy and would spend their time praying while they waited for the time to start.  They were not problems to either the civil authority or each other.  They were not critical of others, but helpful.  They were model citizens.

They were hungry to know the truth but careful to reject error where ever they find it.  They were especially cautious about false religions.  In several way they were way ahead of many churches here where freedom and ease has made us dull of hearing and apathetic.  Daniel understood this truth and refused the king’s dainties to be free from greed and laziness.  This is probably why Christianity has always prospered under persecution and floundered under prosperity.

You rarely see a single family dwelling except on a rural area where farming and the like have historically had such dwellings.  From my room I looked out my window and could see three major construction sights of 6 to 12 buildings each one about 30 stories high.  There were also three more that were not in my view, just as close.

I came away with a huge respect for the Chinese people and they taught me a lot.  I went there to be a blessing but I came back the blessed.  More later.

Preparing for a Journey

Just one more day until I set off to an adventure that has been 74 years in the making.  As I sit here and contemplate everything I need to include for the trip, my thoughts seem endless.  What do I need to pack?  I even found a three page list of things to consider.  I printed it off and highlighted the items I needed to include from it.  From past experience, I know that there are always things that I wished I would have brought but didn’t, but I will be totally out of my familiar territory and won’t necessarily be able to just pick up what I might need.

It seems that everyday something else pops up that I hadn’t thought of.  Just two days ago I got an email from my church, needing for me to fill out an information form for my health insurance to cover me in a foreign country.  As it worked out I had a visit from my health provider and found out that my present insurance wouldn’t cover me in a foreign country.  Just another reason to be a part of a team that is experienced in making such trips.  Even as I am typing this blog I just got a note from my trip insurance Company for additional information they need for the insurance.

Since I am going to a part of the world that I am totally unfamiliar with, I decided to look up the area and learn something that would make my trip richer.  I discovered that this particular area is the center of produce (fruit and vegetables) for China.  Its importance goes back for thousands of years.  That piece of information may not seem important to you but it rang a bell to me.  You see I was raised in Palisade, Colorado which was the peach capitol of the world at one time.  It is an oasis of fruit and vegetable because of its 300 days per year of sunshine and its irrigation system and I worked in it all year.  My day operated the 4 largest produce outlets in the valley and I became spoiled with the best that was available.  I pruned the fruit trees, irrigated plowed, thinned picked and even bought and sold it.  Now I get to see how they do it in another culture and I am so looking forward to tasting it for myself.

When I arrive there in a couple days from now, I will be much like a new born baby.  Little hair, few teeth, can’t speak the language, and won’t know my way around. Yet babies make it and so can I.  I was thinking about the journey a baby makes in its arrival to this world from the world of the womb.  It is all so strange and takes a lot of adjustment.  I was also thinking about our arrival into the spiritual world.  It doesn’t begin after physical death but after the death of the old man that Paul referenced in Romans.

Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

This new life begins at our salvation when we become the new creation of God. (II Cor 5:17)  Just as a newborn has to learn how see, hear, speak, etc., we also have to learn how to operate in the spiritual life.  That spiritual existence actually begins here in this world where God is transforming us into His image, likeness and dominion.  That process is know as sanctification and isn’t completed until we receive our new body and we meet the Lord in the air.  It is much like the gestation period of a pregnancy in which the fetus receives its body for this life.  Our physical death can also be compared to the child’s birth when it physically moves from the world of the womb to the world of time and space which we live in now.

As I contemplate the final destination of my trip to China, it only enhances my expectation of my final destination of being with the Lord through eternity.

The Trial of Your Faith

James 1:2-3  My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.

1Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.

The idea of our faith would be tried sometimes provokes the concept that there might me some flaw in it that doesn’t measure up to God’s standard.  This comes from our fallen nature that is forever trying to earn approval from God.  There are two reasons that our faith would be tested.  One is because we want to find the point of weakness.  Stress is added until the weakest point fails and reveals the weakness.  The second is to prove that the strength exists to bear the load.  In construction we would sometimes do a load test to prove that the structure would bear the weight of the load.  For example, the load for a beam would be 5,000 pounds, with a safety factor of 2,500 pounds, so we would load the beam with 7,500 pounds to prove that it was strong enough for its designed weight.  This is the way the above verses are being used.  God knows how much we can bear, but we do not know so he demonstrates that not only can we bear the weight but also that we discover that He is more than able to bring us through it.  He is not trying to break us down but to build our confidence in His working.

There are at least six reasons why God would put your faith to the test.

1.  We need to learn how to trust God. 

2.  We need to know who we really are.

3.  The world needs to see faith in the Lord really work.

4.  We need to be strengthened for battle.

5. We need the encouragement of victories.

6.  We must discover our eternal reality.

(Each of these are addressed in chapter 7 of my book, The Mystery of Faith.  See the Mystery of Faith section of this website, on how to order your copy)

Remember that we are His workmanship and He is recreating us in His image, His likeness and His dominion.  His plan is to deliver us from this sinful age and He will not fail to deliver us spotless and blameless to the Father.

 

What Are The Odds?

Anyone who is familiar with the story of Robin Hood probably remembers the part about the archery tournament where Robin’s opponent hit an exact bulls eye.  Then Robin steps up and shoots splitting his opponent’s arrow so that he also hits an exact bulls eye as well and wins the tournament.

Since there is some question of whether or not Robin Hood ever existed, the amazing shot is also in question.  But just so you don’t go to thinking that such a shot could never happen, I submit the above pictures of such a shot happening twice within the space of 20 days and less than 100 shots apart, by the same person.  I know that it is true as I personally witnessed the event and can take you to his home where he has all 4 arrows mounted on his wall.  What are the odds of that ever happening.

Yet that is not even close to the probability of the prophecies concerning Christ’s birth, hundreds of years in advance.  It was foretold by God in Genesis 3:15 that He would come from the seed of a woman. (Note that women do not have seed)  Later in Genesis 18:18 and 22:18 that He would be a descendant of Abraham’s seed.  In Genesis 26:4 and 28:4 it was prophesied to come from the nation of Israel.  Then in Genesis 49:10 it was specified that He would be from the tribe of Judah.  Jeremiah 23:5-6, Psalms 89:4, and Isaiah 11:1 all declare that He would be a descendant  of King David.  Isaiah 7:14 further clarified that He would be born of a virgin.  Micah 5:2 even specified that He  would be born in the city of Bethlehem.  And even that was clarified because there were two Bethlehem’s so it was specified as the one in Ephratah.  Finally, Luke 1:27 states that the child would be born of Mary.

An odds maker was asked what are the probability of that ever happening and he gave the odds of some 1 in multiplied billions and to illustrate the number gave this illustration.  Suppose that each chance was a silver dollar and they were all spread out over the state of Texas.  It would cover the entire state several feet thick.  Suppose one of the silver dollars was marked as that one chance and you were selected to find that marked silver dollar.  Your are allowed to travel the entire state but you are blindfolded and were only given one chance to find that dollar. For you to randomly select a spot and shove your hand down into the several feet of dollar coins and select that exact one would simulate the odds.

But that was an odds maker’s view.  In reality the odds are even greater because it would be impossible for several reasons.  One because of the time between the prophecies, another because of the number of circumstances to be considered, but most of all because of the necessity of a virgin giving birth to a child without the benefit of a man, let alone that that child would be the Son of God.  But what does the Scripture say?  Mt 19:26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.  Lu 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Our inability to accept the truth of the Bible is tied to our lack of knowing its author.

Dealing With the Flesh (Carnal Nature)

Every once in a while I am asked the question, “How do I break the grip of a certain unnamed sin?”  It could be any one of a number of sins but the answer is the same.  All you need to do is die.  No, I am not saying that you have to die physically but I am saying that you have to die to the control of the flesh demands.  You see there are two natures within the Christian, the lower nature called the flesh and the spiritual nature we call the spirit.  Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.  There is a war going on all the time.  The flesh hates the things of God and the Spirit resists the things of the flesh.  If I decide to follow the cravings of the flesh, the Spirit will convict me, and if I decide to follow the Spirit, the flesh will cry out like a whining baby.  The more the flesh gets its way the more it will demand because the flesh is wholly and completely given to sin.  When the Spirit wins the battle, the flesh is subdued and the fallen nature will yield to the Spirit.

This fight is to the death.  You cannot hope to settle the conflict with a compromise or by trying to be fair because the flesh does not fight fair.  You cannot win by fighting with will power because that is governed by the flesh.  Trying harder is a recipe for failure.  Determination will not win either for that is the effort of the mind which is controlled by the flesh.  The truth is that no matter how hard you try and whatever method you use, you will not win this way because the your personal strength is not sufficient to break the bonds of sin.  There is only one way to win and that is to die to the strength of the flesh.  That includes any and all methods of self effort.  Since you cannot win by the flesh, you must be delivered from a power that is greater than the force that binds you.

Note what it says in the previous verse Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.  The only way to be successful is to walk in the Spirit and He will guide you.  If you are going to trust the Spirit you cannot your own formula to it, though that is just what the flesh will try to get you to do.  Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  There it is, the answer that so often eludes the one caught in a repeating sin and cannot find their way out.  The old nature must die.

The death of the old man (nature) is imposed upon you by the work of God in bringing you to the point of distrust and despite of the old man.  Notice that this death is by crucifixion and not by suicide.  God will do the work of destroying the old nature while we trust Him and not ourselves.  The end result is the death of the old man which frees us from its grip and now we can serve God.  Ro 6:7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.  Ro 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.  Ga 5:18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.  Ga 5:24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.   1Peter 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Our Perspective

During the past week I have been spending some time with two of my sons in Coperas Cove, Texas.  We get together each year to go deer hunting, something that I have been doing since I was a teenager and went hunting with my brother and dad.  No, I didn’t shoot anything but that is not what was important to me.  My main goal is to capture the moment of time that we share together.  We would go out quite early in the morning and come in after dark in the evening.  One night, I lost my head netting that I use to keep the mosquito off and wasn’t aware of it until the next morning when we were going out again.  Mosquitoes can be more than a real pest, they can cost you your shot at your game, and even carry diseases, so I try to protect myself from them.  I don’t use spray because the deer can smell 50 times better than a human.

So anyway, as I was putting on my camouflage, I noticed my netting was missing.  I looked everywhere and it was not to be found.  I simply resigned that I would have to just trust the Lord with the matter and proceed with the hunt.  We walked up the same trail that I had used the night before.  We were walking in the dark and the moon was so bright that we weren’t using any lights.  As we reached the place where I had joined the trail the night before, I looked down and there was my mosquito net, right on the trail.  Just to let you know how amazing that was, the netting was also dark,  at night, no lighting except for the moon and I was focused on my exit, not looking for my net.

So I proceed to the tree stand and was feeling grateful that I found the netting and got to thinking about how the Lord is always watching out for us and using the events of life to bless us.  It was still about an hour and a half before sun up so I just sat there beholding the stars.  I noticed how the stars were twinkling and thought back to when I discovered why they twinkled.  (Do you know why they twinkle?)  It is because of the debris in our atmosphere.  The star that we are looking at may be much larger than our own sun, yet because of the distance it appears to be quite small.  Space is basically empty but our atmosphere is full of debris so that a small rock the size of a quarter of half dollar is large enough to block out the light from the star, if but for a moment.  I thought, how the twinkling star is like our view of God.  It is obstructed by even little things of this world, so that our view gives the appearance that God is not always there to be seen.  The things of this world can block out the glory of the vastness of God’s creation and it is not to be compared to the God of creation.

1John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  We must keep things in the right perspective.

Update 9-27-2018

I just got an email from Pastor Takeshi in Japan.  His home in Japan was damaged in the recent earthquake and then following that, they had a typhoon, but little damage from that.  I don’t know how much damage there was but he reported that they were still living in the house.  To complicate the matter further, he was gone during the events, on another mission trip to China.  After he returned to Japan, he was traveling across Japan during the week and only home on weekends so he hasn’t been able to address the damage. When I met with him when we were in Japan I also noticed how involved in the work, his family was.  His wife and oldest daughter were a tremendous support to him and were quite interested in our being there. I marvel at the sacrifice missionaries make in their service to the Lord.  It causes me to look at my own life and answer the question, what is it costing me to serve the Lord?

He will be making two additional trips to China yet this year.  They are usually about two or three weeks long and they travel to many churches as the need there is great.  He also sent me an 11 page report from his translator who travels with him on his last trip.  If you would like to read it just let me know and I can forward it on to you.  The people in China are really struggling because of the living conditions and oppression and they need hope.  The traditions are often demanding and the examples of how life can be are very rare.  To make matters worse, there are a number of false religions that are turning the government against all religions as they do not know the difference between the true believers and the false ones.

So how many Christians are there in China?  I have heard a number of reports and I don’t know how accurate they are.  A few years ago I heard that there were several million Christians there.  Then a little latter the number was 30-40 million.  The next report I heard that the number was upward of 60 million.  More recently I heard that the number was close to 100 million and the most recent report was that it could be approaching 300 million.  I am not sure that anyone really knows how many there are, but this much I do know, most all of them are living in very difficult conditions and have little hope of anything more than that.  Perhaps that is why so many are turning to Christ.  He is the only one offering them more to life.  If the government could only see that this is a tremendous opportunity for them to not only improve their lives but to also strengthen their nation and extend their favor with the people.

If the number of 300 million is close to accurate that would mean that one in 4 or 5 of the people in China are Christians which is a phenomenal number.  Compare that to America where one in 50 to 100 are Christians.  I remember reading about the Great Revival in America when, at its peak, one in seven were Christians and the amazing events that took place.  Work stopped at times because of the presence of the Holy Spirit working with the people.  Lives were transformed instantly.  The story is told of a man in a buggy came under such conviction of his sin, just as he enter a county where revival was happening that he fell out of the buggy to his knees begging the Lord to save him.  On and on it went and was so powerful that it transformed the nation.  My prayer is that the Lord would do it again in China, and also here as well.

The Glory of God

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Why does God need Glory?”  I used to because I would hear phrases like “for the glory of God” or “praise God” and so forth.  It sounded like God needed some glory for some reason.  This was because my understanding about glory was wrong.  I thought that glory was a lot like a compliment or praise.  I did not know that glory was inherent and radiated out from within.  It was always there but was not seen.  It’s like an uncut diamond that looks like just another rock.  The beauty of the cut diamond was always present in the uncut diamond but was not appreciated because it’s many facets were not exposed.  It’s ‘glory’ remained unknown until the diamond cutter exposed it.  So it is with God, His glory (beauty, wonder, love, power, forgiveness, etc.) is not appreciated because we only see God from one or maybe even a few perspectives.  We need to see God from His infinitely faceted perspectives.  The more we know God, the greater we perceive His glory.  It was always there but it remained hidden until it was exposed to us.

Glory is not recognition for greatness, but greatness beyond our recognition.  The glory of God always has been the same.  It doesn’t become more just because we discover another facet of it.  You do not not increase His glory when you praise Him, either.  God is not trying to gain recognition, but rather He desires us to know Him for who He is, and not some shallower concept of Him.

If it were possible to know God as He really is; we would see the entirety of His glory.  Should that happen in our natural state it would kill us.  Remember what He told Moses, Ex 33:20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.  It is not that God didn’t want us to know Him as He is, but He wanted to preserve man so that he could be transformed in such a way that he could see God, face to face.

This transformation takes a lifetime but there are times when we draw closer than we have ever been before.  At these times we are transformed to be more than we were before.  Remember what happened to Moses after he was hidden in the cleft of the rock as God passed by. Ex 34:29 And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him.   His face shone so bright that he had to wear a vail on his face while he talked with Aaron and the rulers of the congregation.  Ex 34:33 And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.  

We have to grow in our grace and knowledge of the Lord.   2Pe 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever.  Furthermore, we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can “experience” a right understanding of God’s will.  Ro 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.  

By the time God has finished His work on us, we will be like him in His image, likeness and dominion: (Gen 1:26)  we will be sanctified in body (a new body), soul (new mind and way of thinking) and spirit (indwelling of the Holy Spirit) (I Thess 5:23).  1Jo 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.