The Exceeding Greatness of His Power To Us-Ward Who Believe

Eph 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

You will recognize the same scripture that I have used in my two previous blogs, as this is the third of three blogs on Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian believers. 

The Ephesian church was undergoing great difficulty because of the pagan influences and the untrained leadership of the church.  Paul was writing to Timothy from his prison cell and giving him direction as to how the leadership needs to be led in dealing with these pagan customs and teachings.  He emphasized that the leadership did not need the ‘how to do’ message but the Lord, Himself to work in their hearts in these three specific areas in order for them to be able to see the victory.  The Lord would have to give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the knowledge of Him.  We do not need answers, but what we need is the person of the Lord Jesus, Himself.  He does not have the answers, but is the answer to everything.  He is known through both the spirit of wisdom and by revelation.  It is not head knowledge, it is heart and experiential knowledge.

It is in this light that Paul says that the eyes of their understanding would be enlightened and then they would know these three tremendous blessings.  Expositors comments; “In these three clauses Paul leads the readers on from the hope itself which becomes theirs in virtue of their being called of God, to the splendor of the enheritance to which the hope points, and from this again to that in God Himself which makes the fulfillment of the hope and the possession of the inheritance certain, namely the limitless efficiency which is His prerogative.”  Kenneth Wuest goes on; “ This power of God working in our behalf with reference to our salvation is not thought of here as operating only in the future, but also at present.”  It is not that we shall have power but that we also presently have His power available to us in all our life endeavors. 

The exceeding greatness of his power speaks of a power that is beyond measure, that is much more than is needed to do the job at hand.  We do not need to fear that we might fail for it is not our might, but His might that overcomes the adversary. Again I quote Wuest; “Paul uses four words here, all having the general meaning of power; “ the first use of power is dunamis, which is the word that we get our word ‘dynamite’, the second word is translated “working” and is the Greek word energeia, which is the word we get our word energy from and means power in exercise or operative power; the third word is “mighty” which is the Greek word kratos, or manifested strength; the second use of the word power is the Greek word ischuos, or strength, or power as an endowment.  Collectively we have this translation; “And what is the superabounding greatness of His inherent power to us who are believing ones as measured by the operative energy of the manifested strength of His might.

This power that was illustrated when Christ was raised from the dead, is the same power that God stands ready to exercise in us today, as we face the world in all its depravity.  Timothy was to lead the church to see how great a salvation that is ours and what God has in store for us.  Then for us to learn what it means for us to be a child of God and its richness and blessings. And finally, to meet all opposition with the power of God that will totally defeat the powers of darkness and all its host.  We are not just meager, “sinners saved by grace” but we are Children of God with all the power of heaven at our disposal.  The victory is already won and we are to fight from the position of victors.

The Riches of the Glory of His Inheritance In the Saints

Eph 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

In my last blog I wrote about the Hope of His calling.  Please note that I did not exhaust the topic but only introduced the concept.  For further study research the idea of your body as the temple of God. 

Now we turn our attention to the second thing that Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would receive, their inheritance.  Notice that the receiving of this treasure is received in the same manner as receiving the hope of His calling.  It cannot be taken, but it has to be received.  By that, it is clear that God desires for you to have it but it is not ‘free for the taking’ but that it can only be received in the manner that God chooses for you to have it.  So, let’s look at those conditions.

You must first receive the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.  In other words, knowing God comes by the spirit of wisdom and revelation which is given by God.  He does not hand out the spirit of wisdom and revelation to just any person, or even to every Christian.  A person must first become a Christian and then, when his heart has grown to the place where it longs for righteousness and seeks the ways of God, then it is rewarded by the Holy Spirit opening the spirit of wisdom revelation that is required to know God.   The spirit of wisdom isn’t just smart but it is the application of truth in the light of God’s will.  The longer you walk with God the more you come to know Him and His ways.  Truth alone is not enough for we are finite and carnal so the addition of revelation to know what we could never guess or apprehend is also required.  Romans 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!  We could never know God at all until He reveals Himself to us.  We catch glimpses of God in our growth and our walk and marvel at the wonder of who He is.  We read Scriptures that tell us of His Holiness and Splendor and our mind goes to TILT.  We then begin to project what it might mean – and still we have only a glimpse.

So now we look at our inheritance.  You must be an heir in order to inherit so God moves us from being a child of Satan to a child of God through regeneration.  We don’t immediately feel changed but we are changed.  When a man is married to his wife, he may still feel like he did only moments before, but he will never be what he was prior to the marriage.  When a man joins the military, he is a soldier the second he signs the papers, yet he still needs the training and disciplines that will cause him to order his conduct as a soldier.  It is not how you feel that makes you different, but who you Lord is.  When we surrender to the Lordship of Jesus, He then takes full responsibility for you in all that you do and what you become.  He also, seals you with the Holy Spirit and you are changed.  (II Corinthians 5:17)  As a child of God, you now are an heir to all the treasures of God.  I am not talking about gold and silver and precious stones, but about the fullness of God.  The real treasures are those of eternal qualities, such as eternal life, a love that never fails, goodness, righteousness, etc.  Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  We are being transformed into creatures that are identified as God’s children and are made in His image, His likeness and with dominion.  A fantastic study is what heaven is like.  We see through a glass darkly but there we shall see God face to face.

This inheritance is glorious in several respects.  First, it is glorious in that it is a reflection of the glory of God, Himself.  His glory is magnified by itself.  Take for an example, a bright light that is shined in a mirror and reflected back on itself.  If you were to behold the bright light, it would appear even brighter when the reflection was added.  So it is with God’s glory, His wonder is only enhanced by His works and He appears even more marvelous.   Our inheritance is beyond the sphere of material value; beyond the sphere of personal value; and encompasses our value to God. 

Our inheritance is for only in the saints.  In the Scriptures, saints are the Christians or the born again, the believers in Christ.  This knowledge is only know by the saints and God and cannot be known any other way.  It is important to know who you are and who’s you are.  You are the love of God, the bride of Christ, the church, the Children of God.  He died for you and will spare no cost to see you completed as He planned.  He promised that He would never leave you and would be there for you to do whatever is required to complete His promise to you.

The Hope of His Calling

Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,

I was recently asked the question, “how do we train (equip) church leaders?”  This question was asked by one of the leaders in China in light of the Chinese government oppression to the church in breaking up the larger churches into smaller groups of 25-30 people.  I have pondered this question and in prayer I have sought an answer from the Lord.  I believe that He has answered me by directing me to the passage in Ephesians 1:14-23, and more specifically verses 15-20.  I will attempt to answer it in three consecutive blogs of which this one is the first.

The first point that needs to be made is that the answer has two sides, like a coin.  On the one side we are wholly inadequate to equip anyone.  God alone is qualified to equip the believer.  The Scriptures declare    Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  It is God, Himself that calls us, qualifies us and empowers us to do His work.  He is busy completing His image in us as we attempt to follow His Spirit by faith.  Notice in Paul’s prayer in  verse 17, that it is God who gives the spirit of wisdom as well as the revelation of knowing God personally and opens the eyes of your understanding to spiritual truths. 

The second side of the answer is that we are also part of the working of God.  It is in our response to God to know Him and to receive from Him those gifts that He chooses that we are used by Him to equip the saints so that they are enabled to do the work of ministry.   We are created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works.  Simply put, Christ is the head and we are the torso of the body which acts under the lordship of the head.

Paul prayed that there would be three things that God would grant to the believers in Ephesus.  The first is found in verse18, that ye may know, what is the hope of His calling.  Ponder with me for a few moments and try to answer to yourself this question, what is the hope of your calling?  Why you created and what is it that you hope for?  A common thought is that I might go to heaven, but that is only a destination.  Getting there is not a hope, only a destination.  Then what?  God is not nearly as concerned about getting you to heaven as he is about fitting you for heaven.  When you do arrive it should afford you all of the fulfillment that you seek. 

Another common answer is that you will be rejoined with your loved ones and with Jesus.  It is true that we will be rejoined with some of our loved ones, but not all of them will make it.  Jesus declared that the way to destruction was a broad way but the way to eternal life was a narrow and restrictive way and only a few will enter there. 

Let’s look at what the Bible says is God’s plan for man.  Ge 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  This verse declares God’s plan for man prior to his fall into sin.  Man was to be made after the fashion of God in three ways:  In His likeness; In His Image; and with dominion.  This is a message by itself and many things can be said about it.  For now we will look only at the overall picture and that is that it is a description of God’s plan for man which will not be completed until we receive our resurrected body at the return of the Lord Jesus. God is a trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  We were made in the same likeness as God is and have a body, soul and spirit.  God’s plan wasn’t completed in the Garden of Eden and Sin did not catch God off guard and did not wreck God’s plan.  God’s plan is eternal so He planned ahead for the new creation of man mentioned in II Corinthians 5:17 that the new man would be created in Christ Jesus.  So we have a temporal body, soul and spirit which must go through a transformation for a new body, soul and spirit.  We can see this pictured in the process of a worm becoming a butterfly.  The order of completion is in reverse order: first the spirit is united with the Holy Spirit and then sealed for eternity so that the bond cannot be broken.  Who he is, is changed forever.  Then God goes to work on the soul so that he is transformed in his values, method of thinking and all aspects of his will.  We call this Sanctification, which means literally, separated.  Through this process which takes a lifetime, we move further and further from sin and its environment.  Finally, when the Lord Jesus returns in a cloud in the air, we will be changed and get our resurrected body and then our transformation will be completed.  This is our Hope and what we long for to not only be with the Lord but also to be like the Lord and to be separated from the power of sin (at regeneration), to be separated from the persuasion of sin (through sanctification) and to be separated from the presence of sin (at glorification); as so shall we ever be with the Lord.

Japan Mission Trip Update 8.28.2019

Some of you who have been following with me on my journey home may remember the story of how I met the pastor of the Christian Church in Japan.  My wife and I were visiting our son who works in Japan and we decided that we wanted the experience of worshiping with Christians in Japan.  Since our daughter-in-law is Japanese, we asked her where we could find such a church.  She is a Christian but has known Christianity through the Catholic Church, but she had a friend who did attend such a church that we were looking for.  However, her friend had just moved back to the States but she called her anyways.  Her friend called her back in about an hour or two and told her that she had already called the pastor who told her that they would pick us up so that we wouldn’t have trouble finding the church. 

Sure enough, they were waiting for us and took us to the church.  On the way, I remembered that gifting is big in Japan and I had not secured a gift so I silently offered up a prayer – God, HELP!!  Then I remembered that I had an extra copy of my book, The Mystery Of Faith, and decided to give it to the pastor when we arrived.

As soon as we arrived we were escorted to the worship center and was met by the Pastor, who greeted us very graciously.  I then presented him with my gift and wasn’t sure how it was received.  Not being familiar with the customs, I was unprepared for his response.  He got choked up and I thought he was going to cry.  I quickly asked, did I do something wrong?  He replied, NO, NO, you don’t understand.  You see I have been praying for some months that God would send me someone to encourage me, and you are him.  Then I got choked up as well and also felt some relief that I had not offended him.   From that first encounter we have had a growing relationship that has lasted for three years already.  He has made two trips to the USA and met with me on both occasions

He is also translating my book into Japanese and hopes to complete the translation this year.  At one point he had another person helping with the translation and there was a great flood and all of their work was lost in the flood.  On another occasion there was an earthquake that did damage to his home and I don’t know if he was able to get it repaired or not.  The short version is that Satan has been working overtime to stop his work on the translation.  Please pray for him to be encouraged and that Satan’s efforts be turned against him.

Several months ago the pastor shared with me his plan for a Bible Training Conference again this year.  He has had such a conference several times but his concern was that the attendees had been coming to be entertained, rather than be trained.  We discuss his dilemma and he wondered if I would be able to attend this year.  I shared it with our mission pastor at our church and he suggested that we offer to provide the training for the conference this year as a help to focus on the training aspect.  After the pastor prayed about it for several days he agreed and invited our church to be a part of the conference.  I had no trouble getting a team together, in fact it happened immediately.  We even had volunteers beyond our need and had to limit the team to four.  The pastor from Japan made the trip to meet with the team from our church and we saw the Lord hand all along the way.  It has been exciting to see the Lord bring it all together.

Today the mission team met to do the final planning for the Olivet Training Conference in Japan that is scheduled for the first week in October in Osaka, Japan.  We received the final schedule this week and we are making final preparations for the trip.  Everyone is excited and sensing the Lord’s involvement.  I will be speaking twice.  My first session I will be on the Operation Of Faith.  It is so amazing to me that there are so few in the church who knows how faith works and why.  The second session I will be addressing the Trial of Faith.  We need to understand that the trials are not to put us down but to build us up in our faith.  We are anticipating about 50-60 in attendance and the conference will be in three languages (English, Japanese and Chinese).  The reason is that just over half of the attendees will be from China and just under half will be from Japan.  We have an opportunity to touch the church leaders from two great nations who are presently facing great difficulty.  Already they have made request for situations they are facing and are looking to us for Biblical answers. 

When I returned home from the meeting with the mission team, I checked my website and found a comment from  one of the attendees of the Olivet Bible Training Conference that we will be doing next month.  I share his comment that you can rejoice with me.   Dear Pastor Vernon

I am one of the attendees of the Bible Training Conference in Japan. I am very exited to find this place.

I am reading your book The Mystery Of Faith, and it really helps me know more about God and the truths of faith. Praise the Lord and thank you so much!

I don’t know how he found my website but I was really blessed that he would make such an effort to let me know how they were preparing for this time.  It is my prayer that the Lord will be able to use us as His instruments to meet their needs.  I have a saying that I use for such occasions.  “It has God’s fingerprints all over it.” 

May the Lord build you in your adventures of faith.

Brother Vernon

Eternal life

Most Christians have heard John 3:16 quoted many times and can probably quote it themselves.  I have heard it quoted so many times that I had become dull of hearing and felt that I knew the verse quite well.  Then one day as I was reading the verse, yet once again, there was one word that jumped out at me and it was like someone slapped me in the face and said look at this phrase, and that was the phrase, Eternal Life.  The one word was “eternal” and all of a sudden the verse exploded into amazing understanding. 

The word eternal means “without end” so I began to contemplate what life without end really means.  I thought of from now on without an end, that is a finishing end.  I considered, starting with salvation that there would never be an end to my life.  I wondered, what would it be like in say 100,000 or a million years?  Would I ever get bored or complacent with that existence?  Then I remembered that in eternity there is no such thing as time and off my mind went with that adjustment, wondering how that would work and what it would be like. . .

Then I remembered studying the concept of infinity in college and recalled that an infinity(meaning no end) has no end in either direction.  Going forward there is no end and going backward there is no end.  My mind began to hit overload with this new insight.  Here in time and space we think linear, that is in a straight line.  We don’t consider any of the other possible directions but in eternity all directions are considered so eternal life must mean without beginning or end.  That was real difficult because I think of my life as having a beginning.  That beginning was at my conception and it is dated from my birth.  I have no recollection of life prior to that yet the Bible records that we were in the mind of God before time began.  Now my mind is really buzzing as I realize that I actually am older than dirt.  God‘s plan for me existed prior to His creation of the world.  Now I began to realize that I am not a product of chance happening, or the result of certain chemicals coming into contact with each other, in short, a product of creation.  It is just the other way around, creation is the product of God’s plan for me and you.  It serves as a womb of sorts to provide an environment where God can complete His plan of making man in His own image, after His likeness and with dominion.

As I began to feel a little comfortable with this new understanding, another truth came to mind.  Not only does eternal life not have a beginning or an end but eternal life encompasses all possibilities in all other directions as well.  At this point my mind went into TILT.  I failed to comprehend the whole of the idea of life in the full meaning of eternal.  This truth is too wonderful for me. Though I could not comprehend it, I was affected by it.

Then I began to think about God.  He is Eternal.  The Bible describes Him as the eternal God.  We think of this as a title but it is so much more.  It is a description of the dynamic of who and what God is.  This is promise that God’s plan is not some pie in the sky, by and by, but His plan is to make us His children and to give us eternal life.  That is His life that shares with us as we live in Him.  He is getting us ready for an eternity beyond our comprehension.   That is why we share in His inheritance, His sufferings, His character, His reign and His life.

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting (eternal) life.   For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  He that believeth in Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not in Him is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

A Milestone

Yesterday was a milestone in my life – I turned 75.  Just think, that is 3/4 of a Century.  In those years I have come a long way and seen a lot.  The world has changed and life is totally different than it was when I got here.

My younger years began in a behind the times era before electricity in our home; before indoor plumbing; when water was drawn from a well, we grew our own food, canned, washed clothes on a wash board and graduated to a wringer washer; milked our own cow; churned our own butter; used kerosene lamps; chopped our own wood; plowed with a team of mules and rode in a wagon. I wore bib overalls; went barefoot in the summer; ate wild berries and plumbs; fished and caught fireflies and June bugs. The biggest event I remember from this era was when China was taken over by Communism and we watched the progression across the country.

My world was flipped up side down at the age of 10 when we moved to western Colorado. I went from a hick country environment to the city; from a two room school where there was just three of us in the same grade where I was the only boy to a much larger school where there were three classrooms of +/- 50 in each class room all in the same grade. This was the era of bell bottoms, hippies, rock and roll, hot rods, the greasers, in their duck tail haircuts. The farm life was replaced by the orchards and produce stands. Color TV was the big thing and the Korean war was the big news. Rotary phones and private lines replaced the 8 party lines and the wooden wall phone. Automobiles began to display a variety of extras such as automatic transmissions, AC, radios, variable speed windshield wipers, power windows and hard top and convertibles. The 40 hour work week became standard along with a two week vacation. Social Security became mandatory and retirement was at 62 with full benefits.

Upon graduation I traveled for several months, that took me to Utah, Oregon, California and back to Colorado. I worked for the Colorado Department of Highways on a survey crew and then attended college in 1964. It was that year the President Kennedy was assassinated and the world was once again turned upside down. Darla Rae Miler and I were married on December 27th and moved to LA and saw the fires of the Watts Riots from our living Room window. Then followed the Vietnam war, high gas prices and the impeachment of President Nixon. We returned to Colorado and I went to work at Climax Molybdenum Co. and was there for 4.5 years. That is when hang gliding became popular. Instead of depression we now had to face inflation and its varied problems. This was the period that I became a Christian and my life was turned upside down once again. We purchased a mobile home (our first ownership) and moved to Carbondale, Co and another career change, this time to Construction. By now our family had grown to 5 with the birth of our 3 kids.

The next era saw me going back to college and another move to Greeley, Co. to attend the University of Northern Colorado with a major in business. This is where God began to reorder my life. The first area that He dealt with is that I needed to trust Him with all of my life. He began with stewardship and began to unveil His economy. Change is the order of the day and once again everything is turned upside down. Once I got on board with trusting Him, He then called me into the ministry and I found the something that I had been missing all along

Then it was off to school to study for the ministry and the addition of two more Children, making our family now 7. While attending school, I also became the pastor of my first church. I also served in two jail ministries, rest homes, street evangelism and a variety of other ministries. Living by faith in the Lord brought many amazing events. He provided food when our cupboards were bare, shoes and boots and clothes, financial provision and multiple demonstrations of His love and presence. I was able to graduate without any school debt or loans even though my income was $1.80 per hour for a 20 hour week, though there were times that I didn’t get the full 20 hours.

Now I am retired and have lived through some of the greatest events of history. From the end of WW II, the Korean war, the Vietnam war, the middle east wars, and several other military skirmishes. Through fashion changes of all kinds, social changes, dress codes and language changes. The technology has gone through the roof with the development of computers, cell phones, satellites and the internet. Knowledge has increased at a phenomenal rate. Space exploration has reached heights only dreamed of in earlier times. Travel has become a way of life with the airlines, trains, automobiles and water ways. Truly, I have lived in the “Golden Age” of all time and have seen and experienced amazing things.

So what lies ahead? The wonder of tomorrow is yet to be known but there are a few things that I am certain of. Time is in the hands of God. The Bible declares that now is the accepted time for now is all we have for certain. Preparation for eternity is the most important event in a person’s life. Jesus said “You must be born again” and we only have one life to make that choice. It is that choice that will determine what lies ahead. The second thing I am certain of is that everyone chooses the course of his or her life. It is not circumstances or others, or limits, or race, or environment, or chance, or even forces of darkness that determine our course, but the simple choice of accepting God’s way or the way of the world.(Jn.1:12) There is no one or anything that you can blame because the choice is yours and yours alone. Thirdly, like the Apostle Paul, I am persuaded that God is able to deliver me spotless and blameless before Him in Love. I know a thing or two because I have seen a thing or two in my short 75 years.

Update 8.4.19

As you may already be aware, a team of 4 from our church are making a mission trip to Japan the first week in October. There are about 50 expected to attend a Bible Training Conference which we will participate in as conference speakers. The theme of the conference is Walking by Faith and we were planning on presenting each participant with a copy of my book, The Mystery of Faith in their own language. There are two major problems at this point and both of them could affect whether or not we can provide the written materials to the attendees. The first is the problem of printing as China has shut down all printing presses to printing anything pertaining to the gospel and is under tight scrutiny. We have an alternate plan that we hope to use that will make it much safer for all of the attendees. The second is the completion of the Japanese translation which is currently underway and is over half completed. Please pray that this work will be completed on time.

A second piece of news is that pastor T was here in the area and met with the team and a lot of the planning for the trip was made. Both the team and Pastor T got many of the answers that were needed and all saw a great spirit of cooperation and fellowship and we all came away with the deep sense that God’s fingerprints were all over this project. This will be our church’s first mission project in Japan and much ground work has been necessary to lay a good foundation. There is the hope that this can be just the beginning of other efforts in Japan and beyond. More on this as it develops.

Our Sunday School class has taken on the task of assisting in the printing of the book, The Mystery of Faith in the Japanese language. We have not reached our goal but have reached 1/4th of it. I am always amazed as to how God works. All of the translators have come forth on their own to volunteer to do the translations and now we see the Lord providing for other facets of the work. I call it the fingerprints of God and I see Him doing what I could never do. Sometimes I marvel out loud, “God, you are good.”

The persecution in China has intensified considerably and since May all Christian churches that have not come under the control of the government are illegal and severe consequences will follow those who are caught operating as an illegal church. Numbers of pastors and church leaders have been imprisoned and their churches disbanded. It has caused much confusion within the underground church and a number of individuals have been forced to sign a paper denouncing their profession of faith and pledging full allegiance to the authority of the government. Further, all printing that has anything to do with the gospel is now strictly forbidden. I would ask you to pray for the government leaders to see that the Christian people are not a threat to their secular position but are an asset to the whole nation and will enrich their lives and secure their nationality. Also, that they too, will discover Christ and claim His new life.

The Russian translation is at a halt for now since my translator has gone on to be with the Lord. I am asking the Lord how to proceed as I do not have a translator to complete this work. As far as the Spanish translation, it is finishing up on chapter 4 and we are ready to begin chapter 5. The work there is going slow as my translator has her mother living with her and that requires many of the hours in a day to care for her. Still she is slowly moving ahead on the Spanish translation.

Encouraged

Our journey through life often takes surprising turns. Sometimes they are quite rewarding and fill your heart with joy. One such time for me came this week as I am in the process of helping a family restore a deck in their back yard and to build a retaining wall so that there will be a flat play area for their children.

I was at my oldest son’s home during a pool party for their grandson. One of the ladies there was talking about their problem finding someone to work on their rear deck. She had several quotes but they all wanted over $5,000. and she felt that since she was just renting that it was way too much money as they didn’t expect to be there more than a couple years.

I listened as she told her story and somehow I felt that she was right and thought I might be able to help her. She has 8 children which she home schools. Three of them are grown but the rest are still at home. Her back yard is sloping so there is now a good place for her children to play. I agreed to go over to see if I could suggest a solution for her. Her son and my great grandson are best friends so there was a little personal incentive for me as well. I went over to look at the situation and left there with the commitment that I would do the work for her at a much reduced rate. The work was divided up so as they could save money by doing a portion of the work and I would provide the technical part as well as coordination and skills to complete the repairs.

Half of the deck had to be dismantled which was their part as well as the cleaning of the used stones of mortar from earlier use. When I arrived to begin my portion of the work, I found that the deck had been demoed in the correct manner I had instructed and the materials had been stacked out of the way. As I began my work the 15 year old came out and began cleaning the mortar from the used stone and stacking them separately. I watched as she worked, steadily and without any effort to get out of her job and without complaining. She worked for several hours, making good progress. I was so impressed with her work ethic and her attitude. It is so rare that you see a teenager who not only knows how to work but actually enjoys it. It was so refreshing to see that in a teenager without the usual phone in hand and plotting to get out of work. It made my work quite enjoyable.

But then I got a second surprise. The 11 year old sister came out and began to join her in the cleaning of the stones. She had the same work ethic and attitude. She also stayed at the job for two to three hours. Needless to say that they got a lot of work done and did a magnificent job as well. I wonder if they have any idea of how rewarded I was to behold their conduct. My hat is off to their parents, who not only are doing a great job preparing their children for life and instilling in them respect of others, but also for their attention to their other needs as well.

I am thinking of a few women of high standards that God used in His/story (history). There was Rachel, Ester, David’s grandmother Rahab, Ruth,and Mary the mother of Jesus, just to name a very few. God has great things planned for those who develop great qualities. They may not see it now but they will in time. It is a great encouragement to me to see this when all we here on the news is woe, woe, woe. God is at work and we will yet see him overcome all evil.

Glory

Glory

1Pe 1:24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

Ro 8:18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

2Co 3:18 But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

I have been thinking of how amazing is the wonder of God’s handiwork in making man. He is so intricate and detailed. He is composed of the basic elements of matter, arranged in complicated combinations of molecules which do wondrous things. Just the 5 physical senses of sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell are each fantastic within themselves. Then you add the circulatory system, the nervous system and the organs, the skeleton, mussels, skin, tendons and so forth and their operation to provide function expands the wonder even further. Lets not leave out the brain and its unequaled ability to think and reason. Then to consider that man is a trinity in that he not only has a body but also a soul and spirit and you ask the question, “For what purpose would God go to such length in creating life, only to see it die in a short time. It is glorious but so temporary.

The answer cannot be in the physical aspect of its beauty. There must be a greater purpose for man than in just who he is. The fact that the flower dies quickly reveals the fact of man’s temporary nature and the need for an eternal purpose. The answer is in God Himself. The glory of man is simply a reflection of his Creator. Man did not make himself but was created by God. The purpose of man is not to be seen as only an object to behold but become more than just physical, but more than that, to become eternal and like his creator.

Within that short span of time he makes that choice of becoming like God in his nature and being or rejecting that opportunity and attempt to make himself after his own image. We can easily see the end of that choice is death – just like the flower, because that was not why he was designed for. God’s plan for man was so much greater in every respect. First of all, the flower is to call attention to the Creator not the creation. Second, we have a sin problem that can only be remedied by God’s provision, the blood of Jesus. Thirdly, God is a good god and has only good planned for us. If we reject it then it is on us and not Him. Fourthly, the best that man can do is things of this world but God’s plan for man is eternal. The flower is only a sample of the goodness that is ours in Him, and it does not end but is eternal.

Flowers are found everywhere, all over the world. It’s like God is saying to the world, look at all I have for you. Don’t hate me when I have so much for you. Yes, I know that you have so troubled times but it is through these times that I am building in you that eternal nature that will endure forever. Just keep you focus on me and trust me that I know what I am doing. The more you view my glory, the more that you will be changed into that same image. You’ll really love it in the end.

Persecution

For those of you who follow us on our “Journey Home”, there is some news that is quite important.  I just received an email from Japan on the state of the church in China.  The persecution there is intensifying every day.  I hear regularly about The Chinese government forcing Christians to sign a document that they renounce their profession of faith and pledging to total support the government.  If the document is not signed then there are severe consequences, such as forbidding them to hold a job and they are ostracized from society.   Sometimes they are imprisoned and other means to force them into submission.  I know of one individual who was in his third year of studying medicine and he was forced to leave the school and is not allowed to continue his studies. 

In another situation the pastor and his wife and 70 of the members were put in prison because they would not turn over the control of their church to the government.  The church was then disbanded and the remaining members were then interrogated and required to sign the paper.  In other situations the church is split into several smaller groups and forced underground.  Life for Christians in China is quite difficult,  It is illegal for a church to own property and all of their resources are confiscated.

The government will allow a church to continue if they will allow the government to place faces identification cameras in the church and yield to the government’s full control.  It didn’t work for king Ahasuerus in the book of Ester nor did it work for the Roman government’s requirement of calling Cesar Lord.  Historically, the church has always grown more under persecution than it has at any other time so we should be looking for what God is doing.  It is at the most difficult times that God is seen clearer and works the greatest miracles.  The examples are numerous of atheistic kings discovering God when trying to stamp out His people. 

I often hear the question, why does the Chinese government persecute the church?  I am sure that there is several reasons but the number one reason is probably that they are considered a threat because the church refuses to bow to the government as the ultimate authority.  It makes sense that an atheistic government would fear a people who do not recognize them as the ultimate authority.  After all, they came into power by not recognizing the then current authority so they would want to squash any authority that they couldn’t control.  This is especially true when there are as many as 100 million Christians in China (that is 1 in every 14) which is a large block of people that you don’t control.

Perhaps a more important question is, why does God allow persecution?  It all seems unfair (and it is) but God has good reasons to allow it.  Consider the following reasons as some of the purposes of God in allowing persecution:

  1. To reveal His personage.  The main reason that leaders demand to be acknowledged as the ultimate authority is that they do not know God who is the ultimate authority.  They see God as uninvolved if they even acknowledge His existence.  Often their view of God is in the lives of His professed followers who are not a good representation of Him.  They are unaware of the possibilities and the dangers of defying God.  (Consider Goliath)  God wants us to know Him as He is with all His power, knowledge, love, etc.  He has only good in mind for us but for us to enjoy it we must have our grip on sin broken.
  2. To refocus His people.  God’s people sometimes get out of step with God and become carnal or worldly.  We begin to take the reins out of God’s hands and attempt to justify ourselves and earn our place with God.  This will never be allowed by God.  The Bible states clearly in Romans 14:23 “whatsoever is not of faith (in Him) is sin.” In Hebrews 11:6 “without faith (in Him) it is impossible to please Him.”  Whenever we get on the works system we are setting ourselves up for persecution.  The Lord gave the early church the command to go into all the world and teach all nations . . . (Matt. 28:19-20) but the church stayed in Jerusalem.  The next event that followed was the death of Stephen and a great persecution against the church.  Then the church began preaching Christ after they were scattered everywhere.  We need to learn to follow God’s instructions and not what we think.
  3. To recover and refine His people.  If God did not let us know we were off course we would continue moving out of God’s will and people would perish and we would suffer great consequences.  We desperately need course corrections.  The hardest lessons are often the ones we remember the most and are most apt to turn us from our own self will.  Not only is it His intent to recover us from our error, He wants to refine us in His service and expand our usefulness.  Growing in His grace is essential in our transformation into His image and likeness.
  4. To renounce false gods.  It is important to note that everyone lives by faith all of the time.  Having faith is not our weakness but placing our faith in the Lord and not in anything or anyone else is the biblical faith that causes God to get involved with our situations.  He only responds to faith in Jesus as Lord (boss).  When we trust anything else it is unbelief in Christ and brings its own consequence.  The key to triumphant living is in living by faith in Jesus and renouncing all other options as false gods.  Why is it so important that we get this straight?  Because there is no other Gods and the world needs desperately  to see the truth.
  5. To reach the Lost.  The world will die in their sin unless and until they know the only true God.  We are the illustrated version of this message that God is real and He has revealed Himself in the personage of Jesus.  Romans 10:13-17.  Jesus said we are the light of the world.  (Matt 5:14), and II Corinthians 5:18 states that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  These are but some of the reasons God allows persecution.