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.

Reconnecting

Lots of people have a bad day but ever so often we have a wonderful day.  Yesterday was one of those special days for me.  Our Sunday School class went quite well (except for not having enough time – we never do).  Then the Message was good as well.  Lunch included my oldest son and his family which we always enjoy.  Then my favorite football team won its second game.  The highlight came when I was able to reconnect with on of my ‘preacher boys’ that I had lost track of several years ago.  His name is Adam and he is Jewish.  I was privileged to be present when he surrendered to the Lord Jesus as his Messiah.  Later, he answered the call to preach and then went on to get his schooling.

I was able to attend his graduation when he got his bachelors degree.  He then attended a special school to work with Jews and then after finishing that school, he went on to Southern Seminary.  While he was at seminary is when I lost contact with him.  I tried to reconnect many times but was never able to do so.  Yesterday that connection was made and it was as though no time had passed, though it had been about 20 years.  We talked for over an hour and shared some of the events of that time.  He has remained solid in his commitment to the Lord, even though he has had some rough times.  He has seen his mother, his dad, his brother, his sister and his 13 year old adopted daughter all come to the Lord.  His dad was an orthodox Jew and that took some work for him to come to know his Messiah.

I share this with you as a point of personal Joy.  Today I am ridding on cloud nine.  It fills a hollow spot that was left when I lost contact.  That spot was filled when we were able to reconnect and restore our fellowship.  There is a passage of Scripture in Luke15:8-10  Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?  And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.  Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.  This story of similar context points out that there is joy in the presence of the angles of God over the restored relationship.  Notice that it does not say that the angles are the ones who are doing the rejoicing, but that there is joy in their presence.  I take that to mean that the one doing the rejoicing is God, Himself who is rejoicing in their presence.  If that is true then God has joy and it is produced by even one who will turn back to Him, repenting of their sin.

God knew us from before He laid the foundation of the world (Creation).  We were brought into this world under the curse of sin and alienated from God.  God rejoices when one turns his back on sin and comes back to Him.  At that point God secures him by sealing him with the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes he gets entangled with the world  and looses his way ahead.  If he will listen to the Holy Spirit, He will guide him back to the Lord and that joy will once again be restored.

Purpose Phrases

As I study the Scriptures, I have come to notice certain statements that I term “Purpose Phrases“.  These are phrases that define the ‘why’ of a passage.   One such passage is found in I Corinthians 1:8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These Purpose Phrases often begin with the word ‘that’ and invariably reveal the answer to an oft ask question.  I couple them together with other similar passages and have found some amazing revelations.

Let me illustrate this phrase, “that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” in the above verse.   Other passages include;

  • Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
  • Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
  •  Ephesians 5:27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 
  • Colossians  1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:  
  • 1Thessalonians 3:13 To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.  
  • 1Thessalonians 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  
  • Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  
  • Jude 1:24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless  before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,  

These do not encompass the whole of the idea but they illustrate my point.  When I was first saved I was told that we should try to be like Jesus, but then they added, of course we will never make it.  That left me thinking, then why try.  I have since learned by a careful study of the Scripture that we will make it.  God will deliver us without blame before Him in love.  I am not talking about sinless perfection in this world but of the final results of God’s work on us and how we will arrive in glory.  God is going to make good His promise to deliver us a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  We are going to make it!

 

Tending Fire

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

I had the privilege of growing up in a very depressed area in Southern Missouri during the post WW II era.  I was privileged because I got to see first hand, what it was like to live without modern conveniences.  We didn’t even have a radio (battery) until I was 5 years old.  When I was 7 we got electricity.  We drew our water from a well and raised our own food.  We never had indoor plumbing until we moved to Colorado when I was 10.  These are things that most of Americans have never experienced, except for short periods of time, but it was our life style.

One of my memories is that of our one heating stove in the living room.  The fuel was wood which we cut from the stand of trees along the back of our property.  I learned about the importance of keeping the fire going at a very early age as it was our only source of heat during the winter.  Our house was not insulated so keeping the fire going was a constant need.  My chores included keeping  plenty of wood stacked on the porch for easy access, and carrying the ashes out every morning.  I learned a lot about what it takes to start and maintain a fire to keep warm.

Today’s post deals only with maintaining a fire once it is going.  The first thing that I learned was that you need a bed of coals.  This will enable the wood to catch fire as it is being added as it raises the temperature to assist in ignition.  If the wood is wet, it will dry it out.  It is a bridge between the wood and the flame.  A bed of coals begins with dry tender and then you add kindling (small pieces of wood or paper) to gets the fire going.  Because it is very dry and has a lot of surface area, it burns fast and hot which kindles the larger wood into flame.  The bed of coals is the wood that is already burning and its flame enables the larger wood to catch fire, just as the leadership in a church helps the new member to find their place of service in the fellowship.

Keeping the fire going is called “tending the fire“.  As the fire burns it needs “Stoked” from time to time.  Stoking the fire is moving the logs closer together so that they will burn better.  As a fire burns, the space between the logs gets larger and the benefit of one log helping another burn becomes less so that the fire will die down and produce less heat.  By stoking the fire you move the logs closer together and the fire will burn hotter.  Because change is constant, there will always be a need for stoking the fellowship to enhance it’s effectiveness.  We used to do this with periodic revival meetings, mission conferences and other such efforts but in today’s society we have moved further apart and hardly even know the other members. Unless this is corrected, the fire will die out and the church will be left cold. The fire needs stoked more now than it ever did before and as we approach the coming of the Lord it will become even more important.

The story is told about a church who had a member who had begun to attend less and less so the pastor dropped by one day to visit him.  The two of them sat by the fire and never spoke but after a while the pastor got up and went to the fire and pulled one of the sticks of wood out of the fire but let it set on the edge of the opening, by itself.  Pretty soon the flame that was going so well when it was first removed, began to lessen until it finally died out completely.  After a few minutes the pastor got up to leave without ever saying anything.  As he got to the door, the man said to the pastor, I got the message and I will be in church this Sunday.  People who know how to tend fire, know how to be the live coal to rekindle the flame in others.

Preparation

When thinking about what goes into making a trip all it can be, I think that preparation is one of the most important things you can do.  It will enhance your trip in many ways; it will expand it, it will enrich it, it will extend it, it will enable it and it will preserve it.

In planning for my trip to China, I have already begun to experience it in many ways.  First, I have had to plan where and when I was going.  Since I am going with others there was the necessity of coordinating all our schedules and finding a time that would fit all of us.  Then there was the destination.  In this case, I will be traveling with the others for much of the journey, but then I will be separated from the others for several days and traveling alone to a place that I have never been.  That can be daunting to some and exhilarating to others.  In my case it is some of both.  Fortunately, I will be meeting with someone I know and He knows the place, customs, etc.  I will literally be in his hands.

Then there is the securing of my passport (which I already have), the visa (which came in last week, and the plane tickets which have been purchased.  These are extremely important as they allow access to this part of the world and determine a lot of your schedule.

Another thing I have done is read up on the places that you will visit and the customs and culture that you will be experiencing.  The more you know about your destination, the more that you will enrich the experience.  It was enlightening to discover some of the history and current activities where I will be going.  One highlight for me is that my destination grows some of the greatest produce in China.  Since I have a lot of experience in produce (both growing and eating which I love), this will be a treat for me to taste some of God’s treats that I have never had the opportunity to enjoy before.

Planning on what you will take with you is also important.  What you will wear will be affected by the climate you will be in and the customs of the people.  Things that you will need like medicine, personal items (make a list and update it regularly), and things that may not be available there that you have need of.  Preserving your experience is also important.  Your camera, pencil and paper, gifts, etc  Think it through and then rethink it again.  Don’t fret about it but your anticipation will enhance the actual experience.  It will also give you a sense of preparedness that will allow you to enjoy the trip to the fullest.

One of the things that I am looking forward to is the actual flight.  I will be flying nonstop to Seoul, Korea, then an hour and 10 minute layover, then another nonstop flight to Guangzhou, China (near Hong Kong), an overnight layover and then on to my final destination (another 5-6 hour flight).  Altogether it will be about 24 hours flight time plus layovers.  So who in his right mind would be looking forward to such a grueling flight.  Me, of course.  I have the choice to suffer through it or turn it into an experience that will be of benefit. I simple made the choice to not suffer but to allow myself to be stretched to the point that I will be able to contain the blessing God is giving me.  It is a choice, you know, so I plan to spend some time getting to know those with whom I travel with.  I plan to do some exercising on the plane so that my legs don’t develop problems that you get on long flights.  I also plan to watch the terrain and the people to notice the changes in the land we fly over and to pick up on anything that will help me once I get there.  I plan to do some writing while in flight and anything else that will keep my mind occupied.  When I have exhausted all other avenues, I may even get some sleep – though it is hard for me to sleep on a plane.

We all have a trip ahead of us that these thoughts could help us prepare for – from here to eternity.  We should secure the proper credentials (salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ).  The trip won’t take long (a moment, in the twinkling of an eye) so we won’t have to fill time because time will be no more.  There are some things that we will want to take, such as our works of faith, our testimony, our hope, our eternal body, etc. that we will need when we get home.  We should study the Word of God to teach us about our final destination to make our arrival even more enriching.  It will help us to understand what is happening.  We won’t need to pack because we will be given a robe of righteousness that will never wear out and everything will be ours to serve our Lord with.  There will be no more sorrow or tears and all will be glorious.  Don’t you want to meet me there?  All aboard!!!