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.