Courage

上帝将Vernon弟兄带来中国烟台,送给我们极为宝贵的礼物:信心!
Vernon
弟兄还让我们学到了:“无论做什么,都要为荣耀上帝而行”
哈利路亚!感谢上帝,我愿将余生全然奉献给上帝,任凭主用,全然顺服!

God brought Brother Vernon to China Yantai and gave us an extremely precious gift: confidence!  Brother Vernon also taught us: “Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God.”  Hallelujah! Thank God, I would like to dedicate the rest of my life to God, let the Lord use it, and obey!

The above quote if from a comment I received on my web site upon returning from my trip to China.  It was written in Chinese and since I don’t speak Chinese I used Google Translate for the English translation.  I share this for the purpose that you may see just what goes into such a commitment.  While I was in China at one of our share times, I was asked the question, “How do you know if you have been called into the ministry?”  I answered him by telling him of how it happened for me, noting that it is not the same for everyone.  When the Lord called me, I wasn’t sure that I was being called because there was nothing solid beyond the need.  I had even gone to my pastor and asked him if the Lord might be calling me to the ministry.  His advice to me both shocked me and became the advice I have given to many others.  He said, “If you can do anything other than preach and be happy doing it, then don’t preach.”  This is great advice because the Bible says, 2Pe 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:  There are many that enter into the ministry without making their calling certain but then drop out of the ministry when things begin to be rough.

Upon hearing this advice I immediately thought, that lets me out as I had many interest and I knew that I wasn’t ready to make such a serious commitment so I gave up on the idea.  Here lies an important point and that is that if God is calling you then you will ultimately find that there is nothing else that you can do that will satisfy your soul and you will only find peace doing that which God has called you to do.  You will not run God off because you said no for he sees past your emotional response to His divine purpose.

Such a commitment in China come with an additional consideration.  It is one that is present in all circumstances but is not always realized.  For example, in America you may find a group of enthusiastic supporters and even a career where society will accept you and see you as an important part of the social order.  In China, you will face great persecution that can ultimately cost you your life and all you hold dear.  It may lead to severe hardship and social rejection.  In short it will cost you and the path may be harsh, bringing suffering and rejection which may even include your family.  This was all clear to this young man so why would he make such a commitment?

For the same reason that Moses rejected all that Egypt had to offer. Comforts, ease, the choice of life and position (he was in line to be the next Pharaoh), and choose to be identified with the Hebrews and a life of servitude.  That reason is found in Heb 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.  Until this makes perfect sense to you, you would be well advised to wait on your ministry.

It takes courage to make the choice and it take courage to wait on God’s confirmation.  Another way of saying the same thing is that it takes faith in the Lord to bring it to pass.  That faith requires first that there be a call, second that you are willing to  entrust yourself to the Lord for its fulfillment, and finally that it is up to God to put you into the ministry.   Are you listening?  Do you hear his still small voice?  Do you trust Him?  Would you do as David did and offer a sacrifice that properly represents true worship?  2Sa 24:24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

 

 

Hunger In China

Before going to China, my concept of a man living in China was a man with a straw hat, working in a rice patty and living in a thatched hut.  The picture that I saw when I actually went there is nothing like that.  I am sure that there are some who live in such meager circumstances but they are not the norm.  What I saw was a nation that has evolved into the 21st century.  The cities are much larger than the cities of America.  There are over a hundred cities of over a million people.  There were high rise buildings well beyond what we see here in America.  For example, one complex of apartment buildings can house 200,000 people.  The streets are sometimes six or more lanes in each direction.  You see cell phones there as often as you do here and the youth are just as attached to their phones as we are here.  Construction is much more active there than here.  From my room I could see 4 major construction sites of multiple high rise buildings of from 25 to 50 stories; consisting of 6 to 12 buildings each.  There were at least 6 other sites within the same radius of view that I couldn’t see. Their stores looked much like the ones you see here only everything was written in Chinese.

What I didn’t see was just as dramatic as what I did see.  I didn’t see hope in the eyes of the people.  Though there were signs of prosperity, I noticed that there was an absence of purpose.  It was as if they were asking to what purpose is all of this?  There was a small remnant who remember what it was like before Communism took over and they spoke of that time as a lost world.

I didn’t see answers to life’s eternal questions; “Who am I?; Where did I come from?; Where am I going?; and Why am I here?”  Several that I spoke to stated that they had never even seen a foreigner before my coming.  There reaction to me was like asking the question, “What is out there?”.  Some were quizzed by government officials as to whether or not there had been any foreigners in their services.  Since that occurred prior to my coming they could safely answer no.  But now . . . ?

Their hunger was illustrated by their actions.  Some would travel up to two hours just to get there.  They arrived early, some as much as 30-40 minutes, which they spent in prayer.  They sat on a plastic stool with no back, like the ones you would find in a children’s classroom.  They would sit there up to two hours or more without fidgeting or complaining and take notes like a college student studding for an exam. They ask lots of questions.   They brought refreshments which we spent an hour or more enjoying after the meeting.  Then they would travel up to two hours, returning home.  Then they would do it all over again at the next session and never miss a meeting. This sacrifice was considered small in proportion to what was gained.  We call that a bargain.

This kind of commitment caused me to reflect on our own meetings here in America.  If we speak over 30 minutes we risk someone’s ire.  If the seating isn’t comfortable they may not return.  We miss attending because of multiple excuses.  Our minds wander and our hearts grow cold.  Historically, the church has flourished under persecution but it has floundered during prosperity.  King David had it right in 2 Samuel 24:24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.  A  faith that cost nothing is valued in the same way.

Decay

Wash your hands and say your prayers, cause’ Jesus and germs are everywhere.

I was at my son’s home earlier this week and he has the above statement framed in their kitchen.  I’ve read it many times before and could just hear my mother giving us kids those instructions.

As I thought on the slogan and its meaning, I began thinking about the basic things that we do that regulate our lives in this world.  I thought about how things are in a constant state of decay.  Food will spoil when left out; metals will rust; soil will erode; everything living dies; wood rots; and everything ages.  These are all forms of decay.  The Bible states that “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”  (Matthew 24:35,Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33)  That is when I noticed the one thing in this world that was constant, was the Scriptures.  Even though change is the order for this world that we presently live in, it will not be so in eternity.

In Eternity there is no decay or spoilage.  This lead me to several thoughts on what will it be like after this life.  In these three verses we catch a glimpse of eternity.  The concept of an eternal existence means that there is no change.  Nothing ages, or rusts, or spoils, or dies, or rots or ages.  These changes that we collectively call decay are nonexistent in eternity.  That would also include changes of growth, maturing, transformation and learning.  What you are and have become when you die, is what you will remain when you enter eternity.  There is no second chance or purgatory as it is decided in this world by the choices that we make.

God never designed a place to send the people who reject him.  Hell or the Lake of Fire is the place that was prepared for the devil, his fallen angles, the beast, and the false prophet.  It is where those not found in the book of life go because they have rejected what God had prepared for them and there was no other place to go.  God doesn’t send us to hell, rather we are making that choice ourselves by our choosing to follow Christ or to rejecting Him.   That choice is made now while we are in the place where change is possible.  If we go to Hell, it is because we chose to reject God’s will to transform us into His image, likeness and dominion.

Seeing God Smile

On the evening of my last day in the city of my visit, we were returning to my room for the evening before my departure the next morning, and we noticed a particularly bright sunset so my translator took this picture.  We both commented on it being especially bright and beautiful.  It wasn’t until I got home and was working with the pictures that I had collected that I looked at it closer and it caused me to catch my breath.  Look at it closer at what you see and try to identify what I saw.  In the bright white I saw a dove with its wings outstretched.  I even saw its head and a portion of its tail.  It was as if the Lord was saying, “This is why I sent you here”.

I am not saying it really was a dove or even a perfect semblance of a dove.  Still, that is what it appeared to be to me and some others that have seen the picture.  It really doesn’t matter what you see, it was a blessing to us and so fitting a way to end the trip.

This wasn’t the only thing that evidenced God’s hand on us during this trip.  I had people from many places that let me know that they were praying for the trip on many levels and for many reasons.  Places like Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas.  Our home church and many others, friends, family and even strangers that just heard about it were praying.  It seemed to me that they all were trying to warn me about the dangers and I felt a little like the Apostle Paul when he was returning to Jerusalem and was warned about what he would face on three separate occasions. (Acts 21) His reply to them was (v. 13) (Paraphrased) ‘I know that, why do you want to weep and break my heart?  I am prepared to pay any price to honor the name of the Lord.  (simply, I am compelled to go.)  I knew what could happen but I did not fear it for it would have been a small price to pay for such an honor to go in His name.

I am happy to report that everything that happened on the trip was completely in His hands and under His control.  Every objective that I had hoped for was completed without incident. My heart was stretched; all my needs were provided for; I was received like royalty; my ability to handle the foods were more than satisfied; my energy never abated; I was busy the entire time I was there and saw the Lord alive and active in the lives of my brethren there in China.  It was more than apparent to me that I was beholding God at work because I was not directing what happened, nor was anyone else.  God had initiated the trip from the idea to go to supplying every need to bringing the results to fruition.  Truly a demonstration of the operation of faith, and then sealing it with His approval.  See what the Lord will do when we leave the driving to Him.

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.

His Keeping

Having spent many years in the construction industry, I have faced many very dangerous situations.  One thing I learned is the importance of safety equipment and procedures.  There is one piece of safety equipment that I am particularly fond of and that is the safety harness.  It is a piece of equipment that will keep you from falling even if you loose your grip or even consciousness.  It has one job and that is to restrain you from falling.  The reason that it is so effective is that it is strapped onto you and holds you within it’s confines.  You are dependent on it and it is not dependent on you.

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,

So many times I hear people ask the question, “How do I keep from falling away from God?”  A similar question is, “How do I keep from sinning?”  Another is, “How do I keep on the straight and narrow?”  These questions have some thing in common that reveal the real problem.  First, they all begin with the phrase, “How do I …?”  We humans like to be in control and think that our success is dependent upon us.  Though there are some things that we are responsible for,  our keeping is not one of them.  Your effort to deliver yourself is a waste of time.  Your holding on to God is as futile as willing the sun to not rise in the morning.  Try as you may, you just cannot do it.  It is a humbling thing to realize that you are totally dependent upon God to deliver you and to keep you from falling.  It is His hold on you and not your hold on Him that is certain.  Your grip can be broken, but not His.  You are as secure as God, Himself is secure.

But not only is His grip secure, but He is the one who will present you to the Father, faultless.   Did you get that?  He will not only get you there but will deliver you there without a fault.  If you need cleaning up, His blood washes as white as snow;  if you owe debts, He paid it all;  if you have bad language or bad thoughts, He gives you a new heart and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.  You are His workmanship and God don’t make no junk.

It is not a burden to the Lord to make such an investment in you.  Our verse testifies that He does it with exceeding joy.     Luke 12:32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.  He doesn’t hold back either.  He desires to give you the whole kingdom.   Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  All good and perfect gifts come from Him.  He loves doing for you because He loves you and values you above all of creation.

The keeping is His part, the believing and trusting is your part.  Just do your part.

When trials Come

It has been a few days since I last posted so I want to offer you an explanation.  My schedule ihas been quite full with the Senior Adult Bible Conference,just completed along with the upcoming events such as out of town guest coming, the visa application that I just got off on Saturday and a trip to North Carolina which I am currently at.  It is .5:05 AM on Tuesday.  The trip began on Sunday when we were scheduled to leave Dallas at 8:20 PM but never left until 9:00 PM.  The flight was good but there was a heavy thunderstorm when we got to Raleigh, NC and we had to circle for 45 minutes while waiting to find a time we could land.  Then after we landed we had to wait on the plane for another 45 minutes until  the lightening stopped so we could  d board and then wait some more for our luggage.  In short, we got to bed around 3:00 AM.  Then it was the day of figuring out how to tie in two roofs that were at odd angles to each other and at two different elevations.

Isn’t that just like life,  all our plans are frustrated and then we are pushed to our limits.  I am happy to report that we never let it control us so that we forgot who is in charge.  I am thinking of Jonah.  He was directed to go to Nineveh, but made plans to go the other direction and wound up in the belly of a whale for three days and nights.  Have you ever wondered what Jonah was thinking while he was there in the fish’s belly?  If he were in today’s world he might of thought, how did I get in such a mess.  There was no warning about the upcoming whether change that messed up the voyage.  Then there was that crew that tossed me into the sea.  You’d think they would have had more compassion for me and my needs.  And if that wasn’t enough, instead of my needs being met, I wound up being breakfast for this huge fish.  He must really be desperate, mixing me up with all of this sea weed.  You see, Jonah was thinking of himself instead of his responsibility and God’s plan.  Sometimes things go wrong because God is trying to turn us to the right direction.  That wasn’t the problem for us so why would it be so difficult.

Another reason that things can get messed up is that God is developing our faith.  That is an ongoing work of the Lord.  We need to know that no matter how impossible the circumstances become, our God is bigger than the problems are.  So much of the time, we slip into the thinking that this situation is too big for God.  We forget that He who made all that is, is the same one who reign over all that is and He has the power to change anything.  I am sure that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednrgo gained a new perspective about God’s power.  God is greater than the laws of nature.  When you are walking with Him, even the laws of nature must bow to His authority.

A third reason that things may not go as planned is that God is using you to illustrate to others who are watching, how a Christian should act under pressure.  Sometimes we do a good job and sometimes we don’t.  In this situation I am not sure why the situation was so difficult but I am seeing some things.  On the first day of our work here, I have been impressed at how God has guided each thing we have attempted.  It seems that the ability to see through the complexity of the situation has been over powered by God and we have been able to make the very difficult cuts that established the beams, on which everything sets.  This reminds me to make sure the foundation because the superstructure works right, only if the foundation is right.  By following God’s plan, I have always found that anything and everything that was needed, has been provided.  Even to the extent of adequate rest.  I am amazed how well I have made it without adequate rest.  Then last night I just ran out of energy and was in bed by 8:30 but then awoke this morning at 4:05, rested and ready for the day.  Now I have time to meet with the Lord and even write this blog.

To sum this up:  sometimes things get messed up to get us in line with the Lord; sometimes they  become difficult as God is working on us; and sometimes trials are ours so that God can use us.  Really it is not so important that we see the why, as much as it is that we simply trust Him and know that He is able to keep that which I have entrusted  to Him:  and that is me.

Summer Bible Conference Underway

We are now in our Senior Adult Summer Bible Conference which runs from yesterday through Wednesday.  Yesterday we had two speakers in the afternoon that both spoke on aging but from a totally different perspective.  Both were great and gave us several valuable insights.  One of the highlights for me was that it can be (and should be) one of the most productive times of our lives.  We have the opportunity to influence more people with more lasting insights than we have ever had the opportunity to do.  Today, Tomorrow and Wednesday we will have two speakers each day; the first speaking at 10:00 AM and the second will be speaking at 11:00 AM and repeating the times each day.

I will be speaking on Wednesday at the 10:00 AM slot.  My message is on John 6 where Jesus gave one of the great “I AM” teachings, I AM the Bread of Life.  All of the messages are being recorded and you can go to our Church’s web sight and listen to them at your convenience.  If You would like a copy of any or all of the messages (on a CD), drop me a note in the response box and I will try to get it to you.  If you live outside the US there will be shipping charges as I am not a business but an individual living on a fixed income.

Do you remember a blog that I wrote back in January about this blog being an ongoing adventure and that we would see the Lord in action, on our journey home.  Later I told you about my being asked about making the trip to China and later I shared with you that I was indeed going?  Yesterday, I found out that the entire trip is going to be paid for.  Since I am on a fixed income, and it was not part of my budget, it was going to take the Lord for it to happen.

The operation of faith is one of the strong point in chapter 4 of my book, The Mystery of Faith. Faith operates in the following manner: God initiates faith, then man believes, then God finishes it or brings it to pass.  Since God had initiated my making the trip to China, it was up to me to believe that He would provide what was needed to make the trip.  Since I then believed it was indeed God setting it up, I had compete trust in Him to bring it to pass.  This is how faith operates.  I did not go to God to make this happen, but He came to me with the request for me to go.  I wasn’t the one initiating the action, nor was I the one who initiated the request.  The request was the result of my response to God’s request for me to go.  He always finishes what He starts.  This is His chosen means of operation.  Until we get this operation down, we will continue to struggle with our faith and how God intends for us to walk.