Responding to Difficulty

Last night was a rough night.  I got little sleep and was so sick that I couldn’t function.  I had severe pain in my abdomen, I was dizzy, I broke out in a sweat, then chills, then my throat began to water and I had the extreme urge to throw up and then it would all repeat itself every 15 minutes.  That lasted most of the night but then it eased off and I was able to get a few hours of rest.  I then woke up at 10:35 and remembered that i had an 11 AM appointment at the dentist.  I made it and was only a few minutes late.  I got the tooth with a cavity filled and was home by noon.  I still don’t feel well but I am able to function.  I still have several of the symptoms but they are less than they were last night.

Ac 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.  The Christians life is littered with difficult situations.  It is not without difficulties but with each difficult situation we can find victory over it by trusting our Lord to bring us through it.  God has not promised a life without trials but  promises to go with us through them.  I am not sharing this with you for pity or for your kind words.  They are nice but I want for you to get the deeper meaning behind it.  It is the hardships, difficulty and pain that God uses to make us like Him.  He is ever present help in time of trouble and will shape us for eternity through these difficult times.  I can praise the Lord that He can trust me to properly represent Him in this time.  We should always be mindful of what He is doing and not so much of what we are going through.

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.

The Church in China

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

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

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

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.

 

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.

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!!!

 

 

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.

Update – 8-3-18

Things are starting to happen with the mission trip to China.  The tickets are being purchased and it is starting to become a reality.  The date of departure is set for October 24, 2018.  Our first leg of the trip will be a non stop flight from DFW to Guangdong, China, which is near Hong Kong.  From there I will take another flight to northern China where I will meet Forest and Yan and spend a few days with them.

As soon as I get the tickets and full schedule, I can then continue with my visa application which should take about two weeks after it is sent in.

Forest reported that they are working hard on the translation of my book and hopes to have it completed and printed by the time I get there.  It will not be printed by a noted publisher but is will be something that I can bring back here and finalize it for our uses here.  Hopefully, I can then make it available to Christians here that speak and read Chinese.  This will be a milestone in the present ongoing work of the 4 language translations  that are underway.

The translation in Japan took a hit recently when a portion of the translation was lost in a flood in Japan.  I have 4 chapters that have been completed but it was a big loss of the work that had been done beyond that.  They are regrouping and pressing forward with that work there.

There has been significant progress on the Russian translation and chapter 4 has just been completed.  Joel has been more than faithful in his work and it is such a joy to see the Lord bless him through this process.  I think he really has little awareness as to how God may use it.  There are so many in this country who speak only Russian that it surprised me how needed it is.  I can see the Lord working on many fronts.

The Spanish translation is moving forward as well but at a much slower pace.  There have been much interference in family needs and prayer is needed there.  Still the translation is on chapter 3 and moving forward.

As always, I solicit your prayers for this ministry and the safety and guidance of those who are sharing in this work.of translating. Your prayers are more needed than you know.

Train Up A Child – Values or Principles

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

In today’s blog I will be addressing Values.  Another word for values is the word principles.  Values are the worth that we place on things, events, and people,.  Your values will be the deciders for all of your Choices.  I don’t know the origin of the quote, “I am the sum of all of my choices”, but it does reveal who we are in light of our value system.

When my wife and I were “training” our 7 children I tried to teach principles rather than rules.  Discipline was always accompanied with a class on the principles involved and some assurance of my love for them.  My kids learned to dread the instruction more than the discipline and one time my son said, Dad, just give me a spanking, but don’t give me a lecture on principles.  Another time, one of the kids came out with “Now the principle of principles is the principle thing, therefore, learn the principles.”  My point was that we should not try to follow laws or rules, but rather principles.  These principles are our values.  They are learned by repeated application, time and time again.   Isiah 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

So where does this value system come from.  It is built from our previous choices, and those choices were based on the values determined by our experiences and our training.  From a child who values food and comfort above all else, through adulthood where other values take on greater rolls, we build our value system.  If our training is on the level of the gratification of the body only, we become a selfish individual.  If our parental training.is appeasing the child for a moment of peace, then we are training the child that this is how to get what they want and their wanting will increase in its demands.  If we deny the child their request, then we train them to bottle their desires up and internalize them and create a problem of them not being able to give express themselves.  This can build to the level of exploding and then the results are not pretty because it will happen at an inopportune time and with unacceptable results.  Our training should contain a combination of building character, objective evaluation, consideration for others, patients, understanding, etc.  But, you say, that takes a lot of work.  Yes, it can be a lot of work if you look at it from the perspective of what it cost me now, or it can be a good investment on the greater reward that will come later.  Training the next generation will require a lot but it is not an option.  You are training all the time.  The question is not ‘if we train’ but ‘what we train’ them for.  They will establish some sense of value regardless of your effort.  They will establish their values, based on how they read your training.

It is important to note that you cannot fake it.  The saying, do as I say, not as I do, just doesn’t work.  A two year old knows what buttons to push to get what they want.  They can spot a hypocrite in a second.  If they are catching on that early, and I believe they do, then the training has already begun.  So we need to ask ourselves the question, What am I training them for?   Do I love them enough to give them my best?  Are they important enough to me to lay some of my values aside in order that they can develop into a healthy adult with great values?  Values are more caught than taught so we must be consistent.