For God so loVed the world,
That He gAve
Believeth In Him
Should Not perish,
But have Everlasting life.”
God sent you a VALENTINE card. Won’t you be His VALENTINE since you are the object of His Love?
For God so loVed the world,
That He gAve
Believeth In Him
Should Not perish,
But have Everlasting life.”
God sent you a VALENTINE card. Won’t you be His VALENTINE since you are the object of His Love?
God is Holy
Ps 99:9 Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the LORD our God is holy.
In getting to know God, we must understand that God is Holy. What that means is that He is not like man. A huge mistake that we make in considering what God is like is thinking that he is like us. While it is true that man was made in the image of God, God is not in the image of man. There are a number of major differences. First of all, man is a created being but God has no beginning. He is the creator but He was never created, Himself. Our understanding comes from things that we know and our perspective is from within time and space and not outside of time and space. Man was made in the similitude of God so that we could get some idea of what God is like but it is a mistake to equate man to God. Man is finite while God is omnipotent; man is limited in knowledge but God is omniscient; man is contained within time and space while God is omnipresent; and man is under constant change while God is immutable, or unchangeable. These differences are a great chasm between God and man. That chasm was created by sin leaving man estranged from God and God estranged from man. On the one side is Holy God and on the other is sinful man. God cannot become less than holy or He ceases to be God. Once man became sinful, he became incapable of making himself holy, righteous and good.
The second fact about the holiness of God is that we cannot make that crossing on our own. God alone has the power, knowledge, presence, and will to reach across this chasm to make a way for man to cross to Him. That way to God is Jesus Christ. John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. That way was opened when Jesus died on the cross and thereby opening the way to God. Man must now be changed or transformed by the new birth experience which is also known as being born again. God joins His Holy Spirit in the same way that the sperm is joined with the egg to make a new life; this new birth completes the transformation of the spirit. The metamorphous must also happen to the soul in a process that we know as sanctification where our mind and will are transformed to be like the mind of Christ and a heart of love. It is also where we take on the attributes of God, such as longsuffering, patients, etc. It takes a lifetime for God to complete this change. Finally, the body is metamorphosed or changed into a new body that is eternal and is like that of the resurrected Christ. This is called glorification and happens at the rapture or catching away, where we are fully and finally completed in the image of God.
The third and final thing that we should learn about the holiness of God is that we must approach God in reverence, respect and awe. This is the Biblical response of all who ever came into the presence of God. It is not a requirement to be met by some merit and cannot be faked. It is the natural response just as dry ground absorbs the rain. It is the result of the discovery of who God really is. It is the spiritual response of a child that has come home.
Ephesians 1:15 Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, 16 Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; 17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, 20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
I was recently asked the question, “how do we train (equip) church leaders?” This question was asked by one of the leaders in China in light of the Chinese government oppression to the church in breaking up the larger churches into smaller groups of 25-30 people. I have pondered this question and in prayer I have sought an answer from the Lord. I believe that He has answered me by directing me to the passage in Ephesians 1:14-23, and more specifically verses 15-20. I will attempt to answer it in three consecutive blogs of which this one is the first.
The first point that needs to be made is that the answer has two sides, like a coin. On the one side we are wholly inadequate to equip anyone. God alone is qualified to equip the believer. The Scriptures declare Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. It is God, Himself that calls us, qualifies us and empowers us to do His work. He is busy completing His image in us as we attempt to follow His Spirit by faith. Notice in Paul’s prayer in verse 17, that it is God who gives the spirit of wisdom as well as the revelation of knowing God personally and opens the eyes of your understanding to spiritual truths.
The second side of the answer is that we are also part of the working of God. It is in our response to God to know Him and to receive from Him those gifts that He chooses that we are used by Him to equip the saints so that they are enabled to do the work of ministry. We are created in Christ Jesus UNTO good works. Simply put, Christ is the head and we are the torso of the body which acts under the lordship of the head.
Paul prayed that there would be three things that God would grant to the believers in Ephesus. The first is found in verse18, that ye may know, what is the hope of His calling. Ponder with me for a few moments and try to answer to yourself this question, what is the hope of your calling? Why you created and what is it that you hope for? A common thought is that I might go to heaven, but that is only a destination. Getting there is not a hope, only a destination. Then what? God is not nearly as concerned about getting you to heaven as he is about fitting you for heaven. When you do arrive it should afford you all of the fulfillment that you seek.
Another common answer is that you will be rejoined with your loved ones and with Jesus. It is true that we will be rejoined with some of our loved ones, but not all of them will make it. Jesus declared that the way to destruction was a broad way but the way to eternal life was a narrow and restrictive way and only a few will enter there.
Let’s look at what the Bible says is God’s plan for man. Ge 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. This verse declares God’s plan for man prior to his fall into sin. Man was to be made after the fashion of God in three ways: In His likeness; In His Image; and with dominion. This is a message by itself and many things can be said about it. For now we will look only at the overall picture and that is that it is a description of God’s plan for man which will not be completed until we receive our resurrected body at the return of the Lord Jesus. God is a trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We were made in the same likeness as God is and have a body, soul and spirit. God’s plan wasn’t completed in the Garden of Eden and Sin did not catch God off guard and did not wreck God’s plan. God’s plan is eternal so He planned ahead for the new creation of man mentioned in II Corinthians 5:17 that the new man would be created in Christ Jesus. So we have a temporal body, soul and spirit which must go through a transformation for a new body, soul and spirit. We can see this pictured in the process of a worm becoming a butterfly. The order of completion is in reverse order: first the spirit is united with the Holy Spirit and then sealed for eternity so that the bond cannot be broken. Who he is, is changed forever. Then God goes to work on the soul so that he is transformed in his values, method of thinking and all aspects of his will. We call this Sanctification, which means literally, separated. Through this process which takes a lifetime, we move further and further from sin and its environment. Finally, when the Lord Jesus returns in a cloud in the air, we will be changed and get our resurrected body and then our transformation will be completed. This is our Hope and what we long for to not only be with the Lord but also to be like the Lord and to be separated from the power of sin (at regeneration), to be separated from the persuasion of sin (through sanctification) and to be separated from the presence of sin (at glorification); as so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Most Christians have heard John 3:16 quoted many times and can probably quote it themselves. I have heard it quoted so many times that I had become dull of hearing and felt that I knew the verse quite well. Then one day as I was reading the verse, yet once again, there was one word that jumped out at me and it was like someone slapped me in the face and said look at this phrase, and that was the phrase, Eternal Life. The one word was “eternal” and all of a sudden the verse exploded into amazing understanding.
The word eternal means “without end” so I began to contemplate what life without end really means. I thought of from now on without an end, that is a finishing end. I considered, starting with salvation that there would never be an end to my life. I wondered, what would it be like in say 100,000 or a million years? Would I ever get bored or complacent with that existence? Then I remembered that in eternity there is no such thing as time and off my mind went with that adjustment, wondering how that would work and what it would be like. . .
Then I remembered studying the concept of infinity in college and recalled that an infinity(meaning no end) has no end in either direction. Going forward there is no end and going backward there is no end. My mind began to hit overload with this new insight. Here in time and space we think linear, that is in a straight line. We don’t consider any of the other possible directions but in eternity all directions are considered so eternal life must mean without beginning or end. That was real difficult because I think of my life as having a beginning. That beginning was at my conception and it is dated from my birth. I have no recollection of life prior to that yet the Bible records that we were in the mind of God before time began. Now my mind is really buzzing as I realize that I actually am older than dirt. God‘s plan for me existed prior to His creation of the world. Now I began to realize that I am not a product of chance happening, or the result of certain chemicals coming into contact with each other, in short, a product of creation. It is just the other way around, creation is the product of God’s plan for me and you. It serves as a womb of sorts to provide an environment where God can complete His plan of making man in His own image, after His likeness and with dominion.
As I began to feel a little comfortable with this new understanding, another truth came to mind. Not only does eternal life not have a beginning or an end but eternal life encompasses all possibilities in all other directions as well. At this point my mind went into TILT. I failed to comprehend the whole of the idea of life in the full meaning of eternal. This truth is too wonderful for me. Though I could not comprehend it, I was affected by it.
Then I began to think about God. He is Eternal. The Bible describes Him as the eternal God. We think of this as a title but it is so much more. It is a description of the dynamic of who and what God is. This is promise that God’s plan is not some pie in the sky, by and by, but His plan is to make us His children and to give us eternal life. That is His life that shares with us as we live in Him. He is getting us ready for an eternity beyond our comprehension. That is why we share in His inheritance, His sufferings, His character, His reign and His life.
John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting (eternal) life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He that believeth in Him is not condemned, but he that believeth not in Him is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Here it is the middle of February and Spring is just around the corner. As the farmer prepares the field for planting, we are preparing for some planting of our own. The Great Commission is our Lord’s instructions on how to sow the seed of the gospel of Christ to the world. Today I am only speaking of the sowing to the ends of the earth.
We have a missions committee meeting in just a couple hours from now and we will be working on plans for a mission trip to Japan, as well as a number of other mission trips and activities. Concerning the trip to Japan, pastor Takeshi has invited us to join him and several other churches in Japan to a Bible Training Convention there in Japan in October. Our role in the program is not defined at this time but we are sure that this is the beginning of a work in Japan that is just now opening up to us. As of right now we already have 4 leaders who have indicated their desire to go on this mission trip. Pastor Takeshi has shared with me that there are several churches there that will be in attendance. I also know that good Bible Training is so rare there and the need is so great.
I got the idea of possibly putting together a Bible Training institute there where we could contribute in an ongoing way. I have contacted my alma martyr about this possibly and was told by President Fox and his staff, that they not only would like to be a part of that effort, but that they already have all of their courses available on the internet and that if they coordinated their time, that they could video conference directly into the class time. This is a tremendous opportunity to make the Bible training available to Nations that have no Bible training available to them at this time.
This would also open up multiple opportunities for additional involvement from churches here in the USA to carry out the great commission on a scale that was not possible just a few years ago. Instead of bringing the pastors here for training, they could get the Bible training and would be much closer to their own country and culture. There is so much work to be done but that is the story of Acts, Crossing barriers with the Gospel? The early church crossed the language barriers, culture barriers, racial barriers, distance barriers, etc. and we can too. The opportunity is ours and we are endeavoring to follow the Lord in this Great Commission.
On another note, we are also looking at the possibility of another trip to China this year and we need your prayers once again. Last year I made a trip to China and saw the hunger for the gospel and the commitment of believers to stand in the face of persecution. Since then, the Chinese government has increased its persecution of the church and many churches have had their leaders imprisoned and members interrogated. Their possessions have been confiscated and their careers have been blocked. The Chinese government calls the church darkness, but in Joh 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. He went on to say that in Mt 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
I amasking each of you to be a part of what the Lord is doing for us to carry out this work. Many of you have supported our efforts last year and we saw the Lord do amazing things. This year we are requesting your prayers and support once again. Will you do your part? It takes all of us to see this work carried out. All of you can pray so will you be a part of our prayer team? We can support the work in many ways, even as simply as financially or materially. We can go, for the commission is as you are going and not when you go, or to put it another way, where ever you go in your Jerusalem (domestic), your Judaea (local), Samaria (territorial) and the uttermost part of the earth (everywhere else). Go where He goes and do what He does.
Early in my ministry I had a pastor who was called to preach when he couldn’t even speak a word. He had a membrane grow across the opening in his voice box so the only sound that he could make was a grunting sound. But there was nothing wrong with his mind and he was clear that God had called him to preach. He would try to preach but no one could understand him. They were compassionate and considerate but they were not receiving the message.
Finally, a voice therapist discovered the growth over his voice box and thus began the process of opening up the voice box so that he could speak. They would poke red hot needles through the membrane, cauterizing the opening so that it would not close up, and then letting it heal. The next operation was to enlarge the opening more by the same process until the opening had been enlarged enough to allow him to speak. Then came the final day when he would speak his first word, and he said JESUS.
I was listening to a radio preacher who was bringing a Christmas message and was speaking on an often overlooked person of the Christmas story, Joseph, Mary’s husband. In his message he made the point that there is not one word that is recorded that Joseph ever spoke. That surprised me so I began to search the Christmas story once again to see if that was correct. Technically, he was correct in that he was not quoted as saying anything, however it is also recorded that he named Him, JESUS which was the direction of the angel of the Lord to so name him. The only word that we are certain that he spoke is the name, JESUS.
Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins
Mt 1:25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
Since Joseph was not the father of Jesus the naming rights then would fall to the mother, Mary, who also named Him JESUS, which was also under the direction of the angel Gabriel, who was sent from God. We can therefore conclude that Jesus was named by His Father, God; by his stepfather, Joseph, and his mother, Mary.
Mt 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Lu 1:31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
Lu 2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
This then is the heart of the Christmas message. A savior has come to save us from out sin, and His name is JESUS.
Ac 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
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.
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;
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!
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!!!
The Christian community understands that the Great Commission refers to the charge of Jesus to evangelize the world. The main Scripture that is associated with this commission is Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: 20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. It was also recorded in Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, Acts 1:8, and referred to in several other scriptures.
A commission comes with certain implications. First, it is a command and not a request. It is not based on whether or not you feel like it or if it fits into your schedule. It is your schedule. Your life is to include this task as a main theme. It is of prime importance and not to be regulated into a lesser importance. People’s eternities are at stake and our love for our Lord as well as our love for others are our motivators.
Second, we are to go into all the world with the gospel message. God’s message is for everyone and everyone is important to Him. The Bible declares that it is not God’s will that any perish, but that all come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) There is no specific plan as to priority of order of importance but ‘as you go’ or maybe ‘where ever you go’ or everywhere you go is the order of the day. Further, it is an all inclusive plan to include all places. From the early church it was Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth. Your Jerusalem is where you begin and includes that environment. Your Judea is the region just beyond your Jerusalem. Your Samaria goes beyond your Judea to include the more difficult places for you to include your prejudices, or your enemies, or some other barrier you will need to cross such as distance or finances. Your uttermost part of the earth extends to include all peoples in all places and all circumstances.
The third implication is that we are to go in His power and not our own. It is so often said that I cannot afford to go on missions. God will finance His missions. I am not saying that it is a free ride and you have no responsibility in this. What I am saying is that all resources belong to God, they are not ours. The first place to go is to the Lord in prayer and seek His power to deal with this situation. Don’t attempt to do it on your own for you are commissioned to look to Him for the resources to go and the power to do His will. If you can accomplish the task without His power then it will frustrate the grace of God and you will get the glory. God has commissioned us to the ministry of reconciliation for more purposes than you can guess. It is partly for the ministry to others, but just as importantly, for us to grow in our own faith and love. The struggle to reject our own efforts as the solution and to tap in to God’s power is equally important for us as it is to them.
The final implication that I will address is our witness. The apostles said that they were witnesses to what they had seen and heard. If you testify to that which you did not have first hand knowledge, then you become a false witness. Instead of revealing the God of glory, you now obscure the view and work against the Lord. You cannot give what you do not possess. You have to be real and cannot go beyond your own personal revelation. It is important to remember that you are in partnership with the Lord in this work and as you are being transformed into His image, He then uses you as His illustration of the message. It is His work and you are a part of that plan. The success of the word is not on you, but on Him. You are a witness of that success.