The year end holidays are now past and we are turning our focus to the coming events. This Friday (the 18th) I will be visiting one of the men’s Bible studies in our church to do a report on our China mission trip. It will be a 30 to 45 minute power point presentation and I am excited to share it.
Then on the 20th of this month I will be meeting with my host from my trip to China, here in Keller, Texas. We will be considering another possible trip to China this year. With the crackdown on religion there we will need your prayers once again. We want to find the will of the Lord most of all and pray for us to be sensitive to Him. We will also be considering how the Lord would like for us to proceed on how to best use my book that has been translated into Chinese. There are two specific needs: the first is to make the best use in China. The second is that I find the right publisher here in the US to get it in print here and to make it available to the many Chinese that are living here. I have talked with a couple publishers but as of right now I do not have specific leading. On Wednesday, the 23rd of January, Forest will be making his report to our church in the 7:00 PM service.
I am happy to report that the Russian translation is nearing the completion of Chapter 5 and will begin chapter 6 in the very near future. I have also heard from the translator of the Japanese copy and he has been undergoing a major spiritual attack. His assistant has dropped out after a flood destroyed all of their work that they had done together. He is back to chapter 5 which is where he was before the flood. Since then he has been trying to meet the additional load from his church, and the mission activities he has been involved in. Added to that, there has been false teacher come in and created a lot of disturbances in many churches. They need your prayers. Finally, we come to the Spanish translation and it is not moving well either. A live in mother-in-law and health issues have become overwhelming. Satan is at work, trying to stop this effort.
As a member of the missions committee, I am currently working on a possible mission trip to Japan this year. It is in the very early stages so I don’t have any thing specifically to report except that is is under consideration and the initial contact has been made with my contact in Japan. Once again we are looking for God’s will and following His leading.
I just joined LinkedIn (prounced Linked In) on January 1 and yesterday I recieved my first comment from someone I did not know. He and I have a common contact and he read one of my articles. He was the 9th person to read one of my four entries.
This year promises to be even more active than last year and prayerfully the Lord will find us faithful in His service.
It was one year ago today that I posted my first blog and if you read my last post it has been an exciting year with many wonderful experiences. Today I am announcing that I have added a new avenue to reach out with the Gospel (Good News) to a lost and dying world. That avenue is that we are now on LikedIn (pronounced – Liked In) and that site is being developed. I have a lot of work to do yet but I posted an article on it and am presently working on connecting it and this web site so that each post here will also be posted on it as well. I am slow in getting all the ends connected as I am not tech savvy but I have others to help me so I will get there.
LinkedIn is the world’s largest communication network and reaches around the world. It encompasses virtually all trades, professions and interest. Already, I have been confronted with literally hundreds of possible connections and I am asking the Lord to give me wisdom in these contacts. When the Lord sets a plan, it will always be bigger than the individual and far more encompassing. It really helps me to trust Him as I know that I fall way short of the task.
One of the features that has caught my attention is that when you become a subscriber, then every time I make a new post, the subscribers will be notified so that they can utilize their time more effectively without having to check to see if I have made a new post. I think it will be a great feature. I’ll let you know when I have that feature set up as well as other new opportunities.
My prayer for each of you for this coming year is that your faith in the Lord will not be weak, but strong in your confidence in His bringing it to pass. I am amazed at what He has done just in this past year. John 20:27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
As of January 1, 2019 I will have posting on this blog for one year. During that time I have posted 153 different post and have had 1710 different contacts to this website from 29 different countries During that time there have been 69 contacts that have responded in writing from countries as far away as Japan and China.
Included on this site are the 153 blog entries divided by month and topics; a new section that is titled Activity and is under construction; Articles that I have published in the past; A Q&A where you can pose a question about the Bible or its doctrine (teaching) and other appropriate topics; and a section titled The Mystery of Faith that is on my book and how to order it. Coming later this year will be a section on some select messages that I have preached and have been recorded.
Events of the past year have been teaching weekly in the Senior Adult Sunday School; a speaker on the Annual Senior Adult Bible Conference, hosted by our church; the translation and printing of my book in Chinese; and a 10 day mission trip to China which included worshiping with our Christian family in China. This year (2019) I am projecting two mission trips, one trip back to China and a second trip to Japan, which will hopefully begin a new work in Japan.
The status of the translations of my book, The Mystery of Faith, is as follows: The Chinese translation has been completed and printed and is being used as a training manual for new pastors in China. The Russian translation is nearing completion of chapter 5. The Japanese translation is also in chapter 5. The Spanish translation is moving slower due to family needs but is in chapter 3. I am currently searching for a publisher to print each of these translations so that they are available to people everywhere. More on that as it develops.
I am so amazed at what the Lord has done with this simple step of obedience. This is a brief report of the past year and some projections for the coming year. Watch for the LinkedIn page that is coming soon. If you subscribe to it you will receive a notice each time I make a post and it will also be linked to this site as well.
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.
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.
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.
I knew that customs differ in other parts of the world but I did not know how much. While I was in China, I had the opportunity to observe this first hand.
After our first session we were enjoying some food together and I noticed that there were different ones that would suddenly place additional food on my plate without me indicating in any way that I wanted more. At first I thought that they were just excited to see an American and wanted to show special attention. But then I noticed that there would be two or three bringing me more food at the same time and I began to wonder what was going on. I would be eating my soup and someone would be pouring more soup into my bowl while I was eating it. Another would peal an orange or open a fig, or add more meat. I was getting full and I couldn’t keep up with their hospitality. I said that I didn’t want any more but it kept coming. I certainly didn’t want to offend anyone but I didn’t know how to stop the flow of food, either.
I was raised in a country setting in southern Missouri. We were very poor and food was quite simple. It was beans and taters for the most part. Occasionally we would fry a chicken and if we got tired of the menu we could switch it around and have taters and beans. In the summer we also added the garden veggies and rarely we would have beef or pork if one of the neighbors were butchering. Because times were tough we didn’t waste anything and my parents taught us to always clean our plates. It was the courtesy of the times to show your appreciation by eating everything. The cleaner the plate the better. I also taught my children to clean their plates. The thought of wasting food was never entertained.
Then I went to China and learned that the custom there is quite different. You show your host that you are full by simply to stop eating. If you clean out your plate it means that you are still hungry so they put more on your plate. I didn’t know that so I was trying to empty my plate and sending the wrong message.
I think that sometimes we study the Bible without knowing the customs and miss a lot of it’s meaning, in the same way I did by not knowing the customs and setting. One of my tools in my library is a book titled, The Life and Times of Jesus, The Messiah” by Alfred Edersheim. If you don’t have the book, I suggest that you try to get a copy. It will help you to understand the customs of how it was in Jesus’ time and add meaning to such places as the Lord’s supper and many others.
Wow! What a trip. It took me 10 days to experience the trip so there is no way that I can share it in one or two short blogs. I will try to keep my focus on what I share so that it is a complete and concise topic and will post them from time to time. Also, I want to be considerate of the Christians in China so that they do not incur additional persecution from the forces that oppose them. And finally, I do not want to misrepresent our Lord to the government as they have a responsibility to govern their country and I do not desire to inflict any conflict between them and our Lord or His people.
That being said I want to first say that I left here with one concept of who the Chinese are and came home with an all together different opinion. I had envisioned that theirs was a country of poor living conditions and way behind in the cultural world. In fact, their conditions are comparable to those in our country. The streets are clean, the conveniences are modern, and I found the people to be quite wonderful with much the same dreams as ours. They were more than gracious and considerate, and they have many qualities that I wish were here as well. They do not seem to value possessions the same as we do and are content with what they have. For an example, they would travel for two hours or more to meet with people of like faith, then sit on a plastic kids stool for another two hours without fidgeting or complaining, another hour visiting and eating and another two =/- hours returning home. and do it again the next day. They were not tardy and would spend their time praying while they waited for the time to start. They were not problems to either the civil authority or each other. They were not critical of others, but helpful. They were model citizens.
They were hungry to know the truth but careful to reject error where ever they find it. They were especially cautious about false religions. In several way they were way ahead of many churches here where freedom and ease has made us dull of hearing and apathetic. Daniel understood this truth and refused the king’s dainties to be free from greed and laziness. This is probably why Christianity has always prospered under persecution and floundered under prosperity.
You rarely see a single family dwelling except on a rural area where farming and the like have historically had such dwellings. From my room I looked out my window and could see three major construction sights of 6 to 12 buildings each one about 30 stories high. There were also three more that were not in my view, just as close.
I came away with a huge respect for the Chinese people and they taught me a lot. I went there to be a blessing but I came back the blessed. More later.
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.
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.