Update 8.4.19

As you may already be aware, a team of 4 from our church are making a mission trip to Japan the first week in October. There are about 50 expected to attend a Bible Training Conference which we will participate in as conference speakers. The theme of the conference is Walking by Faith and we were planning on presenting each participant with a copy of my book, The Mystery of Faith in their own language. There are two major problems at this point and both of them could affect whether or not we can provide the written materials to the attendees. The first is the problem of printing as China has shut down all printing presses to printing anything pertaining to the gospel and is under tight scrutiny. We have an alternate plan that we hope to use that will make it much safer for all of the attendees. The second is the completion of the Japanese translation which is currently underway and is over half completed. Please pray that this work will be completed on time.

A second piece of news is that pastor T was here in the area and met with the team and a lot of the planning for the trip was made. Both the team and Pastor T got many of the answers that were needed and all saw a great spirit of cooperation and fellowship and we all came away with the deep sense that God’s fingerprints were all over this project. This will be our church’s first mission project in Japan and much ground work has been necessary to lay a good foundation. There is the hope that this can be just the beginning of other efforts in Japan and beyond. More on this as it develops.

Our Sunday School class has taken on the task of assisting in the printing of the book, The Mystery of Faith in the Japanese language. We have not reached our goal but have reached 1/4th of it. I am always amazed as to how God works. All of the translators have come forth on their own to volunteer to do the translations and now we see the Lord providing for other facets of the work. I call it the fingerprints of God and I see Him doing what I could never do. Sometimes I marvel out loud, “God, you are good.”

The persecution in China has intensified considerably and since May all Christian churches that have not come under the control of the government are illegal and severe consequences will follow those who are caught operating as an illegal church. Numbers of pastors and church leaders have been imprisoned and their churches disbanded. It has caused much confusion within the underground church and a number of individuals have been forced to sign a paper denouncing their profession of faith and pledging full allegiance to the authority of the government. Further, all printing that has anything to do with the gospel is now strictly forbidden. I would ask you to pray for the government leaders to see that the Christian people are not a threat to their secular position but are an asset to the whole nation and will enrich their lives and secure their nationality. Also, that they too, will discover Christ and claim His new life.

The Russian translation is at a halt for now since my translator has gone on to be with the Lord. I am asking the Lord how to proceed as I do not have a translator to complete this work. As far as the Spanish translation, it is finishing up on chapter 4 and we are ready to begin chapter 5. The work there is going slow as my translator has her mother living with her and that requires many of the hours in a day to care for her. Still she is slowly moving ahead on the Spanish translation.

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.

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.

Interruptions In Life

Wow!  Have you noticed that surprises come at the most unexpected times?  The latest came on Wednesday morning.  My wife and I take care of our great grandson a few days a week while my son and his wife are at work.  On Wednesday morning, I was sitting at my desk when Jayden (our great grandson) came in and mumbled in a small voice, something that I could not understand.  I asked him to repeat it and still did not understand what he was saying.  I asked him to speak in a louder voice to repeat it and he said, Grammy wants your help.  I got up, and not feeling any urgency asked him where she was and he said in the back yard so I headed in that direction.

As I went outside, I scaned the yard and found my wife, Darla, laying on the ground but no apparent injury.  Then she spoke and said, “could you help me up?  I fell and can’t put any weight on my right wrist.”  I gently helped her up and noticed that it was already turning black and blue and starting to swell.  I told her that it is probably broke but she said no, I don’t think so, it is just painful.  We all went in the house and the pain continued to increase as well as the swelling and bruising.

We went to the doctor’s office where they x-rayed it and determined it was indeed broke.  they put here in a splint and referred her to an orthopedic surgeon where we went yesterday.  He put her in a splint that covered all of her lower arm and elbow so she has no use of it now.  She couldn’t even squirt out some ketchup from a plastic bottle.  I now have her responsibilities, watching our great grandson, driving her to doctors and taking care of her; in addition to anything I need to do.  As a result I simply don’t have time to keep up on everything.  So I will be missing some days on this blog.  I will make entries as I can and will resume a more regular schedule when time permits.

Thank you for your understanding, patients and prayers.  Very soon I will announce a new feature on my blog as soon as it is completed.  More to come.  What an adventure in faith!

Deficiency in Prayer

Ro 8:26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Today’s post is on praying.  If you have walked with the Lord for a while, you no doubt have had prayers block.  It is when you meet with the Lord in your prayer time and just do not know how to pray about some matter.  It may be because you lack knowledge of the real need.  It may be because the request conflicted with your spirit as to the real need.  It may be because you are being challenged by demonic obstruction or some other possibility.  We may sense the need for prayer but simply cannot identify in your spirit what you are sensing.

Whatever the cause, you need not be defeated in your prayer effort.  The  autobiography of praying Hyde was insightful for me as I struggled with this problem some years ago.  Praying Hyde was a young preacher that felt his calling was not to be the spokesperson but the prayer warrior behind the scenes.  It is said that while the preacher was preaching, he would be in a secluded place praying and sometimes he was heard just groaning in prayer.  This is in perfect harmony with the above verse.  If you cannot get it out verbally then send the prayer to God in the form of a groan and the Holy Spirit will translate the prayer accurately for you.  That is just one of His responsibilities.  Where ever you are deficient, He will make up the difference to complete the request.

Furthermore, the Lord knows our thoughts.  Consider  Job 21:27 Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices which ye wrongfully imagine against me. Also,  Mt 9:4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?  Nothing is hid from God.  If you are struggling with a prayer, know that the Lord not only knows your heart but is also there to make you successful in prayer.  He is more desirous for your victory than you are.

I am encouraged by the story in Daniel 10 where he set his heart in prayer an prayed for three weeks before a messenger from God revealed that his prayer was heard from the first day but the answer was delayed three weeks in coming because it was hindered by satanic forces.  It is an awesome thing that we have been included in God’s plan to fight these satanic forces in prayer.  It is an unseen battle that we fight but we know that God is the victor and we are a part of that battle.  It is not in the physical utterance of sound but in the thoughts and intent of the heart.

Update

Tuesday I had my second cataract surgery, this time on the left eye, and everything went well.  When I had my followup on Wednesday, I had 20/20 vision so that is two for two.  This time it went even better than it did the first time.  I am now reading without my reading glasses.  This will be a tremendous help for me as I spend a lot of time reading and working on the computer.

I talked with my translator who is doing the Spanish translation and she is sending me the second chapter this week.  That makes all four translations of my book working on the third chapter or beyond.  I am so amazed at what the Lord is doing.  It is very exciting to work with the missionaries and translators so closely.  I would like for you to pray for each of them as they are facing tremendous obstacles.  One is that they are involved in a number of other mission  actives that also require their time.  At least two of them are working in hostile environments by their governments.  There are families that require their time as well as keeping their focus on what the Lord is doing with them in the translating.  Truly it is a job that is to big for us but not to big for God.

Next Wednesday I will complete our study on Holiness as a lifestyle.  It has been a blessing for me and has continued to grow as we have worked our way through each session.  The class has been great and the work has been a real blessing.  I have a few things that I need to get done soon and then there are a couple trips I need to make.  One is a trip to Oklahoma to be with my grand kids while my daughter makes a mission trip to the country of Turkey.  The second trip is to Colorado for our family reunion and my sister’s 50th wedding anniversary.  Also, I have one more surgery ahead next month to remove excess eyelid skin that is blocking some of my vision and putting pressure on my eyes.  That will complete my eye work.  My vision is already improved to  20/20 and I have lost my double vision and things are a lot clearer.

The final prayer request is that plans are in the works for a mission trip to China and to Japan in October.  It was supposed to have happened in April but was postponed because the Chinese government passed a new law restricting religious activity.  We needed to wait to see how that would affect our efforts.  We need for the Lord to guide us because we cannot see as He does and we need His guidance.

A final note to say thank you for following along with us on this journey and for lifting the work up in prayer.  I hope that these entries are being a blessing to you and I would love for you to comment from time to time on the articles, etc.  Also, let me know if there is something that you would like to see on this site.

The Lost Coin

Luke 15:8 Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?  9 And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.

The lost coin was lost while going about doing her regular duties.  It was not lost because of negligence nor from carelessness.  It was lost in an effort to and a focus upon her responsibilities.  She was unaware that she had lost it in the course of doing her duties.  It also represented an important part of her means of completing her jobs.

Yesterday, I was helping my son prune his peach and cherry trees.  I was focused on both completing the project and teaching my son how to do it for himself.  After we finished the job and the cleanup, my wife and I were visiting some friends and I felt an itch on my ear.  When I reached up to scratch it I noticed that I was missing one of my hearing aids.  My first thought was where and how did I lose it?  As I began to mentally retrace my steps I noted the last time that I knew that I had it so that was a beginning point and I progressively moved forward.  I remembered loading some branches into the truck and noted that that was a possibility so I called my son and asked him to look in the truck.  He did not find it there.  At this point I got out my broom and began to sweep the situation – that is I asked the Lord to help me find my hearing aid.  As I considered that the Lord knew exactly where it was, I became totally dependent on Him to guide me to it.  When I came home it was late so I took care of my evening chores and went to bed.  When I got up this morning I felt I knew to best place to look and that was under the peach tree that we pruned the day before.  I went back to the rental and introduced myself and told the tenant what had happened and asked him if I could look in the back yard?  He was very gracious and even went out to help me look and I found the lost hearing aid right where I thought it must be.

The first thing I did was to thank the tenant for his help.  The second thing I did was to make two phone calls to report the good news.  One to my son and one to my wife and we all rejoiced together for finding my lost hearing aid.  As I was traveling home, I was reminded of the above scripture and how much we need the Lord to be involved in all of our lives.  We need Him to lead us through even the mundane events that are an important  part of who and what we are.

Prayer Meeting

Yesterday was an unusually busy day.  I never even got to my study until evening and I was so tired I just ate and went to bed.

Still, it was a productive day.  After finishing my morning routine I went to a prayer meeting at the church.  This prayer meeting was first set up as part of the plan for us to look ahead and find out what the Lord was up to.  We were moving to a point of being out of debt and our church wanted to find out what our next step was.  Instead of simply redirecting the funds of the church, we wanted to know what the Lord had in mind so the church requested a number of the members to meet regularly to seek the Lord in prayer to discover His will in the matter.  The group was divided into 4 sets and each one set aside time to pray as well as to meet once a month in prayer together.  Also, each set would take turns so that there was a weekly group meeting.  We were directed to pray specifically for the will of God, the planning committee, specific prayer needs as they arose as well as the whole staff and membership.

These were special times and we discovered the direction we believe the Lord is leading us as well as getting to know each other much better.  I am happy to report that next month our church will be debt free.  We believe that our mission ahead includes supporting other struggling churches and establishing missions and under girding the kingdom work.  We specifically determined that we were not going to try to store up funds for our own use.  We will keep only a 3-6 months reserve of our budget for operations cash flow and then funnel the remainder into mission and the extension of God’s kingdom.

One of our commitments includes a mission that we are helping to also become debt free.  To do that we are committing an additional $100,000 to their budget so that they will be enabled to extend this plan even further.  We will not lessen our current efforts in missions or in our other efforts to minister to the multiple retirement homes, teaching, training, mission trips, etc but will seek to improve them as well.  Another one of our missions reported that they will move into their own worship facility this next Sunday.

Because the prayer effort was so effective, we also decided to make it a permanent part of our operation as a church.  It is such an honor to be a part of this church as we endeavor to carry out our Lord’s great commission and to see it being done effectively.  Only to God be the glory.