“How beautiful are the feet of those that bring good news of good things!” Romans 10:15
Category Archives: Bible Verses
AS DRAMA UNFOLDS, PRAYER IS REQUESTED FOR CHRISTIANS BOLDLY DEFENDING THE CROSS IN CHINA
Three million Christians live in the coastal megacity of Wenzhou, known as “China’s Jerusalem” where Communist authorities were “shocked” to find 1,800 Christian churches operate openly. Using the excuse that one church was displaying a cross that was too “conspicuous,” the authorities set about to demolish the church. Since then, 5,000 Christians have flooded the city to protect the church and make a bold statement of their faith.
Dan Wooding and Bob Yerkes (China)—With a population of some 10 million, Wenzhou, in China’s eastern Zhejiang Province, is one of China’s great coastal megacities. A 480km drive south of Shanghai on the East China Sea, Wenzhou is often referred to as ‘China’s Jerusalem’ as it is believed to have the largest Christian population of any city in China—possibly as high as 30 percent. (Map via China Daily)
Wenzhou is a business hub known for its many successful Christian entrepreneurs who actively promote Christianity in their workplaces. Whilst the Christian entrepreneurs do strive to maintain good relations with local authorities, that they hold considerable economic power in Wenzhou is doubtless one reason why the churches seem able to be quite active. According to China expert, Dr. Kurt Selles, Wenzhou has some 1800 churches which operate openly despite most not being registered with the government. For more than a decade, the success of Wenzhou’s Christianity-infused businesses has aroused government interest in the link between Protestant Christianity and successful capitalism. This demonstrable link has created a dilemma for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which is keen to exploit any business model that generates wealth, yet believes it must rein in and control Christianity lest it undermine Communist Party authority.
On January 8, Zhejiang’s Communist Party secretary, Xia Baolong, was conducting an inspection in Zhoushan (north-east Zhejiang) and was shocked by the proliferation of large churches. While passing a church in Baiquan town, Xia reportedly objected that the cross atop the church was ‘too conspicuous’, and demanded that the local Religious Affairs Bureau ‘rectify’ the problem by removing it. The CCP might want to reap the benefits of Christianity, but it certainly does not want the Church to grow! And so began a campaign to de-Christianise the landscapes and skylines of Zhejiang.
Church ProtestOn February 27, officials from the Zhoushan Religious Affairs Bureau demanded that Believers at the government sanctioned church in Baiquan, Zhoushan, help tear down the cross on top of their building. The Christians refused and a stand-off ensued. The cross on a government sanctioned church in the Yuhang District of Hangzhou (Zhejiang’s provincial capital) was forcibly removed on the same day after the authorities deemed it ‘too conspicuous’. Two other local churches reportedly had their crosses forcibly removed also that day. Believers told ChinaAid that forced cross removals were also taking place in neighboring Anhui Province as well. (Photo via Telegraph UK)
Sanjiang church in Wenzhou’s Ou Bei township at eight stories tall and covering 1,000 square meters is large by any standards. It has spaces for worship, teaching and accommodating the elderly. The church is registered with the authorities and is part of the government-controlled Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM). The members, along with many relatives working overseas, raised the US$4.8 million for the construction.
Everything was approved by the Wenzhou municipal government, which designated the church a ‘model project’ in September 2013. When the Christians refused to remove the cross and several spires from the rooftop, the authorities responded by threatening to demolish the entire building, falsely accusing the church of adding illegal structures in violation of building codes that rendered it structurally unsound. Meanwhile, demolition notices were reportedly also sent to churches in Taishun, Wencheng and Ruian townships. A church in Yongjia County also is understood to have been ordered to remove its cross and the top floor of the church.
On March 25, members of Sanjiang church commenced a protest and on 3 April the pastors were notified that the church would be demolished by April 18 (Good Friday). Since then some 5,000 local Christians have been participating in round-the-clock prayer vigils and sit-ins, praying that the church might be saved from demolition. He Hongying said she would stay in the church day and night for as long as necessary. ‘We feel at peace,’ she said, ‘and fearless when we are with our God’.
The struggle for Sanjiang church has come to represent the struggle between Chinese Christians who are unashamed of the transformative power of the Gospel, and abusive CCP officials who love money and despise the Cross.
Remember: “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:12-13 ESV)
PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL…
• Use the crisis at the Sanjiang church to open the eyes and ears of multitudes of Chinese, locally, nationally and inside the CCP; may they believe what the Church has been showing—that Christianity is good not only for business, but for families and all of society, because Jesus cleanses from sin, the Holy Spirit enables righteousness, and God’s wisdom is truth!
• Raise up voices for justice across Wenzhou and throughout Zhejiang, so that CCP officials will be forced to relent and stop abusing their power to attack the churches.
• Protect and bless all those Believers who are risking their security and liberty to stand for their right to lift up the Cross of Christ as the hope of the nation; may the Lord hear their prayers and bring revival to Zhejiang.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)
Come Follow Me….
“Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.” Matt. 4:18-22
So guys, the inspiration for this post came to me today when I was working on my Bible Study which is due this Friday. The theme of my Bible Study is to step outside our comfort zones, the walls we place around ourselves to keep us safe. Comfort zones aren’t necessarily bad, in fact sometimes they are good. I know I like my comfort zone…maybe a little too much. But I digress…
Comfort zones help show us where and where we should not go. They define clear boundaries of what is normal. But when we stay inside our zones, we do not grow, learn, experience, or change the world around us. In fact, we do nothing at all…we don’t change. We stay the same person that we have always been.
So my Bible Study was on that topic and a thought occurred to me. How many times does Jesus beckon to us and says, “Come, follow me,” and we do nothing at all. I believe God is always calling us to new things. He wants us to always be discovering Him and diving deeper into His heart. But He also wants us to be actively serving Him as well. In fact, service to God is just an outward expression of our love towards Him.
I can’t help but think of how many times Jesus has called me to follow Him and I turned away because it called me outside my comfort zone, my normal. You see, God is the type to rock our worlds because if He didn’t shake things up every now and then, we would slowly sink into complacency. That is not to say that God is responsible for every earth shaking even that happens in our lives. He WILL NOT hurt us in any way, but at the same time God doesn’t want us comfortable in our relationship. A comfortable relationship is often times a complacent relationship. When we fail to strive to dive deeper into God’s heart, we are telling Him that we don’t want to learn about Him any more, that we think we know enough.
I wonder if Peter and Andrew when they had heard Jesus say, “Come, follow me,” turned the other way and dismissed Him as a raving lunatic on the beach if Jesus would have asked them again. I also wonder if Jesus calls me to something big and I dismiss Him will He ask me a second time?
What Is Fear?
So, like the title says, what is fear? What defines fear? Or even a better way of wording it, what makes an object or a place fearful? Is it associated with a bad memory, a traumatic experience or even just something unearthly creepy that sends chills up and down your spine? Well, this post is based on a video episode by a man named Neil T. Anderson and hopefully, this will encourage you to see the truth behind some of your fears.
Well, fear can be sometimes seen as something that is sometimes irrational. Some phobias, for example, such as the fear of spiders or the fear of tight spaces can seem to some silly and even downright stupid except for the person experiencing the phobia. While the reason you have a phobia is sometimes unknown, some are brought on by traumatic and abusive circumstances or situations. For example, if as a child you were locked in a small, dark closet for being bad, chances are, you will associate small, tight places and even darkness as something bad.
The point is, we cannot really know what defines fear or what makes one thing scary to someone else and not to another. Or can we?
Isaiah 8:13-14, “13 “It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread. “Then He shall become a sanctuary…”
This verse clearly says that God should be the one thing we fear. He should be the one we “dread”. Not because He is mean or even a cruel God but simply because He is God and we are men. He WILL NOT squish us like bugs but He is a jealous God and deeply desires a relationship with us. Fearing God means respecting and honoring Him for who He is; the Maker of Heaven and earth. Once we develop that mentality — that God is God and we are not — then He will become our safe place, our refuge. God ALWAYS takes care of His own.
So then, what is fear? Or rather, what should fear be? Based on that passage, our fear should be a deep and healthy reverence for God. Easier said than done, I know. In fact, I am probably the last person who should be talking about fear. I have feared many things. When I was a child, I was scared of the dark. But even then, my mother always told me that God is with me and when He is with me, who can be against me?
The Year of Jubilee
Well, another year has come and gone. Looking back over the last 12 months, I am almost astonished at how far I’ve come. The Lord has really been showing me things about myself, about my future, and about who I am in Him. If you have known me for an extended period of time, you will know that I have had struggles with who my identity was. I think almost everyone can understand what I am talking about. But this past year, I have learned not only who I am, but how much I am worth. So this little email is about a few things I have learned on my journey to become, well, me. 🙂
First off, the Year of Jubilee…well, I would ask for a show of hands on how many people know what that is but, obviously that wouldn’t work. The Year of Jubilee is the year at the end of the seven sabbatical years. So it would occur at the every 50 years. In the Year of Jubilee, an Israelite was required to return any land that he had purchased and set free any of his slaves. Being a slave in the biblical Jewish term wasn’t like the picture of slaves we have today. In Bible times, if you had borrowed money from someone but couldn’t repay it, you were required to sell yourself to your debtor to work off your debt. (Jesus alludes to it in Matt. 18:21-35 with the parable of the unforgiving servant) But every 50 years you were set free. That is the biblical context of the Year of Jubilee. (On a side note: Just because in the Old Testament under the old covenant the Year of Jubilee happened only every 50 years doesn’t mean that today, after the death of Christ every year cannot be a Year of Jubilee. In fact, I firmly believe that we can choose whether or not our year will be a good year or a bad year. It all hinges on perspective)
But now to apply that to modern day terms…there are a couple things that we can learn. The first is:The Year of Jubilee is About Receiving Forgiveness. That is ultimately what Christianity is about, receiving forgiveness and erasing the debt or wrongdoing. Basically wipe the slate clean. At the beginning of a new year, people all over the globe promise to change, promise to work out, promise to be good — and whatever. We always say, “I’m going to start with a clean slate!” But so often we don’t realize how hard that is. Starting with a clean slate requires us to clean out all the gunk first!
(John2:1-11 “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding.When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each.Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.”
These servants can represent us. We are commanded to follow Christ instructions just as Mary commanded the servants “whatever He says to you, do it”. Now these stone water pots were filled with dirty water. These were the water pots that everyone washed in. And life back then was dirty and hard. Jesus commanded them to fill them with water. But to do that, they first had to be emptied. They had to be emptied of all the yucky and nasty stuff that had built up inside in order for them to be filled with fresh, pure, clean water.
In Bible times, wine was almost a necessity. It became symbolic of sustenance and life. In order for us to be filled with life from the Holy Spirit, we must first empty out our “water pots” and clean out all the gunk inside. What better time to do that than the New Year! The New Year symbolizes new beginnings, a fresh start. If we truly want to start off 2014 with a bang, we must empty out all of the ugly baggage and stuff from 2013. (Phil. 3:13 “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead”)
The second thing is: the Year of Jubilee is About Obtaining the Promises (or Inheritance of God). If for some reason a family needed money and they sold their land which was also their family inheritance, at the end of the sabbatical cycle, they would receive it back. That is a firm promise of God, that He WILL restore. (Joel 2:25 “Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten”.) You see, the year of Jubilee is not only about cleaning out our lives and receiving the forgiveness of God, but it is also the year that we receive back what has been taken from us. Whatever has been stolen from us, health, finances, etc, God promises restoration. So, I pray that this year will be a year of healing and restoration. I know I have had a few large bumps in 2013 where sometimes I wondered what the heck I was even doing. Sometimes someone or something I counted on let me down (and believe me, when I am let down, I am let down hard 🙂 ) I would wonder what the heck was going on. But now I can see that it was all part of the restoration process. The years of the locust has ended and I feel like God wants to restore His people. We just have to be willing to clean out all of our junk.
So these are a couple things that I learned in 2013. Hopefully I have been able to encourage you as well. 🙂 Remember to smile and keep pushing on! It’s the Year of Jubilee!
Shepherds and the Nativity
Many of the Christmas stories and tales revolve around the Virgin Mary, Baby Jesus, the glorious Star and even the gifts that the wise-men brought. But not many tales are told about the Shepherds. The shepherd who were the first to witness Jesus after his birth. So in this blog post, I am going to share some little known but interesting facts about the shepherds that, hopefully, will give you, my readers, a new look on the Christmas story.
Several people have told me that the reason why both shepherds and wise-men were present at Jesus’ birth is because God was making the point that Jesus was not just for wealthy people but poor people as well. However, the shepherds were not poor. In fact, if Jesus had wanted poor people at his birth, he could have invited several of the beggars that sat near the gates of Jerusalem. These shepherds tended the flocks of the priests. They watched the lambs that were used during the sacrifices in the temple and were paid very well for their services.
So if they were not poor, what was the reason they were there? Well, even if being a temple shepherd in Bible times was a fairly decent job it did have its drawbacks. One of them being that they smelled. Now sheep are actually very dirty and smelly creatures and not the fluffy, happy and WHITE illustrations portrayed in children’s books. So the old song, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”….well, you get my idea. 🙂 But the biggest drawback to being a shepherd was that they were forever in a state of ritual uncleanliness.
In Leviticus are the laws laid down by God for His people to follow. And among those laws were ones that forbid making contact with feces and dead things. Whenever a Jew touched either of those things there were several strict purification rights that needed to be observed. So being part of a culture that focused largely on cleanliness (cleanliness is next to Godliness right? 🙂 ) it was impossible for these shepherds to get clean. Because of their defiled conditions, they could never enter the Temple, offer a sacrifice, go to a synagogue. Now a days, as Christians, we can enjoy a relationship with God through prayer and Bible reading on our own. However to these Jewish shepherds in the time of Jesus and especially the Temple authorities the idea of worshiping God apart from the Temple was thought to be anathema. True religion was a corporate effort and not a singular relationship.
So for all practical purposes even the most pious shepherd was labelled unclean and could never come into the presence of God. But it was these shepherds that God chose to unveil His only Son first. It was these shepherds that God invited personally to come into His presence and see Him face to face. Why? Because in Christ, there is no clean or unclean. We cannot NOT come into His presence because we are “unclean”. We can enjoy a relationship with Him that is both personable and intimate. Christ was for all mankind. He removed that barriers of cleanliness because in our sinful state, no amount of ritual cleansing can make us clean. Oh physically yes, we might be spotless, but inside, we are dirty. Only the blood of Jesus can make us clean, inside and out. 🙂
I think it is pretty amazing that God chose the unclean shepherd over the Pharisees and priests to witness His birth. But the religious leaders knew about Jesus’ birth. They had read the prophecies and counted the years. When the wise-men showed up at Herod’s doorstep he called all the teachers of the law together and they were able to tell him where and when Jesus would be born. However, these Pharisees and priests were unclean too. For all of their ritual cleansing, they were white washed tombs. (Matt. 23:27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”) They were unclean because they were dead inside.
They missed their long awaited Messiah because they were too focused on keeping the Law. They let their rituals replace the relationship. So this Christmas season, I want to encourage you to not forget the reason for the season. Yes, that is a phrase that is thrown around a lot this time of year but really, how often do we actually think of what it means. Because of Jesus’ birth, there is now no distinction, no male or female, no Jew or Gentile and no clean or unclean. We are all equal in the sight of God. If that isn’t a reason to celebrate, then I don’t know what is!
Well, I have been on a bit of a hiatus once again. Life has just picked up and I haven’t been able to slow down. A couple weeks back I started a new job as an administrative assistant. I figured it would be good to get some experience in “the office”, so to speak, before I start any sort of college or career. This way, I will get the “know-how” and I even get paid for it! Imagine, being paid for learning. Who would’ve thought? 🙂
Anyway, yesterday was the first storm of winter. And here on the lower West Coast by saying storm, we mean lots of rain. It doesn’t need to have any thunder or lightening, just rain steadily for a few hours and we call it a “storm”. Very impressive to us! It rained so hard that we even had a small stream running through the asphalt road out in front of our drive way. Yes, even more impressive….
As I sat looking out the window at the water falling from the sky, it made me think of this Bible passage: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” Matthew 7:24-27
What are the storms in our lives? Will we be able to weather them? Storms here can be defined as anything that chips and wears at us over a period of time. Whether it is a difficult divorce, the loss of a loved one, or even pressure at work or school; all those things wear us down physically, spiritually, and emotionally. In other words, the storms are defined as life in general. And during those storms of life, what are we building on?
It’s even more important to say, are you prepared for a storm? Have you built on the right foundation? Are you building on the rock which is Christ Jesus? This verse is in close relation to this one found in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15: “According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” When the fires of this life sweep through and leave you burned and hurt, are you going to be found pure? In the 1840’s and 50’s during the Californian gold rush, miners from all over the world would come to pan the streams for the precious metal. They spent years chipping out mines and caverns looking for the elusive gold. And they found a metal that looked like gold, was soft like gold, and an all appearances, it seemed to be the real thing. But when they melted it down, all it became was a useless lump not good for anything. They dubbed it, ‘Fool’s Gold’. So when your faith is tested by the fire, will it be found pure? Will it be the “real deal”? 😉
A Lengthy Absence
So, like I had mentioned earlier a few posts back, I will be leaving on a Mission Trip. Well, that day has come! Or rather, it will be tomorrow. So even though my little blog has just begun, I must put it on pause for about the next 6 weeks. 😦 I am hoping to squeeze some blog time in but I cannot garantee any promises. 🙂 So, this is a fond and sad adieu! But I am not too sad. 😉
So In closing, I want to share a passage of scripture that will be getting me through these next few weeks.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.
“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
“With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.”
Ah yes, Mission Trips. An exciting event for almost every young Christian teen. I have been on 6 Mission Trips with in the last 5 years, most in country but with two out of country, the countries being Thailand and Niger respectively. This summer, I will be departing yet again for 6 weeks away from home to Niger (again) and also to the East Coast. I will be going with Christ In Action (see button below 🙂 ) to in country one. I will be partnering with Take the Challenge, a sub ministry under Mission China, for the Niger trip. So, even though I have just started this blog, I will already be taking a length break.
But that is okay because I know God is going to be doing awesome things in me, through me, and around me during those trips. Mission Trips have always been, while stressful at times, a period of relaxation from ordinary life where I can get out of my comfort zone and experience God afresh in a whole new atmosphere. I’m sure that if you have been on Mission Trips before you can testify to the life changing qualities and lessons learned.
This afternoon I had another pre-trip planning session which lasted about 3 hours or so. The preparation before the trip can be draining but also exhilarating! You are getting ready to be used as a tool for God to further His kingdom! What an honor! I hope to be able to post a few pictures when I get back. I do not know if I will have the chance to post much on this little, mundane, blog but who knows! 🙂
This brings to mind a Bible verse. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 Sometimes stepping out of my comfort zone into the mission field can be scary and at times daunting. But God has not given me a spirit of fear but of boldness. Where I am weak, He makes me strong and He is glorified through me. I know I cannot serve Him fully in my own power. But with God at my side, who can come against me? An amazing thought huh…I am a child of God and because of the confidence I have in my salvation, I can be a bold witness to the nations!