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more about “Seeds of Blood, Christianity in China…“, posted with vodpod
Here is the video I referred to in the previous post.  Very powerful!

If you only have about 8 minutes, I would recommend that you let the video load (buffer) and then fast forward to where the time counter says (-01:24:45).  You will then be able to hear the amazing testimonies of husband Allen Yuan and his wife Liang Huizhen.  Whenever you are not sure of God’s ability or willingness to provide for the faithful you can remember this true story.  May God help our faith to increase to this measure!


Are you willing to go to prison for Jesus?  Are you willing to be separated from your family for years for Jesus?  Are you willing to die for Jesus?

If you are a follower of Jesus, you really need to watch “The Cross – Jesus in China”.  It was made in 2003, and it gives the history of the church in China.  Let me tell you that unless you are really hard of heart you will be moved.  The testimonies of these beautiful and dedicated people will cause you to reconsider what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  I believe you will also be convinced that no cost is too great to pay to follow Jesus in obedience!  It is rare that I recommend movies or books on this site (perhaps I should more often).  I put this on the HIGHLY recommended list.  I literally wept with joy and thankfulness during parts of it the first time I saw it.

http://www.chinasoul.org/e/e-va.htm from this link you can watch it online (it does take a while to load…worth the wait) or you can buy the DVD.  It is a 2 disc 4 hour set for $15, and yet timeless and priceless.  If you are myopic and self-centered and want to stay that way, well then this video is not for you!  Watch at your own risk.

Are you willing to live for Jesus?  Luke 9:23-26, “Then He (Jesus) said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels.'”


The Psalms are incredibly broad and deep.  Though David wrote more of them than anyone else, there are a variety of authors who wrote over about a 1400 year period. When reading the Psalms it is helpful to understand that there are different types of Psalms, and that some Psalms are more or less appropriate for the situation you are currently in than others.  When the information is available it is also a great blessing to know the context of when and why the Psalm was written. How to classify the Psalms is in large part a personal preference.  It can be a useful tool to keep a chart for yourself or put notes by different Psalms in your Bible.  I’m looking forward to making my own chart as I read through the Psalms.  In the meantime I can share some categories from  The Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald.  I’ve added a couple of categories and given examples for each.

1. Worship and Thanksgiving – Psalm 93 (probably the greatest number of Psalms fall into this category for the purpose of enhancing our fellowship with God.)

2. Messianic (Prophetic Psalms that specifically speak of Jesus Christ).  It is important to remember that sometimes part of the Psalm has to do with Jesus while other parts refer to someone else.  – Psalm 22

3. Confession and forgiveness – Psalm 32,51

4. Petitions – Psalm 17

5. The righteous and wicked contrasted – Psalm 1

6. Historical – Psalm 78

7. Prophetic but not Messianic – Psalm 14

(Note:  It is also important to note that some of the Psalms in the petition category are not appropriate for us to use in prayer today.  The author was writing in the context of the Old Testament law of an eye for an eye.  Jesus calls us to a higher standard of loving our neighbors – whether friend or enemy.

It’s one of those things of life…Claire had a flat tire on Thursday morning.  We knew we would need to get tires within the next 6 to 9 months, but we weren’t expecting it this week.  So I took the flat to a local tire place and my thoughts were confirmed – it was a no go – too much damage to put it back on.  Since we have all wheel drive on that vehicle you can’t replace just 2 tires at a time unless you buy tires of similar wear – nope the hole enchilada – all 4 would have to be replaced.  It also turned out that we needed an alignment.

When it was time to go back to pick up the vehicle and pay there was a different manager.  He told me the final price, and I was about to slide the credit card in the machine I realized he didn’t ring up the alignment charge.  I hesitated for a moment, and the thought came to my head, “It is their fault for not charging for it. You can walk out of here without paying for that.”  I didn’t listen to that thought but instead reminded the guy about the alignment charge.  He was both surprised and thankful for an honest customer, which opened the door for a profitable conversation about integrity and Jesus.

I’m not writing this so you will think I’m a good person.  I’m writing it because we are all tested like this multiple times a year.  We need to remember that integrity is of much higher value than the amount in our bank accounts.  If you are a follower of Jesus, your testimony will impact others –  either for the good of those who see and the glory of God or negatively as a hindrance to the Lord’s work.

This example shows the heart of the meaning of Matthew 5:13-16,  “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Let’s pray that God would help us to do what is right in all such circumstances.

PS – As a thank you the manager gave me 50% off the cost of the alignment.   

It has been a good and busy time since returning Tuesday night.  It is hard to believe it is already Friday afternoon.  House Fellowship on Wednesday night, dinner with my family on Thursday evening, and a leaders’ meeting early this morning were the highlights of the week.  I’ve also managed to get back on the basketball court twice. Wednesday hoops felt rough, but today I felt much more energetic.  The ball was generally at a high level of quality too.  Unfortunately, it ended with one of the guys spraining his ankle.  I hope for his sake it isn’t too bad.  Basketball at Ramsey has been a great opportunity for me to get some exercise and also get to know some people that I otherwise would have no contact with.

In the very near future the other elders in our church and I will begin a study through Alexander Strauch’s book, Biblical Eldership.  I am looking forward to our collective growth through that investment of time, prayer, thought, and practice.  If you are in leadership in a church and have read this, how about dropping me a note with your opinion.  Or if you are interested in the Biblical perspective of church government – both how it should be organized and applied, then I recommend it.  It makes sense to believe that God cares about how His church is should be organized.  Traditionally the church has ignored most of God’s instruction on this subject to its own detriment.

Don’t forget to pray for rain – boy do we need it!

June 1, 2008 – Sunday

Today we had a wonderful time of worship.  Between the Lord’s Supper service, music, and preaching the time was from 10 AM to 1 PM.  As usual it was beautiful and sincere.  During the Lord’s supper service I had the privilege to share the Scriptures.  We talked about the past, present, and future in relation to remembering the Lord’s death and resurrection.  

The past – Jesus filled the Old Testament prophecies concerning His death and resurrection – see Isaiah 53. And we look back to what Jesus did on the cross as the substitute for our sin.  Our Savior the Righteous One who gave His life for sinful people like me and you.

The present – As the Apostle Paul instructs us, we examine our hearts and confess any sin – because sin hinders fellowship with God (I Corinthians 11:17-34).

The future – Our Savior is Risen, and He will return for us, and we will share the Cup with him in the New Kingdom (Matthew 26:26-30).  The certain hope of all true believers is this: Our future is with our King!

Pepe, Judy, and I went to lunch, and we had a good time and a profitable conversation about church life.




May 31, 2008

Saturday was a wonderful day.  It started with another morning of teaching.  We finished Matthew 5 and 6. As usual the class asked great questions, and we had a good time.  After lunch, we headed to Tehuipango in the mountains.  Driving straight there it is a good 2 hours, but we needed to pick up people in several villages along the way.  I drove the blue Suburban that was packed solid with humans, but I don’t think there was a single complaint!  We arrived at our destination at 4:30 PM and began getting ready for a time of praise and worship and teaching with over 200 of our Indian brothers and sisters in Christ.  We started about 6 PM and were packed and ready to leave around 11:30 PM.  It was a beautiful time as musicians from many places shared their music.

One of the first people I saw was little Erika from Atlahuico.  She came up and gave me a big hug!  It was a moment of pure joy – so familiar and yet so special.  The love of Christ in the hug from her transcended all barriers of language and culture!

Here is something that should encourage all of you – especially those in dcf and particularly the dcf music team.  At the time of music last night in Tehuipango – I could hardly believe my ears when I heard Holy (a song by Waterdeep that some of our dcf band taught the musicians here in Spanish) being sung loudly in NAHUATL (the indigenous language)! How cool is that?  Praise the Lord!

I was asked to teach at the meeting, so I gave two short lessons.  One for unbelievers on God’s love and provision of salvation through Jesus Christ.  The other for the believers out of John 15:9-12,

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 
These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and 
that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

After the meeting we had a wonderful time of fellowship over bowls of Pozole (a delicious soup – check out the gigantic metal tub they served it from in the photos). There was enough for everyone to get a bowl. We then made our trek back to Rio Blanco, but this time we needed to take a group to Zoncolco.  So down the mountain for nearly 2 hours and then up to Zoncolco. Now this is a road that is just being built, and I have never driven on it before – and it is 1:30 AM.  I think you would be hard pressed to find a road like this in the States.  It has no guard rails (most roads here do not), and if you misjudge things by a few feet, then you, your passengers, and your vehicle will plunge hundreds of feet to a fiery ball of death!  Praise God for His continued traveling mercies.  

After dropping our passengers off in Zoncolco we got on the autopista (Interstate) and headed back to Rio Blanco.  I was following Juan, but I was asked a question, got distracted, and missed our exit.  I was a little frustrated with myself because the next exit was a good 5 minutes away.  However when Juan went back to look for us; there was a bad wreck caused by a drunk driver.  Perhaps the Lord spared us once again.

We arrived back about 2:30 AM.  I had been so tired, but once I got to the house I had a hard time falling asleep.  The last I looked at my clock it read 3:30 AM….just a few hours before the Sunday morning meetings.  It was a very long but valuable day.  I am thankful to God for His provision of strength, and most of all – His love!

Friday marks the half way point of my time here in Mexico.  Today I was able to get a few hours of rest and study in the afternoon for which I am very thankful!  The adoption meeting that I wrote about earlier was a real blessing.  Also the doctor and his wife from Honduras offered to help my wife and I with an adoption in Honduras if we desired.  Just today they talked with a friend in Honduras that told them about a 3 year old girl who needs adopting.  Her mother had left the family, and the father wants to give the little girl away. How terrible!  I ask you to pray for this little one.  Claire and I aren’t sure exactly which avenue to pursue at this point, but we will seek God in prayer and wise counsel from our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

This evening I had the opportunity to preach here in Rio Blanco.  Our subject matter was Love.  Our texts were Luke 10:25-37, James 1:21-27, and John 15:9-11.

You can read a previous post about the Good Samaritan if you like.

Our main points:

1.  Love is the key!
2.  My neighbor is anyone I have the power to help
3.  I have a special responsibility to those in the church family, the poor – orphans, widows, and aliens
4.  Jesus desires us to be full of joy.
5.  The fullness of my joy in Christ is normally in proportion to my obedience to Christ.
6.  Being full of joy should be the standard for the Christian life, not the exception

It is late, and the schedule for tomorrow is full.  I will be teaching the missionaries for a couple of hours in the morning, and then we will drive a couple of hours to Tehaipango where there will be a music event with many musicians and people from various places.  I have been asked to give a message there.     The Lord has been gracious to provide physical strength, mental alertness, and fullness of spirit.  Thank you to all those who have been praying for me and please continue to do so.  I am truly blessed to have people in this world who truly love and care! 

p.s. I didn’t take a single picture today. I will try to be more faithful with the camera tomorrow.

Ok, here is the update on what happened at the adoption meeting.  The lady I met with is one of the people in charge in this area at the DIF…our equivalent is DFCS.  At the beginning the conversation was a little discouraging as we talked about the process of getting our massive amount of paperwork translated into Spanish and through the proper channels.  Because we are from the U.S.A the normal process is to go through the Mexican Consulate in Atlanta, which then sends the paper work to Mexico City, and then they send it to Jalapa, and then to Orizaba. She said that the process can take more than a year.  She was also very frustrated by this because they have many children who need adopting.  

However, she told us that through a civil organization like an orphanage in Mexico the process can go much more quickly.  I knew the church here had talked about the possibility of starting an orphanage, but I was surprised when Pepe told me that they had recently completed all of their paper work and received approval to begin an orphanage.  Later Pepe called a lawyer in the church about this, and he stated the process could be done in as little as three months.  Step by step we continue to trust God to open doors for us in His time.

May 28, 2008 – Wednesday

Today we had a very similar schedule to yesterday…teaching in the morning followed by lunch and them more teaching in the afternoon.  It has been a privilege to cover such a large amount of material in just two days.  The team has been very enthusiastic about the messages, and our time has been very fruitful.

The following is a list of passages and subjects we covered in the morning:

John 13:18-30 – The betrayal of Jesus
John 13:31-35 – God’s glory and the commandment to love one another (recurring themes)
John 13:36-38 – Jesus’ prophecy of Peter’s denial
John 14:1-24 – The fellowship we have with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
John 15:18-16:4 – How we can expect to be treated as followers of Jesus.

Lunch was absolutely delicious.  We took the whole team (about 20 of us) to a restaurant in Orizaba – just a few minutes down the road.  For 40 pesos ($4) we were served your choice of 1 of 3 soups, either rice or pasta, your choice of 1 of 3 main dishes, beans, and dessert.  The cream of carrot soup was wonderful, and I am determined to learn to make it when I get back home.  

In the afternoon, we studied the seven churches described in Revelation 2-3.

Unfortunately I left my camera at Pepe’s house.  I was intending to take some photos of the missionary team today, but hopefully I will remember tomorrow.  I did take a picture of my carrot soup with my cell phone, and I took a few pictures of some flowers in front of Pepe’s house this evening.  The creation both small and grand is glorious…a glimpse of the power of God.

The date: December 25th is commonly celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ. The actual day of His birth is unknown to us. We can say with a high level of certainly that Jesus was not born on December 25th. In fact, the birth of Christ was not a celebrated day until about AD 440 and was celebrated on the same day the pagans celebrated the birth of the sun god.
Application: We can and should be thankful for Jesus – born of the Virgin mary – the whole year round. The Christmas time of year can provide opportunities to have conversations about Jesus with our neighbors.
Move your wise men: Most nativity scenes have the wise men around the manager. However we can see by reading Matthew chapter 2 that the wise men worshipped Jesus sometime between his birth and his second birthday. Herod issued a decree to kill all the male children in the area 2 years old and under. If you have a nativity scene in your yard or house, please move your wise men an appropriate distance to show they are on their way to worship Jesus.
Application: Our heartfelt response to Jesus should be the same as the wise men…to bow down and worship. May we worship Jesus for who He is.

More shortly on the Virgin Birth…

My wife and I recently got to spend a few days in Asheville, NC. In many ways it is similar to our hometown Athens, GA. We stopped in a local bookstore, and I was looking for a good book to read while sitting on the deck and looking out at the mountains. I made my way to the Religion section (which was proportionately larger than most) and then found the “Christian” section. Of the 100 or so authors to pick from C.S. Lewis was the ONLY one who’s writings were worth the paper they were printed on – and his much more than that. So I am very thankful for Lewis – because the truth of Scripture he reveals is put in bookstores even when every other book in the “Christian” section is there to fabricate history and/or present a different Jesus.

I wanted to share, summarize, and expand on some thoughts in his famous sermon “the Weight of Glory”. When approaching this subject of reward for how we live the Christian life, we often think of 2 possibilities on either end of a spectrum.
On the one side we have a reward (a glory) that seems to us self-centered and arrogant, and on the other side a reward that seems frivolous and all-together inconsequential. (I mean what does it matter as long as I make it to heaven.) As usual with these sort of spectrums the biblical truth is no where to be found on it. The biblical truth is distinct – not a degree between 2 falsehoods.

C.S. Lewis in his sermon “The Weight of Glory” speaks of these things and helps us see the glory that the Scriptures give us with clarity of sight. The glory that God gives us is indeed this, “Well done my good and faithful servant…” It is as Col. 3:23-24 states, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”

The proper desire for this glory is healthy for all Christians to have. It is the natural desire of a child to hear her parents say, “Good job. I’m so proud of you!” and notice how she smiles and laughs and her face lights up like a jar of lightning bugs. It is this desire that is true and pure. (Lewis notes we are talking about the brats here.) It is very similar to the desire we should have to please our heavenly Father. It isn’t so that we can brag about our conquests and boast around like a peacock. It is so we can hear that strong Voice – the Voice we long for – say those precious and kind words to us… ”Well done my good and faithful servant.”

Lewis notes 5 basic promises we as followers of Jesus have been given. I will give Scripture to back each of these up and a call for how to live now in light of our future:

Future 1: we shall be with Christ (Colossians 3:1-4)
Now: don’t get stuck living for the temporary
Future 2: we shall be like Christ (I John 3:1-3)
Now: put away sin
Future 3: we shall have glory (Romans 2:6-11, 8:18)
Now: be persistent in doing good
Future 4: we shall feast with Christ (Revelation 19:6-10)
Now: be prepared to meet Jesus and rejoice
Future 5: we shall have some sort of ruling position in the universe (II Timothy 2:11-13)
Now: be faithful and endure

(Note that we have the primary promise – to be with Christ – and the other promises are descriptive promises of what that is like – so we don’t jump to our own (wrong) conclusions of what this will be like.)

Finally: Lewis concludes with such great power that we are to love God and love our neighbor. “There are no ORDINARY people…” His point is that we shouldn’t be overly concerned with our own glory, but we should be very concerned with the glory of others.  We are helping people become children of God or playing a part in moving them further away….that each person will ultimately be – eternally with Jesus or a hideous creature – eternally apart from God. We should take each other very seriously and should be burdened to help every one we can (as the Apostle paul would say) be presented complete in Christ Jesus.

After Jesus unexpectedly turns water to wine (see previous post), we find something even more unexpected.

It is the time of Passover. Jewish people from all over the Roman Empire would travel to Jerusalem for this time of celebration and worship. It was a celebration of how God brought them out of slavery in the land of Egypt and a reminder of potential future deliverance from oppressive rule. However, there were many in the temple system who had impure motives. They wanted to get rich off those coming to worship, so they charged ridiculous exchange rates and sold sacrifices.

In the next scene we find Jesus making a whip of chords. Now this is not what I expect Jesus to be doing. I would think that a strong talking to would come first as a warning. Many others though have this view of Jesus that He was a physically weak and mild person yet very smart and like-able. Truly He is wise, but He is also, dare I say, manly!

Now the Scripture do not state that He actually hit anyone with the whip…but it was at minimum intimidating as he cracked the whip and caused a stampede of animals. With great force He turned over the tables of the the merchants and money changers. No one was willing to physically stand up to Him.

So why did Jesus take such a bold stand?

1. To fulfill the prophecy found in Psalm 69:19, “for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.”
We should always be mindful of our motivations for service.
2. To be a wedge. The true Jesus is a wedge that divides people into one of two camps…those who sincerely want to worship God and those that have different motives.

3. To fight against religious hypocrisy. Jesus knows the damage caused by false religion…that’s why in John chapter 4 He states, Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

When I read the Gospels, I sometimes find myself surprised by what Jesus does or says in a particular situation. Jesus does what we don’t expect Him to do, and sometimes what we don’t want Him to do. Sometimes He makes us uncomfortable because He breaks the mold we have tried to force Him in. Let’s look at three of these instances.

The first unexpected event has to do with the first miracle Jesus does to begin His public ministry – turning water to wine. He has just called his first disciples (some of the twelve), and they along with Jesus’ mother Mary and His brothers went to a wedding in Cana.

We need to understand that weddings in the culture Jesus is in are very different than what we have in our U.S.A. culture today. On the wedding day, the bride would put on a wedding dress, jewelry and a veil. Her bridesmaids would be with her in her parents house. The groom with his friends and musicians would go to the bride’s house and receive her from her parents. The bride and groom, and all their family and friends would go back to the groom’s house for a wedding feast. That evening after the feast the bride and groom would be taken to their bedroom. The next day the festivities would resume and last for one to two weeks. The honeymoon is at the house and the whole community is invited for a huge party.

In this instance the wedding party has a big problem. The wine has run out.  Jesus’ mother comes to Jesus and tells him about the problem. Jesus is not quick to answer her request for help because He has not yet started His public ministry. Mary tells the servants at the party to do whatever Jesus asks them to do. Jesus tells them to fill up the 6 water pots (20-30 gallons each) with water. When they do Jesus tells them to take some of it to the master of ceremonies. The master of ceremonies receives the cup and an unexpected surprise. It is high quality wine. The M.C. pulls the groom aside and says, “Everybody sets out the fine wine first, then, after people are intoxicated, the inferior, but you have kept the fine wine until now!” (John 2:10).

To me it is unexpected that Jesus would make 120-180 gallons of fine wine for a party. If Jesus were to do that at a party today many of us would say, “Jesus please stop…you are going to enable all these people to sin by getting drunk.” A common arguement is that Jesus wouldn’t turn water to wine today and that no Christian should drink anything because of the culture of alcoholism we have. However, were there not people getting drunk at parties in Jesus’ day? Were the Romans who occupied Israel at the time T-Totallers? The M.C. in John chapter 2, history, and common sense has those answers.

At the same time there are others who will just as wrongly argue that since Jesus made all this water into wine it is okay to indulge yourself in it….that it is okay to get a little tipsy…that it is okay to get your buzz on…that it’s even okay to get a little drunk now and then. That’s just plain foolishness. Jesus doesn’t give us license for anything to excess…not food, drink, sleep, work, or play. Moderation is key.

So why did Jesus turn the water to wine?

  • to display His glory so His disciples would believe in Him (John 2:11).
  • to bring joy to life
  • to honor the request of His mother

Big Time Lessons:

1. The last words recorded of Jesus’ mother Mary, Do whatever He tells you,” should be listened to by all of us.

2. Note that Jesus asks the helpers at the wedding to fill up the water pots. He asks us to do what He has enabled us to do, and He takes care of the rest. There are many things in life that are beyond our abilities. We can simply ask for help in the Name of Jesus, yet there are many things that through His strength we can do.

Are you answering Jesus’ call and following Him?



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