Monday, February 27, 2012

Li De Xian and Zhao Xia: China

Once again I would like to tell the story of a martyr that is or has suffered for their belief in Christ and their choosing to follow Him no matter what. These stories provide us with great examples of those who truly put Christ first. They also help us to see how our brothers and sisters around the world suffer for their beliefs. As sad as some of these stories are, I find great strength in the word, and feel more courageous in my attempts to spread the word as well. This story was taken from one of DC Talks' Jesus Freaks books.

“Christ was the first to suffer,” Pastor Li De Xian said. “We just follow Him. There
are many thorns, but we are just injured a little on our feet. This suffering is very little.” As any know who remember his story from pages 170–175 of Jesus Freaks, Pastor Li speaks about suffering from experience. The man who said “I will preach until I die” has stuck to his word. Despite continued pressure from the Public Security Bureau(PSB), Pastor Li refuses to miss a service unless he is in prison or change his message of salvation through Jesus Christ. During the period from October 2000 to May 2001, he was arrested fifteen times for preaching in his unregistered house church in Guangzhou. He has been arrested so many times during the past two years that he has lost count. During one recent detention, jailers tied his arms and legs together and chained his arms and legs to a bedpost for three days. When they finally released him from this torture, he was forced to work on an assembly line in the prison factory putting bulbs into strings of Christmas lights to send to America! He and the others had a quota of between four and
five thousand bulbs a day. “They suffered this inhumane treatment simply because they failed to meet their daily production quotas in the Chinese labor camp.” Li has seen imprisoned Christians tortured so badly that their buttocks bled through their clothing. He spent fifteen days in prison on this particular occasion.
Yet rather than this experience teaching him to be afraid, it has taught him to be
prepared. He travels at all times with a small black duffel bag that he keeps packed with a blanket and a change of clothes—the things he will need for prison whenever he is arrested next. “Arrests will come at any time, but we are not afraid, as we have prepared ourselves, and we have not done any crimes.” Whenever possible he will spend his time in prison reading the Bible, something he manages to smuggle in with amazing regularity. His wife, Zhao Xia, strongly supports him in this and refuses to worry. “God will take care of him,” she says, “so there is no need to worry.”
In 2000, PSB officials also confiscated Li’s church and welded the doors shut. In
early November 2000, in the city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, they reportedly blew up and demolished at least 450 churches, temples, and shrines. Government officials said religious leaders had built the churches and temples illegally.
“Don’t feel sorry for us,” Zhao Xia says of their lifestyle. “At least we are constantly reminded that we are in a spiritual war. We know for whom we are fighting. We know who the enemy is. And we are fighting. Perhaps we should pray for you Christians outside of China. In your leisure, in your affluence, in your freedom, sometimes you no longer realize that you are in spiritual warfare.”
The Chinese character for “crisis” is actually a combination of two other
characters. One is “danger,” but the other is “opportunity.” We usually view a crisis as something to totally avoid. We see or experience the danger, never dreaming or desiring that it may involve an opportunity. If we are truly dedicated to serving God with our lives, the circumstances of life will be springboards for opportunities to further God’s kingdom. Paul acted much this way in his life: Being locked up in prison was an opportunity to save the jailer and his family; having a Jewish hit squad out to kill him was an opportunity to appeal to Rome and take the Gospel there. Perhaps Joseph said it best: “God turned into good what you meant for
evil. He brought me to the high position I have today so I could save the lives of many people” (Genesis 50:20 NLT). Because of this, people like Pastor Li and his wife never have the time to feel sorry for themselves as they are too busy looking for the door God will open next. When Pastor Li enters prison, he reaches people for Christ he might not have otherwise met. He has become so well known that whenever he is arrested again, it makes headlines worldwide and China’s policies toward Christians are again under scrutiny. They know they are in spiritual warfare and believe that is just where they need to be to serve God properly. And they wouldn’t miss that opportunity for the world.

Ephesians 6:19-20
"and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak."

Thanks for Reading, and God bless you all this week!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Do Good People Go to Heaven?

During my life I have been blessed to know some very good people. I have grown to love them, and appreciate what they mean to me. Many of them have been instrumental in helping me be who I am today. So many good people have made a huge impact on my life. Yet, as I think of all of these people, were they saved or not? Some I don't even have a clue. But surely since they are really good people they are going to be alright, right? As much as it saddens me to say this, wrong? Being a good person does not ensure your entrance into heaven. The truth is, none of us are good enough to get into heaven. Now there are a lot of people out there that believe if they do the very best that they can, and do good to everyone that they should make it. But, has any of us truly ever done this all the time?

Matthew 22:36-39
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’

Have any of us ever truly kept this law all the time? The answer to that is no. None of us can. There is nothing we can do on our own that would make us worthy enough to go to heaven.

Romans 3:20
"because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin."

There are many people who try to justify themselves in all the things that thy do. "Well, I am a good person." "I have lived a very moral life." They give to charity, they work in civic organizations to help the community, they even attend church. But none of this is good enough. We all fall short everyday, no matter what we do.

Romans 3:10

We can do nothing on our own to please God who is our judge. None of the things we do on this earth mean anything to God. That is why Jesus came to earth. He was sent to die as the only sacrifice worthy enough to cover all of our sins. Jesus said,

Matthew 9:13
"But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”"

Isaiah 53:6
"All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him."

Our Lord Jesus took our punishment on the cross so we could be declared righteous before God.

2 Corinthians 5:21
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."

The only way to be declared righteous, is acceptance of Jesus as our Savior. We must truly believe that He died on a cross for our sins, and rose again on the third day. And we must obey what He wants us to do. If we truly love Him, we will obey Him.

John 14:15
"“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."

So, do good people go to heaven? Not unless we have been declared righteous through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If we have not, then we will never reach heaven. If you have read this post, and do not know the Lord Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I pray that you would seek Him now. You can click the Plan of Salvation tab at the top of this page, and it will show you how much you need Him, and how Salvation works. If you have read this today and are saved, I pray that you use this to determine who those people are in your life that you care deeply about that are not saved, and reach out to them before it is too late.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless You all this week!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How am I living?

There are many things in this world that we use to justify the things we do. We have activities that we enjoy doing, jobs, little league with our kids, and so on. Sometimes we get caught up in all the things that we are trying to do, and thus, our lives are controlled by them. Myself for an example. I teach at a high school, I coach varsity soccer in the fall for boys and the spring for girls, and my son is in school and loves to play t-ball and soccer. We have two younger girls at home who want all the attention. We have church three times a week, with different activities going on all the time. Fridays are almost always spent with my parents, and the list goes on. It is very hard not to get caught up in all the details of our lives.

I saw a t-shirt sometime back that "Soccer is life, the rest is just details." This caught my attention to begin with because I love the game of soccer. But I had a thought. What if I replaced the word "soccer" with "Christ"? That puts things into a whole new perspective. "Christ is life, the rest is just details."

Matthew 24:35
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

All the things of this world that we enjoy to do, will one day pass away. Nothing is eternal except the love of God. Now there is nothing wrong with all the things that we enjoy doing with our lives. That just adds to the pleasure of life. What becomes bad is when we let these things control our lives, and take our eyes off of Christ. If we center our lives around Christ on the other hand, that will never end. He will always be there, now and through eternity. Everything else is the sprinkles on the cake so to speak.

Psalms 37:4
"Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart."

Matthew 6:33
"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

I know that my life is always going to be more fulfilling when I keep Christ as the center of it. Will you too say to yourself everyday "Christ is Life, the rest is just details"?

Thanks for reading, and God bless you all this week!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Needing Some Support

As I prepare for the upcoming soccer season at my school, I am in the stage of planning practices and strategies to help my team be successful this year. I have found that I have a couple of outstanding players, and I tend to plan around them. I make sure they those key people get the ball and go to work. However, these few athletes cannot do it alone. Without the support of the team, they themselves will never be successful. This made me think of the purpose of church in our lives.

Acts 2:44-47
"And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved."

It is very hard sometimes to go at it alone. It becomes lonely, and hard to complete the task at hand. But, when you have someone with you, it makes life a little bit easier. Just think about daily living. It is easier to witness to others when you have a brother or sister with you. It is also easier to fight temptations when you are around fellow believers. The support is also there when you are in need. This is one of the many functions of the church. To support the brethren. If you read through the book of Acts, you will see that even the Apostles traveled with companions on their journeys. They worked together, the prayed together, and even endured hardships together.

I love going to church on Wednesday nights. It gives me a chance to spend time with brothers and sisters, and gives me a spiritual booster shot to finish the week. As head of the FCA at my school, I along with two very special students, have organized bible study twice a week before school starts. This has also been a huge blessing to me. I feel strengthen by them when we pray together, and when we share God's word together.

Hebrews 10:24-25
"And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."

So I encourage you today, spend as much time with fellow believers as you can. Go to church as much as you can, whether it is actual church time, nightly bible studies, pray meetings, witness teams, or whatever is going on that gives you a chance to spend time with each other. Encourage each other. Support your brothers and sisters in their time of need. Share with them your struggles so that you have others praying for you and helping you. You will find that life is so much better when you are not alone.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless you all this week!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Lesson in Faith

I am my kids' biggest hero. No matter what may come, they believe their dad can do anything. I love the feeling that I get when they make certain statements about what they are afraid of. For instance, my oldest daughter Morgan: "Daddy will beat up that mean monster if he tries to mess with me." And my son Keith, "My daddy can kick a soccer ball all the way to the clouds and catch it with his feet before it comes back to the ground." Now these are just a few of the things that they say about me that make my head swell with pride. They have so much faith in me. Now, I do not look forward to the day in which they will learn that daddy cannot do all those things. But, for the time being, I enjoy their faith.

This lead me to think on what is faith? How should I show my faith? And, what does faith do for a person. The first answer is easy. Faith by definition is the act of believing without seeing. Do we really believe that God is there, that He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins, and rose again on the third day? We were not there to witness these events. But do we choose to believe it anyway? I do. Something so simple as to say I believe, just like my kids do in me.

Luke 18:16-17
"But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”"

We must have this childlike faith. It is not something that we can rationalize. We just have to take it for what it is. Just like our children do when we tell them something. I have found in my little study on faith that there are three things that faith can provide for us. The first, of course, is salvation.

Ephesians 2:8
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [a]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;"

Our belief in who God says He is and in His Son, is what saves us. Now I am not talking about just acknowledging that He exists. If you truly believe, you will make Him foremost in your life. You must choose to follow Him. Even Satan and all of his demons believe in God and Jesus, but they are not going to heaven.

James 2:18-20
"But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?"

The second thing that our faith gives us is hope. We are going to go through many trials in our lives. It is not because God does not love us. God is always right there. We just have to look right beside us. Many people talk about a silver lining in their troubles. I say that you will never see that silver lining if you do not look up at the storm and look for God. I have been through numerous trials in my life. And I have always looked to God for answers. And He has always been there. Most recently my 8 month old daughter had a very dangerous virus that usually turns into pneumonia and can be fatal for children her age. After the doctor checked her lungs, miraculously, there was no pneumonia. Two weeks earlier, she had a double ear infection. And she had allergic reactions to both of the medicines they tried. And I prayed for God's help and mercy to find something that she could take to clear it up. The doctor gave her a prescription that he had not prescribed for an ear infection in over ten years. Would you believe that that antibiotic is the number one drug used to treat pneumonia? You cannot tell me that this was not God! We have hope in our suffering.

Romans 5:1-4
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;"

Isaiah 41:10
"Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand."

Lastly, our faith grants us power. We gain strength from God in all our circumstances. The way we see that power is to put our faith to work. We must use it every day. All Christians receive a spiritual gift once they are saved(1 Corinthians 12). We need to use it. When we use it, we not only become stronger, but we allow others around us to see our faith in action. And when people see that we live what we believe, that holds more weight than what we say.

Psalm 138:3
"On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul."

1 Timothy 1:12
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service,"

So, what is the condition of our faith? Are we living our faith where others can see it? Are we putting our faith to work? I hope you all find this helpful, as it did me.

Thanks for reading, and God bless you all this week!