Monday, August 20, 2018

Preachers - Preach the Text

Law library, University of Michigan

At Redeemer we preach the biblical texts. Why not, right? Our Christian theistic Grand Narrative is found in the Bible. The Book. This is our book. This is our distinctive. It is inexhaustible in its wisdom. Times and seasons pass, yet The Book remains. Why preach anything else? 

I've spent a lifetime studying and teaching alternative wisdom literature, as found in the other religions and in philosophy. "Philosophy," etymologically, means "the love of wisdom" (philo + sophia). As interesting as these sources are, Christianity's Grand Narrative has captured my heart and mind. Why substitute the wisdom of God for human wisdom? Why preach human wisdom with a few biblical footnotes tagged on? Why view preaching from the fear of not keeping the people entertained?


Pastors must familiarize themselves and their people with the God-inspired Text. 
Increasing biblical literacy in a church is a simmering slow cooker. Put away the microwave, and use a kettle.  Al Mohler writes:

"If you want to see quick results, the preaching of the Word just might not be the way to go. If you are going to find results in terms of statistics, numbers, and visible response, it just might be that there are other mechanisms, other programs, and other means that will produce that faster. The question is whether it produces Christians." ("Mohler Cites Preaching's Centrality")


Mohler's question is rhetorical. The answer is, "No." 'Where such preaching is not found, there is no church, no matter what it calls itself or poses to be.'" (Ib.)


Alistair Begg has said, "The reason most preaching is ignored today is that it deserves to be." Therefore, in these times, the irreducible good news of Jesus must be preached at all costs, in all its beauty and fullness. 


Mohler concludes:


"The gospel is simply the most transformative, the most powerful, the most explosive message there is. If you have trouble finding something to preach, I guarantee you that you are not preaching the gospel. This is explosive, it's controversial, it's transforming. The gospel according to the apostle Paul is not simply offered to us on a platter for our convenience or our investigation or our tasting.
It is thrown at us like hot blazing rock, spewing from the crater of a volcano. It is dangerous stuff. Our task is to preach the Word and make known the mystery. But making known that mystery requires diligent, painstaking, systematic, rigorous, expository preaching because we have to paint the entire canvas." (Ib.)

Is Your Church World-Conformed?

Sunset in Monroe (8/18/18)

In Romans 12:1-2 we (plural; viz., the Church) are warned to not be conformed to the values of the world. We are, as C.S. Lewis once instructed, to keep our noses sniffing for the "inner cesspool" that is the way of our world.

We can assess the Church's level of world-conformation by understanding the world's prevailing formation.

So,


  1. Understand the world's prevailing value-formation.
  2. Ask: are these values godly, ungodly, or neutral? (For example, in the Midwest American culture I'm in, many wear plain t-shirts. So do I. Wearing a plain t-shirt is neither godly nor ungodly, but value-neutral.)
  3. If prevailing cultural values are ungodly, assess if your church has taken them on. If so, detoxify. Refuse to allow the world to control you and shape you into its mold.


For example, consider sociologist Jean Twenge's The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement. Twenge writes:

Current trends "all are rooted in a single underlying shift in the American psychology: the relentless rise of narcissism in our culture. Not only are there more narcissists than ever, but non-narcissistic people are seduced by the increasing emphasis on

  • material wealth, 
  • physical appearance, 
  • celebrity worship, and 
  • attention seeking."

(Twenge, pp. 1-2)

The more a church's leaders emphasize,  by word or by lifestyle, these four values, the greater the distance between their church and the Real Church Jesus came to establish.

Twenge writes:

"The United States is currently suffering from an epidemic of narcissism. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines an epidemic as an affliction “affecting…a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population,” and narcissism more than fits the bill."" (P. 2)

World-conformed churches and their leaders are infected carriers of narcissism and entitlement. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Judgmentalism Is a Form of Violence



(Pair of Old Testament Prophets, Gabriel Joly, 1530
Detroit Institute of Arts)

"I vividly remember encountering a man who never judged anyone," writes Henri Nouwen in The Road to Peace. (p. 35) 

Are you kidding me? Nouwen met a person who never judged anyone? Amazing!


Then I remembered a man who never judged anyone. We're friends. As soon as I read Nouwen's amazing claim I thought of this friend. I never, in countless hours of dialogue, over many years, remember him bad-mouthing anyone. Amazing! Super-natural ("beyond nature").


When Nouwen met the nonjudgmental man he was stunned, and didn't know how to act. He was so used to being around people who are full of opinions of others that he felt lost. "What do you talk about," asked Nouwen, "when you have nobody to discuss or judge?" (Ib.) 


Ask yourself that question. If you have nothing left to talk about, then you are in spiritual trouble.

Slowly, Nouwen discovered that this man did not judge him. Nouwen experienced a freedom in this friendship. He writes: "I realized that I had nothing to defend, nothing to hide, and could be myself in his presence without fear." (Ib.) A new kind of conversation opened up that wasn't based on competing or comparing, but on celebrating what any two Jesus-followers have in common; viz., Christ is us, the hope of glory.


Judgmentalism is a form of violence. It causes damage, and destroys the unity Christ achieved on the cross when he brought down the dividing walls of hostility. (Ephesians 3) Nouwen writes: 


"Judging others implies that somehow we stand outside of the place where weak, broken, sinful human beings dwell. It is an arrogant and pretentious act that shows blindness not only toward others but also toward ourselves." (Ib., 34)  As Paul writes in Romans 2:1-4:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someon e else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?


As Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19) we are freed from the heavy burden of judging other people. 


Pray to be free of all violence within.


***


Image result for john piippo books

My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I am now writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Linda and I plan to co-write our book on Relationships

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Timothy Chung's Testimony



(I will be sharing parts of Timothy's testimony with our Redeemer kids this Sunday morning (8/19). Timothy was at Redeemer several years ago, and shared his testimony. Thank you Jim and Sallie for putting this together!)




TESTIMONY OF TIMOTHY CHUNG

          It is my honor and privilege to share with you the faithfulness and goodness of God and how He has had mercy on me.
My name is Timothy Chung.   I came to America from China thirty three  years ago.   Having been a Christian for eighty two years, I remain to be a Christian devoid of merits, and weak in faith, but Jesus loves me very much.  Whenever I return to Him and confess my sins, He forgives all my sins.   Despite my unworthiness, God has performed miracle upon miracle and poured out His grace again and again to deliver me from many insurmountable difficulties: He wonderfully sent food to me when I was dying of hunger; He suddenly changed the minds of the authorities of the labor camp who had kept me for "unannounced life imprisonment";  He caused the Public Security Bureau officer who had insisted on withholding my passport to hand over the passport to me in person; He miraculously granted me asylum in the United States so that I can live in this great nation.
In 1922, I was born in China.   My father was a physician who married my mother after his first wife's passing.   My father's first marriage brought him two sons, both of whom answered Christ's call to the ministry, and one daughter who married a pastor.  My mother was not a Christian, but in her old age, she accepted Jesus as her Savior.   She gave birth to three sons among whom I was the youngest.  In 1933, at the age of 11, I attended a Sunday school and began to know the Lord.  On June 25, 1933, I was baptized at the Alliance Church in Shanghai.   Since I became a Christian, I have been weak in my faith.   The good I want to do, I cannot do; the evil I do not want, I keep on doing.   However, the Lord is gracious and merciful to me.   He has not dealt with me according to my sins, but has manifested His power in my weaknesses.
In November 1945, at the age of 23, I married my wife Jane, a sister to my sister-in-law.   Jane was working as a nurse.   We now have four married sons, five grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.   In 1951, I had a motorcycle accident and I lost all my money.   I sensed that it was a wake-up call for me to stop wandering and repent.   So I returned to God, confessed of my sins, and asked God for His forgiveness.   In the following year 1952, I joined the Shanghai Gospel Hospital as an accounting clerk.   In October of 1958, when I was 36 years old, a political campaign was conducted by the Communist Party in this hospital.   I was accused of opposing the display of Chairman Mao's picture; sympathizing with the critics of the government; and having attempted to go to South Korea to be an interpreter for the United Nations' army.   As a result, I was branded as a "counter­revolutionary", and sentenced to three and a half years in a labor camp for "re-education through labor".   However, it would be twenty-one years before I would be released.
          I began at a labor camp in Anhui Province, and was moved around every few months.   I first worked in a primitive cooking plant, then a brick kiln, a rock quarry, and finally in a farm.   As mates in the camp, we labored for 10-16 hours a day and slept next to each other on an extremely wide bed, which was as wide as 100 feet, built with dried mud brick and spread with straw which was infested with bugs and fleas.   Fifty inmates were assigned to sleep in one bed.


FAMINE IN CHINA

Nine months after my arrival at the camp, an unprecedented severe famine broke out in China, which lasted three years, from 1959­ to 1962.   Because of shortage of food, the Chinese government had long started to ration rice to its people before the famine.   In the famine years, the rationed rice for each person was sharply cut.   As a result, over ten million Chinese people died of starvation.   However, in the year of 1960, my family began to put aside a little bit of rice every day from their extremely insufficient portions until they had enough for cooking a pot of rice to be brought to me in the labor camp.   In the autumn of 1960, my wife came to visit me at the camp for the first time, bringing the pot of rice with her.   The camp was 1200 miles away from my home; it took 1½ days by train.   When we met, we had much to talk about, but she did not mention the pot of rice I had expected and was craving for.   So I asked her with great anxiety, "Where is the rice?"  With tears in her eyes, she told me, "It was spoiled, so I threw it away."  I told her I was so famished that I wanted to eat even the spoiled rice!
During the famine years, one morning I was suddenly attacked with severe arthritis so that I could not walk.   After being treated with acupuncture several times, I was able to walk with a limp.   So I was transferred to work as a doorkeeper at the supply center for the Communist officers.   Besides guarding the door, I had to clean both the chief officer's office and a storage room in the back of it.   One day, while cleaning the storage room, I saw stacks of bulk candy in boxes on the racks, and I was tempted to steal.   I pondered, "No one is around; this is a good opportunity to steal some candy to ease my hunger."  The desire to ease my hunger seemed to be irresistible, but the Bible forbids stealing.   A hard struggle arose inside of me as to whether or not to steal.   After a long struggle, God gave me the grace to surrender to Him and I did not touch the candy.
In the first year of the famine, the prisoners in the camp were fed with scanty coarse cereals.   The next year, only one bowl of very thin sweet potato paste for each meal; by the end of the third year in 1962, no human food could be found in the camp:  The inmates were fed with chaff of wheat, and bean cakes -- a kind of pig feed.   We inmates had to dig for the roots of grass to supplement our diet.  Many inmates died every day.   The survivors were only living skeletons and suffered from edema.   One day when I thought I would be the next one to die, I was amazed to see my wife trek along having a kerosene-can slung over her shoulder.   It was the second time that she visited me at the camp, yet she had not notified me in advance of her coming.   When we met, she told me excitedly that she was bringing me lard, milk powder, and other good foods unavailable even in Shanghai -- they came from my sister Beatrice in Malaysia from whom I had not heard since 1938 -- ­an extended period of 23 years.  God saved my life at that very critical moment by the hand of my long-lost sister!  In addition, a small English New Testament hidden in the can was not discovered by the inspectors.   God not only brought me physical food, but also "Bread of Life" to feed my spiritual life at the same time!
Lamentations 3:22 states:
"It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not."

POST-FAMINE YEARS IN THE CAMP

I worked in the cotton field for some time.   At the harvest, we were spaced out many rows away from each other, so that we were not visible one to another.   I found that time to be useful for reading the Word.   I would hide myself between the mounds of cotton bushes and read the small New Testament, which I had carried out with me to work.   For about 15 minutes each day I was encouraged by God's Living Word.   After taking my spiritual food, I had to pick the cotton faster and harder than I normally did, so that I could fulfill my quota.   Besides the harvest of cotton, which lasted only about two weeks or so, I seldom had any chance to read the Bible.   However, most of the time I was able to hum hymns to offer praise and worship to God in my captivity.   One day as I was humming a hymn during threshing, a fellow inmate asked me very softly, "Are you a Christian worker?"  I told him I was a lay Christian.   Later I found out that this brother, Brother Li, was an evangelist.   Since we got acquainted with each other, whenever we had a chance to meet, Brother Li would always encourage me with God's Word.   Father God was so good to provide me the fellowship I needed in my most difficult hour.
One day, an officer in the camp was exasperated at hearing a report of my saying grace before meals.   He decided to discipline me as a warning to all the other prisoners.   A "struggle-session" was called that night in which I was the target.   The Communists were using these "struggle-sessions" in the camp as a powerful means to educate the prisoners.   Usually, the target in the "struggle-session" would be forced to stand in the front to be questioned, mocked, jeered, pushed, pulled, punched, kicked, or even hung by a rope from a beam or tree.  In anticipation of what would happen to me, Brother Li and I prayed hard that God would increase both my faith and my strength so that His name would not be dishonored.   As I stood there at the "struggle ­session", a group of progressive inmates maliciously attacked Christianity as the spiritual narcotic employed by the Imperialists to poison the Chinese people’s minds and denounced me as a lackey of the Imperialists.   Because of God's intervention, no violence ever occurred in this meeting.   And the other inmates only attacked me verbally.   At the end of the meeting, I was allowed to speak for myself.  In the presence of them all, I professed that I was a Christian and I proclaimed that religious belief was guaranteed by our Chinese Constitution.   The Communist officer was furiously angry at my speech and announced that the meeting would be continued the following night.   When a meeting like that was to be continued, violence, as a rule, would be the result.   So Brother Li and I cried out to God more earnestly that He would sustain me through the imminent torture and brutality so that His name would not be dishonored.  When the next evening came, I was prepared to be tortured at the meeting.   To my amazement, the officer announced that the meeting would be canceled without giving any explanation! I felt strongly in my heart, "This is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes." Matthew 21:42

NOTIFICATION OF RELEASE

Then, one night in the summer of 1965, a Communist officer came to my shed and told me that I would be released on condition that I abandon my faith in God.  I told him I could not deny Jesus.   After he was gone, some inmates in my shed rebuked me and said how foolish I was to let a chance like that slip away which was too precious not to take.   Why not deny with my mouth but believe in my heart?  A few days later, a senior officer sent for me.   At the team office, he also tried to persuade me to renounce my belief in Jesus.   He rebuked me for being obstinate in my "superstition" and asked me to take the well-being of my family into consideration.   He said it would have nothing to do with him if I would resume my faith when I went home.   All he wanted was for me to renounce my faith verbally.   Jesus loves me so much that He died on the cross for me.   How could I deny Him before men? I politely said to the officer: "We Christians have to believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord.   I choose to remain in the farm rather than be released."  He flew into a rage, beat the table and shouted at me a verse quoted from "Quotations from the work of Mao Ze Dong" saying: "Carry with you your ossified thinking to see your God! "


BREAK-OUT OF CULTURAL REVOLUTION

In the ensuing year 1966, Chairman Mao launched the unprecedented Cultural Revolution in China, which lasted ten years from 1966--1976.   He called millions of Chinese young men and women to join the Red Guards which swept across China spreading Maoist propaganda, destroying valuable cultural heritage and closing down all schools.   Mao also authorized and encouraged the Red Guards to beat up the intellectuals and scholars, smash the cultural facilities, and ransack and loot the wealthy families.   As a result of the cruelties of the Red Guards, over ten million Chinese people died in the Cultural Revolution.   Truly, life in the camp was tranquil in comparison.   As prisoners, we only had to work longer hours and to have our food allotment reduced.   We did not have to worry about violence or class­ struggle against us; for we already had been at the bottom of the society.   So the labor camp turned out to be a blessing in disguise to protect me from being beaten or disgraced!  God frequently works in things for the good of His children even without their knowledge.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God's ways higher than our ways." Isaiah 55:9


RELEASE FROM THE CAMP

As long as I refused to abandon my faith in God, the authorities in the camp kept me in the labor camp for "unannounced life imprisonment".   Year after year, the authorities in the labor camp deliberately withheld my release.   There was no hope for my release.   However, my sister Beatrice, now in the United States, asked many brothers and sisters there to plead for God's mercy on my behalf.   In June of 1979, Brother Robert Ewing asked the saints in Grace Gospel Campgrounds Church in Waco, Texas, to fast and pray for my release.   As an answer to their fasting and prayers, one month later, God broke in on the "unannounced life imprisonment", and changed the minds of the authorities of the labor camp.   As a result, I was released in July of 1979, when I was 57 years old.    Nevertheless, upon my release, the Public Security Bureau man notified me that I was not allowed to make any of these three requests:
1.     Request for job assignment
2.     Request for renting a room
3.     Request for subsidy for living
Since I was not allowed to work, I had no means with which to subsist.   Jehovah-Jireh God is my Provider, who supernaturally provides for my needs.  A church in Montana sent money to the persecuted Christians in China through my sister Beatrice, who was now in Boston, Massachusetts.  I was the distributor of the money as well as being a beneficiary myself.  Since I had been attached with a stigma of counter-revolutionary, I was despised, humiliated, discriminated against, and deprived of the right of work in China.
One year after my release, I began to consider departing from China-my motherland.  But where could I go was the difficult question.  Since I had a sister in Boston; therefore, in October of 1980, I began to apply for a passport to visit my sister in the United States.
In late 1980, I went to see a sister in Christ in Shanghai who showed me a Bible that was torn into sections for scores of Christians to pass around and read.  My heart was broken, and I asked that God would send the Bibles into China.  After praying, two incidents occurred:
1.     One night, six young Christian brothers and sisters from Hong Kong whom I had never met visited me at my home.  We fellowshipped with each other and prayed together.  Before they left, they gave me many Bibles, cassette tapes, Hymn books, and gospel brochures.  After that sovereign connection, I was able to receive Bibles from Hong Kong from time to time.
2.     While doing some reading one night, I had an urge to go out for a walk.  As I went down the street, I saw a few English speaking foreigners surrounded by a crowd.  So I asked the foreigners if I could help them.  They told me that they were Missionaries from the Alliance Church and were in search for the Alliance Church in Shanghai.  To my joy, I told them that it was the church where I had been baptized at and that I would be glad to guide them there.  When we arrived at there, we saw that it had been converted into a factory.  The building looked shabby and neglected; several long boards were nailed to its entrance gate.  After visiting the church, they took me to their hotel and gave me many Bibles.
         In February of 1981, I received a letter from Hong Kong which told me that one hundred copies of Bibles would be brought to me soon.   Owing to the strict censorship of letters in China, my participation in the Bible distribution was discovered, and I was summoned to the Public Security Bureau for interrogation by a team of three officers.  The interrogation sessions lasted for 10 days and were as long as eight hours daily.
I used to think highly of myself that I would be able to suffer or even to die for Christ.  But reality gave quite a different account of me.   Whenever I stepped into the interrogation room, fear prevailed over me.  I felt a chill both in my hands and feet.  I sensed the powers of darkness dominating over the office.  Realizing my own weakness and timidity, I prayed that God would strengthen me and keep me from dishonoring His holy name.  Many Christians had heard of my situation and prayed for me, yet the fear continued.  One morning, before I reported myself to the Public Security Bureau, in my prayer I cried out, "Lord, I yield to you! I am to lay down my self and my all on the altar, prepared to be chopped to pieces and burned." After that prayer, there was peace in my heart and my fears were gone.  Praise the Lord! It was the Lord who went before me and did battle for me!
The team at the Public Security Bureau told me that Bible distribution was the infiltration activities of the imperialists and that I was a proxy for the imperialists.  As their objective was to crack down the Bible smuggling network, they cautiously planned to arrest some Bible carriers from Hong Kong.  During the ten days of interrogation, in order to make me betray the brothers and sisters from Hong Kong, they made every effort to indoctrinate, persuade, intimidate, threat, and entice me into compliance.  At one point, they hinted that they would grant me the passport which I was applying for if I collaborated with them.  Despite all their efforts, the Public Security Bureau did not prevail.  Consequently, they kept this affair in my dossier and unendingly refused to issue a passport to me.  Beginning from 1980, though I applied for a passport every year, my application was turned down again and again for four consecutive years.  It seemed impossible for me to get a passport.  However, in 1984, Brother Gary Kroeze, a missionary to Africa and Middle East, who used to correspond with my sister Beatrice, came to Kansas City.  Through phone conversation with my sister, he learned the awkward predicament of my application for a passport; therefore, Gary asked the saints in Kansas City Fellowship to fast and pray for the release of my passport.  While people in Kansas City were fasting and praying for me, I again handed an application to the Exit Permit Department at the Public Security Bureau in Shanghai.  The chief of the department turned out to be the former leader of the interrogation team who had interrogated me ten days, 8 hours a day, for my involvement in the Bible distribution in Shanghai.  The moment I saw his face, I was awakened to his defying spirit toward our God.  Once during an interrogation he had arrogantly said to me, "No one can deliver you, not even the God you believe in!" As I went home, I prayed that if God would grant me a passport, He would let me receive it from the very man who had defied His holy name.
One day in early December of 1984, when I went home, my wife had received word that I would be able to receive my passport the next day.  I said, "Really? Though I had been praying for it for many years, I could not believe it.  I was just like those who were praying for Peter's release, and who, after Peter was released and knocking at the door, did not believe that it was the real Peter knocking at their door.  Thank God that He did not deal with me according to my faithlessness; He graciously granted me my passport.  When handing me my passport, the chief of the Exit Permit Department said in a despondent spirit, "Now we are giving you the passport.  When you are in the United States, don't make trouble for us.  Remember that your family is all here in China."



FAREWELL TO CHINA

On January 19, 1985, I left China for the United States.  All of my family had mixed feelings of joy and sadness.  We felt happy, because I would be free; we felt sad, because we would never meet again on earth! I could never return to China without being in trouble again, and my wife and family would never be able to come out of China either.
At the age of 63, I arrived in the United States.  I stayed in my sister's home.  In order to make a living independently, I needed both a visa and a job.  Since I was an elderly person, lacking job skills, and a stranger in this land, it seemed impossible for me to make it.  So I cried out to God for help.
Since God had wonderfully delivered me from the land of slavery and brought me into the land of freedom, He would continue to take care of me.

ANSWER TO PRAYER

                In April, 1985, Brother Gary Kroeze - the one who had asked the Kansas City Fellowship to fast and pray for the release of my passport ­came to Kansas City again and learned from my sister that I had already been in the United States.  He invited both my sister Beatrice and me to come to Kansas City for a short visit and introduced me to the leadership of Kansas City Fellowship.  Jim and Sallie entertained us with hospitality for one week.   They had loved me before they met me.   It was God’s love in them for me.   Praise the Lord!  Then, in late May, he called me to come to Kansas City again and I began to work as a janitor for the Kansas City Fellowship on June 1st of 1985.
On June 1st of 1985, my first day on my job, I was invited to Sister Julie Meyer's wedding.  At the reception, a couple -- Bill and Maydelle Herwig-- whom I had never met, approached me and offered to help me get my visa.  They contacted an immigration counselor who dealt with all necessary paper work for the Immigration Service on my behalf.  As a result, I was granted asylum on May 2nd of 1986.   My best asking falls immeasurably short of God's giving.   I ask for a cupful of water, He gives me an ocean!  May what God has done for me make my life a thanksgiving and perpetual praise to Him.  My job was being a janitor, doing mundane work at the church.  However, God has crowned me with His tender mercy and loving kindness.  He has worked miracles for me time and time again.  He made a way when there was no way; He made the impossible possible; and He miraculously provided for all my needs.
When I began to work as a janitor, I was provided lodging at the Troost Apartment Complex.  Ten families in the neighborhood took turns bringing me a meal each day for ten days.  One day, after finishing my meal, I returned the nice porcelain dishes to Fran Golden.  The screen door at her porch sprang back and knocked me down causing all of the dishes to break.  I thought to myself, "How can I afford to repay these fine dishes?" Seeing me fall, Fran hurriedly ran to me helping me
up and said softly: "Brother Timothy, are you OK? It is fine with the dishes." My heart was deeply touched by her love.
In early 1986, my petition for asylum (only for myself) had been filed with the Immigration Service, but the response was pending.  Yet several sisters in the church (then called Kansas City Fellowship) came to my home to make preparation for my wife's coming.  They started to wallpaper my kitchen, bring in furniture, lamps, kitchen utensils, and decorate my home.  On May 2nd, I received a letter from the Immigration Service granting me asylum.  Soon, some other sisters brought me a TV set, bed, dressers, couch, etc.
In August that year, I began to apply for my wife Jane's asylum, in about two months, her application was approved.  Though I was excited about her coming, I could not afford the airplane ticket.  So I once again asked God for help.  Our God is a great God who feeds the sparrows in the air, how much more will He take care of His own children? At this time, a brother offered to defray the cost of an airplane ticket for Jane to come to Kansas City via San Francisco; and another two-way ticket to San Francisco for me to meet my wife Jane there and fly back with her.
On the evening of November 10th, 1986, Jane and I landed at the Kansas City airport where a light rain was falling.  To our astonishment, there were about 20 brothers and sisters welcoming a janitor and his wife at the airport! Bob Harley, Mark and Debbie Smith, Martha Stephens, Joann Sheldon, Kevin, Keisser, and many others were among the group.  Sister Maydelle presented a bunch of beautiful roses to Jane.   After taking us to the cafeteria for refreshments, they drove us back home to the duplex.  Upon our arrival, we saw all the lights in my duplex were on, and two sisters - Martha Stephens and Joann Sheldon - had preceded us there.  Fran Golden had already cooked dinner for us; a big apple pie baked by Diane Duff was in the refrigerator; and many fruits such as apple, orange, banana, grapes had been set on the table.
          On the ensuing Sunday, a huge banner was hung on the right side of the platform of the church which read: "Welcome to Kansas City Fellowship, Sister Jane!" It was written in both English and Chinese.  After the service, the church hosted a grand reception in honor of Jane-­a janitor's wife.  Everyone was welcome.  Sister Nola King made a three ­tier wedding cake for Jane.  There were between three and four hundred people in attendance.  When Jane was asked to speak, with tears of gratitude welling up her eyes, she said, "I have come to an ocean of love!"
After coming to the United States, two prophets, in 1985 and in 1986 respectively, prophesied that God saved me because the saints of God had travailed and wept for me.  God gave me my life back that I might belong to Him and use my experience to testify to His faithfulness and goodness to many.
In November of 1995, the church hosted a 50th wedding anniversary party on behalf of Jane and me.  About two hundred people showed up, including more than twenty from a Chinese church.  Both Mike Bickle and Pastor Feng gave a congratulatory speech.  The beautiful performances of several classes from the Dominion Christian School added to the party cheer.  We received about three scores of greeting cards, including one from the President and Mrs.  Bill Clinton.  After the celebration, the church generously paid for our traveling trip in the United States.  We visited our two sons in California and toured many scenic spots in the United States, such as Grand Canyon and Universal Studios in California, London Bridge in Arizona, Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Maui Island, and Big Island in Hawaii.
          On November 29 2002, Jane was in a critical condition in a nursing home and suffering from an excessive discomfort.  A tribute meeting for Jane was held at the old IHOP building from 9:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m.  About sixty brothers and sisters from both IHOP and a Chinese church attended this meeting, including Mike Bickle, Noel Alexander, Bob Hartley, Gary Kroeze, Pastor Feng, Brother Robert Kao, Brother Tiong and his wife, and many others.  They started to pray for Jane at 9 a.m.  As the prayers were going on, Jane's discomfort became less and less.  At 9:45 a.m., her heart stopped beating, and she went to be with the Lord peacefully.
After Jane's passing, the Chinese church took care of Jane's Thanksgiving-memorial Service on the 14th of December.  Pastor Feng gave a speech of condolence, and Mike Bickle gave a speech of exhortation.  Karen Dollins sang a splendid rendition of vocal solo ­"Amazing Grace"; Brother Wu Hao printed out the elaborately designed program in both English and Chinese languages, and several Chinese sisters served the lunch.
In addition to these examples of God's love to us through His people, I would like to mention about the extremely great love that the brothers and sisters in the church showered upon Jane and me.  No matter whether Jane was in the nursing home or in the hospital, they came to visit her diligently, bringing her food and flowers, praying for her, encouraging and comforting her.  In our distress, we could receive enormous love, comfort, and inspiration from our brothers and sisters.   Jane and I were loved by so many people who had God’s love in them.   We appreciated their love deeply, and I thank God for His great mercy and grace upon us.
These acts of love and kindness, which are beyond anything I have ever heard, seen or thought of, could never have happened to me, a former prisoner and counter-revolutionary in China, and later a janitor at the church, except by the grace of God.
          Thinking of my wife Jane, I am overflowing with gratitude to God for giving me a good wife like her who stood with me in my most difficult time and courageously resisted the pressure put on her by the Public Security Bureau officer in charge of our district to divorce me.  By working a demanding nursing job in a hospital, she was raising up my four children single handedly for 21 years.  In addition, bearing the stigma of being the wife of a counter-revolutionary, she was taunted, despised, humiliated, and discriminated against by the society; her mental and physical suffering was really beyond my word.
God's grace and mercy continues: Recently, on February 22, I had a 20 minute surgery.  During the surgery, because of medicine overdose, my heart stopped.  Several Urologists, Cardiologist, and the Anesthesiologist worked together to resuscitate me for five hours.   Now I am alive and well! God spared my life as He had raised Lazarus from the dead and spared his life.  After the surgery, I was told that I would have blood in my urine for three months.   After many brothers and sisters pleaded before God on my behalf, as an answer to their prayers, God granted me a speedy recovery - in less than one month, the blood has gone!
The experience of my life can be likened to that of the Israelites coming out of the land of slavery: When they came to the Red Sea, God divided the sea and let them walk on the dry land; when they had no water in the desert, God caused the water to flow out from a rock; when they had no food, God rained manna from the sky.  God, who is the Author and Center of every good thing, has bestowed upon me His extravagant mercy, and done for me numerous great things which I do not deserve.  I am here to testify to God's goodness and greatness, and to ascribe to God the glory, praise, honor, and thanksgiving due to Him.

5 Things the Church Must Do to Reverse Declining Christianity in America

Mike Luckovich  Copyright 2015 Creators Syndicate


(I'm re-posting this for a friend.)

Here are 5 Things the Church Must Do to reverse declining Christianity in America.

1. Preach the Biblical Text.

Forget about trying to make people happy, or relaxed, or comfortable. (See here, e.g.)


2. Tap into Power.


Major in two biblical words: dunamis (power) and exousia (authority). Culture these. (Like this.)


3. Lead people into The Presence of God.


Think like Moses here: "Unless Your presence goes with us, we're not moving." (See here.)


4.  Teach Apologetics as Spiritual Warfare. Help people know why they believe what they believe. Watch, e.g., this


5. Form Community around 1-4. This is something the "nones" will never have. Community does not form around what people don't believe in. See this, e.g. And read this. No one in history has formed community better than Christianity has.



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I write about these things in Leading the Presence-Driven Church

Leading the Presence-Driven Church by [Piippo, John]