Breaking of the Outer Man and the Growth of the Spirit

Hebrews 12:5-11 (NKJV):

My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.'

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peacable fruit of righteousnes to those who have been trained by it.

Suppose you eliminated suffering – what a dreadful place the world would be! I would almost rather eliminate happiness. The world would be the most ghastly place because everything that corrects the tendency of this unspeakable little creature, man, to feel overimportant and overpleased with himself would disappear. He’s bad enough now, but he would be absolutely intolerable if he never suffered.”

Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus Rediscovered, pp. 199-200

Suffering Breeds Life and Growth:

  • The Gospel! (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
  • Genesis 32:24-32 – Jacob becomes Israel through suffering and a time of darkness
  • Exodus 1:12
  • Leviticus 24:2
  • Numbers 17 – rod had to wait a dark night before budding
  • Job 23:1-10
  • Psalms 66:8-12
  • Song of Songs 5 – Bride was taken through period of separation for her maturing
  • Mark 6:38-44 (especially verse 41) – breaking bread –> multiplying of food
  • John 12:3 (compare with Mark 14:3)
  • John 12:24 – firstfruits produced by death
  • John 15:2
  • Acts 9:15-16
  • 2 Corinthians 1:8-10
  • 2 Corinthians 4:7-18
  • 2 Corinthians 11:22-29 – the mark of Paul’s apostleship: suffering

Suffering is part of True Christianity

  • Acts 5:41
  • Acts 14:22
  • Romans 8:16-17
  • Philippians 1:29
  • 2 Timothy 3:12

10 Shekels & a Shirt – by Paris Reidhead

It’s been called “the Sermon of the 20th Century.” It led to the name of a popular Christian band.

And now…more than ever, I think it’s time this generation listens to this penetrating message by Paris Reidhead. Spoiler: humanism has mixed with the pure gospel in devastating ways that have left the church thinking they are following Jesus when they are actually following self. May Christ forgive us for what we’ve done!

Enoch Wang’s Story: Resurrected Daughter; Unified Church

This is a first-hand testimony from Enoch Wang (a “key leader of the Chinese church”). It is well known among the Chinese church and is verified by many church leaders in China (recorded by Paul Hattaway, Back to Jerusalem, 2003, Ch. 7):

On New Year’s Day 1997 a unity meeting was organized by Brother Yun near my home town. Leaders of various house church networks were invited to attend so that we could all have fellowship with one another, pray together, and break down the barriers that existed between different groups. I was eager to attend because the Lord had been showing me that unity within the house church movement was essential if we were to advance with the gospel as God intended. Until we truly forgave each other and were reconciled, I knew that God would never fully bless our work.

At that time my family was being hunted by the police. We were living in a fourth-floor apartment in a building that was still under construction. We couldn’t get a normal place because doing so would have required us to register with the local authorities, which would have led to our immediate arrest.

On the very morning that I was to travel to the unity meeting, I was talking on the telephone when I heard screaming. My wife burst into the bedroom shouting hysterically. My eldest daughter, who was 18 years old, had been holding her baby sister, 15 months old at the time, on the balcony overlooking the street. Somehow our baby girl managed to slip out of her sister’s grasp. She fell four stories and landed, head first, on a pile of bricks on the street below.

My wife was holding our baby daughter in her arms and crying. She said, “Hurry, we must take her to the hospital at once!” I immediately saw that the baby was dead. Her head was smashed and a small piece of white brain tissue was protruding through the front of her skull.

I said, “There’s no point going to the hospital. She is already dead. There is nothing the hospital can do to make her any better.” An array of emotions went through me. On one hand I knew she was dead, so there was no need to go to the hospital. I also knew that if we went to the hospital the authorities would soon find out we were not registered, and I would be arrested and sent back to prison, quite probably on charges of murdering my own baby. We would be in trouble for living illegally in an unfinished building, and the family who gave us permission to live there would also be in trouble.

I also felt that this incident was a direct demonic attack, intended to distract my attention and prevent my co-workers and me from attending the vital unity meeting. Satan is not happy when God’s people come together to break down barriers between them. He had spent years slyly building walls of unforgiveness, misunderstanding, and prejudice. It was not surprising that he would throw all his efforts into preventing the meeting from taking place.

I knelt down and prayed. I was angry, shocked, and in grief, all at the same time. I said, “Lord, if it is your will for the church in China to be unified, then I pray you will bring my daughter back to life. I pray that today you will put the breath of life back in her body, tomorrow you will allow her to speak, and the day after tomorrow she will be able to walk. But if it is not your will for the church in China to be unified, then I will hide myself and will never preach your gospel again.” Of course I would always continue to believe in the Lord, but I would remove myself from the front lines and would just lead a quiet, peaceful life.

Some people might say I had no right to speak to God like that, but you need to understand I was in deep shock and I knew this accident had been a deliberate demonic action designed to stop me attending the unity meeting.

My wife continued to hold our baby in her arms and rock the lifeless body back and forth. Our beautiful daughter had completely stopped breathing, her heart was not beating and she was pale.

The meeting was due to begin that evening in a location about 20 miles away from my home. I decided to put my grief aside and attend the meeting as a sign of defiance of Satan and an act of faith in God. I also decided not to cry, even though I was deeply grieved in my heart. I wanted to show the devil that he could never intimidate or stop me.

In the late afternoon I left my home and made my way to the meeting, well wrapped up against the cool winter air. When I left home my wife was still holding the baby in her arms and weeping. The piece of brain was still exposed, sticking out of a crack in her skull. My eldest daughter was devastated, blaming herself for having dropped her sister from the balcony.

When I got to the meeting, Brother Yun was already speaking. My co-workers and I took our seats and didn’t tell any of the other believers what had happened. During the evening meal we chose not to eat. Instead we fasted and prayed together in the meeting room, but I still didn’t tell anyone else what had happened. I reminded the Lord what a blessing our little girl was, and how much delight her birth had brought to me at the age of 45. I examined my heart to see if this had happened because of any sin in me. I told the Lord if it had happened because I had offended him, then I would have nothing to complain about. “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?….The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 2:10, 1:21).

After the first day’s meetings concluded, I knew my family needed me so I returned home where I found my wife and elder daughter still weeping. Their eyes were red and swollen. My wife was still holding the dead baby in her arms. I leaned forward and prayed over my baby in the name of Jesus Christ. Suddenly I heard a small kind of gasping noise come from her mouth, like a small burp. I realized that she must be breathing and I cried out, “Praise be to God!”

All four of us slept in the same bedroom, but that night none of us got any sleep. Emotionally drained, we just sat there praying quietly. At five o’clock I got up and went back to the unity meeting and spent the whole day in prayer and discussion with the other house church leaders, who were still ignorant of what had happened. At ten o’clock in the evening the meeting ended for the day and I again returned home.

When I entered the door of our home I found a different atmosphere. Despair had turned into joy. My wife was breast-feeding my little daughter. She was breathing fine, the color had returned to her cheeks, and she was hungry! God had miraculously healed her skull, and skin had covered the part of her brain that had been exposed. No medical help had been given her, except that of the great physician, Jesus. All that remained of her fall was a small scar in the middle of her forehead.

Despite these obvious improvements, she was still far from normal. She could not walk or move, her eyes were closed, and she just lay there almost motionless except for breathing and sucking.

I called out her name, “Sheng Ling”, which means “spiritual blessing.” When she heard my voice she stopped drinking her milk and a small sound came from her mouth, as if she were greeting me. That night I was able to sleep soundly, knowing the Lord was doing a great miracle.

The next morning I again awoke early and made my way to the third day of the meetings. There was much repentance and confession by the leaders of various groups. We heard many hours of testimonies about how God was working in each house church network, and we all realized that the Lord was with those other groups just as much as he was with us. Many years of bitterness and division came tumbling down at the foot of the cross. Tears flowed as we embraced one another and accepted each other as true brothers and sisters in Christ. Satan was furious that we were sitting together as God’s people. He wanted us to continue to work separately, weakened by dividing walls. Jesus’ desire is that his children will walk together. He prayed in John 17:22-23,

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

I believe that without this meeting, and others like it, there would be no unity among the different branches of China’s house church today. In our previous splintered state there would have been no way we could ever have hoped to obey God’s call to take the gospel through the Muslim, Buddhist, and Hindu nations back to Jerusalem. This is why I want to share this personal testimony, as for me it was a pivotal moment in my own understanding and involvement with the Back to Jerusalem movement.

When I returned home on the third night, my wife was again breast-feeding my daughter. I held out my arms and said, “Sheng Ling, come and let your daddy hold you.” She took one step towards me and then toppled over, but we all rejoiced that she had taken that one step. Just two days before she had been dead with her brain sticking out of her smashed skull. I started to cry with joy.

It was on this third night that I told my family what I had prayed when Sheng Ling first fell out of the window. I told them, “When you first brought her body up from the street, I knelt down and said to God, ‘I pray you will bring my daughter back to life. I pray that today you will put the breath of life back in her body, tomorrow you will allow her to speak, and the day after tomorrow she will be able to walk.'”

When they heard this they rejoiced greatly, knowing God had done a great miracle.

On the fourth morning I went to the meeting with overwhelming joy in my heart. My enthusiasm was soon dampened when a number of house church leaders pointed at me and said, “Those attending this important meeting are expected to stay here. What kind of commitment do you have to unity if you can’t even stay with us, but have to go hurrying home as soon as the meeting ends every night?”

I still hadn’t shared any information with the other leaders at the meeting, so they had no idea what had been going on in my life.

In the final session of the meeting Brother Yun was scheduled to speak, then the leaders intended to pray together one last time before everyone dispersed back to their homes. While he was speaking, my eldest daughter came into the room and started to whisper excitedly into my ear. She had hurried to the meeting place to tell me that her little sister was now walking and talking normally! It was at that stage that I felt compelled to stand up. I declared to everyone, “Now I know that it is God’s will for the church in China to be unified!” Before more than one hundred leaders, I testified about what had happened to my baby daughter. Everyone praised God. Those who had criticized me for going home every night came up and apologized.

Not only did the Lord heal Sheng Ling from the fall, but he has blessed her in a very special way. She is now eight years old and is so smart that her school made her skip a year ahead of her classmates! She has suffered no long-term damage as a result of her fall. The only thing that remains is the small scar on her forehead. It is as though the Lord left the scar to remind us of his great grace and power.

Paul Hattaway, Back to Jerusalem, 2003, Ch. 7

Knowledge, Money, and God

Knowledge and money are not seen as inherently evil in the Bible (e.g. Prov. 15:14; Job 1:1-3). But they are seen as great temptations to evil (think of, “the ring,” from Lord of the Rings, e.g. Luke 16:9; 1 Cor. 8:1; 1 Tim. 6:10; etc.). Yet they are also seen as necessities, at some level, for us living and functioning (e.g. Ecclesiastes 10:19; Hosea 4:6).

So how can we possess and use these gifts without them possessing, using, and corrupting us?

I think the key can be seen in 1 Tim. 6:17-18:

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth…be generous and willing to share.

Namely:

  1. Don’t be arrogant
  2. Hope in God, not your riches
  3. Be generous and willing to share

The same applies to those with lots of knowledge. This can be a blessing if you are not arrogant (the God who gives you eyes to see can just as easily blind them), don’t hope in your great intelligence, and be willing to share what you know.

On that last point (being willing to share)…It’s true that sharing freely opens up people to misuse what you give them (with money or knowledge). It will also make you vulnerable and open you up to criticism when you share. But I believe this is all part of God’s strategy in keeping you humble and Christ-centered in the midst of having knowledge and/or money. Be faithful to share because it honors God, even if it opens you up to new risk. In fact, being generous with your knowledge and money likely (in ways beyond my comprehension) will set you up for an increase in both of these areas (not a guarantee, but a general principle).

Thanks to Peter Williams for making some of these connections for me.

Brian

Book Data & Jesus

For those who aren’t aware, I highly recommend you check out Google’s Ngram Viewer. This tool provides simple analysis on word usage over time (it searches millions of Google’s digitized books for its data).

Thus, we can see which concepts are hot and which are not, at least as far as the written word goes. Let’s give it a try…

Money has stayed steady; power is less important, but sex has climbed steadily in the literature.
Sadly, and not surprisingly, sin and evil are spoken of less and less while “tolerance” is making huge strides.
Saddest of all, “Lord,” “truth,” and “gospel,” have all significantly decreased in usage while “experience” has steadly grown and is significantly more popular than all 3 of those words in our written words.

Anyone else willing to help change these trends by the help and mercy of Christ?

Brian

The Afflictions and Deliverance of God’s People: Psalm 34

At the end of Psalm 34, we read:

Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all…Affliction will slay the wicked.

Psalm 34:19-21, ESV

Both the righteous and wicked have afflictions. Anyone who told you otherwise is a liar. The difference, however, lies in what comes next. For those who know God, they will see a deliverance. Their affliction, by God’s glory, will turn into life.

In contrast, the wicked will be killed by their affliction.

Fear God and He will be Refuge

Psalm 31:19 says:

Oh, how abundant is your goodness,

which you have stored up for those who fear you

and worked for those who take refuge in you,

in the sight of the children of mankind!

ESV

You will notice the bold parts. Fearing God is used interchangeably (or at least closely related) with taking refuge in God. When the Bible refers to fearing God, it means doing things in such a way that you are chiefly concerned with pleasing/respecting/honoring God. We don’t fear Him as a malevolent being. We fear Him as the all-powerful being who is simultaneously very good!

Thus, our fear of God does not drive us away from Him. Rather, it drives us toward Him in a way that pleases Him. And in doing this, we are brought right into the refuge of His strong arms. Fear of God is the ultimate refuge.