Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ask, and It Will Be Given To You! 10/24/2011

The other day I quoted one of my home pastor's biblical paraphrase. Today, I will quote the Master Himself, Yesu Ji Du, or for my western readers, Jesus Christ. In Matthew 7:7-11   He says, "7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 馬 太 福 音 7:7-11

Today, God gave in abundance. Of all days to leave the camera home, this was a lousy day to do so. My former student and I decided that we could take the bus a little later as the church service time was going to change. (He he, a whole 15 minutes later). We arrived at the church and noticed that it was filling up pretty fast so we hustled in hoping to get the pew where we regularly sit. It was available, but we had to sit in the middle, which meant that even in my new slimmed down nature, I would not be able to "spread out" as much. 
You see, I carry a back pack sized bag that has my bible, my notebook, and the songbooks that my friend Liu Wen Yan had typed up for me. As things turned out, did not need the songbooks. As we settled in, the church was already a good ways into the daily reading. Today's scripture was Mark 10 and 11. I looked at the white board to see which songs we would sing and to see which Psalms would be read but the usual information was not there. 

I asked my friend what the writing was, but she could not make out the characters. So, we just kind of settled in. I did notice that there were no podiums on the stage and the lady leading the reading was doing so from a choir book stand down in front of the first pews. Something was definitely different today! 

The reading done, a prayer was said, and then out comes a young  boy and girl (my friend guessed they were in their mid-to-late twenties) and they started singing what was obviously not a traditional hymn. Well, the next thing you know, ol Jed's a millionaire-no, wait, just kidding and checking and to see if you were still reading. He he. 

It was a pretty nice song and I heard Yesu Ji Du (耶稣基督) and Shangdi (上帝) Jesus Christ and God were mentioned many times over in this song and the rest of the songs sang on this morning. Must have 6 or 7 songs. By the second song, the boy and girl were joined on the stage by another half dozen young Chinese youth and before I knew it we were clapping, jumping and having hands in the air spirit filled time of worship.

We even did some SOS type movements. For those of you not connected with my home church, SOS stands for Signs of the Spirit and is a Sign Language worship set to music led by our very own awesome Julie Thompson.  Wow! What was happening?!

Seems that we had a visiting choral group from the GongXiang Church from Suzhou, a nearby city that Zhangjiagang (my city) is attached to, kind of like a city-county relationship. They were really energized and they had the crowd energized as well. I could really feel the holy spirit moving. There were times I had so much joy I was move to tears. I did not interrupt my friend too much to ask questions as I could tell that she was really enjoying the worship and was singing right along ( we have a screen for the words, but, alas, not enough foreigners in my church to warrant English or Pinyin)  

After a bit, they asked if there was any there for the first time, and about 10 raised their hand. They then asked if they would come forward so that they could be prayed for and given some information and most of them did go to the front. Afterward, we continued the praise and worship. Normally, during the conventional service the singing and reading of the Psalms takes about 20 minutes or so. We were well into 30 minutes of praise and worship. Seemed like nobody wanted to stop, but as vibrant as that is, we know we have to have the bringing of the Word!
And so we did the passages were from Isaiah 43:19, Genesis 37:1-4 and 7:10. He spoke mostly about Joseph and his dream. I know that he later went to where Joseph had success because the people near me flipped back to around the 39th chapter and they read some more and he spoke for a bit more. 

Then we closed the service with some more spirit filled worship. As turns out, the small group leading the worship was just that, a small group. In the end the brought out the rest their worship team and I say it numbered around 30 people.
You know, this was all great, but that was not what I was praying for. But, wait, there is more. Today, the church was double packed, ( many from Suzhou attended today as well) so I waited around for the crowd to thin out before leaving (and I was hoping to talk to some of the group from Suzhou) As we waited, a Chinese lady approached and asked in very good English, "Where are you from?" I told her from Tennessee in the U.S and she told me she was from another city but was living and working in Zhangjiagang and was a member of the church. (Prayer answered: someone to be able to communicate with about the church). 

As the lady and I spoke, some of the visiting choir members began filtering down and standing around, as well as this young guy who was standing behind me. So, some of the choir members started chatting and asking where I was from and so forth. I told them that I thought they had done a great job and could really feel God's presence. This made them happy and they told me about their church in Suzhou. 

So, as we spoke we talked a lot "about" God. Well, you know me, I  had to ask the question. I looked at the girl (all of their English was pretty good too) asked her, "How does one get into heaven?" Without hesitation she said "there is only one way!"  "Oh", I said, " and just what way is that?" Ha ha, she gave the Jared Shelton answer (sorry another inside joke). Big smile on her face she said, "Jesus!" and then she quoted John 14:6:

約 翰 福 音 14:6

6 耶 稣 说 我 就 是 道 路 、 真 理 、 生 命 ; 若 不 藉 着 我 , 没 有 人 能 到 父 那 里 去 。

What a great way to end the day! But, I am not quite finished. The guy standing behind me  is just beaming the whole time I was talking to the choir members. He was just busting at seams to tell me he was a believer too, and was also a member of the church-he told me this in very good English as well! Ding ding ding ding! God is answering the prayer in abundance! Remember, I was looking to connect with the church even when my student friend could not go. I will call the young man by his English name, Aaron is eager to make friends and have fellowship. So, I have invited him to come over next Sunday and the friend that went with me today has told me that maybe Sunday is a good day for her to be involved in a study. Another prayer answered! Is there anything to big for our God! NO! Our God is a great big God. 


 So, next week I will meet with Aaron and my student. I will see if anyone else wants to come along. Now, I can also look into the possibility of seeing what is going on with the youth group there at the church. And because Suzhou is just an hour away, I will try to make some of their Friday evening studies. God has answered prayer today, and He even put icing on the cake buy allowing me to be a part of a great spirit filled time of worship. One other thing I learned today, start carrying my camera again everywhere I go. I would have loved to have been able to get some pictures and videos to share with you. I just hope the words adequately expressed what a great day it was. And you know what? I know many of you were praying for this as well! God has blessed us all today. I know many of you may have headed out to church by the time this gets posted, but I am praying for you all to have a blessed, spirit filled day as well. Until the next time...


Romans 8: 28

羅 馬 書 8:28



Saturday, October 22, 2011

Miscellaneous Updates: Oatmeal and Pregnant Cats 10/22/2011

Just a quick update on a few miscellaneous items: First up, my oatmeal and boiled eggs weight loss diet. I started in earnest on August 26th, and still have a hot bowl of oatmeal and two boiled eggs every day for breakfast. Nope, not tired of it yet! I still prepare it the same way, with a little salt and a about two teaspoons of honey. The perfect blend of salty sweetness is elusive, but that is what I strive for everyday.

Some days, the oatmeal is more salty, and other days it is more sweet. I do not usually try to adjust the balance and just eat as is. I have considered some of your recipes and actually was ambitious enough one day to chop up some apple bits and put them in the bowl, Not bad but, God has given me a tolerance for the mundane so, eating the oatmeal with the salt & honey is satisfying. One of the side benefits of eating breakfast every morning has been an improved prayer life and settled routine of reading the bible each day.

My morning routine consists of arising at 6:00 a.m. (most days), hit the on button for the computer, walking to the fridge and grabbing a couple of eggs. Once in the kitchen, I turn on the coffee pot  (the night before, I set the coffee pot up so that all I have to do in the morning is turn it on-no timer on the coffee maker), and put water in the pan to boil the eggs. I then pour my oatmeal into a bowl. Ha ha my Aunt Shirley pointed out that I must have a big bowl if I am using a cup of oats. As it turns out, I am using just about a little less than a half cup. I just pour some into a small bowl without really measuring. Then I sprinkle on my salt and honey, again no measurement, just what looks right. I bet my brother Jay is surprised to hear that! The water is not potable, so I don't put the eggs in until the water has begun to boil. (I know, it does not matter, but it helps the timing of  my routine) I also put the water in the water pot to boil that for the oatmeal

(Just to let you know, any words you see in the color yellow are clickable links you my find useful.)

So, coffee on, oatmeal mix prepared, and water set to boil, I head back to the bedroom and pull up either Our Daily Bread (ODB), or Strength For The Journey (SFTJ) and settle in for a bit of spiritual nourishment. I usually start with ODB and first click the link for the scripture on which devotion is based on. I will pray for God's wisdom and understanding to come upon me through His word, and I also ask for Him to show me clearly how that day's scripture and devotion should be applied personally. I also ask Him to help me live out the words that I read-to be a reflection of Christ to my students and others that I will encounter that day. By the time I finish praying and reading, the water is boiling good and the coffee is done. I get the eggs in the boiling water, grab a cup of coffee, precisely measuring 1 small spoonful of coffee mate and 1 small spoonful of honey (that was for my brother Jay, ha ha) and head back to listen and read along with the ODB or SFTJ messages (sometimes both, depending on their length). That is just about right timing for the eggs to boil. I have discovered that taking them out and cracking them a bit and putting them back in the water while I finish preparing my oatmeal makes them very easy to peel.

Now, both physically and spiritually nourished, I prepare to head out to my classes. As for my other meals and dietary practices, I have been eating a lot of chicken and when I go to the canteen I try to get at least two veggie dishes. Occasionally, usually on Friday's, I allow myself a little junk food. And when I have my chocolate cravings, I eat some Cocoa Krispies with some milk. I have been exercising sporadically, mostly some good long bike rides, but plan to begin a more regimented routine at the start of December.

 What have been the results? At the start of my program, I weighed in at 108kgs or 238lbs!. Oh my! Today's weight 100kgs or 220lbs. Still too heavy,  but a nice loss of 18lbs. I am pleased with the progress. I should mention that I pray about this as well. Not only to be more healthy, but as a way to give honor and glory to God. Hopefully, for those who are also struggling with weight issues, this will be an encouragement to you as well.
September 4, 2011 @108kgs (238lbs

October 22,2011 @ 100kgs (220lbs)
Second up, the Mei Nv pregnancy update. Approximately 50 days have passed and apart from some weight gain, I can see no other visible signs of her being pregnant. . Ha ha, I could be wrong (I am really hoping I am not!) but I do not think she will have kittens. Her back wound is really no better, but I have some things that I am going to try to help keep her bandages more secure while also not sticking to the wound. I am hoping that I can keep the bandages ( changing them frequently of course) secure until her wound scabs over and then naturally falls off. I am thinking that the scabbing process is what is making that area so itchy and thus, the constant scratching.

Mei Nv Resting Comfortably 10/22/2011

Well, other than to say the semester is going pretty well there is not much more to report. I will have another church update this weekend. Pray for our church and the students who attend with me. Pray that the most important of all relationships will develop (the saving relationship with Jesus Christ) not only for my students, but also for those who are curious and come to the church searching for what is missing in their life. Just like the churches back home, not everyone sitting in the pew believes in Jesus, but they are there because Christ has drawn them there. Pray for your church and my church to be faithful to preach the word of God and the Good News (The Gospel ) (的福音) contained within God's word. Until the next time..

 God is good!  上帝是好!

Romans 8:28   羅 馬 書 8:28

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Week That Was: October 16th

As my pastor back home, Brother Ron, is wont to say, "You have not, because you ask not." His saying is a paraphrase of scripture. I have never really asked him, but I know he gathers his pearls of wisdom from God's word. So, it could be a direct paraphrase of  the second part of James 4:2, or maybe even a summary of Matthew 7:7-11 (Extra, Extra, Read all about it Here). But, no matter, his saying has been particularly meaningful to me these last few weeks.

It has been almost a month since I have attended the Chinese church. The last time I went was on September18th. The next week the two students who had been going with me were busy. And the following week was the beginning of the the week-long celebration of the Chinese National Day which was from Oct 1st -8th and most of the students had left to go to their hometowns. I was becoming somewhat discouraged that I could not find someone to go with me on a regular basis and the words of my pastor had come to mind. ( I struggle with whether to just go by myself, but not knowing the language and having someone to discuss it with makes its difficult for me to be motivated. However, I do have a songbook that I can sing the hymns with, so maybe I will just go by myself when I cannot find a student to go)

To get back to how my pastor's encouragements have meaning, I had been asking the Lord to prepare an opportunity to find someone to go to church with me. I then thought about a student at the school who had invited me to be a judge at some English dramas last year. I had run into her this year and she told me she is preparing to take an English interpretation exam and wanted to know some ways to improve her English. It then dawned on me to invite her to church and ask her to take notes about what the pastor had said, and then she could explain it to me in English. I asked her to think about it while she was away on the holiday. I then sent an email to my ministry partners asking them to pray about this. The Lord has answered, but in His way! The student has not yet responded to my invitation.

However, the Lord has answered prayer in His way! I had invited a former student to come with us last year, but the hour to awake on Sunday was to early for her. Well, guess what? Last Friday, the 14th, I received a text message from this student asking me if I still go to the church on Sunday. I told her I did when I could find someone to go with me. She replied that she wanted to go, and indicated she would like to go regularly! I told her that was great and that she could meet me at the bus stop at 7:00 a.m. and she said ok.

In the meantime, I had asked the two previous regulars if they were free. One has a tutoring job, but the other said she was free and wanted to come along. I let the other student know this. She almost backed out of going. She said she wanted "just us two" to go. (I think she lacks self confidence around others). I explained to her that God means for me to share Him with everyone, and that I could not ask one to go and not ask another. She told me she would think about it and let me know on Saturday. I did not want to leave this to chance so, I prayed and asked God to send the Holy Spirit to let her know that God was calling her to Him. I also prayed and asked how I should intervene, if at all. God gave me the word to send her a message and I told her that we usually have lunch and chat afterward and that He would be very happy if she would come along with us. She said yes!

Sunday was a good day! As is customary, before the preaching, there is the reading of the Word and this weeks reading was chapters 8 and 9 from Mark. (<--Click That to Read) That was a great read! Reading of the miracles of feeding 4000, the healing of the blind man, and the casting out of a terrible spirit. And all of this topped off with a clear message of who Jesus is (Peter's declaration, and the Transfiguration, and Jesus' teaching) and what He has done for us. Awesome stuff for anyone, let alone a first time attendee to hear!

After that, the normal order of service proceeded and we practiced the songs for the day. You can click them and sing along: Wonderful Words of Life Jesus, Lover of My Soul and What A Friend We Have in Jesus

Then we read Psalm 32 (I really like how the church has a Psalm reading before the start of every service). They just seem to set the mood for a great time of worship.

If you have been clicking the links, you can see that my two students, and the rest of the church really received a gospel lesson before the pastor even began to speak! Just this alone confirms that I am going where God wants me to go. I don't say that to boast, but to compare the criticism of and condemnation of all "official" churches with what the disciples said about others casting out demons and Jesus' response to them in Mark 9:39-40:But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is [as]for us.

The pastor then spoke from Genesis 17:8-13. Unfortunately, I did not have to much time to discuss that with them, but I did find out that he also used that passage to relate to how we must make the right choices in life-the people we associate with and so forth. As we walked back to the bus, I took them back in a different way, stopping along the way to by some Xiao Bing, which is small pieces of bread that are baked in a barrel. There are two types, sweet and salty. I bought them the flavor that they liked and we walked back to the bus through the apartment buildings that surround the church. They were curious about how I knew where the bread was and how to get back to the bus from a different way. Ha, ha, I told them sometimes you just have to be willing to get lost sometimes to find your way, and that I have spent a lot of my free time riding my bike around the city to find out where things are.

I was not able to go to lunch with them as two former students from my second year had sent me a message and wanted to visit on Sunday, and I had promised them earlier that when the day came for their visit, I would make them spaghetti. Well, as is seems customary for my students, I was given only one day's notice. But, seeing how I only can seem them occasionally, I did not want to turn them down.

We had a nice dinner of spaghetti, garlic bread, and some vegetables we picked up at the cafeteria and for desert, fried apples! Mmm mmm good! . Of course, I got to pray with them before dinner, thanking God for the good food and the time to spend with them (they are not believers). Remember, try to take advantage of every opportunity, for God has told us that His word will not return empty to Him and will accomplish what he desires. Isaiah 55:11

And, because of what God says in Isaiah, that is the reason for putting this in a blog rather than just an email. Who knows who else will see this and respond to the scripture contained here? God does, and the Word will accomplish what he wants.

So, remember that many of you are partners in this ministry, and even though I am the only one physically here, the power of your prayers cannot be understated. Please pray for God to show me (and you) the opportunities He has prepared for us. Let us be ready "in season, and out of season" to be His faithful servant and to "Preach the Word." 2 Timothy 4:1-4 Thank you for your support and prayers, my prayer is that you will notice how God richly blesses your faithfulness and proclaim it to others. Until the next time...