Tag Archive: China


Four words with the power to change your life.

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It has been said that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. The Lord Jesus frequently used parables as a means of illustrating profound, divine truths. Stories such as these are easily remembered, the characters bold, and the symbolism rich in meaning. Parables were a common form of teaching in Judaism. Before a certain point in His ministry, Jesus had employed many graphic analogies using common things that would be familiar to everyone (salt, bread, sheep, etc.) and their meaning was fairly clear in the context of His teaching. Parables required more explanation, and at one point in His ministry, Jesus began to teach using parables exclusively.

The question is why Jesus would let most people wonder about the meaning of His parables. The first instance of this is in His telling the parable of the seed and the soils. Before He interpreted this parable, He drew His disciples away from the crowd. They said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,

‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Matthew 13:10-17).

From this point on in Jesus’ ministry, when He spoke in parables, He explained them only to His disciples. But those who had continually rejected His message were left in their spiritual blindness to wonder as to His meaning. He made a clear distinction between those who had been given “ears to hear” and those who persisted in unbelief—ever hearing, but never actually perceiving and “always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7). The disciples had been given the gift of spiritual discernment by which things of the spirit were made clear to them. Because they accepted truth from Jesus, they were given more and more truth. The same is true today of believers who have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). He has opened our eyes to the light of truth and our ears to the sweet words of eternal life.

Our Lord Jesus understood that truth is not sweet music to all ears. Simply put, there are those who have neither interest nor regard in the deep things of God. So why, then, did He speak in parables? To those with a genuine hunger for God, the parable is both an effective and memorable vehicle for the conveyance of divine truths. Our Lord’s parables contain great volumes of truth in very few words—and His parables, rich in imagery, are not easily forgotten. So, then, the parable is a blessing to those with willing ears. But to those with dull hearts and ears that are slow to hear, the parable is also an instrument of both judgment and mercy.

This question fits right in with God’s greatest commandment, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, to love our God with all of our being. Here is some guidance in how to bring that about from Scripture:

1) It goes without saying that we cannot love someone we do not know. Get to know God and what He has done for you. Before the command to love God is given in Deuteronomy 6:5, the statement is made, “Hear O Israel, The LORD our God is one LORD.” One aspect of this statement is that He is unique, and the better we get to know what He is like, the easier it will be for us to love Him with our whole being. This also involves getting to know what He has done for us. Again, before the first command is given in Exodus 20:3, God states what He had done for Israel in bringing them out of slavery in Egypt. Likewise, in Romans 12:1-2, the command to offer our lives as living sacrifices is prefaced with the word therefore–a word meant to remind us of all of the mercies of God toward us recorded in the previous chapters.

To grow in love with God, one needs to get to know Him. He has revealed Himself in nature (Romans 1), but so much more through His Word. We need to make daily Bible study a perpetual habit—as much a part of our lives as eating every day. We would do well to remember that the Bible is more than a book; it is truly God’s love letter to us, revealing His love for us through the centuries, especially through the ministry of Jesus Christ, His Son. We must read the Bible as a letter from Him, asking His Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts about what He wants us to glean from it that day. Memorizing important verses and passages is also essential, as is thinking of ways to apply what we learn (Joshua 1:8).

2) Follow Jesus’ example of praying constantly and consistently. When we examine the life of Jesus as well as that of Daniel and others who had a passion for God, we find that prayer was a vital ingredient in their relationships with God (even a quick reading of the gospels and the Book of Daniel reveals this). As with Bible study, prayer—sincere and open communication with God—is essential. You cannot imagine a man and woman growing in love without communicating, so prayer cannot be neglected without expecting one’s love for God to grow cold. Prayer is part of the armor against our greatest enemies (Ephesians 6:18). We may have a desire to love God, but we will fail in our walk without prayer (Matthew 26:41).

3) Walk closely with Him NOW. Daniel and his three friends chose to obey God and refused to compromise in even the food they ate (Daniel 1). The others who were brought from Judah to Babylon as prisoners with them caved in and are never mentioned again. When the Jewish prisoners of war had their convictions challenged in a far greater way, it was only these few who stood alone for God (Daniel 3 and 6). In order to ensure that we will be passionate for God later, we need to walk with Him now and begin to obey Him in the smallest tests! Peter learned this the hard way by following God “at a distance,” rather than identifying himself more closely with Christ before his temptation to deny Him (Luke 22:54). God says that where a man’s treasure is, there his heart will be also. As we invest our lives in God through serving Him and being on the receiving end of persecution for Him, our treasure will increasingly lie with Him, and so will our hearts (1 Timothy 3:12; Matthew 6:21).

4) Eliminate the competition. Jesus said it is impossible to have two masters (Matthew 6:24). We are tempted to love the world (those things which please our eyes, make us feel good about ourselves, and gratify our fleshly desires) (1 John 2:15-17). James says that to seek to embrace the world and its friendship is enmity (hatred) toward God and spiritual adultery (James 4:4). We need to get rid of those things in our lives (friends who would lead us the wrong way, things that take up our time and energy and keep us from serving God more fully, pursuit of popularity, pursuit of possessions, and the pursuit of physical and emotional gratifications). God promises that if we pursue Him, He will not only provide for our needs (Matthew 6:33) but will give us our desires as well (Psalm 37:4-5).

5) If straying, begin to do what helped you grow in love with God in the first place. It is not uncommon to have dips in a relationship. Peter dipped in his (Luke 22:54), and David dipped in his (2 Samuel 11), but they got up and pursued after God once again. John, in Revelation 2:4, states it is not a case of “losing” one’s love but “leaving” one’s love. The cure is to do the “first works,” those things that caused one to grow in love with God in the first place. This would include those items mentioned above. The first step in this is confession and receiving the forgiveness and restored fellowship that are the result of that confession (1 John 1:9). There is no doubt that God will bless the pursuit of a passion for Him and will glorify His name through it.

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ and the Father are One (John 1:1-4), and that He is also the only begotten Son of God (Hebrews 1:1-4). This familial term indicates God regards Jesus as a family member. Born-again believers are told that we, too, are members of this family (Romans 9:8; 1 John 3:1-2). How do we become a part of this family of God? When we hear the gospel, confess our sins, and place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we are at that moment born into God’s kingdom as His children and become heirs with Him for eternity (Romans 8:14-17).

While Jesus Christ is referred to as the only begotten Son of God, believers are referred to as children born into God’s family who need to grow and mature in our faith (Ephesians 4:11-16), and as sons and heirs adopted into His family (Galatians 4:4-7). God’s infinite grace and mercy are revealed in Ephesians 1:5-6, which says He redeems sinners, whom He has “adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”

As children of God, what do we inherit? Nothing less than the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:34; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; Hebrews 12:28)! Ephesians 1:3 tells us that believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. These spiritual blessings are infinite, eternal, and reside in Christ, and by God’s grace we are given these blessings as His children. As earthly children we eventually inherit what our parents leave behind for us after their death. But in God’s case believers are already reaping the rewards of our inheritance by having peace with Him through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. Other rewards of our inheritance include the gift of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at the moment we believe in Christ (Ephesians 1:13-14) which empowers us to live for Him in the present, and the knowledge that our salvation is secure for eternity (Hebrews 7:24-25).

Being a part of the family of God is the greatest blessing bestowed upon believers and one that should drive us to our knees in humble adoration. We can never do anything to deserve it for it is His gift of love, mercy and grace to us, yet, we are called to become sons and daughters of the Living God (Romans 9:25-26). May we all respond in faith to His invitation!

Religious But Lost

John 3:1-6

Nicodemus would probably be welcome at any church today. He seems an ideal member—principled, knowledgeable, morally upstanding, courteous, and humble. However, Nicodemus had two big problems despite all of that outward religious appeal. He was blind to the truth and spiritually dead.

The man was lost. That is, he did not have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. As a Pharisee, Nicodemus adhered to strict Jewish codes and laws, so he was certainly religious. But the problem of the lost person is not attitudes, conduct, or even character. We can change and control those through sheer determination, and many folks do. What people really need is a change of condition. We come into this world with a sinful nature that is bent away from God.

Jesus explained to the observant rabbi that all his outward goodness couldn’t erase, replace, or change his nature. Instead, every person who desires to serve God must be born again. The Lord promised that if Nicodemus received Him as Savior, then he would enter into a brand-new life. His old sinful nature would be transformed so that he could have a real relationship with God. Instead of appearing to be a religious man, Nicodemus would be a true believer.

No one gets into heaven on the strength of good works and kind behavior. When we stand before God, only our condition will matter. In place of our old, dead “flesh” nature, we want to show Him the living spirit we received when Jesus Christ came into our life.

Report: Govt.-sponsored persecution rose 42 percent in 2012.
Morning Star News
[ posted 2/18/2013 10:04 ]  [Note: Our prayers need to go out to those being persecuted around the world]

China’s Christians felt a noticeable rise in persecution in 2012 as the Communist government began the first of a three-phase plan to eradicate unregistered house churches, a new report says.

Incidents of persecution of Christians rose by about 42 percent last year compared with 2011, according to the report by human rights group China Aid. Many of these incidents involved groups of Christians. In total, the number of individual persecuted Christians rose by roughly 14 percent and total individual detentions increased by nearly 12 percent. China Aid said overall total persecution in six categories was about 13 percent worse than in 2011—though China Aid termed its statistics just “the tip of the iceberg.”

At least 132 incidents of persecution affecting 4,919 Christians—442 of whom were clergy—were reported in the country last year, according to China Aid’s annual report. The Texas-based group tracked detention of at least 1,441 Christians, the sentencing of nine of them, and the abuse (verbal, mental and physical, including beatings and torture) of 37 Christians.

Beijing, administered directly under the central government, witnessed the highest number of persecution cases, at 62, affecting 934 Christians; Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China followed with at 11 cases involving 382 Christians. Persecution was also high in central China—comprising Henan and Hubei Hunan provinces—where 1,056 Christians were affected, and in east China, which includes Shandong, Anhui, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Jiangxi provinces, which witnessed harassment of 750 Christians.

The report also notes that persecution last year was 61 percent worse than in 2010; 85 percent worse than in 2009; 120 percent worse than in 2008; 308 percent worse than in 2007; and 372 percent worse than in 2006.

Ending Unregistered House Churches

The recent appointment of Xi Jinping as the new leader of China’s Communist Party has made no difference in treatment of Christians, said a member of the Shouwang Church in Beijing, a congregation authorities have harassed for more than two years.

“I recently went to see the founding pastor, Jin Tianming, and his wife [under house arrest since April 2011] in their rented apartment in west Beijing,” the source told Morning Star News. “I was not allowed to enter their home, and the pastor was not allowed to go outside. We chatted for a while at their home’s doorway, as two plainclothes police officers watched.”

Pastor Tianming was granted the right to do his workout outside his apartment every afternoon from November 2011 to early January this year. But since he attended a Shouwang weekly evening prayer meeting in the rented facility of Xinshu (New Tree) Church, a sister congregation of Shouwang, after jogging on the afternoon on Jan. 9, Tianming has not been allowed to leave his home.

The continued rise of persecution is not the only dynamic raising serious concerns; authorities have targeted unregistered house churches in a planned manner, according to the China Aid report. In 2008 and 2009, officials “targeted house church leaders and churches in urban areas,” China Aid notes. In 2010, they “attacked Christian human rights lawyers groups and using abuse, torture and mafia tactics.” The focus in 2011 was on increasing the intensity of attacks against Christians and house churches.

In 2012, a new three-phase approach was adopted to wipe out unregistered house churches, which the government saw as a hostile group of dissenters, and force them to join the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) church system. In the first phase, from January 2012 to June, the State Administration for Religious Affairs (SARA) secretly investigated house churches across the country and created files on them, the report says. This was followed by a wave of crackdowns on house churches, which has continued into 2013, as part of the second phase. The second phase will also entail strongly encouraging unregistered churches to become part of the TSPM—at which point they would become known as “house gatherings,” with the government banning the term “house churches.”

Some house churches have registered with authorities to avoid arrests and harassment, but most do not as they object to the beliefs and controls of some TPSM leaders. Barriers to evangelical churches registering with the TSPM include theological differences, adverse consequences if they reveal names and addresses of church leaders or members, and government control of sermon content.

The number of Protestant house-church Christians has been estimated at between 45 million and 60 million.

The third phase is expected to begin from 2015 through to 2025, when the government would shut down house churches that do not comply with the requirement to join the TSPM, according to a joint-memo issued in September 2011 by SARA and the ministries of public security and civil affairs, the report says.

With this objective in mind, authorities in 2012 stepped up long-time tactics of banning and sealing churches, pressuring churches to join the official Three-Self structure, detaining church leaders and sending them to labor camps on the pretext of “suspicion of organizing and using a cult to undermine law enforcement,” and strictly restricting the spread of the Christian faith among students, the report points out.

China Aid cites Shouwang Church as an example of closures by authorities.

“Landlords were pressured to terminate lease agreements with church members, church members who had purchased real estate were unable to take possession of them, church leaders were placed under house arrest and church members were evicted – all of which was done to make it impossible for the house church to operate normally so that it would eventually disband,” the report notes.

Last September, Shouwang Church leaders said members were detained 1,600 times, 60 members were evicted from their homes, and more than 10 lost their jobs because they attended the church’s outdoor worship services or simply because they were members. Many others were sent back to their hometowns, and some were confined to their homes on the weekends.

In February 2012, two Christians in Yulin, Shaanxi Province, were sent to a labor camp on charges of being a cult. In April, seven leaders of a house church in Pingdingshan, Henan province, were arrested and tried on this charge. In August, nine Christians from Ulanhot, Inner Mongolia, were placed under administrative detention for engaging in evangelism while providing free medical services, and two of them were sentenced to two years of re-education-through-labor.

Many summer camps for Christian students were raided, and the crackdowns were severe last year, the report adds.

Just as the Bible warns, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads,” the approach of the Chinese government is “ignorant,” concludes China Aid President Bob Fu in the report. “House churches will not be eradicated. What will be eradicated are any ideology and forces that try to resist the truth of Christ.”

Editor’s note: This Morning Star news account is based in part on a research report from China Aid. It was not produced independently by the CT news staff.