In the Garden

Rockwell – “I read…the sto­ry of the great­est morn in his­to­ry: “The first day of the week com­eth Ma­ry Mag­da­lene ear­ly, while it was yet ve­ry dark, unto the se­pul­cher.” In­stant­ly, com­plet­ely, there un­fold­ed in my mind the scenes of the gar­den of Jo­seph….Out of the mists of the gar­den comes a form, halt­ing, he­si­tat­ing, tear­ful, seek­ing, turn­ing from side to side in be­wil­der­ing amaze­ment. Fal­ter­ing­ly, bear­ing grief in ev­e­ry ac­cent, with tear-dimmed eyes, she whis­pers, “If thou hast borne him hence”… “He speaks, and the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their sing­ing.” Je­sus said to her, “Mary!” Just one word from his lips, and for­got­ten the heart­aches, the long drea­ry hours….all the past blot­ted out in the pre­sence of the Liv­ing Pre­sent and the Eter­nal Fu­ture.” – C. Austin Miles, March 1912

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

Refrain

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

Refrain

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

Refrain

(There is something to be said for some of these old hymns. Just the imagery of this particular hymn is easy to picture. I believe I heard that it was written in New York brownstone basement. Perhaps something is lost when everything on telelvision is shown and not implied, but that is neither here nor there. Come what may, there will always be access to Him in prayer and no matter wherever we go, He will walk with us every step of the way.)

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Something Good – From China!

Raavi

Statement of Faith of Chinese House Churches 中文

[Editor’s words: Having grown up in hardship and sufferings, the Chinese house church has constantly been accused of being a cult by people who are unaware of the truth and who have ulterior motives. For the purpose of making known the true faith of the church, some house church leaders joined together on behalf of all house churches and composed the Statement of Faith of Chinese House Churches in November, 1998. The following is the complete statement.]


Introduction:

In order to establish a common, legitimate criteria of faith for house churches in China, in order to lay a foundation on which overseas Christians churches can enjoy fellowship with us in unity, in order to help our government and people to understand our faith, and in order to draw a clear distinction between us and heresies and cults, a group of key leaders from several major Chinese house church movements met together in a certain location in north China in November, 1998. They prayed together, studied the Bible together, and together drafted the following statement of our faith.


1. The Bible

We believe that all 66 books of the Bible are God-breathed. They were inspired by God through the Holy Spirit to the prophets and apostles who composed them. The Bible is complete and inerrant truth. It has the highest authority. Nobody is allowed to distort it in any way.

The Bible clearly states God’s purpose of redemption of mankind. The Bible is the highest standard of our Christian life and ministry. We are against any denials of the Bible; we are against any teaching or theories that regard the Bible as out of date, or as erroneous; we are also against the practice of believing only in selected sections of the Scripture. We want to emphasize that the Scriptures must be interpreted in light of their historical context and within the overall context of scriptural teachings. While interpreting the Bible, one must seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the principle of interpreting the Scripture by the Scripture. The interpretation should be coherent and consistent, but not based on isolated verses. Biblical interpretation should take into account the orthodox faith that has been taken as the heritage of the church down through history. We are against interpretation of the Scripture merely according to one’s own will, or by subjective spiritualization.


2. Triune God

We believe in the only one true God, the eternally self-existing triune God who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. While sharing the same nature, the same honor and the same glory, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct persons who have differently functional roles in the work of redemption. The Father planned salvation; the Son fulfilled salvation; while the Holy Spirit applies the salvation. However, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not separate and independent of each other. They are one in unity. The Son reveals the Father; the Holy Spirit reveals the Son; the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are together worshipped and praised. We pray to the Father through the Holy Spirit in the name of the Son.

We believe that God created the universe and all things, and He created man in His own image. God has all things in His own control and sustains all things. He is the Lord of human history. The almighty God is a righteous, holy, faithful and loving God. He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. He manifests His sovereignty throughout human history. The Son and the Holy Spirit are eternal: the Son has the relationship of Son to the Father, but is not created; the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son.

God is spirit. He has no visible form or shape. Christians should worship Him in spirit and in truth. Christians have no other object of worship apart from this triune God. We reject wrong explanations of the trinity, such as: one body with three forms (like water, ice and vapor), or one body with three identities (like the sun, light and heat; or the son, the father and the husband).


3. Christ

We believe that Jesus is God’s unique Son, that He is the Word who became flesh and came to this world. In His perfect humanity He was tempted yet never sinned. He gave Himself to the death on the cross, and shed His blood to redeem everyone who has faith in Him from sin and death. He rose from death, ascended to heaven, was seated at the right hand of the Father, received Holy Spirit from the Father, and sent the Spirit to those who believe in Him. At the end of the age, Jesus is going to come back to judge the world.

Christians receive the status of sonship from God, but they remain human; they never become God.

Nobody knows the exact date of Jesus’ return, but we are confident that Jesus will return, and we can also know some of the signs of His return.

We are against any teaching that says Jesus has come the second time in His incarnated form. We are opposed to anyone who claims himself to be Christ. Any teaching that claims Jesus has already returned is a heresy.


4. Redemption

We believe if a person has confessed his sin and repented, if he has believed in Jesus as the Son of God who died for our sin on the cross and resurrected from death on the third day to pardon our sins, and if he has received the Holy Spirit that God has promised, then he is born again and saved. It is by grace and through faith that we are saved. By faith we are justified; by faith we receive the Holy Spirit, and by faith we become the sons of God.

We believe that God can keep His children completely in Jesus Christ, while the believers are obligated to hold on to their faith firmly till the end.

We believe that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is an evidence of salvation, and that the Spirit of God testifies with our spirits that we are children of God.

We are against the practice of taking any specific phenomenon or personal experiences as common criterions of salvation for all.

We are against any doctrine that teaches a saved person is allowed to freely sin under God’s grace. We are against the teaching of multi-salvation (that one can lose but then gain back his salvation many times); we are also against salvation by keeping the law.


5. The Holy Spirit

We believe the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Godhead. He is the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of truth, and the Spirit of holiness.

The illumination of the Holy Spirit convicts man of his sins, brings him to the knowledge of truth, leads him to faith in Christ and therefore to being born again and salvation. The Holy Spirit leads believers into the truth, teaches them to understand the truth, and guides them to submission to Christ as well as to the fruitfulness of the abundant life. The Holy Spirit bestows upon believers all kinds of power, and witnesses the powerful deeds of God with signs and wonders. The Holy Spirit searches all things.

In Christ, God grants a diversity of gifts of the Holy Spirit to the church so as to manifest the glory of Christ. With faith and desire, Christians can experience the pouring down of the Holy Spirit on them and be filled with the Holy Spirit.

We deny any doctrine that teaches the cessation of signs and wonders or the termination of the gifts of the Holy Spirit after the age of the apostles.

We don’t forbid the speaking of tongues, neither do we force people to speak in tongues, or insist that speaking in tongues is the evidence of salvation.

We refute the view that the Holy Spirit is merely a kind of inspiration instead of being a personal member of the Godhead.


6. The Church

We believe that the church is composed of all who are called by God in Jesus Christ.

Christ is the head of the church. The Church is the body of Christ, the house of God, and the pillar and foundation of truth.

The church is both regional and universal. It consists of all churches of sound faith currently existing around the world, as well as the churches of the saints down through history.

The church should be governed according to biblical principles. Its spiritual ministry should not be controlled or dominated by secular powers.

Brothers and sisters in the church are members of one body, with each fulfilling its roles. The body builds itself up in love, and grows into Him who is the head. The universal church should reach unity in the faith and in the Holy Spirit, and be united into one in Christ.

The purpose of the church is to proclaim the Gospel, to teach and shepherd believers, to build and send missionaries, to denounce heresies and uphold truth, and to defend the Word. As Christians gather together in the name of the Lord, the number of people meeting together or the location of the meeting should not be limited. Each believer is a priest, and each has the right and obligation to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

We are against the alliance between the church and politics, or any politics intermingled into the church.

We are against the church’s dependence on foreign political powers for its growth.

We are against the church’s participation in any activities that undermine solidarity of national people groups or the unification of the state.


7. The Last Days

We believe Christ will return, but no one except the Father knows the date of His return. On the day when Christ returns, He will come in glory and power on the clouds with the angels. On that day, the angels will blow the trumpet, and those who were dead in Christ will rise first. After that, all born again Christians who are still alive will also be transformed. Their bodies will all be glorified, and they will all be caught up together in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.

The saints will then reign together with Christ for a thousand years, during which Satan will be cast into the Abyss. When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released temporarily and will go out to deceive the nations until he is finally thrown into the lake of burning sulfur. After that, Christ will sit on the great white throne to judge man from each nation, tribe and people. Everyone will rise from the dead and be judged before the throne. If anyone’s name is not found written in the book of life, he’ll be thrown into the lake of fire. The former heaven and earth will be consumed by fire. Death and Hades will also be thrown into the fire.

Those whose names are found written in the book of life will enter into the new heaven and the new earth, living there with God forever. We believe that while waiting for the coming of the Lord, believers should serve the Lord with great diligence, preach the Word of life, and bear abundant fruits in their words, actions, faith, love and holiness. We also believe that those who do this shall receive all kinds of rewards.

As for whether the rapture happens before, during or after the great tribulation, we recognize that each denomination has its own conviction, and therefore there is no absolute conclusion in regard to this. The duty of each Christian is to be alert and prepare himself for the coming of the Lord.


Concluding Exhortations

We give our thanks and praise to our almighty heavenly Father who has led us to draft this Statement of Faith. Our desire is that the Holy Spirit will move brothers and sisters in more churches to accept and identify themselves with this Statement, and to read the Statement in the churches so as to strengthen the faith of the believers in resisting heresies and cults, so that together we can welcome the great revival of the church.

May the Lord bless the church of China.

May the Lord bless the peoples of China.

May praises and glory be unto our true and triune God. Amen!

The God of the Harvest

Poor Richard – Psalm 67:1-7, “1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
       and make his face shine upon us,
       Selah
 2 that your ways may be known on earth,
       your salvation among all nations.
 3 May the peoples praise you, O God;
       may all the peoples praise you.
 4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
       for you rule the peoples justly
       and guide the nations of the earth.
       Selah
 5 May the peoples praise you, O God;
       may all the peoples praise you.
 6 Then the land will yield its harvest,
       and God, our God, will bless us.
 7 God will bless us,
       and all the ends of the earth will fear him.”

Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest. Like many things however, the earth is a shallow copy of heaven. Just as the tabernacle and the temple were built according to God’s instructions, there is a harvest that our harvests are a shallow copy.

Matthew 9:35-38, “35Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.””

We are the heavenly harvest. We are the wheat among which Satan planted tares. We are apart of the True Vine. The heavenly harvest that is yet to come:

Revelation 14:14-16, “14I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one “like a son of man” with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.”

Hard Times for the Kinfolk

Papyrus – This is a time to be thankful, now more than ever. This is a nation that is deeply intertwined with freedom of all shapes and forms. There are some places, however, that don’t have the freedoms we do and I’d like to mention what is going on to the Christians who call those places home:

Orissa State, India – An estimated 500 Christians have been killed by Hindu mobs since late August, although the official numbers are said to be only 40. Recently, a bounty was placed on the pastors, the reward for their deaths are $250. People are also encougared to destroy churches and Christian properties, and are given the gas and kerosene to do it. They are rewarded with liquor, chicken, mutton, and weapons. Twenty-five pastors have managed to leave, but as many as 250 Christian leaders are still at risk. The Christians were blamed for the death of a Hindi leader, although another group admitted to the act, the Christians are still lashed out against. Fifty thousand Christians have been forced to flee the violence. Worst of all, the Hindu extremists have set a deadline for the capture of their leader’s killers. If they aren’t caught by December 15th, they will begin a massacre on December 25th.

Bagdad, Iraq – Christians have not known violence to be any worse before than it is now. In the neighborhood of Dora, many Christians awoke to find this note on their doorsteps, “To the Christian, we would like to inform you of the decision of the legal court of the S.I.A. to notify you that this is the last and final threat. If you do not leave your home, your blood will be spilled. You and your family will be killed.” All of the thirteen churches in Dora remain empty and the citizens fled in droves over two years ago. Did you see the 60 Minutes report on the underground church? We learned that the reason why the majority of attendees are women and children is because most men are killed, and some are kidnapped. In that particular church, save for the pastor, every leader was killed. An estimated 550,000 Christians have fled Iraq in the past five years.

China – While Christianity is allowed among the official churches, Christians who choose to worship in house churches face persecution. While they are portrayed as cultish, they can freely worship Jesus – until they are caught, that is. A pastor leading the house movement has been stalked, arrested, beaten, and imprisoned twelve times. Last Christmas season, officials interrupted house church services, brought all the Bibles and Hymnals outside and burnt them. Arrested the leaders and took the property away from Christians all in an effort to crack down on Christianity. In the past, church leaders have been sent to labor camps for re-education and have served their sentences of as many as three years.

There’s no denying that things are tough this year. Gas prices may finally be down, but food prices have greatly increased. Unfortunately, there is no Salvation Army for these Christians. This is only the persecution that we know about. We don’t know about the persecution we don’t know about. So what can be done for them? We can send spare blankets, cans of food, clothing, and we can see to any needs that our brothers and sisters in Christ have. Hundreds of thousands of our brethren are living in a world very hostile to them. The basics, food, shelter, and clothing are not being met. For if things are tough this year for us, they are all the more difficult for the poorer Christians worldwide.

Lost to the Island of Living-It-Up

Palatino Linotype – (That persistant dry cough I mentioned managed to weather two medications and now presents me with a sore throat. Warm saltwater gargle to the rescue. The first part of this post was way back, July 14th. Things, shall we say, have not improved.)

As I overlook the Island of Living-It-Up from the nearby high hill, I have seen the trouble of the one I know. If the one I know were not a Christian, that person would be the pride of the world. Having a sudden increase in wealth, the prestiege of a luxury vehicle, and a boat before the age of twenty-five, some might say that person is fairing well. But I know that person is a Christian and has wandered all over the Island. In short order the wealth was squandered. The luxury vehicle dissapeared. The boat was too old and expensive and is now gone. Not all is well, but residents of the Island are blind to their own condition and the concerns of others. That person is said to have bought a considerable amount of Addiction from the Corner Drugstore. The one I know may not feel the consequences of their selfishness, but the rest of us are well aware. All of us have lost somebody to that Island.

The News Agency of the Island specializes in rumor, but truthfulness is far away from the Island. It’s purpose is to entertain its residents so that they’ll never cross the Bridge of Forgiveness. It’s largely operated by the man whose sole purpose is to accuse the brethren and he delights in trapping them there so he can keep an eye on them and prevent them from being effective in spreading the Gospel. No matter the accuser’s efforts, Christ still manages to save all who will come to him and forgive those that are his who wander the Island. All the while, the Storm of Consequences is building on the horizon. I cannot intervene, but Christ can. Only if the one I know would go to Him, they would be taken safely out of the accuser’s snare.

The one I know did not book their stay alone, but they have bought the creed of the Island. For if sin is lawlessness, then a natural result would be to not keep the law, God’s or man’s. They have incurred a debt only they can pay. Running far and fast will not take it away. The Storm of Consequences is moving on in and I can only pray. What has become of the one I know, who sat beside me every Sunday morning, every Sunday evening, and every Wednesday evening in the House of the Lord? And what of my other kin, living lost within? Christian, go stand at the entrance of the Bridge of Irresponsibility and warn those you meet, tell them of the man who saved you from the Island of Living-It-Up. Turn whoever you can away for the storms have converged and Judgement is on its way.

What Kind of Church Are You?

MS Sans Serif – All Christians make up the body of the Church, attend in the building known as the Church, and are in more than one sense of the word the Church. I know of all sorts of Churches (buildings). Are you the sort of Church that is disconnected from its community? Are you the sort of Church that is popular and shallow? Are you the sort of church that is unaccepting and condescending? Are you the sort of church that strictly follows the dictates of tradition? Are you the sort of church that boldly casts off tradition? What does your Church say about you?

I’d have to credit three churches (buildings and bodies of memberships) that have resulted in what understanding I now have of the Gospel. NPC, (later FCCC,) was the family church. Everybody had been attending there for years. None of the teaching really stuck, but Logos was an interesting program. Wednesday afternoons were spent learning, singing, making something, eating dinner, and playing games. The number of students in my youth group was three. The church, however, lost many members when it relocated to a corner that was nearby two other churches. It had leadership issues, last I visted it five years ago, a member turned clergy was preaching.

After a move to another state we found (after much searching) HBC. Good church, good people. They are one of the few churches that have a slow and steady increase in membership. Its just plagued with youth issues. There are alot of young youth, but it can’t figure out why the older youth choose to go elsewhere. Its pastor had started young and has logged in many years there (with many more on the way.) Everybody knows everybody there, but nothing changes. They are going to not change themselves into the future and wonder why other churches who have been in the community for not even half as much time have three times as many people.

LC is where I currently am. I could have stayed at HBC, but I got to the point where I missed my family and it distracted me from worship. There are alot of older youth, college age, young couples. The figures are that the youth, all of them are of a greater number than all the members of my former church put together. There are twice as many adults as there are youth. This church doesn’t stick to tradition, it creates it.

What kind of Church am I? I am one that doesn’t mind the traditional hymns every now and then, but finds the contemporary music easier to sing. I’m big on my family, they’re all I have. I want deeper teachings, I want increased understanding of what I already know. I’m not picky on the translation, but I won’t budge on the fact that the teachings must have Biblical support. I’m the sort of church that believe that what God says goes whether I like it or not. I believe that the message of Jesus is central to my Christianity and that there must be ample room for the Holy Spirit to move in my life. I believe that step two (step one being get saved) is becoming like Christ. I’m not yet at step three, but I’ll tell you what it is when I get there, I don’t think that far ahead.

Gardening

Lucida Sans – Every year I look out on the garden and I’m surprised how much effort it takes my Dad to get the harvest that he does. It hardly looks like much, overall. If you’ve seen those gardening shows on television, my Dad’s garden looks nothing like it. It’s just a corner of the ground, hard light brown soil, and really not much to it. He spends days and weeks and months planting, watering, and weeding. Then trying to find ways to ammend the soil, somehow he is able to bring in so many tomatoes, green beans, onions, peppers, and whatever else that we don’t know what we’ll ever do with the other half he has yet to bring in. I grew up breaking beans, shucking corn, and helping with food preperation aspect of gardening. My grandparents kept two gardens and would sell most of their extra okra and tomatoes to anybody who was willing to wander to that part of the suburbs.

John 15:1-8, ” 1″I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
 5″I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you
can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

God has always been the gardener. For the good of the plant, it is necessary to prune it. For the good of the garden, weeds must be removed. Failure to removes weeds, in this case, will result in the destruction of the plants. So these things, I understand them clearly. I’ve seen a garden produce year in and year out. I look forward to growing a garden of my own one day.

Matthew 13: 3-9, “3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9He who has ears, let him hear.””

It was amazing the ways that Jesus would tell the truths of Heaven to the people. It’s all too easy to close your eyes and picture a farmer broadcasting seeds by hand. I think our society has lost much in the movement from agrarian to industrial. The basic understanding isn’t difficult to grasp, but some kids may never see a bumper crop or spend their summers lending a hand to pick tomatoes. In the future, it will be all the more difficult for people to understand all the parables in such a clear manner.