Thursday, March 24, 2005

New Book proposal "The Mystery of Intimacy"

For the past 2 years I have been teaching "how to be close to God". While it may take me another year to finish teaching the class, I feel now is the time to begin writing a book on this topic. I intend to call the book "The Mystery of Intimacy", subtitled "How to be close to God". Here are my proposed contents:

The Mystery of Intimacy
(How to be close to God)

Introduction to a Mystery

Part 1 The Rule of Intimacy

  • Seek conviction of the Spirit
  • Seek filling of the Spirit
  • Seek to walk in the Spirit
Part 2 The Test of Intimacy
  • Fruit of the Spirit
  • Unity of the Spirit
  • Fullness in Christ
Over the next few months I will be writing on these topics. Eventually I will collect them into a book. Feel free to send your editorial comments.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Romans 12:1-8 Gift Centered Service

After devoting eleven chapters to God's mercy, Paul is now going to apply it to Christian living. Interestingly, he starts with the proper use of spiritual gifts. Usually Romans 12:1-2 is not linked to spiritual gifts, but this implies that Paul has no theme at the crucial point of this letter. As I see it, the theme is that gift centered service must be done in the fruit of the Spirit. Since we are focused on spiritual gifts, I will only comment on the first eight verses and leave the fruit of the Spirit for another time.

12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
These words are linked by the Bible: offering, sacrifice, obedience, worship. When we give something to God or do something for God, it shows that we believe He deserves such things. Worship applies to every area of life, but we often exempt Paul's prime consideration: Spiritual Gifts. God has given each Christian a spiritual gift. He wants us to use it. To honor God, we must discover, develop and use our gifts. Using our gifts is an act of worship. Thus ignoring our gifts is dishonoring to God; an act of rebellion.
12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Spiritual gifts are the power of the Holy Spirit, given to break us free from the pattern of this world. The world does not have our power to serve, help, give, teach, lead, govern, etc. Obedience to God yields the fruit of the Spirit. When we develop and use our God given spiritual power, God transforms our mind. It becomes easier and easier to know how use our gift in accordance with God's will. If we remain humble and obedient, this transformation will extend beyond using our gifts, into every area of life.

12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

One of the great dangers of success is pride. When we use the power inherent in our gifts, we will succeed more than the world can. The pattern of this world is to glorify self. If our minds are not transformed, we will become proud of our spiritual gifts and the success they bring us. We must always keep in mind that our powers are not earned, they are gifts from God. Without Him, we can do nothing.

12:4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 12:5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
All the Christians in the world, and in fact throughout the ages are members of one body. We all have different purposes, but we are united in Christ. We must take direction from the head (Christ) and go about our specific functions. It can be difficult at times to adjust to the other members when our own purpose is so pressing, but we truly need each other. In humility we must remember that only God can behold the whole body working at once.

12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 12:7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 12:8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Not only do we have a diversity of gifts, but also those with the same gift have differing amounts of power and areas of service. One gift may be for teaching children only. Such a gift would not help when teaching adults. Another teaching gift could be for one-on-one situations, and still another for mass audiences. Whatever the gift: find, develop, and use it as God directs. Concluding this selection is a partial list of gifts, note how they have been turned into verbs of action: prophesy, serve, teach, encourage, give, govern, show mercy. In view of God's mercy, let us worship God by using our gifts to serve others. In doing so, He will transform us into his image.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Spiritual Gifts Series: Romans 12:1-6 Gift centered service

Using your gift is an act of worship

When you use your gift, God changes you
Using your gift helps you know God’s will
Don’t become proud of your gifts (they come from God)
A body has many members with different functions
In Christ, we (the church) form one united body
God has given us differing gifts in differing amounts
Use the gift God has given you: prophesy, serve, teach, encourage, give, lead, show mercy

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Spiritual Gifts Series

Last week in my Sunday School Class I began the new semester topic of Spiritual Gifts. I'd like to summarize the material as a FAQ (frequently asked questions). Much of my material is adapted from Peter Wagner's book, "Your Spiritual Gifts can help your church grow."

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Spiritual Gift: a special power God gives to Christians through the Holy Spirit to help others and glorify God.

things to note about this definition:

  • a special power: a spiritual gift is nothing less than the power of God
  • God gives: this power is a gift from God which we must discover
  • to Christians: every Christian has one or more spiritual gifts
  • through the Holy Spirit: the Holy Spirit lives inside each Christian and provides access to this power
  • to help others: each gift is designed to benefit others
  • and bring glory to God: the ultimate purpose of the gifts is to enhance our ability to bring glory to God.
How many Spiritual Gifts are there?

There is no definitive list, although there are several partial lists in the Bible. Every book on Spiritual Gifts comes up with a few differences. I prefer to use Wagner's list of 27 gifts. I have arranged them as:

Governmental (to prepare God's people for works of service): apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher

Public (gifts that tend to get noticed by others):
exhortation, leadership, healing, miracles, tongues, interpretation of tongues, exorcism, missionary, martyrdom

Private (gifts that tend not to be noticed by others):
administration, service, giving, mercy, wisdom, knowledge, faith, discerning spirits, helps, celibacy, voluntary poverty, hospitality, intercession

I could include others such as arts and worship leading, but I'll delay that to another day.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Julie, merciful servant

I have one Sunday Bible class student, Julie, who has been in my class since I started teaching in Taiwan, over 12 years ago. Julie speaks Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese (her favorite I think) and English. She is a retired travel agent and still likes to travel around the world. She also has a gift, from the Holy Spirit, to serve.

Julie is a senior citizen, but she serves the rest of us. She takes attendance for the class records, organizes the tables and chairs if they are disorganized and brings me a glass of water if I need one. Julie used to make copies of class handouts before class, but the church office recently complained that they are too busy to help supervise our copying, so now I have to submit my class materials a week ahead so they can be copied at a more convenient time for the church staff. (We have an exceptionally organized church, but there isn't much room for spontaneity.)

Anyway, our church, Suan-Lien Presbyterian, is over 90 years old and Julie has grown up in it. She is very happy now because her husband finally became a Christian last year and her daughter is finally getting married this year.

Back when I was making trouble over the 2-28 Incident, Julie took me to lunch and helped me understand some things. At the beginning of the 2-28 Incident, the Taiwanese people rose up in revolt against the corrupt government imposed on them by the mainland (China, ruled by Chang Kai-Shek). For four days, gangs ran through the streets and searched the houses looking for mainlanders to punish. Julie was a young secretary working in Taipei at the time. One of her coworkers was another young woman from the mainland. Julie was worried about her friend's safety, so she invited her to stay at Julie's house. Julie shepherded the woman past the gangs, and hid her until the trouble was past.

This was an element of the 2-28 Incident that I'd never heard before. I had only heard about the suffering of the Taiwanese, never the mainlanders. Julie told me that I was right to say the Taiwanese should forgive the government, but with a pained expression she asked me not to push the issue. "People just don't want to talk about this," she said.

I don't remember how soon, but I did follow her advice. I used to bring up this topic once every year on the last day of February, but now I just slip it into my general teaching on forgiving our enemies, without specifically highlighting the 2-28 Incident. I still love and respect those who refuse to forgive, perhaps they will see beyond my brashness, to merciful heart of God. But as for Julie, I believe her reward will be greater than all the successful, high placed leaders who are spiritually crippled by bitterness. Meanwhile, revival tarries.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Thomas, retired judge, baby Christian

Thomas came to my class soon after converting to Christianity. He was a retired judge and the uncle of May the prominent doctor I mentioned in one of my earlier posts. Thomas had long been interested in Christianity, but was afraid to become a Christian because his parents were against it. Thomas didn't follow the local religion, but his parents did. So he waited until they died to become a Christian.

In Taiwan, most people follow a Buddhist-Confucian system which emphasizes ancestor worship. The oldest son has a special responsibilty to take care of his parent's spirits after they die. He must have a special mantle in his house where he offers incense and prayers for his ancestors. On certain days he must "offer" them food and "spirit money", to provide for them in the afterlife. Ancestors who are not cared for will come back as ghosts and make trouble for the living.

I enjoyed having Thomas in my class. His English was good, he had that certain freshness that only new Christians have, and he was not afraid to speak his mind. In the course of discussing forgiveness and the 2-28 Incident, Thomas shared that he had been a student during that time and some of his professors were taken away by the government and never seen again. This illegal action outraged Thomas and his fellow students, but there was nothing they could do. I think that is what motivated him to study law and become a judge. Even though he came from a successful family, became rich, powerful and respected; he always felt the government was an oppressive enemy of his people.

I taught Thomas and the class many things the year he attended and he received them with joy. Until I taught Matthew 5:44

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
I exhorted the students to really forgive their enemies. Thomas stood up in class and explained why he hated his enemies. I then reaffirmed that Jesus wanted him to forgive just as he wanted the Jews to forgive their enemies including the oppressive Roman government. Finally Thomas boldly declared that he would not forgive his enemies. He also said, "If that is what it takes to be a good Christian, then I cannot be a good Christian!"

That was the last day Thomas came to my class. Of course, I still see him around the church once it a while. (Its a big church.) I hope he has continued to grow in the Lord. He reminds me of the rich young ruler. Jesus loved the rich young ruler and showed him the way of perfection. The rich young ruler however loved the world more than God and sadly rejected Jesus' message. I imagine that Jesus was the sadder of the two.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Howard, once like an uncle

After realizing the depth of bitterness in my church over the 2-28 Incident, I focused my Bible Study class on forgiveness. I did not mention God's anger or my meeting with the pastor. My goal was show that God wanted them to forgive for the 2-28 Incident even if the government did not apologize or repent. Unfortunately it cost me my best friend and mentor in the church, Howard.

When I first came to Suan-Lien Presbyterian Church in 1992, it was Howard who helped me the most. He was an elder in the church and a taught a small English Bible study class. Although he is Taiwanese, he has traveled a lot and speaks English well. He invited me to take over his class and he became my assistant. He also helped me adjust to Taiwan and find other ministry opportunities. I never had to ask Howard for help, he seemed to know what I needed before I asked. He treated my like his favorite nephew.

I learned that Howard grew up in a successful family, but his father had business that lead him to spend a lot of time away from home. When Howard was a young man, his father who was now dying, confessed that he had more than one wife and family. His dying wish was for Howard would unite all the family together. Of course Howard was shocked but as the oldest son, he was honor bound to follow his father's last wish.

The big problem was that some of Howard's step-family lived in China and it was illegal for most Taiwanese to go to China. So Howard got an illegal passport and went to China. Unfortunately he got caught in Hong Kong as he was coming back to Taiwan. That cost him several months in prison, but he did unite his father's families.

After many years running the family factory, Howard realized he want to devote more time to God and church work. He sold his factory, invested in Canadian stocks and focused his energy on serving the church. He traveled around Taiwan with an American Presbyterian whose ministry was for spiritual renewal and revival. He brought a group of pastors to learn at Fuller Theological Seminary. He even organized a college for senior citizens though the church. He was and is a gifted leader.

Unfortunately, he like many of our church leaders was quite bitter about the 2-28 Incident and the government oppression following it. I had seen hints of it in the past, but I thought he would let it go once he saw the scriptures on our own sinfulness and God's forgiveness. Then one fateful class, the one where the wife of the denomination president ran out screaming, Howard refused to read Bible verses about sin and forgiveness. Then he walked out of the room and didn't come back for about a year. I was shocked and saddened because we had been working together every Sunday for over four years. Until that day his only complaint was that he wanted me to teach more about the Holy Spirit. (I just wasn't ready to focus on that.) Ironically he came back to class a year later and I was teaching on the same topic again. I spoke to Howard before class and said, "I think God really wants you to hear this message". But he refused and walked out again, never to return.

Of course I occasionally see Howard around the church, he's retired from the church elders and has silver hair now. But his is still active in various church projects. To this day I consider him one of the most godly and accomplished Christians I know. We are always friendly as we pass each other in the church, but our precious fellowship is gone.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Pastor Pung, the 2-28 Incident and me

A few years ago I was attending worship at Suan-Lien Presbyterian Church. The services are in Taiwanese, but they offer translation in English and Japanese. Pastor Pung was talking about the injustice of the 2-28 Incident. The government was beginning to open up about what really happened, but had kept many records secret. And even today many records are still secret. Most foreigners in Taiwan know little about the 2-28 Incident and care even less. I am different because I married into a traditional Taiwanese family and I also have many senior citizen students and friends who lived through that tragic time. While I knew about the 2-28 Incident, I didn't really care because I'm a foreigner and it seemed such a long time ago.

Well, as Pastor Pung was giving his sermon complaining about the government's current handling of the 2-28 Incident, I started feeling angry. This was strange because I already knew the problem, I agreed with Pastor Pung's point and I previously had not cared much. As he continued to speak, I felt a very rare and burning anger welling up within me. I recognized that this was not my anger, but God's. He was filling me with his emotion. I was reflecting the Lord's anger as the moon reflects the sun's light. (I know this sounds strange, but sometimes God causes me to feel what he feels about something: joy, love, anger, even sadness. It's always a surprise when it happens. I never seek this experience although I do pray I will be filled with God's heart, soul, mind and strength.)

Anyway, I recognized this great anger came from God. He was not angry at the government, He was angry at my pastor! God was angry that Pastor Pung was speaking about justice and punishment for those responsible for the 2-28 Incident. I didn't hear God speak, but if I could put the emotion into words, the anger would say "How dare you speak this way in MY HOUSE! Where is your forgiveness?" This feeling was so strong I could barely keep from interrupting the service.

After the service, I wrote a letter to Pastor Pung explaining what happened and how I thought he should respond. He invited me to a meeting with himself and the other 3 pastors. I told him that God was angry with what he said in church and he needed to forgive the 2-28 Incident and implicitly all government oppression for the past 50 years. Not only he, but the entire denomination needed to forgive those responsible. Pastor Pung said he would forgive only after the government confesses and repents. I was taken aback by this and countered that Jesus forgave him and all of us before we even asked Him, indeed while we were His enemies. Pastor Pung concluded that when God tells him that, then he will listen. I though that was a good answer, we can't expect pastors to follow the dictates of everyone who claims a message from God.

In humility, I chose not to make this a public issue, but I felt had to do something. I began to pray every night that God would give the church leaders a vision for His plans and that they would forgive for the 2-28 Incident. I also began a year of teaching in my church Bible Study Class on forgiveness as I discovered Chinese culture is much less forgiving that Western culture.

Next time I will share the consequence of that year.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

2-28 and the Presbyterian Church

The Presbyterian Church was established by Scottish missionary Dr. James Maxwell in 1865, in southern Taiwan. He was followed by another Presbyterian missionary, Canadian Dr George MacKay in 1872 in northern Taiwan. Ever since, the Presbyterian Church has been the largest denomination in Taiwan. Christians comprise only 3 percent of the 23 million people in Taiwan, of which about a third are Presbyterian. While few in number, their impact on Taiwanese development is notable. Presbyterians are responsible for Taiwan's first school, first hospital and first printing press.

The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan (PCT) has long seen itself as a defender of the Taiwanese people. It also
has long been independent of foreign influence. According to the PCT website:

During the Japanese colonial period, in spite of strong pressure from the authorities to use Japanese, the PCT continued to use the Taiwanese language in its activities. Because of the increasing militarism of Japan in the late 1930's all foreign missionaries were expelled, and this gave the church an early experience of complete independence. Evangelism among the Aborigines started at this time despite ruthless Japanese opposition. By the end of the war 4,000 -5,000 Aboriginal people were ready for baptism.
When China took over Taiwan in 1945, they continued the repression of Taiwanese language, history and culture. Again the PCT stood as a haven for the Taiwanese. In response to the 2-28 Incident, the church became a strong voice for truth and justice. In spite of Martial Law, the PCT became a haven for those seeking multiparty democracy and Taiwan independence from China. In their eyes:
Since 1865 the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan has burned with the fires of God's Spirit. At times it has been scorched by the flames of repression and harassment. Yet it still stands as a light in the darkness and a beacon of hope in the society of Taiwan.
Today the PCT is quite active in social justice with ministries to the blind, elderly, poor, prisoners, aborigine's and people in need around the world. But there is something I sense, that makes God unhappy with the PCT's response to the 2-28 Incident. I'll share that over the next several days.


Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The 2-28 Incident

A series of events began February 28, 1947 that have greatly affected the political and spiritual life of Taiwan. The event that triggered it is disputed:
Based on my research, here is a summary of what happened and why.

In 1895, China lost a war with Japan and as a consequence gave Japan sovereignty over Taiwan. Japan developed Taiwan as an economic colony and treated the Taiwanese, not as equals, but better than those territories they captured in war. Everyone had to learn Japanese and Japanese culture intermingled with Chinese. The elite would go to Japan or America for further study. Taiwan was relatively untouched by World War II, although a few allied bombs were dropped on the island.

In 1945, at the end of the war, the Allies forced Japan to give Taiwan back to China (this action was formally recognized in 1951). China which had just survived a brutal war with Japan looked on the natives of Taiwan with suspicion. Furthermore, the Nationalist Republic of China (ROC) led by General Chang Kai Shek, was in the process of losing a great civil war against the Communists, led by Mao Tse Tung. The ragtag force sent to govern Taiwan was considered undisciplined, corrupt and uncivilized compared to the former Japanese colonial government.

After a year of perceived misrule, "Taiwanese" anger over the recently arrived "Mainlanders" reached a flashpoint in the 2-28 Incident. A Mainlander police officer arrested a Taiwanese woman selling cigarettes without a license. This led to large scale riots all over Taiwan. Taiwanese in the streets attacked anyone who couldn't speak Japanese.

The government appeared to negotiate with the 2-28 leaders, but when additional troops arrived from the mainland they began shooting anyone in the streets. After regaining control, the Nationalist government rounded up suspected leaders and killed them. Many of the Taiwanese elite were killed or imprisoned including: lawyers, doctors, professors and students; beginning a ten year campaign called the "White Terror."

In 1949, the Communists won their civil war against the Nationalists. Chang Kai-Shek fled for Taiwan with 2 million soldiers, enacted Martial Law and banned all opposing political parties. The 2-28 Incident was covered up and the secret police ensured the people would be afraid to discuss it.

Martial law was lifted in 1987 and today Taiwan is peaceful and prosperous. The "Mainlanders" and the "Taiwanese" have been living together for over 50 years. People can discuss the 2-28 Incident openly and in fact it is now a national holiday of remembrance. As the world considers China's ambitions for Taiwan, the Taiwanese hear the echoes of 2-28.

Next I will show how all this affected the church in Taiwan.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Path of Spiritual Maturity

If our goal is spiritual maturity, how can we reach it? Many start well, but wander off the path of maturity. Let's look at our goal and work backwards toward the beginning.

Unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3,13; Romans 15:5-6; John 10:30, 17:20)

This is the highest expression of spiritual maturity. When we love one another and glorify God with one heart, the nations will see God's love and believe the Gospel. There are two kinds of unity: intimacy and harmony. As we grow intimate with God, we grow in unity with other believers. As we learn to work with God, we also work in harmony with each other.

Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)

Unity is only possible if we all have the fruit of the Spirit. This is the very character of God: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. As we grow in the fruit of the Spirit, we become more like Him. We love as God loves, hate as he hates. When God weeps, we weep; when He rejoices, we rejoice.

Walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16,18,25)

Many seek love, joy, and peace, but they do not find. We cannot produce our own fruit. The Fruit of the Spirit is a result of obeying God. The more we follow God's will, the more fruit He produces in our lives; transforming us into His image. The daily routine of finding and doing God's will is called Walking in the Spirit.

Filling of the Spirit (Eph 5:18, Acts 13:52)

Walking in the Spirit is difficult. We need God's guidance to know his will, just as Jesus did. We need God's power to do his will, just as Jesus did. Obedience is often costly, so we need God's comfort, just as Jesus did. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, God gives us comfort, guidance and power to obey Him.

Conviction of the Spirit (John 16:8; 1 Thessalonians 1:4)

All Christians have the Holy Spirit, but our sin-fullness prevents our being Spirit-filled. The Holy Spirit came to convict the world of sin, not only for salvation, but also for the perfecting of the saints. He shows us our guilt and motivates us to repent. Conviction of the Spirit is the beginning of salvation and an ever present need on the path to maturity.

The Purpose of Life

(This is the basis for a chapter of a book I intend to write on "How to be close to God".)

My father was an atheist and often told me that "Man created God". He taught me that there is no meaning to life, but I could create my own meaning. I could decide what I wanted to be, work hard to achieve it and be satisfied with my success. That was the best life a man could have. Ironically, I became a born-again Christian and a missionary to Taiwan. I don't think that's what my dad had in mind.

Contrary to atheism, the Bible tells me that God created Man. Life has God-given meaning. Our success is measured by discovering our purpose and achieving it. But, what is the purpose of our creation? What is the chief end of man? The traditional answer is that we are to "glorify God and enjoy him forever". This is certainly true, but the Bible tells me so much more.

God's goal is to make all of us mature, and complete. He is not finished until each and every believer is perfect. The purpose of our maturity is to become the Bride of Christ. Marriage is the symbol God uses to show the level of intimacy He desires with us. Christ our Husband, will give us glory and share His profound, immeasurable love with us. As a mature bride, we will bring glory to our Husband and enjoy Him forever.

(The next post will show we become mature.)

Friday, February 25, 2005

Prophetic Intercession for Asia: part 2

In an earlier post, I warned about the strong chance that we would have a Bird Flu Pandemic. Health Experts say this could kill millions of people around the world.

Last Sunday, I taught our Bible Class how to interceed for Asia against this potential Pandemic. This Pandemic, like the earlier Tsunami is not the judgment of God, rather it is a desperate attempt by God's enemy to prevent revival. God has given us a warning, so we can move God to stop or at least diminish this evil plan.

Here is how we pray (from Daniel's intercession for Israel in the book of Daniel ch 9). This is a short example, you can change the words and pray as long as you want.

Praise: Oh great and awesome God, you created the heavens and the earth; you are worthy of all glory, honor and power.

Confession: We have sinned and done wrong. We deserve punishment. The world has rebelled against you and deserves destruction. We have no power in ourselves to stop this pandemic.

Request: Forgive us. Give us your mercy. Turn away your anger. Protect us from evil. Grant us the power and authority to destroy the works of your enemies. In the name of Jesus Christ, we rebuke Satan and his pandemic. We reverse this curse and call for a blessing from heaven. We ask for healing and revival among our nations.

Thanks: Lord, we offer thanks because we know that you always hear us and determine everything for our benefit according to your good and perfect plan. All thanks be to God, who lives forever and ever. Amen.


Thursday, February 24, 2005

They'll know we are Christians by our love

Today I want to tell you about the greatest testimony I've ever heard. It was given by one of the professors at my school, Alliance Theological Seminary. I remember his story very clearly, unfortunately, it was 15 years ago and I've forgotten some of his personal details.

This professor, I'll call him Abraham, was a young Indonesian (I think), not much older than we seminarians. I didn't have him for any classes, so I never got to know him well. He seemed to be a cheery fellow, but I did notice he always walked using crutches for both legs and his face was disfigured. One day we had an assembly and he told us what happened to himself.

When Abraham lived in Indonesia, he would go to villages and preach the gospel. Often times he was met with hostility and abuse. Sometimes he was dragged into the jungle and beaten, but he never gave up his mission to bring the gospel.

Eventually it happened that some villagers tied Abraham to a tree in the jungle and beat severely. He realized they intended to beat him to death. But rather than fear, his heart was filled with love and mercy for his torturers. He told them, they should wear gloves so the police would not be able to identify the killers by the fist-marks on his body. He didn't want to get them in trouble. God used this message to break their hearts. They untied Abraham and brought him battered, but alive, back to their village.

Of course he needed a great deal of medical attention and could not continue his ministry. Somehow, he ended up with us as a teacher. There may be many men of faith such as Abraham, I am privileged to have met one.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The most spiritual person I know

In my 24 years as a Christian, I have met a lot of other Christians: including pastors, missionaries and famous writers. Very few people have impressed me. One of those few is my former student Rebecca. She's a middle aged Taiwanese woman, who used to be a teacher. She's married but has no children. She has long been interested in prayer and even started a Chinese newsletter to promote intercession. Then she felt God calling her to full time prayer. She told God that she was willing to give up her job if God would be her new boss and pay her accordingly.

Well, God took care of her family's needs, a house rent-free and enough money in the bank to live for a year without work. So Rebecca and her husband, yes he's an intercessor too, quit work a devoted themselves to pray eight hours a day. Soon after that she started coming to my Sunday School class. She also began praying for me. As a result, I believe God poured out many blessings to me and greatly empowered my teaching.

A year or so later, I wanted to change our class from a lecture style to more of a fellowship sharing style. That is very difficult for Chinese. All over East Asia, teachers authoritatively tells students what is right, students copy it down, then parrot it back on the tests. My students were not comfortable telling me what they think, or feel or do. Even if they did, English is not their mother tongue.

Well, we gave it a try and most students couldn't function this way. Rebecca was reluctant too, but she gave it a try. She'd share what happened in her life that week and we were all surprised. While in prayer, God would tell her to go down to the 7-11 convenience store and give a gospel tract to the worker there. So she gets up and does it. Then God tells her to do something else and she does that too. And on and on. The funny thing is, she's not boasting. In fact it is almost painful for her to share these intimate details of her relationship with God. She's just doing it to please the teacher, me. After a few weeks of this Rebecca talked to me privately, saying "I don't want to share anymore, everyone is just watching me." So we went back to the lecture format.

At this time I came to the humbling conclusion that I'm teaching someone who is significantly more spiritual than I am. In fact, I was in the presence of a most remarkable person. Yet there were things I could help her with. Aside from Bible Knowledge, I tried to help her understand more about God's forgiveness, grace and mercy. Taiwanese don't emphasize these virtues. Rebecca like many of her fellow Christians was quite stern with herself and others. I wanted her to find a righteous balance between justice and mercy. One Sunday she told me that Taiwan was too proud so she was going to get God to drive the stock market down. So down it went, day after day, for months. I have no doubt God responded to her requests.

After three years in my class, Rebecca decided to go to a Chinese seminary in Los Angeles. She asked me to write a recommendation for her. I wrote to the school "Rebecca is more that qualified to go your school. The question is not whether she is worthy, but whether your school is worthy of her." She got in anyway.

A year later she came back to visit and I asked her if she was still praying for me. She looked at me very seriously and said, "You should be a prayer-man by now!"

Now Rebecca has finished seminary and studying English full time while her husband goes to seminary. Somehow God is providing for them. A couple of weeks ago, one of my long time students was going out to LA during Chinese New Year, to visit her daughter. She was also going to see Rebecca. I sent word that I missed her. My student came back and said Rebecca was surprised I missed her. Rebecca also sent back some gifts for my daughter. I still think she needs to understand what a treasure she is to God and that mercy triumphs over judgment.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Speaking of Friends in High Places

I teach Sunday School from 9 am to 10:15, then I usually go to worship at Grace Baptist Church, which has English worship services. But I wanted to meet with Michael at 12:00, so I stayed for Suan Lien's worship. It is in Taiwanese, but offers English translation by radio headset. I sat in the balcony and was greeted by former students I hadn't seen in years.

One of them was May. She is a doctor and really smart. She designed Taiwan's National Health Care system. Unfortunately, the system is now broke and is being adjusted. I remember she had a lot of pressure 12 years ago when she designed it. Everyone loves to complain and these systems never work as designed. People's desire for good health is always greater than our desire to pay for it. I don't know what her duties are now, but I was shocked to see her with so much gray hair. Well, she still looks cute for a grandmother.

I met another former student, but I can't remember her name. At first I couldn't remember any details about her, but she was friendly and greeted me. (No one forgets me as I have been the only foreigner in the Church in the last 12 years; perhaps the only foreigner ever.) Then I remembered who she is. She is the wife of the President of the entire Presbyterian Denomination in Taiwan, and this is the largest denomination in the country. She was my student for a couple of years. I remember she told the story of nearly choking to death when a fishbone got stuck in her throat. Taiwanese eat a lot of fish, so there's a lot of choking goin' on. Last time I saw her she ran out of my class, angrily screaming (in Taiwanese) "Is this Righteousness, Is this Righteousness". Maybe she has forgiven me, or she's just really good at maintaining "face". Anyway it was good to see her again.

Just for the record, that eventful day, I was teaching how the Taiwanese sinned against the aboriginal people who came to the island before them, just as the American settlers did to the Indians. Taiwanese don't think of themselves as oppressors, they believe they are victims. They don't see any connection with the fact that they are rich, powerful and successful living on former Aboriginal lands, while the Aboriginals are poor and humble living on mountain land that others don't want. Calling a Taiwanese "a mountain person" is an insult. The last thing to mention is that many people in my church and the denomination do work hard to help the mountain people; but I have not.

Monday, February 21, 2005

One of my better days

Last week I reread the ending of Rick Joyner's book "The Final Quest". In a vision, Rick Joyner saw a man named Angelo, now in heaven, had been one of the greatest people on Earth. Although Angelo was a homeless, abused mute, he loved with all his heart. He barely kept himself alive while he helped other homeless people. He was never famous or successful, but God was impressed. However God was not impressed by all the Christians including Rick Joyner, who ignored or despised Angelo. God said that Angelo had many things to teach the church, but we lost our chance. While reading this, it occurred to me that I have someone like Angelo in my life.

Every Sunday, for the past 12 years, I have taught an adult English Bible Study class at Suan Lien Presbyterian Church in Taipei, Taiwan. It is a large (1550+ people), wealthy, long established church (founded over 90 years ago), with many important and influential members. I am not one of them, but its nice to have old friends in high places.

Most of my students are people with good English skills: doctors, judges, business people, wives of church leaders. But one student, Michael, is not a "winner". He is very strange, almost childish. I guess he is 50 years old. His family including wife and children, runs a small flower shop near the church and they treat him very poorly. As a baby he was dedicated to a Chinese goddess named Matsu. Matsu was elevated as the Queen of Heaven during the Ching Dynasty. All Michael's family worship Matsu, except Michael who became a baptized Christian last year.

He first came to my class a decade ago, then disappeared for a few years. Then he came back a couple of years ago. He makes most of us uncomfortable and we try to ignore him. His English isn't very good, and his mind isn't very clear, so he draws (his art isn't any good either) poster sized pictures of me, and copies my whiteboard notations onto the pictures. Then he comes up after class and asks me and others to sign his pictures and write things on them. Things like "American Airlines", "Romance is the Spice of Life" or some random Bible verse. Plus he asks lots of vocabulary questions after class. Often my heart goes out to "irregular" people, but being with Michael is like letting a bee land on my nose.

He tries to be friendly, although I often don't understand what he's talking about. He brings me flowers from his store. He often invites me to his flower shop, his house, even his old family home in the countryside. He usually asks me to pray for him and his family. Indeed, I think he has received more blessings than anyone in Taiwan. But my wife and I usually make it clear we don't have a lot of time for him. We are BUSY people.

Yesterday my family decided to visit Michael's flower shop after church. He was very happy to take us there. However his wife was not happy to see us, so she left her own store and went shopping. Nevertheless Michael was full of grace. He gave my 9 year old daughter some flowers and candy. My wife, Sandy, a Taiwanese, explained some things to him about the Bible. Then she told me he wanted to know the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. That is not easy to explain to someone like Michael. I told him, "The Old Testament told the Jews how to be close to God and the New Testament tells everyone how to be close to God." Then we prayed for Michael and his family and left before he gave away everything in his store.

I guess it was a good day because I obeyed God and had fellowship with the "least" of all God's children. But considering that he suffers daily for his faith and gives more love than he receives, his reward may be greater than mine. It's always nice to have old friends in high places.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Spiritual Jury Duty for Michael Jackson's Trial

Elijah List - Elijah List Words(scroll down to the middle)

Bill Yount is a guy who prophecies. I can't vouch for his accuracy, but I am challenged by this,


I asked the Lord why warring angels would be attending this case that turns so many people off, with such allegations being heard. I sense the Father saying, "I have had a remnant of my people praying for Michael for years, and this is the turning point of those prayers being answered."

I sensed the Father saying, "Not many of My own people will be able to truly pray and believe for Michael's salvation because of wanting to judge him already. I am not calling My jury of people to judge but to pray for My justice and truth to come forth and, most of all, for My Holy Spirit to hover over him and to release ministering angels -- heirs of salvation, to minister to him, that My Spirit would draw him to the foot of My cross."
I really hadn't considered the spiritual aspects of this trial. Michael and I are roughly the same age, he from Indiana, I from Illinois. I really enjoyed his music; as I grew up, the Jacksons were one of my favorite bands, I even watched "The Jackson Show" cartoons. Until my late 20's, I had only bought about 10 albums, one of which was "Off the Wall" the debut of Michael Jackson's solo career. On the cover, he was wearing a suit, looking like a real happy guy, a winner. He had a friendly face, a completely normal face for a young black man. With that face and that voice and those dance moves, it was clear he was going to make it as a solo act. He seemed so normal, so mature.

Something happened during the early MTV days. Jackson started changing his image and his body. As if embarrassed by his manhood, he adopted a more juvenile style. Not like his early days when he was young but more a fantasy style that many of us wish we could have. It seemed like just a business move, until I noticed he changed his face to be softer and whiter.

Albums like "Bad" and "Dangerous" made him a megastar. Now these titles sound like a cry for help. My mother was a public school teacher and found some boys dancing and grabbing their crotches. They said they learned it from watching Michael Jackson videos. My mother knew I was his fan and asked me if this was true. I told her "no way". But we watched a video together, and there he was grabbing his crotch, a lot. I was shocked, I had enjoyed this video many times but never noticed it. I was also puzzled, why was he doing this, and was it on TV for millions of children who idolize Michael Jackson. I'm no scold, I enjoyed all his music and tolerated his crotch grabbing; no matter what, he was a dance innovator. But I do regret, the artist who showed such promise in "Off the Wall" never developed, never grew up.

I'm not following the trial closely, but from what I gather, he is guilty of repeated child seductions. To a certain extant, the reasons why Michael Jackson is what he is, don't matter. For me this is a case of loving the sinner but hating the sin. After reading this prophecy, I am now praying for Jackson's repentence and salvation in Christ Jesus. I'm not the kind of person who sees angels, but if there is a spiritual war for this man's soul, I know which side I'll fight for.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Bride of Christ

The church is called to be the bride of Christ. This is a most uncomfortable topic for me. I remember when I was a new convert in college, our Christian fellowship leader, a grown married man, announced that he spent his vacation thinking about being the bride of Christ. "This is Weird," I thought to myself. Yet the Bible really does say that we, the church collective, are being prepared as a bride to receive Christ as our husband. When Jesus returns one of the first things on the agenda is our marriage feast. Of course this is all symbolic, its not like some huge Roman orgy, but it is still WEIRD.

Thinking back about the chief end of man, I'd say another great answer is: Our chief end is to be the bride of Christ. It is in this role we will glorify God and enjoy him forever. This brings a new element of intimacy into our eternal destiny. One observation that eases my discomfort with role of Christ's bride, is that while spiritual women do show an attractive feminine side (which Madonna and Britney cannot compete with) spiritual men do not become feminized. As I have become more intimate with God, I have become more the man He created me to be.

This relates back to the fullness of Christ. It is intimacy which leads to maturity. When I was young, the media and my social group hinted that devout Christians were like a hoard of slow moving, unthinking zombies. Now I have been in some churches that seemed like that; but an intimate relationship with God is radically different. I can testify that God is constantly challenging and surprising me. I have experienced his gentleness while I am weak, and his patience while I am foolish. Many times I have been rejected, many times I have gone the wrong way. But my Father in heaven never leaves or forsakes me. Notice how I unconsciously switch over to Father symbols. Many writers have explored God as our Father; but how many have written about Jesus, our lover? I'd like to understand this better, because it is both true and important, yet I hesitate. Maybe we men need women to enlighten us on this mystery.

Friday, February 18, 2005

What is the fullness of Christ?

The purpose of our existence, the reason God created us is stated in three similar ways:

  • fullness of God (Eph 3:14),
  • fullness of Christ (Eph 4:13),
  • perfect in Christ (Col 1:28)
The Elements of Fullness in Christ include:
  • maturity (perfection, completeness, wholeness)
  • unity (in faith and knowledge)
  • intimacy (with God's power and love)
This is why Jesus Christ died; not just to save us from our sins, but also so that we would become fully mature, one with God and other believers, intimately sharing his love and power. We were created to become like Jesus. Christians are destined to become little Christs; below God, yet higher than angels. As little Christs we shall indeed "glorify God and enjoy him forever".

What is the chief end of man?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism's answer is(with proof texts):

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, (Ps 86; Is 60:21; Ro 11:36; 1 Cor 6:20,31; Rev 4:11)
and to enjoy him forever. (Ps 16:5-11; Ps 144:15; Is 12:2; Luke 2:10; Phi 4:4; Rev 21:3-4)

That is a fantastic answer that has helped my relationship with God. It helps me to focus on God rather than myself or the world. The weakness of this answer is that it is too generic. People of all religions including Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists can all agree with this end.

Recently, while studying the Bible, I found a better answer. This end is focused on Christ.

The chief end of man is to attain maturity, the fullness of Christ. (Eph 4:13; Eph 3:14, Col 1:28)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

St Malachy's Prophecy of the Popes

Here is a full list of Malachy's Pope prophecies. We're getting really close to the end. Pay close attention to the final Pope called Peter the Roman. It concludes quite chillingly with: tribulation, destruction, and judgment.

St Malachy's Prophecy of the Popes |
Here is the prophecy of the last Pope:

"In persecutione extrema S.R.E. sedebit Petrus Romanus, qui pascet oues in multis tribulationibus: quibus transactis ciuitas septicollis diruetur, & Iudex tremêdus iudicabit populum suum. Finis.
(In extreme persecution, the seat of the Holy Roman Church will be occupied by Peter the Roman, who will feed the sheep through many tribulations, at the term of which the city of seven hills will be destroyed, and the formidable Judge will judge his people. The End.)"

The Next Pope

After John-Paul II passes on, the next Pope in Saint Malachy's prophecy is called "Gloria Olivae". Here is some speculation on what that means.

aaronc - pope - malachy - prophecy
Latin motto = GLORIA OLIVAE
Interpreted to mean - The glory of the olive

Olive branch has always been associated with peace and this description might have been most fittingly applied to Pope Pius XII as a reference to his coat of arms. There is little doubt that this legend can be more easily explained in the future than the one before. Some medieval interpreters have gone out of their way to stress that Malachy in his prophecies does not specifically mention that no Popes shall reign between Gloria Olive and the last Petrus Romanus; nor on the other hand does he mention that there will be others.
The Order of St Benedict has claimed by tradition that this pope will come from within the Order. St Benedict himself has prophesied that before the end of the world comes about, his Order will triumphantly lead the Catholic Church in its fight against evil. The Order of St Benedict is also known as the OLIVETANS, which may well account for another interpretation of the prophecy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Bid the Pope farewell

Time Has Been Bought by Mike Tucker:

"2-3-05 Dream: I saw a large stained glass window before me. Old Latin words were sealed into it. I was reading the words fluidly but my soul did not comprehend. Then when I finished reading, the Lord spoke, ‘Bid the Pope farewell’.

At this time it has not been disclosed to me if Pope John Paul II will pass away or simply step down. But this event is a significant marker for the end times. I encourage the Body to read the prophecies of St. Malachy. He was an extraordinary prophet in the 12th century and he prophesied about all the remaining Popes to come until the very end. Each Pope was given a specific marker to identify them. According to his prophecies, there are only two popes remaining (after John Paul II). The last Pope will go through the great tribulation.

2-9-05 While pondering about the above words the Lord spoke in my heart, ‘Time has been put back, but everything is on schedule.’"

Perhaps the Pope has a little more time left. I have mixed feelings about John-Paul II. I grew up Catholic and I can still remember the Latin mass of my childhood. When John-Paul II became Pope in 1978, he was MY pope.

Of course I'm not a Catholic now. I became born again, left the church in 1981 during college and became a generic Bible Believin' Christian. I am not happy with the Pope's extravagant devotion to Mary. I remember reading in Newsweek about 12 years ago that he wanted to elevate Mary to Co-mediatrix, I think that means that we are saved by Christ and Mary, rather than Christ alone. Thank God he didn't do it. (I can imagine John-Paul II at the Gates of Heaven bowing down before Mary. She kicks him in the rear-end and says "Get up you Fool! I couldn't even save myself, let alone the rest of you Bozo's. And while we're at it, I never asked you to pray to me. You're a Christian, focus on CHRIST!")

Nevertheless, while I could never bow down and kiss his ring, I respect him as a man who followed his conscience. It is my judgment that he has served the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church long and well. He spoke much about peace and love and seemed to live up to his own message. I hope he will spend his remaining time on Earth: preparing the Church for his successor and preparing his soul for the journey beyond.

Monday, February 14, 2005




Two present-day Israeli paradigms regarding Israel's existence and future came sharply into focus last week, the first secular, and the second religious.

At the peace summit in Egypt (see '2' below), Ariel Sharon made the following statement, "Actions alone, and not words – this is the only way to attain the vision of two states living side by side in peace and tranquility [this last, taken from President Bush’s phrase]. I have already said that Israel has no desire to continue to govern over you [i.e. The Palestinian Arabs] and control your fate. WE IN ISRAEL HAVE HAD TO AWAKEN FROM OUR DREAMS, painfully . . ." [emphases ours].
Israeli papers were quick to interpret what was meant by 'dreams' ... "Sharon made clear that Israel has given up its dream of Greater Eretz Yisrael" (i.e. with Biblical borders). These words in effect reflect the viewpoint of vast numbers of "secular" Israelis, those who are agnostic, atheist, or non-observant of rabbinic Judaism. Although nothing new for more liberal "left wing" Israelis, to a genuine conservative such as Sharon, such a view may in truth be "painful".

He however, sees no other way. Given the dilemma of overseeing land, populated predominantly by a people of another race and ideology; faced by a modern world, much of which is hostile towards Israel’s existence in the first place, and none of which countenances ANY nation’s right to be "chosen" and under different rules than everyone else, he has come to believe that there is no alternative. The late PM Rabin ended his life saying that the Bible could not be considered as relevant in the establishment of Israel’s borders. The more conservative Sharon seems to have found himself drawn to voice, albeit reluctantly, similar conclusions.
As with the ancient Greeks, the spirit leading the thought and decisions of our secular leaders is one which exalts and deifies human reason, rather than the word of our Creator. To human reason, Israel’s Biblically chronicled history and "call" become as irrelevant as dreams in determining her present existence, governance and plans for the future.

Meanwhile, the recently "re-established Sanhedrin" convened for its monthly meeting in Tiberias this week to discuss the precise location of the Holy Temple on Mount Moriah. The original Sanhedrin was a council of 71 rabbis and sages, which served as the highest Jewish-legal tribunal in the Land of Israel from several decades B.C. until around 425 A.D. It is mentioned in Matthew 5:22; 26:59; John 11:47; and a number of places in Acts.
The Torah scholar Maimonides, in the 12th –century outlined the processes necessary for reestablishment of the Sanhedrin. Several centuries later, an attempt was made to do so in the city of Safed (T'sfat), but opposition between various factions led to its soon demise.
This most-recent attempt took place last October in Tiberias. Those appointed to its initial ranks cover a large spectrum of religious Judaism, "Hareidi, religious-Zionist, Sephardi, Ashkenazi, hassidi, and many others." Plans are that it be eventually relocated to Jerusalem. The organizers are quick to say that this is probably not the "ultimate" Sanhedrin, "but the goal is to have one rabbinic body in Jerusalem that will convene monthly and issue rulings on central issues. This is the need of the generation and of the hour."

It would be easy to write this off as merely another religious fringe group seeking notoriety. Yet Arutz-7, an Orthodox news service in Israel, is obviously taking it seriously. In a Jan 9th news story covering the Sanhedrin’s monthly meeting, it referred to the tribunal as "ideally, Judaism's top legal assembly." As mentioned above, the agenda included "expert testimony on the various opinions as to the exact part of the Temple Mount upon which the Holy Temple stood." Identification of the spot "has serious ramifications for those wishing to visit the Temple Mount. It is also critical for the renewal of the Passover sacrifice, and ultimately for the building of the third and final Holy Temple."
Opinions were presented by rabbis, professors and archaeologists and "a final presentation on the matter will be given to the Sanhedrin by a subcommittee now in formation...which is then to make a final decision." A spokesperson observed that it was appropriate to discuss the lofty matter of the Temple's location this week since the Torah and Haftarah portions for the week dealt with preparations for building the Tabernacle and the Temple (Exodus 25-27:19; I Kings 5:12-6:13).

Nor had PM Sharon’s remarks gone without notice in Tiberias: "…it was heartening to see that despite talk of withdrawal from parts of the Land of Israel, and despite Prime Minister Sharon’s declaration that Israel has 'given up its dreams,' the Sanhedrin continues to move toward strengthening the nation of Israel…As all these things happen all around us, the Sanhedrin is researching ways to renew the deepest roots of our faith – to renew Temple service, reunite Jewish legal tradition and inspire the Jewish people to aspire to greatness. Our people have one path before us, and we will continue to march toward our destiny."

While the thought in present-day "democratic" Israel of the emergence of a religious governing council in Jerusalem which would be "Judaism’s top legal assembly" seems at first remote, even far-fetched, it may be wise to bear in mind (even as the ultra-Orthodox population in the Capital continues to burgeon) that in Yeshua’s (Jesus’) prophecies regarding events in Israel preceding the final days before His return (see, for instance, Luke 21) there appears to be a governance of power in place which will include Religious Judaism (see, for instance, the mention and use of the synagogue in Luke 21).

While, as Believers, we will not be able to accept all of the conclusions drawn by our secular leaders, we must also be aware that the spirit behind the rise of a religious government in Israel is not a "Holy" one. The Holy Spirit of Truth was sent by the Father at the request of Yeshua to be a guide to those who loved and obeyed Him (John 14:15-17).
In rejecting God’s Son, Israel’s religious leaders consequently rejected the Holy Counselor; instead of receiving a Spirit of Truth, we have embraced spirits of deception. Ultra-Orthodoxy has thus not only replaced the Holy Word with the religious interpretations and traditions of man; it has also become laced with an occult mysticism in which ancient rabbis are often worshipped as re-incarnations of the holy Fathers.
Lastly, it should be mentioned that almost all of the mentions of the Sanhedrin in the New Testament refer to forums in which Jewish Believers in Yeshua were undergoing persecution at the hands of the religious Jews. The spirit behind any resurrected Sanhedrin will certainly be anti-Messiah (anti-Christ), and the rise in authority of such a structure will mean intense persecution against Jews who become believers.


*For Ariel Sharon that he will realize that the laws and prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures are not “dreams" but indeed divine "laws" of nature itself, which cannot be annulled. That he would seek in his Bible (upon which he allowed himself to be sworn into office at the Western Wall) the God who desires to mantle the leaders of Israel with wisdom and grace.

*That the anti-Messiah spirit which binds Orthodox Judaism would not be allowed to gain ascendancy in the governing of Israel before its time.

*That the growing body of Believers in Israel would not be influenced by the secular spirit of humanism, or by the religious spirits which teem over this land, but would be strengthened and trained in the power and wisdom of the HOLY Spirit so as to do exploits for the Most High in the years ahead – both in government, society and the military.

*For intercessors for Israel in the nations….that they will not become intoxicated with the romance of eschatological theories and pop books on "prophecy", eagerly (and foolishly) anticipating "signs" which will point towards a possible rise of anti-Christs and temples and armies coming against Israel, oblivious to the horrors such signs will truly portend. That they would rather in sobriety seek the wisdom and discernment of the Sons of Issachar, who knew the times and seasons, and how to pray into them with accuracy, power and compassion.


"SHARON, ABBAS: THIS TIME IT’S FOR REAL" read the headline for Feb. 9th in one Jerusalem paper, referring to yet another peace summit, this time between the Israeli Prime Minister and the newly elected Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The summit took place in Sharm e-Sheikh Egypt, was hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and attended by Jordan’s King Abdullah II. The result? Abbas says that Palestinians will halt all violence against Israelis; Sharon says that Israel will stop military activity against Palestinians, and will halt targeted killings against wanted Palestinians as long as the Palestinian Authority keeps them under control. In PA contolled areas, Israel will coordinate with PA security if they wish to arrest someone. As a good-will gesture Israel will release 500 Palestinian prisoners, with another 400 to be released later.

There will be joint Israeli/Palestinian committees to determine criteria for the release of Palestinian prisoners and to oversee a gradual withdrawal of Israel’s forces from Palestinian cities they are currently patrolling. The two leaders will visit each other at their private homes to discuss further issues. And, for the first time since the outbreak of the Intifada in late 2000, Egypt and Jordan will return ambassadors to Israel. Israel will also dismantle roadblocks within Judea and Samaria. A day before the summit, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited the two leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah (a picture released of her standing next to chairman Abbas had a picture of the late Yassir Arafat behind them on the wall). Rice, on her first visit to the Middle East, spoke of the painful decisions ahead for Israel, and of a large monetary grant which America will be releasing to the Palestinian Authority to help them get off the ground.

A difficulty with all this, of course, is how much of it Israel has seen before. Headlines around the world made it appear that two equally responsible combatants had mutually agreed to lay down arms. The reality is that Israel already has pulled out of the Palestinian towns time and time again, only to return when terrorists from those towns entered Israeli territory and murdered its civilians, without the Palestinian Authority having lifted a finger to stop them. Millions and millions have been poured into the PA, but have evaporated in the network of corruption, little if any ever reaching the citizens for whose welfare it was earmarked. Israel has time and again released prisoners, only to have many of them resurface in terrorist attacks.

And although Mahmoud Abbas has managed to get the militants to give tacit agreement to a temporary "quiet down", there is no sign at all that Hamas is remotely considering a permanent ceasefire. In fact, two days ago a barrage of over 25 mortars and rockets were fired at a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip within the space of a few hours. Chairman Abbas responded by firing a number of top security commanders in the Strip. But whether he truly desires to bring under control the huge violent factions of violence, spawned and nurtured for decades in hatred for Jews and Israel, and if so, whether he will command among his people the authority and power to do so are questions whose answers must soon surface. Today (Sunday) it was reported that the Iranian-backed Hizbullah, based in Lebanon and operating, it is thought, some 500 agents in the Palestinian Authority, may be considering assassinating Abbas because of his efforts to reach an agreement with Israel.


*That the God who "removes kings and establishes kings…who knows what is in the darkness and light dwells with Him" (Dan 2:21-22) will watch over Israel, bring to light any evil plots being devised during the current lull.

*That Israel will not make foolish "goodwill" gestures to impress the world, while not receiving verifiable reciprocal gestures from the Palestinian Authorities.

*That God's will be done on earth in Israel as it is in Heaven, and that Believers in and out of the Land will understand what that will is and release it in intercession.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

I have come to praise Al Qaeda, not bury them

Al Qaeda desires the "freedom of man", so do I. They desire everyone to use their freedom for

  • monotheism
  • morals
  • probity
  • asceticism
  • justice.
So do I except I'm not sure how ascetic we need to be. The world would be a much better place if we could live in this freedom that Al Qaeda offers. However, will the three foundations offered bring us freedom.

Foundation 1: Everyone following Sharia Law.

Foundation 2: The return of all Islamic lands.

Foundation 3: The restoration of the Caliphate to the Ummah.

Sharia Law is the opposite of freedom. It does not tolerate diversity of thought or action. All who do not follow Islam are to be enslaved (djimmi) or killed (infidels). As a Christian, I'm not looking forward to the freedom of slaverly. This is not conjecture, it has been the practice in Islamic countries for centuries.

Islam desires a lot of land, including much of Europe which it invaded, then lost. Islam is currently trying to take new land in Africa (Sudan) and Asia (Philippines, etc.). In fact, I know of no land or people in history who adopted Islam except by force. Islamic peoples in Canada and America are pressing for Sharia Law to be adopted there too. The result of history shows that Islam is a conquering faith, bent on militant, world domination.

The Caliph would have the authority, power, and responsibility to expand and enforce Islam and Sharia all over the world, as Islamic people live in every country. I'm afraid the noble goal of enforced freedom will create a totalitarian hell on earth.

Al Queda's 3 Foundations

The New Republic Online: On Message Here is a recent message by Al Qaeda, who's name means "The Foundation". Translation from Arabic by Joseph Braude. I have merely adjusted the formatting.

"Our freedom is a freedom of

  • monotheism
  • and morals
  • and probity
  • and asceticism
  • and justice.

The freedom that we are striving toward is on three foundations:
  • The first is the rule of the Shari'a. The Shari'a, revealed by Almighty God, is the path that is obligatory to be followed. ...
  • The second foundation, upon which reform must be established--and this is a corollary to the first foundation--is the freedom of the lands of Islam and their liberation from every robbing and looting aggressor. It is unimaginable that any reform may be realized for us while we are under the coercion of American and Jewish occupation.
  • As for the third foundation, which is also a corollary of the first foundation, it is the liberation of man. The Ummah [pan-Islamic nation] must snatch back its right to choose its ruler and call him to account and criticize him and depose him, and snatch back its right to enjoin good and end that which is abominable. ... The Ummah must undertake [to end] repression and brute force and theft and fraud and corruption and dynastic succession in rule, which our rulers are practicing with the blessings and support of the United States."
It is interesting to note the parallels of Al Qaeda (The Foundation) with Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy. And there is speculation that Bin Laden used the books for inspiration.
In the Foundation Trilogy, One man, Hari Seldon, recognized that the Galactic Empire was corrupt and soon to fall into a 30,000 year dark age. Just before the Fall, he set up a foundation to bring about a new empire in a mere 1000 years. He also set up a second foundation, a secret elite group which quietly manipulated events for the benfit of the first foundation (which remained unaware of its benefactor.)

I suggest that Bin Laden sees himself as a type of Hari Seldon. He sees the corruption of the Arabic peoples by the West. He greatly resents Islam's loss of glory and faded civilization. So he set up his own foundation to solve the problem. He is using his foundation to restore Islam to it's foundations.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

CDC: Avian Flu Information

Source: World Health Organization

What is avian flu?

Avian influenza is an infectious disease of birds caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. The disease, which was first identified in Italy more than 100 years ago, occurs worldwide.

Is avian flu contagious?
Yes. All birds are thought to be susceptible to infection with avian influenza, though some species are more resistant to infection than others. The first documented infection of humans with an avian influenza virus occurred in Hong Kong in 1997, when the H5N1 strain caused severe respiratory disease in 18 humans, of whom 6 died.

What are the symptoms of avian flu?
Published information on human infection is limited to studies of the 1997 Hong Kong outbreak. Symptoms included fever, sore throat, cough and, in several of the fatal cases, severe respiratory distress secondary to viral pneumonia.

How do you treat avian flu?
The quarantining of infected farms and destruction of infected or potentially exposed flocks are standard control measures aimed at preventing spread to other farms and eventual establishment of the virus in a country’s poultry population.

How can you protect yourself against avian flu?
Workers involved in the culling of poultry flocks must be protected, by proper clothing and equipment, against infection. These workers should also receive antiviral drugs as a prophylactic measure.

How effective is the vaccine?
Vaccination of persons at high risk of exposure to infected poultry, using existing vaccines effective against currently circulating human influenza strains, can reduce the likelihood of co-infection of humans with avian and influenza strains.

Prophetic Intercession for Asia

I'm very concerned about a possible Bird flu pandemic in Asia. Here is some info I've collected.

1. Source: the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders: C. Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce and others

A. We are in a season of shakings. Everything that can be shaken will be shaken. There will be continued physical disasters where the plates of the earth will shift. In the midst of the shakings, God will raise up regional apostles and prophets who will be able to decree and see the natural disasters stop or be lessened in their city or region.

B. One of the prophets from Asia had prophesied in October that a catastrophe was going to come to Asia that would result in an open door for harvest for the gospel. He also saw that a pandemic would hit where 300,000 could die if prayer and help was not sent.

2. Source: the Washington Post

…... international health experts warn that conditions are set for a bird flu pandemic that could kill millions worldwide if the virus developed into a form capable of spreading among humans.

In its current form, the disease kills about three-quarters of the people who catch it from birds. Since the beginning of last year, 45 people in the region have been infected. Twelve Vietnamese and one Cambodian have died this year.

As a result, the prevalence of the infection in birds makes a new, more deadly human outbreak likely. Public health experts say it is only a matter of time before the flu strain remakes itself, unleashing a disease that is both highly lethal and as easy to catch as an ordinary flu bug.

If this occurs, World Health Organization officials predict that, in the most optimistic scenario, 2 million to 7 million people would die worldwide and that the toll could potentially reach 100 million. Health experts say the virus has already exhibited traits similar to those that caused the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which is estimated to have killed about 40 million people.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Remarkable Person: John Wimber

I knew John Wimber only from his books, tapes and conferences, but I consider him a remarkable man. I was a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance and he was part of the "competition", the Vineyard. As a conservative, non-Charismatic Christian, I was quite skeptical of him. I gradually grew to admire his ministry, but I never joined it or anything similar. I was quite sad when he died as I grew to think of him as an uncle. I didn't hear of his death for six months, because in my Christian circles in Taiwan, no one spoke of him.

He used many gifts, leading a large denomination, helping thousands of people find Christ, developing a powerful music ministry, promoting revival and intimacy with God. Oh, there was something about signs, wonders, miracles and healing, too. Sure he had his flaws, he got depressed sometimes, some of his doctrines were off, he believed in some prophecies that didn't work out, at times he should have used more discernment and other times more mercy.

That is all unremarkable of highly gifted, high profile, fallible man. But what made him remarkable to me was his sense of "naive" honesty. He never forgot what it was like to be a pagan. He never forgot his experience as "new" creation. He wanted to know why we aren't "doing the stuff" the Bible talks about. And he wasn't satisfied with our answers, "Oh, we don't do that anymore". John Wimber is remarkable because he awakened the same question in me and gave me courage to seek a better answer. I still miss you, Uncle John.

New Apostolic Reformation's alignment with the Protestant Reformation

Sola Scripture:
The NAR is agrees that the Bible is the only authoritative word of God. It is inspired by God and incapable of error. Critics claim that the NAR's acceptance of modern apostles and prophets reduce the authority of the Bible. However, the NAR leaders clearly state that all men are fallible, including apostles. They do not seek to create Popes and Councils over the Bible. Every modern prophet in the NAR makes it clear that modern prophecy cannot add to, replace, or devalue the Bible.

Solus Christus:
The NAR is in complete agreement. There is no other name by which we are saved. No one can add or subtract to the saving work of Christ.

Sola Gratia:
The NAR affirms that salvation is by grace alone, it cannot be earned.

Sola Fide:
The NAR confirms that salvation is by faith in Christ. We can combine terms and say that Salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria:
The NAR believes that we should only glorify and worship God as only He is worthy in deed, character and nature. He is to be glorified for the creation, incarnation, atonement and resurrection.

These five Solas are the heart of the Reformation and the NAR is in complete agreement with them.

The Foundation of the Reformation

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Five Solas are a summation of the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation. They are:

Sola scriptura (Scripture Alone)
The Bible is the only authoritative Word of God, not traditions. This is in opposition to the teaching of the Catholic Church, that scripture is interpreted through Holy Tradition. It expresses a conviction that scripture is perspicuous and self-interpreting. Catholicism also maintains that other rules of faith than scripture exist, namely the infallible Councils and the Pope.
Solus Christus (Christ Alone)
The exclusivity of Christ; Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and there is no other name by which men can be saved. Neither Mary, the saints, false gods, nor the sinner himself can bring salvation.
Sola gratia (Grace Alone)
Salvation comes by grace only, not through any merit on the part of the sinner. Thus salvation is an unearned gift. This is a response to the Catholic doctrine of merit.
Sola fide (Faith Alone)
Salvation comes through faith only, not works. This is the means of grace; the doctrine is that salvation comes, as Ephesians 2:8-9 puts it, by grace through faith, and that faith is not of ourselves, but is itself the result of grace. This saving faith, however, will always be accompanied by good works (see James 2). Other explanation: Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone. Neither the church nor any other party is an actor therein.
Soli Deo gloria (Glory to God Only)
All the glory is God's, since He did all the work, not only the atonement on the Cross, but even granting the faith which allows men to be saved by that atonement. Each aspect of Salvation is a gift from God, and thus all praise is His, not man's. The reformers believed that human beings (such as the Catholic saints and popes) and their organizations (the Church) were not worthy of the glory that was bestowed on them.

In recent years, the Five Solas have been consciously imitated by Christian Fundamentalists in the "five fundamentals."

Friday, February 04, 2005

Sola Scriptura: The Sufficiency of Scripture

I have seen several critics of the New Apostolic Movement say that modern apostles and prophets reject the "sufficiency of scripture". I don't believe this to be the case.

This doctrine was originally called "Sola Scriptura" or "scripture alone". This means that the Holy Bible is the final authority for faith and practice. It was the Reformation response to the Catholic Church and the Anabaptists.

The Catholic Church taught that Pope was infallible or incapable of error even when he introduced teachings that were not in the Bible. In matters of faith: salvation and practice, the Catholic Church, with the Pope as its head, was the final authority.

The Anabaptists, on the other hand, rejected all authority between an individual and God. They emphasized direct revelations from God, which were of equal or greater authority to the Bible.

The Reformers, men like Martin Luther and John Calvin, desired to reform the church by submitting to the Bible as the final authority. When the Catholic Church rejected this reform, a Protestant movement was born.

Critics of the New Apostolic Movement (NAR) are concerned that modern apostles will become like popes, claiming final authority over Christians. They are also concerned that modern prophets will claim thier messages as equal to or greater than the Bible. This is indeed a great temptation.

That is why every book and teaching of the New Apostolic Reformation, that I have seen, avoids such claims of authority. The NAR is in agreement with the Reformers. Authors like John Wimber, Peter Wagner, Rick Joyner, Mike Bickle, Emanuele Cannistraci, and Jack Deere do not claim authority equal to or above the scriptures. We in the NAR fully agree that, "Scripture alone is the sole infallible rule for the church," as James White defined the sufficiency of scripture.

I challenge all critics to find a quote from a reputable NAR source claiming the scriptures are not our final authority.

Update: Here a definition from Wikipedia:
Sola scriptura (Latin by Scripture alone) is one of five important slogans of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. It meant that Scripture is the Church's only infallible rule for deciding issues of faith and practices that involve doctrines. The intention of the Reformation was to correct the Catholic Church by appeal to the uniqueness of the Bible's authority, and to reject Christian tradition as a source of original authority alongside the Bible or in addition to the Bible.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

My Response to "The Theology of Torture", Sojourners Magazine/August 2004

The Theology of Torture, Sojourners Magazine/August 2004: Jim Wallis has a challenging article. His main point is that torture is just the natural consequence of empire. Empire, or as I call it, Dominion is wrong because fallible man cannot be trusted with such power. I feel it is important to respect those I disagree with, so let me first look for mutual agreement.

"Christian theology is uneasy with empire ..."
  • I agree; some, but not all.
  • If one looks, one can find a great deal of "dominion theology".
  • Note, I am not endorsing such theology, merely acknowleging it.

"The Christian view of human nature and sin suggests that we are fallible creatures..."
  • That is an understatement.
  • We are certainly fallible creatures, and all our institutions and theologies are fallible.
  • Only God is good, perfect and holy.

"Christianity implicitly teaches that empire is not the best strategy to fight terrorism ..."
  • The best strategy is prayer, obedience and humble sacrifice.
  • The second best is prayer, obedience and war.
  • We failed to use the first method, now we are called by God to use the second.

"TRUTH-TELLING is also central to Christian theology, which teaches that falsehood has consequences."
  • Bush and all his people are without falsehood.
  • They believed and acted on fallible reports on WMD.
  • Nearly every country and advocate in the world believed the same.
  • Many suggested that Saddam would use such weapons in war or give them to terrorists.
  • On the otherhand, Bush's critics have repeatedly used falsehoods trying to demoralize our weaker leaders and citizens. I can provide many, many examples if requested.

"Darby is a moral hero who should be held up to our children as a role model for what to do when their peers are bowing to pressure to do the wrong thing".
  • While I support the war, I neither support nor condemn the interrogation techniques used in the prisons.
  • But I do applaud Darby (and Wallis) for raising these unpopular issues.
  • I wish we would become a nation of such champions rather than the ankle-biters I see in the news.
This is a valid as a warning, but it cannot be used as an excuse for inaction. The US does not seek permanent, or destructive dominion. As we proved through the last 100 years, we seek absolute surrender and temporary dominion. We desire to rule long enough to "reboot a failed system"; when it is sufficiently moral and stable, we gladly get out of the way. America has proved it's intentions in the Civil War, in Japan, Germany, Italy, the Philippines, Kuwait, Korea, etc.

In every case our temporary dominion over our enemies has replaced an evil, corrupt, coercive dominion with a self ruled system less evil, corrupt and coercive. Each of these enemies have been our Allies since. Throughout history there has never been a dominion as reluctant and benevolent as America. We are not perfect and have much to repent of, yet our dominion has proven to be the greatest blessing an enemy has every received.

ps. I not really that pro American, I have lived in Taiwan that last 12 years for Christ's sake. These are just the objective facts of history.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Christ the Eternal Torturer

While discussing the issue of torture at Abu Gherib and Gitmo, I have stated that Christ will torment his enemies forever. Bev, in my comments section referred to this position as "Christ the Eternal Torturer". I think that is a perfect name for our fear-inspiring Lord. I could further add that just as He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, he is equally Torturer of Torturers.

Here is the evidence for "Christ the Eternal Torturer"

1. Demons know there is a future time where Christ will torture them.

"What do you want with us, Son of God?" they shouted. "Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?" Matthew 8:29; also Luke 8:28, Mark 5:7
2. Jesus teaches about the torture (agony, fire, separation) of Hell.
22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, `Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' LK 16:22-24
3. Jesus the king, will send people to eternal torture
"Then he will say to those on his left, `Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. MT 25:41

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."MT 25:46

4. The devil, the beast and the false prophet will be tortured forever.
And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Rev 20:10
5. All who are not written in the Book of life will be tortured forever.
If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Rev 20:15

9 A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: "If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, 10 he, too, will drink of the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name." Rev 14:9-11

All this leads to the inescapable conclusion that Christ is the Eternal Torturer. This is the dark side of the gospel. When we embrace Christ as both Redeemer Torturer, the will be a new fear of the Lord sweep out from the churches and into the world.