Saturday, December 18, 2010

Back to Jerusalem

I have recently started to read a book called “Back to Jerusalem.” Most people may have heard about the book, or at least something about the “Back to Jerusalem” mission that many Chinese believers have committed their lives too. If you have not heard about it, I will give a quick summary on it.

In a nut shell, the Chinese Christians believe that they have an access to the East and Middle East that the West does not have. There is not as much tension and hatred towards the Chinese, so they are tolerated much more than if someone from the West would go in with the Word. By not having that tension they are able to open up and communicate with people that may have never been reached by others from the West. Also, Between the Chinese and Jerusalem is three major global religions that they will come across and be able to evangelize. They are Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. I encourage you to read more about this movement.

The first chapter talks about the growth of Christianity in China, especially focusing on the last 200 years. While I was reading I came across an interesting quote from a Chinese onlooker listening to a sermon by a Chinese Christian. Before you read it, I want to say something about why this quote was mentioned. This section was talking about what little success the foreigners were having spreading, what was considered, a “foreign religion” to the Chinese. However, the foreigners coming in started to realize that growth started to happen when they started to equip and enable the native Chinese Christians and then got out of their way and let them do the work. What happened is growth started to happen at a faster rate.

After all this was said it brought me up to this quote by the onlooker:

Once a forest was told that a load of axe-heads had come to cut it down. “It doesn’t matter in the least,” said the forest, “they will never succeed by themselves.” When, however, it heard that some of its own branches had become handles to the axe-heads, it said, “Now we have no chance.”

So as long as we only had foreigners to deal with, we were safe, but now that everywhere our own countrymen are enlisted on that side, certainly Christianity will flourish and conquer us.


I thought this was an excellent quote, and it teaches a great lesson. I hope this encourages anyone who reads this to carefully consider the words of an “onlooker.” It is important to ask the question, “Am I doing what I want to or what He wants me to do?”, or even, “Am I doing what my cultures says to do or His Word says to do?” One of the most amazing things about God’s creation is that He made us all different. Not only did He create us different but He established different cultures for us to live in and to experience, sometimes even within our own culture. What is even greater is that He gave us a Gospel that can be learned, obeyed, taught and applied in any culture, at any period of time. It is our job to make sure that we trust His plan and learn that “our way” may not always be the best.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My happy and safe third place

For all those who have ever been to Xiasha (the area of Hangzhou I live in) you will know that there is not much of anything out here to do. About the only Western type food you can get is KFC. And if you are like most people KFC is probably the last place you would request as your only foreign place for food.

Well, about little over a month ago a rumor of a Pizza Hut started to travel around Xiasha. We have all heard that a Pizza Hut was coming this year at a mall they are building close to my campus, but this rumor was about another mall that is a little outside of Xiasha and that a Pizza Hut was already there. So, me and a few others journeyed out on our ebikes trying to discover this hidden mall in the middle of nowhere with a Pizza Hut waiting for us.

Sure enough, out in the middle of nowhere there was a mall. Not any mall, this mall can rival most nice malls found in America. Not that China cannot design good looking places but this mall was out in the middle of nowhere. It made no sense! I could not comprehend what I was seeing. Just think about going out into the country and suddenly coming across a mall that would normally go in the nice part of most cities. I was excited to have the Pizza Hut but I found something else even better “A Starbucks.”

This Starbucks has since become my oasis of safety from the culture of China. I go there to relax, study my Chinese, prepare for class, and to mediate on the Word. However, I did not think this place to be a place of outreach. I came here for me time. What I have discovered is that some of my best talks and opportunities are starting to happen here. I do have my days of not talking to anyone but from time to time I have very nice conversations with people I would have normally not talk to in other settings. I also find myself not irritated with the talks. I think it might have something to do with the relax atmosphere and that I am in a good place mentally. My friend Stan made a comment that made sense. Most people that come to a Starbuck’s tend to speak English much better and most have a better understanding of Western culture. This has helped me to quickly get into deeper and more enjoyable conversations then you might have with someone on the street.

I have decided to make this Starbucks my “third place.” This idea of a “third place” was discovered in a book I am reading called, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture by Michael Frost. A “third place” is a place that is neutral to both me and the person I am talking too. A place that has a relaxed atmosphere and people go to get away from work and normal life. In these places most barriers that people put up are temporarily taken down. The exchanging of ideas, even those foreign to you, seem to be tolerated more then in other settings. At times the ideas are entertained or seriously considered. This could lead to more conversations later, or you could at least leave that person thinking about something they normally might have never thought about. I encourage everyone looking for ways to do outreach to discover a “third place.”

I really enjoy my down time, but I have come across an excellent outreach that I cannot ignore. Please remember this opportunity and myself in your daily conversations to Father.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Limbo

I have always wondered what the apostles were thinking after the death of Jesus. The waiting, the questioning if he would return, the anxiety of dying next, or maybe trying to decide their next move. I can only imagine that it was an uncomfortable feeling all around.
I have recently found myself feeling the same way about life. This year in China is not going like I thought it would. I feel really disconnected from my new students because of their lack of English (probably the worst ever), for some reason I am missing home more then at any point before, and trails continue to hit me and those around me. I feel like I am in limbo between the past and what is to come. Don't get me wrong, I feel great about life. I have been exercising, I am pretty content with most things, and I have been learning more Chinese then ever before. However my Direction is off. I am not sure what all it takes to get back on track but I pray that it happens soon. I write this with the hopes of connecting with many other people who have felt the same way or feel this way now. I trust the limbo feeling will pass in time but until then I ask that you all remember me.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Something to pray about.

This past Sunday a few of us took a look and discussed Luke 10: 1-2. I have studied this passage many times in the past. I was going in with the idea of focusing on the harvest and the being "sent" part. In these two verses Jesus tells all the people he is sending out to “PRAY earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” I have read over this part many times before, but for some reason this time something hit me.
1)I do not pray enough.
2)Jesus just GAVE me something to pray about.
At that moment an idea hit me. I am going to read through the 4 gospels and look for every mention of Jesus giving us something to pray about. I will just read a few chapters a night, so not to get overwhelmed, and write down any mention of Jesus talking about how or what we should pray about. After reading and writing down what I come across, I am then going to pray about those things.
For example, Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:44 to “pray for those who persecute you.” So, when I pray I am going to focus on people or groups that I feel persecuted by. I will write them down and pray for them individually.
In addition, I will take the passages I come across and use it as a kind of measuring stick to see how I am helping the Kingdom.
For example, going back to Luke 10:2 that I mentioned earlier. Jesus mentions how we need more laborers for the harvest, and it is so vital that we need to pray to God for it. I need to ask myself “how am I helping with the harvest?” If it is needed enough for Jesus to mention that we need to pray for it, then it is something that must be important to Jesus. We need more laborers.
With all of that being said, I understand not all passages will be able to be treated this way and that some may focus on how we pray or what to pray about (Lord's prayer in Matthew 6 is a great example of what I am talking about.)
I challenge whoever reads this to do the same. It has given me many things to pray and mediate on, and I find my prayers to be more focused.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tidal Bore of Qiantang River

Each month during the full moon, and the few days around the full moon, you can see a wave coming up the Qiantang River. This week we had a holiday called the "Mid-Autumn Festival." For some reason this month the wave becomes a big deal to China. Many people come from all over China to see this phenomenon. What happens is when the high tide comes into the Hangzhou Bay it meets with the Qiantang River, which is flowing into the Hangzhou Bay. When the wave meets the water flowing towards it it causes a tidal bore. The river feeds the wave up the river and it can go for many miles. After the wave passes by you the river changes directions just for a short time.
Here is a video showing you the event.
video
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to you all!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My well known fear.

Anyone who really knows me knows that I have a huge fear of flying. I have been around the world several times in my life and feel that I fly more then most people. And even after all of that I still get real nervous the days leading up to a flight. When I am on a plane I am really tense and aware of what is going on at all times. The littlest bit of turbulence has me going for the seat handles right away. I even find myself getting irritated at the pilot for not doing a better job avoiding the turbulence. Not that he has much he can do about it. And every time I land, I make a promise with myself that I will never fly again and will just have to take a boat back. I think you get the picture.
With that being said, I would not be here in China today if it were not for me dealing with my fears and powering through. We all have fears in life. Some are worse then others. Sometimes our fear is not really understanding something enough to realize it is not that bad or hard to do. If I let my fear over come me I would never get on a plane and would only live life in the South. Because from there I can drive to beaches, mountains, and all the best theme parks within a few hours. All my family is close and I would feel safe.
Today many people have a fear of talking about our Father. The fear of rejection, mockery, or the unknown are usually common reasons. We get comfortable going to our building and meeting with the Family, but the idea of going out and doing something is not for me, "We have specialist that do that." We are all challenged by the Son to go out and talk about Father. Yes, some of us may be better then others at it but who's to say you are not better at it then you think you are. No one is great at something the first time. It takes time to learn and grow. In the end, overcoming your own fear could be the only real challenge.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Seeing the other side of a coin

First i would like to say that I am sorry that I have not written in the last few weeks. I had a friend come and visit recently and I was very busy getting ready for him. I loved ever bit of it!
Recently one of my oldest and best friends in the world, Lane, came to visit me here in China.






I had been excited for the longest time about him coming and getting to see firsthand how I live life here. It also gave him a chance to see the work I am doing and to even give me some good advice as an outsider. The encouragement he gave me and all of us here was amazing. He also will be posting a blog soon about his trip here and I encourage you to read it. It will be a good chance to see how he seen China through his eyes. His blog page is http://www.ministerlane.wordpress.com/.

Since this blog is about my thoughts on life I would like to talk about something I learned when he was here visiting.

In the past I have taken many campaigns around the world. Everywhere I have been the people were always so amazing. They would do anything for you. I had always been thankful for those people and what they did for me but I never really understood how much they gave up to make my visit a great one. Now don't read into this the wrong way and think that Lane was a burden to me. He was the perfect guest and was no headache at all. I would gladly have him come back to visit me a 1,000 more times. However I have learned that a great deal of responsibility is in your hands when someone comes to visit. A great deal of time was put into getting things ready before he even got here. I had to redo my class schedules, I had to book tickets, and get hostels ready. I had to plan out what we will do each day and make sure the time he had here was the best I can give someone who came around the world to encourage and see me. I wanted him to feel at home as much as possible.

With all that going on I still had to care for my daily responsibilities here. That is one thing I never really thought about when people hosted me on a trip. During the day while I was out doing Good things they were at work and living their life. Then they would come home and do whatever they could in the afternoon to make me comfortable. I just never realized the effort, energy, and love they showed to make me feel that way.

After I gave Lane a hug goodbye at the airport and he walked away to get on his plane home I turned and looked at my friend Thomas and jokingly said, "I don't want another person to come visit me ever!" Again, I don't really mean that but I have learned that seeing the coin on the other side is very different. It was something I was not expecting or even thought about. I now have even more respect for the people who take the time to host me when I am visiting or on a campaign. I don't write this because I want Lane to realize how much I did for him but to help whoever reads this to really think about what the people that host you do to make you feel welcomed.

I also learned that in return you are greatly encouraged more then the person that is coming to visit you will ever know. Besides him coming all this way I was able to see the love that Lane has for me everyday when he talked to his wife and 2 year old girl on my computer. Each time they talked I was reminded what he gave up to come see me.

Though I lost hours of sleep and went nonstop I will never lose the experiences that we had together, the stories that we will have, and the great talks about life we had each day. I also now have someone back home who understands what I am going through and what I am talking about. To have a close friend understand what you are going through is awesome and even after one week I can talk to him about stuff that he did not really understand before.

Monday, April 12, 2010

DNA

I heard a while back that when you first start to teach someone about something new is the best time to start good habits. One of the best examples is a parent teaching a child. The parent starts from a young age teaching the child right from wrong. I realized the other day that I like fish but hate to eat it. I have always known that but I never really thought why. Then I realized it is the bones in the fish that I do not like, and the reason why was my mom. When I was young she always told me that you have to be careful of bones in fish. If I swallowed a bone it would get stuck in my throat and I would, in my mom's words, "die." I know now that she was being a little extreme but she was just trying to teach me a lesson when I was young so that I would not eat bones from a fish. Some might say that lesson becomes part of our DNA. A part of who we are.
One thing I really wished I was taught early on was just how IMPORTANT reaching out to others with the Word is. Sure I have heard many lessons on Sunday and even talked about it in classes. However I became like the majority and just listened and went on. It was not that I ever thought about reaching out to people but it came across to me as something a old wise Brother or Sister would do. Or maybe those our Family supported doing the work in other countries. It just never occurred to me just how important it was for me to do it. It became my DNA not to do it, knowing I should be doing it. Now that I truly understand how important it is I am having to learn how to reach people. Changing your DNA,like any habit, is a very hard thing to do!
One thing I have learned when starting to teach new people is that you should start challenging them from the beginning to go out and tell others what they have learned in a study. Make it part of their DNA. It is something they will be able to do since you just worked with them and helped them to understand what a passage says. Plus teaching is a great way to really learn something. It is one thing to hear it but you learn it even better when you can teach it.
I, along with another friend, have been working with someone. We have only met about three times but they have been very rewarding for us. One thing I always do at the end of the lesson is ask who this person can talk to about what we have learned this week. Nothing more, nothing less. I just ask him to read it to some people and ask what they think about it. I am teaching this to him early so that it becomes part of his DNA.
There is nothing more rewarding then two weeks ago when he came in and said that he talked to his roommates about what we studied. Most of them did not seem very interested but he said one roommate asked a few questions. I was filled with mixed emotions. I was excited that he actually did it. Then something came to me. He went out with the little bit that he knows and tried to teach someone. I thought about all the years I have been a Follower and have not done what this guy has done in just a few weeks. He is already out teaching others! I know that he is still learning but his DNA is being made. As he learns more from the Word he will see why each week he is doing what he is doing. It will not be a weird thing for him because it will already be something he has been doing and is use to.
My challenge to all who read this is to really examine your DNA, and when you have opportunities with new people, your children, or even old Followers that you challenge them to make outreach part of their DNA.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Just Reach Out and Touch Someone

About a month ago I heard an idea about how it takes 40 touches to reach someone. It was not saying after 40 actual touches someone will suddenly decide to follow Him. In fact the number 40 is not even that important of a number, but an idea. The idea is that almost no one is suddenly impacted and changed during a first encounter to completely change who they are. However if a person is continually impacted by something a change may start to occur within the person. The touches do not even have to be from the same person. It may be 3 touches by me, 4 from a friend, and 5 from someone I do not even know. Over time the person becomes influenced.

One thing I always have a problem with is trying to go for the big score every play. When opportunities happen I try to take the ball and run the whole length of the field, or try to go for the homerun swing. This will usually not happen. Instead I find my self upset and frustrated that I missed the ball and maybe even want to give up and quit. Lately I have taken on a more conservative offense. Instead of going for the score every time, I am learning to work the ball down the field. This takes much longer but I find myself not as upset because I can see the ball going down the field.

I have come to realize that I am playing the game on His field, by His rules, and on His time. I can try to do whatever I want, but in the end, it is His game. I am learning to trust more that I am playing on His team and not my own. When playing by His rules I am happy with giving someone just a little touch when I can. I do not get upset because I do not score every time. Not being upset keeps me from wanting to give up all together. My hope is that over time someone will be influenced by my actions and words enough to want to change. I just have to make sure I am making the effort to touch that person.