Monthly Archives: April 2014

April 2014 Update

We hope God’s perfect love and amazing grace filled you with joy as you celebrated the miracle of Easter! “He is Risen!” Our son and daughter-in-law and 2 of our grandchildren spent Easter with Sherri. What a beautiful warm and sunny day it was, too. In the evening Rolf joined us via Skype for some nice family catch up time. Today’s technology is wonderful! It does help – at least a little – to close the gap of being many miles and 13 hours apart.

Rolf spent Easter day with a couple he met through one of his students. After church they spent the rest of the day sightseeing that included hiking in the hills and a barbeque on the beach. It was a wonderful time to get to know them better and a very enjoyable day. Rolf has been sharing with them and God is moving in their hearts but they are not yet believers. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12. PRAY they will “receive and believe in his name”.

The big celebration for Easter actually occurred the week before when one of Rolf’ students from his “Faith or Fiction” class invited everyone over for a dumpling making party to celebrate the Risen King! Four of the other students were able to come and they brought spouses, children and grandparents – about 25 in all. They all enjoyed good fellowship and good food. After the meal Rolf was able to show the Chinese version of the DVD “Jesus Film”.

It was an amazing time to watch the faces of the adults and kids during the crucifixion of Jesus. After it was over two of the parents were deeply engaged in discussion with the host about the film. When Rolf asked her later what this was all about she told him they wanted to know more about this man Jesus and why he had to die on the cross. It was a wonderful door opening for the host to explain the Easter story in more detail and share her own testimony with them of how she became a Christian.

It is time for Rolf to leave the mainland of China…BUT only to get his visa stamped. His visa requires that he leave every 90 days, get his visa stamped and then he can re-enter for another 90 days. The timing coincides with China’s 3 day Labor Day holiday, May1-3. So he is taking advantage of that and flying to Guangzhou and then taking a bus to Hong Kong for some relaxation and sightseeing.

If you haven’t had the chance or recently haven’t visited our web blog at “China – in His image” take a look as Rolf has posted three new powerful entries. One is a testimonial of a Chinese blogger, “Why I am a Christian” and one titled “Mao or Jesus?” and another on “Chinese Churches”. Bold stories reaffirm that Christianity is growing in leaps and bounds all over China.

And to that we say “Praise God!”

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China Churches

China Churches 05China on course to become “world’s most Christian nation” within 15 years
By: Tom Phillips, Liushi, Zhejiang Province

The number of Christians in Communist China is “growing so steadily” that it by 2030 it could have more “churchgoers” than America.

It is said to be China’s biggest church and on Easter Sunday thousands of worshipers will flock to this Asian mega-temple to pledge their allegiance – “not to the Communist Party, but to the Cross.”

The 5,000-capacity Liushi church, which boasts more than twice as many seats as Westminster Abbey and a “206ft (36 meter) crucifix” that can be seen for miles around, opened last year with one theologian declaring it a “miracle that such a small town was able to build such a grand church”.

The £8 million building is also one of the most “visible” symbols of Communist China’s breakneck “conversion” as it evolves into one of the largest Christian congregations on earth.

“It is a wonderful thing to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It gives us great confidence,” beamed Jin Hongxin, a 40-year-old visitor who was admiring the golden cross above Liushi’s altar in the lead up to Holy Week.

“If everyone in China believed in Jesus then we would have no more need for police stations. There would be no more bad people and therefore no more crime,” she added.

Officially, the People’s Republic of China is an “atheist” country but that is changing fast as many of its 1.3 billion citizens seek “meaning and spiritual” comfort that neither “communism nor capitalism” seem to have supplied.

Christian “congregations” in particular have skyrocketed since churches began reopening when Chairman Mao’s death in 1976 signaled the end of the Cultural Revolution.

Less than four decades later, some believe China is now poised to become not just the world’s number one economy but also its most numerous Christian nation.

“By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon,” said Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University and author of “Religion in China: Survival and Revival under Communist Rule.”

“It is going to be less than a generation. Not many people are prepared for this dramatic change.”

China’s Protestant community, which had just one million members in 1949, has already overtaken those of countries more commonly associated with an evangelical boom. In 2010 there were more than 58 million Protestants in China compared to 40 million in Brazil and 36 million in South Africa, according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Prof Yang, a leading expert on religion in China, believes that number will swell to around 160 million by 2025. That would likely put China ahead even of the United States, which had around 159 million Protestants in 2010 but whose congregations are in decline.

By 2030, China’s total Christian population, including Catholics, would exceed 247 million, placing it above Mexico, Brazil and the United States as the largest Christian congregation in the world, he predicted.

“Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this,” Prof Yang said. “It’s ironic – they didn’t. They actually failed completely.”

China Churches 03

Liushi Church, Liushi, Zhejiang Province, China

Like many Chinese churches, the church in the town of Liushi, 200 miles south of Shanghai in Zhejiang province, has had a turbulent history.

It was founded in 1886 after William Edward Soothill, a Yorkshire-born missionary and future Oxford University professor, began evangelizing local communities.

But by the late 1950s, as the region was engulfed by Mao’s violent anti-Christian campaigns, it was forced to close.

Liushi remained shut throughout the decade of the Cultural Revolution that began in 1966, as places of worship were destroyed across the country.

Since it reopened in 1978 its congregation has gone from strength to strength as part of China’s officially sanctioned Christian church – along with thousands of others that have accepted Communist Party oversight in return for being allowed to worship.

Today it has 2,600 regular churchgoers and holds up to 70 baptisms each year, according to Shi Xiaoli, its 27-year-old preacher.

The parish’s revival reached a crescendo last year with the opening of its new 1,500ft mega-church, reputedly the biggest in mainland China.

“Our old church was small and hard to find,” said Ms Shi. “There wasn’t room in the old building for all the followers, especially at Christmas and at Easter. The new one is big and eye-catching.”

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The Liushi church is not alone. From Yunnan province in China’s balmy southwest to Liaoning in its industrial northeast, congregations are booming and more Chinese are thought to attend Sunday services each week than do Christians across the whole of Europe.

A recent study found that online searches for the words “Christian Congregation” and “Jesus” far outnumbered those for “The Communist Party” and “Xi Jinping”, China’s president.

Among China’s Protestants are also many millions who worship at illegal underground “house churches”, which hold unsupervised services – often in people’s homes – in an attempt to evade the prying eyes of the Communist Party.

Such churches are mostly behind China’s embryonic missionary movement – a reversal of roles after the country was for centuries the target of foreign missionaries. Now it is starting to send its own missionaries abroad, notably into North Korea, in search of souls.

“We want to help and it is easier for us than for British, South Korean or American missionaries,” said one underground church leader in north China who asked not to be named.

The new spread of Christianity has the Communist Party scratching its head.

“The child suddenly grew up and the parents don’t know how to deal with the adult,” the preacher, who is from China’s illegal house-church movement, said.

Some officials argue that religious groups can provide social services the government cannot, while simultaneously helping reverse a growing moral crisis in a land where cash, not Communism, has now become king.

They appear to agree with David Cameron, the British prime minister, who said last week that Christianity could help boost Britain’s “spiritual, physical and moral” state.

China Churches 04

Ms Shi, Liushi’s preacher, who is careful to describe her church as “patriotic”, said: “We have two motivations: one is our gospel mission and the other is serving society. Christianity can also play a role in maintaining peace and stability in society. Without God, people can do as they please.”

Yet others within China’s leadership worry about how the religious landscape might shape its political future, and its possible impact on the Communist Party’s grip on power, despite the clause in the country’s 1982 constitution that guarantees citizens the right to engage in “normal religious activities”.

As a result, a close watch is still kept on churchgoers, and preachers are routinely monitored to ensure their sermons do not diverge from what the Party considers acceptable.

In Liushi church a closed circuit television camera hangs from the ceiling, directly in front of the lectern.

“They want the pastor to preach in a Communist way. They want to train people to practice in a Communist way,” said the house-church preacher, who said state churches often shunned potentially subversive sections of the Bible. The Old Testament book in which the exiled Daniel refuses to obey orders to worship the king rather than his own god is seen as “very dangerous”, the preacher added.

Such fears may not be entirely unwarranted. Christians’ growing power was on show earlier this month when thousands flocked to defend a church in Wenzhou, a city known as the “Jerusalem of the East”, after government threats to demolish it. Faced with the congregation’s very public show of resistance, officials appear to have backed away from their plans, negotiating a compromise with church leaders.

“They do not trust the church, but they have to tolerate or accept it because the growth is there,” said the church leader. “The number of Christians is growing – they cannot fight it. They do not want the 70 million Christians to be their enemy.”

The underground leader church leader said many government officials viewed religion as “a sickness” that needed curing, and Prof Yang agreed there was a potential threat.

The Communist Party was “still not sure if Christianity would become an opposition political force” and feared it could be used by “Western forces to overthrow the Communist political system”, he said.

Churches were likely to face an increasingly “intense” struggle over coming decade as the Communist Party sought to stifle Christianity’s rise, he predicted.

“There are people in the government who are trying to control the church. I think they are making the last attempt to do that.”

China Churches 01

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Jesus or Mao?

Jesus or Mao

Jesus Christ is more popular on “Weibo,” the Chinese version of “Twitter,” than Chairman Mao.

A survey of the Asian country’s social media platform by Tea Leaf Nation has found that Chinese censors are allowing more Christian terminology to be talked about on Weibo’s equivalent of tweets.

It’s easier to talk about Jesus than Chinese President and Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping on Weibo, China’s massive Twitter-like social media platform.

The atheist Chinese Communist Party, known for its sometimes heavy-handed policies towards religions, from Islam to Christianity to Tibetan Buddhism, seems far more willing to allow Christian terminology to appear on Weibo than Communist argot, according to data taken from search results on the platform conducted April 3.

Jesus or Mao 03

For example, a search for the word “Bible” yielded over 17 million recent results, while the iconic Quotations of Chairman Mao, a widely distributed collection of writings by the former leader of the Chinese Communist Party known in the West as the “Little Red Book,” received fewer than 60,000 mentions. “Christian congregation” was mentioned over 41.8 million times, whereas “the Communist Party” clocked in at just 5.3 million mentions.

The small army of Chinese government censors, whose ranks are estimated to number 100,000, likely plays a role in this surprising disparity. Posts containing content deemed “politically sensitive” are often deleted, as are many posts containing the names of China’s top leaders, perhaps as a measure to deflect controversy and criticism.

Chinese state-run media run top headlines featuring the Chinese president on an almost daily basis, yet “Xi Jinping” only received around 4 million Weibo mentions — compare this to “Jesus,” certainly no regular newspaper headliner in China, which yielded over 18 million mentions.

That’s not to say that Christian content is free of censorship. A search for the term “underground church,” referring to Christian congregations in China that refuse to register as one of the state-sanctioned churches, produces a blank search page with a notice reading, “results cannot be displayed due to relevant laws and regulations.”

Jesus or Mao 02

Lack of interest in Communist ideology, and rising interest in Christianity, may also help explain the relative frequency of Christian-related Weibo content. Christianity has grown rapidly in China for more than two decades, and while official government estimates put the total number of Chinese Christians at 25 million, many outside observers agree that the real number may be closer to 60 million.

While not an exact science — Weibo search result tallies are subject to the daily exigencies of both user trends and the actions of censors — the comparative search data shown below demonstrates that Christian-related content is either more popular or more permissible on Weibo than Communist-related content.

Chatter about religion may make the Chinese government queasy, and occasionally terrified, but it’s politics that keeps its leaders (and censors) awake at night.

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Why I am a Christian

Why I Am A Christian 02The Gospel Times recently re-posted a piece from a blogger, titled “Why I Am a Christian.”

In it the Chinese blogger gives ten reasons for being a Christian.

The structure is one commonly used in Chinese writing — “asking a question multiple times, then answering it multiple times.”

Like most Chinese people, I was born into a family with no Christian background. Up until now, we still live in a society that is quite unfriendly to Christianity. Our culture also has absolutely no connection with the Christian religion. However, like millions of Chinese young people of my generation, I have become a devout Christian. Why am I a Christian? I’d like to share a simple explanation, including my personal experiences and some objective facts of Christianity.

1. Christ chose me
Why am I a Christian? When we say we are Christians, this doesn’t mean we’ve entered some type of religious group, take part in some religious activities, or have been enlightened. Actually, I believe that Christ is my personal savior, and I’ve experienced His salvation, been born again, and have a relationship with Him. I may be imperfect in my personality and my actions, but I’m working hard to live according to God’s requirements, to become a person after His own heart.

Why am I a Christian? First, I believe that this was God’s choice. The Bible says that before the creation of the world, He had already chosen me. The Bible says it is not we who chose God, but God who chose us. His call and His election cannot be cast off (see Job 15:16-19, 2 Thes. 2:13). I didn’t know God before, and probably would not have proactively taken interest in a foreign religion. But looking back, in the process of becoming a believer, not one experience happened by accident. It was all according to God’s own perfect plan and will.

2. I want to believe in truth
Why am I a Christian? I believe this is not only because God proactively chose me, it was also my rational and conscious response. My rational side cannot deny the fact that He created the human race and redeemed us, a fact that has been confirmed not only by the highest level scientists and our spiritual forefathers. Besides, my conscience – my God-given ability to discern truth – makes it impossible for me to refuse the One who created me, the Savior who died for me. I am unable to refuse the truth I already know.

Why am I a Christian? Why would I trust in Jesus? Because He is the Truth. This is not just because Jesus said He is the Truth. The founders of Buddhism and many other religions have never claimed to be the Truth. It’s also that I have personally experienced God’s own absolute truth and unchanging love. I believe it is this type of actual experience that provides the deepest basis for faith.

3. I want to believe in a God who loves me
Why am I a Christian? If I had to choose a religion, I would definitely choose a God who is loving and personal, and one who feels. I wouldn’t choose to believe in someone who was fickle, lustful and tyrannical, who didn’t care whether people lived or died. That would be like the Greek Zeus, or the powerless polytheistic religions with all their capricious gods. Furthermore, this God loves me. Only through His love and my faith can I have a relationship with Him.

The Bible says God is love; in Him there is no darkness at all. God is the Father God who not only exists, but also has a relationship with us, and we can experience his loving kindness and guidance. We not only need God, but God also wants to be needed. I believe a man created in the image and form of his Creator will experience that Creator’s character in his spirit. Therefore, I can know Him through my conscience, reason, and experience, but especially through His own revelation.

4. I want to believe in a God who is holy and just
Why am I a Christian? If I believe in a God, I can’t believe one who is self-centered, who fulfills his own selfish desires, and who makes unpredictable changes in his requirements. I must believe in a God who is holy and just, carries out justice, has compassion on all, judges evil, and bestows blessing and benevolence. Only if God is just can he have principles. Only if a man has principles to obey can he have direction; only if a man has direction can he depend on truth.

The Bible says that our God is holy and just. The Bible mentions God’s holiness and righteousness more than 300 times. I believe that if God created man to be His children, it is as the Bible says. So, the depths of our hearts have the cognition to reflect God’s character, which means we have a resonance with the truth, goodness, and beauty of God. We thirst for holiness and righteousness. This shows that this God also loves holiness and righteousness; He Himself is the holy righteous savior. Since He gave us universal values, He will abide according to His own demands. Therefore, through yearning for holiness, righteousness, and love, I can better know a holy, righteous, loving God.

5. I want to believe in a God who can redeem us
Why am I a Christian? Because I am deeply acquainted with my own sinfulness. Relying on myself, I could never become a good person. Just like an apostle said: the resolve to do good comes from me; but actually doing it is beyond me. I need to be redeemed. Only if we are redeemed will we have hope in our lives. Only if my life has been redeemed can I have the restraint to overcome my sinfulness and feelings of gloom, in order to glorify God in my life and live a good life. I can’t believe in a god who can’t overcome my sinful spirit and actions. It is God who gave me life and breath, so He is able to save my life. It is God who sustains me every day, so He is able to save my life.

The God of Christians is the Creator and Redeemer. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Why am I a Christian? Because this trustworthy God is the Savior who can save me. It is He whose presence my heart knows intuitively.

6. I want to believe in a God who never changes
Why am I a Christian? If I believe in a master, he can’t be a tyrant, who does whatever he wants, changing unpredictably according to His fleshly desires. God’s character cannot change. He puts up with and understands that my nature is capricious and liable to fall. He cannot change, so I can follow and abide by His will. He cannot change; He won’t discard me because of a temporary sinful weakness or impulse. After that period of weakness, I can still return to that salvation.

Our God is the God never changes. The Bible says, “can a woman forget her nursing child?” Can she feel no love for the child she has borne? But even if that were possible, I would not forget you! (Is. 49:15) It’s true! I have been disappointed in myself time and again, but God has never been disappointed in me. Because of His unchanging nature, it becomes possible for weak sinners to repent.

7. I want to believe in a God who gives me strength and hope
Why am I a Christian? If I will trust a master, he must be able to give me strength and hope, not a God who intimidates me daily, deepening my fears and increasing my burdens. He must have personality, an independent will, an unchanging nature, and emotion, and He must love, teach, and forgive me. He must let me get close to Him, love Him, and fear Him. He must give me strength, hope, direction and a sense of responsibility. If the object of our faith was a negative force, it would be evil, and why would I believe in one who was evil? So I want believe in the master who gives people strength and hope.

The Bible says, “the Lord is my strength and my song, and he is become my salvation. This is my God, and I will praise him; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” (Ex. 15:2). II Samuel 22:19 says “the Lord is my support.” Psalm 14:6 says “the LORD is my refuge.” Psalm 16:5 says “the LORD is my inheritance and my cup of blessing. He guards all that is mine.” Psalm 18:2 says “the LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.” He is my shield, my horn of salvation and my high tower.” Psalm 118:14 says the LORD is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation…….

8. I want to believe in a God proven to produce “good fruit” throughout history
Why am I a Christian? If I choose to believe in a master, He cannot be one who needs advertisements to promote himself; He must be a God proven to produce good fruit. I want to see whether He has brought the world is redemption or disaster.
Looking at the history of man and the modern world, you will see that it is the Christian faith that has brought the world civilization and hope. You will see that Christian countries and cultures that have been profoundly influenced by Christianity are wealthier and freer, with greater equality and democracy. The world’s earliest constitutional states were born out of the Christian faith. Early capitalism came from the Christian faith. From equality for women, to college education, to modern technology, to the modern health care and welfare systems, all these came from the Christian faith. Why are the governmental systems of Christian countries so good? Because they have the Christian faith.

The historian Toynbee said, “Religion is the essence of culture, while culture is the expression of religion.” As we can see, whatever religion you have, you have that kind of culture; whatever culture you have, you have that kind of system, and will produce that kind of society. Political systems under the influence of the Christian faith are generally more open, while their societies are more humane, and relationships between people more harmonious. Why do so many people want to immigrate to countries influenced by Christianity and be educated there? Psalm 33:12 says, “what joy for the nation whose God is the LORD, whose people He has chosen as His inheritance!”

9. I want to believe in a God who can take me to be with Him
Why am I a Christian? If I trust in a god, He must be understandable, and be able to understand me. He cannot be lofty, or exist in nothingness. He entered into human life, to understand people, to help people, to solve their problems, to bring them truth, direction, and the wisdom of practical truth. He is a God who could come close, who could receive love, and express love.

The Bible says that God’s name is Emmanuel – He is God with us, who lives amongst man. He is a God who observed and even experienced human suffering. Hebrews 4:15 says that “He is not a high priest who can not understand with our weaknesses.” He faced all of the same temptations we do, yet He did not sin.

10. I want to believe in an Almighty God
Why am I a Christian? If I choose to believe in someone, He must be Almighty. If the object of my faith cannot fend for Himself, but needs human bribes, or thrives on intimidating or threatening others, He is not worth trusting. The One I believe in must be omnipotent. He must be unique and true, not overwhelmed by problems, but the God who can solve all problems. If He was not omnipotent, that would mean that in the face of difficulties, the difficulties may be bigger than him, so I would not be able to believe in him, which would mean there was no god. The One I believe in must be unique.

In Genesis 35:11 it says, “God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty.’” “Almighty” appears 62 times, all to describe the great power of God. The first sentence of the Apostles’ Creed says, “I believe in God the Father Almighty!” This means that God is Father – He loves us and wants to help us. He is Almighty – he has the ability to help us. This is the true and living faith of Christians.

Christ is everything listed here, and so much more. He is the only God who could cover such a religion as this. Why would I not believe in Him? As one brother said, there are many reasons not to believe in God, but believing in God doesn’t need any reasons. Because God is God, He is the Redeemer we must believe in.

Why am I a Christian? I believe that my faith comes from God’s choosing; “it is my rational and conscious response.”

Finally, I would like to quote a sentence from a youth group: “Believing in everything equals believing in nothing!” It’s true! The Truth is profound; He does not cease to exist just because man refuses Him. Truth exists independently – it is not dependent on the preferences of man. Truth is unique, so, of course, unique things are exclusive. 2+2 = 4, but we cannot, due to an attitude of acceptance, believe that it equals 6, 7, or 8. 2+2 equals 4, and that is the only true answer. Regarding religion as a form of culture, Christians need to be tolerant of and learn from all. But as a religion, you must and accept and submit to this “one and only” Truth.

Original Article in Chinese: “Why I am a Christian”

Why I Am A Christian 01

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