Category Archives: american culture

Christmas Choices

You don’t have to celebrate Christmas. There is no command in the Bible to remember the time of Christ’s birth—not even a hint of it—nor is there any illustration of that happening in New Testament days.

As far as we can tell, the Apostles never had a Christmas meal together, or a special worship meeting on that day.

Yet, many churches will focus a significant part of their yearly calendar on emphasizing Christmas. Some will do so both before and after the holiday itself, dedicating weeks to it. And many people will think that Christmas is, of all times of the year, one of the most holy days in the life of believers.

A good number who profess faith in Christ will think that attending special Christmas meetings, along with the Easter service, is required of God above almost all other obligations in the church year.

Some of these become what is often called, “Christmas and Easter Christians,“ believing they have satisfied God at least on a rudimentary level because they attend to these special days. But neither Christmas nor Easter is a required celebration by God.

It might surprise you to hear me say that a pastor could preach a sermon on the resurrection of Christ at the annual Christmas Service, and likewise, a message on the birth of Christ at the yearly Easter meeting, and God would not be unhappy in the least.

For one thing, we likely don’t have the date of Christ’s birth on the right day. Many calculate his birth to be more in the September-October time frame, perhaps closer to the very end of September. Some project another date. Almost certainly, it wasn’t a time when snow was on the ground, as is depicted in so many nativity Christmas cards.

The most important question is not whether or not you have to celebrate Christmas, but may you do so. I say “yes.” In fact, we do ourselves. We don’t get upset with people who do not celebrate it for the obvious reasons.

Nor are we worried when people get too commercial in their Christmas gift giving. Greed is wrong any time, but if a person is not greedy, then giving and exchanging gifts is not sinful. In fact, it may do much good in healing broken relationships.

If we wish to think about the birth of Christ during the December season, as long as we don’t make it obligatory for everyone, or take people’s enjoyment away by acting spiritually superior, then that’s our business. God loves to be worshiped for His great acts, and the birth of Christ is among the few most important things God did for mankind. Worship him as you will and when you will. In fact, worship him in your actions and heart all the time.

What if you choose to exchange gifts with each other and do not say anything about Christ on Christmas Day. Have you sinned? No.

What if you wish to think about Jesus’ birth two days after the December 25th date? Are you out of sync with God? Not at all.

The choice is yours as to what you will or will not do this Christmas.

But in all things you do, live as a believer should. Be grateful, kind, interested in others more than yourself, serving, generous, forgiving, and always mindful of what God through Christ has done for sinful people like you. In this way you please God most.

Holidays: Do You Really Enjoy Them?
An Empty Chair at Christmas
O Come, Let Us Ignore Him
A Clash of Kings


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About Amazon Smile

“Amazon Smile” is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization “China-In His image” every time you shop, at no cost to you.

When you shop at you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as at, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from nearly one million organizations to support.

How do I shop at Amazon Smile?

To shop at “Amazon Smile” simply go to from the web browser on your computer or mobile device. You may also want to add a bookmark to to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at “Amazon Smile.”

Which products on “Amazon Smile” are eligible for charitable donations?  

Tens of millions of products on “Amazon Smile” are eligible for donations. You will see eligible products marked “Eligible for Amazon Smile Donation” on their product detail pages. Recurring Subscribe-and-Save purchases and subscription renewals are not currently eligible.

Can I use my existing account on “Amazon Smile”?

Yes, you use the same account on and “Amazon Smile.” Your shopping cart, Wish List, wedding or baby registry, and other account settings are also the same.

How do I select a charitable organization to support when shopping on “Amazon Smile”?

On your first visit to “Amazon Smile” (, you need to select your charitable organization “International Ambassadors for Christ” to receive donations from eligible purchases before you begin shopping.

How to Set it up:

  1. Go to from your web browser.
  2. In the Bottom Right corner, search for “International Ambassadors for Christ”
  3. Click “select”
  4. You’re finished! Now it’s time to Shop!.

Amazon Smile will remember your selection, and then every eligible purchase you make at will result in a donation.

Can I change my charity?

Yes, you can change your charity any time. Your “Amazon Smile” purchases after the change count towards your newly selected charity. To change your charity, sign in to on your desktop or mobile phone browser and simply select “Change your Charity” in “Your Account.”

What charities can I choose from?

You can choose from almost one million eligible 501(c)(3) public charitable organizations. 

What if my selected charity has been removed to participate in the “Amazon Smile” program or becomes ineligible?  

If your selected charity becomes ineligible, or requests to be removed from the program, you will have a chance to select a different charity to receive the accrued donations that have not yet been disbursed to your charity. If you do not select a different charity, the accrued donations will be distributed to other organizations receiving donations.

How much of my purchase does Amazon donate?

The “Amazon Smile Foundation” will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible “Amazon Smile” purchases. The purchase price is the amount paid for the item minus any rebates and excluding shipping & handling, gift-wrapping fees, taxes, or service charges. From time to time, we may offer special, limited time promotions that increase the donation amount on one or more products or services or provide for additional donations to charitable organizations. Special terms and restrictions may apply. Please see the relevant promotion for complete details.

Can I receive a tax deduction for amounts donated from my purchases on “Amazon Smile”?

Donations are made by the “Amazon Smile Foundation” and are not tax deductible by you.

Your charitable contributions to “International Ambassadors for Christ”  however are income tax deductible and are made with the understanding that “IAfC” has complete discretion and control over the use of all donated funds.  No goods or services were provided by the ministry for these contributions.  We will receipt annually all gift donations.  If we offer books, tapes, or other materials for a suggested donation, we will receipt the amount given above the retail price of the product, plus shipping and handling costs.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has determined that “International Ambassadors for Christ” is tax exempt from federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) as a publicly supported nonprofit mission organization incorporated in the State of Illinois.

Thank you…for your support of “International Ambassadors for Christ”. Through your investment, prayers and partnership you are helping to reach men and women in leadership positions here in Chicago and in China with the Good News of Jesus Christ.  It is an honor and a privilege to work in a ripe and ready harvest with you.

“I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields!  They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35

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Jesus Crucifixion


This is the best “crucifixion” scene of Jesus, and the view count speaks for itself.

I could rattle off a heap of “quotes” about Jesus Christ to try and convince the world what he did for us, but the best we can do is let this video stir your “heart” and let the Holy Spirit speak to you where you are sitting and watching this, if you open your heart.

All I can say is you will never know the love and power of Jesus unless you seek him and search for him, then he will open the door and answer you.

When you get a “revelation” of him, then you will know that he is “your” Savior. Don’t wait till it’s too late.

You can “pray” right where you are and “talk” to him right now.

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Memorial Day Tribute

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Being “deployed” in Afghanistan did not stop First Lt. Andrew Yacovone and First Lt. Justin Wright of the band Interstate 10 from releasing a “music video” for their Memorial Day tribute song, “I’m Gonna Miss You.”

The song, which was “recorded” in Afghanistan, is a stirring five-minute “love letter” that honors the men and women who gave their “lives” and those currently “serving” in the U.S. military.

The words “To remember those who fought for our freedom” are seen in the music video “spliced” between footage of active duty servicemen and women.

“Memorial Day is about remembering the ones we lost and supporting their loved ones,” reads the description of the video on the band’s YouTube account.

“It’s about celebrating the lives they lived. Thanking them for allowing us the opportunity to come home safe, and most of all, thanking them for a second chance to hug our loved ones.”

Yacovone, who’s from Hollister, California, and Wright, who’s from Tallahassee, Florida, met on their “first day of training” in 2014, according to ABC News.

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The duo plans to donate $500 to the “Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation” if their newest anthem reaches 100,000 views on YouTube between Friday and midnight of Memorial Day.

The video “currently” has more than 5,000 views.

“We wanted this song to make an impact for the right reason,” Wright told the Tallahassee Democrat in an email interview.

“We thought this was a great way to honor those who have given everything.”

Yacovone began writing the song “before” he met Wright. But after three soldiers from their battalion “died,” the two had a reason to complete the song.

“From then on the song took new meaning for us and we knew we had a debt to pay and a mission for this song,” Wright said.

Wright is currently in Bagram Airfield near “Kabul,” while Yacovone is in “Kandahar.”

Vocals for “I’m Gonna Miss You” were recorded before Yacovone and Wright’s second deployment.

Though “separated” by more than 300 miles of “hostile” territory, the two musicians managed to “record and edit” the video for release before the holiday weekend.

“Our freedom came at a price. A price we are still paying today,” said Wright.

“We all are in debt to those families whose soldiers were taken in wars so that we can have a BBQ on the weekend, go to the beach, vacation, travel without being in danger.”

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It Is The Soldier

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,

And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Charles Michael Province, U.S. Army

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Easter 2016

Easter 2016-02

This Easter instead of the “bunny and the egg basket” being the focus, change it by watching the below “JESUS” film with your family.

Jesus walked on many roads during his brief time on earth. The roads He walked on led Him through valleys and over hilltops, they brought Him through crowded city streets and quiet villages, they guided Him to people’s homes and festive celebrations, but the road that led Him to the place of crucifixion was the one He was born to travel.

The Father watched from heaven as His Son, beaten and bruised, staggered under the weight of the cross on His way to a place called Golgotha. Jesus knew that this road was the only way that His love could find a place in our hearts. If God would have set a roadblock on this road and said to His Son, Road closed, we would never have found our way to Him.

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It is Jesus journey to the cross and His crucifixion upon Golgotha’s hill that opens our understanding to the meaning of love at its deepest level. Salvation is our free gift that cost Jesus everything. His brokenness means that we can be made whole; His sorrow means that we can have fullness of joy; His rejection means that we can be accepted; His pain means that we can be healed; His death means that we can have life everlasting.

The devil has convinced so many people that they are worthless. Each of us needs to stop and remember the cross. At the cross we will discover our true value for it is here that we discover the price God was willing to pay for us, the depth of His love, and how much we are worth to Him.

The stone has been rolled away…and He’s alive forevermore! Praise the Lord. May you be reminded of His great love for you this Easter.

Easter 2016-01

“…He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.” Mark 16:6 NIV

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He Is Risen!

He is Risen 01jpg

He Is Risen!
by ChinaSource Team | March 16, 2016

Easter Sunday (“Resurrection Day” in Chinese) is a high point for Christians in China, as it is for followers of Christ the world over. Not only do Chinese believers celebrate the resurrection of Christ; they also celebrate the new life experienced in Christ by those who have come to faith within the past year. Easter Sunday baptisms are an important part of church life. In some larger churches hundreds of new Christians may celebrate their spiritual rebirth through baptism on a single day.

This Gospel Times account, “What Questions Need to Be Answered at Baptism?” translated and posted last year on Chinese Church Voices, provides a window into this Easter Sunday experience at two large urban churches. The article, published originally on the Internet in China, looks at the steps new believers take in preparation for baptism and the questions they answer prior to being baptized.

Most Three-Self churches in China conduct baptism services on Easter Sunday each year. In this translated article from the Gospel Times, the writer shares questions that the pastors at two large churches in China ask each person being baptized.

What Questions Need to Be Answered at Christian Baptism Services?

‪How does a person become a Christian? We often say that “the heart believes, and the mouth gives recognition.”  Simply pray the Sinner’s Prayer and you can be called a Christian. However, for the church and Christian believers, baptism is an important symbol of a person becoming a Christian.

‪Normally, a person who is preparing to be baptized will study certain lessons prior to baptism and will meet with one of the pastors. Moreover, the baptism service is usually conducted in public, and those that take place in a church normally take place during the Sunday worship. Before being baptized, the person ready to receive baptism will be asked to publicly respond to a set of questions. After the pastor receives a positive response, he will officially baptize them.

‪The manner in which a person being baptized answers the pastor’s questions varies from church to church. In some churches the pastor asks the questions and all who are being baptized answer together. Some churches instead ask each person individually; that is, before each person is baptized they are asked the set of questions. After they have responded in the affirmative, they are baptized. The pastor then asks the questions of the next person, and then baptizes them.

Not every church asks the exact same questions.

The following are four questions Pastor Li Peiying simultaneously asked to all believers about to be baptized this year during the Easter Sunday worship service at Beijing’s Chong Wen Men Church (崇文门堂):

Do you promise to offer yourselves to Jesus Christ, to recognize him as Lord and Savior, to follow his example, to love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength according to that which he has spoken, and to love others as yourselves as the standard of your lives?
Do you promise through your words, deeds, and lives to bear witness to that which is true faith?
Do you promise to often make use of such spiritual practices as prayer, Scripture study, meditation, and church worship to grow closer to the Lord God?
Do you promise to follow the commands of the Bible, to serve the community to your utmost, and promise to not harm or oppress others by any means?

‪Each of the questions received a reply in the affirmative. Pastor Li Peiying then said, “With these promises, we now baptize you in accordance with the commands of Christ and the sending of the church.”

‪In another setting, prior to receiving baptism, Pastor Joseph Gu of Hangzhou’s Chong Yi Church (崇一堂) asks believers the following five questions:

Do you acknowledge that God created all of creation and human beings, and that we humans are made in the image of God?
Do you acknowledge that all have sinned, and that the wages of sin is death? Do you acknowledge that Jesus is the only Savior of mankind, and only Jesus can save all sinners? And do you willingly accept Jesus as the Savior of your own life?
Do you acknowledge the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit in your life; that the Holy Spirit illumines, guides, and moves you to accept Jesus as your Savior? Are you willing after your baptism to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and to walk in obedience to God’s will?
Do you acknowledge that the Bible is the inspired Word of God? That it is the standard for every Christian according to which we should conduct ourselves? Following your baptism, are you willing to regularly read the Bible, to love the Bible, and to follow the teachings of the Bible?

Upon your baptism, you will be a member of the Lord’s church (Chong Yi Church), a member of the body of Christ.

Are you willing, after receiving baptism, to love the church as you love your own family, to participate in the ministry of the church, and together with the brothers and sisters of the church to build the Lord’s church (Chong Yi Church) together, and to increase the glory of God’s name on the earth?

As you celebrate the resurrection may you be encouraged by this testimony of God’s faithfulness among his people in China.

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Ways to Pray…

Pray for China’s leaders as the National People’s Congress—China’s legislature—holds annual meetings this month in Beijing.
In an atmosphere of increased social pressure, believers in China find themselves under greater pressure.
Pray for Pastor Joseph Gu, a prominent leader in China’s officially recognized church who was detained in January.
Pray, too, for Zhang Kai, a Christian lawyer who was forced to make a confession on national television and who also remains in detention. Both men spoke out strongly against the forced removal of crosses from hundreds of church buildings in China.
Last month ChinaSource sponsored a week-long spiritual retreat for a dozen local believers who lead ministries among the marginalized in China’s cities.
Pray for lasting impact in the lives of these leaders and in the organizations they serve.
Pray for the ChinaSource Board of Directors as they meet in Hong Kong this month.

He is Risen indeed!
The ChinaSource Team

The Chinese Church and the Global Body of Christ
The Transformation and Renewal of the Structure of Chinese House Churches
Urban Church Structures

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Cheap Grace and Gratitude

Cheap Grace and Gratitude 00Cheap Grace and Gratitude
by Jordan Ballor

We celebrate the “Thanksgiving” holiday this week in the United States, and it’s therefore an appropriate time to ponder the gifts we have been given and the “gratitude” we ought to have for them. It’s easy to do these things at this time of year, but it is also appropriate to note that we ought to think about the gifts of God’s grace throughout the year. That is, even as we acknowledge and are thankful for things this week, we should also come to a greater recognition of the divine origin of all good gifts all the time.

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Fallen (and perhaps particularly fallen and redeemed) human beings have a way of cheapening grace. The German pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer opened his classic work on Christian discipleship with an incisive analysis of what he called “cheap grace,” the idea that God’s saving work could simply be assumed and that it required no substantive response from or transformation of human beings. If Christ’s atoning work was infinitely sufficient to cover all of our sins, such thinking goes, why not go on sinning that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1)? Or at least, why worry so much about doing any good works, since they aren’t all that “good” in the first place, and aren’t the basis for our salvation in any case? As Bonhoeffer puts it, “Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgiveness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacrament; grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without costs.”

Bonhoeffer had in mind what is often called special or saving grace in his indictment of cheap grace, and he had in mind the costliness of Christ’s sacrifice and the call to follow him. But there’s an analogous error when it comes to the gifts of common grace. If special grace involves the application of the atoning work of Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners, common grace involves the recognition of the gifts that are given to everyone regardless of righteousness or piety. In Matthew 5:45 we read that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Natural goods like sun and rain are examples of common grace, but as the Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper describes the idea, common grace also involves social and cultural realities, like the love of familial relationships, the goods and services provided by businesses, and justice and order protected and preserved by governments.

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For Bonhoeffer, Christians tend to view special “grace as the church’s inexhaustible pantry.” Cheap common grace would likewise view these general gifts of God to humanity as the world’s “inexhaustible pantry.” Where do we find this view of common grace as cheap? There are some basic underlying assumptions that can help us to recognize cheap common grace.

For instance, when we simply assume that whatever goods and services we need will always be there, as if by magic rather than by the work of divine providence, we take God’s grace for granted. When we do not recognize that God provides the food we eat, the drinks we drink, the houses we live in, and the cars we drive through the service of other people, we take for granted the stunning graciousness of our entire existence. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it” the psalmist declares (Ps. 24:1), and thus everything we have comes from him. He has deigned to include human beings in his general plan for provision, and this too is gracious. God could provide for our material needs directly through miraculous and mighty works. But instead he has set up a world in which we depend upon one another for meeting our material, emotional, and spiritual needs.

We see a posture toward common grace as cheap when we gratefully receive the gifts of today but cease to be thankful tomorrow. So often today’s privileges become tomorrow’s rights, and the gratuitous offerings we receive today become the entitlements of tomorrow. We also cheapen common grace when we unduly concern ourselves with these goods; when we worry about how we will be provided for, we detach the provision of these things we need from their divine source.

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How then, having recognized the natural human tendency to cheapen grace, can we combat it? There are at least three basic ways of addressing the cheapening of grace, whether special or common: “prayer, priorities, and thanksgiving.”First, as the Lord taught us to pray “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), we recognize that the bread we receive comes to us, by God’s gracious ordination, through the work and service of our neighbors. Second, as we are tempted to worry whether God will continue to provide for us in these ways, Christ instructs us to seek first of God “his kingdom and his righteousness” and then assures us that all these temporal things we need “will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33). And finally, through prayer and the proper ordering of our priorities, we can truly be thankful for all that God has done for us, from creation and preservation to redemption and consummation.

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We can thus recognize that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (Jas. 1:17) and gratefully proclaim: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Ps. 107:1).

The Price of Costly Grace
The Cost of Discipleship
Radical Integrity

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