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Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Monday, February 01, 2021

Streams in the Desert - February 

 

February 1

"This thing is from me." (1 Kings 12:24).

"Life's disappointments are veiled love's appointments." --Rev. C. A. Fox

My child, I have a message for you today; let me whisper it in your ear, that it may gild with glory any storm clouds which may arise, and smooth the rough places upon which you may have to tread. It is short, only five words, but let them sink into your inmost soul; use them as a pillow upon which to rest your weary head. This thing is from Me.

Have you ever thought of it, that all that concerns you concerns Me too? For, "he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eye" (Zech. 2:8). You are very precious in My sight. (Isa. 43:4) Therefore, it is My special delight to educate you.

I would have you learn when temptations assail you, and the "enemy comes in like a flood," that this thing is from Me, that your weakness needs My might, and your safety lies in letting Me fight for you.

Are you in difficult circumstances, surrounded by people who do not understand you, who never consult your taste, who put you in the background? This thing is from Me. I am the God of circumstances. Thou camest not to thy place by accident, it is the very place God meant for thee.

Have you not asked to be made humble? See then, I have placed you in the very school where this lesson is taught; your surroundings and companions are only working out My will.

Are you in money difficulties? Is it hard to make both ends meet? This thing is from Me, for I am your purse-bearer and would have you draw from and depend upon Me. My supplies are limitless (Phil.4:19). I would have you prove my promises. Let it not be said of you, "In this thing ye did not believe the Lord your God" (Deut. 1:32).

Are you passing through a night of sorrow? This thing is from Me. I am the Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. I have let earthly comforters fail you, that by turning to Me you may obtain everlasting consolation (2 Thess. 2:16, 17). Have you longed to do some great work for Me and instead have been laid aside on a bed of pain and weakness? This thing is from Me. I could not get your attention in your busy days and I want to teach you some of my deepest lessons. "They also serve who only stand and wait." Some of My greatest workers are those shut out from active service, that they may learn to wield the weapon of all--prayer.

This day I place in your hand this pot of holy oil. Make use of it free, my child. Let every circumstance that arises, every word that pains you, every interruption that would make you impatient, every revelation of your weakness be anointed with it. The sting will go as you learn to see Me in all things. --Laura A. Barter Snow

"'This is from Me,' the Saviour said,
As bending low He kissed my brow,
'For One who loves you thus has led.
Just rest in Me, be patient now,
Your Father knows you have need of this,
Tho', why perchance you cannot see.
Grieve not for things you've seemed to miss.
The thing I send is best for thee.'

"Then, looking through my tears, I plead,
'Dear Lord, forgive, I did not know,
'Twill not be hard since Thou dost tread,
Each path before me here below.
And for my good this thing must be,
His grace sufficient for each test.
So still I'll sing, "Whatever be
God's way for me is always best."'"

 

February 2

"In the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft: in his quiver hath he hid me." (Isa. 49:2).

"In the shadow." We must all go there sometimes. The glare of the daylight is too brilliant; our eyes become injured, and unable to discern the delicate shades of color, or appreciate neutral tints--the shadowed chamber of sickness, the shadowed house of mourning, the shadowed life from which the sunlight has gone.

But fear not! It is the shadow of God's hand. He is leading thee. There are lessons that can be learned only there.

The photograph of His face can only be fixed in the dark chamber. But do not suppose that He has cast thee aside. Thou art still in His quiver; He has not flung thee away as a worthless thing.

He is only keeping thee close till the moment comes when He can send thee most swiftly and surely on some errand in which He will be glorified. Oh, shadowed, solitary ones, remember how closely the quiver is bound to the warrior, within easy reach of the hand, and guarded jealously. --Christ in Isaiah, Meyer

In some spheres the shadow condition is the condition of greatest growth. The beautiful Indian corn never grows more rapidly than in the shadow of a warm summer night. The sun curls the leaves in the sultry noon light, but they quickly unfold, if a cloud slips over the sky. There is a service in the shadow that is not in the shine. The world of stellar beauty is never seen at its best till the shadows of night slip over the sky. There are beauties that bloom in the shade that will not bloom in the sun. There is much greenery in lands of fog and clouds and shadow. The florist has "evening glories" now, as well as "morning glories." The "evening glory" will not shine in the noon's splendor, but comes to its best as the shadows of evening deepen.

If all of life were sunshine,
Our faces would be fain
To feel once more upon them
The cooling splash of rain.
--Henry Van Dyke

 

February 3

"I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure." (Gen. 33:14).

What a beautiful picture of Jacob's thoughtfulness for the cattle and the children! He would not allow them to be overdriven even for one day. He would not lead on according to what a strong man like Esau could do and expected them to do, but only according to what they were able to endure. He knew exactly how far they could go in a day; and he made that his only consideration in arranging the marches. He had gone the same wilderness journey years before, and knew all about its roughness and heat and length, by personal experience. And so he said, "I will lead on softly." "For ye have not passed this way heretofore" (Josh.3:4.).

We have not passed this way heretofore, but the Lord Jesus has. It is all untrodden and unknown ground to us, but He knows it all by personal experience. The steep bits that take away our breath, the stony bits that make our feet ache so, the hot shadeless stretches that make us feel so exhausted, the rushing rivers that we have to pass through--Jesus has gone through it all before us. "He was wearied with his journey." Not some, but all the many waters went over Him, and yet did not quench His love. He was made a perfect Leader by the things which He suffered. "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." Think of that when you are tempted to question the gentleness of His leading. He is remembering all the time; and not one step will He make you take beyond what your foot is able to endure. Never mind if you think it will not be able for the step that seems to come next; either He will so strengthen it that it shall be able, or He will call a sudden halt, and you shall not have to take it at all. --Frances Ridley Havergal

In "pastures green"? Not always; sometimes He
Who knowest best, in kindness leadeth me
In weary ways, where heavy shadows be.
So, whether on the hill-tops high and fair
I dwell, or in the sunless valleys, where
The shadows lie, what matter? He is there.
--Barry

 

February 4

"Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way." (John 4:50).

"When ye pray, believe" (Mark 11:24).

When there is a matter that requires definite prayer, pray till you believe God, until with unfeigned lips you can thank Him for the answer. If the answer still tarries outwardly, do not pray for it in such a way that it is evident that you are not definitely believing for it. Such a prayer in place of being a help will be a hindrance; and when you are finished praying, you will find that your faith has weakened or has entirely gone. The urgency that you felt to offer this kind of prayer is clearly from self and Satan. It may not be wrong to mention the matter in question to the Lord again, if He is keeping you waiting, but be sure you do so in such a way that it implies faith. Do not pray yourself out of faith. You may tell Him that you are waiting and that you are still believing Him and therefore praise Him for the answer. There is nothing that so fully clinches faith as to be so sure of the answer that you can thank God for it. Prayers that pray us out of faith deny both God's promise in His Word and also His whisper "Yes," that He gave us in our hearts. Such prayers are but the expression of the unrest of one's heart, and unrest implies unbelief in reference to the answer to prayer. "For we which have believed do enter into rest" (Heb. 4:3). This prayer that prays ourselves out of faith frequently arises from centering our thoughts on the difficulty rather than on God's promise. Abraham "considered not his own body," "he staggered not at the promise of God" (Rom. 4:19, 20). May we watch and pray that we enter not into temptation of praying ourselves out of faith. --C. H. P.

Faith is not a sense, nor sight, nor reason, but a taking God at His Word. --Evans

The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. --George Mueller

You will never learn faith in comfortable surroundings. God gives us the promises in a quiet hour; God seals our covenants with great and gracious words, then He steps back and waits to see how much we believe; then He lets the tempter come, and the test seems to contradict all that He has spoken. It is then that faith wins its crown. That is the time to look up through the storm, and among the trembling, frightened seamen cry, "I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me."

"Believe and trust; through stars and suns,
Through life and death, through soul and sense,
His wise, paternal purpose runs;
The darkness of His Providence
Is starlit with Divine intents."

 

February 5

"Lord, there is none beside thee to help." (2 Chron. 14:11, RV).

Remind God of His entire responsibility. "There is none beside thee to help." The odds against Asa were enormous. There was a million of men in arms against him, besides three hundred chariots. It seemed impossible to hold his own against that vast multitude. There were no allies who would come to his help; his only hope, therefore, was in God. It may be that your difficulties have been allowed to come to so alarming a pitch that you may be compelled to renounce all creature aid, to which in lesser trials you have had recourse, and cast yourself back on your Almighty Friend.

Put God between yourself and the foe. To Asa's faith, Jehovah seemed to stand between the might of Zerah and himself, as one who had no strength. Nor was he mistaken. We are told that the Ethiopians were destroyed before the Lord and before His host, as though celestial combatants flung themselves against the foe in Israel's behalf, and put the large host to rout, so that Israel had only to follow up and gather the spoil. Our God is Jehovah of hosts, who can summon unexpected reinforcements at any moment to aid His people. Believe that He is there between you and your difficulty, and what baffles you will flee before Him, as clouds before the gale. --F. B. Meyer

"When nothing whereon to lean remains,
When strongholds crumble to dust;

When nothing is sure but that God still reigns,
That is just the time to trust.

"'Tis better to walk by faith than sight,
In this path of yours and mine;

And the pitch-black night, when there's no outer light
Is the time for faith to shine."

Abraham believed God, and said to sight, "Stand back!" and to the laws of nature, "Hold your peace!" and to a misgiving heart, "Silence, thou lying tempter!" He believed God. --Joseph Parker

 

February 6

"When thou passest through the waters...they shall not overflow thee"(Isa. 43:2).

God does not open paths for us in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need, God's hand is stretched out.

Many people forget this, and are forever worrying about difficulties which they foresee in the future. They expect that God is going to make the way plain and open before them, miles and miles ahead; whereas He has promised to do it only step by step as they may need. You must get to the waters and into their floods before you can claim the promise. Many people dread death, and lament that they have not "dying grace." Of course, they will not have dying grace when they are in good health, in the midst of life's duties, with death far in advance. Why should they have it then? Grace for duty is what they need then, living grace; then dying grace when they come to die. --J. R. M.

"When thou passest through the waters"
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
"When thou comest to the waters

Thou shalt not go down, BUT THROUGH."

Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain
They shall never overflow us
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.

Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt's insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We shall not go down, or under,
For He saith, "Thou passest THROUGH."
--Annie Johnson Flint

 

February 7

"I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."(Phil. 4:11).

Paul, denied of every comfort, wrote the above words in his dungeon. A story is told of a king who went into his garden one morning, and found everything withered and dying. He asked the oak that stood near the gate what the trouble was. He found it was sick of life and determined to die because it was not tall and beautiful like the pine. The pine was all out of heart because it could not bear grapes, like the vine. The vine was going to throw its life away because it could not stand erect and have as fine fruit as the peach tree. The geranium was fretting because it was not tall and fragrant like the lilac; and so on all through the garden. Coming to a heart's-ease, he found its bright face lifted as cheery as ever. "Well, heart's-ease, I'm glad, amidst all this discouragement, to find one brave little flower. You do not seem to be the least disheartened." "No, I am not of much account, but I thought that if you wanted an oak, or a pine, or a peach tree, or a lilac, you would have planted one; but as I knew you wanted a heart's-ease, I am determined to be the best little heart's-ease that I can."

"Others may do a greater work,
But you have your part to do;
And no one in all God's heritage
Can do it so well as you."

They who are God's without reserve, are in every state content; for they will only what He wills, and desire to do for Him whatever He desires them to do; they strip themselves of everything, and in this nakedness find all things restored an hundredfold.

 

February 8

Showers and Sunshine

"I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing."(Ezek. 34:26).

What is thy season this morning? Is it a season of drought? Then that is the season for showers. Is it a season of great heaviness and black clouds? Then that is the season for showers. "As thy day so shall thy strength be." "I will give thee showers of blessing." The word is in the plural. All kinds of blessings God will send. All God's blessings go together, like links in a golden chain. If He gives converting grace, He will also give comforting grace. He will send "showers of blessings." Look up today, O parched plant, and open thy leaves and flowers for a heavenly watering. --Spurgeon

"Let but thy heart become a valley low,
And God will rain on it till it will overflow."

Thou, O Lord, canst transform my thorn into a flower. And I want my thorn transformed into a flower. Job got the sunshine after the rain, but has the rain been all waste? Job wants to know, I want to know, if the shower had nothing to do with the shining. And Thou canst tell me Thy Cross can tell me. Thou hast crowned Thy sorrow. Be this my crown, O Lord. I only triumph in Thee when I have learned the radiance of the rain. --George Matheson

The fruitful life seeks showers as well as sunshine.

"The landscape, brown and sere beneath the sun,
Needs but the cloud to lift it into life;
The dews may damp the leaves of tree and flower,
But it requires the cloud-distilled shower
To bring rich verdure to the lifeless life.

"Ah, how like this, the landscape of a life:
Dews of trial fall like incense, rich and sweet;
But bearing little in the crystal tray
Like nymphs of night, dews lift at break of day
And transient impress leave, like lips that meet.

"But clouds of trials, bearing burdens rare,
Leave in the soul, a moisture settled deep:
Life kindles by the magic law of God;
And where before the thirsty camel trod,
There richest beauties to life's landscape leap.

"Then read thou in each cloud that comes to thee
The words of Paul, in letters large and clear:
So shall those clouds thy soul with blessing feed,
And with a constant trust as thou dost read,
All things together work for good. Fret not, nor fear!"

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Pence's Dilemma Explained 


Personal testimony of Vice President Pence, which he shared last October at the Faith in Leadership conference.

Much has been said about the horrible events on Wednesday the 6th. I may have more to say about that after we have more information about who was in that building. So far, I have only been able to identify two people. One was the lady who was shot, who was identified by her husband as a Trump supporter. The other was a BLM guy by the name of John Sullivan. I just heard that the barbarian guy was with Qanon, which I don't know much about. Anyway, I may revisit that part of it later when I have more information, but today I want to talk just about one thing, which is the comments I have been hearing about Pence, not from Democrats, but from Republicans who are deeply upset that the Vice President did not take it upon himself to single-handedly decertify electoral votes from certain states. This anger at Pence is based on the assumption that the Vice President has the power to overturn electoral votes for any given state. That is not true. I watched Ben Shapiro's synopsis of the day, where he seems to think that even Congress does not have that authority. I got curious about that, so I went back and checked the Electoral Count Act. It does seem that the act was put in place to minimize the involvement of the Congress in the decision making process, and leave that up to the states. But the problem is that several states sent dual sets of electors. Such an action seems to imply a request for decision from a higher authority. But whether or not the Congress has that authority, the Vice President acting alone certainly does not. Very sincere people think he should have that power, but I do not agree. It is unthinkable to me that one person in any government could, on his own, nullify the electoral slate for any given state.

But, as I said, very responsible people disagree with me. The most important of those relative to this election is Congressman Louis Gohmert, who filed a law suit in an attempt to get a court to declare that Pence had this authority. The court did not take the case because he "did not have standing." I think it is very unfortunate that courts have used the issue of standing to avoid getting involved. The result has been lots and lots of pent-up, unresolved conflict. But there is one thing Gohmert's attempt did accomplish. It established clearly where Pence stood on the matter. So I would have thought that would have put an end to expectations that Pence would take it upon himself to single-handedly decide that the Electoral Count Act was unconstitutional (in other words, in conflict with the twelfth amendment), and that it could be ignored.

Such was not to be. These expectations continued as if the case Louis Gohmert filed had never even happened. I do sympathize with sincere people who held out that hope. They felt very unhappy with what was arguably the worst election in American history (regardless of where you come down on who actually won), and they were so hoping that Pence could magically fix it. Here's Jenna Ellis:

I am deeply disappointed in Mike Pence. The Constitution constrains, yes, and that’s why we worked hard to provide him with a constitutional option to protect election integrity.

BUT, he should not have been in that position—state leadership was cowardly first; SCOTUS was also.

We cannot preserve a republic if those in power fail to protect it. What happened to standing up honorably and putting God, country, family above one’s self?

This is not over. We have to restore election integrity in our nation and with it, our founding principles and values.

I stand with President Trump and VP Pence condemning the violence at the Capitol and in DC today. That is not a display of patriotism or conservatism. We cannot abandon our principles because the other side is evil. We can’t help the left tear down our country.

In God We Trust.

Whatever you say about Jenna Ellis, she is a woman of integrity, and I have the highest regard for her. But I think she had expectations of Pence that were not realistic. To be fair, she wasn't really saying that Pence should single-handedly overturn the electoral results from the contested states. As she explained in a radio interview the day before, in those states where there were two slates of electors, she felt that Pence should refer them back to the States to request clarification.

I really wish I could have coffee with her or something and get some clarification, because she is saying that Pence should not open the envelopes from states that have sent two sets of votes. But since those states had sent dual sets of electors, does that not imply that they were requesting a decision from the Congress? How does it make sense, then, to send that decision back to them?

I do think that there needs to be clarification, perhaps from the Supreme Court on the following two items:

  1. Is the Election Act of 1887 constitutional?
  2. Who, or which elective body, is the final arbiter of disputed electoral votes?
It is very important that these two items be adjudicated, because it was precisely ambiguity about the Vice Presidents powers and responsibility that led to the unrest and anger. I saw one video of rioters entering the capital where I could actually hear someone saying, "Hang Pence!" This is awful.

But while some Republicans went off the rails because of their mistaken expectations of the Vice President, many of the Democrats were also going bonkers. Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Josh Hawley were savagely attacked for daring to object to electoral votes. But Democrats have raised objections several times in recent elections. Do we now have a country where Democrats can raise objections but Republicas cannot? Will somebody please explain to me how that’s fair? Democratic representative Bennie Thompson actually suggested that Cruz and Hawley could be classified as domestic terrorists and put on a no-fly list. And Hillary Clinton said there should be an investigation to see if Trump was on the phone with Putin while the capital was being broken into. It's only fair to mention that not all Democrats were on the looney wagon. Senator Dianne Feinstein defended their right to speak.

In today's podcast, I will help you understand the dilemma the Vice President faced and why I believe his options were limited. I am not defending this status quo--this needs to be fine tuned, because confusion about what Pence's role was partly fueld the anger against him. But given the current situation such as it was on January 6th, I think you will agree with me that Pence did not have much latitude in terms of changing (overturning or correcting, depending on your view of who actually won) the outcome.

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Saturday, January 02, 2021

Science Night - What is a Glider? 

What is a glider? Why would you want to fly an airplane that had no engine? First of all, engines are heavy. They add a lot of weight and make the plane harder to fly (although the power provided by the engine compensates for this). Gliders don't need fuel. Of course, because there is no engine, you will have a towing fee. But I think a towing fee would be quite a bit less than fuel. Basically, it's a good way to develop flying skill by flying a vehicle that is very easy to maneuver.

So how did gliders develop into the sophisticated aircraft we see today? To answer that question, we need to go back to the Treaty of Versailles, which the Allied Powerthe s forced on Germany after World War I.

This treaty restricted Germany from developing powered aircraft. But gliders were not prohibited. The Germans took advantage of this loophole to develop very efficient gliders. That's why most of the high performance gliders that you see today are from Germany. They were developing them while everyone else basically saw gliders as a thing of the past. The common thinking was, "Now that we have airplanes with engines, why do we need gliders?"

The effect of this focus the Germans placed on the development of gliders between World War I and World War II is that we now have gliders that are so efficient that, not only do they come down much more slowly that previous heavier and less efficient gliders, but they are so light and so effiecient that they can actually fly even higher than they were when they were released from the two line, by searching for rising air currents. These new, highly efficient gliders that can rise higher by finding air currents are called "sailplanes."

There are two main types of rising air currents. Thermals are rising columns of air that are caused by different rates at which heat from the sun is absorbed by the land. Sailplane pilots can find these by looking for cumulus clouds. The "thermal," or rising air column is actually what produces the cumulus cloud.

The other type of rising air current is caused by wind blowing across the land, which hits a mountain ridge and is forced upward. The video below shows a pilot using this current of air along a mountain ridge to stay aloft for a long period of time. The goal of sailplane pilots is not to see how high they can go. It is to see how long they can stay aloft even though they do not have an engine. Because sometimes a sailplane pilot will get stuck a long distance from the airport and suddenly not be able to find a rising air current, some sailplanes have a small, battery powered engine with a collapsible propeller that pops out and helps the pilot gain some altitude so he has time to find another rising air current.

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Friday, January 01, 2021

Streams in the Desert - January 

 

January 1

"The land whither ye go to possess it is a land of hills and valleys and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: a land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord are always upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year." (Deut. 11:11-12).

Today dear friends, we stand upon the verge of the unknown. There lies before us the new year and we are going forth to possess it. Who can tell what we shall find? What new experiences, what changes shall come, what new needs shall arise? But here is the cheering, comforting, gladdening message from our Heavenly Father, "The Lord thy God careth for it." "His eyes are upon it away to the ending of the year."

All our supply is to come from the Lord. Here are springs that shall never dry; here are fountains and streams that shall never be cut off. Here, anxious one, is the gracious pledge of the Heavenly Father. If He be the Source of our mercies they can never fail us. No heat, no drought can parch that river, "the streams whereof make glad the city of God."

The land is a land of hills and valleys. It is not all smooth nor all down hill. If life were all one dead level the dull sameness would oppress us; we want the hills and the valleys. The hills collect the rain for a hundred fruitful valleys. Ah, so it is with us! It is the hill difficulty that drives us to the throne of grace and brings down the shower of blessing; the hills, the bleak hills of life that we wonder at and perhaps grumble at, bring down the showers. How many have perished in the wilderness, buried under its golden sands, who would have lived and thriven in the hill-country; how many would have been killed by the frost, blighted with winds, swept desolate of tree and fruit but for the hill-stern, hard, rugged, so steep to climb. God's hills are a gracious protection for His people against their foes!

We cannot tell what loss and sorrow and trial are doing. Trust only. The Father comes near to take our hand and lead us on our way today. It shall be a good, a blessed new year!

He leads us on by paths we did not know;
Upward He leads us, though our steps be slow,
Though oft we faint and falter on the way,
Though storms and darkness oft obscure the day;
Yet when the clouds are gone,
We know He leads us on.

He leads us on through all the unquiet years;
Past all our dreamland hopes, and doubts and fears,
He guides our steps, through all the tangled maze
Of losses, sorrows, and o'erclouded days;
We know His will is done;
And still He leads us on.
--N.L. Zinzendorf

 

January 2

"And there was an enlarging, and a winding about still upward to the side chambers: for the. winding about of the house went still upward round about the house: therefore the breadth of the house was still upward and so increased from the lowest chamber to the highest by the midst."(Ezek. 41:7).

"Still upward be thine onward course:
For this I pray today;
Still upward as the years go by,
And seasons pass away.

"Still upward in this coming year,
Thy path is all untried;
Still upward may'st thou journey on,
Close by thy Savior's side.

"Still upward e'en though sorrow come,
And trials crush thine heart;
Still upward may they draw thy soul,
With Christ to walk apart.

"Still upward till the day shall break,
And shadows all have flown;
Still upward till in Heaven you wake,
And stand before the throne."

We ought not to rest content in the mists of the valley when the summit of Tabor awaits us. How pure are the dews of the hills, how fresh is the mountain air, how rich the fare of the dwellers aloft, whose windows look into the New Jerusalem!

Many saints are content to live like men in coal mines, who see not the sun. Tears mar their faces when they might anoint them with celestial oil. Satisfied I am that many a believer pines in a dungeon when he might walk on the palace roof, and view the goodly land and Lebanon. Rouse thee, O believer, from thy low condition! Cast away thy sloth, thy lethargy, thy coldness, or whatever interferes with thy chaste and pure love to Christ. Make Him the source, the center, and the circumference of all thy soul's range of delight. Rest no longer satisfied with thy dwarfish attainments. Aspire to a higher, a nobler, a fuller life. Upward to heaven! Nearer to God! --Spurgeon

"I want to scale the utmost height,
And catch a gleam of glory bright;
But still I'll pray, till heaven I've found,
Lord, lead me on to higher ground!"

Not many of us are living at our best. We linger in the lowlands because we are afraid to climb the mountains. The steepness and ruggedness dismay us, and so we stay in the misty valleys and do not learn the mystery of the hills. We do not know what we lose in our self-indulgence, what glory awaits us if only we had courage for the mountain climb, what blessing we should find if only we would move to the uplands of God. --J. R. M

"Too low they build who build beneath the stars."

 

January 3

"I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure." (Gen. 33:14).

What a beautiful picture of Jacob's thoughtfulness for the cattle and the children! He would not allow them to be overdriven even for one day. He would not lead on according to what a strong man like Esau could do and expected them to do, but only according to what they were able to endure. He knew exactly how far they could go in a day; and he made that his only consideration in arranging the marches. He had gone the same wilderness journey years before, and knew all about its roughness and heat and length, by personal experience. And so he said, "I will lead on softly." "For ye have not passed this way heretofore" (Josh.3:4.).

We have not passed this way heretofore, but the Lord Jesus has. It is all untrodden and unknown ground to us, but He knows it all by personal experience. The steep bits that take away our breath, the stony bits that make our feet ache so, the hot shadeless stretches that make us feel so exhausted, the rushing rivers that we have to pass through--Jesus has gone through it all before us. "He was wearied with his journey." Not some, but all the many waters went over Him, and yet did not quench His love. He was made a perfect Leader by the things which He suffered. "He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." Think of that when you are tempted to question the gentleness of His leading. He is remembering all the time; and not one step will He make you take beyond what your foot is able to endure. Never mind if you think it will not be able for the step that seems to come next; either He will so strengthen it that it shall be able, or He will call a sudden halt, and you shall not have to take it at all. --Frances Ridley Havergal

In "pastures green"? Not always; sometimes He
Who knowest best, in kindness leadeth me
In weary ways, where heavy shadows be.
So, whether on the hill-tops high and fair
I dwell, or in the sunless valleys, where
The shadows lie, what matter? He is there.
--Barry

 

January 4

"Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way." (John 4:50).

"When ye pray, believe" (Mark 11:24).

When there is a matter that requires definite prayer, pray till you believe God, until with unfeigned lips you can thank Him for the answer. If the answer still tarries outwardly, do not pray for it in such a way that it is evident that you are not definitely believing for it. Such a prayer in place of being a help will be a hindrance; and when you are finished praying, you will find that your faith has weakened or has entirely gone. The urgency that you felt to offer this kind of prayer is clearly from self and Satan. It may not be wrong to mention the matter in question to the Lord again, if He is keeping you waiting, but be sure you do so in such a way that it implies faith. Do not pray yourself out of faith. You may tell Him that you are waiting and that you are still believing Him and therefore praise Him for the answer. There is nothing that so fully clinches faith as to be so sure of the answer that you can thank God for it. Prayers that pray us out of faith deny both God's promise in His Word and also His whisper "Yes," that He gave us in our hearts. Such prayers are but the expression of the unrest of one's heart, and unrest implies unbelief in reference to the answer to prayer. "For we which have believed do enter into rest" (Heb. 4:3). This prayer that prays ourselves out of faith frequently arises from centering our thoughts on the difficulty rather than on God's promise. Abraham "considered not his own body," "he staggered not at the promise of God" (Rom. 4:19, 20). May we watch and pray that we enter not into temptation of praying ourselves out of faith. --C. H. P.

Faith is not a sense, nor sight, nor reason, but a taking God at His Word. --Evans

The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. --George Mueller

You will never learn faith in comfortable surroundings. God gives us the promises in a quiet hour; God seals our covenants with great and gracious words, then He steps back and waits to see how much we believe; then He lets the tempter come, and the test seems to contradict all that He has spoken. It is then that faith wins its crown. That is the time to look up through the storm, and among the trembling, frightened seamen cry, "I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me."

"Believe and trust; through stars and suns,
Through life and death, through soul and sense,
His wise, paternal purpose runs;
The darkness of His Providence
Is starlit with Divine intents."

 

January 5

"Lord, there is none beside thee to help." (2 Chron. 14:11, RV).

Remind God of His entire responsibility. "There is none beside thee to help." The odds against Asa were enormous. There was a million of men in arms against him, besides three hundred chariots. It seemed impossible to hold his own against that vast multitude. There were no allies who would come to his help; his only hope, therefore, was in God. It may be that your difficulties have been allowed to come to so alarming a pitch that you may be compelled to renounce all creature aid, to which in lesser trials you have had recourse, and cast yourself back on your Almighty Friend.

Put God between yourself and the foe. To Asa's faith, Jehovah seemed to stand between the might of Zerah and himself, as one who had no strength. Nor was he mistaken. We are told that the Ethiopians were destroyed before the Lord and before His host, as though celestial combatants flung themselves against the foe in Israel's behalf, and put the large host to rout, so that Israel had only to follow up and gather the spoil. Our God is Jehovah of hosts, who can summon unexpected reinforcements at any moment to aid His people. Believe that He is there between you and your difficulty, and what baffles you will flee before Him, as clouds before the gale. --F. B. Meyer

"When nothing whereon to lean remains,
When strongholds crumble to dust;

When nothing is sure but that God still reigns,
That is just the time to trust.

"'Tis better to walk by faith than sight,
In this path of yours and mine;

And the pitch-black night, when there's no outer light
Is the time for faith to shine."

Abraham believed God, and said to sight, "Stand back!" and to the laws of nature, "Hold your peace!" and to a misgiving heart, "Silence, thou lying tempter!" He believed God. --Joseph Parker

 

January 6

"When thou passest through the waters...they shall not overflow thee"(Isa. 43:2).

God does not open paths for us in advance of our coming. He does not promise help before help is needed. He does not remove obstacles out of our way before we reach them. Yet when we are on the edge of our need, God's hand is stretched out.

Many people forget this, and are forever worrying about difficulties which they foresee in the future. They expect that God is going to make the way plain and open before them, miles and miles ahead; whereas He has promised to do it only step by step as they may need. You must get to the waters and into their floods before you can claim the promise. Many people dread death, and lament that they have not "dying grace." Of course, they will not have dying grace when they are in good health, in the midst of life's duties, with death far in advance. Why should they have it then? Grace for duty is what they need then, living grace; then dying grace when they come to die. --J. R. M.

"When thou passest through the waters"
Deep the waves may be and cold,
But Jehovah is our refuge,
And His promise is our hold;
For the Lord Himself hath said it,
He, the faithful God and true:
"When thou comest to the waters

Thou shalt not go down, BUT THROUGH."

Seas of sorrow, seas of trial,
Bitterest anguish, fiercest pain,
Rolling surges of temptation
Sweeping over heart and brain
They shall never overflow us
For we know His word is true;
All His waves and all His billows
He will lead us safely through.

Threatening breakers of destruction,
Doubt's insidious undertow,
Shall not sink us, shall not drag us
Out to ocean depths of woe;
For His promise shall sustain us,
Praise the Lord, whose Word is true!
We shall not go down, or under,
For He saith, "Thou passest THROUGH."
--Annie Johnson Flint

 

January 7

"I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content."(Phil. 4:11).

Paul, denied of every comfort, wrote the above words in his dungeon. A story is told of a king who went into his garden one morning, and found everything withered and dying. He asked the oak that stood near the gate what the trouble was. He found it was sick of life and determined to die because it was not tall and beautiful like the pine. The pine was all out of heart because it could not bear grapes, like the vine. The vine was going to throw its life away because it could not stand erect and have as fine fruit as the peach tree. The geranium was fretting because it was not tall and fragrant like the lilac; and so on all through the garden. Coming to a heart's-ease, he found its bright face lifted as cheery as ever. "Well, heart's-ease, I'm glad, amidst all this discouragement, to find one brave little flower. You do not seem to be the least disheartened." "No, I am not of much account, but I thought that if you wanted an oak, or a pine, or a peach tree, or a lilac, you would have planted one; but as I knew you wanted a heart's-ease, I am determined to be the best little heart's-ease that I can."

"Others may do a greater work,
But you have your part to do;
And no one in all God's heritage
Can do it so well as you."

They who are God's without reserve, are in every state content; for they will only what He wills, and desire to do for Him whatever He desires them to do; they strip themselves of everything, and in this nakedness find all things restored an hundredfold.

 

January 8

Showers and Sunshine

"I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing."(Ezek. 34:26).

What is thy season this morning? Is it a season of drought? Then that is the season for showers. Is it a season of great heaviness and black clouds? Then that is the season for showers. "As thy day so shall thy strength be." "I will give thee showers of blessing." The word is in the plural. All kinds of blessings God will send. All God's blessings go together, like links in a golden chain. If He gives converting grace, He will also give comforting grace. He will send "showers of blessings." Look up today, O parched plant, and open thy leaves and flowers for a heavenly watering. --Spurgeon

"Let but thy heart become a valley low,
And God will rain on it till it will overflow."

Thou, O Lord, canst transform my thorn into a flower. And I want my thorn transformed into a flower. Job got the sunshine after the rain, but has the rain been all waste? Job wants to know, I want to know, if the shower had nothing to do with the shining. And Thou canst tell me Thy Cross can tell me. Thou hast crowned Thy sorrow. Be this my crown, O Lord. I only triumph in Thee when I have learned the radiance of the rain. --George Matheson

The fruitful life seeks showers as well as sunshine.

"The landscape, brown and sere beneath the sun,
Needs but the cloud to lift it into life;
The dews may damp the leaves of tree and flower,
But it requires the cloud-distilled shower
To bring rich verdure to the lifeless life.

"Ah, how like this, the landscape of a life:
Dews of trial fall like incense, rich and sweet;
But bearing little in the crystal tray
Like nymphs of night, dews lift at break of day
And transient impress leave, like lips that meet.

"But clouds of trials, bearing burdens rare,
Leave in the soul, a moisture settled deep:
Life kindles by the magic law of God;
And where before the thirsty camel trod,
There richest beauties to life's landscape leap.

"Then read thou in each cloud that comes to thee
The words of Paul, in letters large and clear:
So shall those clouds thy soul with blessing feed,
And with a constant trust as thou dost read,
All things together work for good. Fret not, nor fear!"

Monday, December 21, 2020

Measure Your Life by Loss 

What has this year been like for you? Do you face this Christmas with loss? Do you look back over this year with a measure of sorrow over something or someone you had that has been taken from you? Is it economic loss because of the pandemic? Or perhaps the loss of someone very close to you?

This video tells the true story of an American family who turned their sorrow (both economic and personal) into an extrarordinary story of victory and service to humanity. It is the story of the founders of the American Colony in Jerusalem.

As you watch this video, consider this: How would the lives of these people have been different if they had not faced the awesome tragedy that confronted them? And not only their lives, but the lives of the many, many people they were able to help through the American Colony. They ended up moving to Jerusalem in 1881 in complete desparation of their American lives because of seemingly endless loss. Would they have been willing to give up their rather luxurious American lives if it had not been for this loss?

No matter what you may have gone through this past year, nobody knows exactly how it feels to be you. That doesn't mean you cannot receive comfort from them. Sometimes we actually need input from people who cannot relate personally to what we have gone through. Woe to those for whom commisseration is the only form of comfort they are offered. But beyond the kind words and the companionship of those who are willing to walk beside you in your grief, I hope that you will take time to spend moments with God, and seek to have him reveal the greatness He intends for you--a greatness that never could have been without the loss you have suffered.

Measure thy life by loss and not by gain,
Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth.
For love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice,
And he who suffers most has most to give.
--Streams in the Desert

The American Colony no longer exists today as a commune. But the original house they lived in still stands as a testimony to their triumph from tragedy in the form of the American Colony Hotel. It was the site of the meetings in 1992 between Israel and the PLO that led to the Oslo Peace Accord.

Links:

American Colony in Jerusalem

American Colony Hotel

Also check the external links at the end of each of these articles. Really fascinating.

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Friday, November 20, 2020

Moving in China 

This was actually the first time I had done a major move in China--I mean moving from one city to another. On January 10th of 2004, I flew out of Los Angeles into Beijing with a large suitcase and an army duffle bag. Both of them were marked "heavy" because they were at or near the 70 pound weight limit. From those two comes all this. And you didn't see the stuff I left behind: books in my bookshelf, clothes in my clothes, dishes...Actually, dishes are not that big a deal. They are heavy, hard to pack and cheap to buy. So I didn't take much...my cast iron skillet and my yogurt maker mainly. A few other things. Oh, I guess I had a fancy table setting for two that my university had given me as a gift. That was easy, because I had never unboxed it. Still packed in the original Styrofoam.

Some people think fifteen hundred kuai is a high price. But I had a number of books, and they are heavy, so I was going to be happy with anything under 2000. Beijing to Kunming is a very long journey across China. Kunming is roughly the same latitude as Honolulu, so it is very far south of Beijing, and that is before we even start talking about how far west it is. Beijing to Kunming would be a long journey even if they were the same lattitude.

With companies like Jing Dong now, moving across country is not that much different from moving across town. The main difference, I guess is that you cannot just carry a few boxes at a time in your car or on the subway, so you have to plan a little more. And you would need to be good at deciding what you really need to take with you. You cannot take everything when you are shipping by rail. In fact, Sunny originally informed me that Jing Dong had refused the load because it was too large. I don’t know what she did, but she worked her majic and got them to change their minds. As I said, I assume it was shipped by rail, but it came to my doorstep in a van on two shrink-wrapped pallets. The delivery guy cut the shrink wrap off, and then he and I moved the boxes from his van to the elevator, and up to the 11th floor. After we got everything to the 11th floor, I told him to go ahead and go because my apartment isn’t that far from the elevator. A couple of my new neighbors happened to come up in the elevator and see me carrying boxes. They stopped what they were doing and helped me get everything to my apartment.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2020

The Russians are Coming 

There has been a lot of discussion about where these birds come from, and as far as I know, the research is continuing. It is believed that most of them come from Lake Baikal in Siberia, but they have been mapped to several other areas as well:


They first showed up in 1985, shocking the local people who called them "water pigeons." Since that time there has been much more research into their origins, and why they fly all the way from Lake Baikal every year.

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Monday, November 02, 2020

Coming Trump Landslide? 


Generally, the polls are showing Biden ahead. But on the ground, it feels like Trump. So what is happening? In this podcast, I want to examine this in two ways. Or two aspects. The scientific aspect and the spirittual aspect.

Polling is broken. We don't know how to predict elections anymore. After 2016, everbody is nervous, because the polls were so wrong. Pollsters see this election as their "last chance."

But there are other things going on. Americca is a very divided country right now. I have never seen America this divided. So much about this election is related to the polarization in America.

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Monday, October 26, 2020

Taiwan: China's Next Target? 

Watch this video. Very interesting discussion from German public television about the potential for conflict between Taiwan and the mainland. But I need to address a couple of issues.

First, at the beginning of the video we see a young man giving credit to Li Denghui for the change in Taiwan's system. It is true that he implemented the changes, as I have outlined previously. But Jiang Jingguo, the son of Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) was the king maker who essentially put him in power. There is not a mention of Jiang Jingguo in this video. That is a galling historical omission.

Secondly, this video says that “only 15 countries in the world recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state.” This is not true. In fact no country in the world recognizes Taiwan as a sovereign state. Taiwan is not a country. Taiwan is an island. The correct name of the country is “Republic of China,” and yes, there are 15 countries in the world who recognize the Republic of China. So I need to explain this.

After World War II, which also ended the second Sino-Japanese War, China was left a war-torn and very divided country. This is because the Chinese Civil War was going on at the same time as the Sino-Japanese War. The Chinese Civil War was a conflict for control of China between the Communist and the Nationalists (KMT). Here is what Wikipedia says:

The Chinese Civil War was a civil war in China fought between the Kuomintang (KMT)-led government of the Republic of China (ROC) and the Communist Party of China (CPC) lasting intermittently between 1927 and 1949.
But this is incorrect. In fact, the Chinese Civil War did not end in 1949. It is still going on. A civil war ends when one side of the conflict surrenders to the other. But the KMT never surrendered to the Communists. They fled to the island of Taiwan, and they have been holed up there for seventy years, waiting for their chance to retake the mainland. That's why the official name of the government is the “Republic of China.” They still consider themselves to be the legitimate government of all of China, including Tibet and (incredibly) Mongolia.

But this is complicated by the fact that 70 percent of the population of Taiwan are native people. They did not invite the “refugees” from China. Taiwan was commandeered by Chiang Kai-shek's army in a bloody takeover.

For many years, these Taiwanese natives were totally dominated by the newcomers. But thanks to Jiang Jingguo, who announced that the country was not going to be led by a family dynasty, the Taiwanese natives now have their own party, and it should not surprise anyone that this party is now in power. After all, as I said, Taiwanese natives predominate.

So to help you grasp this, I better give you the preferred perspective of each of the three entities that are concerned here:

KMT This is the nationalist party started by Sun Yat-sen that originally ruled China during the period between the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty, and the formation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. In fact, they didn’t really rule China consistently until the late twenties, and they escaped to Taiwan in 1949, after which they didn’t really control the mainland, but never officially admitted that they no longer rule mainland China. There official position remains to retake the mainland and govern all of China, although there is growing realization among the younger members of this party that retaking the mainland is a pipe dream.

DPP This is the independence party—the party of the Taiwanese natives. They have no interest in retaking the mainland. They would strongly prefer complete independence from China

CCP The Communist Party’s position is that Taiwan must return to China and they promise that Taiwan will be allowed to maintain their own system, but under the umbrella of the Communist Party. This is called “one country, two systems.” China (CCP) feels very strongly about this. Now, here is the historical irony: The CCP favors the KMT, bccause the KMT supports the one China policy. But the problem is that the CCP’s one China is very different from the KMT’s one China. They each think they should be in charge. So they don’t actually agree with each other. And the CCP (I believe) have deceived themselves into thinking that because the KMT supports one China, that means that they are more open to one country, two systems. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why? Because the full name of one country, two systems is “one country, two systems under the Communist party of China.” The KMT will never agree to being under the Communist party, because that is tantamount to surrender. So the KMT and the CCP both support “one China,” each with their own interpretation, and the KMT and the DPP both oppose one country, two systems. Vehemently.

Now, there is a new trend developing: It seems to me that among the younger generation(s), there is less and less difference between the DPP and the KMT with regard to the status of Taiwan. This is a very interesting and significant development, and I am watching it closely. I can’t say for sure, but it really seems to me that many of the KMT folks in the younger generation are resigned to the fact that they can never retake the mainland, so they are content to just be left alone (much like the DPP) However, being left alone sounds like independence, and that is not supposed to be what their party stands for, so they are opting for the status quo, which means kicking the can down the road.

The DPP has no problem saying they support independence, because they never ever had any interest in taking the mainland. But they are smart enough to realize that officially declaring independence would mean war, so they also tend to support the status quo.

So how long will the Beijing government allow Taiwan to say, “lets deal with this later?” It’s anybody’s guess, but it is important to point out that the reason so few countries recognize the Republic of China, is because when you recognize the Republic of China, you are saying that the Republic of China (essentially the Taiwan government in Taipei) is the only legitimate government of all of China. It is not possible to regognize both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China, because they both claim sovereignty over the same territory. And there is no way to recognize both the People's Republic of China and Taiwan, because Taiwan is not a country, and doesn't claim to be. It's just an island. Or is it?

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Friday, October 02, 2020

When I started this blog back in 2003, there was no Facebook. I would typically write a blog post and sprinkle it with a few pictures to illustrate what I was writing about. I am now moving those pictures to the Facebook album format. Most of my travel around China has been by train, although I have also used busses extensively in the western mountains where there are no trains.

Hulunbuir

Hulunbuir is technically classified as a municipality, but the designation is a bit strange, because Hulunbuir is a largely rural area, and it's huge. It's really more like a small province, but it's not officially regarded as a province, because it is inside the province of Inner Mongolia.
Enhe, Summer 2013
Enhe is a little village in the north of Hulunbuir. The older townspeople are typically Russian women who married Chinese men who were working in Russia and returned to China with thier husbands. When I approached them, they generally started out talking to me in Russian. Sadly, the town is becoming a tourist area, so it will become more and more unpleasant as time goes on. The grassland is very beautiful. I would generally take my dinner out on the deck and look across the prairie at the sunset as I was eating.

Manzhouli, Summer 2013
Manzhouli had its beginings as a stop on the old railroad from Russia to China which was built at the end of the 19th century. But its importance today is as a port of entry—the largest land port of entry in China. Sixty percent of Chinese trade with Eastern Europe goes through this port. What I noticed more than anything is that many, many Russians come to Manzhouli. These are not really tourists in the sense of people traveling around and sightseeing. They are country people from Eastern Russia who come to Manzhouli because they can shop for such low prices that the money they save easily pays for their hotel bill. One result of this is that many if not most of the restaurants in town serve Russian food, and most of the waitresses speak Russian. I mainly went there because the cool summers are such a relief from the summer heat of Beijing.

Xinjiang

Xingjiang is now officially the westernmost province in China. Historically, Xinjiang was not considered part of China proper. Travelers left China through a place called “Yumenguan,” the “Jade Gate.” This gate was considered the dividing line between China and the regions beyond to the west. It was located in the far west of Gansu Province, which, of course is on the eastern edge of Xinjiang. It was this gate through which travelers left China for the regions beyond to the west. Chinese government policy to this day is haunted by the traditional belief that the Central Asian people on the west side of this gate are foreigners who represent an existential threat, and can therefore be mistreated. This partially explains the horrific human rights violations going on now in Xinjiang, where at least hundreds of thousands of Uyghur people have been incarcerated in huge internment camps that have shocked the civilized world ever since the BBC published satellite photos of those Kafkaesque internment camps in 2016.
Kashgar, Summer 2005
In the summer of 2005, I flew to Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, and then took the train for 24 hours across the burning hot Taklamkan Desert to Kashgar, the 2000 year old Silk Road trading post on the far western edge of the desert.

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