My last day of employment in China was the 11th of June, 2016. The total work contracts (five of them at a public school in Shenzhen, three others for QSI International School of Dongguan) spanned a length of 7.77 years. It was time to move on, with a teaching certification left to wrap-up, with the last step having to take place in the US in one of a dozen partner states. That number has slimmed down to 11, Arizona dropping affiliation on the website of ABCTE.org.

Ten days & over 2,oookm later, after a stop in Spring’s hometown of Yueyang, we waylayed in Beijing having sent ahead five or so pieces of luggage by delivery. There were about 12 bags, counting the carry-on. Since Hunan, my momther-in-law had accompanied us, seeing us off that rainy day spent shopping and touring Tiananmen grounds. Were those raindrops on her face as she bid us farewell? Maybe not if it were just me and her first child going off to America, but we had two of her favorite grandchildren in tow.

The flight: long & somewhat less memorable than the Amtrak trip from Seattle to Whitefish a few weeks later. When a double trailer semi has a train pass through it on the tracks leaving Wenatchee, it tends to delay the process.

We’d spent the first 2 1/2 weeks with my folks in Kirkland, getting to know just how international the area was becoming through interactions with folks at the public parks/beaches and assembling with the Lord’s Recovery congregation in Bellevue and the Kirkland Church of Christ. A French friend Samuel whom I’d met at the U of M while attending ’04-’08 also met up with us one day. I’d also been getting applications in to the Dept. of Education in Idaho and some schools in and around the panhandle. The idea was to try and settle in the Spokane/Coeur D’Alene area after getting a vehicle in Kalispell, MT. My 83 year-old grandmother came (with my Aunt Cheryl’s boy Dustin along) and snagged my family from Whitefish. The car we had first considered was getting fixed up by Dustin but not necessarily cleaned out, so we began looking elsewhere, seeing as how my uncle coming down from Alaska would be using it for a couple weeks at the end of July.

I met up with Nick Palmer, a former co-worker with the FSSS office (now known as ISS). HE’d moved to Korea in the time I was in China and also came back with an asian wife. They have one child & he had even landing some teaching gigs in the Flathead Valley, but was employed at the hospital for the time-being. He steered me toward the classifieds page for the Flathead on Facebook & within 15 minutes I was responding to a post about a ’95 Honda Odyssey. Only $1350 and it’s still showing it’s worth a few tires, rear brakes, a radiator hose, tune-up & starter later. We even made it throughout the winter without chains. We left the next day to stay in Spokane for a couple of weeks, then on to Moses Lake for three. The stay in Spokane was vital, since our border crossing in the Sea-Tac airport resulted in Spring having her 6 month stay chopped to only two months. Since Spokane had an immigration office to work through, we were able to get an application to the Chicago field office to arrive on the date her stay was supposed to end, August 31st. Since they received our request to adjust status and extend her stay (things expressly prohibited according to the CBP stamp) on said date, a process was in motion under the jurisdiction of the USCIS to help us toward a permanent residence (aka green card). We’re currently a medical examination correction and update away from that status, but her employement permit has cleared and this is the 2nd weekend she has put some time in at All Seasons as a housekeeper, legally employed.

The episode in Moses Lake needs to be left alone, for the situation we found ourselves in was all-around bad news, with the exception of seeds sown for the gospel with some fellow workers within the crop of cannabis cultivation I’d found somewhat gainful employment in as an inventory specialist. Thank the good Lord for family camp. I’d not had any success by Labor Day weekend in finding a teaching job in Idaho nor Washington (though I was blessed with at least one interview at the Coeur D’Alene reservation school). Since I had Montana on my mind with the annual meeting of numerous congregations in Bozeman approaching, I decided to upload my details to the Montana Office of Public Instruction website and within a week got a couple of calls. One was from a gal in Poplar, MT and a second from the superintendent of White Sulphur Springs school district #8.

When Larry Markuson from WSS SD#8 called, I associated him with the Poplar school and thought I might need to relocate to Eastern Montana and assemble with the Williston crew, which was truly exciting. After speaking with both schools initially and letting them know that I was not licensed to teach in Montana (the closest I was to being certified anywhere was Idaho, at least in the northwest region of the U.S.), I’d pretty much written myself off from getting a job in a school in my favorite state. Since I’d referred a friend to Mr. Markuson (remember Nick Palmer? It turns out he’d made pals with my cousin Andy Kirk, the older half-brother of my uncle Jim’s girls since I’d been in China & it was Andy that agreed to help me sponsor Spring, since me doing it alone without an income over the summer doesn’t appeal to the immigration process), I called him back about it on the way to Bozeman. We’d just spent the night at a sister’s place in Missoula and I’d prayed to the God of the Universe to take over after it seemed my efforts over the past couple of months had proven fruitless. When I spoke to him, he assured me that not only had he spoken to Nick, but that the position had been filled by a gal that was also contemplating a teaching gig in China with Disney English. I let Larry know that I’d be interested in anything he might have to offer down the road, but he didn’t even let me off the phone before offering a proposition of enough part-time work to keep one full-time busy. What he told me was ultimately true I discovered that Tuesday following Labor Day, but I’ll save that for another post. God is good all the time…and all the time, God is good. It’s good to be back.

80 days after our plane arrived to the States, I was in Montana within a week’s time of starting work…first just supervising kid’s on the playground at lunchtime and cleaning up the gym/locker rooms, but with a little more testing and training, I was driving school bus and teaching reading classes, even enrolling Matthew in time for him to temporarily be in one of them with a few other boys.

Things have gone well here so far, but plans are in motion to once again look for some closure on this teaching certification that is most possibly and probably to take place in Idaho. Feel free to pray that we may end up in a location that keeps us connected to the body of Christ, for times of spiritual drought in China took its toll on me. I need hearty and healthy fellowship, as a parched ground needs the rain.

I’ll share what we’ve been doing as far as encouragement in the Lord here in Montana in the next published post.

Appreciated is your making it this far. May the Lord bless you as He has us.

David, Spring, Matt & Autumn.

 

Twenty-two months have passed since my last post & I’m amazed at how time flies. I actually began drafting a post exactly a year to the day named ‘Autumn’s Winter’ (hence the ordinal # in this title), a fact I just discovered when checking the date stamp of the last edit. God continues to delight my number-loving nature, even as prepare for Mathematics class this morning. I have found myself slipping into old habits of the flesh again lately & desire to revive this godly habit of the Spirit. I have much to share and will make a concerted effort to engage all yours minds with the info of our updates soon. Chinese New Year is just around a quick upcoming corner, so in the mortal words of the Austrian-born former governor of California: I’LL BE BACK (Then again, Jesus was 1st to say that).

‘He who testifies to these things says,

“Surely I am coming quickly.”

Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!’

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Amen.’ Revelation 22:20-21

In Him,

David James Cook

PS- Just as I was copying & pasting this verse, Spring comes in to ask me a question, “What is the first name to show up in the New Testament and the last name to show up in the New Testament?” Since it’s the same name, I think you just read the answer. He is the first and the last in every way=)

PPS- Interesting that the 22 months corresponds with Rev 22, another simple pleasure of seeing the same numbers pop up.

 

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• Jewish Advantage To the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Everyone who believes is welcome to God, but the Gospel of the first century was offered initially to the physical descendants of Abraham. It was only fitting after all for those, “who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh…” (Rom 4:4-5) to have the first opportunity to obey the Gospel. Paul and Barnabas were guided by this principle as they went from city to city as messengers of that good news. Upon arriving in Pisidian Antioch, “on the Sabbath day they went into the synagogue and sat down.” (Ac 13:14) Though they would prove difficult, the Jews were prepared for the coming of the Christ, as they possessed the prerequisite knowledge to understand His significance. The Jew, for instance, could place Jesus’ death in the OT context of vicarious sacrifice, whereas the Gentile would be working with a flawed frame of religious reference or none at all. The “advantage” of the Jew in that sense is great indeed. (Rom 3:1-2) When Paul and his companions arrived in Antioch, they looked to gather the low-hanging fruit first and take the Gospel to those who should receive it.

• Everywhere a Synagogue The custom of the synagogue was an advantageous development for the Jewish faith and especially helpful for the early church. It seems the practice of assembling together each Sabbath sprang out of the necessity Babylonian captivity produced.
Weekly, the congregants would unite for the reading of the Law and the prophets and in time it became the hub of Jewish society including even charitable welfare. This served to keep the people from idol worship and retained their adhesion as a cultural and religious identity while deported. It also meant that in nearly every city the Gospel would reach, a synagogue was already there prepared to hear it. “For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.” (Ac 15:21)

• Modern Moses The weekly reading of Moses had substance, but the ministry of death is a tutor to lead us to Christ. The Law lacks life and power; the Gospel is the message of both. “for I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Rom 1:16) In similar fashion, modern day synagogues abound. A 2010 Gallup pole suggests that just over 43% of americans “frequently” attend a religious meeting of some kind. When we consider what fraction of that ≈ 120 million represent churches based on the Bible, who acknowledge Gospel obedience in baptism, and recognize the Holy Spirit’s power to change the inner man, we may say with Jesus that the fields are indeed white for harvest. “Brethren,” said the synagogue official, “if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it” (Ac 13:15)

Next Week: Line of Heroes
Mark Miller

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” writes the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians, 11th chapter verse one, as we know it. In immediate context, it follows the words from chapter ten: “I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.”

Praise God! That was exactly what happened this past week in our lives, as tragedy marked this week in April with explosions in Boston, so too some big bangs were creating new life on our end (God’s sense of humor can be seen in the fact that he does what the darwinists try to explain happened in the material realm by chance, but His work is everlasting in the spiritual realm).

Some background info is helpful in reference to last Lord’s Day’s chain reaction being set off. It begins with a disciple I’d immersed in the winter of 2010-2011 who’d stayed with us before after some relationship issues. After a rather short marriage, his search for a new partner seemed to get more and more futile with each pursuit. One of the gals, also in the circle of those studying the Scriptures with us at the time,  came to our home for a shoulder to cry on. With this first instance, we advised her to make space between herself and him at the time and if God wills it, He’ll most certainly bring them back together. They stayed apart, meaning we only saw her once or twice again at our weekly study.

The second young woman to flee to our home for refuge did very much that. At first, she was coming with him in January and when he was occupied by my company and when the coast was clear, would divulge some strange behavior she’d observed in her Christian boyfriend. You see, she was the first non-believer I’d seen him with, which of course raised red flags with me right away. I even happened to be at the Sunday assembly where they’d met, a friend with whom I first started breaking bread back in 2008, after I’d first come to China. It was at Boo’s place that we all gathered that evening to listen to the  visiting preacher from Singapore, whose family this girl Monica had accompanied.

Monica was an artist involving mostly oil on canvas on the outside, though at the time I suspected her account of our friend TMG (the initials of his three English names together) to have been also painted with a flourish. Admittedly, as insinuating as the charges seemed to be, I wanted to extend the benefit of the doubt to the brother in Christ. His story was quite opposite of the accusatory tale of him holding her in this relationship against her will. In fact, he claimed she was smothering him at a time he was seeking an opportunity for break-up.

That opportunity came at the Chinese New Year, just after we’d spent the eve of the auspicious holiday period with a couple who seemed to relish each other’s company. He even shared his excitement at this time about how he’d changed her name to be more like my wife’s, since they’d formed a close bond from their many shared instances of common ground, such as coming from the same province and the passing of their fathers. He now called her Summer, with which I was initially uncomfortale, as it shed a bit of light on the fact that he might truly be controlling her.

That brings us up to speed in a general sense to a week ago. It turns out that even after their break-up, contact was maintained and Summer was once again persuaded to return to Shenzhen for another go at being TMG’s girlfriend. Of course, he’d disappeared off our radar, to the extent I wasn’t even sure he was in town. It had come to my attention that he was around after our buddy Boo spotted him at a pentecostal service or two playing in the praise band. When I got ahold of him to inquire as to why he’d been such a stranger lately, he invited me to hear him sing a couple of times, though the timing wasn’t jiving with my schedule at the time.

Then, last Lord’s Day, after I gone to be a guest teacher in a home assembly near my school (my first opportunity to preach in a home assembly apart from our own since I first came to China), my wife called me saying that Summer (aka Monica) had flown the coop, so to speak. TMG had taken her to another pentecostal meeting nearer to our home. She made an escape during an opening prayer after being granted permission by TMG to join the women’s study group.

She hid out in a conveniently-placed convenient store and attempted to persuade the clerk on duty to flag a taxi for her. With the worker being on duty, the young man who came into the store was the next target for this desperate request. Crouched down from any possible view through a window, knowing that TMG could come in at any time, she was able to get all this accomplished. Thanks to her dead battery in her cell phone, this all took place during a fumbling exchange of SIM cards with the store clerk in hopes she could reach the friends with whom she’d already discussed her plight a month or two ago.

At first her beacon for help went unanswered. Jenica, Spring and Summer’s mutual friend, was already experiencing problems with her phone to the extent that calls went undetected unless she was constantly checking it, which apparently she wasn’t. That left the reluctant option, call Spring. The way my wife relates the account, her demeanor was cold enough to not draw the first call. No worries, for the ice was about to thaw in Spring with the help of Summer. 

The two were able to make it back to the house with a Lily in tow. Being Lord’s Day, Lily hung around until the assembly. Aaron, a new contact, joined us later that evening. I made his acquaintance  at an English corner down the road from us, a coffee shop called Origo. The manager there is also called Spring. I’ll be hosting that a second week in a row for Dave Gordon, a pilot friend and brother with whom I’ve already come through a couple of rocky faith-testing exercises.

The lesson that night was about Jesus our Rock, and Aaron was interested in grilling my wife for more info, both about the Scriptures and about the current situation. Spring let me know that night before that Summer wanted to become a Christian. She spent the night and when I went off to the 4 kindergarten classes in the morning, Aaron came back over for support and protection. Jenica was able to join them around lunchtime, too. I got a call in the morning telling me there was no need to stop by the Baby store and buy a pool. Spring had already done that. I was excited and quite taken aback that Monica wasn’t swayed away from Christianity with this wolf in sheep’s clothing derailing her life for some time.

I had prepared a few Chinese songs and was putting in order some passages from Scriptures I’d go over to guage her understanding of what she was choosing to do. Then the doorbell rang. We’re on the 7th floor with no elevator, which bought some time when Aaron got up to call over the intercom to find out who it was. I heard TMG’s voice and subsequently the door opening and closing shut as if someone were either going out or coming in, letting him in the sheep’s gate. I through on my shoes and met him between the 3rd and 4th floor on the stairs, turning him around with my actions and words. As I led him out through the same door at ground level and across the small lot by which he’d just come, he answered my inquisition as to what was going on by saying he had cancer. Within the next ten minutes or so, I’d learned other dark secrets which explained this complete downturn of events he was involved in to some degree.

As we spoke in plain sight of anyone who might be peering out our back sliding glass door, though later I’d find that to be no one, he disclosed that a missing persons report had been filed on Summer. It had the official red star stamp of the government and thankfully he was willing to give it to me. I told him I’d take it to her and advised him to give this pursuit of his a rest. He told me that he only wanted to talk to her one more time and that I should trust him, which is where I slipped and said he could talk to her in heaven if he turned back to the Lord and remained faithful. I told him in about two hours time she’d be a Christian, which surely condemns me for counting Christians before they’re hatched.

 It turned out to be longer than two hours, but still the same day. Of course, that’s still a story in itself (I hope you’ve learned to skim for pertinent info by now, hehe). After I let the kitten out of the bag that she’d be immersed soon, he started to ask questions like: “You know where she is?” & “Is she at your place?” Since I’d pretty much had to take anybody before that day to either a duck pond or swimming pool, it was easy for me to switch directions by asking him, “If she’s getting baptized, do you think she’d be at my place?” As I walked off in the opposite direction of where I lived, I told him I’d take the paper he gave me to her. Sure, I assumed he’d follow me, so my short-term destination was the bus stop across the street and down the road I’d figure out how to shake him. The trick was getting him a good distance away from her while uder the guise of leading him to her. 

Since I’d not brought a wallet, keys, money nor phone on my person in my haste, I had to ask TMG to use his phone to call my wife and let her know I’d be gone for a bit. She reluctantly answered, thinking it to be him, but after realizing it was me, bluntly said she was leaving with Matthew to a safer place, like her hometown. It turned out to be a much closer location. Once on the bus w/TMG, he pleaded with me to trust him. I told him I had to get back home, since this situation was messing with my marriage and family, too. As I got up to disembark at one point, he held my hand and said I needed to trust him, as he held me against my will. I told him he had to leave her behind. Naturally, this looked a bit queer to the four high schools situated immediately before us. A few stops later, I said we needed to get off the bus & was able to convince him to meet me the next day to talk while I hopped in a taxi to go back.

As the driver pulled away, I watched TMG cross the street as if he was listening to me to go home and get rest, since he said he’d not slept all night. I opened up to the taxi driver about the situation in my best broken Chinese and eventually come to the thought that Spring would depart before my arrival. I asked the bemused driver if I could use his phone and contacted my wife at about the same time we were both passing Shekou Walmart going opposite directions. My driver made a U-turn to allow me to first pay him, then join my family and Summer as they made a getaway to Gongming, where my wife’s former church was located. It had been where she was first sprinkled for salvation, but they’d as of late based their stance on the biblical model of immersion. Alongside this, however, they continued to speak in a babble they innappropriately labeled ‘speaking in tongues’. We arrived to the apartment converted to an assembly hall within an hour’s time and the ladies present (Cecilia, Sarah and Tongling) began to prepare for a new addition to King Jesus’ family.

For the purpose of bringing a new child into God’s Kingdom, they refrained from free-form jibber-jabber, though still setting the mood with some spirited singing and frenzied prayer. I took Matthew aside in some separate rooms in order to not disturb the ladies as they sang, taught, prayed and persuaded Summer to follow through with starting completely over with a brand new life. I must admit, since I was able to join them after a couple of hours when Matthew laid down for a nap, that Cecilia’s teaching of what happens in immersion was spectacular in even the 14th Century’s use of the word, which is a “specially prepared or arranged display.” It would take some special work for me to be a better job, but the fact they were all ladies developed an atmosphere I surely could not reproduce. 

Much of what has happened since that new birth will have to come in a follow-up post. My wife is completely on fire for the Lord now & wants to share so many amazing details of her own. There were 7 people at the pool that night, which I can’t help but think I may have influenced the way she thinks about that number, but ultimately that leads back to the glory of God. The seasoned sisters Spring and Summer were also together bonding in the Spirit nearly non-stop for six creative days with the first 24-hour period involving the Spirit hovering above the waters and a new sister taking form from an empty void of darkness, and the sixth day witnessing the conception of human life. Assuming that little one is revealed a little sister for Matthew Beloved, Autumn is due in Winter.    

Your prayers are appreciated and solicited,

David N Spring

 

 

• Famine Forecast Nothing is beyond the control of God. For those who will accept this as more than a trite cliche, there is peace and even freedom. Our circumstances are the not ebb and flow of a random universe, but the divinely directed course of the Almighty. Not only does He allow, but He orchestrates our situations for His glory and our good. This confidence liberates the Christian to accept his lot with full assurance that it will produce precisely what the Lord intended if he will trust and persevere. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28) The first century Church was about to have their faith tested by difficult circumstances in the form of famine. Some prophets from Jerusalem had come to Antioch, bringing with them the message that widescale famine was approaching. The Scriptures are not so explicit, but it seems reasonable that it was this news that prompted them to come, warning their Antioch brethren. Luke writes in retrospect, informing us that the famine occurred during Claudius’ reign. Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, was emperor from 41AD until his death in 54. (His adopted son Nero succeeded him on the throne.) Historians: Tacitus, Josephus, and Suetonius all make mention of this famine and place it in approximately 46AD.

• Faith Building The famine certainly didn’t take the Lord by surprise. Rather it provided the Giver of daily bread with an opportunity to teach His people. “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness;” (II Cor 9:10) Paul was referring to another gift sent to Jerusalem when he wrote this letter to the Corinthians, but the principles are non-specific. God is the one who provides both seed and bread, but is interested in a greater harvest – one of righteousness. Would God allow – even direct a famine? Consider what was gained by the Church as a result. The Lord could have provided manna just as easily, but instead used the Church as the mechanism of His provision. “And in the proportion that any of the disciples had means, each of them determined to send a contribution for the relief of the brethren living in Judea.” (Ac 11:29) Jerusalem was forced to recognize their gratitude to Antioch. Antioch in turn (though experiencing famine as well) was able to share and receive their reward just as the Philippians would later when sharing with Paul. “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” (Php 4:17) And both congregations were reminded to seek first His kingdom and rely on God to feed and clothe them. (Mt 6:31-33) They would soon need that faith for what they did not know was coming – Nero, and Roman persecution. Through the famine, God was preparing the Church just as He had the apostles, by forcing them to trust Him for their most-basic needs. Having come through that test, they would be ready to trust Him more. Such lessons of faith cannot be learned any other way. God will not leave the Church unprepared for the tasks and challenges that await her. A present-day famine of sorts looms larger each day on the horizon, and the faithful will be stronger because of it. Come Lord Jesus.

Next Week: Peter and James
Mark Miller

• Partners in Spreading the Word The names of those responsible for starting the congregation in Antioch are not known to us. These Church planters were not professionals, they were not apostles, nor were they sent out by the saints of Jerusalem, they simply took the Word of Christ with them as they tried to outrun the persecution centered in Judea. Most importantly, “the hand of the Lord was with them, and a large number who believed turned to the Lord.” (Ac 11:21) Christians would do well to remember Jesus said, “…Upon this rock, I will build My Church.” (Mt 16:18) Ultimately the Church is not grown by meals or marketing, but by Jesus Himself working through the spoken Word. Thus, the involvement of the Holy Spirit cannot be overstated in regards to the spread of the Gospel to those near or “…far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself.” (Ac 2:39)

• Barnabas’ Encouragement Despite the persecution, Barnabas remained in Jerusalem. The “Son of Encouragement” – so called by the Apostles – Barnabas had been pivotal in the acceptance of Saul of Tarsus when the newly-converted Saul returned to Jerusalem. Initially the believers there were reluctant to embrace the man who had arrested, and in some cases killed, their brothers in the faith. Barnabas stepped forward, and vouched for Saul, bringing him to the apostles. The Church in Antioch already had large numbers when the Jerusalem saints heard of it. They responded to its need by sending Barnabas. “For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith…” (Ac 11:24) His resolute encouragement in concert with the grace of God resulted in considerable numbers being brought to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man by any measure, not the least of which was his willingness to be used by God. When the Church needed him somewhere else, Barnabas was ready to go. His example reminds us that God did not promise to leave us comfortably at home, but uses us for His glory whenever and wherever He chooses.

• Teamwork Those considerable numbers needed considerable instruction. In fact, even Barnabas could not keep up with the needs of the Antioch congregation. He needed a partner, someone who could be trusted and knew the Scriptures well. The right man for the job was living in Tarsus, and Barnabas went there to find Saul. “and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Ac 11:26) Note that God had established another strong body of believers, and one that would be a necessary check on Jerusalem in later years. Also worthy of our consideration is that Antioch was independent enough to take the name “Christian” first. We follow the Antioch example in claiming the name “Christian” and should also in pursuing the goal of the Church to teach and encourage all who receive the grace of God.

Next Week: Jerusalem Mission
Mark Miller

• Meanwhile… The Scriptues – and specifically and book of Acts – are limited in their focus. Without what little help we receive from tradition, there would be no mention of the paths most apostles took from the Church in Jerusalem. To follow each of the Lord’s witnesses would be dauting, and in His wisdom the Holy Spirit thought it best to direct our attention to only two. The first twelve chapters of Acts focus mainly on Peter. However, at Stephen’s death in chapter seven we are introduced to Saul of Tarsus. Gradually, over the next few chapters the Word of God shifts to record Saul’s conversion, trail to Tarsus, Antioch, his missionary journeys, and imprisonment. But the Bible records only one account at a time. Like a comic book with multiple story lines, the Scripture also uses a “meanwhile” device to switch from one thread to another. We find it in Acts 11:19. “So then those who were scattered because of the persecution that occurred in connection with Stephen made their way to Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.” The persecution alluded to here is first recorded in Ac 8:1, “…And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” After recording the inclusion of the Gentiles in chapters 10 & 11, the Holy Spirit rewinds the tape to Stephen’s death and plays it again, but now His attention turns to Antioch and the partnership of Saul and Barnabas. therefore, Ac 11:19 – Ac 12 and onward record events that took place before Ac 10. Some may object claiming, “Luke’s style is chronological (Lk 1:3) and such “rewinding” is inconsistent.” Quite right. Luke continues to record events in consecutive order, but must pause one narrative in order to further another. This may seem insignificant, but is crucial to make sense of Ac 13, and we will revisit it then.

• Jews Only? The persecution spearheaded by Saul was a necessary part of the Lord’s plan, and it accomplished several things. First, by displacing a large portion of the Christian population, (They were all scattered) the Word of Jesus was scattered also. Everywhere they went the disciples took the message of Christ with them and obeyed the Great Commission to make disciples. Secondly, it served to remove them from Jerusalem – a providential exodus in light of the city’s promised destruction. Fleeing Jerusalem, many Jews sought safe haven in the places from which they had come, and made their way back to Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, “speaking the word to no one except to Jews alone.” (Ac 11:19) Why to Jews alone? This seems odd in light of Peter’s visit to Cornelius unless we remember that the persecution and subsequent scattering happened before the inclusion of the Gentiles. But when they reached Antioch, some of them “began speaking to the Greeks also, preaching the Lord Jesus.” (Ac 11:20 Thus, someone will say, “See the Greeks were included also, so this “rewinding” business is all rot.” Before we rush to judgment let us consider that “Helenists” (Ἑλληνιστάς) is the word here translated “Greeks” and means, “Greek speaking Jew” as rendered in Ac 6:1 & 9:29. The Lord had a definite plan to include the Genitles and He was working that plan even before Peter made his fateful trip to Caesarea. When He was finished no one could scarce deny that salvation was indeed open to all who would call upon Him, both Jew and Greek.

Next Week: Antioch
Mark Miller

• What Befell Them Peter never expected what God was about to do at the house of Cornelius. The apostle to the Jews had been given a strange assignment indeed, but upon arriving in Caesarea he found the Gentile’s house ready to receive the gospel message. Peter provided exactly that, and the Lord provided something else. “ While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.” (Ac 10:44) It is important to note what befell them. The Scriptures are not as modern man perceives art and literature around him – open to the interpretation of the beholder. The Bible, on the other hand, is much more precise. That precision serves us well in Cornelius’ house because sparse details are available here. To determine how, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all those” we must call other Scripture to our aid. Peter supplies this important clue in vs47. “Surely no one can refuse the water fort hese to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” Nearly identical language is used when Peter returned to Jerusalem to defend his actions before a Jewish church that was uncomfortable with God’s Gentile invitation. He said, “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, just as he did upon us at the beginning” (Ac 11:15) Peter was emphatic that what happened to the Gentiles was just what had happened to them at the beginning. That event is recorded in greater detail in Ac 2, and yields the following relevant information.
Three signs accompanied the Holy Spirit’s arrival: the sound of rushing wind, flames of fire upon the apostle’s heads, and the ability to speak in other intelligible languages. It signalled then that God had opened salvation to the Jews. In Acts 10 the same three signs occurred to signify the door was opened farther to include Gentiles also.

• Lasting Covenant Peter’s companions were amazed. One of the strongest proofs that Jesus’ twelve disciples were not colluding cronies was their lack of control over the early church. Had they been simply trying to please their constituents, the Gospel would never have reached the Gentiles. Indeed, it was nearly impossible even with divine intervention. Salvation had always been accessible to Gentiles, if they were willing to become Jews first. This was a radical departure, and Peter and his companions were just along for the ride. While encouraging the Galatian churches, the Spirit thought it appropriate for Paul to include this phrase. “even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.” (Gal 3:15) His point was that His promise to Abraham remained regardless of the Law that came through Moses. In like manner, the covenant of the New Testament cannot be edited. Some have claimed that Peter’s Acts 2 instruction to be immersed for the forgiveness of sin and to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit was specific to Jews only, and that Gentiles are not subject to the same requirements. However, baptism cannot be “set aside” nor does Peter attempt to do so. “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ…” (Ac 10:47-48) Two things appear immediately. Baptism in Jesus’ name takes place in the medium of water, and second, Baptism was not and is not for Jews only. The Lord continues to guide and direct His Church and like Peter, we must be ready ambassadors of the Gospel, neither setting things aside nor adding conditions to it.

Next Week: Church Politics
Mark Miller

• Peaceful Preacher The message of Christ was sent first to the Jews. After all, theirs were the oracles of God and the covenants of promise. As Peter said, “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all) (Ac 10:36) Thus the preaching of peace was conveyed through Jesus Christ. Though Jesus did preach and teach during His lifetime, to say that Jesus’ message was confined to the three years of His earthly ministry would be to misunderstand the Scriptures. Paul speaks of Jews and Gentiles respectively when quoting Isaiah 57, “And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near” (Eph 2:17) There were many times when Jesus entered a synagogue or taught by the sea of Galilee to the Jews, but the Gentiles were not invited. Then when, we ask, did the Lord preach peace to the nations? The inspired answer follows, “that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” (Ac 26:23) The raised up prophet about whom Moses spoke, had preached peace from the Day of Pentecost to the Jews and was about to speak again – to the house of Cornelius.

• Confirming Testimony Peter’s first objective when preaching to anyone is the same as ours – to establish Jesus as Lord. To do this the apostle appealed first to John. “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Ac 10:38) The beginning of Jesus’ claim to both King and Christ began at the Jordan river with His cousin John. Immediately upon Jesus immersion, two signs descended from heaven; the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove rested on Him and a voice sounded “This is My beloved Son.” This marked the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and witnessing it was a requirement for all of Jesus’ apostles. (Ac 1:22) Next, Peter reminded his Gentile audience of the wonders and signs Jesus performed while in flesh. These too were for the purpose of confirming His divine origin. (Ac 2:22) The greatest sign of all was the resurrection, which Peter confirmed with his own testimony as an apostle. “… to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.” (Ac 10:41)

• Power of God Jesus final instructions to the twelve (then eleven), concerned the preaching of the gospel, including the baptism, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ. However, He added one thing more. “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.” (Ac 10:43) Peter said he was under orders to announce Jesus as the judge of every man. As such, it is only through His name/authority that forgiveness of sins may be requested. The Gospel is simple, yet powerful. To the Jew it is a stumbling block, and Gentiles find it foolish. However, to those who are being saved it is the power of God. Preach the Gospel.

Next Week: Three Signs
Mark Miller

• Taboo Territory It was a preacher’s dream. Upon entering the house of Cornelius in Caesarea, Peter, “found many people assembled.” The family and friends of the Roman centurion had been waiting there for Peter to arrive and speak God’s Word to them. Excitement ran high, though it was taboo for a Jewish Christian to enter the home of a Gentile. Peter had been a law-keeper all his life. You will recall when the heavenly voice instructed Peter to arise, kill and eat, that Jewish etiquette objected. “But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” (Ac 10:14) The statutes given through Moses had succeeded in separating the Jews culturally from the rest of the world, and Peter knew them well. By Jesus’ day that separation included even entering the house of a Gentile. (Note the Jew’s unwillingness to enter Pilate’s praetorium in Jn 18:28) Peter also would have been reluctant to enter Cornelius’ house had it not been for God’s specific prodding. He said to the many gathered there, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.” (Ac 10:28)

• Righteous Judgment What a revelation! That no man by birth is unholy or unclean was a difficult concept for the Jews. Their boundaries – some written commandments, others cultural traditions – seemed to suggest just the opposite. How could the Gentile, so foreign from the Jew, be acceptable to God? Peter’s lesson ought not to fall on deaf ears, for the Scripture would make a modern application. (Jn 7:24) The Jews had badly misjudged Jesus. His divine origin was veiled to them for they saw only what their eyes could see. Likewise, if we view men only as they appear to our eyes we may also misjudge them. James warned his readers of personal favoritism based on financial status. A poor man in dirty clothes is just as welcome to God as a rich man in fine clothes and sporting a gold ring. He scolds, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” (Jms 2:4) We must be sure to offer to all the same opportunity for the Gospel. “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”

• Fear Him Cornelius recounted his story for Peter and the benefit of those gathered there and yielded the floor to his guest. “…Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” (Ac 10:33) Not only the Gentiles present but Peter also learned something that day. “…I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.” (Ac 10:34-35) Though God concerned Himself with taking a nation for His own possession, He never forgot the Gentiles. Throughout the Old Testament Law provisions were included for the foreigner that sojourned among the Jews. Even then, if a Gentile feared God and did what was right, that alien was welcome to Him. God be with us as we look for men and women of every nation, background, and socioeconomic strata who fear Him and do what is right.

Next Week: Anointed and Appointed Mark Miller

• Thinking Ahead With the certainty of Royal Canadian mounted police, the emissaries from Cornelius got their man. Just as the angel had promised, they found Simon called Peter in Joppa at the house of the tanner. After hearing their tale, the chief apostle extended hospitality to the three for the night and agreed to accompany them the following day back to Caesarea. In what would prove to be an important detail later, some other brethren (Jews) from Joppa went along with Peter and the servants also. God’s ways are truly higher than our own. Like us, Peter’s attention was focused on where he was and the circumstances that surrounded him – here and now. On the other hand, God sees, plans, and prepares for the future. Just as Jesus in the flesh was constantly preparing the disciples for what would follow, Jesus in glory continues to anticipate and train His disciples for the next horizon as only He can. Peter and his Jewish brethren were about to see what the prophets gazed at through distant years. “…And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations” (Is 42:6)

• Friends and Family If Peter had doubted the sincerity of his assuming host, his fears were immediately put to rest upon entering the house of Cornelius. Not only was the centurion himself waiting for his divinely appointed guest, but he also, “had called together his relatives and close friends.” (Ac 10:24) In fact, when Peter entered he found many people assembled before God to hear all that the Lord had commanded him (vs 27,33). How a man reacts to the gospel reveals much about him. Cornelius was a man of some importance and could easily have waited to see if such a man as Simon Peter existed numberswiki.com

and the tanner’s house or whether he was willing to come to Caesarea. What a fool he would have seemed to his friends and family if the promised man from Joppa turned out to be nothing more than fiction. Cornelius had put himself on the line in trusting God’s message.
Such a gathering tells us something more about this man. In three days time, Cornelius was able to call many people together to hear the Word of God. That is to say, Cornelius’ circle of influence included such folks as wanted to hear God’s message, and based on their trust in him, were willing to make whatever sacrifices were necessary to be in his house when Peter arrived.

• Just a Man Certainly a servant met most of Cornelius’ guests. This time “When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him.” (Ac 10:25) Cornelius was comparatively unconcerned how he might appear to his neighbors, next to his gratitude over Peter’s arrival. This man of authority knelt before Peter. Peter naturally “raised him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am just a man.” (Ac 10:26) As a man it was inappropriate for Peter to receive what is reserved for God alone, but Peter’s words speak to something deeper. In refusing Cornelius’ worship, Peter places himself on equal footing with this Gentile saying, “I too am just a man.” Just a man, neither Jew nor Gentile, soldier or civilian – just a man. Peter had understood the meaning of the vision that so perplexed him earlier. “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.” (Ac 10:28)

Next Week: Without Partiality
Mark Miller

Jan 05 2013

Come Thou fount

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Every blessing that was poured out on me last year continues to motivate and mobilize me to make longer and straighter strides in this new year of our Lord. I’m eager to count each one that has come along in twenty-twelve, though my inventory is best kept between me and God, as many of these blessings are markers of overcoming the flesh. I also consider the wisdom of our Father in allowing the Spirit to intercede, as looking to the past for how my habits of the old man have increasingly fallen to the wayside may puff me up and cause me to stumble with the memories of forgotten mistakes clamoring for undue attention.

May I now switch gears and express at least my thoughts on the family camp that occurs every year in the Philippines around this time. It was December 28th, 29th and 30th this time around and brothers in Christ Jun Macusi, Crispin Ganir, Rommel Vivit, and myself were those fortunate to build up the assembly with messages on spiritual maturity. A visit was also made to brother Dante, being the highlight of our journey.  The readers with a bit more info on the situation have just as much as I do.

Once again my family was able to go along and enjoy the fellowship and friendship of young and old alike. This time Matthew was spared of any medical emergency (though it seems he’s picked up a little something due to the change in climate since our recent return). We were able to enjoy a bit of swimming on Ninia’s 15th birthday, even with the cloud cover and a few extra Bible studies more info

were scheduled for a couple of families before the camp began.

I’ll admit, there are a few weak points I’d like to address before my next visit as far as communicating the Word, but all in all that is why this always a great time of growth for me as well, even when that is not the theme of the camp=) As for our getting back into the swing of things here in China, a 3-day holiday to kick the year off welcomed us back. These would have been useful in the ‘Ppines had I considered them before booking my tickets. Nevertheless, they also proved fruitful for a couple of chances to fellowship with Jericho, whose wife was still away until Friday the 4th and Scott, who has returned from Ningbo, near Shanghai. Especially pray for the growth of these two disciples.

Jericho, his spouse Jenica, Scott, Steven and Xie Guo You (谢国右) or Jonathan, all joined our 1st Friday night Bible study of the year. I hadn’t expected this large of a group to filter in, as they arrived at differing times between 6pm and 8, leading me to reserve the next topic in the series of God’s plan of salvation, ‘What must I do?’, until next week. We took a gander at the extensive proof the Bible provides in its defense against Mormon teaching of the priesthoods they claim. It was a way to share with them a bit of my cultural background and arm them with the confidence of knowing that Christ has been with us from the beginning. Melchizedek maintains His spirit of mystery throughout the ages.

Thanks for your continuing prayers,

David N Spring

• Commission in Action Early Christians took the commission of Christ seriously, and in the peace that followed Saul’s departure for Tarsus, the Church continued to grow for that reason. The command to Go, Make disciples, Immerse them, and continue to teach them, (Mt 28:19-20) remains our directive, and is the only evangelism program endorsed by Jesus. Peter was doing exactly that. “Now as Peter was traveling through all those regions, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.” (Ac 9:32) Saints were already present at Lydda, and the first of the apostles would continue to teach them there. When he arrived, he was met by a man named Aeneas (a paralytic) and Peter healed him. He rose as did the interest of the locals in Jesus Christ who was credited with having restored the bed-ridden man. As a result, “And all who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” (Ac 9:35)

• One Good Turn The Scriptures describe the reaction of those who believed in Jesus through Peter at Lydda. It says they “turned to the Lord.” Like many terms throughout the Bible, this one also can be defined by God’s characteristic usage. Earlier in Acts, we learn that turning results in the wiping away of sins (Ac 3:19). Later to the Corinthians Paul adds, “but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil [of the Law] is taken away.” (II Cor 3:16) Turning therefore, from a Biblical perspective, is synonymous with conversion, and thus baptism. Peter had come to the saints in Lydda, yet his efforts among the found yielded opportunity to work among the lost.

• For Whose Sake? Separated from Lydda by only a dozen or so miles is Joppa on the sea coast. The news of healing at the former quickly traveled to the latter, and so when a Christian woman named Tabitha fell ill and died they sent the day’s journey to fetch Peter and bring him back to Joppa. When Peter arrived, there were already mourners for Dorcas (as she was also known) gathered at the house. The body had been placed in an upper room, and there the widows whom she had helped stood in their grief, with the garments she had made for them. “But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up.” (Ac 9:40) This sign of a true apostle was not lost on the people of Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Peter therefore stayed for some time in the city, presumably teaching those who had believed and reasoning with those who hadn’t. What a marvel it must have been to witness the healing of Aeneas, or the raising of Tabitha, but the miracle was not for their sakes. Certainly, Tabitha’s lot was not improved by her premature resurrection. Rather, those wonders were given to persuade the people around them in order that they too might believe and turn to the Lord.

Next Week: Devout Cornelius
Mark Miller

• Comfort and Encouragement Unable to cope with the message of Christ expounded by the former persecutor of the Church, the Jews ran Saul out of town. Afterward, the early Church in Palestine “enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” (Ac 9:31) Having dealt with the fear of the Lord in last week’s discussion, our focus turns today to “the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” There are likely as many interpretations for the term as there are denominations. Our aim here is to learn from the Scriptures to define and describe one of the key components for the continual increase of the Church. What the New American Standard renders equally as “comfort” or “encouragement” was known to the Hellenized of the first century as “paraklēsei.” It is just as often translated as “exhortation, admonition, or encouragement.” Paraklesei is the comfort/encouragement given – it is the message of one who stands with you to aid and exhort. A related term, Parakletos, is the one who provides it – the counselor.

• Jesus the Comforter The nation of Israel had long awaited such a counselor. One man in particular-righteous Simeon-had been “looking for the consolation of Israel” (Lk2:25) when He was divinely directed to the temple. Upon seeing the infant Jesus, Simeon was satisfied. Jesus promised a parakletos to the disciples in His absence. He called the coming comforter the “Spirit of truth” and equal to Himself, saying “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.” (Jn 16:7, 14:16-18) What a blessing to the still-timid twelve! After Jesus’ departure they would not be alone, but rather still guided by the their rabbi. He said again to the disciples at the time of His ascension, “… and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt 28:20) His Spirit continues to comfort and encourage every child of God, in the knowledge that Jesus has walked this way before, and continues to go with us. “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (Hbs 2:18)

• Comfort one Another Such comfort is ours in abundance through Christ. Consider Paul’s’ plea for deference among the Philippians. “If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion” (Php 2:1) Three terms here describe that comfort in Spirit which belongs to us. II Cor 7:4- 7 adds, “I am filled with comfort. I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.” (vs 4) What strengthened Paul in the face of such affliction? Certainly, the Lord’s promise and presence were paramount. However, that comfort whose source is Christ, grows with every believer who is joined in Spirit and together endures the same hardship. Notice that the two previous passages emphasize the shared burden and the unity of believers that result. What a comfort to know that Christ is working in our brethren who undergo with us the same sufferings! “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus” (Rom 15:5) Christians require the comfort of Christ, as an advocate with the Father, and a constant companion in every trial and triumph. As Christians we have the ability to multiply that comfort when we rejoice and weep with those who do. (Rom 12:15) May the God of all comfort, “comfort us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (II Cor 1:4) and cause the increase that the early Church experienced.

Next Week: Comfort of the Holy Spirit Mark Miller

• Reprieve from Persecution The Jews were reeling from a blow they could not have anticipated. Saul of Tarsus – heir apparent to the highest echelons of Jewish influence – had converted to Christianity. The Jews had responded with a plot on his life which made it necessary for Saul to return to Tarsus. The winds that carried him there had come out of the persecution effort and left those sails limp. As a result, “So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.” (Ac 9:31)
During that peaceful interlude, the Scripture tells us that two things propelled the Church forward. They are: the fear of the Lord, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and we will consider them in that order. The Greek “phobos” can be used to denote reverence or respect, but is much more often employed as in Mt 14:26 to describe fear and/or terror. The Christian experience includes both.

• Love vs Fear John encourages his readers that, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (I Jn 4:18) On the other hand, to fall into the hand of the living God is terrifying. (Hbs 10:31) Our relationship with God is therefore similar to that of fire. When we observe
certain principles and practices, we can live quite comfortably with fire. Even now, a woodstove downstairs warms my house. However, if I should become complacent or careless the same fire that warms the house could burn it down. Likewise, when we treat the Lord as Lord, our relationship is without fear. To do otherwise invites catastrophe. “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10:28) Christians do not live in daily dread of random condemnation, but would do well to remember whom to fear.

• Fearless Foolish The preaching of today’s denominations is so bold – even fearless. The self-proclaimed pulpit pontiffs have absolved many of their sins, claiming laziness is not theft, sodomy is an alternate lifestyle, and that the sinner’s prayer – not baptism – now saves you. Their brash assertions continually contradict the Word of God and they do so without so much as a twinge of fear. “and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties,” (II Pt 2:10) True fear of the Lord causes a different kind of preaching entirely, for the Jerusalem church continued to increase through the efforts of men like Peter who “… was traveling through all those parts, he came down also to the saints who lived at Lydda.” (Ac 9:32) Paul also worked hard at preaching being conscious of the day of judgment. “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men…” (II Cor 5:11)

Next Week: Comfort of the Holy Spirit Mark Miller

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