Sunday, December 28, 2014

Elijah's God Still Lives

[For a number of years I have received papers in the mail with true accounts like this.  They are written by an older gentleman who goes by the name of Brother Norman.  He writes these articles for his local newspaper which prints them regularly. I am sharing this one for readers of this blog to enjoy also.
- Ron]

In the early 1920's a group of seven young Chinese Christian men sailed to a small island off the coast  of China to evangelize the fishing village of Mei-hwa.  It was a pagan village, the people being devoted to the worship of ancient idols that were venerated by their ancestors long ago.  As far as was known, only one Christian lived in the village---- the mid-wife lady, and it was through her urgent invitation that this missionary evangelistic team was there.  The oldest of the seven young men and the leader was destined to go on to become a well known figure in the persecuted Christian church in China and a prolific writer; many of whose books have been translated into English.  His name was Watchman Nee.

     For days this enthusiastic team of evangelists mingled with the people at the market place, preached on the streets, passed out Christian literature, but the best response they could get from the people of the village was just an aloof politeness.

    Finally the youngest of the team, Kuo-chig Lee shouted at the crowd in frustration, "Why don't you people believe on the Lord Jesus?"

    "Oh, we do believe in our great king, Ta-Wang.  He never fails us."

     Kuo-ching questioned the people further about this god and he learned that every year on January 11th they held an elaborate festival to honor Ta-Wang.  They took his massive idol from its temple and paraded it through the streets. They feasted and rejoiced and made music and worshiped this idol.  They had done this for 286 years and Ta-Wang had always provided them with beautiful weather for that day.  It had not rained on January 11th for 300 years, they boasted. 

     Impulsively Kuo-ching cried out, "Then I promise you that our God, who is the true God, will make it rain this year on January 11th," he announced in a loud voice.

      The crowd took up his challenge. Say no more," they replied, "If it rains on the 11th then this Jesus Christ you speak of is God and we will listen to what you say about Him.  Now we will see."

     When the seven evangelists were all together again and Kuo-ching related what he had done, there was much consternation among them.  For one thing, January 11th was only two days away.  For another thing, this was one of those parts of the world where dry periods and rainy periods were fairly predictable---- and this was the dry period.

     Watchman Nee's first thought was to chide Kuo-ching for his impulsiveness, but instead he went aside to pray about the matter.  As he prayed, he thought of the Biblical account in I Kings, chapter 18, of the prophet Elijah challenging the priests of the false god, Baal. He proposed that both he and they would build an altar---- he to Jehovah God and they to Baal.  They would lay out wood on both altars for fuel and sacrifices on top of the wood, but neither would put fire to the wood.  "The God who sends fire to consume His own sacrifice, let Him be God," Elijah challenged. The Baal worshipers went first and yelled themselves hoarse for several hours praying and chanting and begging Baal to light their fire.  All to no avail.  Elijah first called for barrels of water to be poured over his sacrifice---- making it more difficult to burn---- then prayed a brief prayer of calm faith... and whoosh! Heavenly fire suddenly consumed water, wood, sacrifice and even altar stones!  God whispered to Watchman Nee's spirit, "I still live, I can do this."

     January 11th dawned bright and clear.  Not a cloud in the sun-lit sky.  The festivities began as planned.  The pagan priests got their idol out and started up the street with it.  Everything was set up for a triumphant celebration that would demonstrate the superiority of Ta-Wang over the "new" foreign God.

     Suddenly a huge rain drop was heard hitting a tile roof.  Then another and another!  It was a tropical deluge.  The priest toting Ta-Wang slipped and fell on the rain slick street.  Poor Ta-Wang hit the pavement so hard he broke his head and one arm off.  By the time the rain stopped, water stood in the streets level with the porches on the houses.

    Undaunted, the pagan priests patched up Ta-Wang and said they had made a mistake and the feast was supposed to have been on the 14th that year.  But at exactly the hour they named for the festivities to start on the 14th, another torrential downpour began and Ta-Wang got another undignified soaking.

     The power of false religion was broken on the island of Mei-hwa and a great number of people responded to the Gospel, resulting in a strong church.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Come, Desire of Nations, Come

When Christ first came, few recognized Him
as King, but when He comes again every
knee will bow.
     Economic ruin, crime, and politicians that make it an occupation to lie are a few of the news items we've grown accustom to.  I don't think it is just me that is ready for a change for the better.  It is exciting looking back in history and seeing times of revival where whole towns were transformed.  The broken homes were healed and vices like gambling and alcohol lost their grip on peoples lives.  These things happened because Christ came into their towns and became their Prince of Peace.  When Christ first came to this earth, he came as a servant and showed us how to live.  When he comes the second time he will come as King.     
"The government shall be upon His shoulder" Isaiah 9:6
    When things are put on the shoulder they are usually very heavy.  Christ took the heavy burden of the cross for us upon His shoulder.  This verse is the antithesis of that because Christ's shoulder in this verse is the symbol of authority.  And unlike Moses, who said he was unable to manage a great number of people, Christ is up for the task.  As we see the princes of this world say," Let us break His bands and cast away His cords from us," the Son promises that He will break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.  The warning to the rulers of men is to "kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little."  To those who humble themselves before Him they find that He is the Prince of Peace.  He came as a baby in swaddling clothes, but we will see him a man with clothes of royalty and hair that is white.  The baby in a manger is the Ancient of Days and reigns supreme. My favorite Christmas carol, Joy to the World, cries out this time of year with the words: "Let every heart prepare Him room."  Our hearts need lots of room because He has a big throne.

     The carol, Joy to the World, is not even about the first coming of Christ, but his second.   I think Joy to the World is my favorite carol because it is expresses the rule of Christ in present tense and as you sing it thinking about the words it gives the feeling of things being made right even now .  It is a little bit of a foretaste of things to come. This carol brings perspective on the first coming though.  It makes us stand in wonder at the power that Christ reserved and leaves us with the knowledge that He rightly should have been received with gladness rather than rejected.  He will yet get the glory His is due as another carol, Hark the Herald Angels, says, "Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness!"  and "Come, Desire of Nations, come, fix in us thy humble home."  How humbling it is that He would make my heart His Home!



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Value of Pumpkins

      This year our family has really appreciated pumpkins.  We didn't grow them this year.  Perhaps we appreciate things more when they are not as available.   I've thought in the past that pumpkins were not the best choice as a food because they have such a large seed cavity, and do not have as much flesh as squash.  This is not to say I don't like pumpkin.  I do have pleasant memories of making homemade pumpkin pie with real pumpkin years ago. It was the best pumpkin pie in my memory.  At a farmers market I was given a bargain on a big pumpkin this year.  I took it home for $1.  It decorated our front porch for a while.  Memories of that excellent pumpkin pie from years ago would not allow this pumpkin to just go to waste.  I taught my sister, Hannah, how to bake it, and pulverize it so it could be used as pie.  She has made lots of pies from canned pumpkin, so after showing her how to pulverize it, she was on own and she baked up a number of excellent pies.  Our family was starting to get used to having pumpkin pie for days.  I didn't know how good a "big" pumpkin would taste, but as pie, this big pumpkin was just fine.  Usually people use small pumpkins known as pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins for baking purposes.  Then I was given pumpkin flesh from an even bigger pumpkin.   This pumpkin was huge and probably reached my knee in height.  I was concerned that the taste would not be as good because it had a more stringy texture.  Hannah went to work with this also, and more pumpkin pies were made.  These came out very good too.  It was looking like pumpkin pie would become a staple in our home.

     Then there are the seeds.  These are a powerhouse of nutrients!  Pumpkin seeds have lots of vitamin E, magnesium, and are well known for their zinc content.  I have bought the seeds without shells at a grocery store and have even grown the type that does not have shells, but was not aware until recently that you can eat seeds from pumpkin and squash without shelling them. I always pictured the shells to be woody.  The pumpkin and squash shells are not overly chewy, and they contribute more zinc to the diet than the seeds alone.  I put them in our toaster oven for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit  and they make some very good snacking seeds.  Our family grew lots of winter squash this year, so I tried the squash seed also.  They came out good, but they are a lot smaller and pop as they bake.  Many seeds popped outside of the baking pan!  The pumpkin seeds did not pop like the squash seed did, but both came out excellent in flavor and crunch.  I'm so glad we planted lots of squash this year, but I'd like to plant some pumpkin next year now that I know how much I like the big pumpkin seeds!

    Pumpkin flesh contributes around 300% of your daily requirements of vitamin A per half cup serving.  That is impressive when considering how hard it is to get large amounts of nutrients from all natural sources. You can use pumpkin flesh to make pie, pudding, bread, or pancakes like you would canned pumpkin by baking and pulverizing it.  We started out by cutting the pumpkin in half and scooping out the seeds and stringy pulp. We baked our pumpkin for about an hour and half in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a pan with about half an inch of water with the cut side down.  We then scooped the flesh from out of the pumpkin shell and put it in a blender.  A food processor would probably work better.  The pumpkin is ready to use just like you would canned pumpkin at this point. The extra could be put in storage containers to freeze.  We just put the extra in the fridge and kept making pies for days on end, and everybody was happy with that. 

How I wish we had grown pumpkins this year!

If you have suggestions for using pumpkins, you are welcome to leave comments.  Thanks!