Forget Not Those In Chains…Beijing, China

2008 Olympic Opening Cermonies in Beijing, China

2008 Olympic Opening Cermonies in Beijing, China

Last Friday, August 8th, the opening ceremonies of the 39th Olympiad happened at the National Stadium in Beijing, China.  Gigantic fireworks in the shape of footprints marched through the city until the Stadium (“The Bird’s Nest”) was reached, erupting into magical bursts of fireworks and announcing the beginning of the Beijing Games.  My family gathered around the big screen TV at our friend’s house, instantly mesmerized by the thousands of dancers, martial artists, percussionists, and other performers as they beautifully told the story of China’s history.  A child sang as 56 children, representing the 56 ethnic groups of China, brought the red and gold Chinese flag forward and the beautiful ceremony began.  From the invention of paper to the astronauts China has put into space, each story was told as no story has ever been told before.

For seventeen days, China is the center of the world’s attention.  No matter how much controversy, no matter how many scandals, all eyes will be watching.  America watches its gymnasts like Jonathon Horton, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Luiken as they fight for a spot on the podium.  Softball pitcher Jennie Finch will lead her team to the last year of Olympic softball to be hosted.  Swimmer Michael Phelps, last night, won his eleventh gold medal, setting a new record and becoming possibly the greatest Olympic champion of all time.  Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers battle it out on the beach volleyball court.  Every event has a story, every athlete has walked a long road to get where they are now.  And the world is watching.

For years, China’s oppression of miniorities and religious groups and dissenters has been well-known throughout the world.  During the opening ceremonies, a vivid display of the famous Great Wall of China was depicted as being torn down and replayed by beautiful pink blossoms…the Chinese symbol of openness.  The symbology and meaning was vivid and evident: China wants to move on.  With these Olympics, the hostile nation is taking steps…opening its doors and letting the world in.  These Beijing Games, some have commentated, are as important to China as the Apollo mission to the moon was to the USA.  Everyone who watches these Olympic Games is watching history in the making.

But what of the Chinese Christians?  President Bush, in a recent interview with Bob Costas, expressed his desire that China register these underground churches, citing the fact that he attended a state-sponsored church on Sunday.  “It gave me a chance to say to the Chinese people, religion won’t hurt you, you ought to welcome religious people. And it gave me a chance to say to the Chinese government, ‘Why don’t you register the underground churches and give them a chance to flourish?'”

Thousands of our brothers and sisters in China are imprisoned and tortured…and sometimes even killed…for their faith in Jesus Christ.  Some estimate that Christians make up six percent of China’s population.  In June of 2004, a Christian woman named Jiang Zongxiu was beaten to death for her faith.  In September of that year, Pastor Cai Zhuohua was kidnapped and imprisoned, where he was tortured with an electric cattle prod.  His wife was kidnapped just days later.  The Chinese government takes a strong stance against these undeground churches and their patrons, calling them “evil cults” and showing them little mercy and no tolerance.  Often, religious dissenters are “re-educated through labor”, keeping hundreds of thousands of the Chinese in work camps throughout the nation.  The only churches allowed are those which register with the government, and which are strictly monitored and forced to follow policies on religious belief and practice.

While our athletes fight for Olympic gold, how many men, women, and children fill the prisons of the host country, their only crime being a firm and unwavering faith in the God of the Bible and in the saving grace of His Son Jesus Christ?

Pray for this nation and for our persecuted brothers and sisters there.  As the Chinese government strives to open doors, ask God to open hearts to the truth and power of His Word…a power that comes not through torture and forced allegiance, but through the gentle love and divine healing of an infinitely kind God.  Ask that our nation, with its history of religious freedom, and others like it will have a positive impact on this country.  As hundreds of athletes compete for these seventeen days of the Olympic Games of 2008, working for gold which perishes, ask that God will show them the true and living gold of faith in Him…and that they will store up for themselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and thieves cannot break in and steal.

The treasure that so many of the Chinese faithful have died in hope of seeing, choosing momentary pain rather then the eternal sacrilege of denying their beloved Savior.

 

Click here and here for some beautiful shots of the opening ceremonies at the National Stadium (Bird’s Nest) in Beijing, and here for a detailed report from Voice of the Martyrs on Christian persecution in China.

Advertisements

Cast Your Cares

likeachild2.jpegWhen was the last time you talked to Jesus?  Shared your heart with childlike abandon, unafraid to pour out your heart to your Savior, your mind undistracted by less important things?  We all know and love the verse in 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  But do we cast our anxieties on Him?  Do we tell Him about our fears and our apprehensions?  Our struggles and sorrows and secret heartbreaks?  He cares for us with an all-powerful, ever-loving care.  Come to Him with your problems.  He is eternally willing and infinitely able to help us.

Every prayer does not begin with “Dear Father” and end with “Amen”.  Some prayers are too poignant for words, others are desperate yearnings.  All are heard by the Father.  So pray constantly…not always on your knees with hands folded, but just in such a way that you live your whole life and go through each of your daily rituals, no matter how mundane, in the presence of God.

Don’t be afraid!  Come to your loving Heavenly Father with the happy boldness of a child approaching her daddy.  Go to His side and whisper your heart’s secrets.  He is faithful, He will help us.  All we need to do is ask.  Shut out the world and its habitual clamoring and ceaseless pressures…and just be still with your Lord.  Find that peace which passes understanding and learn once again how much He cares for you.

Pray for our troops…

 

cid_00da01c82bede0bd6050ce8bfed9chavez1.jpg

 

I recently read the following piece and it reminded me to keep our service men and women in my prayers.  Whatever your stance on the war, please remember to pray for our soldiers.  Personally, I am convinced that they are helping to protect the whole world from a dark threat.

Do you know one of these?

The Infantryman
by an unknown author

The average age of the Infantryman is 19 years.

He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country.

He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father’s; but he has never collected unemployment either.

He’s a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has
a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away.

He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and 155mm Howitzers.

He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk.

He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark.

He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.

He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he is told to march.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity.

He is self-sufficient. He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.

He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle.

He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts. If you’re thirsty, he’ll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food.
He’ll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands. He can save your life – or take it, because that is his job.

He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humour in it all. He has seen more suffering and death then he
should have in his short lifetime.

He has stood atop mountains of dead bodies, and helped to create them.

He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.

He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to ‘square-away’ those
around him who haven’t bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their
right to be disrespectful.

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom.

Beardless or not, he is not a boy.

He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.

Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

As we enjoy the holidays, remember to keep our armed forces in your prayers.  I am sure they are thinking of us…their families and homes, Christmas trees and snowy skies, good meals and time with those they love.