Photos from the 2016 Trailwalker celebration dinner for the Faithwalkers. The Hong Kong photo was taking by friend Michelle Pardini on one of the clearest days all year.
It has been a busy few weeks. Last week was another one, and I have several projects to get done before I leave for the States on December 12. Cindy will head home next Monday, and she also has a lot on her plate..
Cindy and I spent a couple days Bethany House on Cheung Chau Island for the purpose of working on our transition plans from active ministry in Hong Kong to our return to the U.S. Our mission requested that we do this and we were able to come up with a general plan. We were in basic agreement about the timing, But it still has to be approved by the Evangelical Friends Church denomination, which has supported us for 41 1/2 years already.
On Saturday evening we had the Trailwalker celebration dinner. There were lots of people at the dinner this year, Because there were 11 4-man teams and a sizable number of supporters who met the teams at various places along the 100km (62-mile) trail.
One other transition that I can talk about, now that it’s public knowledge, is that the Deacons agreed at their deacons’ meeting last week for RiverGrace to set up a committee to look into becoming an independent church and finding another facilities in which to meet. This is a huge step of faith for our church, but as RiverGrace grows, and hopefully Yan Yue will also grow, the space will really not be adequate for both churches much longer.
One other issue also relating to our retirement, in whatever time we have left. We feel it is better to make the change at this time and help the church settle before the time comes for our departure.
We do not know how long of a process it will be. We would have to be officially registered as a church under Hong Kong Evangelical Church. That’s not a difficult process, but there are a myriad of other formalities which all take time to resolve. The other big factor for Hong Kong is that anything to do with property is extremely expensive. To find a place that’s fairly convenient and affordable at the same time is a bit of an oxymoron! it will all likely take a few months or even up to a year. But, we trust that God will provide the right place and time for us to grow and develop as an independent church.
We have been blessed by Yan Yue’s support and help during these start-up years. We could not have done it alone. We are grateful for the people that God has brought to RiverGrace and as we transition to a cell church model, we believe even more growth will result.
Please pray for God’s provision for RiverGrace, and his wisdom and his strength in going forward through this process.
That’s my report for this week. Make it a great week! Blessings, Dave
Celebrate The Birth Of The Son! --Josh Akers
John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
I am not naïve when it comes to Christmas traditions. But if faced with the choice of adopting a puritanical approach to these traditions, or embracing the wondrous celebration of Advent, I choose the latter. Was Jesus actually born on December 25th? Most likely not, but He was born.
Was the date of pagan origin celebrating the “birth of the sun,” following the winter solstice?—probably. But the Christianization of the day into the celebration of the “birth of the Son,” suits me just fine.
Does it matter that pagans originated the custom of bringing an evergreen tree into the home to celebrate life bother me? Not really.
I commend the good Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, for redeeming the tradition, and giving us a focal point of celebration of the real Tree of Life.
The fourth century bishop from Asia Minor (modern Turkey), St. Nicholas, could not have foreseen how his noble acts of charity could have been embellished throughout the centuries to become our present day, gift bearing Santa. But this does not diminish his example of Christian generosity for the world to emulate.
The Druids may have begun the tradition of hanging the mistletoe, but God gave the world the ultimate expression of true love. This is truly a season of redemption—redemption of traditions, and redemption of all mankind.
So celebrate, I say. Deck the halls. Celebrate the birth of the Son! Celebrate the Tree of Life—eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Freely give to those who are far less fortunate. Hang the wreath on the door, light the Christmas tree, sing loudly the carols of the season, and string the lights throughout the neighborhood to testify that the true Light has come into the world. 2000 years ago, God gave us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. And from that day forward, for all of creation, everyday has been a glorious new day.
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Numbers 22:32-33 (32) And the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Behold, I came out to withstand you because your way is perverse before me. (33) And the donkey saw me and turned from me these three times. Unless she had turned from me, surely now I also would have killed you and saved her alive."
Perverse (verse 32) is in Hebrew yarat. It does not quite mean "perverse"; the preferred meaning is interesting: "to precipitate; to be precipitant; to push headlong; to drive recklessly."
God says to Balaam, "Your way is headlong and reckless before Me. It is precipitant." It is as if Balaam were driving 90 mph down a steep hill, heedless of the danger at the bottom. He had no foresight. God says, "That's perverse. Balaam, you are not looking ahead to the consequences! Your way is going to get you into trouble."
He is like a daredevil, like Evel Knievel, who without thought or fear, endangers his and others' lives for his own selfish purposes. He rushes through life for everything that he can get out of it, never thinking about what will happen afterward, in the end. He is a man who cannot look past the end of his nose. He is so consumed with himself that he sees nothing down the road, only what is happening now. God says that is perverse.
A wise man looks ahead and sees where he is going to land. If a man like Balaam gets up a head of steam, he thinks that no one will stop him. Conversely, if we consider the donkey to stand for those who actually see God at work, we can notice a few things:
- The donkey responds to God's direction.
- The donkey is persecuted for her obedience.
- The donkey, in her meekness, does not retaliate. Does she reach back and nip Balaam like he should have been? No.
God says that it is for her sake that He has not carried out His judgment on Balaam. This is interesting because the same thing happens because of us. Jesus calls us the salt of the earth, and part of its meaning is that we are the preservative in this world. If the saints did not exist, there would be no world. This donkey was the only thing standing in God's way of totally consuming Balaam. We are the donkey. Because God has mercy on us, we who see God are the only ones keeping the Balaams of this world from getting totally snuffed out.
— Richard T. Ritenbaugh
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Dogs and Yeast Rolls Do NOT Go Together (By Kathy Hewitt, Muskogee, OK) [Edited]
We have a fox terrier by the name of Jasper. He came to us from the fox terrier rescue program. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this type of adoption, imagine taking in a 10 year old child whom you know nothing about and committing to doing your best to be a good parent.
Like a child, the dog came with his own idiosyncrasies. He will only sleep on the bed, on top of the covers, nuzzled as close to my face as he can get without actually performing a French kiss on me. Lest you think this is a bad case of 'no discipline', I should tell you that Perry and I tried every means to break him of this habit including locking him in a separate bedroom for several nights. The new door cost over $200. But I digress...
Five weeks ago we began remodeling our house. Although the cost of the project is downright obnoxious, it was 20 years overdue AND it got me out of cooking Thanksgiving for family, extended family and a lot of friends that I like more than family most of the time. I was however assigned the task of preparing 124 of my famous yeast dinner rolls for the two Thanksgiving feasts we did attend. I am still upset at the electrician for getting the new oven hooked up so quickly. It was the only appliance in the whole house that worked, thus the assignment.
I made the decision to cook the rolls on Wednesday evening to reheat on Thursday morning. Since the kitchen was freshly painted you can imagine the odor. Not wanting the rolls to smell like Sherwin Williams latex paint #586, I put the rolls on baking sheets and set them in the living room to rise for 5 hours. After 3 hours, Perry and I decided to go out to eat, returning in about an hour.
An hour later the rolls were ready to go in the oven. It was 8:30 pm.
When I went to the living room to retrieve the pans, much to my shock one whole pan of 12 rolls was empty. I called out to Jasper and my worst nightmare became a reality. He literally wobbled over to me. He looked like a combination of the Pillsbury dough boy and the Michelin Tire man wrapped up in fur. He groaned when he walked. I swear even his cheeks were bloated.
I ran to the phone and called our vet. After a few seconds of uproarious laughter, he told me the dog would probably be OK, however, I needed to give him Pepto Bismol every 2 hours for the rest of the night. God only knows why I thought a dog would like Pepto Bismol any more than my kids did when they were sick. Suffice to say that by the time we went to bed the dog was black, white and pink. He was so bloated we had to lift him onto the bed for the night. Naively thinking the dog would be all better by morning was very stupid on my part. We arose at 7:30 and as we always do first thing; put the dogs out to relieve themselves. Well, there was a slight problem though - namely that the dog was drunk. He was running into walls, falling flat on his butt and most of the time when he was walking his front half was going one direction and the other half was either dragging the floor or headed 90 degrees in another direction. He couldn't lift his leg to pee, so he would just walk and pee at the same time. When he ran down the small incline in our back yard he couldn't stop himself and nearly ended up running into the fence. His pupils were dilated and he was as dizzy as a loon. I endured another few seconds of laughter from the vet (second call within 12 hours) before he explained that the yeast had fermented in his belly and that he was indeed drunk. He assured me that, not unlike most binges we humans go through, it would wear off after about 4 or 5 hours and to keep giving him Pepto Bismol.
Afraid to leave him by himself in the house, Perry and I loaded him up and took him with us to my sister's house for the first Thanksgiving meal of the day. My sister lives outside of Muskogee on a ranch, (10 to 15 minute drive). Rolls firmly secured in the trunk (124 less 12) and drunk dog leaning from the back seat onto the console of the car between Perry and I, we took off.
Now I know you probably don't believe that dogs burp, but believe me when I say that after eating a tray of risen unbaked yeast rolls, DOGS WILL BURP. These burps were pure Old Charter. They would have matched or beat any smell in a drunk tank at the police station. But that's not the worst of it.
Now he was beginning to fart and they smelled like baked rolls. God strike me dead if I am not telling the truth! We endured this for the entire trip to Karee's, thankful she didn't live any further away than she did.
Once Jasper was firmly placed in my sister's garage with the door locked, we finally sat down to enjoy our first Thanksgiving meal of the day. The dog was the topic of conversation all morning long and everyone made trips to the garage to witness my drunk dog, each returning with a tale of Jasper's latest endeavor to walk without running into something.
Of course, as the old adage goes, "what goes in must come out" and Jasper was no exception. Granted if it had been me that had eaten 12 risen, unbaked yeast rolls, you might as well have put a concrete block up my behind, but alas a dog's digestive system is quite different from yours or mine. I discovered this was a mixed blessing when we prepared to leave Karee's house. Having discovered his "packages" on the garage floor, we loaded him up in the car so we could hose down the floor. This was another naive decision on our part.
The blast of water from the hose hit the poop on the floor and the poop on the floor withstood the blast from the hose. It was like Portland cement beginning to set up and cure. We finally tried to remove it with a shovel.
I (obviously no one else was going to offer their services) had to get on my hands and knees with a coarse brush to get the remnants off of the floor.
And as if this wasn't degrading enough, the dog in his drunken state had walked through the poop and left paw prints all over the garage floor that had to be brushed too.
Well, by this time the dog was sobering up nicely so we took him home and dropped him off before we left for our second Thanksgiving dinner at Perry's sister's house. I am happy to report that as of today (Monday) the dog is back to normal both in size and temperament. He has had a bath and is no longer tricolor. None the worse for wear I presume. I am also happy to report that just this evening I found 2 risen unbaked yeast rolls hidden inside my closet door. It appears he must have come to his senses after eating 10 of them but decided hiding 2 of them for later would not be a bad idea.
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