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Jesus is the watershed focus of faith. There is no debate on other options. He simply presents the authority given to him by the father and invites all people to believe in him. There are no extras that we need to do, no “do-overs”, nor penance to ingratiate ourselves to God. The promise via this simple portal is eternal life. Jesus stakes his name on this promise. Trust him. You will be glad that you did. Jn5

It is possible to do good, as Jesus did, but receive persecution. The actions of the Savior helped others, nevertheless, he was aggressively opposed. What Jesus did were deeds that no one else was doing, yet, he was demonized for them. There is something telling when a group of people call something good, bad.

The Jews understood the theology Jesus taught them. Their problem was not understanding correct theology; it was accepting it and embracing it with belief. With an aversion to accurate theology, they sunk into the sphere of hatred and conspiracy to commit murder.

Jesus was acting above the law of the Sabbath. He was also claiming to be equal with God. Jesus was clear. He and the Father were completely consistent with each other. Obvious? Believe as He desires or reject as religious legalists did. I know what I have already done. Will you join me?

Jn5

3BBF66A7-0E19-4B0B-A614-F1AB3F2B1647_1_201_a.jpegThe video played a series of clips, telling various stories of people who possessed a unique item but had no clue how valuable it was. One man had a massive pearl that he kept under his bed as a “good luck” piece. It was worth millions of dollars.

Another man owned a couple of boxes that he picked up a garage sale. Inside were nearly priceless photographic plates by a famous naturalist photography, long since thought lost in a fire. He learned that his junk was worth millions.

A garage sale shopper picked up a porcelain bowl for a mere $3. It had a saw tooth design that was later identified and validated as an authentic Chinese antique. Yes, it was valued in the millions.

We all laugh at someone’s remarkable fortune. Most of us sigh and realize that we all have piles of junk that define the word “junk”. They are worthless items.

Nevertheless, it is not always treasures measured by monetary worth that make this life remarkable. Instead, people of limitless talents, gifts, and qualities are more valuable to me. I am surrounded by co-workers who are incredible treasures.

I do not have royal jewels, ancient photographs, or antiques in my possession. But, every day I wake up and go to work with a most talented and committed group of people. They are priceless: Will, Erik, Alex, Ekpe, Adrianna, Rachel, Julia, Shannon, Chantelle, Chelsea, Stephen, Tom, Ielene, Josh, Marisa, and Andres.

Not everyone looks forward to heading into work. It is a great privilege to be one of the ones who enjoys that daily experience. Often I marvel when I watch our team in action.

So much gets done when our people are operating from project to project. Students are elated with what they are learning, because our teachers are the best. Our humble campus is always getting better because our operations are on every need.

When we gather and brainstorm we know we can get better. Fantastic ideas get discussed. Better yet, projects launch and finish to the improvement of our entire campus. Teachers are free to teach and education happens at the highest level.

People who are committed are the best treasure on earth. When, each of these is devoted to their Savior, Jesus Christ, they are an endless blessing. We stand shoulder to shoulder while put our shovels into the work. I am surrounded by invaluable treasures of the Almighty’s best.

mrB4PXHJQn2p3WjskrVNyAThe weather could not have been more perfect. In the Northwest, when it is not raining, you hold your breath and wonder what the weather is about to do. That day, however, it was an ideal balance of sun, warmth, and breeze; yes, perfect.

Business took me back to my alma mater. I showed up early. It was the perfect scenario for a stroll down memory lane. New buildings stood in places where I only knew woods in the past. But, the old structures that housed my early days as a collegiate were still standing, sporting fresh paint, and reorganized walls.

PV101 is the corner classroom where I was trained in my theology. My systematics were formed right here. This is where it had its genesis. OPPdv4mKTB6u51N+TKkKYQ

Then, there was life in the dormitory. Great friendships that lasted a lifetime found adventure, conversation, laughter, wonderment, and fellowship in those halls. Now, the building houses the offices of a growing faculty and modern classrooms.

Naturally, I headed to the overlook that takes in the Vistas of the Willamette Valley. Many nights on a bench afforded me an audience of One. I prayed and asked God to use me, give me the discernment to see that path qaLKMNtaQcOBJqlWyxBwYAhe wanted me to walk, be stirred with courage to face the troubles with faith, and help as many along the way to find their peace with God, embrace the joy of sharing his love, and satisfaction of serving the body of Christ in the church.

Decades later, the iron rail is rusty, the overlook is crumbling, CLOSED signs surround this overlook, keeping visitors from enjoying the stunning landscape.  It evokes memories of many prayers, hopes, and dreams. God has been very good to me through these years and I have been honored to still be in his service.

SoGmUXUCSFWTJk0k3vkucgOne last memory was on my checklist. It is a hallway. In the main administration building, my classmates would find ourselves gathering for the favorite meal of the week. It was Sunday afternoon.

After church we would line the hall waiting for the cafeteria to open. Many of my friends were amazing singers. Someone would start a song and our voices and hearts would fill that hall with sounds of praise. I loved those spontaneous concerts. Memories like that are special when they imprint themselves in my mind. Come to think of it, I can still hear the singing.

photos by brucefong photography

fullsizeoutput_2b80The darkness is on the way. You can feel it creeping in. There is no way that it can be thwarted.

These woods are familiar. A handful of times I have walked these grounds and emerged safely each time. But, there are beasts nearby.

Humans who make a mistake when four-footed creatures lurk nearby, will regret a bad choice, a fear induced flight, or an all-out terrified panic. An outdoor spirit and personal confidence are your best friends. Never let fear loom bigger than it really deserves.

Never turn your back on creature. They have instincts to attack when prey runs away. That’s the way God created them. Besides it is not possible to outrun an animal which has twice as many legs to help it race.

This is their habitat. Each animal can duck branches that will take down a clumsy human. They can deftly leap over fallen logs, dodge tree limbs, and scurry around impenetrable bushes.

When a human panics, the sounds of a charging nocturnal creature are hideous. Thunderous snarls, earth-shattering growls, or spine-tingling screams have an affect on people that melt the bravest into a puddle of helplessness. If a prowling beast puts a human on the ground, it is game over; the predator wins.

Confidence comes with keeping a clear head. I know where I am on the property. The direction for my safe exit is fixed in my mind. Carefully, I scan the woods for my escape route. Darkening woods change with the shifting shadows of the looming night.

My carefully selected gear solidify my surface bravery. I know my equipment. It makes me dangerous to the animals in the woods. They are on notice that this human is the ruler of these woods.

Courage comes from certainty. Bravery wins the night because of experience. Dependable equipment gives layers of protection not just for survival but for domination.

I emerge from the woods where the night has claimed those grounds. Yes, I am safe and sound. For me it is a matter of faith in the darkness. I am delighted that trust in what is dependable has pushed aside what fear tries to claim.

photo by brucefong photography

UnknownThis movie, Unplanned, was one that I anticipated. Trailers popped up periodically for months. The story was very compelling.

I will admit that I have a strong attraction to movies based on a true story. Real lives, real drama, and real transformation win my attention. Weave in a message that is important to life and I am ready to buy my tickets.

A good person enters into the world of Planned Parenthood. Her personal saga is uncovered and adds to the intricacies of the story. Family and friends and faith all play a part in this narrative.

The movie portrayed the presence of extreme protesters and terse rants on the part of the right to life crowd. The obnoxious ones were a small minority but they were clearly identified in the story. At the same the majority of the life side were depicted as kind, gracious, and helpful.

Thankfully, the side of Choice were also depicted well. They were portrayed largely as good people albeit surrounded in a volatile atmosphere. Desperate young women with few apparent alternatives come to the clinic seeking a solution.

The chief adversary was left unexplained. Thoughts of greed, power, bitterness, and the like were introduced as possibilities. But, more questions than speculation were presented.

The one antagonist was cast well. She displayed and portrayed the intent of the Choice side. It was unlikable.

I liked the movie. Prayer works. Christians need to persevere. Unborn babies need to be protected.

When abortion happens, it is ugly. An innocent life that ends because of human intent, it is heartbreaking. The movie wrencheed my soul.

Reflecting over this film, I have good thoughts that sometimes justice prevails in the courtroom. Family is a genuine support group. Husbands can do well. Forgiveness from a merciful God is wonderful.

brucefong photography

Houston Chinese Pastors.jpg

The birth of a new idea is like the spark that sits in a handful of some kind of fire starter. You see the possibility. You’re shivering in the cold. The temperatures are dropping and you crave the warmth that a fire promises.

Carefully, you cradle the ember and coax it with gentle steady blowing. Slowly tendrils of smoke rise. The spark grows brighter.

Hope for a real fire to warm chilling bones emerges. Your anxious body begins to relax. Small strokes of heat from the newly born fire lick your face. Eagerly, you place the crackling fire into the waiting pile of sticks and gathered wood.

Not long ago an idea for the church came to us at DTS-Houston like a spark that promised a fire. Concerned believers gathered to address a problem. Chinese churches in the USA are facing a major crisis. Up to half of the pastors of Chinese language churches in America have pastors closing in on retirement. Who will fill those pulpits?

But, it’s not just the coming hole of pastoral roles that is looming on the horizon. There is also a vast number of amazing church members with a deep hunger for the Word of God. Every pastor loves having a large portion of these spiritually mature and growing saints in their congregations.

Several conversations ensued about both of these streams of people. Beyond merely a cavalcade of words. real action resulted from these meetings. Most notably, money was donated and scholarships were funded. Parameters for qualifications were designed. It was time to get the word out.

Here at DTS-Houston, pastors from a number of Houston area Chinese churches came. From as far away as College Station and Austin they arrived. After a sumptuous meal we prayed, introduced ourselves, and listened to an amazing presentation of scholarship opportunities for new students.

Qualified students who are accepted at DTS-Houston could apply for several scholarships. If they are preparing for pastoral ministry or desiring to increase their knowledge of Bible and Theology then we have a path for them. As well, if someone knows that God has not called to professional ministry but they are eager to advance their knowledge and skills for lay ministry, then was also have a path for them.

Our prayer is that the pool of generous resources that has been given for DTS students can find a great match with eager students to impact the local church for God’s glory. The gathering of key pastors in the greater Houston area was wonderful.

31531388_2135635573119502_1994887011911073792_nEducation has fallen on hard times. Enrollment is one of the non negotiable items in the world of higher education. Administrators lose sleep over declining numbers with each passing academic year.

Private institutions of higher education are feeling the tightening belt even more. That magic number attached to enrollment makes heads spin, competent employees to panic, and media sites to attack the topic in a feeding frenzy. Education finds its identity in the numbers census of bodies in desks.

This is my world too. Education is my field of specialization. There have been hours and days and weeks and months that I have discussed, studied, and pursued students to enroll into our institution.

Here is a lesson that has helped me: Work hard to do all you can. Then, trust the final results to God.

In 2 Kings 6 Israel and Aram were at war with each other. The Arameans were making a killing by robbing Hebrew caravans of rich cargo. Their king secretly plotted ambush and ambush and absconded with great wealth.

Finally, the man of God, Elisha intervened and told the King of Israel all of the Aramean plans. His prophetic foresight thwarted further Aramean raids. Irritated, the King of Aram first tried to blame one of his own officers for leaking their top-secret plans.

A quick thinking officer plays his “get out of jail card” and informs the king that Elisha the prophet tells all of Aram plans to his king in Israel. The Arameans send an army to surround Elisha. His servant sees the enemy threat, panics with desperate fear, and exclaims, “What shall we do?”

Elisha is the portrait of calm. He simply prays that God will open the eyes of his servant and allow him to see what God has done to protect them. In answer to Elisha’s prayer, the servant sees that there are angels and fiery chariots from heaven surrounding Elisha. The words of this amazing prophet are worth remembering: “Those who are with us are greater than those who with them.”

Remember: God will often have a solution ready before we even realize that we have a problem. Use eyes of faith to see what God has already done. Fear not, even with huge problems like enrollment.

 

 

26788125528_645c2d09b1_n-1It’s another “Christian movie.” Uh, oh…is that the “kiss of death”? Descent story with horrible acting, confusing complicated  back-stories, odd-ball mini-sermons, low-budget directing, even budget-driven minimal talent on the camera-work unfortunately have been common features of the Christian movie scene for generations. This movie, “I Can Only Imagine,” was very different from those previous religious offerings.

The song has captivated a massive audience since its debut. That fan base was primed for a successful run on the silver screen. Many Christians are cheering on the effort to produce quality movies for this entertainment industry and with this submission were hopeful for something much better.

The true story of Bart Millard’s composition is the backbone of this dramatic presentation. His life story with an abusive father is the riveting narrative that makes this movie so appealing. This movie delivers.

In a memorable dialogue, Bart reveals that it took on ten minutes to write the lyrics and another ten to write the music. Yet, those around him correct him saying that it didn’t take a matter of minutes, it took a lifetime.

Excellent theatrical performance was turned in by Dennis Quaid. He played Bart’s father. Those moments of anger, domination, and abuse were realistic, believable, and heart-wrenching at the same time.

How Bart managed to live through those dark days and discover a passion in life was marked by special people in his life. Some friends, some teachers, and some pastors all had a part in weaving a tapestry that paved the way for the composition of music that would touch millions around the world.

The world of music and the dream to make a living at it is not kind to those who attempt to make that climb into rarefied air. This film makes you feel the details of that “Mercy Me” discouraging journey. Yet, God’s amazing grace through special people is an astounding story to behold.

Forgiveness and the love that paves the way for it to germinate and grow is the message of this film. Through this powerful story you open your memories of your own father, your past struggles through forgiveness, seeing the faces of those who hurt you, and the wonder of God’s grace through it all.

If you go, remember and bring some tissue with you. There must be a lot of dust in the theater that makes your eyes water. That’s so annoying when you are experiencing a solid movie.

 

 

IMG_1337It’s a Friday recognized around the nation. In fact this particular Friday is recognized around the world. Nations with very different cultures, certainly with language variations, and economic mixes all acknowledge this special Friday.

Commonly people note that this unique Friday is named, “Good Friday.”

To the uninitiated it is the day that commemorates the day when Jesus Christ died on the cross. He did that so that he could be the sacrifice for the sins of all people at any time. Jesus was not guilty of anything; He had no sin himself.

Yet, the people who lived and ever lived all had sin. Without exception every one is a sinner. That spiritual malady has a consequence. The Bible is clear that “the wages of sin is death”.

Sin disqualifies us from ever entering into the presence of the Father in heaven. To do so means that the price of sin has to be satisfied. Jesus willingly did that for all.

Jesus is the Son of God. He is perfect, sinless. As the perfect lamb, he gave up his life so that our sins would then be paid in full.

He frees us from ever thinking or trying to do good deeds on our own, hoping that those works will earn our way into heaven. Now, if this is true, then what a relief it is! That sacrifice is astounding!

Before you get too excited, however, this is not automatically applied to your eternal account. There is a single simple requisite for us. Each of us, personally, must exercise our faith and accept the gift of Jesus Christ.

The horrible death he died on the cross for the sins of the world was an expression of selfless love. That part of his experience was not “good”. In fact it was horrible, an ignominious death.

However, the fact that it was a gift of love for all, leading to eternal life for any and all who believe, that is what is GOOD. Have you accepted that amazing gift? You can.

Sincerely believe that Jesus died for your sins. Also, accept the fact that he rose again from the dead when the Father directed him to do. Thank him for your salvation.

That is why this day is good. It satisfies God’s wrath against sin. New life through the Resurrection climaxes the Easter season. He is Risen! He is risen INDEED!

photo by bruce w. fong photography

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