What Impresses God

Last week I caught part of the opening ceremony of the Olympics, reportedly planned and rehearsed for 5 years, and costing $300 million to stage.

It featured 15,000 Chinese performers. 33,866 fireworks were fired off – almost as many as our local Indiana County Fair on July 4th. It was probably the largest and most expensive show ever produced. Especially cool was the performance of 2000 drummers in playing in perfect synchronization. Obviously, China wanted to impress.

But China’s government is not impressive.

“They hung me up across an iron gate, then they yanked open the gate and my whole body lifted until my chest nearly split in two. I hung like that for four hours.”

This is how Peter Xu Yongze (age 61), describes how he was treated during one of five jail sentences in China because of his belief in Christ. Christians are not allowed to evangelize in China, and it’s against the law to worship in any group or home outside state sanctioned churches. To do so is to risk fines, imprisonment, torture and even death.

While he was in prison, one of the jailers told Mr. Xu the only way to avoid breaking the law would be if he prayed under the covers in bed.

“A believer was praying, so a jailer made other prisoners lift him up to the ceiling and drop him to the ground many times until he died,” Mr. Xu said. (BBC News, Nov 9, 2004)

House church leader Zhou Heng, who manages a state registered bookstore, was arrested on Aug. 31, 2007, for receiving 3 tons of Bibles that had been donated by South Korean churches and intended for free distribution to local Christians. The government only allows state churches to print and distribute a limited number of Bibles yearly. It is reported that in prison Zhou was beaten severely by both guards and inmates. He was still in prison as of this past February. (The Christian Post, Feb.7, 2008)

The Lord who spoke the worlds into existence is not impressed by our pomp and technology and fireworks. But he is impressed by his people glorifying him despite persecution by a wicked government. His eyes are on his precious sheep singing his praises behind closed doors of their homes or praying under their prison covers.

When you watch the Olympics this week, lift up a prayer for the persecuted saints in China. Ask Jesus to have mercy on them, fill them with his joy and give them the grace to persevere. Ask Jesus to bring his kingdom, the most impressive kingdom of all, to earth.

photo by Denis Collette

  • http://www.photosandquotes.blogspot.com YellerDaisies

    I was only able to get a brief glance of the opening ceremonies (though it sounds amazing!!!). But, I as I watched, I was thinking how what the world was seeing was not life in China. I have been to a communist country and what you see in the media and what really happens is so different. My brothers & sisters in China will be in my prayers.

  • http://fancyfarm.blogspot.com Courtney

    We watched the opening ceremonies and my husband made a comment about how they were all performing perfectly because if they didn’t they’d probably be beat or shot later. We of course don’t know if that’s true, but it kind of takes the cool factor out of it all when you hear what goes on behind the scenes. I was particularly discouraged to hear how farmers have been unable to farm their land due to the last decade of drought and the water ways they depend on were rerouted to fill things like the dry riverbed that is now being used for the rowing competitions and the many fountains that are purely for show. We are so blessed to live in the freedom we do. The Chinese people are certainly in need of much prayer.

  • http://knowntogod.blogspot.com Bruce

    I watched the entire opening ceremony and a constant theme throughout the show was the mass of people working in unison. It was meant to be symbolic of the Chinese ethic (and even communist ethic) of the individual disappearing into the collective and working for the good of the group. We should realize, though, it is that same ethic that works to persecute the church; any “foreign” religion, especially one that promotes individual decision-making, is seen as a threat to their social structure. So, in the opening ceremony, China was effectively explaining why they persecute the church and a billion viewers were watching an apologetic for persecution.

  • http://www.judahupdate.blogspot.com Briana

    Thank you for this post.

  • http://notuntous.blogspot.com Katherine

    Thank you for this reminder! It is so important to keep the believers in China in our hearts and prayers.

  • http://his-wrath-is-satisfied.blogspot.com/ Meg

    Fantastic post, Mark. We have been talking about the economic rise of China and how they are now effectively the most powerful nation in the world. They are in control of the bank account and therefore have no need for the rest of the worlds’ approval of their human rights policies.

    Having said that, we know that God is in control of all things, including the world’s purse strings. For reasons far beyond our ability to understand, God has allowed China to become what it has, including a police state that silences our brothers and sisters voices. Just as God allowed many other godless empires to rise to greatness before them such as Assyria, Babylon and Rome, He has allowed this for a time. God will have all the glory, regardless of China and their horrific treatment of Christians and many others who they see as a threat to their government.

    Thank you for the reminder to pray for the dear saints in China. May we not be blinded by the glitz and glamour of the Olympics and great sporting achievments, but rather be in awe and wonder at a mighty God who is sovereign over all things.

    Sorry for the long winded and emotional comment. It is something close to my heart. Thank you for writing such an honest challenging post.

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Yeller, Courtney, Bruce, Briana, Katherine and Meg,

    Thank you for your great comments. We’ve been preaching through Daniel in our church and it’s been so good to be reminded that Christ is reigning and only his kingdom will last forever.

  • http://china.myadventures.org Brother Eugene

    I am a missionary in rural China, in the foothills of Tibet.

    Although the stories shared in this post are not the norm for all Chinese believers, they do occur daily somewhere in this nation of 1.3 billion.

    The hypocrisy of China is something that is hard for us to deal with living here on a daily basis.

    I would love to send info to major news sources detailing the restrictions and persecutions that take place in our region against Christians and anything considered anti-government, but it is simply too dangerous for us to do so.

    We would risk getting our business visas cancelled and being “booted” if we were to speak out in the way that we would like.

    So we will just continue to share the Gospel and trust in the sovereignty of God in this and every situation!

  • lewsta

    What amazes me is that the Chinese government trots out that old saw about Christianity being a “new, western religion” that threatens their ancient cultural ways. Nonsense. I’ve read of solid evidence that Christianity has been in China since the very earliest time after Jesus’ resurrection, even that the apostle Thomas had been there (perhaps as an extension of his India travels?). And we westerners “buy” this line of preserving their “ancient culture”. The present “culture” of China is no more like “ancient China’s” than our present American culture is that of the pre-Columbian peoples that met the Mayflower in 1620! And we extend to China “Most Favoured Nation” status in trade? They are only very slightly less restrictive and repressive than North Korea.

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Brother Eugene,

    I so respect you for the way you are serving and trusting Jesus. Thank you. Please tell me how we can best pray for you and our brothers and sisters in China.

    Lewsta,

    Great insights – China doesn’t seem too worried about our Western technology, television and money corrupting their “ancient culture.”

  • http://www.beautyfromtheheart.org Hannah

    Good thoughts. For me, the Olympics has been a constant reminder of the false face China tries to put on for the world. Unfortunately, I forget to translate that frustration into prayer on behalf of our Chinese brothers and sisters who are really suffering there.

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Thanks Hannah,

    I too forget to pray for our suffering brothers and sisters – I want to be more faithful to pray for them….