Thursday, October 9, 2014

YOU can help African children! (Kisses from Katie)

Ahoy from Amoy!
      In May, 2014, our youngest son Matt and wife Jessica visited Uganda to explore ways to use their medical interests and skills to help African children and the poor. They also saw the work of Katie Davis, who as an 18-year-old senior class president and homecoming queen in Nashville visited Uganda on a short mission trip during her Christmas break--and found her world turned upside down. Katie disobeyed her parents, who wanted her to go to college, broke up with her boyfriend, and moved to Uganda.
Whether you're interested in helping children at home, here in China, or in will be encouraged at just what one person can do by reading Katie's bestselling book, Kisses from Katie. Now in her mid 20s, Katie's working on actually adopting 13 children! Her Amazima ministries now sponsors 400 children, and they feed lunch to over 1200 children every weekday, as well as provide basic medical care, health training and bible studies.

Zhang Joni Bethesda Ministries Anshan China Quadriplegic doctor
Dr. Zhang, Bethesda Ministries, Anshan, China
Katie's book may inspire you to help her work with African children. Or Click Here if you'd like to help children right here in China with CP Sapling, or the work of Nathan and Anna Fields here in Xiamen, or Bethesda Rehabilitation Ministries in N.E. China by Dr. Zhang--the "Chinese Joni" (and a male Joni at that!). Sue and I, in fact, are visiting Dr. Zhang's work in about 10 days.


Dr. Bill
Xiamen (formerly Amoy) University

Amazon eBooks
"Fujian Adventure" $1.99

Matt & Jess' Uganda Blog

Bill Brown Xiamen University

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Why Worry is Agnosticism at Best, Atheism at Worst

Good Morning from Amoy!

When a friend or loved one is troubled, it is so easy to piously quote, "Be anxious for nothing," but when I'm facing a trial myself, I'd respond to that with,
"But Lord, this ain't nothing!" And certainly our Heavenly Father understands His children's doubts, fears, anxieties. After all, even Abraham, the man justified by faith, tried to shield himself from Pharaoh by lying about his wife and sending her straight to a harem! Most Biblical heroes, even those who saw Him face-to-face, had worries, despite Jesus' repeated admonitions to not worry--to "consider the lilies of the field, how they toil not, neither do they spin, yet not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these..." (Matthew 6:28, 29). Followed by the great promise of Matt. 6:33, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things [those things we worry about] shall be added to you."

Worry betrays our doubt that our Father can, or will, do anything about the issues facing us. But according to Lloyd John Ogilvie, worry is not only a lack of faith but also a "low-grade fever of agnosticism!" (in Ogilvie's 1980s devotional "God's Best For Our Life."--a powerful book with a cut-to-the quick sermon each day).

I can do no better than to simply quote part of that day's devotional, and trust you are as encouraged by it as I was (God's Best, by the way, has as a Kindle version, which unfortunately is a bit abridged, but still excellent).

Excerpt from Lloyd John Ogilvie's "God's Best for my Life," (1980)

August 12, Strangling the Soul 
"I say to you, do not worry about your life". (Matthew6:25)
"Worry is thinking turned toxic, the imagination picturing the worst. The word worry comes from the root “to choke or strangle.” Worry does choke and strangle our creative capacity to think, hope, and dream. It twists the joy out of life. Worry changes nothing except the worrier. It becomes a habit. At the core, it is a low-grade fever of agnosticism. When we worry, we express a lurking form of doubt that God either knows, cares, or is able to do anything. It is a form of loneliness—facing eventualities by ourselves on our meager strength."

Dr Bill's Amazon eBooks
"Fujian Adventure" $1.99
Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Fujian Adventure eBook $1.99 special on Amazon! 魅力福建 over 520 pages and almost 700 photos (doubleclick to enlarge), many by Fujian's top photographers, Fujian Adventure is now an eBook on Amazon for $1.99 promotional price ($5.99 regularly). Click Here to download a copy and if you enjoy it, please rate it and share the link with your friends!

If you (like me), don't have a Kindle, download  Free Amazon Reading Apps to read it on Android and Apple devices,or Mac and Windows computers.
Thanks so much for helping to get the word out. I hope to have some of my other 11 books online this summer. 
Enjoy Amoy! 

Dr. Bill 

Amazon description of Fujian Adventure.
Columbus' goal was not a New World but a shortcut to India and to Marco Polo’s fabled Zayton in Fujian, China. Columbus never made it to Zayton, but you can.

Over 500 pages and almost 700 photos, many by award-winning Chinese photographers, bring to life the people and places of Fujian (Fukien), the cradle of Chinese seafaring (200 B.C.), start of the Maritime Silk Route, port of departure for Marco Polo and ibn Battuta, and ancestral home of most overseas Chinese.
Meet Admiral Zhenghe, the "real" Sinbad; the ancient Southern Shaolin Kung Fu Temple’s youthful abbot; the Hui'an maidens who cover their heads, bare their bellies, and only sleep with their husbands 3 nights a year; the firewalkers who dance across the flames bearing heavy idols; melancholy Miss Mo who became the sea goddess Mazu; Zayton’s famous marionette makers; the Anxi farmers who produced the tea tossed overboard during the Boston Tea Party. Visit China’s first Protestant church and the planet’s last Manichean temple. Explore Gulangyu, the Roaring 20s’ “richest square mile on earth,” which even today has over 1,000 “Amoy Deco” mansions. Discover the secret of Hakka roundhouses that Nixon and the CIA thought were missile silos, and then visit the nearby Amoy tiger preserve. Enjoy scenic Sanming, with China's 4th largest gem beds, China’s largest sleeping Buddha, Ming Dynasty villages, enchanting caverns and underground lakes. Marvel at Wuyi Mountain’s 2,000-year-old Min Palace, and the Eden-like biological diversity that drew French naturalists in the 1700s to study the rare plants, king cobras and 33 foot pythons.

And of course there’s the Fujian food. Moliere said "Man should eat to live, not eat to live," but Dr. Bill says, "Moliere never ate Chinese food—especially Fujian food.”

Locals say Fujian is “8 parts mountain, 1 part water, 1 part field”. This torturous terrain not only gave rise to an innovative and tough people but also to more local dialects and greater cultural diversity—including cuisines—than any other province. Every hill, valley and river has a story behind it, and Dr. Bill invites you to explore them.

Author Bill Brown, Prof. of Organizational Behavior and Business Strategy at School of Management, Xiamen University, was Fujian's first foreign permanent resident and has driven over 200,000 km. around China,even through the Gobi Desert and Tibet,幸福福建),but still considers Fujian the most fascinating province for foreigners. In addition to textbooks such as Art of Business Warfare (Beijing University Press), he has written ten books about Fujian. He has also written and hosted several TV documentaries, including a 62-episode mini-series, "Fujian in a Foreigner's Eyes". In addition to teaching MBA, he hosts the weekly "Xingfu Fujian"《幸福福建》。
 Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Help Children in China!

Good morning from Amoy!

Children of Promise CP Sapling Xiamen China
CP Sapling
Several have asked us how to help Chinese children, especially orphans or disabled, in Xiamen and Fujian. There are many ways to do it, but we suggest the following groups or people because of their integrity and heart for serving:  Jianhua Foundation (founded 30 years ago in Hong Kong), Bethesda Ministry, and CP Sapling. Of course, there is also World Vision International, which my wife Susan Marie worked for when we married; the founding of WVI was inspired by the White Jade incident in Xiamen in the 1940s!

Jianhua Foundation, founded in 1981 by Chinese businessmen and academics in Hong Kong, serves the people of China in numerous ways. We've been JHF associates almost 20 years, and appreciate their sensitivity to the unique needs and opportunities in China. Visit the Jianhua web site to learn how you can get involved short- or long-term. But you can do much more than give--you can go, as Nathan and Anna have.
Jian Hua Foundation China

Nathan and Anna Fields
Anna and Nathan
Nathan and AnnaIt is so much easier to Give than to Go--but Nathan and Anna did Go! They have dedicated their lives to serving others in many ways, including through our Xiamen International Christian Fellowship (XICF). Learn more about this wonderful couple's work by visiting: Fields of China.
Joni Eareckson Tada helps China ministry of Dr. Zhang in Anshan
Joni Eareckson Tada

Bethesda Rehabilitation Ministry of  Anshan, China. My wife loves Joni, the Christian quadraplegic famous for her artwork, books and motivational talks, and treasures the devotional that Jonie signed and sent her because of Sue's support of "China's Joni", Dr. Xu Zhang (Joni's books are popular in China too, and sold at Xiamen's Nissi Christian bookstore  ).

Dr. Zhang Bethesda Rehabilitation Ministry Anshan China
Dr Zhang, Bethesda Ministry Anshan
Dr. Xu Zhang, also became a quadraplegic after a diving accident and was abandoned by his family. He now helps the disabled and  poor in N.E. China, and cooperates with Joni. We urge you to support Dr. Zhang, who undertakes this great ministry in a relatively remote area, lacking the resources of larger, more publicized ministries.  To learn more, visit Bethesda Ministry's website or email Dr. Zhang at

CP [Children of Promise] Sapling is a Xiamen ministry helping children who have cerebral palsy. They also teach the children's families how to care for these special children. Visit their website!

Thanks for helping these wonderful people and organizations.  And read more about Xiamen, and Fujian Province, in my eBooks available on Amazon!


Dr. Bill

Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Mother of Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day from Xiamen (former Amoy), China!
   This is dedicated to my mom back in the U.S., who has so patiently put up with having her son 12,000 miles away in China for half of his adult life.

 When Anna May Jarvis's mother died on the 2nd Sunday of May 1906, Anna May wished she had heeded the warning to, “Lavish your flowers on the living, not the dead.” Driven by remorse, the gentle, easy going Anna May became obsessed with the desire to see her mother and motherhood honored throughout the world.
      After a year’s planning, the first Mother's Day was celebrated on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, May 10, 1908, at St. Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia, where Anna’s mother had taught Sunday School. A year later, Philadelphia became the first city to proclaim an official Mother’s Day. Three years later, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed Public Resolution 25, establishing the second Sunday of each May as Mother's Day. And then, to everyone’s surprise, Anna May retired and spent the remaining 34 years of her life, and her fortune of over 100,000 dollars, fighting against Mother’s Day!
         The problem was that from day one, Mother’s Day had become a great commercial extravaganza to boost the incomes of card and candy makers, and a salve to soothe the consciences of those who each May made mother a “queen for the day” but neglected her the other 364 days.
       Anna May complained, “Mother’s Day has nothing to do with candy. Candy is junk. A maudlin, insincere printed card or a ready-made telegram means nothing except that you’re too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone else in the world. You ought to go home and see your mother on Mother’s Day. You ought to take her out and paint the town red...You ought to give her something useful, something permanent...Is she sleeping warm at night? Could she use an eiderdown? Maybe the stairs in her home need fixing...”
        For 30 years, Anna May fought for the integrity of Mother’s Day. She finally died in a sanitarium — old, tired, deaf, blind, penniless, and having never married nor been a mother herself!
        Sixty years later, mothers may be more neglected than ever. Statistics show one half of Americans, which of course includes one half of our mothers, live in poverty. Where are the children? More than ever, mothers deserve more than cards and candy one day a year and anonymity the other 364.
Sue Brown on plane on way to Xiamen China with Shannon Brown 2 years old Matthew Brown 6 months old August 1988          My appreciation of motherhood only began as I watched my wife, in both sickness and health, unselfishly spend herself on her two sons--and her husband as well! (read how we met in "China--our Matchmaker!"). I also slowly came to better appreciate my own mother, and though she’s 12,000 miles away, I am now careful to not only send her the obligatory Mother’s Day card and flowers but also to regularly write and phone her.
           Fortunately, most Off the Wall Blog readers are not 12,000 miles away from home!  So as Mother's Day catches on both here in China and elsewhere on this little planet we so briefly call home, let us make sure that Mother’s Day is not a card-and-candy substitute for well-deserved love but the crown and pinnacle of a full year’s expression of love and appreciation for the one who gave us life: our mother. But while you're at it--send a card, and some flowers too--and pick up the phone and call her.

Matt and Jessica Shan and Miki and Sue and Bill            Below, by the way, is our new family cartoon, including Matt's wife Jessica (married in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, on June 30th, 2012, and Shannon's wife Miki, married in Xiamen on January 1st, 2009).

Now all that Sue and I need is a very good excuse (strong hint!) to start promoting Grandparents Day!
Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Friday, April 12, 2013

Amazon E-books --Instant Library for China!

 Ahoy from Amoy!

One of the things I really missed in the early years in China was having good English books.  We brought literally thousands from the U.S., and now probably have the largest library of its kind in our area (many borrow from it).  Still, even buying only used books, it gets expensive--but now our library is almost limitless!

I never thought I'd get used to eBooks, but now I love them because whenever I travel, I can carry a library of 100s of books on my phone.   I don't have a Kindle, but I did download the Kindle software to my Android phone (works with iPhone too), and now I can read Kindle books and they are kept synchronized with Amazon's Whispersync technology, so I can always pick up where I left off, whether on computer, my Samsung phone, or a pad.

It is absolutely amazing what one can buy on Amazon Kindle Store site--everything from modern books on special for free, or 99 cents, to great classics.  I've downloaded over 100 free books, including G. K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinis, (Summa Theologica) etc. I love Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries--think Sherlock Holmes, but instead of Holmes, its a dowdy priest with a shabby umbrella who bumbles around--solving the hardest of crimes. Quite a character. And I have James Hudson Taylor's long biography-- the two volume one -- which I bought for one dollar each (I have the originals, which my wife's father gave me, but they're a bit bulky to carry around).


P.S. The Everlasting Man is brilliant! Unfortunately, it is poorly formatted (typos, etc.), but I've found no better e-version of it, so still worth the 99 cents.And one of my favorite devotionals is the original 1980s version of Ogilvie's God's Best for my life."  Sadly, the eBook, like newer versions, is abridged, but still excellent. It is not, as the title sounds, a shallow "Prosperity preaching give me everything God, but you, book"  but solid teaching--a mini sermon each day." Still--if you can, get a used copy (as low as 63 cents on Amazon!) of the old version (I use both the old version and the Kindle version when I travel).

Bill Brown Xiamen University

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Payapa Pine Trees; By Their Fruits

Happy Sunday from Amoy! (Xiamen, China)

Papaya People   This morning, Pastor Gabe Orea, of the Xiamen International Christian Fellowship, talked about being known by our fruits.  Of course, we so often hear, "By their fruits you shall know them," that it has become a meaningless cliche and goes in one ear and out the other--especially my ears, since there is not much between my ears to impede the messages' rapid entry and even more fleeting exit.

But Gabe drove his point home by showing a papaya tree with papaya fruit, and asking how we knew it was a papaya tree.  Everyone said "by the fruit, of course" (though Sue and I grow our own papayas, so we recognize the trunk and leaves too).

Papaya Pine Tree? Gabe then asked, "If it is so obvious this is a papaya tree because of its fruit, then why do people "not get it?"--that we, people, are also truly known by our fruit, and our fruit shows exactly what we are.  Gabe then showed an evergreen tree on which he had pasted papayas, which got a big laugh--but it was sobering too, at least to those of us who took the humor seriously.  He also talked about the fruits of the Spirit--and how futile it is to try and force the fruits if that Spirit is not really within us...

That just came out!  Gabe shared a common Spanish phrase (wish I could remember it!) that means, "Oops, that just came out!"  He said someone said something to a pastor back home in Mexico and then quickly said, "Oops, that just came out!"  And the pastor smiled and said, "Yes, I understand.  But if it came out, that means it was inside--and probably still is inside!"

Gabe's messages are more on target, and vivid, than the messages of most pastors I know who have English as their first language--though he does stop here and there to ask how to pronounce a word.  Knowing Gabe Orea, he does it on purpose, just to see if we are really listening!  Well, I certainly do listen.  In fact--I found something in Gabe's sermon today that even Gabe did not know about!

XIV.  Today was Gabe's 14th talk on the "Red Words of Jesus." He is preaching on all of the "Red Words" of Jesus (because we are in Red China? hmmm... ). He is not skipping even the thorniest verses (love your enemies, give to all who ask you, etc... ), and he has given some fascinating insights.

But I asked him if he had made his own version of the Bible--if XIV (which he meant as Roman numeral "14") meant Xiamen International Version.  And why not? Xiamen (ancient Amoy)  had China's First Protestant Church; maybe we can start our own version of the Bible as well!  

Gabe said he was impressed at how closely I pay attention to his messages, even spotting XIV, which he had not noticed.  Of course, I always like to see the humorous side of things.  After all, life is too short too take too seriously (it is so hard to believe 24 years in Xiamen have flown so quickly).  And it is easy to have fun with Gabe's sermons; he is one of the best pastors I have known, but also one of the funniest.  So I really appreciate his humor, even when he is being serious.

Sense of Humor--but nothing else? Of course, someone once said that I too have a good sense of humor, and I said, "That's true.  I do have a good sense of humor, and I use it every chance I have because it is the only sense I have."

But in speaking of Gabe--he has found that the terrible cancer that he had, and which completely disappeared, has now reappeared.  Thanks for praying for Pastor Gabe, his wife Victoria, and their daughter and son Jaisis and Paulo.

Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Key of the Kingdom (or Keyboard of the Kingdom)

Keyed Up--or Off.    A week ago, I dropped a heavy battery on my computer and broke the three most used keys, including the "e", which I've used so much over the years that there is no longer an "e"--just a blank depression (I've worn the plastic down on half a dozen keys). 

Faith, not Sight.   Fortunately for me, typing my way through grad school for professors ($4 an hour) paid off, and I don't have to look at keys when I type (I have faith they don't move around when I'm not looking--though with today's technology, who knows?) But now the keys were broken altogether--a tough break, since I spend most of my waking hours at this old computer.

Childlike or Childish?  It was my own carelessness, but still, like a child, I fussed and fumed to the Father for letting me do something so stupid.  Of course, Jesus said you won't enter the Kingdom unless you become like a child--but I think He meant we should be childlike, not childish.  But I'm only 56; give me a few more decades.

Seeing the Light! I tried several days to fix the three broken keys. I even took apart a working key to see how it worked.  That left me with 4 broken keys.  Even with a magnifying glass, I just could not see how the tiny plastic pieces under the key fit together, and how to snap them to both computer and key. But finally, this morning, it occurred to me to pray (why, after years of prayer, and years of amazing Answers, is this still sometimes a last resort?)  And it was, quite literally, as if a Light went on in my head!

It's a Snap! I tried again, and the little plastic pieces snapped together almost effortlessly.  I then snapped them onto the keyboard, and they--and it worked perfectly!  One had a missing part, but I just took the part from a key in the N.E. corner of the keyboard (I'd never used it, and had no idea what it was for).  And now the keyboard is pretty much like new. 

Key of the Kingdom.  It was a good lesson.  I could keep complaining, and fretting, and blaming my guardian angels, my Father, and my wife and cats, for letting me do something stupid.  Or I could take the typical American approach and just buy a new computer (easy to rationalize, since this one has several things wrong with it--though I can work around them).  Or... I could ask for wisdom.  And as Solomon learned, Wisdom (not ours but His) is one of the great Keys to the Kingdom (especially when fixing a Keyboard). 

Bill in a China Closet.  We've all heard of a "bull in a China closet."  Well, sometimes I feel like "Bill in the China closet," blundering around and causing havoc.  And today, Who knows what I'll break--whether things or people, or....? So I am starting this new day by asking for wisdom to do the right things, to avoid the wrongs things--and for wisdom to fix those things that I will mess up. Because I most certainly will mess something up today.  But that's okay, because that is how we learn--and grow.

As Paul said, "Be anxious for nothing."

And as Bill says, "But Lord, this ain't nothing!"  


Dr. Bill

Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jeremy Lin--Emblem of Asian-American Christianity

My wife, Susan Marie, told me about this very encouraging article about Jeremy Lin after seeing my earlier "Our Daily Noodles" blog entry about him.  Hope you enjoy it.  Click the Link at the bottom to view Steve Almasy's entire article.  Bill

Jeremy Lin emerges as emblem of burgeoning Asian-American Christianity

By Steve Almasy, CNN (Feb. 21st, 2012)
(CNN) – When Jeremy Lin was a sophomore at Harvard, he was struggling emotionally. A good guard on an awful basketball team – the Crimson finished the season with an 8-22 record – he needed something more than hoops.

Lin, who had been baptized into an evangelical Chinese church near San Francisco in ninth grade and had come to value Christian fellowship through his youth group, was part of the  Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship group, regularly attending Bible study.

But most of his life was spent with his basketball teammates and other athletes, he later told the Student Soul, a website of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

“It’s a tough environment and if you don’t have appropriate boundaries, you’ll compromise your faith,” he told the website, run by a major Christian college ministry, in 2010.

So, during his sophomore year, Lin stepped up his involvement in the Asian-American Christian group, about 80 members strong, gaining a sense of community that had eluded him.

Those kinds of stories are becoming increasingly commonplace as more second generation Asian-Americans like Lin join campus Christian groups, said Carolyn Chen, who directs Asian-American Studies at Northwestern University....

Asian-American Christianity, experts say, is growing along with that population boom, especially among second generation Chinese-Americans. Jeremy Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan and who talks openly about his Christian faith, has become a symbol of that trend.

Pyong Gap Min , a sociology professor at Queens College in New York, said there has been growth in the number of Asian-America Christian churches, though it is hard to get reliable numbers on the size of the community.

But Min said the number of Pan-Asian churches is increasing, especially on the West Coast, where congregations that have traditionally been dominated by one ethnicity have become multiethnic. Many of those churches are adding services specifically for second generation Asian-Americans, many of whom want services in English.

Chen said more Asian-Americans are also joining traditionally white evangelical congregations.

“You see Asians gaining more visibility in American evangelical circles,” Chen said. “What you are seeing is more integration.”
Lin grew up in Chinese churches. On college campuses, Asian Christian groups have grown up separately from the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Jeremy Yang, a senior at Harvard who sits on the board of the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship, said his group offers a place where faith and culture intersect. Students feel comfortable being with and sharing their faith with other Asian-Americans, he said.

The Harvard group began in 1994 as part of the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship. So many Asians joined their Bible study that the founders decided to form a separate entity, he said.
“The growth was really explosive,” he said. “There is something about being Asian-American that attracted people into the fellowship.”

Fenggang Yang, author of “Chinese Christians in America: Conversion, Assimilation, and Adhesive Identities” and a professor at Purdue University, said Asians are drawn to Christianity partly by values that dovetail with Asian culture, including thrift, education and family.

“In that way it helps them assimilate into the U.S. culture while preserving important aspects of their cultures,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Evangelicals tend to have a value system that fits a widely held Asian desire for order and success, he writes in his book, adding via e-mail that Lin is being lifted up as an example of those values.
Despite being a superstar in high school, Lin received no scholarship offers to college. And despite being a high-scoring player by his senior year in college, he didn't get drafted by the NBA.

Lin signed a free agent contract with the Golden State Warriors and seemed to get in the game only when his team was way ahead or far behind.

The Warriors sent him down to a developmental league, where he fought emotional battles while on long, late-night bus rides, he told an audience at River of Life Christian Church in Santa Clara, California, last year.

Lin, who until last month was sitting on his third bench in his short pro career, was given a chance to play when some fellow New York Knicks were injured. He responded with a record-setting stretch of games in which he scored more points in his first five starts than stars like Michael Jordan or Allen Iverson had over a similar number of games.

As a student, Lin led what the Harvard-Radcliffe Asian American Christian Fellowship calls a "family group," a small group devoted to Bible study and praying for others.

"A lot of people looked up to him because he was good at sports and really solid in his faith," said Yang, the Harvard senior.

Lin, who has said he may become a pastor someday, credits his rise as a professional athlete to understanding the way God was working in his life and developing a trust in God’s plan.

"I've surrendered that to God. I'm not in a battle with what everybody else thinks anymore," he told the San Jose Mercury News last week.

But there have been plenty of struggles.

When he was sent down to the minor league the first time, Lin told a church group last year, he turned to his pastor, Stephen Chen, at the Church in Christ in Mountain View, California. Chen told him to spend an hour a day with God.

Lin memorized a few Bible verses, Chen says, including a passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans in the New Testament that reads in part: “We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”

Chen told CNN's Sandra Endo last week that Lin doesn't believe in a prosperity gospel, where having great faith means everything will always work out.

"It's true hard things may come and you're not guaranteed an outcome but through it all, there'll be joy because you're walking with the Lord," Chen said. "The greatest joy you could have. Greater joy than being a professional NBA basketball player all-star."

Michael Chang, a Taiwanese-American who was once the second ranked tennis player in the world, said Lin will need to keep a balance in his life that can be hard in the world of competitive sports.

Sports stars are offered a tricky platform, said Chang, who now plays tennis on the Champions Tour and runs a Christian foundation that administers several sports leagues. People will listen to your every word, but they also watch your every move, waiting to see what you will do in public, he said. They  equate your value with your success or lack of it in the spotlight.

"As believers, we don't measure it that way," Chang said. "For us, it's going out there, knowing the Lord, and being able to take all the talents and gifts that you've been given and use that as a platform to  touch lives and touch hearts."

Lin told the Mercury News that his own battle as a believer continues.

"There is so much temptation to hold on to my career even more now," Lin told the paper. "To try to micromanage and dictate every little aspect. But that's not how I want to do things anymore. I'm thinking about how can I trust God more? How can I surrender more?

"It's a fight,” he said. “But it's one I'm going to keep fighting."
- Producer/Writer
Click Here to View Entire Article on Original Page

Bill Brown Xiamen University

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Jeremy Lin Linsanity, God's Fingerprints?

Jeremy Lin God's Fingerprints?
Click for great CNN article on Lin!

Linsanity is catching on even here in China!  Of course, it's nice to finally see an athlete who is solidly grounded and Centered--and I don't mean self-centered, like most of the athletes the media fawns over.  Just what is Jeremy Lin's Center?   Jeremy said of his  meteoric rise to fame, "God's fingerprints are all over the place."

Of course, we all have the stereotype of the calm, inscrutable Asian (and after 24 years in Asia, I've learned to marvel at Asian's generally admirable sense of propriety and control, but I've also learned they too have their limits),  but Jeremy Lin, for all his athletic prowess, seems a model of cool, Centered peace, even in the midst of Linsanity.   What a model for youth today.

Below is an excerpt from the Guideposts website.  Keep soaring, Jeremy Lin--and keep Centered!

Jeremy Lin said,  "If you look back at my story, doesn't matter where you look, but God's fingerprints are all over the place. You can try to call it coincidence, but at the end of the day, there are 20, 30 things when you combine them all that had to happen at the right time in order for me to be here. That's why I call it a miracle.”

Bill Brown Xiamen University

Monday, September 5, 2011

In Loving Memory of Dr. David Brainard Woodward  Sept.2011

Happy Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival!  We’ve much news this month, but we start by celebrating the life of Dr. David Woodward (1918-2011), who married Sue and I in 1981 in Taiwan. Even today, 30 years later, he continues to influence our lives, and many others, especially through one of those strange ‘coincidences’ that seem to pop up in our lives…

Coincidences or Father’s Hand?  In early 2011, twoChinese reporters interviewed me  about the amazing “coincidences” that have helped me pull together the history of the Amoy Mission (I was able to show them emails and other materials to document them).

Scientists have long tried to explain these uncanny coincidences.  In the 1920s, Carl Jung dubbed it synchronicity.  Even Einstein spoke of how his insights came not from logic but from unexplained inspiration.  Some call it the Force (rather like Star Wars!).But I see it as our Father’s hand.  He weaves the tapestry of our lives so deftly and gently that we  usually go about our lives completely unaware of just how much we takefor granted.  But sometimes we  entangle ourselves so much that He reaches in to straighten out a knot or two—such as he did right after our honeymoon, and later did with a gift from Dr. Woodward...
The Magic Zheng While in Taiwan for our wedding,  Sue bought a Chinese zheng for my wedding present. I had wanted one for years, and was delighted—and then I left it on a public bus in San Francisco while transferring to another airport. I was devastated, and halfheartedly threw up a hopeless prayer—more of a complaint than a plea for help, blaming my Father for allowing his child to be so careless.  I had zero hope of ever seeing the zheng again because neither the instrument nor the case had any ID.   It was not, I felt, an auspicious way to start married life—losing my wedding present before I even got it home.
A full month later, back in Los Angeles at grad school, I was called out of class to the office—and on the dean’s desk was my zheng—no note, no explanation!  The bus company must have spent a month of detective work tracking down the owner of an instrument with no ID on it or in it.  For me, it was a special delivery straight from heaven.  
I thanked our Father for the returned zheng—and apologized both for losing it and for blaming Him for my loss, because the incident drove home two valuable lessons.  One—we, not our Father, are responsible to steward what He entrusts to us.  But two, and more encouraging to me, our Father really is there to help his children.  And He continues to drive home this lesson even today in ways so amazing that some have made it into the Chinese newspapers!   But one of my greatest lessons came through the book “Detour from Tibet,” which Dr. Woodward gave to us at our wedding....
Dr. Woodward, a grad of Princeton and Fuller T.S. (my alma mater), set off on horseback in 1945 for Tibet, and then served for decades with Betty in India, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where Sue knew the Woodwards while she was growing up (Sue’s parents were in Taiwan 30 years with TEAM, and she was born and raised there).
Marital Counseling—or Cautioning?  Sue was thrilled that Dr. Woodward agreed to marry us at Taipei’s ChristChapel, but I was nervous when he said he had to first counsel me. My ears were still burning from the marital counseling of Chuck Saunders, my friend from Taiwan days.  (Read more about the Saunders at:
Don’t Do It, Willy! I met Sue at Chuck and Donna’s house in Pasadena on Easter Sunday, 1981, and after watching our love blossom, Chuck took me to a Mexican lunch and dispensed these words of wisdom:  “Don’t do it, Willy!” (Only Chuck,  and Art Velasquez, ever called me Willy—precisely because they knew I hated Willy).
Chuck was concerned not for me but for Sue.  He knew me from Air Force days in Taiwan, and my time as a special agent in the U.S. and the Middle East, and he was worried Sue would not be able to handle the kind of life I was likely to live in mainland China.  I of course greatly respected Chuck and his advice. He and Donna influenced me on everything from attending Fuller T.S. to going into business, and then leaving business to go to China.  But when it came to Susan Marie, I was deaf!  Happily for us, once they realized we were determined to marry, they embraced us like 2nd parents, and Chuck was the first to visit and encourage us in China right after we arrived in 1988.
Marriage Counseling—the Sequel  After Chuck’s insights on marriage, I certainly did not want a second round of marital counseling from Dr. Woodward.  But Dr. Woodward did not dissuade me, perhaps because the wedding was only 4 days away (and Sue’s dad had my plane tickets and wouldn’t let me leave the island without his daughter in tow).  But Dr. Woodward did advise me on how to keep the wife happy, and given that he was married to Betty for 66 years, I figured he must know what he was talking about, and I listened!

The Magic Book As we prepared for the wedding, Dr. Woodward delighted us with tall but true tales of entering Tibet on horseback, and he gave us a signed copy of his book “Detour from Tibet.”  I treasured that book, which I read several times, and was one of the few books I took to China. So imagine my frustration when Sue loaned it to a Chinese student, who loaned it to another student, who lost it.  I did not say much about it, but inwardly I stewed at losing yet another wedding present. And unlike the zither, I never saw that book again, but our Father used it to teach us a great lesson!
A year after losing my treasured book, we heard that some of our university’s Chinese students had volunteered to work in Tibet so they could also share their new Life there (Chinese tentmakers).  And a year after that news, we had one of those “coincidences” that even today gives me goosebumps to think about.
Tibet and back.  I was exhausted by the time we reached Lhasa,(Tibet) but the second day both body and spirit wereIn 1994, Sue, the boys and I drove 40,000 km. for 3 months around China, up the coast, through the Gobi Desert, to charged when a young Chinese said to us, “Are you Bill Brown?  I’m a believer from Xiamen Univ. who volunteered to serve in Tibet.  I was movedto do that because of your book, “Detour from Tibet!” 
A year lesson, Dr. Woodward was delighted to hear that he was still touching the hearts of Tibetans half a century after he left the place.  And happily for me, he gave us another signed copy of his book.  I do hope to hold on to this copy, but I also pray that I’ll never again put books, or anything else, above people. 

On August 23, 2011, Dr. Woodward ended his brief 93 year sojourn on this planet. And now, for the first time, he can   view the magnificent tapestry of life—not from the knotty and tangled backside but from the beautiful perspective of the
Master Weaver, for whom even the smallest thread has both beauty and purpose.

Ping'an, Dr. David Woodward! 

Bill Brown
Xiamen University

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

An Amoy Tribute for Lorraine Pierce--Spiritual Founder of World Vision and Samaritan's Purse

Bill Brown Xiamen University
Amoy (Xiamen, China), April 5th , 2011

One of the 20th Century's most influential Christian women just went Home. Two days ago, I learned of the failing health of Lorraine, wife of World Vision and Samaritan Purse's founder Bob Pierce.  And as I was starting a letter to her today (my 55th B-day, by the way), I learned that she had already “returned Home”, surrounded by family and friends.

Grandmother of Millions The day before Lorraine went Home, she had smiled at learning she had a new great grandson, Taylor Anthony Ruesga.  Today, Lorraine is learning face-to-face from our Father that decades of selfless and largely unsung sacrifice, and the ceaseless prayers of a faithful mother and wife, have made her a spiritual mother of millions, and helped change our world in ways we will not fathom until we too join Lorraine with our Father, face-to-face.

The Seed of WVI in Amoy  As I wrote in February, 2010, World Vision was founded because of an incident here in Amoy in 1947.  American missionary Tena Holkeboer challenged young Bob Pierce to not just preach but to give practical help to poor orphans.  Bob gave his last 5 dollars to help "White Jade" and promised to send 5 dollars a month.  And that was  the seed that led him in 1950 to start World Vision, and in 1970 to found Samaritan's Purse (now led by Franklin Graham).

"Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God,
" wrote Bob Pierce in his bible after seeing the tragic conditions of orphans in Korea.  And Bob devoted the rest of his life traveling the globe and building two organizations that would help countless millions of people.  Bob literally spent his life and heart and soul to reach the poor, but in some ways, his wife Lorraine paid an even greater price. 

In "Man of Vision, Woman of Prayer,"
Bob's daughter Marilee shared that after Bob began his global ministry, his family saw little of him, even though wife and daughters desperately needed some time with him at home. But though heartbroken by suffering in other lands, Bob could not see the pain in his own home, and he justified his long absences with yet another prayer that has become famous.

Bob's Jephthah Prayer
   Like many others in his shoes, Bob struggled with how to balance the needs at home with the demands of a growing global ministry.  So Bob said, "God, if you take care of my children, I will take care of yours."   The prayer is often quoted, and may sound admirable on the surface, but it was neither wise nor necessary.  In Judges 11, Jephthah promised God that if he won a battle, he'd sacrifice whatever greeted him first when he returned home.  To his  horror, he was greeted by his daughter, whom he was then bound to sacrifice.  Bob also made  a Jephthah sacrifice. 

Like Jephthah, Bob Pierce sacrificed his family by leaving his young wife Lorraine to raise their children alone while he traveled abroad for months and years—and the Pierce family suffered great tragedy.

Did God fail Bob Pierce?
  Bob did his best to care for God's children, so did God fail to keep his own end of the bargain by allowing tragedy to befall Bob's family at home?  Obviously, God did not fail Bob, just as he did not fail Jephthah, because God never asked for such a prayer from Jephthah, or Bob, or anyone else.  Bob's children were Bob's responsibility, and his family should have been not an obstacle but an opportunity to help him prepare for a broader work.

Small and Great 
Jesus taught, "He who is faithful in small things will be faithful in great things."   God uses 'small' things to prepare us for great things, and to teach us to rely not on our own strength but on His.

For example, honoring the Sabbath may seem unimportant, but it proves that if we trust our Father, we can do more in 6 days than 7.  Tithing  money proves that 90% of our money can go farther than 100% when wisely stewarded.  But the brief  time on earth with our family is a bootcamp for eternity, preparing us as nothing else can for our own unique roles in our Father's eternal Family.   Some, like Paul the Apostle, were called to be single.  But if we are blessed with a family, then that family is our greatest God-given priority, from which all else springs, and faithfulness in this 'small' thing prepares us for the greater things to come.

Fortunately for Bob, and for the world
, Lorraine Pierce did not succumb to bitterness and resentment.  She continued to struggle, largely alone and unheralded, to keep her family together, and she continued to pray without ceasing for her beloved but absent husband—and I am confident that it was her prayers that moved both heaven and, through her husband, earth as well.

Samuel Chadwick wrote, "The one concern of the Devil is to keep the saints from praying. ... He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray. ... Satan dreads nothing but prayer. His one concern is to keep the saints from praying. ..."

Great works for the Kingdom
are not successful because of the blood, sweat and tears of toiling spiritual entrepreneurs ready to sacrifice themselves and everyone around them.  Their success is rooted in fervent, faithful prayer.    Hudson Taylor wrote, "God's will done in God's way will never lack God's supply." Though the China Inland Mission had thousands of workers to care for, Hudson Taylor learned that, through prayer and wise stewardship, he never lacked the resources to accomplish whatever task the Father put before him.

Hudson Taylor, George Mueller,
and many others who have made eternal contributions to the kingdom knew the truth of Chadwick's claim that success is rooted not in our toil or in our wisdom, or in our bargaining with God, but in our prayer—the faithful, fervent prayer of spiritual warriors like  Lorraine Pierce.

Man of Vision, Woman of Prayer.  To learn more about the Pierce family, and the founding of World Vision and Samaritan's Purse, read Marilee Dunker's "Man of Vision, Woman of Prayer." Regrettably, the publisher later shortened the title to "Man of Vision," but it was the the prayers of a faithful mother and wife, and a Woman of Prayer, that helped make possible the vision that changed the lives of millions.

I have heard that Marilee is preparing a newer book about her parents and their work.   I trust that her new book will help us all to better appreciate and emulate the selflessness and faithfulness of Lorraine Pierce, the spiritual founder of both World Vision and Samaritan's Purse, and spiritual mother to millions.

Our prayers, and gratitude, go to Marilee and her sister Robin, and the entire family.

In closing—a family news update! Our oldest son Shan and his wife Miki just moved to Beijing, where Shan has a new and challenging job.  And Matt at University of Arkansas has a very special friend Jessica (I hope to add her to the family cartoon!).  She is in Argentina for six months.  Lots of changes!

Bill Brown
       & family

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jabez Prayer Wheel--Guaranteed 100% Answered Prayer!

Note: Jabez Prayer Wheel void where prohibited by law, common sense, or lack of faith. Also: this blog is not criticizing the Jabez book itself. It is well written and insightful--but only if read in entirety, and the verse preceding Jabez' prayer is kept in mind. I take issue only with the notion that some believe simply parroting this prayer always guarantees the answer you want from God. I think prayer is always answered, but not always as we expect. And thank God for that, because I've winged prayers aloft that I was later thankful my Father had not answered as I had hoped. Dr. Bill
Toying Around When we first arrived in China in 1988, we could not buy good toys locally, so I made playthings from cardboard, paper, string, and wood. Even adults played on my 50 lb. wooden rocking horse (I threatened to publish a photo of the Foreign Affairs' Director on the horse if he didn't renew my contract; he is now one of Xiamen's top leaders).

Shannon, 1992
I did my best, but I was not Santa's toy-making elf, so in 1992, both Shan and Matt were thrilled when Sue and I promised them a real store-bought toy when we returned from a Beijing meeting. But dear old mom had a trick up her sleeve.

The Black Lacquer Plate Plot Sue gave Shannon a beautiful Chinese cloth box, which the 6-yr.-old gleefully opened to discover not a toy but a black lacquer plate. Only Shannon's eyes betrayed his disappointment. He smiled, thanked us, and walked away with the plate clasped to his chest. I could have cried (and kicked his mom).
"Come back Shannon!" I said. "Mom's fooling you. We do have a toy for you!" Shan hesitantly unwrapped a second package. He laughed as he held up a plastic basketball game, then hugged, kissed and thanked us. He started from the room, prized toy under his arm, then stopped in the doorway and said, "But it really was a nice plate."
I did cry at that point.

Toys 'R Us—I want everything! A few months later, Shannon saw his first Toys 'R Us. He was overwhelmed by the towering shelves of toys and said, "I want this! I want that! I want…" and he stopped, thrust his arms out happily, and said, "I want everything!" (The Hong Kong Toy's R Us had a sign at the entrance saying "Please leave your values at the counter." It was a typo--but later made sense!).

Hong Kong Toys R Us
The World 'R Us—We all want everything! So which was the real Shannon—the one who accepted the plate, or the one who wanted everything? They were both Shannon, but even the 6-yr.old who hid his sadness at not getting a toy was easily led to exclaim, "I want everything!" And we've all been this way since Eden.

Adam and Eve did have everything—except for one tree. But they gave up their inheritance for that one forbidden fruit—and ever since, we have all hungered for everything, and used clever psychology and even theology to justify it.

Maslow 'R Us. Maslow's 'Theory of Needs' helps explain what drives us. He said we all seek first to survive (physical needs and security), and then to belong (to be with others), and then to have self-esteem (for those others to look up to us). But even Maslow could not explain the highest need, which he called "self-actualization" (SA).

Ultimate Drive or Desire? SA is our need for purpose and fulfillment, but Maslow admitted, "It is unfortunate that I can no longer be theoretically neat at this level." Unlike 'lower' needs, Maslow said SA is not a driving force but an unexplainable universal 'desire.' It is unexplainable because scientists cannot admit that our ultimate need is to fill what Pascal called the "God-shaped abyss" in our hearts—a spiritual silence we try to drown out by an endless and mindless accumulation of anything and everything, living a lifestyle that is all style but little life.
The Evolution from Simian to Shopper (Homo Ebaggit)

Consumer or Consumed Only two centuries ago, a "consumer" was a squanderer, or a wasteful person, but yesterday's vices are today's virtues. In 1955, the economist Victor Lebow said,
"Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction and our ego satisfaction in consumption. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced and discarded at an ever-increasing rate."
Distressed Jeans or Distressed Consumer

Cult of Consumerism People who want everything are easily led to buy anything—such as a $200 pair of ripped and stained "distressed" jeans. But today, even churches reinforce Sony's Youniverse campaign, which says we are the center of everything and deserve everything.

Today's Tetzels
The church of the Dark Ages amassed a fortune by squeezing poor peasants for money to free loved ones from purgatory. As Tetzel said, "As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, another soul from purgatory springs."

In this even Darker Age, today's Tetzels amass fortunes by focusing not on the afterlife but on this life, promising an immediate tenfold return from God if we donate to their 'ministries.' (Why not bypass the middleman and give us the money so God can repay them tenfold?)

Seek Ye First—or Demand Ye First? Ironically, our Father does want to bless us—and is eager for us to ask! Jesus said that if earthly fathers know how to give good things to their children, how much more our Heavenly Father! (Matt. 7:9-11).

But how do we ask for our Father's blessings? Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be given to you" (Matt. 6:33). And Jesus said to pray first for the Kingdom, and then ask for our daily bread. But today, we are taught better prayers than Christ's, and told to skip the Kingdom part of it and go straight for the desires. And now, we don't ask, but demand an answer.

The Prayer God Always Answers? The preface to the book "Prayer of Jabez" begins with, "Dear Reader, I want to teach you how to pray a daring prayer that God always answers!" This is followed by stories of people who succeeded simply by repeating Jabez prayer for months and years. Not surprisingly, an entire Jabez industry now caters to people who want a foolproof prayer to get anything and everything. You can now buy a dozen versions of the Jabez book and endless Jabez trinkets, from mugs, cups, ties, rugs, plaques, key chains, etc to $250 Jabez jewelry.

Magic Jabez God Box
Jabez Magic One ad promotes a Jabez Prayer inside The "God Box" pendant. The God Box is identical to boxes sold to hold spells and potions—which isn't surprising, because the Jabez Prayer is used like a magic prayer that God must "always answer." But the Jabez merchandise ignores the verse before the prayer, 1 Chron. 4:9: "Jabez was more honorable than his brothers."

As Jesus said, and Jabez demonstrated, 'Seek first God's kingdom and his righteousness and all these things shall be given…"

Dr Bills Patent Pending Jabez Prayer Wheel

The World-Changing Jabez Prayer Wheel! The Magic Jabez God Box reminds me of Tibetan Prayer Wheels, with written prayers inside that fly off to Buddha when the wheels are spun. Chinese temples take it a step further, with motorized prayer wheels that send prayers soaring heavenward 24/7.

The ingenuity of Tibetans, Chinese, and Jabezite Christians inspired my own spiritual invention, the Jabez Prayer WheelTM, a brilliant concept destined to change the world (I say this with all humility).
My wood-handled tin can prototype is adorned with plastic gems as a reminder we want answers in cash, jewels, etc. A backup Jabez Prayer in the swinging locket doubles the prayer's punch, and the locket swings faster than the can, so "The Prayer God Must Answer!"TM gets faster results!

Coming Soon! An electric Jabez Prayer Wheel, because "You Do Deserve Everything. 24/7!TM"

New Improved JP for Young Hearts 2.0
Jabez is Child-Tested! Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it." So I suggest baby rattles with Jabez InsideTM so even toddlers can learn that they too deserve everything, and can get it by simply wielding, "The Prayer that God Must Answer!"TM

Does this sound farfetched? Then consider the half dozen Jabez titles for tots: PJ for Kids! PJ for Little Ones! PJ for Teens! PJ: Living Big for God! PJ for Young Hearts! And the Jabez industry is evolving rapidly. The cover of the first Jabez for Young Hearts' had what looked like a balding poster child for poverty. But JP for Young Hearts 2.0's new and improved cover shows a child opening a shining pot of gold. There may not be gold at the end of the rainbow, but Jabez for Young Hearts 2.0 will ignite any child's passion for his very own personal "Prayer Pot of Gold."TM

Millstones. But neither we nor our children need infallible prayers because our Heavenly Father is faithful and always answers our prayers—though sometimes the answer is not what we expect.
Backyard Millstone, Xiamen, 1992

I love giving to my sons, but I would not give them something I know would harm them, or something they would not take care of. In the same way, our Father hears and answers all of our prayers, but sometimes answers "no," or "wait."  And sometimes, we have to just grow up and work ourselves out of a situation we've pushed ourselves into.

I cannot imagine how I would feel if my sons tried forcing me to give them whatever they desired—yet we teach children magic prayers to force God to answer prayer! I am reminded of Jesus' warning in Mark 9:42, "And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck."

Heirs of "Everything" Jesus' life and teachings prove that we do not need 'trick prayers' because even tiny mustard seed faith can move mountains. Most importantly, Jesus taught that as God's children, we are already to everything—but we will not receive our inheritance until we have grown up.

Child, Heir –or Slave? Galatians 4:7 says, "So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." But Galatians 4:1 explains, "What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate."

When we try to manipulate God with magic prayers, or even religion, we act not as heirs but as slaves trying to usurp what is not ours. We will never receive our inheritance until we have shown obedience and stewardship. As Jesus said:

"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' Matt. 25:23

Prayer—a Two-Edged Sword God not only hears and answers our prayers, but he knows what we need even before we ask (Matt. 6:8). But blessings are a two-edged sword, because with answered prayer comes responsibility. As Jesus said in Luke 12:48b,

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

One of my favorite passages is Jeremiah 29:11-13, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." But every time I read those verses, I am also careful to read what follows:

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."

Heart or Lips? Do we seek our Father with all our heart or is our relationship just an endless plea for everything he can dole out? No wonder Jesus said in Mark 7:6, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me."

The Greatest Gift is Giving Jesus taught that the best way to receive is to give. Luke 6:38, "Give and it will be given to you…For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Or as God says in Malachi 3:10, "Prove me now…if I will not open upon you the windows of heaven, and pour out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it!" But even more important than giving is simple obedience (1 Samuel 15:22, 23)

God Answers All Prayers. If prayers seem unanswered, the problem is not God's but ours. Perhaps we are not acting as heirs but as children—or worse yet, as slaves to the spirit of this dark ,age that teaches we are the center of our own Youniverse and that we deserve everything, here and now.

Ironically, I have learned to be thankful even when my Father says "no," or "wait," because when I have stubbornly persisted in some prayers, and he has at length answered them, I have regretted it! But even my wrongheaded prayers were used for good, because they helped teach me faith and patience, and to trust that my Father knows not just what is good for me but what is best.

In closing, repeating Jabez' prayer or reciting Biblical promises is fine for encouraging ourselves, but we do not need infallible prayers because our Father is infallibly faithful. We all want everything, but our Father wants to give us even more than we can think or imagine! But His answer to our prayers may well be "no" or "wait" –at least until we show ourselves wise stewards of what he has already blessed us with.

Bill Brown
Xiamen University
Email: Amoybill @