Saved by Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

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Scala Sancta (Pilate’s Staircase) in Rome

Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase.  Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step.  It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.”  It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.

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Figures of Pilate and Jesus at base of Scala Sancta

At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate.  Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!”  This reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15).  By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith.  Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.  

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Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther in the movie, Luther

It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther.  It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works.  One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:  ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:17.  He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror.  The text never lost its power upon his soul.  From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.  His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy.  When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.” 

Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.”  However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity.  His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation.  He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God.  Today, where are you placing your faith?  In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Great Controversy; Wikipedia

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A Changed Life

Christ [redeemed] me, and He will [redeem] you also!

These words rang out loud in the marketplaces.  Myo Zaw made the impassioned plea to the crowd.  He was like Wisdom crying out in the marketplaces and pleading with the people to come her.  Myo’s message was one that the people needed to hear. He was on fire for Christ and he couldn’t hold it in.  It wasn’t always like this.

Before Myo Zaw encountered Christ he was the village drunk who got into fights with people and beat his wife and children.  The people who knew him thought he had gone insane, however, it was not madness that drove Myo to proclaim the message of redemption but the love of God which consumed him like a fire, refusing to be quelled.  He traveled throughout his region, sharing the Word of God, telling people, “how a sinner like me was found by God.”

“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” – Luke 18:27

Within three years, he had visited 100 communities, encouraged by his wife’s letters. In them, she wrote, “If your life can change by Christ, there is no one who cannot be changed by Christ.  So wherever you are going and sharing the Word of God, we are here to pray for you. I believe people will be changed by the love of Christ.”  And she was right about the people.  350 heard the message about Christ’s love, saw how it manifested in Myo’s life and they were changed.

Myo believed that his mission was the share the love of Christ which had transformed his life and that it was God’s will for him to go to a missionary in an area where people were unfamiliar with the Lamb of God.  He and his wife prayed about it and ten years later God sent them to the southern region of their country as Gospel for Asia supported missionaries.

At first when the people in the community learned that Myo and his family were Christians, they wanted nothing to do with them.  They forced the family out of the community.  They threw stones at their home, threatening to penalize anyone who spoke to the Christians and the children faced discrimination because of their faith. Myo and his family were  seen as enemies but in the midst of it all, they saw God’s grace working in their lives, getting them through these trials.  They trusted Christ during their hardships and through the ministering of the Holy Spirit, they learned how to love the people in their new community.

They reached out to the people by showing them movies that they liked to watch, teaching the children songs and caring for them.  When the parents saw the love of the couple for the community, they were amazed and they began to talk to them at the market.  This gave Myo and his wife the opportunity to share Christ’s love with them.  They cared for the sick and took people to the hospital as needed.  When flood waters destroyed homes and livelihoods, the couple and other GFA supported workers helped to provide relief.

Myo visited people and encouraged them by offering words of hope and life in Christ.  Through his actions, he proved that he was a redeemed man.  The love of Christ had transformed him from a drunk and abusive husband and father to a missionary of God.  The same love that had Christ had shown him he wanted to show to others.  Like the apostle Paul, he was filled with a zeal for the Lord who “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Myo realized that greatest weapon is love.  It can transform hearts and lives.  It can destroy the strongholds which beset people who have no knowledge of Christ and kept them in spiritual darkness.  Once the love of Christ is revealed it lives are changed–despair gives way to hope and darkness to light.

Like Myo, ask God to use you to share the love of Christ with others.  Be a light in the world.  Shine for Jesus and let those around you or wherever God sends you know that no matter what state they are in, “He will redeem you also!”

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Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada

A Picture of Faith

When I saw this painting of John Huss, I had to take a photo of it.  It made such an impression on me.  He was in the dungeon in the Island Tower in Konstanz, Germany, confined with fetters on his legs, hardly able to walk, yet his dedication to the Lord kept him.  It helped him to rise above his dismal surroundings and conditions.  It was here that he had a dream which comforted him in his last days.  It was of the triumph of the true faith and the image of Christ painted afresh in hearts by better preachers than himself.

In the painting his eyes are looking up in faith and not down in despair.  He was looking to the Author and Finisher of his faith.   It was to his Savior that he sang, “Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me” as the flames kindled about him.

John Huss

Sources:  The Great Controversy; Wikipedia

Serving

For as long as she could

remember she loved

inviting strangers

to her home for a meal.

She lived by these words,

“Do not forget to entertain

Strangers, for by so doing

some have unwittingly entertained

Angels.”

 

As she served them, she shared

her faith.  She wanted them

to know that there was a

God in heaven who loved

them.

 

Many of them were

touched by her hospitality.

They were lonely or going

through a tough time and

this woman was welcoming

them into her home, feeding

them and talking to them.

Not all of them were interested

in hearing about God or religion

but they were grateful to her

for her kindness.

 

She wasn’t discouraged by their

lack of Interest in spiritual matters,

but she knew that she had

shown them the love of

Christ by the way she treated them.

Sometimes sharing the Gospel

came not from words but from

actions.  Still, it was a thrill for her

when they accepted Christ.

 

Initially, her family and friends

were concerned that she was

inviting strangers into her home

but she assured them that God

led the people to her.

She thanks Him every day for calling

her into the Hospitality ministry.

 

“I love to feed and talk to people,”

she said, “and that is why God chose

me for this work.  I am so blessed.”

She has been doing this for years.

and will continue to do so until

she is called to another ministry.

 

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Source:  Hebrews 13:2

Riches

She was rich and successful

She had everything she

Wanted and more…

Life was exciting

Full of events, parties, charities

Money was never an issue

She could buy whatever she wanted

fly off to any part of the world.

She had been in and out of

Relationships.

This new one seemed promising

He was as rich as she was so

She didn’t have to worry about

Him loving her money more

Than her.

She was young and healthy

Life was great.  Couldn’t be better.

Yet, she knew she lacked something.

It nagged at her.  She knew what it was.

She heard it that Easter Sunday when

She went to church—something she

Did only twice a year.

She could still hear the words of Jesus…

“One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

Her reaction was the same as the rich young man’s.

She had worked hard for what she had

How could she give it all up?

Yet, the minister’s words dogged her

“Jesus gave His life for you.  Will

You give up all that you have for Him?

Sure, in theory it sounded all well and good

but she would be giving up everything

Her life, her wealth, her relationships—everything

What would become of her?

What would her family and friends think?

She shook her head as if to bring herself to

Her senses.

Resolutely, she stood up and slipped on her jacket

She was not ready to change her lifestyle.

There was always tomorrow or the next day or

Next year.  She had more than enough time to

Give her life to Christ.  But, not now…

Sadly, that day never came.  She died without

Christ.  Sixty years old, still rich, widowed and

Mother of three children.  All those years she

Trusted in her riches and not in the One who

became poor so that through His poverty,

She might become rich.

 

Don’t put off your salvation.

Accept Jesus’ invitation today

Don’t let earthly possessions and riches

Prevent you from having what only

He can offer.

 

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Sources:  Mark 10:21; 2 Corinthians 8:9

Loving the Unloved

For I am the LORD who heals you – Exodus 15:26

I read this story and was so touched by this young woman’s love and compassion for others who were experiencing what she once experienced.  When a leprosy patient cried out, “Don’t open my bandage!”, Sakshi revealed her own hands and feet which clearly showed traces of the disease.  She assured the patient the disease was not as result of some sin.  Many people who have leprosy believe that some sin in their lives is the cause.  Sakshi once believed this too.

Sakshi was a teenager when she found out that she had the disease.  As the eldest her younger siblings used to look up to her until she got leprosy.  They abruptly withdrew from her and wanted nothing more to do with her.  Friendless and rejected, Sakshi became depressed and hopelessness drove her to attempted suicide.  Thankfully, her father saved her and encouraged her.  He told her that she was a precious child and urged her to strengthen her heart through the pain and hardship.

“So my papa was becoming so much a comforter to me and he comforted me and even my brother and sister, they used to hate me, and they don’t want to talk with me, they were not in home at that time when I was doing all these things,” Sakshi shared. “So my father, he saw me and he pulled me from there, and he made me understand everything, and after that I became ok.”

After speaking to her father, she gave up trying to end her life but was still experiencing loneliness and it didn’t help that people were blaming her for contracting the disease.  This is similar to what Job himself experienced when he lost his livestock, possessions, servants and children and was covered in painful boils.  He was blamed for what happened to him.  His friends offered him no comfort and told him that he must have committed some evil for all these things to have happened to him.  He was all alone but he clung to his faith in God and God healed him and restored his losses.

Unlike Job, Sakshi had some support but it didn’t stop her from worrying or believing that she had done something to contract the disease.  As time went by, her condition grew worse.  One of her fingers bent in an awkward position and when she experienced terrible pain in one of her legs, the doctors encouraged her to amputate it but she was afraid to do so.  And it was around this time that she met a few Gospel for Asia supported missionaries who encouraged her and prayed for her.  They told her about the about the love of the Healer and Sakshi began to pray in faith and ask Jesus to heal her own body. And her prayer was answered.  Jesus healed her!

After she experienced complete healing, Sakshi decided that she would dedicate her life to serving the Lord and helping others.  She attended Bible college and served in leprosy ministry after graduation.  She made it her mission to reach out to the shunned and the rejected.  “Nobody is there to comfort [the leprosy patients] and to give any kind of encouragement. Nobody wants to love them, hug them or to come near to them to dress them.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

“By seeing them, I am thinking that I will fill the gap,” Sakshi said. “I will give that love, which they are not getting from their grandchildren and daughters… I will become their daughter, I will become their grandchildren, and I will help them and encourage them and I will love them.”  With the love of Christ flowing through her, Sakshi touched the untouchable and despised by doing simple things such as helping them with housework, giving them hugs, washing clothes and combing hair.  She showed them the love of God and how precious they were in His sight.  He has not forgotten them.  God used her testimony to give them hope.  He does not cast people aside because they have leprosy.  When Sakshi cried out to Him in faith, He heard her and answered.  He intervened when she wanted to end her life and through her father, He spoke “words of life into her weary soul”.

January 29 is World Leprosy Day.  You can make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering from this disfiguring disease by helping the Leprosy Ministry to share the love of Christ and the Gospel.  We hope to see more people like Sakshi dedicating their lives to serving Jesus and bringing others to Him.  Be a part of the ministry which reaches out to people who will hear, perhaps for the first time, about a kind and compassionate Savior who is not afraid to touch and hold them.  He loved the unloved.

Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother – Zechariah 7:9

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Source:  Gospel for Asia

Women’s Fellowship

Years ago, I was part of the Women’s Ministry at my church and one of the things I really liked about it was the fellowship.  We would hold programs like “Lunch and Learn” where women would come together at someone’s home and a pastor or a speaker is invited to share a profound message with us.  Then afterwards, we would enjoy a potluck while uplifting Gospel music played in the background.  I have enjoyed the Women’s Ministries’ yearly three day retreats where I was blessed with Friday night vespers, a Sabbath school program and worship on Saturday morning and workshops in the afternoon.  On Sunday we had breakfast and more workshops before we closed the wonderful three day event with prayer.  Women’s Ministries also offer seminars where women come together and share their testimonies.  It’s during these times when women dig into God’s Word, encourage, pray for and fellowship with each other.  Women’s Ministries have truly been a blessing for me and countless of women.

Can you imagine not having a Women’s Ministry or not being able to fellowship with other women?  Nor can I.  It would be hard for the thousands of women all across South Asia not to be able to attend a weekly Women’s Fellowship group.   Through this group, they learn God’s Word, memorize Scripture, pray, reach out and worship the God who reached out to them–Asia’s most unreached group.  God is working to change thousands of lives.

Many of us know what it’s like to fellowship with other believers and how being a part of a prayer group or Bible Study class has helped us in our spiritual growth.  Women in Asia need the same close fellowship as many of them come from families who don’t know Christ.  Wouldn’t it be great if they could find a fellowship group where they can pray and study God’s Word?  Well, you can help to make this possible.  How?  Through prayer.  Gospel for Asia has put together this list of prayer requests:

  • Pray for Women’s Fellowship so that more women can be reached
  • Pray for women to understand Christ’s love and acceptance
  • Pray for more leaders
  • Pray for transformation of lives and families
  • Pray for God to empower women as they share
  • Pray for the Women’s Health Project and the Women’s Literacy Program

Women’s Fellowships are usually led by a woman missionary, a pastor’s wife or a godly believer in the church.  A growing congregation needs someone to lead and mature women are best suited to teach the other women.    Their experience and wisdom will help to guide the younger women.

Likewise, older women should be reverent in behavior, and not be false accusers, not be enslaved to much wine, but teachers of good things, that they may teach the young women to love their husbands, to love their children,  and to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored – Titus 2:3-5.

As Christian women, we have duties towards each other.  So, let us encourage one another through prayers, ministries, Bible studies, fellowships and worship.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia