Doubt

“Occupy your mind with My love, leaving no room for worry and doubt.”

doubt

Doubt is like a bad penny.  It always keeps turning up.  It seems that no matter how many times we see the hand of God working in our lives, there is always room for doubt.  Even when we have a close relationship with Him, there are times when we still have doubts.  The disciples, who spent so much time with Jesus, still had doubts.  When Jesus told them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” they thought He was referring to food.

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said, “You have so little faith!  Why are you worried about having no food?  Won’t you ever understand?  Don’t you remember the five thousand I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of food that were left over?  Don’t you remember the four thousand I fed with seven loaves, with baskets of food left over?  How could you even think I was talking about food? So again I say, `Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6-13) He was reminding them that each time they needed food, He was able to provide.  Then it dawned on them that He wasn’t speaking about yeast or bread but the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The disciples had seen Him perform miracles before and they had forgotten how He had fed thousands of people with what seemed like very little food.  He had made a little go a long way.  Like the disciples, we too doubt the power of God and He has to remind us.

The disciples doubted the resurrection.  The Bible says, it was early on Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead, and the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons.  She went and found the disciples, who were grieving and weeping.  But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.  Jesus also appeared to two other people.

At first they didn’t recognize Him because He had changed His appearance but once they realized that it was Him, they rushed back to tell the others but they didn’t believe them.   When Jesus appeared to the eleven, He rebuked them for their unbelief” (Mark 16:9-14).  In the Gospel of Matthew, it says, that when they saw Him, they worshipped Him: but some doubted (Matthew 28:17).

Mary had taken good news to the disciples but they allowed doubts to spoil what should have been a joyful moment.  Sometimes we allow doubts to get the better of us and we miss out.  Doubts could prevent us from seeing God’s blessings.  The religious leaders in Jesus’ time had the Light but their doubts kept them in darkness.  Doubts can hinder us from doing the Lord’s work.  Doubts can rob us of great opportunities.

Jesus does not want us to worry or have doubts.  He wants us to focus instead of Him and what He can do for us.  The next time you start to doubt Him, remember these words, “Only believe, only believe; All things are possible, only believe”.

Never doubt, only trust and believe.  Remember all the times Jesus came through for you.   Fill your mind with His love and promises.  Don’t clutter your mind with doubts.  As Paul advised us, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).  Searching the scriptures will also help.  Diffuse the doubts with God’s Word.  Whenever you have a task to do and you start to have doubts about it, say to yourself “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Devastating News

240_F_43342280_9fhJmIlVeQ5Zo89BgyO4mMkrzhXYj3UjSo, dinner with Marcus was amazing.  I had such a great time.  As I do my work, my thoughts take me back to that Saturday evening.  He came and picked me up at my place at exactly seven.  He looked very handsome in his expensive looking tan colored jacket and white shirt.  His eyes traveled over me in my red dress with the cap sleeves and flare skirt.  I had washed my hair and it fell in wavy curls about my face.  I could see the admiration in his eyes and I was thrilled.  “You look amazing,” he said quietly.

I smiled.  “Thank you,” I replied as I preceded him into the hallway.  After I closed and locked the door, we walked to the elevator.  The Hispanic woman who lived opposite me was coming towards us.  After she greeted me, I saw her eyes shift to Marcus and the way she looked at him.  I glanced up at him but he was looking straight ahead.  He was probably was used to women admiring him.  I can just imagine that a lot of his female students had crushes on him.  It made me feel great that I was the one he was taking out for dinner.  Nervous excitement filled me and soon we were on our way to the restaurant.  He drove a Bentley.

On the way, we talked about all sorts of things.  I learned that he was a Seventh-day Adventist like me.  The rest of the family was Baptist.  “What made you switch?” I asked.

“When I started studying the Bible, I realized that there were some major doctrinal misunderstandings of the Baptist church such as the secret rapture of the church, immortality of the soul, eternal torment, Once saved always saved, Sunday sacredness and the law being done away with in Christ.  There were Bible texts which refuted all of these teachings.  An Adventist colleague of mine invited me to an evangelistic series which I attended.  My life changed after that.  I left the Baptist church and became an Adventist.  What about you?  Were you always an Adventist?”

“Yes and I’m thankful for that.”

We reached the restaurant which such a warm and friendly atmosphere.  I loved it and the food was out of this world.  I loved being with Marcus.  He was so much fun.  I felt as if we had known each other for ages.  I could tell that he enjoyed my company too.  I felt that I was on cloud nine and I didn’t want the evening to end.  As we were having our dessert, he said to me, “I once had someone ask me if God only saves vegans.  The person asked me that question because he was told by a vegan member that those who are still eating flesh food will never see Heaven.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I exclaimed.  “What did you say to the person?”

“I told him that we are saved by Christ’s grace and His righteousness and not by our own works. We can’t earn our way to heaven by being vegan or vegetarian, nor do we choose to not eat meat because we believe that by doing so we will be saved.  It’s like what Paul said when the Jewish Christians were saying that the non-Jewish Christians had to be circumcised in order to be saved.  Being circumcised or not doesn’t save anyone.  We are saved by faith alone and not by works so that none of us can boast about how good we are and how much we deserve to go to Heaven.  Salvation is for everyone once they accept Christ.”

“I can’t stand it when people have issues with me eating fish and poultry even though these are considered clean.  Jesus Himself wasn’t a vegetarian.  He ate fish.  When the Lord visited Abraham with the two angels, didn’t they eat Veal?”

Marcus nodded.  “Yes.  It’s a shame that diet is the bone of contention in the church.  Eating meat became part of the diet after the flood and unless God Himself tells me that I should become a vegetarian or vegan, I will continue to eat fish and white meat.”

“Amen to that.”  The rest of the evening we talked about other things and then it was time for him to take me home.

When we were standing outside of my door, he said, “I had a wonderful evening.”

“So did I,” I was quick to let him know.  I wanted to say that I wish it wouldn’t end.  I couldn’t invite him inside because of what could happen.  As Christians, we had to be mindful of how easily we can become tempted to do things we know we ought not to do.  If we didn’t believe in the Bible then, we would not have thought anything was wrong with him coming into my apartment for a nightcap or spending the night.

“When can I see you again?”

“Anytime you wish,” I was happy to tell him.  Every single day would suit me just fine.

“Tomorrow I would like to take you to Napa.  I can pick you up in the morning and take a scenic drive.  It takes about an hour and forty-one minutes to get San Jose to there.  Once we get there, there are several fun things we can do.  What do you say?”

“I say yes!”

“Good, I’ll see you tomorrow.  I will call you.”

I smiled up at him before I opened my door.  I turned to face him.  “Good night and thank you for a wonderful evening.”

327_16843_17“You’re welcome, Abi.  Good night.” He reached out and gently squeezed my arm.

I leaned against the door frame, watching as he walked away.  My heart leapt in my chest when he stopped and turned to look at me, a slight smile on his face before he continued down the hallway towards the elevators.  I waited until one came and I heard the doors close before I went into my apartment.  For the rest of the night and all morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about Marcus.

The next day, he took me to Napa and the first thing we did was go for a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards.  It was an exhilarating experience.  Marcus told me that the next time we would go early in the morning when it’s even more spectacular.  Next, we went Olive Oil tasting, we had lunch a very nice Spanish restaurant called Zuzu.  Afterwards we went to Sterlings’s where we stomped grapes.  The grapes felt so yucky between my toes and my feet had turned purple but we got free tee shirts.

Before we went bowling, we wandered for a bit in downtown Napa with its shops, cafes and chocolatiers and visited the Oxbow Public Market where we treated ourselves to organic ice-cream.  It had been a long time since I had an ice-cream so it was a big treat for me.  After we finished our ice-creams, we headed to the bowling center where we spent the rest of the afternoon.  I never had so much fun in my life and I thanked God for bringing Marcus into my life.  As we drove back to San Jose, we made plans for our next date.  And we have been dating ever since.

The ringing of the phone brings me back to the present.  I stare at the display.  I don’t recognize the name.  I pick up the receiver.  “Hello?”

“Hello Abiyomi.  This is Philip Jennings.  We met at the barbecue.”

“Oh, yes, I remember you now.  You’re married to Bobby’s sister, Nicole.”

“Yes.  I called your mother and she gave me your work number.”

I could sense that something was wrong.  “What’s the matter?” I asked.

“It’s about Bobby.”

My heart was pounding now.  “What’s happened to Bobby?”

“He died this morning.”

I began to tremble.  “Died?  But how?” As far as I knew Bobby physically fit.  He hardly got sick.

“He took his life.”

Source:  Perspectives-Adventist; Seed Time; A Passion and a Passport; SFbaytripper; California Dream Big

For This Reason…

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work – 1 John 3:8, NIV

14336345_f520

When it comes to the meaning of Christmas, we always think of the nativity scene with Joseph, Mary and Jesus in the manger with the cattle lowing.  We think of the  angels who  appeared to the shepherds keeping their flocks to announce the good news of the Savior’s birth in the City of David.  We think of the shepherds rushing to Bethlehem to see the Child and then spreading the word concerning what had been told them about Him.  We think of the wise men who traveled far to see the King of Israel to bring Him gifts and to fall down in worship.

Yes, Jesus came into the world to save his people from their sins but there was another very important reason for His coming and it too is good news.  The apostle John tells us that Jesus came to destroy the devil’s work.  How does He do that?  Jesus Himself tells us as He quotes the words of the prophet Isaiah:  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18, 19).  When Jesus was finished reading, He told those gathered in the synagogue that He had fulfilled that scripture that very day in their hearing.

Throughout His ministry, Jesus taught the people the Word of God which was the Good News of God’s love and His salvation.  He healed diseases and sicknesses, gave sight to the blind, made the lame walk and drove out unclean spirits.  He freed a woman who had been bound by Satan for eighteen years.  Eyes that were blinded were opened and sinners were drawn to the love of God which was manifested in Christ.  The Light had come into the world and many were brought out of the darkness.  Jesus came to reveal the true nature of the devil whom He said was a murderer and the father of lies.

Jesus accomplished not only salvation for us when He came but something else that is very important.  What was that?  Hebrews 2:14 tells us, Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14, ESV).   The Good News is that Jesus has given us victory over death which will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:26).  Death will no longer have any power over us.  Those of us who die in Jesus will be resurrected.  Death will lose its sting.  

Jesus came to take away our sins.  Sin is of the devil.  He uses deception to cause us to sin.  1 John 3:7 says that, “whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning”.  Jesus came to help us to stop making it a practice of sinning.  He Himself was as we were but He didn’t sin.  He makes it possible for us to follow His example through the help of the Holy Spirit who not only convicts us of sin but enables us to practice that which is good and right in the sight of God.  Being born of the Spirit means that we no longer practice sinning.  It doesn’t mean that we won’t ever sin again but we have the assurance that when we do, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1, 2, ESV).  

Thank You, Lord Jesus for coming into the world to destroy the power of sin in our lives through the Holy Spirit and for destroying the works of the devil.  As we celebrate this Christmas season, help us to enjoy the freedom we can enjoy only by living in obedience to You.

Simple Eyes

Your eye is the lamp of your body – Luke 11:34, NIV

African girl with light eyesWe met in Rafiki’s training village in Rwanda.  There are ten villages and each one provides living and educational facilities through Bible Study, Education, Teacher Training, Orphan Care, and Widows.    Rafiki means “friend” in Swahili.  The organization befriends orphans and widows in distress.

The first thing I noticed about Benitha were her beautiful and unusual eyes.  She was a pretty girl but her eyes were her most outstanding feature.  They reminded me of what Jesus said in Luke 11:34-36.  Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.  See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

In the King James version, the good eye is described as “single.”  What exactly does that mean?  The Greek word used for “single” is “haplous”  Jesus is the only One who used it.  It means “simple, whole, sound”.  When your eye is “haplous” it means that your vision isn’t complicated or confused.  It means you have sound and perfect vision.  In order for your whole life (body) to be full of light, your vision cannot be clouded by the things of the world, false teaching or thoughts.  Your vision is focused, stayed on Christ and as long as you behold Him and remain in Him, your eyes will be healthy and your body full of light.

As followers of Christ, we must have singleness of mind, heart and purpose.  There can’t be any darkness, duplicity, selfishness in us.  Like a lamp, our light must shine where it can be seen by others so that they are led to Christ.

As a servant of Christ’s, I have to daily make sure that my eye is good and full of light.  I love to share the Gospel and God had called me to be a part of a Christian organization which trains Africans to transform Africa for Christ.  I’m thankful to Him for this calling because I met beautiful with her unusual eyes.  She was fifteen at the time and one of my students.  I had to bear those two things in mind when interacting with her.  She was shy but she soon warmed up to me and her hunger and thirst to know God and to follow Jesus was phenomenal.  After she graduated from our education program, she enrolled in the University of Rwanda.thumbnail (3)

She lived on the university’s campus but we kept in touch via telephone and email.  She was happy and enjoying her courses.  I missed her and hoped that she missed me too.   We saw each other during the spring break, summer and at Christmas.  Other members of the Rakiki and I attended her graduation ceremony.  She graduated with honors.  We were all very proud of her.

Now, she’s back at the village and is one of the teachers.  We are spending a lot of time together and now that she’s a young woman in her twenties, I can court her.  We visit museums, parks, sightseeing, day trips, eat at inexpensive restaurants and go hiking.  We have so much fun together.

We pray and study the Bible together.  I loved being with her.  I felt like a lovesick schoolboy whenever we held hands.  We haven’t kissed as yet.  I’m afraid that I might not be able to help myself.  Besides, it would be more meaningful if our first kiss was after we exchanged our wedding vows.  You guessed it, I’m going to ask her to marry me.  I’m going to pop the question today after our boat ride on Lake Kivu.  I have been practicing how to say, “Will you marry me” in Swahili.  Just two words, Je! Utanioa.  Let’s hope that I don’t get so nervous that I forget or say them incorrectly.

I say a quick prayer, check my breast pocket to make sure the little black box is there and then I head off to meet Benitha whose name means “blessed, full of blessings (divine)”I’m the one who is blessed.  The love and light of Christ shines in and through those simple eyes.

Sources:  Bumchecks; Definitions; Christian University of Rwanda; Tripadvisor Canada; The Culture Trip; The Crazy Tourist; Tripadvisor; Name Doctor

Unequally Yoked

Falling in love with William wasn’t something I expected to happen. Why not? Well, he’s younger than me, he’s not African American and he’s a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. They don’t believe in wearing jewelry and I love jewelry. I love wearing big gold and silver earrings, rings and bangles. They frown on makeup too. I don’t wear any but it’s not because of religious reasons. I’m allergic to it. So, all I wear is a tinted lip balm. Fortunately for me I have naturally long eyelashes so I don’t need Mascara to darken, thicken, lengthen, and/or define them.

Anyway, makeup aside, I was happily single, dating on and off when it suited me. Most of the men I dated were Christians but on a few occasions I dated non-Christians or men of other faiths. Well, that got my Christian friends talking. I was scolded. My friends Shirley shook her head and wagged her finger in my face. “Girl, don’t you know you’re not supposed to be dating any man outside of the church? Do you want to be unequally yoked?”

“And why would you want to date men outside the church when you have so many fine looking brothers in the church?” Rochelle piped in. “Did you see that visitor we had last week Sunday? I first thing I did when I was introduced to him was to check to see if he was wearing a wedding ring.”

Whenever they carried on like that, I would just look at them and smile. They meant well and I loved them dearly but friend or not, they had no business telling me who I should or shouldn’t date. After all, didn’t Moses marry an Ethiopian woman and Joseph the daughter of an Egyptian priest? I didn’t marry any of those men–I just dated them.

Anyway, we were out at a bowling alley one evening and having a blast when I noticed that this really good looking Asian guy kept staring at me. He was with a group of friends. He was well dressed in a crisp white shirt and black jeans. He had a really nice physique. As I waited my turn to bowl, I allowed my eyes to drink in every detail of him. Finally, I walked up to him and holding out my hand, I said, “Hi, my name’s Monique.”

He looked a bit startled. I guess he wasn’t used to being approached. “William,” he replied after a few seconds and shook my hand. His fingers were long and I could see that they were well manicured. This guy took self grooming very seriously. I like that in a man.

“Is this your first time here?” It wasn’t my first time. I had been there numerous times.

“Yes, it is. What about you?”

“No, I come here often with my friends.”

He glanced over my shoulder. “I think your friends are trying to get your attention,” he said, releasing my hand.

I turned to see Shirley and Rochelle waving wildly. I turned back to William, an apologetic expression on my face. “Excuse me.” I turned and walked over to my friends. I could feel him watching me. I knew I looked great in the red shirt and the jeans which hugged me in all of the right places. Being a Christian didn’t mean that I had to dress like a nun. I bowled and got a strike. My third in the game. Pleased, I returned to William who was up. I watched as he too made a strike. “How many have you had so far?” I asked.

“Four.”

“Good for you.”

“After we have finished our games, would you like to grab something to eat?”

“Here or somewhere else?”

“Here is fine.”

“Sure. If your friends won’t mind.”

“They won’t. What about yours?”

“They won’t mind either.” Of course they would but that was their problem. “I’ll go and finish my game and meet you right here.”

He smiled. “Okay.”

I rejoined my friends who were watching me very closely. After we finished our second game which I won, I told them that I had a date. I indicated with whom the date was and I could just hear the lectures. “Sorry, Ladies but I don’t have time right now to listen to why I shouldn’t grab a bite to eat with a guy I just met.”

Rochelle shook her head. “You really need to be careful when it comes to men,” she said. “The guy is a perfect stranger and you’re going out with him?”

“We’re not going anywhere. We’re going to have something to eat right here. And when we’re done, I’m going home–alone.”

“Well, I should hope so,” Shirley said. “You’re a Christian, remember? You shouldn’t be taking men back to your place and you should never go to theirs.”

I wonder what they would say if they knew that years ago I had slept with one of the brothers in the church. We hadn’t planned to, of course, but it happened. The following week at church we avoided each other like the plague. I just go out with men and have a good time but at the end of the evening, we part company. I try to be celibate but it isn’t always easy. I’m not a robot. I have needs.

“Don’t worry, ladies,” I said to my friends. “I’ll be good. Now, run along. I’ll see you in church on Sunday.” Then, I turned and walked over to William who was alone. I guess his friends had left. “Do you mind if we ate here?”

“No, I don’t mind at all.”

“Good.” We both order burgers–his was a veggie and mine was a cheesy cheeseburger with fries and milkshakes. We sat at a table and as we ate, we talked about all sorts of things. “Do you have a girlfriend?” I asked. He wouldn’t be the first guy to step out on his woman.

“No. What about you? Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No. I’m single. How old are you?”

“Twenty-nine.”

“I’m thirty-six.” I figured that he was younger than me. “Have you ever dated an older woman?”

He shook his head. “No. Have you ever dated a younger man?”

“No, but there’s a first time for everything.” Did I just say that? Was I seriously thinking about dating him? I must be out of my mind. He was younger than me, for Pete’s sake and he wasn’t a brother. Yet, I couldn’t deny that I was extremely attracted to him. I kept having all sorts of thoughts that a Christian woman shouldn’t be having. And it didn’t help that the first button of his shirt was undone. I tried to keep my eyes on his face. He had the most amazing brown eyes. I could drown in them. I realized that I was staring and I turned my attention to my fries.

“So, what else do you like to do besides bowling with your friends on a Friday night?”

“I like to read, go for long walks, shopping and travel. What about you?”

“I enjoy a good game of tennis, cycling, swimming and long walks.”

“What do you do for entertainment?”

“I’m not really into any type of entertainment except maybe a gospel concert or maybe an opera or a ballet or a classical music performance.”

“Really? So, you won’t go to a nightclub or a bar, then?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Those are not the sort of places that a Christian should go to.”

“So, you’re a Christian?”

“Yes.”

“So am I.” I could see the surprise on his face. “I guess it’s hard to believe that because of the jewelry.”

“Well, the women at my church don’t wear jewelry or makeup.”

“Let me guess. You’re a Seventh-day Adventist.”

“Yes. Are you familiar with our beliefs?”

“Yes. You are what I would call legalistic because of all your dos and Sony’s.  You don’t believe in having fun, do you?

“I believe in having fun, yes, as long as it is done responsibly and it doesn’t conflict with my beliefs.”

“What about being with me, a non-Adventist? Wouldn’t the members of your church have a problem with that?”

He smiled.  “Some of them might but I’m not answerable to them but to the Lord who welcomed all who came to Him.”

“I think all churches have the same problem.  They say they are the body of Christ but they have a problem with us associating with people of other faiths.  Adventists don’t seem to like being around non-Christians and non-Adventists.  My grandmother was an Adventist and when I visited her church, I felt uncomfortable.  Some of the members couldn’t hide their disapproval of me because I wore jewelry.  After my grandmother’s funeral, I never went back to that church.”

“I’m sorry you had a bad experience.  Does this mean that you wouldn’t go out with me because I’m an Adventist?”

“Are you asking me out, William?”

“Yes, I am.”

“All right, I’ll go out with you.”

“Have your ever been  to a circus?”

“No.”

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll take you to one on Sunday and then we will go for dinner afterwards.”

“Sounds good to me.” I glanced at my watch.  It was getting late and I had had a long day.  “Well, it’s time for me to head home.”  

He looked disappointed.  “Do you have ride?”

I nodded as I stood up.  “Yes, I drove here.”

He stood up.  “I’ll walk you to your car.”

We walked to my car and before we parted company, I gave him my address and number.  “See you on Sunday,” I said as I got behind the wheel.”

“See you on Sunday.”  He waved as I drove off.

Sunday came and we went to the circus where we had a blast.  Afterwards, we went to a Thai restaurant.  Over mouth watering food, we made plans to see each other again.  Then, we started dating.  It wasn’t long before I realized that I was falling for him.  That scared me.  I have been in love before but this was different.  I was actually thinking of marriage.  Marriage!  Me.  The woman who liked being single.  I wasn’t sure how he felt about me.  I knew he wanted me–the kiss we shared the other night made that crystal clear to me.  If I didn’t break off the kiss, grab my jacket and hightailed it out of his apartment, who knows how things would have progressed.

We are walking in the park now, holding hands.  We draw a few stares but I’m used to it.  We come to a quiet, secluded spot where we stop.  We face each other.  He has a very serious expression on his face.  I swallowed hard, my heart racing.  Is he about to break up with me?  The thought terrifies me.  I’m so crazy about this guy.

“Monique, we have been seeing each other for a while now.  You must know by now how I feel about you.”

“How do you feel about me?”  I wanted him to come right out and tell me.

“I love you.”

Relief washed over me and I smiled.  “I love you too.”

“I know that we come from two different denominations but I can’t give up on you, on us because of that.  I want to marry you, Monique.”

“Marry me?  Are you sure?” I wanted to be sure that was what he really wanted.

“Yes.”  He released my hand and getting down on one knee, he reached into the breast-pocket of his jacket and took out a little red box.  He opened it and removed a beautiful diamond ring.  “Monique Charles, will you marry me?”

Tears sprang to my eyes and for a moment I was too choked up to say anything.  “Yes!” I managed to gasp and he sprang to his feet and pulled me into his arms.  He hugged me tightly about my waist before he leaned down and kissed me.  When we finally broke apart, we went to our favorite place to celebrate–the bowling alley where we met.

Two years have passed.  William and I have moved into a nice, residential area just outside of the city because we have a son and another one is on the way.  I’m no longer a Pentecostal Christian.  My friends, Rochelle and Shirley were upset at first but they decided that it was my life to do what I wished with it and besides, they could see how happy I am.  While we were dating, I began attending William’s church and after a lot of prayer and fasting, I got baptized and became a member.  This means that I’m no longer wearing jewelry and believe it or not, I don’t miss it.  I love my new life with William and I’m thankful to God for bringing us together.  We are equally yoked in every way now.

Source: Pinchasers

From Self-harm to Self-love

39a1ef3b-4d0c-44bb-ad22-cd952e418c41Neeha always wore long sleeves even when it was hot and humid outside because she didn’t want anyone, especially her friends to see the ugly cuts on her arms.  She wanted to stop cutting herself but she couldn’t seem to.  It started when she became pregnant and told her mother who said, “Unless you get married or give up your baby for adoption, I won’t have anything more to do with you.  What you have done is a disgrace to the family–getting pregnant before you’re even married.”

Neeha was devastated.  She needed her mother but was rejected–shunned.  Marriage was out of the question.  Her baby’s father was already married and he didn’t even want to acknowledge the child.  He had even suggested that Neeha have an abortion which he was willing to pay for but she refused.  The thought of killing an unborn child horrified her.  So, she decided to go through with pregnancy.  When she started to show she would wear loose clothing.

When things got really bad and she felt there was nowhere or no one to turn to, she began to harm herself.  She used a pair of scissors to do it.  Soon, the beautiful, clear skin on her arms was covered in red, ugly welts.  What she was doing to herself horrified and repulsed her but she couldn’t seem to help it.  It was better than turning to drugs or alcohol or even committing suicide.

At the office, she would go into the bathroom and cut herself and when she came out no one suspected anything.  She kept to herself because she feared the backlash from her mother and the rest of the family.  This kind of behavior wasn’t something one would imagine would happen in an Asian family.  It wasn’t something that they would want to acknowledge or talk about or want their white friends and neighbors to know about.

One afternoon, she was flipping through the channels when she came across a program.  It was a sermon.  She decided to watch it.  It was about a demon possessed man who was living among the tombs.  He was naked and in chains which he broke.  What got her interest is that the man cut himself with stones.  When she heard how Jesus freed the man from the demons and clothed the man, she began to cry.  The man was in his right mind and no longer hurting himself.  She heard the preacher say, “Jesus can help you just like He helped this man.  Whatever you’re going through, come to Jesus, fall at His feet and He will free you.  He will heal you.  You don’t have to go through what you’re going through alone anymore.  Jesus can help you.  All you have to do is to cry out to Him and He will hear you.”

At the end of the service, there was a free offer of a book, entitled, Hurts So Good: Exposing the Lies of Self-Injury.  She quickly scribbled down the information and sent for a copy.  Afterwards, she cried out to Jesus whom she had heard so much about.  Now, she needed Him.  She wanted to believe that He could help her.  Tears poured down her face as she asked Him to free her from this cycle of intentional self-injury like He freed the demoniac.

When she was finished, the tears subsided and she felt a peace she had never experienced in her life before settle over her.  She knew then that Jesus had answered her prayer.   With the nine action steps outlined in the book, she was on the path to hope and healing in Christ.  She replaced the knife or scissor blade with the Bible and its promises.  She gave birth to a healthy baby girl and called her, Prutha which means “daughter of love”.

Neeha found a church nearby and began to attend their worship services every week while her best friend, Farha took care of Prutha.  There at the church, Neeha met Safal, a widower with a five year old son.  They struck a friendship which soon blossomed into a romance.  Two years later, they got married.  Neeha’s mother attended the wedding.  She apologized to her daughter for the way she treated her.  Neeha readily accepted her apology.  She was just happy to be back on speaking terms with her mother.  Prutha never knew about her biological father.  As far as Neeha was concerned, Safal was her father.  He was happy to adopt her as his own.  He doted on her and she adored him.

Neeha is currently expecting another child and she is ecstatic.  Prutha is now six and is excited about having a baby brother or sister and Taj, Safal, son, whom she adopted, was looking forward to the new addition to the family as well.  Neeha is thankful that she watched that Christian program.  It changed her life in so many ways.  She is a volunteer for an organization called, Samaritans, a unique charity dedicated to reducing feelings of isolation and disconnection that can lead to suicide.   Some of the people she has helped were victims of self-harm and a few of them have requested prayers.

Self-harm is a very serious issue.  If you find it difficult to speak to a family member or a friend or even a co-worker, here are organizations you can reach out to for help:

  • Samaritans – The Samaritans provide a free anonymous helpline. Someone will listen and help you, 24 hours of the day on 116 123. (UK)
  • Harmless – A user-led organisation for people who self-harm, and their friends and families.

You can also ask your GP to give you advice and direct you to the best place to get help, whether it is counselling or some form of treatment.

Self-harm is something that can happen among Christians as well.  Read this story of a Christian student who struggled with self-injury.  Please reach out for help.  Don’t let fear or shame prevent you.  Take the first step toward healing.  Take the path from self-harm to self-love.

Source:  Desiblitz; Samaritans; Blue Letter Bible

Janco’s Story (Part Two)

kult_model_Geoffrey_Camus_209688Five years have passed since I took Nata to the shelter for street children.  A lot has happened within that time.  I’m still handing out tracts but now I’m a Youth leader in my church.  My Mother is back home and she hasn’t touch a drink since she checked into the Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centre.  She is working part-time at a bookstore.

My brother Jacquan is out of prison, a completely changed person.  After my first visit to him, he read the tract I left and was curious to learn more about God and this Jesus who would die for him.  I took other tracts on my next visit and then I learned that the Prison Ministries department had a programme with the prison where my brother was.  Volunteers visited the prisoners, mentor them and study the Bible with them.

Jacquan accepted Christ as his Savior and when he left the prison he was baptized in our church.  Mama and I were there.  He got a job working in the warehouse of a distribution company while studying to become a pastor, believe it or not.  It goes to show you that with God nothing is impossible.  In his free time, he shares his story and the Gospel with kids living on the streets, prostitutes and drug dealers.  Some of them listen and invite him to go again while others curse and threaten him.  He also visits the prison where he had spent ten years of his life to mentor, pray and study the Bible with the inmates.  I never thought I would ever be proud of my big brother but I am.  He was dealing drugs and now he sharing the Gospel.  He was a prisoner and now he’s going to be a preacher.  All he needed was a second chance and God gave it to him.  Now he could spend the rest of his life doing good.

Nata stayed at the shelter until she graduated from high school.  I was there for the ceremony.  She didn’t return home but went to live with a cousin and her family.  While she was at the shelter, I visited her as promised and was relieved to see that she was happy there.  She is going to Wits University now and studying Computer Science.  Good for her because this has been a male dominated field of study all over the world and Africa needs more women computer scientists.

I am no longer working at the grocery store.  I got a job as a Social Media Coordinator at a Christian organization and love every minute of it.  And my work as Youth Leader keeps me busy.  I look forward to teaching Sabbath School, worship, fellowship, our weekly meetings, outreach and recreational outings.  I am in charge of a terrific group of young people.  I learn as much from them as they learn from me.  Tomorrow, is Youth Ministry Day and I have invited Nata to come.  The youth are in charge of entire day’s programme.  I am nervous and excited.  The only thing I am responsible for is introducing the speaker who is none other than my brother, Jacquan.  My best buddy, Gidea offered to do the special music.  He has an incredible voice.  After the service there will be a fellowship meal which I’m sure everyone is looking forward to.

Right now, I’m meeting with the group participating in the service in my flat.  We are going over the details and making sure that everything is in order.  Lesedi has bravely volunteered to teach Sabbath School.  I have no doubt that she will do an outstanding job.  She has the making of a leader.  I am considering making her my Sabbath School Superintendent.  One of these days, I will discuss it with her.

After the meeting is over, I pray and then they leave.  The flat seems very quiet now that they are gone.  I head back into the living-room and turn on the television.  I was about to watch 3ABN when my doorbell rings.  Did one of the youth forget something?  I hurry to the door and look through the keyhole.  It’s Nata.  I quickly open the door.

She stares up at me.  She’s wearing a black top and denim skirt and a red scarf on her head.  “Hi,” she said.  nata

“Hi,” I reply, wondering what brings her to my neck of the woods.  I lean against the door.  I can’t get over how pretty she is.  “I wasn’t expecting to see you until tomorrow.  Have you come to tell me in person that you can’t come?”

She shook her head.  “No, I will be there.  I just came by to thank you in person for being so kind to me and to ask you if you would study the Bible with me.  We don’t have to do it now or here.”

My face brightened.  “Sure, I would be more than happy to study the Bible with you.  We can do so on Sunday in the park just around the corner from here.  Tomorrow when I see you we can decide when and where we will meet.”

She nodded.  “All right.  Thanks, Janco.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Have you been in touch with your parents at all since you left home?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Nata, at some point you need to face them and deal with the issues you have with them.”

She lowered her eyes.  “I’m not ready to do that yet.”

“Okay,” I said.  I didn’t want to push her.  “It’s best to do it when you’re ready.  It’s getting dark, you’d better head home now.  Do you have far to go?”

“No.  My cousin is a twenty minute bus ride from here.”

“Would you like me to walk you to the bus stop and wait with you until the bus comes?”

She raised her eyes to look at me.  “You don’t have to,” she said quietly.

“Wait here,” I said as I leaned away from the door.  I went inside, turned off the television, grabbed my keys and went back.  I closed and locked the door.  “Let’s go.”

We walked to the bus stop and waited for the bus.  There were a couple of other people waiting there.  “Do you still live alone?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“So, you’re not married then?  I don’t see a wedding ring on your finger but I know that most Seventh-day Adventists don’t wear jewelry.”

“No, I’m not married.”

“What about a girlfriend?”

“No, I don’t have a girlfriend.” I was about to ask her if she had a boyfriend but just then the bus arrived.  Lousy timing.  “See you tomorrow, Nata.”

“Good night, Janco.”  She smiled up at me before she turned and joined the small line to board the bus.

I saw her sat beside the window and look out.  She waved as the bus pulled away.  I watched it until it disappeared before I returned to my place.  I was looking forward to seeing her tomorrow.

Saturday came and I was up and about early, anxious to get the day started.  I had a light breakfast, showered and put on a new suit.  Yesterday I had gotten a haircut.  I looked sharp.  I smiled at my reflection before I grabbed my Bible, wallet and keys and left the apartment.  It was a beautiful, sunny day.  I put the top down on my car and enjoyed the half-hour ride to church.  Already, the parking lot was filling up.

As I made my way from the parking lot to the front entrance of the church, I was greeted by church members and visitors.  I spent some time chatting with people before I went down into the basement and into one of the rooms to meet with the youth and have prayer with them.  At the back of my mind I was hoping that Nata would come.

Everything went exceptionally well.  I was so proud of my youth group and the special music by Gidea was a sermon in itself.  And speaking of sermons, Jacquan’s message, Set Free, brought tears to my eyes and I saw other people dabbing their eyes.  At the end of the service, many people came up to me and told me how much they enjoyed the program.  I was very pleased and I shared the positive feedback with everyone who participated.  I hugged Jacquan and told him that I was very proud of him.  When we parted, we were both in tears.  My mother came and whisked him away.  As I was about to leave the reception area and head down to the fellowship hall to have something to eat, I saw Nata.  My heart leapt in my chest.  I was so happy to see her.  I went over to her.

“You came,” I said.  She was wearing a yellow jacket over a floral dress with splashes of yellow in it.  For the first time since I knew her, she wasn’t wearing the red shawl on her head.

“I told you I would,” she said.  “And I’m happy I did.  I was truly blessed.”

“I’m thrilled to hear that.  Are you going to stay and have something to eat and meet some of the youth?”

She nodded.  “Sure.  You look very handsome in your suit.”

I smiled.  “Thank you.  And you look very pretty.  Let’s head on down now.”

We went downstairs to the fellowship hall which was buzzing with lively conversation.  It settled down when the pastor announced that he was going to say a prayer.  He offered thanks and a blessing of the meal and then people were helping themselves to the different delicious looking and smelling dishes.  Nata was in front of me in the line.  After we finished helping ourselves to the food, we found a couple of seats and sat down.  For several minutes we were alone.

“In case you’re wondering, I don’t have a boyfriend,” she said suddenly, startling me.

I felt my face get hot.  “That’s good to know,” I managed to say after a while.

She smiled.  “So, there’s no reason why you and I can’t go out with each other.”

“No, there isn’t.  Are you free this evening?”

“Yes.”

“We can go bowling and then have pizza afterwards.”

“That sounds great.”

Just then several youth joined us.  I introduced Nata to them.  We had a great time, socializing.  By the time we were ready to go our separate ways, Nata had been invited to our next outdoor activity and to attend church the following week.  I dropped her home and I told her that I would be back at six-thirty to take her bowling.

Our first date was a blast and it led to other dates.  We have been dating for almost a year and today we are riding in a cable car to the top of Table Mountain where I will propose to Nata.  I’m nervous and excited but I have no doubt that this is God’s will for my life.  The Lord has opened His hand and poured out so many blessings on my life.  I am so thankful to Him for His love and goodness not only to me but to my family and Nata.  True to my promise, I studied the Bible with her.  Two months ago, she answered the altar call and accepted Christ.  Now she is a baptized member of my church.  Yes, God is good.  He has turned so many lives around.

Sources:  Crossroad Prison MinistriesUPMI; SDA Church; The Conversation