The Christian Faith

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” – Mark 1:17

The Christian faith has mushroomed into what it is today thanks to men and women who were willing to let the Holy Spirit work in and through them to share the Gospel with others.  It all started with two men–one was Andrew and the other was Philip.  After each man encountered Jesus, they went and told others about him.  When Andrew found his brother, Peter he said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” And Philip declared to his friend, Nathanael,“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:41, 45).

Then, Peter and Nathanael were taken to meet Jesus.  How do we follow the example of what Andrew and Philip?  We tell our families, friends and co-workers about Jesus and share the Bible with them.  It is through reading the Bible that they meet Jesus.  We introduce them to Him but they have to get to know Him for themselves.

One of my favorite stories is the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  She went to the well to draw water at a time of the day when she wouldn’t run into other people.  Married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband, she wasn’t exactly the pillar of society.   She didn’t expect to see Jesus there.  She could tell that He was a Jew and was surprised when He asked her for a drink of water as Jews didn’t have any dealings with Samaritans.  And she was a woman.

Jesus spoke to her, telling her what true worship was and salvation.  When He told her things about herself that a stranger could not have possibly known, she thought He was Prophet.  Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah and excited, she left her water-pot and ran into the city to tell the people there, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  Like Andrew and Philip, the woman met Jesus, went and told others about Him before bringing them to Him.  Many of the people believed in Jesus because of her testimony.   The woman discovered that despite the fact that Jesus knew everything about her, He loved her.

Does your neighbor know that there is a Savior who loves him or her and wants to reach out in love and forgiveness to him or her?  This encounter between Jesus and the woman was an example of how the Gospel should transcend racial and gender barriers.  The Gospel is for everyone.  Salvation is for everyone.  We must not allow our prejudices to get in the way of spreading the love of Christ to those who need it.

So, we see a progression here.  The mission field begins at home, with our relatives and then spreads to our friends and then our neighbors.  It follows what Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out to preach and minister to others.  “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5, 6).  The Jews were to receive the Gospel first and then the Gentiles and Samaritans.  It makes sense that we witness to those closest to us first and then to others.

Once we are willing and open to His leading, God will find opportunities for us to share the Gospel.  He did so with Peter on the Day of Pentecost and Paul when he was in Athens.  After the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, they began to speak in tongues.  The crowd marveled when they heard them speak in their own language.  Some, however, mocked them, accusing them of being drunk.  Peter used their remarks as an opportunity to give a sermon.  He spoke of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  The people were convicted and they asked Peter and the other disciples what they should do and Peter’s answer was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Many were baptized and about three thousand people became Christians on that day.

We may encounter skeptics but, instead of becoming discouraged, we can do what Peter did and use their unbelief as an opportunity to share our faith.  As Paul said, we are to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).  When Paul was in Athens, he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Provoked, he reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue and the Gentiles in the marketplace.  He spoke to them about the resurrection of Jesus.  They took him to the Areopagus, curious to hear his doctrine.

Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and addressed the people, acknowledging that they were religious because of the objects of worship and the altar they had built to the Unknown God.  He revealed to them who the true God was.  He was the “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,  so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

When some of them heard the word “resurrection”, they began to mock him while others wanted to hear him speak further on the matter.  And others believed in what he said and joined him, among them a woman named Damaris (Acts 17:23-34).

Paul was prepared to share the truth about the God he worshipped and he used what he saw around him to do so.  He wanted the people to turn from their idols and worship the true God who wanted them to seek Him while He could still be found.  We can use whatever is at our disposal to share the truth about God with others.  Many people still have a negative opinion of God but we can change that by reaching out to them in love, compassion and sharing our testimonies of His goodness.

As in Jesus’ day, the Christian faith is growing and will continue to grow.  Although it is under attack and many believers are facing persecution, imprisonment and even death, it will continue to spread and transform lives until Jesus returns.  We can do our part by reaching out to those around us.  Each one can reach one.  We can do it through handing out literature, through social media, blogging, websites or witnessing in person.  God will give us the means and the opportunities to further His ministry.  All we have to do is to be ready and willing like Andrew, Philip, the Samaritan woman and Paul.

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Sources:  Biblegateway; Blue Letter Bible

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Persecuted For Their Faith

Like many mothers here in Canada and around the world, I was able to celebrate Mother’s Day on May 12, 2013.  There’s nothing more wonderful than spending this special day with your family.   Even as I enjoyed the delicious breakfast my husband had given and as I watched my mother’s face light up as her grandson gave her a picture he had colored and a kiss, I couldn’t help remembering the mother who would not experience this joy.

Just recently I subscribed to The Voice of the Martyrs Canada (VOM) newsletter and was moved by the stories of Christians who endured various trials and were persecuted for their faith.  I got a free copy of the book Tortured For Christ, written by Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of VOM, an organization “dedicated to helping, loving and encouraging persecuted Christians worldwide”.  I knew that there were Christians in other parts of the world who were killed or imprisoned because they refused to renounce their faith but was not privy to their sufferings until I read the newsletter and prisoner alerts on the website.

On Mother’s Day, I thought of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman who was arrested by police in 2009.  Before her arrest, she along with many of the local women worked on the farm of a Muslim landowner.  Many of these women pressured Asia to renounce her Christian faith and accept Islam.  There was a discussion among the women about their faith and after she reportedly told them, “Our Christ is the true prophet of God and yours is not true,” the women got angry and they beat her.  Read the rest of Asia’s story at http://www.prisoneralert.com/pprofiles/vp_prisoner_197_profile.html

Asia is from a country where “Muslims who convert to Christianity are often threatened or killed by their family because of the shame associated with such a conversion.  Breaking the blasphemy law, Section 295c of the penal code – blaspheming Mohammed – is punishable by death. Blasphemy accusations against Christians often occur in retaliation for personal or commercial disputes.”

Asia is still languishing in prison and there are times when she is discouraged.  She has had to spend another Easter and Mother’s Day without her family.  Her husband has been encouraging her to hang on to her faith.  Letters to officials have been written on her behalf and over fifteen thousand letters of encouragement have been written her.

Apparently Pakistan is a dangerous place for a Christian woman.  I just watched the video below of a woman named Shafia and the horrors she and her family endured for their faith.  In the midst of this, though, she found peace and took comfort in the knowledge that she is a daughter of God.

Check out other videos of women who are persecuted for their faith and the widows of martyrs at http://persecution.tv/video?task=videodirectlink&id=942

Today, let us hold our brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer.  Let us take action to let them know that they are not suffering alone.  Write letters of encouragement.  Write to the officials.  Get prisoner and prayer alerts via email so that you can pray for the persecuted.  Check out http://www.persecution.net to see how you can get involved.  And don’t forget to give God thanks for being able to worship Him without fear of persecution or imprisonment or death.  Thank Him if you are blessed to be living in a country where there is religious liberty.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).

Sources:  http://www.prisoneralert.com/cprofiles/vp_country_173_profile.html?pfilid=197; http://www.persecution.tv/video?task=videodirectlink&id=689