Dealing With Our Enemies

The angry voices in the crowd rose to a crescendo, “Crucify Him!” drowning out Pilate’s protest.  They wanted Him dead.  They had delivered Him up and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go (Acts 3:13).  Yet, this was all in fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation.  The innocent was put to death for the guilty. The people had asked Pilate to put Him to death although they had no legitimate cause to do so (Acts 13:28).  They were motivated by envy (Mark 15:10).

He hung on a cross like a common criminal and they mocked Him, urging Him to save Himself.  “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). Little did they know that it was because He was the Son of God, that He didn’t save Himself by coming down from the cross.  He stayed there for their sake and ours.  He took the punishment we deserved.

It must have wounded Him to hear the jeers but the same love that made Him willing to lay down His life was the same love that infused Him when He cried to the Father, Fatherforgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He was not overcome by their evil but He overcame it with good (Romans 12:21).

Jesus is our perfect example of how to deal with our enemies.  We don’t let their insults or wrongdoing get the better of us.  We rise above their evil intentions and follow Jesus’ advice “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).  He never said that it was going to be easy but as His followers and the children of God, we must make the effort.   And the Holy Spirit is there to help us.

The apostle Paul tells us how to deal with our enemies by quoting Proverbs 25:21, 22. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”  In acting contrary to what your enemy expects such as showing them love and kindness, it will stir feelings of shame and remorse. As Christians, we don’t treat people as the world does.  We treat them as Jesus would.

woman-counseling-woman-84579876-copy-650x434

 

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Bible Hub

Advertisements

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!”

love-on-fire-3

Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada

Anchored

She stood on the pier watching the boats come and go.   She was once like an unmoored boat, drifting out into the currents of life because she had no anchor to hold her like the boats fastened to the dock.  It began when her parents were killed in a car accident and she had to live with her aunt and uncle.

Life with her aunt was terrible.  Her uncle was nice–he treated her with kindness but her aunt was a miserable woman.  She kept saying to her, “You are your father’s daughter.  You are just like him.  No good.  He was a good for nothing lout, a drunk and a cheat.  I don’t know why my sister ever married him.”

Day in a day out she said bad things about her Dad and her.  It got to the point where she stayed out late just to avoid going back to that house.  Her aunt thought that she was out drinking and partying with her friends and threatened to kick her out.  “I will not have that sort of behavior in my house,” she fumed.  It was no point telling her aunt that she hadn’t been doing any of those things.  The truth she had spent hours in the library until it closed and then she had gone to the pier to look at the boats and the flickering lights.  It was her favorite place.  She and her Dad used to go there.

She didn’t say anything in her defense but went on the laptop in the study and started searching for an apartment to rent.  Her uncle helped her to find a place and she gladly moved out.  She was relieved to be away from her aunt who was a Christian.  Her uncle wasn’t one.  If Christians were any thing like her aunt, she wanted nothing to do with them.

Of course things didn’t get any better after she moved out.  She struggled to get by.  She had to do a lot of things for herself–such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying bills, etc. Working part-time while studying was a great challenge.  Going out with friends during the week was out of the question now.  She went out with them on Saturday nights but she got tired of going to nightclubs and bars and meeting guys who had only one thing on their minds.

After she graduated, she got a job at a publishing company and life was improving.  She was no longer struggling.  She made new friends.  It was at a barbecue at one of these friends’ home where she met Jim.  Jim was a funny, handsome and easy-going guy.  They hit it off right away.  They spent most of the afternoon and evening together.  He drove her home and they arranged to go out for a bit to eat the following evening.  They started to see each other on a regular basis.

When Jim first told her that he was a Christian, she couldn’t believe it because he was the complete opposite of her aunt.  One evening he invited her to go to church with him on Saturday.  At first she was hesitant but then he persuaded her and she went.  The moment she set foot in the church, she was amazed at how warm and friendly the people were.  Jim’s parents were there too and he introduced her to them.  They invited both of them to have lunch with them after church.  She spent a very pleasant afternoon with the family.  Like her, Jim was an only child.   He and his parents were very close.  As he drove her home, he told her that they liked her very much.

Jim studied the Bible with her and she went to church with him very week.  Then one Saturday morning, she got baptized.  Her uncle went but her aunt didn’t.  When she heard that it was a Seventh-day Adventist church, she refused to go saying, “Adventists aren’t real Christians.  They are a cult.”

She smiled now as walked along the pier.  It was here where Jim proposed to her.  It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon.  They had just had dinner and had come here afterwards. As they walked slowly along the pier, he suddenly went in front of her and got down on one knee and popped the question. With a happy laugh and tears in her eyes she said, “Yes!”  He sprang to his feet and hugged her.  For the rest of the night she was walking on cloud nine.

She called her uncle and asked him to give her away.  As they drove to the church, he looked at her and said, “I wish your parents were here to see what a beautiful young woman you have become, especially your Dad.  He was a good man, Amanda.  He adored you.  And he was good to your mother.  It’s just that things got rough for him and he coped with it the only way he felt he could.  You are your father’s daughter and don’t let anyone make you ashamed of that.”

She smiled at him through the tears and squeezed his hand.  “Thanks, Uncle Bob.”  Yes, she wished her Dad were there that day to walk her down the aisle.

Now she stood there on the pier, anchored in her faith and in her marriage.  Yes, she was like one of the boats fastened securely to the dock.

woman on pier with sunglasses

Moving Out

She stood there, suitcases packed in the small flat she had called home for eight years. Memories flooded her mind as she stepped to the window and gazed across at the park.   They had been so happy when they moved in.  After dating each other for two years, they decided that they would take big step of moving in together.   Of course, her parents hadn’t been thrilled.  They were Christians and didn’t believe in unmarried people living together.   At the time she wasn’t into church that much and felt that if two people loved each other, there wasn’t anything wrong with them living together.  This flat was Mike’s and hers.  Besides, they had talked about the possibility of getting married one day.

She smiled as she remembered how they had to order take out because she had burnt the roast because she had forgotten to set the timer.  It was the smoke coming out of the oven that alerted her and she managed to turn off the oven and open the windows before the smoke alarm went off.  Mike had been a good sport about it.  Since then, she had improved greatly in the kitchen.

The smile faded and tears sprang to her eyes.  She was leaving Mike.  After ten years together, she was ending their relationship.  It was hard.  She had invested so much in this relationship but she couldn’t continue like this.  Whenever she brought up the subject of them getting married, he seemed reluctant to talk about it or hedged around it until she dropped it.   Then, one evening she asked him point blank as they were having dinner if he wanted to get married.  He told her that he wasn’t ready.  He said that he liked things the way they were at the moment.  Marriage was a big step and he just wasn’t ready to take it right now.  Besides, they hadn’t really seriously talked about it, right?  It was something that was possible one of these days, just not now.  They were still young and had plenty of time to think about tying the knot.

She didn’t mention marriage again after that but it weighed on her mind.  Living together was troubling her now and it became a conviction when she started going to church with her friend.  The first time she went was when Mike was away on business. Carla invited her one Saturday morning and she absolutely loved it.  The people were so warm and friendly and she felt at home.  She went to church every Saturday after that and one day, she could have sworn that the pastor was speaking directly to her.  That day she was convinced that it was wrong for her to be living with a man she wasn’t married to.  When Mike got back from his trip she shared her feelings with him and he got angry.

“I will not be forced into getting married just because you suddenly have an attack of conscience,” he declared before he stormed out of the apartment.  After that their relationship was strained.  Whenever he wanted to make love, she said she had a headache until he finally stopped trying.  They hardly spoke.  Most of the time she ate alone.  He was gone when she got up in the mornings and was in bed when he got in. The business trips became more frequent.   She was miserable.  She spoke to Carla about it and her friend encouraged her to pray about the situation.  She did and she was convinced that God wanted her to move out.  And here she was.  Suitcases packed and ready to say goodbye to the man she had loved for ten years.  Marriage was out of the question as far as he was concerned and she couldn’t settle for less.  So, this was it.  She had to leave.  She was taking only her clothes and trinkets and books.  Everything else she was going to leave.  Carla offered her the guest room until she found a place.

She turned away from the window and walked over to the mantelpiece where several photos of Mike and her stood.  She reached for the one of them standing in front of the Eiffel Tower.  They had spent two weeks in Paris.  She had believed that they would return there one day–perhaps for their honeymoon.   She was tempted to take the photo but shook her head and turned away.  She didn’t want any reminders of what they once had.  The memories would always be there.  She didn’t need any physical reminders or mementos.  She glanced at the letter she had propped up beside the photo.  She had written it last night.  In it she explained why she had to leave and that she loved him. She will always love him.  She also mentioned that she would leave her key in the rental office.

She walked over to where her suitcases were and she pulled them behind her.  She opened the door and put them outside in the passageway and then turned and locked the door.   As she went slowly down the hallway, she felt as if her heart would break.   She left the key at the rental office, not seeing the curious look the woman gave her as she walked away.

Before she climbed into the taxi, she turned and looked up at the window of the flat which overlooked the park one final time.

looking to the sky

Single Mothers

Some years ago, I was part of a ministry which reached out to women and children living in shelters. One of my favorite things was collecting donated items and taking them to the shelter.  The staff was just as excited as my assistant and I were.  It was like Christmas every time we went there because mothers and their children were going to get things they really needed.  I remember buying photo albums and cameras for the expectant mothers so that they could capture those precious moments. One staff member mentioned that the women did scrapbooking as a form of therapy so we bought scrapbooks.

 

One of the women I met at the shelter was a young, single mother.  We took items for her and her unborn child.  After she left the shelter we kept in touch at her request.  We dropped off donated items for her and met her family.  When she was in the hospital, she called to give me the good news–she had a son.  Sadly, we lost touch.  I hope that she and her son are doing well.  I think the last I heard, she was working at a drugstore.  She believed in God and found comfort in His Word.

 

I remember that a church member had a problem with our ministry helping this unwed mother.  I believe that sometimes Christians are so particular about what is morally right and wrong that they neglect what is needed–compassion.  When Jesus interacted with the Samaritan woman, not once did He make her feel ashamed or embarrassed.  He showed her love and compassion.  He even commended her for being honest about her current living arrangement.  She was living with a man who was not her husband after having gone through more than one failed marriage.  Instead of condemning her or refusing to have anything to do with her or withholding His love, Jesus offered her living water. He offered her salvation.  He showed her grace.  The way He treated her compelled the woman to go and tell others about Him.

 

It’s tough enough for some women to raise children on their own without having to deal with criticism and feeling that they had committed the unpardonable sin.  I met a young woman who worked at the same homeless shelter.  She left her church because of the people.  They treated her shamefully because she had had a child out of wedlock.  The church is not expected to ignore these things or excuse them but at the same time, they are not to be judgmental.  They are to be mindful that people will fall into sin and that they need compassion.  Only God is allowed to judge.  And the Bible assures us that when we confess our sins, God is just and faithful to forgive us.  Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but He told her to stop sinning.

 

Single mothers should not be made to feel bad because they had a child outside of marriage.  Mind you, some choose to raise their children on their own without the help of the fathers.  It’s sad to know that many women stay away from church because they are ashamed and they are afraid of the kind of reception they would get once it was discovered that they are unwed mothers.  People might be friendly until they notice that there is no wedding ring.  In churches where people don’t wear rings such as the Seventh-day Adventist church, it would be harder to tell until they notice that she and her child are never accompanied by a male.  Someone might come right out and ask her about her husband.  She could evade the question or be like the Samaritan woman and admit that she is not married.  It won’t be long before she feels uncomfortable being there and will stop attending.

 

I was reading this post written by a Christian woman who was an unwed teenage mom and she made the point that there was nothing at her church for single mothers. Ashamed, she stopped going to church and for seven years she lived in shame.  She calls for churches to step up and reach out to the single mothers in their midst.  “Whether they are unwed or divorced, many single moms need parenting advice, financial instruction, emotional support via networking, and Spiritual growth opportunities.  Let us find these women in our communities, both the churched and the unchurched.  Let us minister to them at their point of need.  Let’s begin the single moms groups.  Praise God for the cutting-edge churches across the country who have already embraced the concept!  Has yours?”

 

Does your church have a ministry for single mothers?  If you were to suggest this to your pastor do you think that your pastor would be open to it?  We are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of God. Most single mothers don’t plan to have children out of wedlock.  Many dream of falling in love, getting married and then having children.  I know of women who regret having children before they got married.  Some of them envy other women who got married first.   One woman is currently living with her partner and their child and is hoping that one day they would get married.  Until that happens, she doesn’t feel comfortable going to church.  And she has no plans of returning to the church she had been a member of until they discovered that she was pregnant.  She left the church after she learned that there were members who were out for her blood.  The whole experience had been a traumatic one for her and it took a while for her to reach the point where she could put it behind her and forgive the people who condemned her.

 

As a church, we ought to reach out to unwed mothers inside and outside of the church.  If your church doesn’t have a ministry to help these women, pitch the idea.  Start a ministry.  It can be a part of the Singles’ or Women’s Ministries or Community Service.  Do something.  I was moved to start the ministry because I wanted to follow Jesus’ example and to be a good neighbor like the Samaritan man.  Although I am no longer at the church, the ministry is still going strong.  If you don’t feel comfortable approaching your pastor about starting the ministry, then you can find a single mother who needs help and help her. You can encourage other church members who might be interested to help the other single mothers in the church.  Be a light right where you are.  By helping these mothers, you are fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor.

 

Single Mother

The Fires of Faith

Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.  And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:21, 22).

 

They meet in secret at night.  They don’t meet in the same place too often.  They don’t tell their families about these meetings.  They draw the curtains to keep the world out. They speak in whispers. Every day they meet, it is a gamble.  At any moment, they could be discovered.  The risk is great.  They live in fear of being arrested, tortured or killed.  Is it worth it?  To the members of the underground churches, it is.  They risk everything for their belief.

 

Life for Christians is terrible in places like North Korea, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Egypt, Iraq and Syria.  It is ironic that it was to Egypt that Joseph fled with Mary and Jesus to escape Herod’s murderous rampage yet today, Christians are under great pressure.  Secret believers like In Syria, Christians had to flee their homes.

 

Those of us who are living in the West, we can worship openly in church buildings.  We don’t have to speak in whispers.  We can sing and pray out loud. We enjoy religious liberty.  Some of us may face opposition from our families.  Jesus warned us of this.  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and a ‘man’s enemies will be those of his own household’” (Matthew 10:34-36).

 

Just recently, I read a story of a father who forbad his daughter from going to church.  Her family was from an Orthodox background so they had a problem with her wanting to attend a Protestant church.  She resorted to sneaking off and going to church.  There are other stories of men and women persecuted, beaten, ostracized and even murdered by family members because of their faith.

 

It’s hard to believe that Christians persecute other Christians.  However, this is prevalent in Ethiopia.  Christians from the Orthodox churches who leave to find more vibrant churches are pressured to return.  In the days prior to the Reformation, many believers were forced to hide.  Such groups were the Waldensians who were forced underground because they were declared heretics by the Roman Catholic Church.  They rejected the teachings of the church and what they believed to be the idolatry of the church and considered the Papacy as the Antichrist of Rome.

 

Many were driven from their homes and into the mountains when in January 1655, the Duke of Savoy commanded them to attend Mass or sell their lands and go to the upper valleys of their homeland.  It was in the middle of winter.  The Duke didn’t expect them to choose to leave their homes and lands in the lower valleys.  Yet, they did and it was written that the old men, women and the sick “waded through the icy waters, climbed the frozen peaks and at length reached the homes for their impoverished brethren of the Upper Valleys where they were warmly received”  Sadly, the horrors of persecution were about to be unleashed.

 

 

When the Duke realized that his efforts to get the people to conform to Catholicism, he tried another approach.  Under the guise of false reports of uprisings, he sent the troops to the people. It was a ruse to gain them easy access.  Then, on April 24, 1655 at 4am when the people would have been sleeping, the troops were given the command to go and massacre them.  They didn’t just slaughter the people but they looted, raped, tortured and murdered.  Peter Liegé reported the following:

 

 

Little children were torn from the arms of their mothers, clasped by their tiny feet, and their heads dashed against the rocks; or were held between two soldiers and their quivering limbs torn up by main force. Their mangled bodies were then thrown on the highways or fields, to be devoured by beasts. The sick and the aged were burned alive in their dwellings. Some had their hands and arms and legs lopped off, and fire applied to the severed parts to staunch the bleeding and prolong their suffering. Some were flayed alive, some were roasted alive, some disemboweled; or tied to trees in their own orchards, and their hearts cut out. Some were horribly mutilated, and of others the brains were boiled and eaten by these cannibals. Some were fastened down into the furrows of their own fields, and ploughed into the soil as men plough manure into it. Others were buried alive. Fathers were marched to death with the heads of their sons suspended round their necks. Parents were compelled to look on while their children were first outraged [raped], then massacred, before being themselves permitted to die (Wikipedia).

 

annacharbonieretortured

Print illustrating the 1655 massacre in La Torre, from Samuel Moreland’s “History of the Evangelical Churches of the Valleys of Piemont” published in London in 1658.

 

 

The Piedmont massacre happened during Easter.  In fact, it became known as the Piedmont Easter and it was estimated that about 1,700 Waldensians were slaughtered.  Its brutality aroused the indignation of the European nations and sanctuary was offered to the remaining Waldensians.

 

 

Today, many Christians face the same kind of brutality for their faith.  Women have been attacked, beaten or murdered because they converted to Christianity.  Girls have been brutally raped for their faith or their parents’ faith. According to a report in the New York Times:  “Christians in areas of Egypt that are largely dominated by Muslim militants continue to suffer from violence and humiliation. These believers are under constant threat of their houses and other properties being burned down, or possibly being mugged while walking along the streets. Even church buildings are not spared as they are desecrated and marred with hate graffiti written on the walls.”  Christians are living in fear.  Some of them are secret believers like Femi* and Alim*

 

November 6 is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.  I encourage you to watch the moving video, Pray With Them from Open Doors and try to imagine what it would be like to live in a country where you have to go underground in order to worship or face prison, persecution, torture or death.

 

Keep the fires of faith burning.  Do not let anyone or anything extinguish them.  Hold fast until our blessed Lord Jesus Christ comes and you receive your crown.

Doubted

Slide1

Acts 12:13-16

Have you ever told someone something and he or she didn’t believe you?  No matter how much you try to convince that person he or she just isn’t buying what you are saying.  How did it make you feel?  Hurt?  Angry? Frustrated?

When the apostle Peter was arrested and thrown into prison, fellow Christians got together and held a prayer meeting.  While Peter was sleeping, an angel of the Lord went to the cell where he was shackled between two sleeping guards, woke the disciple and led him out of the prison.  After Peter realized that this was not a dream or a vision, he went to the house where the believers were gathered.

He knocked on the gate and a girl named Rhoda answered.  In her excitement at seeing Peter, she ran back to tell the others instead of opening the gate and letting him in.  However, her good news was met with doubt.  “You are beside yourself!”   And when she insisted, they told her that it was Peter’s angel.  Short of grabbing them and taking them outside to show them, there was nothing Rhoda could do to convince them.  Fortunately for her, Peter continued to knock and this time they heard him and opened the door.  They were astonished to see him.  

Why were they astonished to see him?  Why did they doubt Rhoda?  Weren’t they praying for Peter?  Didn’t they expect God to answer their prayers?  Have you ever prayed for something and when God answered the prayer, you couldn’t believe it?  This reminds me of when Jesus had appear to His disciples the first time after His resurrection and even though they saw Him and He spoke to them, they still didn’t believe.  They thought He was a Spirit and were terrified.  And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38).  And when the women went to tell the disciples that the tomb was empty and what the angels had told them, they didn’t believe them.  According to Luke, “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11).

It doesn’t feel good when you tell the truth and people don’t believe you.  If you were Rhoda what would you have done?  Would you have admonished the others for not believing you?  Or would you just let it go?  I think if I were Rhoda, I would have encouraged the others to join me in prayer and we thank and praise God for coming through for Peter.  This was a time to rejoice and give thanks, not contend with your brethren.