Valued by God

Devotions for Women header 1

Luke 15:8-10

Just recently I watched the movie, “The Wedding” with Halle Berry.  There was a scene when she went to the beach for a swim.  She took off her engagement ring and put it in her blouse.  When she went back, she couldn’t find it.  Frantic, she felt around in the sand and when her fingers closed over, her face filled with joy and relief.  The ring was precious to her.

In this parable a woman has ten silver coins and loses one.  She could have easily have been happy that she still had nine coins but that one coin meant a lot to her.  She went to great lengths to find it.  She lit a lamp, swept the house and searched diligently for it.  She searched and searched until she found it.  When she found it, she was so happy that she had to tell her friends about it.  She wanted them to share in her joy.  She had lost and then found she valued.

It is the same with God.  He doesn’t stop caring for the person who is lost.  It is His will that that the lost person repents and returns to Him.  When this happens, He rejoices.  He welcomes the person joyfully and celebrates.  It should be the same for us.  We should be celebrating, not complaining when the lost is found and returns to the church.  We were once lost too and God sent someone to find us, a friend perhaps as in my case, or a loved one or neighbor or co-worker and there was celebration in heaven that day when we were found.  We are of great value to God.  We are precious in His sight.  Like the woman with the coin, He will not give up on us.  He is “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Do you know someone who has stopped attending church?  Have you reached out to that person?  Ask God to help you to demonstrate love, acceptance and genuine concern for this former church member.   Remember this person is valued by God.

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).

 

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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.

Baby in Dumpster

When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the LORD will take care of me – Psalm 27:10

For most parents, it is love at first sight when they see their newborn.  Not so for baby Jansi.  When her father saw her, instead of feeling love toward her, he felt shame.  As he looked down into that tiny face, he didn’t see a beautiful baby.  He saw a baby who wasn’t pretty,  was too skinny and not looking right.  The doctor concurred that she was abnormal.  Jansi’s father didn’t want an abnormal baby nor did his wife.  Filled with disgust, he threw the 2 day old baby in the dumpster and the couple walked away, not looking back nor shedding a tear.

Baby Jansi lay in the garbage, wailing until two arms reached into the dumpster and drew her out.  Those arms belonged to a woman named Pranaya Chopra.  Pranaya worked as a tutor to help the children with their academics at Gospel for Asia (GFA) supported Bridge of Hope center.  Pranaya learned through preaching at Church and reading the Word that children are a gift from God.   It was Pranaya’s sister who had Jansi and when Pranaya discovered she and her husband had tossed their newborn daughter into the dumpster, she went and found her.

Pranaya took the baby girl home with her and named her Jansi.  Pranaya and Jansi’s grandparents cared for her and nursed her to health.  To the Jansi, Pranaya was “mother.” Pranaya was there when the little girl crawled and when she became a toddler.  She was there every step of the way, showing this abandoned child how much she loved her.  When Pranaya got married, Jansi remained a part of the family, even when the couple had a child of their own.  For Pranaya, “It is a great blessing for me to adopt my sister’s daughter into my family.”

When Jansi became school-aged, she was enrolled in Bridge of Hope.  School work was difficult for Jansi but with the help of the staff, she soon improved.  Jansi thrived and her biological parents saw how well she was doing and their attitude toward her changed.  They wanted her back.  They saw their daughter the way God and Pranaya did–a precious gift to be loved and cherished.  It made it easier for Pranaya when she and her family had to move away.  She knew that Jansi would be well cared for and safe with her parents.

Jansi lives with her parents and two younger siblings.  She continues to attend Bridge of Hope center where she is learning about Jesus’ love for her and doing well in her studies.  Her mother attends the monthly parents’ meeting at Bridge of Hope where she hears about Jesus.  What a wonderful end to what started out as a very sad story.  Although baby Jansi was discarded by her parents, God had plans for her life.  He rescued her from the dumpster and placed her in the care of a woman who loved her as if she were her own daughter.

This story has taught me that we must never discard anyone because of their appearance, gender, culture or race but love them as Jesus does.  He died for them too.   He died for the unloved, unwanted, abandoned and rejected.  It is His desire that they too may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10).  Thanks to Him, Jansi is now enjoying a life filled with hope and joy and tremendous blessings.

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb – Psalm 139:13.

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Letting Go

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Matthew 19:16-30

The rich young ruler went to Jesus because he knew that something was missing in his life. When you find that you are lacking something in your life or you have questions that you can’t seem to find the answers to, what do you do?  Do you go to Jesus?  This young man did.  He went to Jesus for the answer to his question, “…what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

After Jesus mentioned some of the commandments which the young man kept from his youth, the young man asked Him, “what do I still lack?” He realized that keeping the commandments was not enough.  Jesus told him what the problem was and gave him the solution.  “If you would be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow Me.”  When the young man heard this, he was sad and he went away because he had many possessions.  He wanted to know how to inherit eternal life but was not willing to do what was necessary.   He placed more value on his riches than on God’s kingdom.

What are you unwilling to let go of even if it costs you your salvation?  What is hindering you from completely submitting to Christ?  What you are holding on to instead of letting go of so that you could take up your cross and follow Him? Is it a lifestyle, a cherished sin, a relationship, an addiction?  Don’t make the same mistake as the young ruler did.  Don’t believe that going to church every week, being involved in church ministry or community service will be enough to get you into the kingdom.  There is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life (Ephesians 2:8, 9).  A total commitment to Christ is what is needed.  You need to let go of whatever is taking the place of God in your life and in your heart.

The rich young ruler had two choices–God or riches.  He chose the latter.  Are you willing to leave all for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom as the disciples did?  The reward for doing so far outweighs any riches or material things you may accumulate here on earth.

Gifts Thankfully Received

Thanksgiving has come and gone in Canada and the United States.  Many of us enjoyed delicious turkey dinners with our families and reflected on all that we were thankful for.  We were thankful that we have shelter, jobs, families and friends.  Just recently many people got laid off from their jobs.  Those of us who still have jobs are very thankful especially as the Christmas season is fast approaching.

As Christmas draws near, we think about the gifts we will get for our loved ones and friends and plan our menus.  It’s a fun and a stressful time. We decorate our homes and set aside one evening just to wrap presents to put under the Christmas tree.  We are thankful for the most wonderful time of the year.  We are thankful for God’s greatest Gift to us–His beloved Son, Jesus.

Sadly, it’s during this time of the year when we are reminded that not everyone is as blessed as we are or has much to be thankful for.  Imagine that it’s Christmas time but you are not in the holiday spirit because you are overworked and it’s a constant struggle every day to provide meals for your family. You’re working hard but have nothing to really show for it.  You can’t give your children education or clothes.  This is how life is for many people in South Asia.  Each day is a struggle for them. They don’t live–they just exist.

Imagine how thankful you would be if you were to receive a simple gift that would help you and your family.  Gospel for Asia offers lots of wonderful gifts in their Christmas Gift Catalog.  Gifts like chickens, sewing machines, rickshaws and Bibles are not only a great source of income for people who are living in poverty but they are a means by which the love of Christ can be demonstrated in tangible ways.  Since 2007, the gifts from GFA’s Christmas Gift Catalog have helped over 736,000 impoverished families in South Asia.

I thought of which gift I would be thankful to receive and came up with two.  The pull cart and a bicycle.

With a pull cart I can sell fruits, vegetables, clothing or handcrafted items so that I can provide for my family.  This is a legitimate way for a poor person to make a living.  I would be able to give my child an education and give faithfully to the church.  I can even share the Good News about Jesus with people as they buy the goods  I am selling.  I don’t have to worry about renting a cart.  Having my own cart saves me time and I can take home all of what I earn.  Having my own cart will be a testimony to my neighbors and relatives that God takes care of those who put their faith and trust in Him.

I love to ride.  In Guyana I used to ride a lot.  It was a fun way to get around.  Good exercise too.  If I were living in South Asia, I would love to own a bicycle.  If I received one as a Christmas gift, I would use it to reach more villages and tell them about Jesus.  The Bible talks about how “beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15).  Imagine how much faster I can share the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things if I had a bicycle!

This Christmas think of the many lives in South Asia that will be changed through the Christmas Gift Catalog.  Think of how thankful you would be to receive one of these gifts.  Take a look at the Catalog here and prayerfully consider each gift.

So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver – 2 Corinthians 9:7

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Dhal Ni Pol Blog

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

A Mother’s Hidden Legacy

Naomi was a Christian.  She grew up praying to Jesus as a Friend and reading the Bible so that she could get to know Him better.  So great was her love for God that it was natural to believe that when she had children, she would pass on her faith to them.  However, things didn’t turn out quite as she expected.

Naomi’s parents arranged her marriage and although the wedding was held in the church and followed all the Christian traditions, her husband was of a different religion.  Can you imagine being in Naomi’s shoes?  You were raised to love the Lord.  You look forward to going to church and worshipping Him in His sanctuary with others who share your faith.  Then, one day, you are forced to stop going to church because your husband won’t allow you.  And to make matters worse…your husband is an alcoholic.

Shortly after the wedding, Tarak’s alcoholism reared its ugly head.  He had a steady job as a truck cleaner but spent the money he earned on drinks or cigarettes.  As a result it was a struggle just to have the bare necessities.   The struggle only increased when they had Oppilmani and Sadhya, born two years apart.  Now Naomi had two growing children to feed not to mention providing them with clothing and education.   Overwhelmed, she was compelled to reflect on her life before she got married.  With a penitent heart she began to pray.

She didn’t tell Tarak that she repented of her neglect of God or that she was praying for the family’s restoration.  She didn’t tell him that she was praying for him–that he would stop drinking.  Can you imagine how hard it must have been for Naomi to keep these things to herself?  How she must have longed to tell her family about Jesus and how only He could help them.  Then, hope came in the form of Gospel for Asia Pastor Zaafir when  he came to their village.  God heard her prayers and He sent help.

Naomi began to speak to Pastor Zaafir frequently and began attending church again.   As she grew in the Lord, Pastor Zaafir helped her to enroll Oppilmani and Sadhya in the local Bridge of Hope center.  This proved to be a blessing for the children.  They excelled in their studies and learned about Jesus.  How it must have brought joy to their mother who had dreamed of telling them about the Friend she had since she was a child.

The joy was short-lived, however.  Tarak’s animosity returned and he began to verbally abuse his wife when she attended church and insisted that the family follow his religion.  In the wake of this new wave of opposition Naomi attended church less but refused to stop going altogether.  All the while she continued praying for her family even as they were about to face a crisis…

…pray without ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Tarak’s years of drinking and smoking finally began to take a toll on his health.  What began as asthma quickly turned into something very serious and unmanageable.  How terrifying it must have been for his family when he began vomiting blood.  He couldn’t eat anything.  However, the waves of nausea and the vomiting didn’t stop Tarak from continuing to drink alcohol.   Within a few days, he was taken to the hospital where doctors determined that he had a serious lung infection.  If he didn’t have an operation he would die.  What was the family to do?  For years Tarak had spent his income on alcohol.  There wasn’t enough money for the operation.

Naomi and the children, went home, bracing themselves for a future without her husband.  The children continued to attend the Bridge of Hope center but it didn’t take long for the staff to notice that something was wrong.  When they inquired, Oppilmani told them about his father’s condition and that the family couldn’t pay for the surgery.  The staff offered words of encouragement and hope.  They assured the boy that Jesus could solve his problems and then they decided to visit the family.

The coordinator of the centre went with two social workers and GFA’s pastor Bahurai to the family’s home where they saw an alarmingly thin Tarak who looked much older than his age of 35 years.  The group shared God’s Word and encouraged the family to ask for His mercy.  The Lord spoke to Tarak’s heart and the father confessed his wrongdoings to God.  From that moment on, there was a transformation.  Naomi no longer faced opposition from her husband and she was free to regularly attend prayer meetings.  She, the pastor and other believers prayed for Tarak’s healing.  He began to recover slowly and he opened his heart to the God who was healing him.

Tarak no longer insisted that his family worship his god or protest his wife’s church going.  Instead he brought the children to church.  It took a life-threatening illness for Tarak to know the true God.

God had answered the prayers of a mother who had known Him all of her life.  She had turned back to Him after she was forced to neglect Him–knowing that He was her only Source of comfort, hope and deliverance.  God heard the prayers of a wife who wanted her husband to stop drinking.  He heard the prayers of a mother who wanted her children to worship the true God and go to school.  He heard the prayers of a woman who wanted to free her family from their struggles.

The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective – James 5:16

What a wonderful end to this story.  A man once opposed to wife’s God had embraced Him.  Oppilmani and Sadhya who once worshipped a traditional god was now worshipping the Creator.  They will continue their family’s legacy by raising the next generation to serve the God who had brought them hope amidst adversity.  As for Naomi, she watched the Lord do amazing things for her family.  “Jesus turned our trouble into happiness,” she said, “and we are ever thankful to Jesus.”

You can help to do amazing things for other families like Naomi’s by sponsoring Bridge of Hope children.  Your sponsorship will open the door for children to share Christ’s love with their families.  If you are interested in learning more about Bridge of Hope visit this link.

I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy, For You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities – Psalm 31:7

 

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia