Love’s Ultimate Sacrifice

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; He has put him to grief.
    If he made himself as an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days,
    and the good pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand – Isaiah 53:10

Jesus on the cross

Whenever I watch the scenes of Jesus getting beaten, mocked and nailed to the cross, I cry.  It hurts to see the suffering and humiliation He went through.  Yet, it says that it pleased the Father to crush Him and make Him suffer.  Why?  It was the Father’s will that His Son would carry out the plan of salvation.  It pleased God that His Son willingly offered Himself.  Jesus explained why the plan of salvation was so important to the Father.   “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  God bestowed His Son as a Gift.  He didn’t send Him into the world to condemn us but to save us and to give us life.   And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11).  

When God gave us His Son, He gave us much more than we could even imagine or deserve.  Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Can you imagine, instead of facing death for your sins, you receive the gift of life instead?  Instead of facing God’s wrath, you receive His grace?  This is why it pleased God to offer up His Son.  When Jesus laid down His life, He provided a way for us to be reconciled to the Father.  Sin had separated us from Him.  We were God’s enemies yet, He showed His love for us when He sent His Son to die in our place (Romans 5:8).  God wanted to reconcile with us but that could only happen through Jesus’ death.  Without the shedding of blood, there could be no forgiveness or pardon from sin (Hebrews 9:22).  It pleased God to send His Son, “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).

God’s love for us is so profound that He went to great lengths to save us.  How many of us would have made such a supreme sacrifice?  Yes, the plan of salvation brought great suffering to Jesus but the reward is that those who believe in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.  Yes, it pleased God to set us free from sin and this freedom can only be found in His beloved Son. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your precious Son to suffer and die in our place.  He died so that we could live.  He bore and died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to You.  Thank You for Your grace and unfailing love and mercy.  Thank You for the gift of salvation.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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.

Pray for the Persecuted

Answer:   In the same way pizza is very common in the United States, persecution is very common in other parts of the world.

Imagine that you live in a country where being a Christian is dangerous.  Imagine your neighbors, friends or family members turning against you because you have accepted Jesus as your Lord.  This happened to a college student in Kyrgyzstan She was brutally beaten by her brothers and sister.  They had invited her over for a visit with the intention of forcing her to renounce her faith.

Jesus said that believers would be persecuted just as He was but what would you do in the face of persecution?  Would you be able to stand strong, no matter what the cost?  Would you be steadfast like Daniel and his three friends or would you be discouraged like the prophet Jeremiah?  What about the families of those who are persecuted and martyred for their faith?  Just recently I read an article of an Ugandan woman who was killed for her faith.  Her attackers had gone to the house looking for her husband and when they saw that he wasn’t there, they seized her.  She and her husband had eight children.  A month ago, her husband’s brother was murdered for his faith.  Her 13 year old daughter witnessed her mother screaming and crying for help as she was dragged out of the house.  She was hacked to death by her Muslim attackers because she had converted to Christianity.  Before they seized her, they said, “Your husband has followed the religion of his brother, and we had warned you people to stop these activities, but our message has landed on deaf ears.”

Can you imagine seeing your mother being brutally attacked and your father coming home to find her lying in a pool of blood?  How hard it must be for the families of those who are killed for their faith.  This woman’s husband remains steadfast in his faith, trusting God to protect him and his children.  His prayer is, “May God give me the courage to continue sharing the love of Christ to those who are lost, as Jesus said we should love our enemies.”  Let us pray for this father who will not let anything or anyone hinder him from sharing the Gospel to the lost.  May we ask God to put a hedge around him and his children.

Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter – 1 Peter 4:16

In North America Christians are still free to worship and share their faith.  People can freely approach us and ask us questions and we can talk them, give them literature to read and not have to worry about being thrown into jail, on charges that we are evangelizing people or drawing them away from their faith.  It has been two years since Pastor Saeed Abedini was imprisoned for his Christian faith and for charges levelled against him for evangelizing and attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam. We can accept or raise funds for church ministry without fear of being imprisoned unlike Pastor Tandin Wangyal.

Many persecuted Christians often feel isolated and alone, since they are unable to fellowship with other believers. However, prayers from Christians half a world away have brought the same amount of encouragement that fellowship would have for these persecuted Christians. Prayer is vital—not only as a direct line to God, but as a way to encourage our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world – Open Doors

Jesus warns us that we will face persecution, imprisonment, tribulation and even death for His sake.  When we take up the cross and follow Him, we can expect to go through hardship and suffering but there is a crown laid up for us.  And we have this promise, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

On November 1 and 8 or on any Sunday in November, join Christians across the nation in lifting up our brothers and sisters in Christ who are persecuted for their faith.  Stand with them.  Let them know that they are not alone.  Prayer is a powerful tool.  Prayer works!  I was encouraged when I read how prayers for Yana (not her real name) of South Asia.  She was detained by police on false accusations of not repaying her debt to her relative.  Last month, Open Doors sent out a prayer request for Yana’s release.  God heard and answered the prayers.  On October 11, Yana was released.  Continue to pray for Yana who wants to start a business near her children’s dormitory.  Pray that she continues to remain steadfast in her faith and to trust in the God who is faithful.

There is nothing more encouraging for Christians than knowing that their brethren are praying for them.  Gospel for Asia has provided a prayer request list.  As you pray over this list, remember that “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, Complete Jewish Bible).

  • Perseverance and boldness for our fellow believers around the world
  • For the persecutors’ hearts to be softened by Christ’s love
  • For the Western Church to actively intercede on behalf of the persecuted church

 

 

 

O You who hear prayer, To You all flesh will come – Psalm 65:2

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; IDOP; Christian Headlines

Hansini’s Cross

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven – Matthew 10:32

I was moved when I read the story of Hansini, a young woman who made the decision to follow Christ, no matter what the cost.  She faced persecution from her family and the entire village.

The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law – Luke 12:53

Hansini withstood, the attacks of the Devil and held firm to her faith, refusing to renounce Christ. Her family turned on her.  Pressured to do something about their wayward daughter, Hansini’s father beat her but to no avail.  I can almost imagine her saying, “No matter what you do to me, I will not forsake my Lord.”  Three years went by and still Hansini refused to give up her faith.  Then one day, things changed.  Read how a sewing machine changed the lives of Hansini, her family and her community.

It’s amazing how God can a sewing machine to share His love with a village who once rejected His Son and persecuted those who no longer worshipped their gods.

I was greatly inspired by Hansini and her unshakable faith.  She trusted in God and stood up for Jesus and was blessed with a sewing machine which she used to pay her family’s bills.  She convinced her parents that, “Jesus Christ is the giver of all good gifts and it is because of the love and grace of Christ that our family is able to overcome all of our financial struggles.”

Hansini demonstrated the love and forgiveness of Christ when she used her income to support her family and gladly agreed to teach the neighbors’ children how to sew.  They had all been her enemies, persecuting her, viewing her faith as a scandalous and shameful act.  Yet, Hansini did not hold a grudge against them.  Instead, she showed them kindness.  And in no time, their hostility toward her stopped.  Hansini used the sewing machine that God gave her as a way to open a door for the people to see firsthand the love of Jesus.  They saw how faith works and how God responds to that faith.

Hansini’s story is a testimony to the faithfulness of God to those who place their complete trust in Him. He used a sewing machine to lift her and her family out of poverty and at the same time, point them to His beloved Son.  This Christmas, look through Gospel for Asia’s Christmas Gift Catalog and see what practical gifts you can provide for families like Hansini.  Through these gifts, they can come to know the true Gift.

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong – 1 Corinthians 16:13

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Jesus on the Cross

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And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar,  among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons. – Matthew 27:55, 56.

Imagine standing there watching your Lord, who had done nothing worthy of the cruel death He was sentenced to suffer, as hang on the cross.  I can’t begin to imagine how those women felt but I know that whenever I watch a scene of the crucifixion, it feels me with pain and sorrow.  I cry.  I know that Jesus suffered on that cross for me and the world.  He willingly laid down His precious life so that we could have eternal life.  He did it so that we won’t have to experience God’s wrath or be eternally separated from Him. He did it because He was obedient to the Father even unto death.  He did it because He loves us.

How amazing it is that God loves us so much that He didn’t think twice about sending His Son to die for our sins.  It must have been hard for Him to see His beloved Son being whipped and struck, spat on and mocked but the prophet Isaiah stated: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.  When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.   He shall see the labor of His soul,and be satisfied.  By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities” (Isaiah 53:10, 11).  There was a purpose for this horrific death.  It was God’s only way to save us.  We are that precious in His sight.  Our salvation came at a great cost to Him and His Son, yet it cost us nothing.

As one of those women standing there, helplessly watching their beloved Lord hanging between two criminals, with the sins of the world upon His shoulders, bleeding and in excruciating pain, unable to tend to His needs, what would go through your mind?  Luke tells us how some of the crowd reacted when He died.  And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. Yet, all of His acquaintances, and these women stood at a distance, watching these things (Luke 23:48, 49).  Would you stand at a distance too and watch these event unfold?  Are you still watching from afar or are you going to stand at the foot of the cross and glorify God as the centurion did? (verse 47).

Today and every opportunity you have, take time to reflect on the work Jesus did on the cross that makes it possible for you to boldly approach the throne of grace.  What He did for you over two thousand years ago makes it possible for you to have a loving and saving relationship with God.  On that day, those women, when they watched Jesus on the cross, through tear filled eyes, they were seeing the salvation of God.  At the time, they were too sorrowful to rejoice but today, we can see past the sorrow and the tears and humbly declare, “For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him” (1 Thessalonians 5:0, 10).