Not Love

It was lust not love that make Amnon sick.

He lusted after his half-sister Tamar who

was very beautiful and a virgin.  It seemed

hopeless for him to do anything about his

lust for her.  After finding out what was troubling

him, Amnon’s friend came up with an idea.

idea.  He advised Amnon to:  “Lie down on your

bed and pretend to be ill.  And when your father

comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar

come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food

in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’”

 

This sounded good to Amnon and the answer to his

problem.  He did as Jonadab told him.  He pretended

to be sick and when his father, the king came to see

him, he repeated what his friend told him to say.

Unsuspecting, Tamar came to him  and she prepared

the food before him.  She took the food for him to eat

but he refused.  He sent everyone else away.  He wanted

to make sure that the coast was clear for his plan to

work.

 

When they were alone, he bade Tamar to go into his

chamber so that he could eat the food out of her hand.

Still trusting and unsuspecting, Tamar went near to him

to give him the food and he took hold of her and said to her,

“Come, lie with me, my sister.”

 

Tamar, horrified, protested.  “No, my brother, do not violate

me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this 

outrageous thing.  As for me, where could I carry my shame?

And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools

in Israel.  Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will

not withhold me from you.”

 

But Amnon did not heed her cry.  It was lust not love that

filled him and being stronger than she, he forced himself

on her.  It was lust that drove him to rape the girl he claimed

he loved.  And after the deed was done, that love he professed

turned to hate.  And great was that hatred.  It was greater than

the lust and the love.  He wanted her out of his sight.  His face

was probably filled with disgust too as he looked at her,

ordering her to, “Get up! Go!”

 

Poor, violated and shaken Tamar.  She had been violated and

now she was being thrown out.  She pleaded with him.  “No,

my brother, for this wrong in sending me away is greater than

the other that you did to me.”  But he refused to listen to her.

He ordered his servant, “Put this woman out of my presence

and bolt the door after her.”

 

Tamar was put out of the room and the door bolted after her.

Weeping, and grief-stricken, she put ashes on her head and

tore her robe.  She lay her hand on her head and went away,

crying loudly.

 

It wasn’t love but lust that reared its ugly head that day.  Love

is patient and kind.  It does not insist on its own way.

 

amnon-ama-a-tamar

Sources:  2 Samuel 13; 1 Corinthians 13:4, 5

 

One Day in the Park

It was a sunny day much like today when she and Michael first met.  She was sitting on a bench in the park close to where she lived and just enjoying the sunshine.  It was a long weekend.  No work the next day.   Usually on a Sunday afternoon she would be home doing laundry, sorting out her clothes for work and then watch the news as she had her dinner.  A rather mundane existence.  Her friends tried unsuccessfully to get her to go out on the weekends with them but she always had an excuse.  After a while they gave up.  And that suited her just fine.  She wasn’t one for going to bars or parties or walking aimlessly around shopping malls.  She was perfectly happy curled up on the cushy sofa with a good book.

That afternoon was an exception, though.  She had looked out of her living-room window and thought it was too beautiful a day to be cooped up inside.  So, she quickly changed, fixed her hair and face and went to the park.  She walked for a bit and then sat down on one of the benches facing the fountain.  She watched the families with their children pass by, pausing to take photos.   The park wasn’t crowded but there were a good many people milling around.

She saw a rather attractive man walking in her direction.  She didn’t want to stare at him so she looked over at the fountain, all the while aware of him.  It seemed like he was going to walk past when he stopped and came over to the bench.  He sat down next to her.

She could feel his eyes on her but she kept her head straight.  “It’s a great afternoon, isn’t it?” he said, startling her and she turned to look at him.  She wasn’t one for speaking to complete strangers but he seemed harmless.  And he had the most incredible blue eyes she had ever seen.

“Yes, it is.”

At first it was just a polite exchange and then the ice broke and the conversation became easier.  Pretty soon it was getting late and she had to leave.  They arranged to meet in the park again the following Sunday at the same spot.  This continued for a few weeks and then Michael asked her out for dinner.  More dinners followed, then the movies, then the theatre.  Pretty soon her weekends were busy.  She met Michael’s parents when he took her to dinner at their place.  And he met hers at one of their family barbecues.  Yes, she and Michael were officially dating.

“Hello Beautiful,” that soft but deep unmistakable voice brought her back to the present.  She got up, always beaming when she saw him and they hugged and kissed.

“I hope you haven’t been waiting long.  Had to run a couple of errands.”

She shook her head.  “No, I haven’t been waiting long,” she said.  She was just so happy to see him.  They didn’t see much of each other during the week because of busy schedules but they spoke on the phone for hours.  Weekends were their time together.

“Let’s go for a walk,” he suggested.

She was surprised.  Usually they would sit and chat for a while before they went for a walk.  She shrugged.  “All right.”

“First, I need to tie my shoe lace.”  He got down on his knee.  She stood there watching him as he fussed with a perfectly tied lace.  Then he fumbled in his pocket and her breath caught in her throat when she saw him take out a red box.  He opened it and held it out, his eyes now on her face.  “Lauren Spencer, will you marry me?”

She began to laugh and cry at the same time.  People were passing by and watching them, smiling.  “Yes, I will marry you, Michael Donovan.”

Michael slipped the ring on her finger and then got up.  “You have just made me a very happy man,” he said, cupping her wet face between his hands and kissing her.  She thought she heard applause but she soon blotted out the sounds around her as she basked in the knowledge that she was going to marry the man of her dreams.  And this was all as a result of that one day she went to the park.  She hadn’t gone looking for love but it found her.  Life was so wonderfully unpredictable.

 

young couple having a great Conversation

 

God’s Children

Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you!
I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you – Isaiah 46:4

What a comfort it is to know

that God will be with us

from the moment we are born

to the moment we die.

He will never leave us

nor forsake us.

He promises that He will

bear us up even when we are gray.

When we are too weary

to walk through the storms of life

He will carry us like a Father

carries his child.

Even in our old age, we are His children

whom He created in love

And when we cry out to Him

He will hear and will gather us

to Him as a hen gathers her brood.

 

This is He who numbers the hairs on our heads

because we are of great value to Him

How comforting it is to know
that His love is here to stay
even when we are old and gray.

elderly

 

International Day of the Girl

On my twelfth birthday, I sat on the cold ground in a corner of a dark room with my knees drawn up to my chin and my arms wrapped around them as the tears rolled down my dirty cheeks.   I couldn’t sleep.   I didn’t want to sleep because I was afraid that he would come back and hurt me again.  It really hurt down there.   Why did he hurt me?  Did I do something bad?  I can’t tell anyone.  He said that no one will believe me.  I can’t tell my mother.  She will beat me if I tell her that my father hurts me.

Sometimes I want to run away but I don’t know where I could go.   Sometimes I wish I was never born.  Sometimes I wish I could die.

One day my father got very ill and a week later he died.  I wish I could say that I was sad but I wasn’t.  I thought to myself, “He will never hurt you again.”  My mother didn’t seem sad either. She and my father didn’t love each other.  They used to fight a lot.  Sometimes he beat her when he was drunk.  Now it was just her, my two brothers and me.   Life did not get better after my father died.  I was still treated badly and beaten.  I worked hard while my brothers played.  Life was hard and unfair.  But what could I do?

Then, one day, three women came to our village.  One of them came to our home.  She had a kind face.  Her name was Sister Hope.  She spoke to my mother.  She talked about Jesus.  I was curious about this Jesus but didn’t want to ask any questions in front of my mother.  My mother had her gods so she wasn’t interested in this new God Sister Hope told her about.  Sister Hope smiled and left.  I was outside doing my chores.   She saw me and she came over to me.  She smiled and asked me my name.  She invited me to walk a little of the way with her.

As we walked, I asked her many questions and she answered them.  She told me about the Bridge of Hope Centre.  It sounded like a place where I would like to be. It was my chance to leave home, at least for a while.  I asked her if she could speak to my mother.

I went to the Bridge of Hope Centre once a day—in the afternoons.  The staff was so kind and caring. I was not used to that.  I was used to being abused, neglected and mistreated.  My father abused me since I was five years old.  My mother never loved me because I am a girl.  She loved my two brothers.  Sometimes I wished that I were a boy so that my mother would love me and my father wouldn’t hurt me.

It was not easy at first. I was not doing well in my studies.  I was still hurting inside.  Sometimes I found it hard to concentrate but Rashmi who taught me was very patient with me.  One day, she gently asked me to share my story with her.  I found it hard to talk about it so I drew pictures.  When she saw the drawings, she looked really sad.  I could see the tears in her eyes. That surprised me.  No one had ever cried for me before.  No one had ever felt sorry for me.  When I was at home, I was all alone.  I had no one to share my pain with.  No one cared.  No one asked me anything.  I didn’t matter to them.  But here, I did.

After she put the drawings aside, Rashmi reached out and held my hands.  She looked me straight in my face and said, “I’m so sorry that you went through such pain but I want you to know that you have a Father who loves you.  He saw you suffering and that is why He sent me to you. He loves you with an everlasting love.  He knew you before you were even born.  He knows that you are still in pain and wants and comfort you.  He wants to pour out His love on you if you will let Him.”

When I heard that I had another Father who loved me and wanted to take care of me, I began to cry.  I cried for a while.  Rashmi sat there, holding my hands.  Then, I stopped crying and felt better.  The heavy feeling that I had was not there anymore.  I felt God’s love fill me.  It felt warm.  That is the moment when I gave my heart to God. My work began to improve.

Rashmi taught me from the Bible.  I learned more about God and how much He loved me.  I learned that He gave His Son, Jesus so that I could have eternal life.  I had a Father who wanted what was best for me and who wanted to give me everything I needed.  He would never hurt, mistreat or neglect me.  He promised that He would always be there, watching over me and protecting me.  He was the father and mother I never had.

Jesus became my Friend.  He filled me with a peace that I never had.  He is always there.  When I read about how kind He was to the Samaritan woman, I knew that He would be kind to me too even though I am a girl.  I knew that Jesus didn’t love me less because I am a girl.  He had friends who were women.  He didn’t reject women and I knew that He wouldn’t reject me.

My mother noticed the changes in me. I was no longer sad. I was singing as I did my chores. I tried to tell her about Jesus but she didn’t want to hear about it. She even said to me, “If I hear another word about this Jesus of yours, I will stop you from going back to the centre.” I didn’t talk to her about Jesus after that but for weeks I prayed every night that she would want to know about Him. Weeks went by and then one morning she came to me. She looked scared. “I had a dream last night,” she said. “I was at the river doing laundry when I saw a bright light around me. Out of the light I heard a voice say to me, ‘forsake your gods and follow Me.’ I was afraid but the voice sounded kind so I asked, ‘who are You?’ The voice said, ‘I am Jesus.’ Then He told me again to forsake my gods and follow Him. Tell me about this Jesus.”

I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say at first. God had answered my prayers. Jesus had revealed Himself to my mother. I told her all that I knew about Jesus. Then Sister Mary came to study the Bible with her. My mother accepted Jesus and our lives have changed. We get along better now.

Now I am 15 years old.  I have been going to the centre for three years.  I love it here.  I want to be a teacher so that I could tell other girls about Jesus.  I want to tell them that it doesn’t matter that they are girls.  Jesus loves them.

This story is fictitious but it is the reality for many girls in South Asia.  Many are abused, neglected, mistreated and unloved simply because they are girls. Some run away from home and end up on the streets where they end up begging, forced into child labor, exploited or trafficked or some of them end up in a Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.

From the time they are born, they are mistreated, solely because they are girls. A girl cannot carry on the family name nor aptly provide for her parents when they get old. Additionally, her parents will likely have to go into debt to pay her marriage dowry. Because of this, she is seen as a burden to her family and not a blessing – Gospel for Asia.

Thankfully, some girls who still live at home like the one in this story are invited to the Bridge of Hope Centre while others like Manjulika are placed in Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.  Read her story.

International Day of the Girl is a global and annual event initiated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the plight girls around the world.  This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”

There are nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, each with limitless individual potential, however they are disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in secondary education to protection issues, adolescent girls are uniquely impacted and should benefit from targeted investments and programmes that address their distinct needs. Investing in adolescent girls can have a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030. On this International Day of the Girl, join us in highlighting the unique challenges and potential of adolescent girls – UNICEF.

This is our opportunity to highlight the needs and rights of girls.  Girls face discrimination because of their gender.  They face barriers to education, opportunities to make a living, child-marriages and poverty.   The sad reality is that when we invest in girls, “we create a brighter and safer future for everyone.  When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they are able to lift themselves, their children and communities out of poverty” (Because I Am a Girl).  Girls matter!  They should be celebrated, empowered and encouraged not abused, misused, neglected or exploited.   Invest in a girl today!

There are girls out there who don’t know that there is a God who created them in His image and that they are precious in His sight.  He rejoiced when they were born.  Pray that He will send missionaries to their homes and rescue them from their private hell.  Pray that boys and girls will find refuge at Gospel for Asia supported Children’s homes. Help programs like Bridge of Hope, a children’s program, where they help with the children’s education, provide them with food, medical care, tutoring, clothing, and show them the love of Christ.  Pray that many of these girls and their families will be led to Christ who has the power to “give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death–to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Galatians 1:4).

Celebrate the power and potential of girls!

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; UNICEF; Because I am A Girl

Don’t Be Silenced

Slide1

Matthew 20:29-34

This morning my son and I read the story of the two blind men who were sitting by the side of the road when they heard that Jesus was passing by.  Can you imagine, Jesus passing through the town where you lived?  A crowd is flanking him.  These two men realized that the opportunity of a lifetime is here and they were going to take full advantage of it.  Who wouldn’t?  So, they cried out to Jesus, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David.”

The crowd warned them to be quiet.  Can you believe that?  These poor men were blind.  We don’t know for how long.  They weren’t born blind.  Could you imagine what it must have been like for them?  One day their world was plunged into darkness.  They couldn’t see the faces of their friends and families.  They couldn’t see the trees swaying gently in the breeze or the clear blue sky or the sunlight that warmed their faces.  How they must have longed to regain their sight.  Put yourselves in their shoes.  Imagine not seeingca the faces of your children or the beautiful flowers whose fragrance fills your nostrils.  Imagine losing your sight and living the rest of your life in darkness.  That would be the fate of these men, had Jesus not passed that way.

Being blind meant that these men couldn’t work.  They had to beg for bread now.  They were probably begging by the side of the road when they heard that Jesus was there.  They had heard about Him and what He had done for others.  They believed that He could help them too.  So they cried out to Him in faith.  And when the crowd tried to silence them, they cried out louder.  They refused to keep quiet.  How could they when the answer to their prayers was right there?  In stubborn faith and boldness, they cried out, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David”.

I love the following three words, Jesus stood still.  They had gotten His attention.  Actually, they had His full attention now. He called them to Him and they went.  How their hearts must have been pounding with excitement.  Jesus had heard them and was calling them over to Him.  Wow.

Jesus asked them kindly, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  They said the words that were burning in their hearts, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.”  When Jesus looked at them, He was filled with compassion.  Here were two men standing in front of Him, anxiously waiting for Him to give them their sight.  They were trembling in anticipation of the miracle they knew that only He could perform.  And then they felt the touch.  They felt His fingers on their eyes and immediately they felt a difference.  When He removed His hands, they opened their eyes.  And the first thing they saw was Jesus’ face.  What a sight to behold!  Could you imagine seeing the Saviour’s wonderful face?  Tears of joy must have poured down their faces as they stared at His smiling face.  Joy filled their hearts and they gave their lives to Him that very instant.  They followed Him.

When God places an opportunity within your reach, grab it.  Don’t let others discourage you.  Ignore the naysayers, the doubters and step out in faith.  If you are hurting cry out to Jesus.  He will hear you, stop and call you to Him.  Don’t be silenced.  Cry out.

He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them – Psalm 145:19