Paul’s Example

Upon his arrival at Rome, Paul was placed in a gloomy dungeon, there to remain until his course should be finished. Accused of instigating one of the basest and most terrible of crimes against the city and the nation, he was the object of universal execration – Acts of the Apostles, p.490

Day 4 of the Great Controversy Tour.  She had decided to come on it with her friend.

A lover of Christian history and travel, it was an opportunity she could not pass up. Today’s focus was on The Early Christian Persecutions.  After a buffet breakfast, they visited the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, Titus’ Arch, the Roman Forum and Mamertine Prison.  The ancient prison is located at the foot of the Capitoline Hill in Rome.  According to the travel guide, the Mamertine Prison had two gloomy underground cells where Rome’s conquered enemies were imprisoned and died, of starvation or strangulation.  It was where the apostle Paul was confined.  She paused to take some photos before going inside.  She took a photo of the sign which read the “prison of the Saints and Apostles Peter and Paul.”

As she began to descend into the dark coldness, she thought of Paul being a sick, old man, cruelly thrown in there and friendless, except for Luke and Onesiphorus whose frequent visits cheered him up.  Luke was a great comfort to him because he enabled him to communicate with fellow believers and the outside world.

It was indeed a very gloomy place.  She shivered.  It was from there that Paul was taken to Nero’s vast judgment hall where he pleaded not for himself but for all the people who could still be reached by the Gospel.  From there he was taken to his execution.  It is believed that Peter also spent his final hours in the prison before he was taken to his execution.

As she listened to the tour guide, she tried to imagine what it would have been like for her to be in prison for her faith.  Would she languish and lose hope or would she be like Paul who wrote such encouraging letters from the prison here in Rome to the different churches.  In his letter to the Philippians, he was rejoicing as he shared his experience. He wrote, “But I want you to know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have resulted in advancing the gospel,  so that my imprisonments in Christ have become known throughout the entire palace guard and to all the rest.  And a great many of the brothers in the Lord, having become confident because of my incarcerations, have dared to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).   He seeing the positive side to all of this.  His adversity brought more people to Christ and his attitude encouraged others.

Could she be like Paul who, although he was in chains, was not chained to his circumstances?  Would her faith hold up?  Then she remembered his words to Timothy: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but everyone forsook me. May it not be charged against them.  But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Timothy 2:16, 17).  Paul was never alone.  God was always present.  

Would God be there for her as He was for Paul?  As if in response to her lingering doubts, Isaiah 43:2 came to her mind, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown.  When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” Peace and comfort filled her heart. She had the assurance that no matter what she will face, God will be there with her just as He was with Paul.

 

Carcere Mamertino-2

Sources:  Sacred Destinations; Bible Hub; Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Roma Today

Joy

Happiness is temporary

It comes and goes…

It’s there when things are going

Well and flees when there is trouble

With happiness, there is no peace.

Always, at the back of your mind is

that fear that it will be snatched away.

Joy, on the other hand, is there

During the ups and downs

It doesn’t depend on the situation

It doesn’t forsake you

It is there when you need

It takes you through the rough

Times.

It is not of this world

It is from heaven

It is ours for the asking

And once you have it,

hold on to it

It is a of the fruit of the

Holy Spirit

With joy comes peace—

The peace of knowing that

No matter what you are

Going through, you

Are not alone

You have our Anchor

To Whom you hold fast

Until the storm passes.

The storms are

Temporary.  In the midst of

Them, you can say to yourself,

“I have set the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.”

You may spend an entire night weeping

But joy will come in the morning.

Hold fast.  Don’t lose faith.  Cling to

That which will last.

womanatwindow-window-curtain-morning.1200w.tn

“But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You” – Psalm 5:11

Sources:  Psalms 16:8, 30:5

Forgive

Does a spring yield at the same opening sweet and bitter water? – James 3:11

The words poured forth like the waters of the dam, gushing out without restraint.  They had been bottled up all morning, threatening to break loose but somehow she had managed to keep them in check.  On the ride home on the bus, she clamped her lips together tightly as the thoughts swirled in her mind.

How could he bring another woman to church and sit in the same pew she and he used to sit in?  She hadn’t seen him since their break-up five years ago.  Why was he here today?  And why couldn’t he have come alone or with a friend?  Why did he have to bring his new girl-friend and sit there, holding hands for everyone to see?

Anger, bitterness well up in her and the worship service was forgotten—the words of the sermon faded into the background.  All she could hear were her thoughts.  All she could see were her ex and the new woman in his life.

How dare he show up at church like that?  She was over him but that didn’t mean that she wanted to see him again so soon and definitely, not with someone else.  She looked at her.  Young, beautiful and…white.

He was with a white woman of all things…A new wave of anger came over her.  How could he?  Was he done with black women?  Had things been so bad between them, that he had to date someone outside of his race?

The service was torture for her and as soon as it was over, she was out of there, rushing past the ushers and the pastor who gazed after her in surprise, his hand outstretched. She sprinted to the bus stop and waited for what seemed like eternity.

As soon as she got home, she let it all out.  She went into the bathroom, locked the door and the words spewed out this went on for a while.  Then when she was spent, a small, still voice said, “You blessed me with your mouth this morning and now you are using it to curse Daryl.  This ought not to be.”

Shame filled her and she sank down on the bath rug.    She had praised God that morning for being faithful and good to her during the praise time and then at the time when she should have listened to His Word, she had thought evil thoughts toward her ex and cussed him in her heart and mind.  Tears poured down her cheeks.  “Forgive me, Lord”, she cried.

“I already have,” He said.  “But you need to forgive Daryl.  You need to let go of the bitterness and anger that you have in your heart.   Only then can you begin to heal.  Do not fear, for I am with you;   do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

His Words filled her heart with peace.  The toxic emotions which had overtaken her were dissipating.   The hurt and anger were still there and would take a while to go away but at least she had God to help her to reach the place where she could find it in her heart to forgive Daryl for breaking up with her and move on with her life.

MarriagePic

Sources:  James 3:11; Isaiah 41:10

At the Mountain

Imagine standing at the foot of Mount Sinai and there were thunder and lightning and a thick cloud on the mountain and the sound of the trumpet fills the air.  In fact, the trumpet was so loud that that you tremble.  You come out of the camp to meet with God at the foot of Mount Sinai which is completely in smoke because the Lord descended on it in fire.  The smoke is ascending like the smoke of a furnace and the mountain quakes.  The trumpet blast becomes louder and louder.

How would you feel?  What would be going through your mind?  Would you be terrified to see the Lord come down upon the top of the mountain?  Would you want to break through and gaze at the Lord at the risk of your life or would you stay as far away as possible, watching the manifestation from a safe distance?  This was the predicament of the Israelites when they camped before Mount Sinai.

Three months after the people left the land of Egypt, they entered the Wilderness of Sinai.  The Lord told Moses to tell them to consecrate themselves for two days, then on the third day, He would go down on Mount Sinai in their sight.  They were warned not to go up to the mountain or touch its base or they will be put to death. Boundaries were set around them which they could not step over.  When they hear the trumpet sound long, they were to go to near the mountain.  God explained to Moses why He was doing this.  “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak to you, and believe you forever.”  The people could not break through the barrier set for them to gaze at the Lord.  Only Moses was allowed to speak to God face to face.

The people were terrified when they saw the thunder and lightning, heard the sound of the trumpet and saw the mountain smoking.  They stood afar off, trembling.  They said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

Moses reassured them, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”  The people continued to stand afar off while he drew near to where God was.

I don’t know how I would have reacted if I were there but I am thankful that today, we can go near God without fear.  Thanks to Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, we can boldly approach the throne of grace.  Jesus made it possible for us to enjoy a loving relationship the same God who descended on the mountain in the wilderness.

God wants us to seek Him.  He promised, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  Do we seek Him or do we stand afar, afraid to get too close?  Do we ask others to talk to Him on our behalf instead of talking to Him ourselves?

Today, I encourage you not to just stand at the foot of the mountain.  Climb it.  God has removed the boundaries that would keep you from Him because of His Son. Don’t let fear or sin or anything keep you from climbing up that mountain to meet your Lord.

Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out (Ezekiel 34:11).

god-descends-on-mount-sinai

Sources:  Exodus 19, 20:18-20

Persistence

Slide1

It is easy to give up when we have been praying for something for a long time but it seems like God is not answering our prayers. We keep on asking Him for the same things but nothing seems to be happening.  We become discouraged and stop asking.

Jesus once told His disciples a story about a persistent widow.   Jesus wanted to illustrate their need for constant prayer and to show them that they must never give up. “There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who was a godless man with great contempt for everyone. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, appealing for justice against someone who had harmed her. The judge ignored her for a while, but eventually she wore him out. `I fear neither God nor man,’ he said to himself, `but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’ ”

Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this evil judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end, so don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who plead with him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when I, the Son of Man, return, how many will I find who have faith?” (Luke 18:1-8)

God does not want us to give up just because we are not getting results. In His own time, He will answer our requests. If we really and truly want something, we will continue to pray about it. The widow really wanted justice so she continued asking for it and she got it. She didn’t get discouraged when she didn’t get it right away. The judge tried to ignore her but she persisted until she wore him out. God will grant us what we ask for. He will not keep putting us off like the judge.

Jesus wants us to keep the faith. He wants us to pray without ceasing. He wants us to be like the persistent widow. Don’t give up on God. He will answer your requests in due time.

 

persistence-pays-off-1140x433

 

Women And Divorce

Divorce-Image

I have heard a pastor advise couples who are entering into marriage to make up their minds that divorce was not going to be an option.  The Bible says that infidelity is the only legitimate reason for divorce.  And it tells us that God hates divorce.  Marriage was meant to be a lifelong commitment.  It is sacred.  It was the first institution created by God.  It existed before sin came into the world. It was God’s design for mankind.  He created Eve for Adam, the first man He made after no companion suitable for him was found among the creation.  God gave Eve in marriage to Adam and blessed them.

My parents are divorced.  They have been divorced for over twenty-five years.  My father remarried but he is no longer with his second wife.  I remember the day when I was standing in the living-room with my parents and I asked my father to stay.  He was planning to leave home.  The marriage had gotten to the point where he wanted to leave.  I asked him to stay but he had made up his mind.  In retrospect, I am glad he didn’t stay.  I wouldn’t have wanted him to stay on my account.  I didn’t want him to remain in a marriage where he wasn’t happy for my sake.  That would have been unfair to him and selfish on my part.

My mother expressed regret some years ago that she and my father divorced.  She had always hoped that she would be married for life.  I remember how wistful she seemed to be missing out on what would have been their twenty-fifth anniversary.   I know that they had problems in their marriage.  There was infidelity and there were times when the other woman called our house.  I don’t know what caused their relationship to go sour.  My mother was very social because she was a part of her company’s drama group.  She was always attending functions.  My Dad didn’t go with her. They seemed to live separate lives even though they were living under the same roof.  They most likely drifted apart.  My mother didn’t want a divorce but my father did.

What causes people to divorce?  One of my co-workers was married a guy she had known for years.  However, they later divorced because they grew apart.  Another co-worker’s son divorced because he and his ex-wife no longer loved each other.   Here are top 10 reasons why couples get divorced.

I have heard of couples divorcing after fifty years of marriage. How is that possible?   Why would they decide to call it quits after spending so many years together?  Al Gore and Tipper shocked everyone when they announced that they were separating after 40 years of marriage.  The signs were not there–at least they were not visible to the public.  Robert Levenson, a psychologist at the University of California who studies marriage across the lifespan stated, “Though every marriage is different, a divorce after 40 years is unusual.  Most divorces occur early in marriage.”

I was shocked when I heard about the split between Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman after 30 years of marriage.   They separated in 2012 but it looks like they are back together again.  They had split because of Danny’s wandering eye.   While an extramarital affair can be a cause for divorce as in the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, there are other less dramatic factors.

Some relationships have been in decline for decades and finally lose all their juice. A marriage doesn’t usually just blow up. It’s more like a balloon that has been seeping air for a long time. After a while, it’s totally deflated.

Another possibility is that a couple’s issues intensify. Most problems are manageable, but then something sends them into hyperdrive. It could be a change in jobs, health, children’s lives, personal ambitions or any number of other triggers. Whatever balance had been achieved is undermined, and with it the ability to handle the issue and still have a decent marriage (AARP).

I have seen relationships suffer because the woman is focusing most of her attention on the children and not enough on the husband.  I watched a show on OWN where the husband felt neglected by his wife and as a result he had an affair.  His affair, of course, devastated his wife.

No one likes to get a divorce.  No one wants to see their marriage end.  It makes them feel like they failed.  Sometimes, women stay in marriages, suffering in silence because they don’t want to get divorced.  They stay put, hoping that things would change–that they would get better.  Of course, they only get worse.  Other women see divorce as their only option.  I read one story where a man was blown away when his wife told him that she wanted a divorce.  He didn’t see it coming at all.  Weren’t there any signs?

Why do women get divorced?  Here are some reasons:

  • “I hurt all the time because I feel alone and abandoned.”
  • “My husband is no longer my friend.”
  • “The only time he pays attention to me is when he wants sex.”
  • “He is never there for me when I need him the most.”
  • “When he hurts my feelings he doesn’t apologize.”
  • “He lives his life as if we weren’t married; he rarely considers me.”
  • “We’re like ships passing in the night, he goes his way and I go mine.”
  • “My husband has become a stranger to me, I don’t even know who he is anymore.”
  • “He doesn’t show any interest in me or what I do.”

I wonder if some of these marriages would have survived if the women had told their husbands how they felt.   What would you do in their situation?   Are you experiencing one of these things? Have you spoken to your husband about it?  Do you think he would want to go with you for marriage counseling or couples’ therapy?

For Christian women, none of the above reasons would be grounds for divorce.  They go against biblical principles.  Divorce is a matter that is to be taken seriously.  Any Christian woman who is considering is encouraged to pray about it and be open to God’s leading.  If she is concerned about whether or not she has biblical grounds for divorce, she should commit the matter to prayer and study and seek counsel from her pastor and a licensed Christian counselor (Focus on the Family).   “…while there may be some situations in which extramarital sex would create such problems in a marriage that divorce would be better than continuing in an unhealthy or even dangerous relationship, in general it would be better to forgive earlier indiscretions (if accompanied by repentance and present faithfulness) rather than to break up what might otherwise still be a good marriage” (Christian Answers.net).

Are there biblical grounds for divorce?  Yes.

Sexual immorality.  If her husband is guilty of having extramarital sex and is not willing to end the affair and work on saving their marriage.

Husband is a non-Christian.  If a Christian woman is married to a non-Christian husband and he insists on a divorce, there is nothing she can do.  And 1 Corinthians 7:15 states, “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart.  A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases:  but God hath called us to peace”.  The Bible warns about marrying a non-believer.  A Christian woman should never marry someone from another religion or even denomination because it may cause problems and worse if children are involved.

If it is the husband who wants the divorce, the woman can’t stop him through the current divorce laws but she could try to persuade him to consider a legal separation which would give them more time to reconsider the matter.  She is encouraged to, “Pray that God will open the lines of communication between you and your spouse and that He will restore the love in your relationship. And pray for patience and a forgiving spirit. Try to resist the temptation to say angry words to your spouse or do things that would push him or her further away. Restoration does occur even in the most hostile circumstances, but it is more difficult when harsh words have passed between you” (Focus on the Family).

How does divorce affect women?  According to Coaching for Divorced Women, they experience the following emotions:

Anger
During all stages of divorce, you might feel intense anger towards your ex. You may be angry with him for leaving you, for not understanding you or for having an affair. At other times, you may be angry with yourself for not seeing the signs, or for allowing him to hurt you, the way he did. It is important to realize that if his actions are continuing to anger you that you have not let go. Even though anger is one of the common emotional effects on divorce, holding onto pent up anger is not hurting your ex at all. He could probably care less that you are angry. You need to forgive him and yourself for the roles each of you played that lead up to the divorce. Forgiveness is the only thing that can set you free to build a happy and fulfilling life.

Guilt
Women are filled with guilt during and after a divorce regardless if they initiated the separation or not. Guilt is one of the common emotional effects of divorce as you might constantly ask yourself if you did everything in your power to make your marriage work. You might be banging yourself over the head on whether or not you made the right decision. If he left, you could be asking yourself what you did wrong. You may feel guilty that you have disrupted the home life of your children. Guilt serves no purpose. Guilt focuses on past events, which are impossible to change. By learning to let go of the past, you are able to look to the future.

Fear
Many women are terrified during divorce. Fear is one of the emotional effects of divorce that women feel in a variety of ways. There are many faces of fear, including fear of the unknown, the fear of making ends meet, the fear of being a single mom, the fear of what other people will think … and the list goes on and on. An acronym for fear is “False Evidence Appearing Real”. This tells you that fear is something you are making up in your own mind by conjuring up a thousand “what ifs”. When you begin to feel fearful, ask yourself what you are thinking and turn the thought around. For example if you are thinking being a single mom is going to be hard, ask yourself why is being a single mom going to be easy. With practice, the fears will dissipate and you will begin looking forward to a wonderful future.

Anxiety
Anxiety and stress is a mixture of many negative emotions, including fear, guilt and anger. Reduce stress by letting go of the fear and learning to deal with what is happening right this moment. Learn techniques to deal with anxiety such as deep breathing, meditating and exercising. Eating healthy also plays an important role in reducing anxiety. Build structures to support a stress free environment such as getting up earlier to get the kids to the bus stop, or cooking enough dinners to last for a week on Sunday. Take responsibility.

Grief
It is natural to be sad and to be sad when your marriage ends. Grieving over the death of your marriage can be a very painful experience, but it is a healthy response. By allowing yourself to go through the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance you will be able to “let go” and be free to create your own future. Get assistance on dealing with the emotional effects of divorce support during this emotional turmoil.

0116_middle-divorce_397x278

Divorce is painful for the couple and children.  It is something God never intended.  Marriage was meant to be a permanent union between a man and a woman.  If you are thinking of getting a divorce make sure this is the right decision.  Sleep on it.  Seek counsel.  If your husband is the one who wants to end the marriage, don’t do what my mother did–try to persuade him to stay.  If he has made up his mind, no amount of begging will change it.  Let him go.  Ending a marriage, especially after so many years together is very, very difficult and it will take time to heal and move on.

Here are some helpful advice that can help you can get you through the end of your marriage financially and emotionally.

Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today? – Mary Manin Morrissey

Sources:  Woman’s Divorce; Marriage Builders; Live Science; Focus on the Family; Live Strong; Coaching for Divorced Women; Christian Answers; Women’s Divorce

In Need of Prayers

In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge – Proverbs 14:26.

The earthquake in Nepal left more than rubble in its wake.  It left heartbreak, loss and uncertainty.

When I look at Drastaa’s weathered face, I see unimaginable pain and devastation.  I see someone who has suffered a crippling loss.  She lost her only grand-daughter.  The girl was only 16 years old.  She had gone in to the forest to gather firewood when the earthquake struck, killing her.  That day when Drastaa woke up, little did she know that her world would be turned upside down and that she would be facing the future alone.

Her life is like a heap of rubble.  She has no idea how she was going to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life.  The odds are stacked against her.  She’s elderly.  She’s a widow.  She can’t work to support herself.  Life for widows in Nepal is hard and they are victims of discrimination, isolation and rejection.  In addition to the stigma that is attached to widowhood, she had to worry about the spreading of diseases because of the unsanitary conditions and the monsoon season which is typically lasts from mid-June to mid-September.  A monsoon can seriously hamper relief and recovery efforts.

“As one whom his mother comforts, So I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13).  Pray that Drastaa will receive this comfort and the help she needs to get back on her feet.  Ask God to reveal Himself to her, letting her know that she is not suffering alone.

Nepal Earthquake Survivor Photo

Leave your fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; And let your widows trust in Me – Jeremiah 49:11.

Nepal Earthquake Survivor Photo

When the earth started shaking, Tarana’s husband rushed inside their home to look for their children, unaware that they were safe outside. The house collapsed on him, and Tarana is now widowed, caring for five children on her own – Gospel for Asia

When I read about what happened to Tarana’s husband, it brought tears to my eyes.  I was touched by this family’s tragedy.  In a matter of minutes, Tarana’s had lost her husband–she was a widow and her five children had lost their father.   He had gone into their home, risking his life the save them.

What is going to happen to Tarana and her children?  They are homeless.  Their house was reduced to rubble.  Where could they go?  Who would help them?  How is she going to rebuild their lives?

I encourage you to pray for Tarana and her children.  Pray for their protection against disease and danger.  I read that in the wake of the earthquakes, the UNICEF is working with the Nepalese government to stop child trafficking as the organization feared that there was a surge in the number of cases.  According to Tomoo Hozumi, a UNICEF representative in Nepal, “Loss of livelihoods and worsening living conditions may allow traffickers to easily convince parents to give their children up for what they are made to believe will be a better life.”  The traffickers promise education, meals and a better future but in reality, many of these children end up being “horrendously exploited and abused.”

As a widow with no source of income and raising five children, it is possible that Tarana could be approached by traffickers, promising her a better future for her children.  Pray that God will watch over them.  He is now the Father of these children and He will guard them.  “…He will save the children of the needy” (Psalm 72:4).

Drastaa, Tarana and all of the other survivors need our prayers.   Gospel for Asia offers these suggestions for prayer requests:

  • Comfort and hope for those grieving
  • Protection from disease and danger
  • God’s provision and sustenance for relief teams
  • Many to understand Jesus’ love

I applaud the work that GFA Compassion Services teams have been doing.  They “have touched many lives through relief events during the past several weeks. They’ve focused on reaching remote, hard-to-reach villages where many lost homes, possessions, and sometimes loved ones.”

If you feel impressed to reach out to these survivors and you want to find more information on GFA’s relief work in Nepal, please visit http://gfa.org/earthquake/nepal.

Now, my God, I pray, let Your eyes be open and let Your ears be attentive to the prayer made in this place – 2 Chronicles 6:40.

Sources:  Global News; The Weather Network; United Nations News; Gospel for Asia