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.

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Sources:  James 3:11; Isaiah 41:10

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Compassion

Shortly after Jesus told the Pharisees that God desired mercy not sacrifice, He went into the synagogue.  There was a man with a withered hand.  Instead of being stirred with pity for him, the religious leaders asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” so that they could accuse Him.  Whenever they engaged in dialogue with Him, it was never to learn from His teachings.  It was always to challenge Him and find reasons to accuse Him of being a Sinner.

It must have grieved Jesus to see the lack of compassion among men who considered themselves to be holy and righteous and children of God.  When He looked at them, He saw hypocrites.  And He addressed it.  “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Then how much better is a man than a sheep? Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

He told the man to stretch out his hand and He restored it whole like the other.   The Pharisees were angry and they left, plotting how they would kill Him.  They failed to see that the Sabbath was not just a day of rest but it was an opportunity for helping people.  They had turned God’s holy day into a day of dos and don’ts.  Jesus showed them that there was a different type of work to be done on the Sabbath.  It was community work–reaching out to the needy and the sick.  He showed them that if it was lawful for one of them to pull a sheep out of a pit on the Sabbath, then it should be lawful for a man to be healed.  A human was of greater value in the eyes of God than an animal.

This man was in the synagogue and he had a need.  Jesus saw it and addressed it.  Are there people in our church like this man who has an obvious need but like the Pharisees we see it but will do nothing about it?  Do we resent those who reach out in love and compassion to this person in need?  Do we grumble and complain?  Would God be happy to accept our worship or our offerings when we are not generous toward that person in our midst?  Jesus brought joy to the man.  He brought healing and wholeness and showed him that the God he worshipped cared about him.

Just as Jesus valued this man, we should value those around us.  Sabbath-keeping does not mean that we should ignore the needs of those around us.  The Sabbath is for doing what is good and showing the love of God for His creation.  When we do what is lawful on the Sabbath, we are honoring God.

Loving the Unloved

For I am the LORD who heals you – Exodus 15:26

I read this story and was so touched by this young woman’s love and compassion for others who were experiencing what she once experienced.  When a leprosy patient cried out, “Don’t open my bandage!”, Sakshi revealed her own hands and feet which clearly showed traces of the disease.  She assured the patient the disease was not as result of some sin.  Many people who have leprosy believe that some sin in their lives is the cause.  Sakshi once believed this too.

Sakshi was a teenager when she found out that she had the disease.  As the eldest her younger siblings used to look up to her until she got leprosy.  They abruptly withdrew from her and wanted nothing more to do with her.  Friendless and rejected, Sakshi became depressed and hopelessness drove her to attempted suicide.  Thankfully, her father saved her and encouraged her.  He told her that she was a precious child and urged her to strengthen her heart through the pain and hardship.

“So my papa was becoming so much a comforter to me and he comforted me and even my brother and sister, they used to hate me, and they don’t want to talk with me, they were not in home at that time when I was doing all these things,” Sakshi shared. “So my father, he saw me and he pulled me from there, and he made me understand everything, and after that I became ok.”

After speaking to her father, she gave up trying to end her life but was still experiencing loneliness and it didn’t help that people were blaming her for contracting the disease.  This is similar to what Job himself experienced when he lost his livestock, possessions, servants and children and was covered in painful boils.  He was blamed for what happened to him.  His friends offered him no comfort and told him that he must have committed some evil for all these things to have happened to him.  He was all alone but he clung to his faith in God and God healed him and restored his losses.

Unlike Job, Sakshi had some support but it didn’t stop her from worrying or believing that she had done something to contract the disease.  As time went by, her condition grew worse.  One of her fingers bent in an awkward position and when she experienced terrible pain in one of her legs, the doctors encouraged her to amputate it but she was afraid to do so.  And it was around this time that she met a few Gospel for Asia supported missionaries who encouraged her and prayed for her.  They told her about the about the love of the Healer and Sakshi began to pray in faith and ask Jesus to heal her own body. And her prayer was answered.  Jesus healed her!

After she experienced complete healing, Sakshi decided that she would dedicate her life to serving the Lord and helping others.  She attended Bible college and served in leprosy ministry after graduation.  She made it her mission to reach out to the shunned and the rejected.  “Nobody is there to comfort [the leprosy patients] and to give any kind of encouragement. Nobody wants to love them, hug them or to come near to them to dress them.”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God – 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4

“By seeing them, I am thinking that I will fill the gap,” Sakshi said. “I will give that love, which they are not getting from their grandchildren and daughters… I will become their daughter, I will become their grandchildren, and I will help them and encourage them and I will love them.”  With the love of Christ flowing through her, Sakshi touched the untouchable and despised by doing simple things such as helping them with housework, giving them hugs, washing clothes and combing hair.  She showed them the love of God and how precious they were in His sight.  He has not forgotten them.  God used her testimony to give them hope.  He does not cast people aside because they have leprosy.  When Sakshi cried out to Him in faith, He heard her and answered.  He intervened when she wanted to end her life and through her father, He spoke “words of life into her weary soul”.

January 29 is World Leprosy Day.  You can make a difference in the lives of those who are suffering from this disfiguring disease by helping the Leprosy Ministry to share the love of Christ and the Gospel.  We hope to see more people like Sakshi dedicating their lives to serving Jesus and bringing others to Him.  Be a part of the ministry which reaches out to people who will hear, perhaps for the first time, about a kind and compassionate Savior who is not afraid to touch and hold them.  He loved the unloved.

Show mercy and compassion everyone to his brother – Zechariah 7:9

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Source:  Gospel for Asia

When Sister Mary Prays

And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up – James 5:15

When Sister Mary prays, results happen.  God hears her prayers and answers them. People are healed and lives are transformed.  And God is glorified.

Mary became a prayer warrior after she was healed more than ten years ago from a terribly painful stomach disease.  She and her husband had searched for a cure and had spent large amounts of money for a cure but nothing worked.  Her story sounds remarkably similar to that of the woman who diseased with an issue of blood twelve years.  Like Mary, this woman had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any.  One day, she decided that she would go to Jesus for healing.  She said in her heart, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole” (Matthew 9:20, 21).  In faith she reached out and touched His garment and was healed.

Unlike the woman in the Bible, Mary didn’t know anything about Jesus.  For her, there was no one who could help her.  After several years of pain and no hope of a cure, Mary planned to kill herself.  But Jesus interceded.  He spoke to her in a vision and she experienced God’s power to heal.

Since her healing, Mary has walked in faith and obedience to Jesus by praying for the people in her community.  She knew the incredible power of prayer and how it can change lives.  God worked through her to heal others like Jona.  Jona was in a terrible accident and the prognosis was that he didn’t have a chance to live. But God had other plans for Jona and He healed him.  Now Jona serves Him as a pastor and missionary, bringing others to Jesus just as he was reached by Sister Mary.  Jona vows, “I will carry this good news the rest of my life and serve Him with all my heart.”

Sister Mary is a simple woman who placed her faith and trust in God and now in faith, she is praying for the sick and suffering in her remote village in South Asia.  Watch the rest of her amazing story.  It will encourage you and move you to reach out to those who need to know about the awesome God you worship and serve.

Prayer is a very powerful tool and when it is done in faith, it can move mountains and do the impossible.  Join Sister Mary and others in praying for the people of Asia.  “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16).

When Sister Mary Prays

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous,
And His ears
are open to their prayers – 1 Peter 3:12

Kishori’s Story

leprosy-wld-banner“Today, the diagnosis and treatment of leprosy is easy and most endemic countries are striving to fully integrate leprosy services into existing general health services. This is especially important for those under-served and marginalised communities most at risk from leprosy, often the poorest of the poor” (WHO:  Leprosy Today).

I learned about leprosy from reading the Bible and watching the movie “Ben Hur” but always believed that it was a disease of those times.  After watching Leprosy Mission, I realize that it is very much a reality.  I never saw how disfiguring it was until I watched the faces of men, women and children who were living with it.

I was touched when I read the story of Kishori, a woman who was diagnosed with leprosy during her second pregnancy.  Unable to take medications that would restrict the sickness from spreading she watched as the disease disfigured her arms and legs.

For years the leprosy racked her body with pain.  The medication she took hardly reduced her symptoms and the one hour walk to the hospital where she hoped to find relief took four hours because of the excruciating pain in her feet.  The treatment she received brought some relief but the pain returned when the sores did and Kishori found herself sinking into emotional despair.

Kishori was not abandoned by her husband, Manit but their neighbors were cruel and unfeeling and demanded to know why he kept her with him and didn’t send her home to her parents.  Manit insisted that he would not abandon Kishori and reaffirmed his love for her even though she sided with the neighbors and told him that she would go and live with her parents.  She wondered why he was still married to her.  The words of her neighbors cut her deeply and she shied away from being with others.  She lived in emotional and physical agony, feeling neglected and unwanted.

After decades of living the emotional and physical pain of leprosy, Kishori found relief in an most unexpected way.  Visitors came to her door and offered to clean her sores.  She gladly received Pastor Jiva and another missionary into her home and she saw them everyday as they returned to minister to her.  Her feet and arms soon began to heal.

Kishori and her family listened as the missionaries shared how Jesus could completely heal her.  No doubt they shared the story of the leper who went to Jesus and imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”  Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”  As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed (Mark 1:40-42).

After years, decades of pain and despair, hope became alive in Kishori.  She learned about Jesus who could heal her.  She was encouraged to pray for healing.  She received kindness from Pastor Jiva and the missionaries who continued to visit her and clean her sores. They assured her of Jesus’ love.  As a result of this outpouring of love and compassion, Kishori placed her hope in God.  She and her family are now attending a local church.

This story ends on a very positive note.  Kishori is completely healed of leprosy because of the God in who she had placed her hope and the Jesus whom she had trusted to heal her.  God continues to care for her through the Gospel for Asia’s Leprosy Ministry.  Thanks to this ministry Kishori has received a pair of shoes specially designed for her and other gifts such as mosquito nets, blankets and daily meals.  Life is better for Kishori now.  She is able to care for her family instead of begging on the streets for help.  Her home which was once a place where she hid from society and life, is now filled with laughter and love.

God healed Kishori in body and mind.  He brought hope, love and healing into the life of a recluse.  He showed Kishori that there is a God who cares for her.  Just as her husband could not abandon her because he loved her, God did not abandon her because He loved her.  He sent Pastor Jiva and the missionaries to care for her.

Kishori’s story inspires me.  It reminds me that God cares.  He cares for the neglected and unwanted.  And no matter how long it takes, He will always come through for us.

Help Gospel For Asia to bring hope and God’s healing to another person living with leprosy by visiting their Leprosy Ministry webpage at:  http://www.gfa.org/leprosy.

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Sources:  http://www.who.int/lep/en/; http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/healing-for-the-sores-on-her-soul/