The Christian Faith

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men” – Mark 1:17

The Christian faith has mushroomed into what it is today thanks to men and women who were willing to let the Holy Spirit work in and through them to share the Gospel with others.  It all started with two men–one was Andrew and the other was Philip.  After each man encountered Jesus, they went and told others about him.  When Andrew found his brother, Peter he said to him, “We have found the Messiah.” And Philip declared to his friend, Nathanael,“We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:41, 45).

Then, Peter and Nathanael were taken to meet Jesus.  How do we follow the example of what Andrew and Philip?  We tell our families, friends and co-workers about Jesus and share the Bible with them.  It is through reading the Bible that they meet Jesus.  We introduce them to Him but they have to get to know Him for themselves.

One of my favorite stories is the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman.  She went to the well to draw water at a time of the day when she wouldn’t run into other people.  Married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband, she wasn’t exactly the pillar of society.   She didn’t expect to see Jesus there.  She could tell that He was a Jew and was surprised when He asked her for a drink of water as Jews didn’t have any dealings with Samaritans.  And she was a woman.

Jesus spoke to her, telling her what true worship was and salvation.  When He told her things about herself that a stranger could not have possibly known, she thought He was Prophet.  Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah and excited, she left her water-pot and ran into the city to tell the people there, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”  Like Andrew and Philip, the woman met Jesus, went and told others about Him before bringing them to Him.  Many of the people believed in Jesus because of her testimony.   The woman discovered that despite the fact that Jesus knew everything about her, He loved her.

Does your neighbor know that there is a Savior who loves him or her and wants to reach out in love and forgiveness to him or her?  This encounter between Jesus and the woman was an example of how the Gospel should transcend racial and gender barriers.  The Gospel is for everyone.  Salvation is for everyone.  We must not allow our prejudices to get in the way of spreading the love of Christ to those who need it.

So, we see a progression here.  The mission field begins at home, with our relatives and then spreads to our friends and then our neighbors.  It follows what Jesus said to His disciples when He sent them out to preach and minister to others.  “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5, 6).  The Jews were to receive the Gospel first and then the Gentiles and Samaritans.  It makes sense that we witness to those closest to us first and then to others.

Once we are willing and open to His leading, God will find opportunities for us to share the Gospel.  He did so with Peter on the Day of Pentecost and Paul when he was in Athens.  After the Holy Spirit filled the disciples, they began to speak in tongues.  The crowd marveled when they heard them speak in their own language.  Some, however, mocked them, accusing them of being drunk.  Peter used their remarks as an opportunity to give a sermon.  He spoke of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.  The people were convicted and they asked Peter and the other disciples what they should do and Peter’s answer was, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Many were baptized and about three thousand people became Christians on that day.

We may encounter skeptics but, instead of becoming discouraged, we can do what Peter did and use their unbelief as an opportunity to share our faith.  As Paul said, we are to “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).  When Paul was in Athens, he saw that the city was given over to idols.  Provoked, he reasoned with the Jews in the synagogue and the Gentiles in the marketplace.  He spoke to them about the resurrection of Jesus.  They took him to the Areopagus, curious to hear his doctrine.

Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and addressed the people, acknowledging that they were religious because of the objects of worship and the altar they had built to the Unknown God.  He revealed to them who the true God was.  He was the “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.  Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things.  And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,  so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  

Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

When some of them heard the word “resurrection”, they began to mock him while others wanted to hear him speak further on the matter.  And others believed in what he said and joined him, among them a woman named Damaris (Acts 17:23-34).

Paul was prepared to share the truth about the God he worshipped and he used what he saw around him to do so.  He wanted the people to turn from their idols and worship the true God who wanted them to seek Him while He could still be found.  We can use whatever is at our disposal to share the truth about God with others.  Many people still have a negative opinion of God but we can change that by reaching out to them in love, compassion and sharing our testimonies of His goodness.

As in Jesus’ day, the Christian faith is growing and will continue to grow.  Although it is under attack and many believers are facing persecution, imprisonment and even death, it will continue to spread and transform lives until Jesus returns.  We can do our part by reaching out to those around us.  Each one can reach one.  We can do it through handing out literature, through social media, blogging, websites or witnessing in person.  God will give us the means and the opportunities to further His ministry.  All we have to do is to be ready and willing like Andrew, Philip, the Samaritan woman and Paul.

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Sources:  Biblegateway; Blue Letter Bible

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Dealing With Our Enemies

The angry voices in the crowd rose to a crescendo, “Crucify Him!” drowning out Pilate’s protest.  They wanted Him dead.  They had delivered Him up and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go (Acts 3:13).  Yet, this was all in fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation.  The innocent was put to death for the guilty. The people had asked Pilate to put Him to death although they had no legitimate cause to do so (Acts 13:28).  They were motivated by envy (Mark 15:10).

He hung on a cross like a common criminal and they mocked Him, urging Him to save Himself.  “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). Little did they know that it was because He was the Son of God, that He didn’t save Himself by coming down from the cross.  He stayed there for their sake and ours.  He took the punishment we deserved.

It must have wounded Him to hear the jeers but the same love that made Him willing to lay down His life was the same love that infused Him when He cried to the Father, Fatherforgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He was not overcome by their evil but He overcame it with good (Romans 12:21).

Jesus is our perfect example of how to deal with our enemies.  We don’t let their insults or wrongdoing get the better of us.  We rise above their evil intentions and follow Jesus’ advice “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).  He never said that it was going to be easy but as His followers and the children of God, we must make the effort.   And the Holy Spirit is there to help us.

The apostle Paul tells us how to deal with our enemies by quoting Proverbs 25:21, 22. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”  In acting contrary to what your enemy expects such as showing them love and kindness, it will stir feelings of shame and remorse. As Christians, we don’t treat people as the world does.  We treat them as Jesus would.

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Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Bible Hub

A Changed Life

Christ [redeemed] me, and He will [redeem] you also!

These words rang out loud in the marketplaces.  Myo Zaw made the impassioned plea to the crowd.  He was like Wisdom crying out in the marketplaces and pleading with the people to come her.  Myo’s message was one that the people needed to hear. He was on fire for Christ and he couldn’t hold it in.  It wasn’t always like this.

Before Myo Zaw encountered Christ he was the village drunk who got into fights with people and beat his wife and children.  The people who knew him thought he had gone insane, however, it was not madness that drove Myo to proclaim the message of redemption but the love of God which consumed him like a fire, refusing to be quelled.  He traveled throughout his region, sharing the Word of God, telling people, “how a sinner like me was found by God.”

“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” – Luke 18:27

Within three years, he had visited 100 communities, encouraged by his wife’s letters. In them, she wrote, “If your life can change by Christ, there is no one who cannot be changed by Christ.  So wherever you are going and sharing the Word of God, we are here to pray for you. I believe people will be changed by the love of Christ.”  And she was right about the people.  350 heard the message about Christ’s love, saw how it manifested in Myo’s life and they were changed.

Myo believed that his mission was the share the love of Christ which had transformed his life and that it was God’s will for him to go to a missionary in an area where people were unfamiliar with the Lamb of God.  He and his wife prayed about it and ten years later God sent them to the southern region of their country as Gospel for Asia supported missionaries.

At first when the people in the community learned that Myo and his family were Christians, they wanted nothing to do with them.  They forced the family out of the community.  They threw stones at their home, threatening to penalize anyone who spoke to the Christians and the children faced discrimination because of their faith. Myo and his family were  seen as enemies but in the midst of it all, they saw God’s grace working in their lives, getting them through these trials.  They trusted Christ during their hardships and through the ministering of the Holy Spirit, they learned how to love the people in their new community.

They reached out to the people by showing them movies that they liked to watch, teaching the children songs and caring for them.  When the parents saw the love of the couple for the community, they were amazed and they began to talk to them at the market.  This gave Myo and his wife the opportunity to share Christ’s love with them.  They cared for the sick and took people to the hospital as needed.  When flood waters destroyed homes and livelihoods, the couple and other GFA supported workers helped to provide relief.

Myo visited people and encouraged them by offering words of hope and life in Christ.  Through his actions, he proved that he was a redeemed man.  The love of Christ had transformed him from a drunk and abusive husband and father to a missionary of God.  The same love that had Christ had shown him he wanted to show to others.  Like the apostle Paul, he was filled with a zeal for the Lord who “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Myo realized that greatest weapon is love.  It can transform hearts and lives.  It can destroy the strongholds which beset people who have no knowledge of Christ and kept them in spiritual darkness.  Once the love of Christ is revealed it lives are changed–despair gives way to hope and darkness to light.

Like Myo, ask God to use you to share the love of Christ with others.  Be a light in the world.  Shine for Jesus and let those around you or wherever God sends you know that no matter what state they are in, “He will redeem you also!”

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Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada

Temptation

She stood on the precipice overlooking the ocean.

Her gaze fixated on the waters as they ebbed and flowed

much like the desires that raged inside her.   The drop to

the foaming waters was long and it made her think of the great

distance that would exist between God and her if she gave into

temptation.  Her feelings were like the rushing waves that threatened

to sweep her away if she gave in…

 

In her mind, she heard wisdom, calling out to her, “Listen to me.  Don’t

ignore what I say.  Turn around and come to me and you will have life.

Ignore me and you will be in danger.”

 

She felt the pull of good judgment but the desires of her heart resisted,

luring her closer to the edge…Why was it wrong if she gave in?  After all,

she and Patrick were engaged.  If they decided that they would go all the

way now instead of waiting until the wedding night, surely, that was ok, right?

They loved each other and waiting was agony…they just wanted to take their

love to another level.

 

Yet…reason seemed to conspire against her, reminding her of

her vow to remain celibate until she was married.  And if

that weren’t enough, she heard Paul’s admonition:  “Do you not know

that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you

have received from God, and that you are not your own?  You were bought

with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit,

which are God’s.”

 

Try as she did, she couldn’t drown out the voices of wisdom, reason

or Paul…With a start, she realized that she was standing a little too close

to the edge.  She quickly backed away, her eyes fixed above and not

below.  Her lips moved in silent prayer.  After a while the tempest that

raged in her quieted.  The momentary lapse of judgment was abated.

Reason had won.  She could wait.  And if that meant not being alone

with Patrick until their wedding in two weeks, so be it.  She knew he would

understand.  They loved each other, yes, but they loved the Lord more.  And

until they were married, their bodies belonged to Him.

 

She found a grassy part and knelt down to thank God for pulling her back

from the edge.

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Source:  1 Corinthians 6:19, 20

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.

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“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

Persecutions in Pakistan, Jordan and Niger

I received these recent persecution and prayer alerts from The Voice of the Martyrs Canada.  Please take time to read each one.  Pray for the loved ones of those who died for their faith and pray for those who are suffering for their faith.  Visit each story’s link to find out more and to see what you can do to help.  Each one of us can make a difference.

Water

World Water Day is Saturday, March 22, 2014.  It is held annually on March 22nd to raise awareness of the importance of freshwater and the sustainable management of freshwater resources.  Water is essential.  People, animals, plants need it.

I live in a country where I have access to clean water.  I can drink filtered water, bottled water or boiled water.  When my five year old son is thirsty, I can give him filtered water from our fridge.  I grew up in Guyana, South America and there were times when we had to draw water from the tap in the yard in order to bath but it had fluoride or chlorine to kill impurities.   “The amount of chlorine is carefully measured to be the lowest possible amount needed to keep the water free of germs. In some places fluoride is also added. It has been found to help prevent tooth decay. Some natural water sources already contain fluoride so this step is not always included”  (Water Purification, Guyana Water Incorporated).

Imagine living in a community where there is no clean water for you to drink, cook, wash or bath with.  Your only two options are to die of thirst or to get sick or die from dirty water.  These are the grim choices that men, women and children are forced to make in Asia.  They don’t have the privilege we do of having clean tap water.  As a result illnesses caused by dirty water kill more people each year than war and violence.  One of nine people worldwide don’t have access to clean water and many of them live in South Asia.

Gospel for Asia has combated this problem of clean water by digging Jesus Wells and providing BioSand Water filters to people across South Asia who have no access to clean, fresh water.  This simple act of providing wells for people who are starving for clean water that there is a Savior who loves them and wants them to be healthy and safe.  Many are putting their trust and faith in Him.

It was this faith in Christ that brought upon Chandrabhan and his family intense persecution from their community.  They were blocked from drawing water at the public well.  This all began when Chandrabhan’s daughter decided that like her parents, she wanted to follow Christ much to her husband’s chagrin.  Furious Nadir recruited religious fanatics to storm into his in-laws’ house to remove his infant son from his mother’s care.  He had decided that he didn’t want his wife to return home with him after all.  He just wanted their son.

The group of men who accompanied Nadir beat the family and demanded that they renounce Jesus Christ.  Chandrabhan sustained a serious blow to the head as his son-in-law forcibly removed his son from the house.  Nadir’s wife Laghuvi watched as the ambulance took her family away while the welfare of her son weighed heavily on her mind.

Chandrabhan came home with 12 stitches but his troubles were just beginning.  When word spread in the village of what had happened, the victims became the villains.  The villagers accused him and his wife of placing their religion above the well being of their daughter, Laghuvi who had filed for a divorce.  Some wondered, “What is there in Jesus more than an son-in-law?  Don’t they care about their daughter’s life?”

In spite of the persecution and their neighbors’ opinion that their actions were foolish and even cruel, Chandrabhan and his family continued to trust God.  This led to friends cutting their ties, declaring, “If they don’t want to compromise with their daughter’s life, we will not have fellowship with them.”  Through it all, the Friend who sticks closer than a brother was there for the family.

Not satisfied with isolating them, the community took their vendetta a step further by blocking them from the pubic well.  If any family member approached, they were met with scolds.  The closet place they could go to for water was at a school over half a mile away and they couldn’t draw enough for themselves and their livestock.  This was their punishment for receiving the Living Water.

“And the LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him” (Psalm 37:40).  In the midst of this turmoil, the Holy Spirit impressed upon Chandrabhan’s heart to ask his pastor about getting a well that would be open to everyone.  After the pastor talked this over with his leaders, a year later, a well was drilled behind Chandrabhan’s house.

The Jesus Well turned things around for this family who had suffered for their faith.  They were no longer condemned by their community but appreciated and respected.  The family welcome their neighbors to the well and more than 30 families use it regularly.  And at the Jesus Well, over buckets of water, some people have come to know about Christ and His unfailing love just by talking to the man they once saw as a villain.

In the wake of persecution, isolation, condemnation, Chandrabhan and his family reflected the love of Christ which dwelt in their hearts by wanting to share their well with others.  They shared their faith with those who had not yet received the Living Water.  The Jesus Well not only restored the family’s reputation but it changed lives forever.

Sadly, Laghuvi still hasn’t seen her son or her ex-husband but the Lord has come through for her by blessing her with a new husband who shares her faith.  With Jesus at the center of her life, she will experience indescribable joy.

Do you want to see God transform lives in hostile villages as He did in Chandrabhan’s village?  You can by providing a Jesus Well to an entire community for $1,000.  You can donate to Jesus Wells.  People are thirsty.  In the village of Chaitaly, a woman whose illness of 12 years baffled doctors, the local well was running low and the people were dying from dehydration and waterborne illnesses.  They were desperately searching for a fresh source of water and rationing the little they could find.  Read how the Lord brought healing to Chaitaly and miraculously provided clean water for these villagers.  You can demonstrate the love of Christ through the Jesus Well so that not only will people draw water from the well but they will draw near to the One who provides it.

A Jesus Well provides pure water for an entire village full of thirsty people for only $1000.  With clean water, the health of the people improves significantly.  Through the provision of clean water, villagers are open to hearing about the God who loves them and provides for their needs.

Join Gospel for Asia in this wise investment of drilling a well for only $1000.  Help the people of Asia who are living without clean water and dying from water related diseases.  Help save children under five in the world from deaths caused by diarrhea.  Save the women around the globe who spend millions of hours a day collecting water.  You can make a difference.  With your help, Gospel for Asia can continue to deliver clean, disease free water to families across South Asia. Help open people’s eyes to a God who has not forsaken them but is revealing His love, power and provision through Jesus Wells.

   

Sources:  www.gfa.org/water; http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/her-husband-kidnapped-their-son; http://www.gfa.org/news/articles/a-village-starving-for-water; http://www.gwiguyana.com/?q=node/31