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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Saved by Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

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Scala Sancta (Pilate’s Staircase) in Rome

Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase.  Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step.  It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.”  It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.

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Figures of Pilate and Jesus at base of Scala Sancta

At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate.  Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!”  This reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15).  By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith.  Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.  

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Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther in the movie, Luther

It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther.  It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works.  One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:  ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:17.  He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror.  The text never lost its power upon his soul.  From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.  His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy.  When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.” 

Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.”  However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity.  His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation.  He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God.  Today, where are you placing your faith?  In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Great Controversy; Wikipedia

Madira’s Healing

This story is similar to the woman with the issue of blood.  She had suffered for twelve years and the doctors couldn’t help her although she had spent her money on them. Finally, she had sought out the only One who could.  In faith, she touched the hem of His garment and was healed.  Madira was suffering from an unknown sickness.  The doctors could not ease her pain so she turned to witch doctors whose prescribed methods failed to work.  After six years elapsed, they gave up and for years, Madira continued to suffer.

Then, one day in the midst of her pain, Madira remembered the gift her brother had given her sixteen years ago.  It was a Bible.  It was the last resort.  She and her family had tried everything possible to end her suffering, but so far, nothing had worked.

She pulled her son aside and asked him to bring the Bible and read it to her.  As he read to her from it, something miraculous happened.  The pain left Madira’s body and she was able to sleep through the night.  It was possible now for her to move without the struggle and discomfort.  The words filled her with a peace she had never experienced before and brought healing to her tired body.  This stirred within her a desire to know who Jesus was.

One day they met Seth, a Gospel for Asia supporter serving their area with whom they explained their problems to.  He told them about Jesus’ love and how He was the great Healer and Restorer.  He promised them that if they believe in the name of Jesus Christ, Madira would be healed.  However, after years of discouragement and treatments that didn’t work, they were not hopeful.  Seth encouraged them not to worry because God does the impossible for all who believe in His name.

The family decided that since there was no hope anywhere else they would go to church and learn about God’s love.  There they met pastors and believers who prayed regularly for Madira.  Within a few weeks, God healed her completely.  He had answered their prayers.

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

Through the fervent prayers of His people, God healed Madira.  This all came about when Madira remembered the Bible which contained the living, breathing Word of God. She discovered its great value and in its pages, the God who wanted to reveal His love to her.  It was able to do what the doctors and the witch doctors were unable to do–bring relief and peace from her pain.

God’s Word is powerful and it still impacts the lives of those who are in possession of it. Help Gospel for Asia to put the Word of God in the hands of more families in Asia so that like Madira and her family, their lives can be impacted too.

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Sources:  Gospel for Asia; Bible Gateway

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

Giving

It was one of the highlights in her life.

To organize a donation drive and then

make arrangements for the delivery

of the clothes and other items she

received from the church members

and to see the faces of the staff

when she dropped them off.

 

It was an opportunity to teach

her daughter Kayla about

caring for those who

were less fortunate.  Kayla’s

face lit up every time they

got out the boxes and went

through the toys and clothes

that they were going to give

to the women and children

in the homeless shelter.  Kayla

was more than willing to give

away her toys and books.  “It

will make them and Jesus happy,”

she explained.

 

Once Kayla went with her to the

shelter and on their way home

she asked, “Mommy, why do

people live in shelters?”

 

“Sometimes things are so bad

at home that they have to leave

and find somewhere else–a place

where they feel safe.  The shelter

protects them from harm.”

 

“I’m happy that things are good

at home, Mommy.  I am happy that

I have somewhere to live.  I wouldn’t

want to live in a shelter.”

 

She smiled.  “Yes, Kayla.  We have

so much to thank God for because

He has blessed us so now we are

blessing others.  Those who

are living in the shelters are

thankful too.  They have shelter,

food, clothes and other things

they need.  And when we help

them, it is as if we are helping

Jesus.  It is always good to help

people.  When we help them

by donating what we have,

there is a feeling that we are

doing the right thing and we

are making God proud.  God

is always proud of you when

you help people.”

 

“When I grow up, I want to

help as many children and

their mommies as I can.”

 

She smiled.  Lord, bless

her little heart for wanting

to be a blessing to others.

And thank You for showing

her that it is more blessed

to give than to receive.

 

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The Widow

Woman, widow, mother,

poor, invisible, substandard.

Unloved, neglected, shamed.

Blamed for her husband’s

death.  Alienated by his

family.  Believed to be cursed.

 

Life for a widow

in her society is tough,

unsympathetic and

unbearable.  Suicide

seemed to be the only

relief and release from

the pain but God had

other plans.  He sent

three female missionaries

to her village.

 

They spoke to her about

a Savior who loved her.

She listened.  This God

was unlike any of her

Her gods didn’t seem to

care about her.  She had

prayed to them, sacrificed

to them but there was no

answer.  Her cries seem to

fall on deaf ears and they

didn’t try to stop her when

she thought of ending her

life but this God did.  He

sent help.  He sent these

three women to tell her

about Him.  He was the

God who is the defender

of widows.  He said, “And

let your widows trust in Me.”

 

Yes, she trusted this kind and

loving God who didn’t see

her as substandard but

precious in His sight.  He

loved her with an ever-

lasting love and promised

never to leave her or forsake

her.  Her heart filled with

love for this God and His

Son who gave His life for

her.

 

She heard the story of

Jesus had pity on the

mother whose son died.

She was a widow and had

no one to care for her now.

Jesus raised her son back

to life and the tears of sorrow

turned to tears of joy.  She

knew that this same Jesus

would have compassion on

her and care for her.

 

Now, thanks to donations

pouring into the ministry

which had sent the missionaries

to her village, she is now able to

take care of her children with

a sewing machine.  She didn’t have

to depend on relatives who didn’t

want to help her.  She depended on

the God who had saved and

transformed her life.

 

Indian widow

 

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia

 

The Afternoon Tradition

As she drank her tea, she thought of her grandmother.

Grams would have turned 90 today.  How she missed her.

It was Grams who got her into the habit of drinking tea

in the afternoons.  She thought of the times when she

used to walk over to Grams’ house after school and sit

at the table and watched as she poured the hot tea into

two large cups.

 

Earl Grey was Gram’s favorite.  She had her reasons why.

And she loved to list them.  “It has many benefits, Steffi,” she

would say.  “It calms your nerves, improves your immune

system, helps your digestion, keeps you alert, which is good

for people my age,” she paused to chuckle at that remark

before she continued, “It boosts your metabolism, improves

your heart health, prevents cancer, keeps you hydrated and

protects your teeth.  And it tastes good.”

 

Stephanie had to agree.  Earl Grey had a fruity flavor and

didn’t taste as bitter or strong as the other types of black

tea.   So, it was over a cup of Earl Grey tea that she was

remembering her grandmother who passed away from

natural causes two years ago.

 

It was during those afternoon visits that Grams would

talk to her about the Bible.  The book of Proverbs was

her favorite.  “It has lots of good advice for all of us,

especially for young people.” And she would read

to her.

 

As Grams sipped her tea, Stephanie would talk to

her about school, growing up and boys.  She told her

about the annoying boy in school who was always pulling her

hair and doing things to upset her.  When Grams told her

that he did these silly things because he liked her,

she was shocked but Grams was right.  She was

always right.  She had so much wisdom.

“I get it from reading God’s Word,” she

said and “I ask Him for it too.”

 

Grams was the first one in her family

to meet the man she ended up marrying.

He was that same annoying boy from school.

Grams was  the first to hold their newborn

baby.  Sometimes she suspected that her

mother was a little jealous of the closeness

she had with her grandmother but Grams

never judged her or made her feel bad when

she made bad decisions but was always there

to encourage her.   It was Grams who had

faith in her when no one else did, including

herself.  And it was Grams who led her to

Jesus.

 

Their afternoon tea tradition lasted

through high school, college and even

after she got married.

 

She smiled as she sipped her tea.  Yes, she

missed her grandmother but she knew

she would see her again on the blessed

day when Jesus comes again.  Until then,

she would continue to enjoy a cup of

Earl Grey tea in the afternoons and

remember her beloved Grams.

 

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Source:  Your Tea Headquarters