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.

 

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

Asha’s Story

Imagine you are a child and your daily routine is to get up early every morning to go and pick through trash with your mother.  You and your family are “untouchables” in your society which means you are treated as outcasts, undesirables.   You don’t have many options when it comes to jobs so in order to survive, you have to pick through garbage to find plastic bottles to sell. This was Asha’s reality.

Her world was tough, bleak.  She spent her days trudging through streets and alleyways strewn with garbage, hungry because she left home without having any breakfast.  The stench of the heaps of trash and filth assailed her nostrils as she searched for plastic items that could be sold.  She sorted, graded and sold whatever she could find.

When it was time for Asha to go to school she dreaded it because she feared the rejection of her teachers and classmates.  None of the children wanted to sit next to her or play with her.  She alone with no friends.  Asha knew why the others didn’t want to be around her.  It was because she picked trash for a living.  She had no choice.  She was trapped in the cycle of poverty and the door to better future was barred to her.  Asha wanted to learn but she was afraid to go to school.

For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

When Asha’s father heard about a Gospel for Asia supported Bridge of Hope center, he encouraged her to go.  He knew that Bridge of Hope offered help to people in need, especially to those whom society considered to be the lowest of people and he knew that the Bridge of Hope Center would care for her and provide her with the things he couldn’t.

Asha showed up at the Bridge of Hope carrying a plastic bag full of school books, dressed in tattered and smelly clothes, her face dirty and unwashed.  Unlike the reception she normally received at school, Asha was welcomed by the staff.  They loved and cared for her.  They took the time to help her to keep neat and clean.  She was given a backpack to replace her makeshift book bag and then school supplies and other useful gifts.

Within a year, Asha’s life was completely transformed.  She was fast learner and developed strongly in her studies.  She no longer went hungry as every school day she enjoyed a meal at the center.   Thanks to the staff, Asha has learned how to keep herself clean and she participates in all the activities at the center.  Her Dad couldn’t be happier,  “My daughter is getting her daily needs met through the Bridge of Hope center.  Now she is having good food, and she is healthy now.  We are very happy to see her growth.  She feared to go to school, but now she is never absent from school.”

Asha no longer has to pick up trash or feel alone and rejected by teachers and other students.  Instead she thrives under the love and attention she receives at the Bridge of Hope center and is excelling at school.  The door that society had barred her from because of her background, God cleared through Bridge of Hope.   Hope for a better future was now in her grasp.   No more trading plastic bottles.  No more rummaging through garbage to maintain the family because her father was paralyzed and couldn’t provide for them.

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You can help other children like Asha to have a better life, a bright future by supporting the Bridge of Hope centre.  Bridge of Hope is reaching out to the hopeless and rejected “through education, daily meals,  character-building activities, lessons on good hygiene, and by setting positive examples of love and good morals.  There is a bridge for these children that gives them a chance to rise above the cycle of hopelessness they have always known.”

Help to give hope.  Sponsor a child today.

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“The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”
– B.B. King

 

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; The Borgen Project

Going Back

She stood across the road

Making sure no one saw

Her.  They didn’t seem

To notice her.  They were

Greeting one another as

They climbed the stairs

And went through the

Open doors.

 

It was a beautiful day

Sunny and comfortable

She was wearing a new

outfit.  The one she bought

A week ago.  She got her hair

Done yesterday.

 

It had been

Five years since she set foot

Into the church she had been

A member of from childhood.

 

Her heart was pounding heavily

And her stomach was in knots.

To say that she was in a state

Of qualm was a gross understate-

Ment.  What on earth was she

Doing here?  She should turn around

And get away from there as fast as

She could.

 

What kind of reception

Would she get?  She had been a

Member with good standing until

She got pregnant…She had to give up

Her involvement in the ministries she

Was in charge of and rather than be

The topic of discussion at the business

Meeting so she chose to give up her

Membership.  She left the church and

Had her son.  Her heart melted as she

Thought of the little boy who had

Brought so much joy into her life.

 

She never planned to have a child

Before marriage but it just happened.

And unfortunately, things didn’t work

Out for Ryan’s Dad and her.  They split

Up a year after Ryan was born.

Now she was a single mother raising a

Rambunctious 4 year old and loving

Every moment of it.  He was with her

Mother who had encouraged her

To go church today.  “You walk in there

and remember that you are not alone.”

 

As she stood there now, debating whether

Or not to cross the road and step into

The sanctuary, these words came

To her mind, “But thou, O Lord, art a shield

For me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine

Head.”

 

She felt the uneasiness

Subside and God’s peace come over her.

She quickly ran her hands over her hair,

Smoothed her coat and crossed the road.

She hesitated for a brief moment at the

Doorway and then walked in.

 

Nervously, she approached the two greeters.

When they saw her, they looked

Surprised and delighted…

 

“Jennifer, it’s really good to see you.”

They both hugged her and as one

Of them handed her a bulletin, she

Said, “we are having a special lunch

For visitors today so you’re more than

Welcome to stay.”

 

She smiled.  “Thanks.”  She wasn’t ready

to socialize with them just yet.  She was

going to take this one step at a time.

 

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Source:  Psalm 3:3

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

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

Love’s Ultimate Sacrifice

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; He has put him to grief.
    If he made himself as an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days,
    and the good pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand – Isaiah 53:10

Jesus on the cross

Whenever I watch the scenes of Jesus getting beaten, mocked and nailed to the cross, I cry.  It hurts to see the suffering and humiliation He went through.  Yet, it says that it pleased the Father to crush Him and make Him suffer.  Why?  It was the Father’s will that His Son would carry out the plan of salvation.  It pleased God that His Son willingly offered Himself.  Jesus explained why the plan of salvation was so important to the Father.   “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).  God bestowed His Son as a Gift.  He didn’t send Him into the world to condemn us but to save us and to give us life.   And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11).  

When God gave us His Son, He gave us much more than we could even imagine or deserve.  Paul said, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Can you imagine, instead of facing death for your sins, you receive the gift of life instead?  Instead of facing God’s wrath, you receive His grace?  This is why it pleased God to offer up His Son.  When Jesus laid down His life, He provided a way for us to be reconciled to the Father.  Sin had separated us from Him.  We were God’s enemies yet, He showed His love for us when He sent His Son to die in our place (Romans 5:8).  God wanted to reconcile with us but that could only happen through Jesus’ death.  Without the shedding of blood, there could be no forgiveness or pardon from sin (Hebrews 9:22).  It pleased God to send His Son, “in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14).

God’s love for us is so profound that He went to great lengths to save us.  How many of us would have made such a supreme sacrifice?  Yes, the plan of salvation brought great suffering to Jesus but the reward is that those who believe in Him will not perish but will have everlasting life.  Yes, it pleased God to set us free from sin and this freedom can only be found in His beloved Son. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much that You sent Your precious Son to suffer and die in our place.  He died so that we could live.  He bore and died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to You.  Thank You for Your grace and unfailing love and mercy.  Thank You for the gift of salvation.   In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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