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.

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Healing and Hope

I first heard of the Bridge of Hope program when I became a blogger for the Gospel of Asia Ministry.  I have read stories of children whose lives seemed hopeless until they were enrolled in this program where they were given a chance for a better future.  They were provided with daily meals, regular medical check-ups and a quality education so that one day they would be able to get good jobs and provide for themselves and their families.  And most importantly, they learned about Jesus.

One day an illiterate man went to the Bridge of Hope centre with a strange request. Would the staff there send the “medical doctor named Jesus” to help his sick wife? how did this man know that Jesus could heal the sick?  He learned this from a little boy named Nibun, a first-grader.  Nibun listened as his teachers talked about Jesus healing the sick, delivering people from evil spirits and feeding the hungry.  It was Nibun’s father who came with the strange request.  It was Nibun’s mother who was sick.

The family was poor.  They lived in a mud hut and couldn’t afford to go to a hospital.  Most of the doctors were miles away.  It was too long of a trek on a dirt path through the woods, especially for a sick person.  Nibun’s mother was very ill.  His father tried to do everything he could.  He cried out to his gods to help her but she got worse until she became critical.  It was then that Nibun told his father about Jesus, but the man thought that there was a doctor with that name working at the Bridge of Hope centre.

The staff at the centre responded to the father’s desperate request and went with him to his home.  They talked to the family about Jesus and His love, sacrifice and power to heal.  Then, they laid hands on the woman and prayed to God to heal her. And He did.  The news soon spread throughout the small village and several people came to know the Lord that week and the following week more families placed their faith in Jesus.  Families are attending a local church where they are growing in God’s grace and increasing their knowledge of Jesus.

Many lives were changed because of a little boy who learned about Jesus at the Bridge of Hope centre and believed that He could heal his mother.  This program not only brings hope to children like Nibun but it transforms communities.  It brings the light of God’s love and the hope found only in Jesus Christ to many people.

Living in Slums

I told them that even if their situation seems like a mountain, God is mightier than the problem – Nitya

Can you imagine being so poor that you live in a shack made of cardboard and plastic?  What if you had to struggle daily just to survive?  Imagine sharing a shanty with ten other families because you and your family can’t afford your own space?  This is the reality for people in India who dwell in slums.

25-population-slums

In India, slums are growing rapidly.  Millions are living in extreme poverty and everyday is a struggle for survival.  They are trapped in a world filled with desperation and hopelessness.  Open sewage, polluted water, lack of healthcare, illiteracy, superstition and diseases such as tuberculosis and AIDs are some of the problems they face.  It is a constant battle for them to find or keep a job.  No job meant that they would have to beg, scavenge or turn to prostitution.  It’s worst for them if they were too sick or too old to work because there was no social agency to help them to survive.  This is why many of them turned to alcohol for solace.  When the men drowned their sorrows and fears in alcohol, their wives and children were left to fend for themselves.  One woman who was a tailor had to work outside because there was not enough room in her tiny hut.

People should not be living like this.  And this is why God had to intervene.  He did so through a man named Nitya.  Nitya had a dream about a shack by the sewer.  And he moved into one!  How many of us would leave our nice, comfy, clean homes and families to live in a slum among complete strangers?  Nitya had no reservations.  Why?  He knew that God had called him to serve in the slums.  Sometimes the harvest is in places that we normally wouldn’t imagine ourselves going but when God calls us to go, we go.  Nitya made his home among the slum dwellers and through his actions, demonstrated God’s love and acceptance.

In Nitya’s eyes, these people were God’s children.  God called him and is calling others to share the Good News of Jesus with people who are hurting and are shunned by society.

Watch this video of Nitya–a real life hero who has a true servant’s heart.

God transformed the lives of the people in the slum. Darkness gave way to light and despair turned into hope.  When Nitya found out that children were unable to go to school because their parents could afford to send them, he started a Bridge of Hope centre.  At the centre, children learn about Jesus, receive quality education, medical care and daily meals.

Nitya also began holding worship services.   At first the attendance was low due to lack of interest but now more than 40 people attend.  At each service Nitya teaches them from the Bible and prays for them.  Thankful for the hope they have found in Jesus, believers take part in Communion to remember the great sacrifice He made for them.

One couple’s lives changed dramatically, thanks to the church.  Achal and Malika used to follow their traditional gods and Achal beat Malika but one day she slipped into a coma.  Nitya, his wife and other believers prayed for her and she was healed.  When Achal and Malika saw the Lord’s power, they gave their hearts to Christ.  Today they are among His faithful followers.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” – Romans 10:14, 15

The Goa slum is home to the illegal prostitution trade.  Life seemed hopeless for the people there until a Gospel for Asia missionary team began to visit the area, bringing hope in the form of Gospel literature.

 As I went through the photo gallery of Team Ministers of Slum Area, tears came to my eyes.  It drove home the fact that there are people out there who will gladly accept the Good News if only there were people to share it with them.  These photos touched my heart.

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“Most of the people they meet are open to the Gospel message. Almost immediately they become engrossed in reading the literature.”

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“After he told them the Good News, many raised their hands, indicated that they wanted to follow Jesus. John is the pastor of a GFA-supported church in this area of Goa. He is overjoyed to see so many from the slum become part of the Body of Christ.”

Find out more about Gospel for Asia’s Slum Ministry and see how the work they began in 1999 is still impacting the masses of “desperate people who have no means whatsoever to better their situation or escape their surroundings.”  Share Nitya’s story and take a look at the photos.  Pray for the slum dwellers and the missionaries of the Slum Ministry.  Ask God how you can help.

Source:  Gospel for Asia

I Will Lift My Eyes

This evening I listened to a beautiful song of praise by Karen Davis.  I used to play this song every Friday evening because it put me in the mood for worship.  Watch the video.

It sometimes brings tears to my eyes when I sing this song.  Jesus is worthy of our praise and adoration for who He is and all that He has done.  He left the glory of Heaven and came here to earth in flesh to live among fallen mankind.  He didn’t come to be served but to serve.  He came to give His life as a ransom for many.  He came to teach, heal and lift people’s hopes and change their lives for the better.

He broke down so many barriers.  He treated women with respect.  He had women followers and some of them funded His ministry.  He spoke to a Samaritan woman and didn’t condemn her for being married five times and living common law with the sixth man in her life.  In fact, He offered her a life of change and hope.  He spoke kindly to the woman who had the issue of blood after she touched His robe and was healed.  He called her “Daughter” and sent her away with the knowledge that her faith had made her well.  She had spent so much of her money and none of the doctors was able to help her.

Jesus was gracious to the woman caught in adultery.  He exposed the hypocrisy of her accusers and they went away in shame.  Jesus didn’t condemn the woman.  He sent her away in peace and told her to stop sinning.  He welcomed the woman of questionable character who entered a pharisee’s home to anoint his head and feet with expensive oil.  He forgive her sins even as those present condemned and scorned her.  He healed a woman who was bent over for many years on the Sabbath.  He brought joy to the parents of the sick twelve year old girl when he brought her back to life and the widow who was one minute crying because she was on her way to bury her son and the next rejoicing because he was raised to life.

Even as He hung on the cross, He asked His Father to forgive those who wanted Him dead and placed His mother in John’s care.  Jesus was always putting the needs of others before His own.  And this is why it is not surprising that He was willing to lay down His life for His friends and offer Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.  He was the King of kings and the Son of God but He didn’t come to this earth in glory.  He was born to a young virgin in a manger of all places.  He was wrapped in swaddling cloth.  He was humble at birth and throughout His life.  He worked as a carpenter until it was time for Him to begin His ministry.  He didn’t have a place of His own.  He was always on the go, preaching and ministering to many.  He chose ordinary men to become His disciples.  He didn’t stop loving Peter because he betrayed Him.  He didn’t stop loving the other disciples because they deserted Him.  He appeared to them so that they could see that He had risen as He said He would.

He appeared first to Mary Magdalene out of whom He had cast seven demons.  What a life she must have had before she met Jesus.  The other day as I read the Bible I realized that Jesus affects people in three distinct ways after He changes their lives:

1.  They tell others – e.g. the Samaritan woman

2.  They follow Him – Mary Magdalene

3.  They serve Him – Peter’s mother-in-law (soon after Jesus got rid of her fever)

What about you?  What effect does Jesus have on you?  Have you told others about Him?  Are you one of His followers?  Do you serve Him?

This weekend, reflect on Jesus and what He did for you.  Think about the great sacrifice He made for you so that you would not perish but have everlasting life with Him.  Share His story with someone.  I personally will lift my eyes to the Lord on high and praise Him.  I will thank Him for loving me so much that He endured the indignity of the cross.

Rejoice Always

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:5)

Paul encouraged the Christians in Philippi to always rejoice in  the Lord.  He repeated this to show how important it is.  Paul wrote this letter while he was in a Roman prison awaiting trial.  He had reason to rejoice in the Lord.  His fellow Christians in Philippi had encouraged him with their support and generosity.  “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (verse 18). 

To rejoice in the Lord is to be thankful no matter what the circumstance is.  Paul’s letter to the Philippians was a “Thank you” letter.  He used the opportunity to thank them for helping and supporting him.  He wanted them to know how much he appreciated them.  He didn’t complain about his situation.  In fact, he put a positive spin to the whole thing.  He wrote, “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,  so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14).

He didn’t want the church to feel discouraged or sad because he was in prison.  Even though it wasn’t certain what would become of Paul—whether he would live or die, he still rejoiced because Christ was being preached to people.  Despite the chains, God’s Word was being preached.  It was not in chains.  Paul had reason to rejoice.  Even while he was in prison God was still using him. 

Paul gave us the secret to how to rejoice in the Lord no matter what.  “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).  Learn to be content and believe that you can do anything because of Christ who gives you the strength.  When you do these things, you are able to rejoice in the Lord at all times.