Recommit to God

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.  I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill.  Selah – Psalm 3:3, 4

When I was going through a tough time because I was pregnant and unmarried, the words of this psalm comforted and sustained me.  I knew that I was not alone.  The Lord was with me.  He didn’t condone what I had done but He didn’t condemn or forsake me.

A story I can relate to is the one of the Samaritan woman.  She was married five times and living with a man who wasn’t her husband but Jesus reached out to her in love.  He didn’t excuse her lifestyle but he offered her a new one life with him in the center.  He didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but showed her grace while at the same time telling her to stop sinning.  God doesn’t discard us when we sin.  He reaches out to us through His Word or through others. I once heard about a man who was at the lowest point in his life, feeling worthless and one day he heard a sermon about God’s love and forgiveness which turned his life completely around.

When we cry out to God, He doesn’t ignore us but we must come to Him with a contrite heart, ready to forsake whatever separates us from Him and receive His forgiveness.  We have the assurance that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

For those of us who feel we are too sinful to go to Him, we are encouraged to, “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness …” (Joel 2:13)  There isn’t anything you can do that will diminish God’s love for you.  I knew that even while some church members were unforgiving toward me, I knew that I had God’s forgiveness and that His love for me hadn’t changed.  It hadn’t lessened.  In fact, during those times when I felt the heat and the censure from others, God’s love is what sustained me.  If you have wandered away from God, return to Him.  He is like the father of the prodigal son who returned after wasteful living.  The father was waiting for him and he ran to meet him.  God longs for us to return to Him.  He’s waiting with open arms to welcome us back.

I’m thankful that God is “gracious and full of compassion” (Psalm 145:8).  Our response to His goodness and mercy is to recommit our lives to Him.  And in doing so, we can be confident “that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).

Source:  Bible Knowledge

Living Water

jesus-and-samaritan-woman-at-well-e1489842022443

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life” – John 4:14  

When the Samaritan woman needed water, she went to the well to draw it.  There she met a Jewish Man whom she didn’t know was Jesus.  As she was drawing the water, He asked her for a drink.  She was taken aback asking, “How can you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” because Jews didn’t have anything to do with Samaritans.  Racism existed between them.  The Samaritans were a mixed race resulting from intermarriages between the Israelites and the Assyrians after Samaria fell to Assyria.  For the Samaritans worshipped at Mount Gerizim while the Jews believed that the rightful place of worship was in Jerusalem.  Jesus explained to her that it isn’t where we worship God that’s important but how we worship Him.  God wants us to worship Him in spirit and truth.  Our worship must be genuine.

When Jesus asked her for a drink of water, He was thirsty.  It was her response to His request which led Him to said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who is saying to you, ‘Please give me a drink,’ you would have been the one to ask him, and he would have given you living water.”

She thought He was speaking about the physical water but He wasn’t.  She doesn’t realize that her need isn’t physical but spiritual.  Her life is in moral decay.  She had been married five times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband.  She needed what only Jesus could give her and was freely offering her.  The water in the well could not satisfy her.  It would temporarily quench her thirst but the water Jesus wanted to give her would satisfy her forever.

The woman asked Him,  “Where are you going to get this living water?”  His answer was the water when given to those who receive it, it will become a well, springing up to eternal life.  It was life-giving water.  Jesus is the Source of the living water which He wants to give to all who thirst.  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37).  He is offering the gift of God, which is eternal life. 

What is the living water that Jesus gives to those who thirst?  “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”  But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.  Ephesians 1:13 states, When you believed in the Messiah, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” 

Jesus knew this woman and what her life was like.  He wanted her to know that despite her past and her present, He wanted to give her a future of hope.  When He made her aware that He knew about her previous marriages and her current living arrangement, He wasn’t condemnatory.  He came to save, not to condemn.  He commended her for being honest when she admitted that the man she lived with wasn’t her husband.  She realized that He was  prophet to be able to know such things and then she changed the subject.  She spoke to Him about worship.

When He told her that God wanted people to worship Him in spirit and in truth, He was basically telling her that worship isn’t just about going to a particular place or church but we worship God by the way we live.  Many of us go to church every week but there are things, relationships, people in our lives that have no business being there or there are things in our lives that we need to sort out, clean up.  Until we do that, we are not giving God the proper worship He desires.  This woman worshipped God but her life was in conflict with His Word and His commandments.  Jesus wanted her to see that true worship was a life that was pleasing to God.

She was looking for the Messiah to come and explain everything.  After Jesus revealed that He was the Messiah, she dropped her water pot and ran off to tell her community.  She said to them, “Come, see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done! Could he possibly be the Messiah?”  As a result of her testimony, that “He told me everything I’ve ever done,” many of the Samaritans of that town believed in Jesus.  The Messiah, the Savior of the world had come into that town and reached out to a woman whom many shunned and ostracized her immorality.  Jesus saw someone who needed Him and what He could give her even if she didn’t realize it.  He had a dialogue with her and opened her eyes to the fact that God loves her and wants to give her the gift of salvation which leads to eternal life.

Today, Jesus is offering you what He offered her–living water which springs up to eternal life.  All you have to do is drink.

Sources:  Wikipedia; Bible Gateway; Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, pp. 626, 808; Got Questions; Christianity;

Seeking the Lost

Don’t live in a bubble, live for God by seeking the lost and pointing them to Jesus.

Image is Liz Lemon Swindle’s painting of “The Lost Sheep”

When I saw this image it just struck me that Jesus didn’t live in a bubble.  He ate with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:11).  Many of them followed Him and Jesus was called their Friend (Mark 2:15; Matthew 11:19).  Jesus explained why He spent so much time with them, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).  The lost in Jesus’ day were the tax collectors, the Samaritan woman who was married five times and living with  a man who wasn’t her husband, the woman caught in adultery.

Today, the lost could be the young woman who left the church she grew up in to experience life outside, hanging out with wrong crowd, experimenting with drugs and falling into other destruction behavior and habits until she reaches the point where she hits rock bottom.  She wants to turn her life around but doesn’t know how or thinks that it might be too late.  And Satan is there reminding her of her sins and making her believe that it’s hopeless but Jesus reaches down to where she is and draws her back to Him as seen in this beautiful picture.  He looks past the makeup, the nose ring, the scars of sin and sees a lost soul who needs His love and mercy.

The lost are those who wander away from the church, the faith like the young woman.  When she returns to the fold, is she going to be welcomed with open arms?  Will the members of the church rejoice with heaven because she who was lost is found?  Or will we be like the prodigal son’s brother who refused to be merry?

As the body of Christ, we are to reflect Him in every way.  When a lost soul returns, we ought to celebrate not condemn them for leaving the church.  Perhaps, we ought to ask ourselves why they left in the first place.

Let us come out of the bubble we are living in and go out into the world and let people know that Jesus came into the world to save them (1 Timothy 1:15).

Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ – Luke 15:6

Sources:  Seth Adam Smith; Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible; Seeking the Lost Hymn

Single Mothers

Some years ago, I was part of a ministry which reached out to women and children living in shelters. One of my favorite things was collecting donated items and taking them to the shelter.  The staff was just as excited as my assistant and I were.  It was like Christmas every time we went there because mothers and their children were going to get things they really needed.  I remember buying photo albums and cameras for the expectant mothers so that they could capture those precious moments. One staff member mentioned that the women did scrapbooking as a form of therapy so we bought scrapbooks.

 

One of the women I met at the shelter was a young, single mother.  We took items for her and her unborn child.  After she left the shelter we kept in touch at her request.  We dropped off donated items for her and met her family.  When she was in the hospital, she called to give me the good news–she had a son.  Sadly, we lost touch.  I hope that she and her son are doing well.  I think the last I heard, she was working at a drugstore.  She believed in God and found comfort in His Word.

 

I remember that a church member had a problem with our ministry helping this unwed mother.  I believe that sometimes Christians are so particular about what is morally right and wrong that they neglect what is needed–compassion.  When Jesus interacted with the Samaritan woman, not once did He make her feel ashamed or embarrassed.  He showed her love and compassion.  He even commended her for being honest about her current living arrangement.  She was living with a man who was not her husband after having gone through more than one failed marriage.  Instead of condemning her or refusing to have anything to do with her or withholding His love, Jesus offered her living water. He offered her salvation.  He showed her grace.  The way He treated her compelled the woman to go and tell others about Him.

 

It’s tough enough for some women to raise children on their own without having to deal with criticism and feeling that they had committed the unpardonable sin.  I met a young woman who worked at the same homeless shelter.  She left her church because of the people.  They treated her shamefully because she had had a child out of wedlock.  The church is not expected to ignore these things or excuse them but at the same time, they are not to be judgmental.  They are to be mindful that people will fall into sin and that they need compassion.  Only God is allowed to judge.  And the Bible assures us that when we confess our sins, God is just and faithful to forgive us.  Jesus didn’t condemn the woman caught in adultery but He told her to stop sinning.

 

Single mothers should not be made to feel bad because they had a child outside of marriage.  Mind you, some choose to raise their children on their own without the help of the fathers.  It’s sad to know that many women stay away from church because they are ashamed and they are afraid of the kind of reception they would get once it was discovered that they are unwed mothers.  People might be friendly until they notice that there is no wedding ring.  In churches where people don’t wear rings such as the Seventh-day Adventist church, it would be harder to tell until they notice that she and her child are never accompanied by a male.  Someone might come right out and ask her about her husband.  She could evade the question or be like the Samaritan woman and admit that she is not married.  It won’t be long before she feels uncomfortable being there and will stop attending.

 

I was reading this post written by a Christian woman who was an unwed teenage mom and she made the point that there was nothing at her church for single mothers. Ashamed, she stopped going to church and for seven years she lived in shame.  She calls for churches to step up and reach out to the single mothers in their midst.  “Whether they are unwed or divorced, many single moms need parenting advice, financial instruction, emotional support via networking, and Spiritual growth opportunities.  Let us find these women in our communities, both the churched and the unchurched.  Let us minister to them at their point of need.  Let’s begin the single moms groups.  Praise God for the cutting-edge churches across the country who have already embraced the concept!  Has yours?”

 

Does your church have a ministry for single mothers?  If you were to suggest this to your pastor do you think that your pastor would be open to it?  We are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of God. Most single mothers don’t plan to have children out of wedlock.  Many dream of falling in love, getting married and then having children.  I know of women who regret having children before they got married.  Some of them envy other women who got married first.   One woman is currently living with her partner and their child and is hoping that one day they would get married.  Until that happens, she doesn’t feel comfortable going to church.  And she has no plans of returning to the church she had been a member of until they discovered that she was pregnant.  She left the church after she learned that there were members who were out for her blood.  The whole experience had been a traumatic one for her and it took a while for her to reach the point where she could put it behind her and forgive the people who condemned her.

 

As a church, we ought to reach out to unwed mothers inside and outside of the church.  If your church doesn’t have a ministry to help these women, pitch the idea.  Start a ministry.  It can be a part of the Singles’ or Women’s Ministries or Community Service.  Do something.  I was moved to start the ministry because I wanted to follow Jesus’ example and to be a good neighbor like the Samaritan man.  Although I am no longer at the church, the ministry is still going strong.  If you don’t feel comfortable approaching your pastor about starting the ministry, then you can find a single mother who needs help and help her. You can encourage other church members who might be interested to help the other single mothers in the church.  Be a light right where you are.  By helping these mothers, you are fulfilling Jesus’ commandment to love your neighbor.

 

Single Mother

A Changed Life

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John 4:1-26

When Jesus brings to your awareness a sin in your life what do you do?  The Samaritan woman acknowledged hers.  When Jesus told her to go and fetch her husband, she admitted that she was not married.  Jesus commended her on her honesty.  When there is sin in our lives, we have to face up to it.  We have to call it what it is.  And we don’t make excuses.  Jesus went to let her know that He was aware that she had been married five times before she got into the current relationship.  Perhaps after five failed marriages, she didn’t want to get married again.  She didn’t want another failed marriage.  So, she settled for living common law.  No doubt people gossiped about her.  She probably felt like a scorned woman and that was why she went to the water to draw water at a time when no one else was there.

She might have been surprised to see Jesus and more so when He spoke to her, asking her for a drink of water.  Jews did not any dealings with Samaritans.  And in that day and age it was not customary for a man to speak to a strange woman.  Jesus had no problem doing both.  In His eyes this was a lost soul whom He wanted to save.

No matter what you have done or how others treat you, Jesus wants to have a conversation with you.  He wants to offer you what no one else can–unconditional love,  forgiveness and eternal life.  He will not condemn you.  Like the woman caught in adultery, He will tell you to stop sinning.  And He will help you to change your life.  We don’t know what happened to the Samaritan woman after she went to tell her community about Jesus.  We don’t know what became of her relationship.  However, we do know that her life was never the same after she met Jesus.  An encounter with Jesus should lead to a changed life.  Zacchaeus became a new person after spending time with Jesus.

When Jesus points out sin in your life, acknowledge it, confess it and repent.  He will give you the victory.

International Day of the Girl

On my twelfth birthday, I sat on the cold ground in a corner of a dark room with my knees drawn up to my chin and my arms wrapped around them as the tears rolled down my dirty cheeks.   I couldn’t sleep.   I didn’t want to sleep because I was afraid that he would come back and hurt me again.  It really hurt down there.   Why did he hurt me?  Did I do something bad?  I can’t tell anyone.  He said that no one will believe me.  I can’t tell my mother.  She will beat me if I tell her that my father hurts me.

Sometimes I want to run away but I don’t know where I could go.   Sometimes I wish I was never born.  Sometimes I wish I could die.

One day my father got very ill and a week later he died.  I wish I could say that I was sad but I wasn’t.  I thought to myself, “He will never hurt you again.”  My mother didn’t seem sad either. She and my father didn’t love each other.  They used to fight a lot.  Sometimes he beat her when he was drunk.  Now it was just her, my two brothers and me.   Life did not get better after my father died.  I was still treated badly and beaten.  I worked hard while my brothers played.  Life was hard and unfair.  But what could I do?

Then, one day, three women came to our village.  One of them came to our home.  She had a kind face.  Her name was Sister Hope.  She spoke to my mother.  She talked about Jesus.  I was curious about this Jesus but didn’t want to ask any questions in front of my mother.  My mother had her gods so she wasn’t interested in this new God Sister Hope told her about.  Sister Hope smiled and left.  I was outside doing my chores.   She saw me and she came over to me.  She smiled and asked me my name.  She invited me to walk a little of the way with her.

As we walked, I asked her many questions and she answered them.  She told me about the Bridge of Hope Centre.  It sounded like a place where I would like to be. It was my chance to leave home, at least for a while.  I asked her if she could speak to my mother.

I went to the Bridge of Hope Centre once a day—in the afternoons.  The staff was so kind and caring. I was not used to that.  I was used to being abused, neglected and mistreated.  My father abused me since I was five years old.  My mother never loved me because I am a girl.  She loved my two brothers.  Sometimes I wished that I were a boy so that my mother would love me and my father wouldn’t hurt me.

It was not easy at first. I was not doing well in my studies.  I was still hurting inside.  Sometimes I found it hard to concentrate but Rashmi who taught me was very patient with me.  One day, she gently asked me to share my story with her.  I found it hard to talk about it so I drew pictures.  When she saw the drawings, she looked really sad.  I could see the tears in her eyes. That surprised me.  No one had ever cried for me before.  No one had ever felt sorry for me.  When I was at home, I was all alone.  I had no one to share my pain with.  No one cared.  No one asked me anything.  I didn’t matter to them.  But here, I did.

After she put the drawings aside, Rashmi reached out and held my hands.  She looked me straight in my face and said, “I’m so sorry that you went through such pain but I want you to know that you have a Father who loves you.  He saw you suffering and that is why He sent me to you. He loves you with an everlasting love.  He knew you before you were even born.  He knows that you are still in pain and wants and comfort you.  He wants to pour out His love on you if you will let Him.”

When I heard that I had another Father who loved me and wanted to take care of me, I began to cry.  I cried for a while.  Rashmi sat there, holding my hands.  Then, I stopped crying and felt better.  The heavy feeling that I had was not there anymore.  I felt God’s love fill me.  It felt warm.  That is the moment when I gave my heart to God. My work began to improve.

Rashmi taught me from the Bible.  I learned more about God and how much He loved me.  I learned that He gave His Son, Jesus so that I could have eternal life.  I had a Father who wanted what was best for me and who wanted to give me everything I needed.  He would never hurt, mistreat or neglect me.  He promised that He would always be there, watching over me and protecting me.  He was the father and mother I never had.

Jesus became my Friend.  He filled me with a peace that I never had.  He is always there.  When I read about how kind He was to the Samaritan woman, I knew that He would be kind to me too even though I am a girl.  I knew that Jesus didn’t love me less because I am a girl.  He had friends who were women.  He didn’t reject women and I knew that He wouldn’t reject me.

My mother noticed the changes in me. I was no longer sad. I was singing as I did my chores. I tried to tell her about Jesus but she didn’t want to hear about it. She even said to me, “If I hear another word about this Jesus of yours, I will stop you from going back to the centre.” I didn’t talk to her about Jesus after that but for weeks I prayed every night that she would want to know about Him. Weeks went by and then one morning she came to me. She looked scared. “I had a dream last night,” she said. “I was at the river doing laundry when I saw a bright light around me. Out of the light I heard a voice say to me, ‘forsake your gods and follow Me.’ I was afraid but the voice sounded kind so I asked, ‘who are You?’ The voice said, ‘I am Jesus.’ Then He told me again to forsake my gods and follow Him. Tell me about this Jesus.”

I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say at first. God had answered my prayers. Jesus had revealed Himself to my mother. I told her all that I knew about Jesus. Then Sister Mary came to study the Bible with her. My mother accepted Jesus and our lives have changed. We get along better now.

Now I am 15 years old.  I have been going to the centre for three years.  I love it here.  I want to be a teacher so that I could tell other girls about Jesus.  I want to tell them that it doesn’t matter that they are girls.  Jesus loves them.

This story is fictitious but it is the reality for many girls in South Asia.  Many are abused, neglected, mistreated and unloved simply because they are girls. Some run away from home and end up on the streets where they end up begging, forced into child labor, exploited or trafficked or some of them end up in a Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.

From the time they are born, they are mistreated, solely because they are girls. A girl cannot carry on the family name nor aptly provide for her parents when they get old. Additionally, her parents will likely have to go into debt to pay her marriage dowry. Because of this, she is seen as a burden to her family and not a blessing – Gospel for Asia.

Thankfully, some girls who still live at home like the one in this story are invited to the Bridge of Hope Centre while others like Manjulika are placed in Gospel for Asia’s Children’s home.  Read her story.

International Day of the Girl is a global and annual event initiated by the United Nations to raise awareness of the plight girls around the world.  This year’s theme is “The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030.”

There are nearly 600 million girls aged 10 to 19 in the world today, each with limitless individual potential, however they are disappearing from public awareness and the international development agenda. Between inequities in secondary education to protection issues, adolescent girls are uniquely impacted and should benefit from targeted investments and programmes that address their distinct needs. Investing in adolescent girls can have a formidable ripple effect to create a better world by 2030. On this International Day of the Girl, join us in highlighting the unique challenges and potential of adolescent girls – UNICEF.

This is our opportunity to highlight the needs and rights of girls.  Girls face discrimination because of their gender.  They face barriers to education, opportunities to make a living, child-marriages and poverty.   The sad reality is that when we invest in girls, “we create a brighter and safer future for everyone.  When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they are able to lift themselves, their children and communities out of poverty” (Because I Am a Girl).  Girls matter!  They should be celebrated, empowered and encouraged not abused, misused, neglected or exploited.   Invest in a girl today!

There are girls out there who don’t know that there is a God who created them in His image and that they are precious in His sight.  He rejoiced when they were born.  Pray that He will send missionaries to their homes and rescue them from their private hell.  Pray that boys and girls will find refuge at Gospel for Asia supported Children’s homes. Help programs like Bridge of Hope, a children’s program, where they help with the children’s education, provide them with food, medical care, tutoring, clothing, and show them the love of Christ.  Pray that many of these girls and their families will be led to Christ who has the power to “give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death–to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Galatians 1:4).

Celebrate the power and potential of girls!

Sources:  Gospel for Asia; UNICEF; Because I am A Girl

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.