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

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At the Mountain

Imagine standing at the foot of Mount Sinai and there were thunder and lightning and a thick cloud on the mountain and the sound of the trumpet fills the air.  In fact, the trumpet was so loud that that you tremble.  You come out of the camp to meet with God at the foot of Mount Sinai which is completely in smoke because the Lord descended on it in fire.  The smoke is ascending like the smoke of a furnace and the mountain quakes.  The trumpet blast becomes louder and louder.

How would you feel?  What would be going through your mind?  Would you be terrified to see the Lord come down upon the top of the mountain?  Would you want to break through and gaze at the Lord at the risk of your life or would you stay as far away as possible, watching the manifestation from a safe distance?  This was the predicament of the Israelites when they camped before Mount Sinai.

Three months after the people left the land of Egypt, they entered the Wilderness of Sinai.  The Lord told Moses to tell them to consecrate themselves for two days, then on the third day, He would go down on Mount Sinai in their sight.  They were warned not to go up to the mountain or touch its base or they will be put to death. Boundaries were set around them which they could not step over.  When they hear the trumpet sound long, they were to go to near the mountain.  God explained to Moses why He was doing this.  “Behold, I come to you in the thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak to you, and believe you forever.”  The people could not break through the barrier set for them to gaze at the Lord.  Only Moses was allowed to speak to God face to face.

The people were terrified when they saw the thunder and lightning, heard the sound of the trumpet and saw the mountain smoking.  They stood afar off, trembling.  They said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

Moses reassured them, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”  The people continued to stand afar off while he drew near to where God was.

I don’t know how I would have reacted if I were there but I am thankful that today, we can go near God without fear.  Thanks to Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, we can boldly approach the throne of grace.  Jesus made it possible for us to enjoy a loving relationship the same God who descended on the mountain in the wilderness.

God wants us to seek Him.  He promised, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).  Do we seek Him or do we stand afar, afraid to get too close?  Do we ask others to talk to Him on our behalf instead of talking to Him ourselves?

Today, I encourage you not to just stand at the foot of the mountain.  Climb it.  God has removed the boundaries that would keep you from Him because of His Son. Don’t let fear or sin or anything keep you from climbing up that mountain to meet your Lord.

Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out (Ezekiel 34:11).

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Sources:  Exodus 19, 20:18-20

Letting Go

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Matthew 19:16-30

The rich young ruler went to Jesus because he knew that something was missing in his life. When you find that you are lacking something in your life or you have questions that you can’t seem to find the answers to, what do you do?  Do you go to Jesus?  This young man did.  He went to Jesus for the answer to his question, “…what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

After Jesus mentioned some of the commandments which the young man kept from his youth, the young man asked Him, “what do I still lack?” He realized that keeping the commandments was not enough.  Jesus told him what the problem was and gave him the solution.  “If you would be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow Me.”  When the young man heard this, he was sad and he went away because he had many possessions.  He wanted to know how to inherit eternal life but was not willing to do what was necessary.   He placed more value on his riches than on God’s kingdom.

What are you unwilling to let go of even if it costs you your salvation?  What is hindering you from completely submitting to Christ?  What you are holding on to instead of letting go of so that you could take up your cross and follow Him? Is it a lifestyle, a cherished sin, a relationship, an addiction?  Don’t make the same mistake as the young ruler did.  Don’t believe that going to church every week, being involved in church ministry or community service will be enough to get you into the kingdom.  There is nothing we can do to inherit eternal life (Ephesians 2:8, 9).  A total commitment to Christ is what is needed.  You need to let go of whatever is taking the place of God in your life and in your heart.

The rich young ruler had two choices–God or riches.  He chose the latter.  Are you willing to leave all for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom as the disciples did?  The reward for doing so far outweighs any riches or material things you may accumulate here on earth.

Words of Life

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path – Psalm 119:105

Right now I can walk into any bookstore and buy a Bible.  There are so many to choose from.  There are Bibles for men, women, teens, children and couples.  They are in different languages.  And there are different versions.  You have Study Bibles, Devotional Bibles, Life Application Bibles and even Spiritual Warfare Bibles.  Then we have audio Bibles, online Bibles.  The list goes on and on.  Some of us have more than one Bible.  Some churches give out free Bibles.

Bibles are available in most countries but not to new believers in Asia.  Many of them don’t own a Bible.  It’s hard for us to imagine not being able to read our Bibles everyday.  It’s where we go when we want to know more about Jesus or to grow spiritually and deepen our walk with Him.  We can use our Bibles for personal or group studies, witnessing and worship.  Believers in Asia aren’t able to do any of these things.  Can you imagine going to church and no one has a Bible, not even the pastor?

Try to imagine how different life would be for you if you didn’t have a Bible.  Now think of the believers in Asia who don’t have God’s Word to guide them daily in their spiritual lives.  Imagine not being able to share the Word with others.

The Bible is more than a book.  It is the living Word of God.  It brings hope, encouragement, light and joy to those who read it.  It is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).  It protects us from the attacks of the Devil.  It was the Word of God that Jesus used three times to defeat Satan in the wilderness.  It reveals who God is to us.  We learn about His will for our lives.  We have the Gospels which tell us about Jesus and His ministry.  It is from the Bible that we learn that, “…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).

The Word of God teaches us what our responsibilities are to God, society, authorities and our neighbors (Romans 12).  It gives us instructions on how to keep ourselves from conforming to the world (Philippians 4:8; Galatians 5:15).  It shows us how we can follow Jesus’ example when it comes to prayer, our relationship with God and how we treat others.  The Bible is our guide to right living and right thinking.  God speaks to us through the Word.

We go to the Bible when we have questions and doubts.  It addresses our fears and encourages us.  Paul explained why the Scriptures are so important in the believer’s life.  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living;  thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 Complete Jewish Bible).  The Bible is a must have for every believer.

Sing them over again to me, wonderful words of life,
Let me more of their beauty see, wonderful words of life;
Words of life and beauty teach me faith and duty.

Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life,
Beautiful words, wonderful words, wonderful words of life.

Help to bring the wonderful words of life to South Asia.  Find out how here.

Source:  Gospel for Asia

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.

Women And Divorce

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I have heard a pastor advise couples who are entering into marriage to make up their minds that divorce was not going to be an option.  The Bible says that infidelity is the only legitimate reason for divorce.  And it tells us that God hates divorce.  Marriage was meant to be a lifelong commitment.  It is sacred.  It was the first institution created by God.  It existed before sin came into the world. It was God’s design for mankind.  He created Eve for Adam, the first man He made after no companion suitable for him was found among the creation.  God gave Eve in marriage to Adam and blessed them.

My parents are divorced.  They have been divorced for over twenty-five years.  My father remarried but he is no longer with his second wife.  I remember the day when I was standing in the living-room with my parents and I asked my father to stay.  He was planning to leave home.  The marriage had gotten to the point where he wanted to leave.  I asked him to stay but he had made up his mind.  In retrospect, I am glad he didn’t stay.  I wouldn’t have wanted him to stay on my account.  I didn’t want him to remain in a marriage where he wasn’t happy for my sake.  That would have been unfair to him and selfish on my part.

My mother expressed regret some years ago that she and my father divorced.  She had always hoped that she would be married for life.  I remember how wistful she seemed to be missing out on what would have been their twenty-fifth anniversary.   I know that they had problems in their marriage.  There was infidelity and there were times when the other woman called our house.  I don’t know what caused their relationship to go sour.  My mother was very social because she was a part of her company’s drama group.  She was always attending functions.  My Dad didn’t go with her. They seemed to live separate lives even though they were living under the same roof.  They most likely drifted apart.  My mother didn’t want a divorce but my father did.

What causes people to divorce?  One of my co-workers was married a guy she had known for years.  However, they later divorced because they grew apart.  Another co-worker’s son divorced because he and his ex-wife no longer loved each other.   Here are top 10 reasons why couples get divorced.

I have heard of couples divorcing after fifty years of marriage. How is that possible?   Why would they decide to call it quits after spending so many years together?  Al Gore and Tipper shocked everyone when they announced that they were separating after 40 years of marriage.  The signs were not there–at least they were not visible to the public.  Robert Levenson, a psychologist at the University of California who studies marriage across the lifespan stated, “Though every marriage is different, a divorce after 40 years is unusual.  Most divorces occur early in marriage.”

I was shocked when I heard about the split between Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman after 30 years of marriage.   They separated in 2012 but it looks like they are back together again.  They had split because of Danny’s wandering eye.   While an extramarital affair can be a cause for divorce as in the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, there are other less dramatic factors.

Some relationships have been in decline for decades and finally lose all their juice. A marriage doesn’t usually just blow up. It’s more like a balloon that has been seeping air for a long time. After a while, it’s totally deflated.

Another possibility is that a couple’s issues intensify. Most problems are manageable, but then something sends them into hyperdrive. It could be a change in jobs, health, children’s lives, personal ambitions or any number of other triggers. Whatever balance had been achieved is undermined, and with it the ability to handle the issue and still have a decent marriage (AARP).

I have seen relationships suffer because the woman is focusing most of her attention on the children and not enough on the husband.  I watched a show on OWN where the husband felt neglected by his wife and as a result he had an affair.  His affair, of course, devastated his wife.

No one likes to get a divorce.  No one wants to see their marriage end.  It makes them feel like they failed.  Sometimes, women stay in marriages, suffering in silence because they don’t want to get divorced.  They stay put, hoping that things would change–that they would get better.  Of course, they only get worse.  Other women see divorce as their only option.  I read one story where a man was blown away when his wife told him that she wanted a divorce.  He didn’t see it coming at all.  Weren’t there any signs?

Why do women get divorced?  Here are some reasons:

  • “I hurt all the time because I feel alone and abandoned.”
  • “My husband is no longer my friend.”
  • “The only time he pays attention to me is when he wants sex.”
  • “He is never there for me when I need him the most.”
  • “When he hurts my feelings he doesn’t apologize.”
  • “He lives his life as if we weren’t married; he rarely considers me.”
  • “We’re like ships passing in the night, he goes his way and I go mine.”
  • “My husband has become a stranger to me, I don’t even know who he is anymore.”
  • “He doesn’t show any interest in me or what I do.”

I wonder if some of these marriages would have survived if the women had told their husbands how they felt.   What would you do in their situation?   Are you experiencing one of these things? Have you spoken to your husband about it?  Do you think he would want to go with you for marriage counseling or couples’ therapy?

For Christian women, none of the above reasons would be grounds for divorce.  They go against biblical principles.  Divorce is a matter that is to be taken seriously.  Any Christian woman who is considering is encouraged to pray about it and be open to God’s leading.  If she is concerned about whether or not she has biblical grounds for divorce, she should commit the matter to prayer and study and seek counsel from her pastor and a licensed Christian counselor (Focus on the Family).   “…while there may be some situations in which extramarital sex would create such problems in a marriage that divorce would be better than continuing in an unhealthy or even dangerous relationship, in general it would be better to forgive earlier indiscretions (if accompanied by repentance and present faithfulness) rather than to break up what might otherwise still be a good marriage” (Christian Answers.net).

Are there biblical grounds for divorce?  Yes.

Sexual immorality.  If her husband is guilty of having extramarital sex and is not willing to end the affair and work on saving their marriage.

Husband is a non-Christian.  If a Christian woman is married to a non-Christian husband and he insists on a divorce, there is nothing she can do.  And 1 Corinthians 7:15 states, “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart.  A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases:  but God hath called us to peace”.  The Bible warns about marrying a non-believer.  A Christian woman should never marry someone from another religion or even denomination because it may cause problems and worse if children are involved.

If it is the husband who wants the divorce, the woman can’t stop him through the current divorce laws but she could try to persuade him to consider a legal separation which would give them more time to reconsider the matter.  She is encouraged to, “Pray that God will open the lines of communication between you and your spouse and that He will restore the love in your relationship. And pray for patience and a forgiving spirit. Try to resist the temptation to say angry words to your spouse or do things that would push him or her further away. Restoration does occur even in the most hostile circumstances, but it is more difficult when harsh words have passed between you” (Focus on the Family).

How does divorce affect women?  According to Coaching for Divorced Women, they experience the following emotions:

Anger
During all stages of divorce, you might feel intense anger towards your ex. You may be angry with him for leaving you, for not understanding you or for having an affair. At other times, you may be angry with yourself for not seeing the signs, or for allowing him to hurt you, the way he did. It is important to realize that if his actions are continuing to anger you that you have not let go. Even though anger is one of the common emotional effects on divorce, holding onto pent up anger is not hurting your ex at all. He could probably care less that you are angry. You need to forgive him and yourself for the roles each of you played that lead up to the divorce. Forgiveness is the only thing that can set you free to build a happy and fulfilling life.

Guilt
Women are filled with guilt during and after a divorce regardless if they initiated the separation or not. Guilt is one of the common emotional effects of divorce as you might constantly ask yourself if you did everything in your power to make your marriage work. You might be banging yourself over the head on whether or not you made the right decision. If he left, you could be asking yourself what you did wrong. You may feel guilty that you have disrupted the home life of your children. Guilt serves no purpose. Guilt focuses on past events, which are impossible to change. By learning to let go of the past, you are able to look to the future.

Fear
Many women are terrified during divorce. Fear is one of the emotional effects of divorce that women feel in a variety of ways. There are many faces of fear, including fear of the unknown, the fear of making ends meet, the fear of being a single mom, the fear of what other people will think … and the list goes on and on. An acronym for fear is “False Evidence Appearing Real”. This tells you that fear is something you are making up in your own mind by conjuring up a thousand “what ifs”. When you begin to feel fearful, ask yourself what you are thinking and turn the thought around. For example if you are thinking being a single mom is going to be hard, ask yourself why is being a single mom going to be easy. With practice, the fears will dissipate and you will begin looking forward to a wonderful future.

Anxiety
Anxiety and stress is a mixture of many negative emotions, including fear, guilt and anger. Reduce stress by letting go of the fear and learning to deal with what is happening right this moment. Learn techniques to deal with anxiety such as deep breathing, meditating and exercising. Eating healthy also plays an important role in reducing anxiety. Build structures to support a stress free environment such as getting up earlier to get the kids to the bus stop, or cooking enough dinners to last for a week on Sunday. Take responsibility.

Grief
It is natural to be sad and to be sad when your marriage ends. Grieving over the death of your marriage can be a very painful experience, but it is a healthy response. By allowing yourself to go through the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance you will be able to “let go” and be free to create your own future. Get assistance on dealing with the emotional effects of divorce support during this emotional turmoil.

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Divorce is painful for the couple and children.  It is something God never intended.  Marriage was meant to be a permanent union between a man and a woman.  If you are thinking of getting a divorce make sure this is the right decision.  Sleep on it.  Seek counsel.  If your husband is the one who wants to end the marriage, don’t do what my mother did–try to persuade him to stay.  If he has made up his mind, no amount of begging will change it.  Let him go.  Ending a marriage, especially after so many years together is very, very difficult and it will take time to heal and move on.

Here are some helpful advice that can help you can get you through the end of your marriage financially and emotionally.

Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today? – Mary Manin Morrissey

Sources:  Woman’s Divorce; Marriage Builders; Live Science; Focus on the Family; Live Strong; Coaching for Divorced Women; Christian Answers; Women’s Divorce