Sing to the Lord

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises – Psalm 98:4

Praising God is something that should be as natural as breathing.  It’s hard to do so, however, when facing trials, problems or challenges, but that is the time when we really need to do it.  I have had an experience when I was feeling down about something and it came to me, no doubt it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting, that instead of focusing on what I was going through, to focus on God instead.  So, I began to praise Him.  I began to sing songs of praise to Him and after a while, I felt so light and upbeat.  The problem which had seemed like a mountain became minuscule until with God’s help, I was able to resolve it.

The apostle Paul is a good example of someone who praised God regardless of what the circumstances were.  Who could forget when Silas and he were in jail and instead of suffering in silence, they began to sing?  Acts 16:25 says But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  God used that moment as an opportunity to reveal Himself.

Suddenly, there was an earthquake, shaking the foundations of the prison and the doors to the jail cells were opened and the chains broken, the prisoners could have escaped but no one moved.  The jailer thought that they had broken out and was about to take his life out of fear of reprisal but Paul assured him that all of the prisoners were there.  And that led the jailer to ask the question, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Verse 30).  God used Paul’s and Silas’ attitude toward their circumstances to bring about the salvation of the jailer and his family.  And who knows if any of the other prisoners didn’t change too as a result of what they heard and witnessed.

How we deal with adversity will not only affect us but those around us.  Instead of looking down or around, we look up and whatever song the Holy Spirit, our Comforter, puts in our hearts, we lift our voices and sing to our God, Who is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).  It will lift our burdens up to Him and bring His comfort down to us.

Drinking With Mom

As parents and stewards of God, it is our duty to provide for, care for and protect our children.  We are to impart wisdom and knowledge to them that will keep them safe and grounded in a world where they will encounter hardships, trials, temptations and challenges.  We are to teach, guide, counsel, encourage and support them.

Most mothers try to be positive examples for their children, teaching them right from wrong and to how to develop healthy habits.  They teach them how to be kind, loving and considerate toward others.  They help their teenagers with their studies and transition into young adulthood.  In fact, they do their best to raise their children to be upstanding citizens of society.  Unfortunately, this was not the case with Sahdev’s mother, Vahini who spent her time drinking with her son.

Alcoholism became Sahdev’s vice.  It consumed him to the point where he spent all of his earnings on alcohol and it his habit grew with such force that his mother was disturbed by it.  She began to wonder if a wife would temper his addiction so she set about looking for someone for him to marry.  She kept his drinking a secret while she arranged marriage between Sahdev and a young woman named Tanu, however, the bride soon discovered the family’s dark secret.  From the beginning of their marriage, she was victim of verbal abuse and brutal, drunken beatings.

Vahini’s hope that marriage would soften her son was squashed but, sadly, she didn’t support Tanu’s efforts to change Sahdev.  This was the opportunity to do what was right for her daughter-in-law and the grandchild that was on the way but Vahini sided with her son.  This only made his alcoholism grow worse, resulting in liver damage.  While Tanu braced herself for raising her child with a drunken father, her mother-in-law tried to find proper treatment for him but two months after his son was born, Sahdev died.

Instead of taking responsibility for her part in her son’s death, Vahini blamed Tanu. Tanu, now a widow with a child, received no comfort or support from her mother-in-law. When Vahini ordered Tanu to leave the house and she refused, she was beaten. Then, faced with raising a 2 month old child and no other options, the young mother returned to her parents’ home in the slums.  This was the last place she wanted to be but her parents comforted her and encouraged her to stay.

Things were tough for Tanu.  She found it hard to find a job to support her son and her family’s social caste limited her to jobs with long hours and low pay.  Thankfully, she wasn’t under any pressure.  Her father was a real trooper, very supportive.  He provided for her and his grandson by working as a daily wage laborer.  When the time came to put Aakar in school, the cost of his education was too much for the family.  And Tanu hadn’t found a good job.  She and her parents struggled to make do with what little they had. Aakar was enrolled in a free city school but the costs for his supplies were tremendous.   And there was the nagging thought that if anything were to happen to Tanu’s father, the family would have nothing at all.

Unless something was done, six year old Aakar would be forced to drop out of school. Help came when Tanu talked to her neighbors about their children’s education.  She learned that they were receiving help from Bridge of Hope, a Gospel for Asia sponsored program.  The program supported, educated, tutored, provided meals and medical care for children from needy families like hers.  Not wasting any time, Tanu enrolled Aakar at the centre.

Their lives changed when the staff not only provided for Aakar’s needs but showed compassion and kindness to him and hope sparked in Tanu.  She saw that there was a very great possibility that her son’s life would turn out very differently from his father’s.

“I can see that my child is improving in his studies and learning good habits through the Bridge of Hope center, ” Tanu said.  “I only wish that my child will grow up to be a good companion and never ever become addicted to alcohol or any kind of bad habits.”

Aakar is off to a really good start.  At Bridge of Hope, God is working through the staff members to give him a better future–one of hope.  Surrounded by people who love the Lord, Aakar stands a better chance of growing up to be a good man who loves the Lord and others.  He has a heavenly Father who loves him.  He never knew his own father whose life was a tragic one because of an evil influence.  Unlike his father, Aakar has a mother who wants what is best for him.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope – Jeremiah 29:11

Thank God for stepping in when things were looking dismal for Aakar and his family. Through Bridge of Hope, God has transformed their lives.  Tanu didn’t know it at the time but the best thing she did was moving back home with her parents.  It was while she was living there, that she experienced the love and mercy of God through a program which offered her son more than an education.  It offered him a chance to have a quality life.  Had she stayed at the home she once shared with her husband, life for her and Aakar would have been unbearable at the hands of her mother-in-law.  God brought them out of that toxic environment and into a place where their lives have changed for the better.

Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You – Psalm 33:22

Tanu’s story has a happy ending but there are other mothers who are struggling to raise their children.  Faced with extreme poverty, their lives are filled with hopelessness.  And many children in Asia never experience what it’s like to have a normal childhood.  Instead, they are faced with situations and decisions that we can’t even imagine or have ever had to deal with.  Please pray that God will intervene in their lives as He did in Tanu’s. And you can help to Aakar and children like him by sponsoring a child.  If you are interested in doing so, click here.  Help to transform a family’s life.

Tanu and Aakar

 

Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada

A Changed Life

Christ [redeemed] me, and He will [redeem] you also!

These words rang out loud in the marketplaces.  Myo Zaw made the impassioned plea to the crowd.  He was like Wisdom crying out in the marketplaces and pleading with the people to come her.  Myo’s message was one that the people needed to hear. He was on fire for Christ and he couldn’t hold it in.  It wasn’t always like this.

Before Myo Zaw encountered Christ he was the village drunk who got into fights with people and beat his wife and children.  The people who knew him thought he had gone insane, however, it was not madness that drove Myo to proclaim the message of redemption but the love of God which consumed him like a fire, refusing to be quelled.  He traveled throughout his region, sharing the Word of God, telling people, “how a sinner like me was found by God.”

“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” – Luke 18:27

Within three years, he had visited 100 communities, encouraged by his wife’s letters. In them, she wrote, “If your life can change by Christ, there is no one who cannot be changed by Christ.  So wherever you are going and sharing the Word of God, we are here to pray for you. I believe people will be changed by the love of Christ.”  And she was right about the people.  350 heard the message about Christ’s love, saw how it manifested in Myo’s life and they were changed.

Myo believed that his mission was the share the love of Christ which had transformed his life and that it was God’s will for him to go to a missionary in an area where people were unfamiliar with the Lamb of God.  He and his wife prayed about it and ten years later God sent them to the southern region of their country as Gospel for Asia supported missionaries.

At first when the people in the community learned that Myo and his family were Christians, they wanted nothing to do with them.  They forced the family out of the community.  They threw stones at their home, threatening to penalize anyone who spoke to the Christians and the children faced discrimination because of their faith. Myo and his family were  seen as enemies but in the midst of it all, they saw God’s grace working in their lives, getting them through these trials.  They trusted Christ during their hardships and through the ministering of the Holy Spirit, they learned how to love the people in their new community.

They reached out to the people by showing them movies that they liked to watch, teaching the children songs and caring for them.  When the parents saw the love of the couple for the community, they were amazed and they began to talk to them at the market.  This gave Myo and his wife the opportunity to share Christ’s love with them.  They cared for the sick and took people to the hospital as needed.  When flood waters destroyed homes and livelihoods, the couple and other GFA supported workers helped to provide relief.

Myo visited people and encouraged them by offering words of hope and life in Christ.  Through his actions, he proved that he was a redeemed man.  The love of Christ had transformed him from a drunk and abusive husband and father to a missionary of God.  The same love that had Christ had shown him he wanted to show to others.  Like the apostle Paul, he was filled with a zeal for the Lord who “who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Myo realized that greatest weapon is love.  It can transform hearts and lives.  It can destroy the strongholds which beset people who have no knowledge of Christ and kept them in spiritual darkness.  Once the love of Christ is revealed it lives are changed–despair gives way to hope and darkness to light.

Like Myo, ask God to use you to share the love of Christ with others.  Be a light in the world.  Shine for Jesus and let those around you or wherever God sends you know that no matter what state they are in, “He will redeem you also!”

love-on-fire-3

Source:  Gospel for Asia Canada

The Waters of Life

She thought of the sea as one’s life.  Never static. Always moving.

Sometimes it was calm and others time it was choppy.  Before she

found Christ, she wanted to remain in the shallow waters where it

was safe.

 

She didn’t want to be swept away by the currents of change or the

rough waters of trials and tribulations.  She didn’t want to be pulled

out to sea where she would have to struggle to keep afloat or to be

swept under because she was tired of treading the water.  Besides,

she was not a good swimmer.

 

Many times she walked along the beach alone with her thoughts

watching the water as it swelled and surged unto the sand, coming

as far in as it could before it rolled back out.  As she watched this

fascinating cycle, these words came to her mind, “When He assigned

to the sea its limit, So that the waters would not transgress His

command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth”  (Proverbs 8:29)

 

God was in control.  If He would put a limit on the sea which

to her was a mighty force of nature, untamed and scary, He

could do anything.  He could help her to overcome her fear

of life with its ups and downs, hardships and heartaches

and to trust that no matter what it threw at her, He was

there to sustain her.  Everything had a limit–including

the trials that everyone will face.  There were times

when she would be in the shallow waters and other

times when she would be in the deep.  It was all

part of life.

 

Now she could look at life as she looked at the sea and no longer

be afraid.  She had her Anchor to hold on to.  He will carry

her through the currents of life.  He promised, “For I, the

Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you,

“Fear not, I am the one who helps you” (Isaiah 41:13)

woman staring at the sea

Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Open Bible

Persecuted For Their Faith

Like many mothers here in Canada and around the world, I was able to celebrate Mother’s Day on May 12, 2013.  There’s nothing more wonderful than spending this special day with your family.   Even as I enjoyed the delicious breakfast my husband had given and as I watched my mother’s face light up as her grandson gave her a picture he had colored and a kiss, I couldn’t help remembering the mother who would not experience this joy.

Just recently I subscribed to The Voice of the Martyrs Canada (VOM) newsletter and was moved by the stories of Christians who endured various trials and were persecuted for their faith.  I got a free copy of the book Tortured For Christ, written by Richard Wurmbrand, the founder of VOM, an organization “dedicated to helping, loving and encouraging persecuted Christians worldwide”.  I knew that there were Christians in other parts of the world who were killed or imprisoned because they refused to renounce their faith but was not privy to their sufferings until I read the newsletter and prisoner alerts on the website.

On Mother’s Day, I thought of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman who was arrested by police in 2009.  Before her arrest, she along with many of the local women worked on the farm of a Muslim landowner.  Many of these women pressured Asia to renounce her Christian faith and accept Islam.  There was a discussion among the women about their faith and after she reportedly told them, “Our Christ is the true prophet of God and yours is not true,” the women got angry and they beat her.  Read the rest of Asia’s story at http://www.prisoneralert.com/pprofiles/vp_prisoner_197_profile.html

Asia is from a country where “Muslims who convert to Christianity are often threatened or killed by their family because of the shame associated with such a conversion.  Breaking the blasphemy law, Section 295c of the penal code – blaspheming Mohammed – is punishable by death. Blasphemy accusations against Christians often occur in retaliation for personal or commercial disputes.”

Asia is still languishing in prison and there are times when she is discouraged.  She has had to spend another Easter and Mother’s Day without her family.  Her husband has been encouraging her to hang on to her faith.  Letters to officials have been written on her behalf and over fifteen thousand letters of encouragement have been written her.

Apparently Pakistan is a dangerous place for a Christian woman.  I just watched the video below of a woman named Shafia and the horrors she and her family endured for their faith.  In the midst of this, though, she found peace and took comfort in the knowledge that she is a daughter of God.

Check out other videos of women who are persecuted for their faith and the widows of martyrs at http://persecution.tv/video?task=videodirectlink&id=942

Today, let us hold our brothers and sisters in Christ in prayer.  Let us take action to let them know that they are not suffering alone.  Write letters of encouragement.  Write to the officials.  Get prisoner and prayer alerts via email so that you can pray for the persecuted.  Check out http://www.persecution.net to see how you can get involved.  And don’t forget to give God thanks for being able to worship Him without fear of persecution or imprisonment or death.  Thank Him if you are blessed to be living in a country where there is religious liberty.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you (Matthew 5:10-12).

Sources:  http://www.prisoneralert.com/cprofiles/vp_country_173_profile.html?pfilid=197; http://www.persecution.tv/video?task=videodirectlink&id=689

God is in Control

Look up in faith and not down in despair.

One morning I found myself thinking about Job.  When looking up the word adversity in the dictionary, one can almost expect to see Job’s name right beside it.  He went through more than many people would go through in a lifetime, yet he had these things to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; “Blessed be the name of the Lord”; “Shall we accept good from God and shall we not accept adversity?” “You have granted me life and favour, and your care has preserved my spirit.”; “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him”.

The story of Job teaches us several things.  Satan is not in control, God is.  God allows certain things to happen in our lives.  He allowed Satan to take away Job’s possessions, his children and his health.  God allowed Job to endure much pain and suffering through no fault of his own.  In spite of his situation, Job did not curse God.  No matter what we are going through we are to praise God.  God is to be praised at all times.

Praise God during the bad times?  Personally speaking, this would be hard to do.  Instead of giving praises and thanks, we would most likely break down and cry, asking God, “Why me?  Why have you left me?  How could you do these things to me?” We would be in so much pain that we would want to either curl up and die or seek comfort.  We would wish the problem away.  But this is not how God wants us to deal with adversity.  He wants us to focus on Him instead of the problem.  Like David, we should ask ourselves, “Why am I so sad?  Why am I so troubled?  I will put my hope in God, and once again I will praise Him, my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 42:5).

It helps to remember that life here on earth is temporary.  Suffering is temporary.  God promised us that He will wipe away all tears from our eyes; that there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying nor pain.  All the heartaches we endured here on earth will be among the former things, which will pass away.  It helps to remember that God is greater than any adversity.  When we keep our eyes and minds focused on Him we will overcome just as Jesus did.  When Peter took his eyes off Jesus as he walked on the water, he began to sink.  We too sink into despair and hopelessness when we take our eyes off God.

The book of Job teaches us that God is in control of all the affliction that befalls His people.  Affliction shapes us, fine-tunes us.  God uses trouble to test our hearts.  God reveals both His and the devil’s purposes.  While Satan sought to disprove that Job was blameless God sought to build up Job’s character.  God brings us to places where we would not otherwise have reached had we not gone through trials.

Going through trials makes us ask questions, appreciate the good times and make us stronger.  We learn valuable lessons.  We learn patience, endurance, humility and God’s purpose for our lives.  We see that we are not exempt from suffering.  Suffering cannot be avoided.  God wants us to take the bad with the good.  Strength comes from hardships, difficulties, trials and tribulations.  These help us to see what we are made of and the areas God wants to work on.

Job is a fine example of patience and this is what I need to have more of.  God is teaching me to be patient; to wait on Him; to trust Him to fulfil His plans for my life. Trials also show us who our true and faithful friend is—God.  Job lost many friends and the remaining ones attacked him instead of comforting him. God is there through thick and thin.  He convicts us not condemns us.  He does not desert us when things are going bad.  All through Job’s suffering God was there.

Another lesson to learn from Job is that we don’t question God. God doesn’t owe us any explanations as to why suffering takes place.  Instead, we are to ask, “Lord, what are You trying to teach me?  What is it that You want me to learn from this?”  Or say, “Lord, You brought me to this and I know that You will bring me through it.  You are in control”.  As we go through the valleys in life, let us remember to praise God.

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