T is for Trust

T is for Trust, Blogging Through the Alphabet

When I was growing up, I always equated trust with the belief that everything would be OK. But when my dad died while I was a teenager, my definition of trust got turned upside down. Nothing felt OK. It didn’t seem like anything would ever be OK again.

But as God has patiently worked in my life, I am beginning to see that trust isn’t simply believing everything will be OK. It’s knowing that it will be OK—someday. It’s the someday that can be so hard to wait for. There are times Jesus heals and restores a person physically. There are times He does not and they are not made whole again until they have died here on earth and are alive with Him forever.

It’s a theme shared often in the Bible. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to worship an idol, God came down and rescued them. They left the fire unharmed. When John the Baptist was put in prison for daring to tell the king that he was living sinfully, he was beheaded.

And look at Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion. He pleaded with God that if there was any other way, to please rescue Him and not make Him face this indescribably horrible death and the separation from God His Father that He knew would come with it. But there was no other way. And for a time, nothing in the entire universe was OK. Darkness fell. Rocks split. An earthquake shook the ground.

But then, after the longest, darkest three days His friends had ever endured, Jesus returned. He was alive and He had started the process of making everything right again. Is everything suddenly OK? No, but it will be. Someday.

And during the in between time? We wait. We pray. Sometimes we cry. Jesus did. God’s people do. This encouraging video from a pastor who was kidnapped and tortured reminds me of that each time I watch it. He felt fear, pain, anguish. He felt alone. God’s people are not superhuman, but by His grace and strength, and with the promise of His forgiveness when we fall short and doubt, we can trust and believe that it will be OK again. Someday.

Ben and Me

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S is for Shame

S is for Shame

Last week, I read a beautiful post by my dear friend Marcy Crabtree over at the Ben & Me blog. She talked about “real life,” resisting the urge to compare ourselves with the so-called perfection we see around us, whether it be online, on television, or wherever else we find it. This week, as I prayed and prepared to write this post, I read the story of Saachi, a woman who listened to the lies about how worthless she was and tried to kill herself. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we endlessly compare ourselves with other women, other families, other ideals?

Consider this – in the thousands of years of human history that span countless societies, the image of the “ideal woman” has consistently changed. Some societies valued small frames and delicate constitutions. Others valued women whose physique lent itself well to bearing children. Some societies idealized women who were warriors; others thought it shameful for a woman to have the role as protector. And fashion – the extremes are endless! In a few short hundred years, American society has valued everything from stretch jeans that squeeze one’s “rear view” into an impossibly small package to bustles that made it impossible to pass through the average doorway!

So where does that leave us? For the Christian woman, we often turn to Proverbs 31 to read of the values that endure and serve as a role model today. But let’s be honest – just reading that list on a day when you’re feeling less than your best leaves you exhausted and at times even feeling defeated. But don’t you see, we’re doing it again? We’re comparing ourselves with the “ideal” woman. That is not what we are called to do. Jesus didn’t tell us to look around and worry about what everyone else is doing. Do you remember what He said to Peter when Peter started wondering what God’s purpose for his fellow apostle John was? “…what is that to you? You must follow me.” 

Peter’s job wasn’t to look around; Peter’s job was to look to Jesus. Remember what happened when he took his eyes off of Jesus when he was walking on the water?

But don’t stop reading there. If you’re like me, you cringe when you think of the mistake Peter made because it reminds us each of the mistakes we make. Keep reading. Turn to Luke 7 and start reading again in verse 36. A woman came to Jesus. All she had to offer Him was her shame and her tears. Her life was a mess. Everyone knew it. There was no hiding it any more. She didn’t say anything, she just came to Jesus and wept at His feet. And what did Jesus say? “Your sins are forgiven . . . Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” What did He do? He forgave her and gave her peace.

May we each be as brave as she was and come to Jesus when all we have left to offer Him is our tears.

And may we have courage to believe Him when He says our sins are forgiven. He has paid for them with His blood. And He has given us peace.

Will we receive it?

Ben and Me

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R is for Real Life Heroes

R-is-for-Real-Life-Heroes

If God called you to a slum, would you go?

There are days when I wish I could pull away from all the news-the news feed on my email home page, the news pages that abound, even the trending headlines on Facebook. But today I read a good news story, one that encouraged-and challenged-me.

It’s the story of Nitya. He is a Christian living in India. One day, he had a dream. He saw the place God wanted him to go work. There was just one problem-it was a slum. The people were hurting. They were sick. They were dying.

Nitya went anyway. He went to serve the people. He started a school. He listened to their problems. He showed them love.

And God started changing lives in the slum.

It reminds me of another news story, one that changed the world. It’s God’s story. The story of God sending His Son. We are hurting. We were sick. We were dying. But Jesus came anyway. He didn’t have to come, but He did. He came not just to change our lives but to save them.

That’s why we call it the Good News.

Ben and Me

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Q is for Quicker Than Walking

Q is for Quicker Than Walking-Bicycles

What comes to mind when you think of a bicycle? Maybe fun childhood memories of pedaling around a neighborhood (or like me, memories of skinned knees and never quite getting the hang of it!). Maybe you got one for a special birthday or Christmas gift. But have you ever thought of a bicycle as an evangelistic tool?

Let me share a story. Purnendu is a pastor in South Asia. He is responsible for leading congregations at three mission stations. But the mission stations are fifteen miles from his home. His only method of transportation is walking. It took hours to walk to the mission stations and hours to return. These were precious hours he couldn’t spend encouraging other Christians and sharing about Jesus with those who have not heard. But that was before someone gave him the gift of a bicycle. Now he can reach the villages much more quickly, giving him more time to spend with the people there. He can even take his wife along to the services, allowing her to minister to the needs of the women in the congregations. He can also reach additional villages he was not able to reach on foot.

Bicycles for pastors in South Asia mean much more than fond memories or a few hours of pleasure. They are important tools that help them share the love of Jesus with men, women, and children who are dying on the inside from not knowing Him. The next time you jump in your car – or hop on your bicycle – please pray for the pastors in South Asia who are working so hard to reach the lost, whether walking or pedaling to get to them.

Ben and Me

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P is for Pure Water

P is for Pure Water

I dehydrate quickly. I’m not sure what causes it from a physical standpoint, I just know that if I don’t keep sipping at fluids throughout the day, I start to feel sick. But I never have to walk farther than to the kitchen to get clean, pure water. It’s treated, filtered, cold, and crisp. But in South Asia, simply finding water that won’t cause your children to get sick—or worse—is a daily struggle.

Sometimes the struggle to find safe water is due to drought. When the rain does not come, there is nothing to replenish the water supplies. Other times the struggle is the result of a natural disaster that has polluted the water. Still other times it is due to Christian persecution.

In parts of the world, when a family chooses to follow Christ, their village refuses them access to clean water. The family then may have to walk miles to get water, and sometimes, the water isn’t fit to drink. But they have no choice. They will not abandon their faith in Jesus, so they walk the miles and take the risk.

The good news is that ministries are working to provide these believers—and their villages—with reliable access to clean water. They are working to install wells (such as the Jesus Wells program), that demonstrate the love of Christ, the One who promised: “but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” John 4:14 NIV.

Would you join me in giving thanks for the pure water we available and the everlasting life we have through Jesus? And would you join me in praying that families all across South Asia would have the same?

Ben and Me

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O is for the Odds

O is for the Odds and the 10-40 Window

Last week, I received the following in an email from Gospel for Asia:

  • 2 out of 5 people in our world – that means 2.5 billion people – have never heard of Jesus’ love for them.
  • 80,000 people in South Asia die every day without ever having a chance to hear the name of Jesus. That means every time your heart beats, someone in Asia plunges into hell.
  • Although 97% of the world’s unreached lives in the 10/40 window, less than 0.05% of our total resources as the Church in the West are being sent to help share the Good News.

Their website shared additional sobering statistics:

  • 500,000 villages in India alone have never heard the Gospel.
  • Over 80% of the worlds poorest people live in the 10/40 Window.

In the face of such overwhelming odds, is there anything we can do?

It’s a cliche that I’m sure you’ve heard before, but it carries a truth worth repeating: One with God is a majority. Think about it. In ancient times, God chose one man and his family to preserve the entire human race. He chose one man to become the father of an entire nation. And many years later, God used twelve men who knew Jesus to change the Roman empire and the world.

The message is clear. Odds don’t matter to God.

But how can we help make a difference? Above all, we are called to pray. “And He was saying to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” Luke 10:2

There are many ways we can pray. One way we can pray for the lost is by praying for the national missionaries who are serving them. What is a national missionary? A national missionary is a man or woman who already lives in Asia, knows the language or a related dialect, and is not restricted in his or her movement due to being a Westerner. More than 75% of Asian countries do not allow Western missionaries to come and openly share the Gospel.

There is a printable prayer reminder of specific requests to keep on your heart for national missionaries. They face the every day trials and temptations each of us do such as being too busy, focusing on the wrong things, and growing tired doing the right thing. They also face threats most of us do not face, such as direct opposition and persecution for their faith in Christ.  I hope you’ll join me in seeking to remember them in prayer often.

Ben and Me

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N is for Nepal

N is for Nepal

Last week, I finished re-reading a biography of Sundar Singh, a missionary who dedicated his life to helping the people of northern India, Nepal, and Tibet see that Jesus Christ came for each and every one of them, that He was not a religion of the West but a living and loving God. He carried a Bible and a blanket and wore a simple robe. His story is a remarkable one, and I am challenged each time I read it. One of the details of his story always stands out to me. He was nicknamed the “apostle of the bleeding feet” because he crossed the Himalayas barefoot numerous times. Whenever I read the description of him walking barefoot, leaving blood-stained footprints in the snow, it reminds me of Jesus. His feet bled for me on the rocks of Calvary.

Sundar Singh was born in 1889 and died in 1929, but the mission to cross the Himalayas to reach every person living there with the message that Jesus came, bled, and died for them goes on. They must be told that Jesus died and rose again, even if it means crossing the Himalayas barefoot, or as is often the case, in flip flops. Can you imagine it? In our modern world, with all its luxuries, missionaries continue to cross the icy and rocky hills in flip flops because they don’t have the winter clothing they need.

Will you pray today for the missionaries working in this rocky region, that God would go before them, break up the soil of the hearts waiting to hear, and provide for their every need? You can read more about ways to pray for the people of Nepal or take a journey through Nepal with a Gospel for Asia field correspondent if you’d like to learn more.

Ben and Me

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M is for A Mother’s Hidden Legacy

M is for A Mother's Hidden Legacy in South Asia

It’s a story of a forgotten faith, an alcoholic husband, and the God who never lost sight of His children.

Naomi was raised in a Christian home in South Asia. She believed in Jesus and trusted His plan for her life. Then her parents arranged her marriage to a man who did not share her faith. As time passed, Naomi forgot the Lord she once loved, and she put her faith away. Her husband worked faithfully. Unfortunately, he also spent his paychecks on alcohol just as faithfully. It didn’t change when they became parents, first to one child and then to a second. Naomi wearied of the struggle and the hopelessness.

That’s when she remembered the Lord she had once trusted. She began to pray to Him again and dared hope He would one day rescue her from the mess her life had become. In time, she began to attend church. Her husband put up with it for a while, but then he started verbally assaulting her for attending. She didn’t go to church as often, but she would not give it up. She would not forget her Lord again.

As time passed, Naomi’s husband’s lifetime of bad habits and abusing his body began to take a toll on his health. He became desperately ill, but with no money to pay for services, the hospital would not help him. He returned home to wait to die.

But God had other plans.

As a pastor and other Christians prayed with Naomi and her family, God spoke to her husband’s heart. He admitted that the way he had lived his life was wrong. He began to believe that this God who his wife loved so dearly could rescue him as well. Over time, God healed Naomi’s husband from his illness and her husband chose to believe in Jesus. Her husband had seen with his own eyes the love of a God who never forgot His children, even when they forgot Him.

You can read more of Naomi’s story on the Gospel for Asia blog.

 Ben and Me

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L is for Literacy

L is for Literacy

Can you imagine never learning to read? Over two hundred and fifty million women in South Asia can’t read, and it can affect every area of their lives, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’d like to share a the story of two women. You can see a video about the first at the link below. She quit school when she was a little girl and never learned to read. Her family was very poor. They didn’t have electricity or television—they didn’t even have good water to drink. She had to walk several miles to go to school, and she didn’t have nice clothes to wear. The other kids made fun of her. One day, she wasn’t able to turn in her homework because she didn’t have any paper. The teacher was so upset that he punished her in front of the whole class. She was so embarrassed she refused to go to school any more.

So, she grew up and got married, but she never learned to read or write. She was embarrassed at church, because she couldn’t read her Bible along with the pastor. And, she was sad, too, because she knew that reading the Bible and learning God’s Word was the best way to learn more about God.

The second story I want to share is the story of Dayita. Her family was poor and she began working as a seamstress to help provide for their needs. She deposited her earnings in the bank only to discover that her husband was withdrawing the money and spending it on alcohol. She considered opening a separate account, but she couldn’t read or write to fill out the forms or manage her finances.

Literacy ministries helped both of these women learn to read and write. It helped empower them with the resources they needed to care for their families. It boosted their self-confidence and helped them develop their sense of self-worth. But it did even more. It taught them more about God, how to read and study His Word, and how to grow closer in their relationship with Him. Would you pray with me that every one of the women in South Asia who cannot read would discover the life-changing power in God’s Word for themselves?

Illiteracy in South Asia

 Ben and Me

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K is for the Kitchen in South Asia

K is for the Kitchen in South Asia

I was extremely blessed to spend yesterday with my family and a dear friend. We had a “girls day” full of shopping, laughing, and eating. It was the first the four of us had enjoyed in a long time. And I ate a lot – far more than I needed to. But do you know what? When this morning came, I was hungry again. Despite having a full lunch and a far-more-than-adequate supper, I needed to eat again a few hours later.

It wasn’t a surprise; it’s part of being human. We eat, yet we grow hungry again; we drink yet we grow thirsty again (John 4:13). It’s the same everywhere, in the United States and in South Asia. There’s something else that is part of being human that is the same everywhere. It’s the need each one of us has for real life, for spiritual life, for Jesus Christ.

In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (NIV). Jesus is the only one who can fill the hunger in our hearts for something “more,” something that will last and not fade away. Will you pray with me that families in South Asia and around the world will hear about and feast on the Bread of Life that gives life for all eternity?

Here is a recipe for chapati, an unleavened flat bread often served with every meal in North India. The bread is torn into smaller pieces and used to pick food from the plate. Try making a batch of chapati with your family and pray for the women in India who make these up to three times a day for their families. (Thanks to Gospel for Asia for the delicious recipe!)

Chapati Recipe:

This recipe makes 12 chapatis.

Items needed: Griddle, rolling pin

Ingredients:
3 cups white whole wheat flour or chapati flour (if you have an Indian supermarket near you)
1 1/2 cups milk or water (you might need more or less depending on how dry your flour is)
Salt (a few dashes)
1 Tbsp. Ghee (clarified butter), or vegetable oil. (You may need extra when rolling.)

To make ghee: melt butter on low heat, when it is all melted pour into a heat safe vessel. For example a glass canning jar works perfectly. Allow the melted butter to settle, skim off foam on top, and pour off the oil. Leave the white residue in the bottom of the jar.

Mix flour, salt, and liquid to form dough.

On a clean surface knead oil into dough till smooth.

Let dough rest for about 10-20 minutes, cover with damp towel.

Separate the dough into 12 balls approximately 1 inch across.

Add a few drops of oil to the rolling surface and flatten the ball, start rolling it out then fold it into a triangle and roll it out into a circle again. Repeat then roll it into a circle about the size of your hand.

Place on a medium high hot griddle and cook until the top is puffy and the bottom golden brown, then turnover and cook the other side.

Repeat until all your chapatis are cooked. Serve warm and enjoy!

 Ben and Me

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