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Archive for July, 2013

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“So, what have you learned about Jesus today?” Ed, the leader of the small group Bible study, looks around the circle expectantly. The air conditioner hums. The girl from Kyrgyzstan fixes her eyes firmly on the carpet. The two Taiwanese girls intently study their printout of the story. The Polish girl twists her hands in her lap.

This handful of international students have come to learn more about who God is and what the Bible says. We’ve been looking at the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy in Mark 1. While the guy from Ukraine seems to have had some exposure to the Bible, the girl from Kyrgyzstan said at the beginning that she didn’t know anything about Jesus. So we’ve been reading over the verses slowly, explaining words or concepts that may be new to non-English speakers.

Finally the enthusiastic young Ukrainian next to Ed speaks up. “I learned that Jesus can heal people. Just by touching him and speaking!” He beams at the rest of us. Others follow his lead.

“I learned that Jesus has compassion,” someone offers. “He cares about everyone,” another pipes up.

“What about you, Andrea?” Ed asks. The tall blond girl from Poland had been eagerly asking questions during the study. Now her voice is quiet, slow.

“I feel… that Jesus is real.”

No one moves. I feel my heart pounding. My breathing sounds loud in the heavy silence.

“I don’t know why,” Andrea continues, as if she can’t believe it herself. “But right now, I feel that Jesus is real and He’s alive.”

After the study ends, Andrea seeks out one of the American college students to talk more. And that night Andrea makes the decision to give her life to Jesus.

When next week’s study comes around, Andrea excitedly flies around giving out the paperback New Testaments, drawing in people who are hanging around outside. Her excitement is contagious. “You need to come to this study! You need to read the Bible and learn about Jesus!”

No one has to ask Andrea to tell others what she’s experienced. She’s met Jesus, the One who shows compassion, the One who heals and transforms. And she wants to tell everyone about Him!

What about you? Have you had an encounter with the living Jesus? What has He done for you? Don’t keep it to yourself – give it away!

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Freely you have received; freely give.”
Matthew 10:8, NIV

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“As I watched my father’s mistress put her suitcases in his car, an animal rage came over me. I felt I could tear her apart with my hands.” Yagmur, tall and elegant with perfectly styled blond hair, spoke evenly to the audience in the church, but the pain of that childhood memory was evident. “That day I made a decision to hate my father for the rest of my life.”

Yagmur’s mother was also angry, and took out her anger in the form of physical abuse toward her daughter. “As a young girl, I had scars and bruises all over my body from my mother’s beatings. I hated my father for his unfaithfulness. And I hated my mother for her helplessness.”

“Every day my mother told me I was ugly and stupid,” Yagmur continued. “Faith comes through hearing. And I started to believe in what I was hearing.” Escaping to her room and pulling the blankets over her head, Yagmur would dream of being a beautiful princess in a long, sparkling gown. And she would imagine her mother and father smiling at her, proudly. She longed for their love.

Immediately after college, she married a charming and passionate young man, desperate to escape the abuse and pain of her home life. But soon another nightmare began. Her husband began beating her too, accusing her of unfaithfulness, demanding to know why she was a few minutes late coming home from work.

Then one day her husband held a knife to her throat, insisting that she jump out of an eighth-story window. Yagmur clung to his ankles, sobbing and pleading for her life until he let her go.

In desperation, Yagmur fled to the U.S. to start a new life. But when her second husband’s drug abuse got out of control, she found herself becoming more and more hopeless, wanting to end her life. “There is hatred and pain everywhere I go,” she thought in despair. “I can’t escape.”

Eventually Yagmur found a job working for a Christian company. Wanting to impress the boss, she joined the early-morning Bible study at the office. They were reading the story of Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous woman. Yagmur couldn’t help blurting out, “Why did he forgive her? She was not worthy to be forgiven!”

“None of us are worthy,” a co-worker explained. “But Jesus forgives us because he loves us. Even if that woman had been the only person on the earth, Jesus still would have come to earth for her and died in her place, because he loves her.”

“I was that unworthy woman,” she recalled. All the shame of her childhood, the memories of being called ugly and stupid, the feeling of being worthless, the abuse of her marriages, the abandonment and emptiness and thoughts of suicide – it all culminated one day in a desperate cry in the office restroom. “Help me, God! Have mercy! I need You!” As she dried her eyes and walked to her desk, she wondered if He even heard her.

Before she could even get back to work, Yagmur’s boss called her urgently to his office. “I’ve never done this before,” he explained hesitantly. “But I feel Jesus prompting me strongly that I need to tell you something. He says that He has heard your prayer in the bathroom. He saw you when you were a little girl. He’s been with you all this time. And He loves you and forgives you.”

Yagmur crumpled to the carpet, weeping. “Do you want Jesus to be your Lord and Savior?” Her boss was asking kindly. “YES! YES! YES!” She sobbed. Finally she had found the love she had been searching for.

Eventually Yagmur was able to forgive her father and mother for all the pain they caused her for so many years. And today Yagmur has a ministry of bringing hope and healing to girls and women around the world, through TV programming and radio broadcasts. “You are loved. You are valued. You are beautiful,” she tells them. “God has a plan for your future. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope.” She knows it is true – she is living proof.

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Isaiah 43:1b (NRSV)

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It’s a simple thing. Something I’ve done thousands of times. But today it takes all my energy to turn the key in the ignition of my car. The first attempt twists my wrapped and splinted wrist in a way that sends shooting pain towards my elbow. I drop the injured hand to my lap and wait a few seconds for the throbbing to subside. Then I awkwardly stretch my left arm across my body and around the steering wheel to turn the key with my left hand. The engine finally roars to life, and I slump back in my seat, relieved. I’m sweating and I haven’t even left the parking lot yet.

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but sometime in the last few weeks I must have strained my wrist when lifting heavy trays of food or carrying stacks of dirty dishes at my summer catering job. The little every-day activities – chopping an avocado for guacamole, swiping my card for a Guatemalan brew at my favorite coffee shop – have suddenly become difficult and painful endeavors. And now I’m supposed to wear a splint to keep the wrist still and allow the joints and tendons to recover.

What amazes me is how this little pulled tendon in my wrist has such rippling repercussions. Each time I turn a doorknob or pour a glass of orange juice, my neck and shoulder muscles automatically tense up, my body tilts to shift weight to the left side, and my limbs contort in unnatural positions to avoid unnecessary strain on the “weak link.”

It gets me thinking of that passage in the Bible where Paul is comparing the followers of Jesus to a human body. He explains: ‘The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” …If one part suffers, every part suffers with it” (I Cor. 12:21, 26, NIV).

Just as the rest of my body can’t ignore my injured wrist and go on with life as usual, so I can’t ignore the hurts of my brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow members of the Body. The book of Hebrews tells us to “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Heb. 13:2, NIV).

So how can I help support the “weaker members” of the Body? I can pray for the pastor imprisoned in Iran, as if his chains were around my ankles. I can write to the widowed woman in Vietnam, reminding her that she is not forgotten. And I can put my arms around the tired young mom who sits two rows behind me in church, being a friend and a listening ear when she feels discouraged and alone.

Is there a hurting member of the Body that you can pray for, support, and encourage today? Give away what you’ve received! Share the GOOD NEWS of hope and healing with someone else today – so that the Body can be whole and healthy and working as it should!

Going Vertical!
MJ

“But God has put the body together, …so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”
(I Corinthians 12:24-25, NIV)

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