Ten lepers healed, Luke 17:11-19

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The ten lepers were standing outside the town, waiting for Jesus to pass by. There was already discord among them. “We cannot be certain that Jesus will come this way” one said, “and if he does, it is unlawful for us to approach him.” “We will shout for him to hear us”, the younger said. “And then what happens?” the first responded. “They say he is a man from God,” the one sat on a rock started, “that he is even the Messiah. We will plead for his mercy, if he is truly from God, he will have pity on us.”

Far off in the distance they noticed a small crowd of people walking on the path leading to the village. The younger leper said, “I don’t see anybody in this crowd who looks like the Messiah, isn’t it a group of peasants?” The crowd was approaching the town not noticing the lepers who were afar. The one sat on a rock stood up and looked at each of them intently. He said to the rest of the lepers, “Shout with me for Jesus to have pity on us”. They shouted, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” The small crowd walking on the path stopped and turned to the lepers, one of them replied “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”

There was a long pause. None of them said a word. Jesus knew their thoughts. Some were wondering “If he is the Messiah he would heal us, why does he tell us to go to the priests as if we were healed already? If we go to them and we’re not, they will chase us and the town people as well.” Some other thought “Is this man really the Messiah? He is travelling by foot and looks like an ordinary man.” But after a long pause, one of them turned in the direction of the temple and started walking. After a few steps, another followed, and another, and another. While all of them were walking towards the temple they were healed from their leprosy.

When the lepers who initiated the journey – the one who was sat on a rock – looked at his cleansed hands he wept. He turned round to see if Jesus was still there. When he saw him looking at them, he went to him shouting “Glory to God in the highest, I was cursed and now I am blessed!” As he was running to Jesus he could feel strength and endurance he had never experienced before, he sensed the touch of the wind and of the sun on his virgin skin and continued running to him with tears rolling down his cheeks until he finished his race at the feet of his Master. “Thank you my Lord, though I am a Samaritan and a leper you had pity on me and healed me.” Jesus looked at his disciples and asked them why only one leper returned, then he looked to him and said “Go, your faith has made you well.”

 

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Book Review Shadow of the Almighty

This year I had to write one book review on a Christian book and I chose to read “Shadow of the Almighty“, the biography of Jim Elliot. I had heard about this book before but it was the first time I read it. It is one of the few books that have deeply impacted me and shaped my faith, I though I would share the book review with you.

The Shadow of the Almighty, The Life and Testament of Jim Elliott, Elisabeth Elliot. Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1958

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Biography of Jim Elliot: account of his journey of faith and martyrdom with four other missionaries at the hands of the Auca Indians. His wife, Elisabeth, makes full use of his diary and letters sent to his family to give the reader the story of his commitment to God that led to his death at the age of 28, slain by the men he had come to win for Christ.

The book it divided in four parts: His early years, his university years, his working years and his years in Ecuador on the mission field.

The book begins with a prologue describing Jim and the other missionaries’ last moment on the beach where they died.

In the first part of the book, Elisabeth narrates Jim’s life from the testimonies of his school’s friends. From very young, Jim was a committed Christian, one of his friends comments about Jim’s eagerness to pray at all times: “I often thought if we had a guardian angel, he was kept on his toes and didn’t get much sleep either.” (p29)

In part II, we follow Jim at at University though his own writing in his diary. Jim admits that he put his study of the Bible before his studies and writes: “I seek the degree A.U.G., ‘approved unto God.” We also read from his letters that he advised his fifteen year-old sister to make “a bold start” at the beginning of the school year; to boldly talk about her faith to her school friends, as the easiest way rather than trying halfway through without much credibility.

During the summer, after his first year, he spends time in Mexico working with missionaries and begins to understand the work he would later surrender to :”Missionaries are very human folks, just doing what they are asked, Simply a bunch of nobodies trying to exalt Somebody.” (p46) While at university and busy with all kinds of studies and involvements, he spent considerable amount of time in the Word and sets his standards for himself the highest possible: “Don’t follow the example of those you left in the world, not those you find in the church. Rather, the law of God, found in His Word, shall be my standard, and as I see it, there are few examples of this sort of living anywhere.” (p53) In these days Jim prayed a lot concerning the mission field and the souls without access to the gospel and seeing his fellow Christian friends dismissing the call to mission, Jim expresses frustration in his diary: ”Our young men are going into the professional fields because they don’t ‘feel called’ to the mission field. We don’t need a call, we need a kick in the pants. We must be thinking in terms of ‘going out’ , and stop weeping because ‘they won’t come in’. Who wants to step into an igloo? The tombs themselves are not colder than the churches. May God send us forth!” (p53) His time at university was a time of complete surrender to the will of His master: “Open my hand to receive the nail of Calvary, as Christ was opened- that I, releasing all, might be released, unleashed from all that binds me now.” (p59) Jim’s eagerness to preach Christ was consuming him more and more: “I only hope that He will let me preach to those who have never heard that name Jesus. What else is worthwhile in this life?” (p60) He didn’t know then that his prayer would be answered many years later, in Ecuador where he wrote: “I have had to make a cross of two logs, and lie down on it to show the Indians what it means to crucify a man.” (p237)

In the third part of the book, Jim finished university and worked various jobs at home, waiting to hear from God where to go and when. During his time at home and with too much time to waste, Jim learns to be rather than to do: “Analysed afresh and repudiated my base desire to do something for God in the sight of men, rather than to be something, regardless of whether results were to be seen.” (p127) Finally, after many years working in America, and preaching and teaching in the churches there and after many years searching the will of God and having considered both India and South America, Jim is off to Ecuador.

At first he struggles with language learning and feels frustrated to meet so many lost souls and being unable to communicate clearly to them. Elisabeth joins him on the mission field, working elsewhere in Ecuador. They had met at University and kept in contact through letters all these years, both contended by the single life but open to God’s will. It is while in Ecuador that Jim make the decision to marry Elizabeth. After having been friends for five years and working as missionaries in the same country, he proposes to her and after three weeks get married. They live their first four months of marriage in a tent before settling in a small house in a village that they build. There his time is absorbed with house building, teaching children, preaching and evangelising in the nearby areas as well as teaching the mature Indian Christians of their village to teach and preach themselves. In 1955, Elisabeth gives birth to their daughter in Ecuador, Valerie. Jim confesses to his brother in a letter that they suffered at times from spiritual discouragement :We need no funds here, really, nor more workers. What we need is spiritual power and vigor in the soul.” (p215) But teaching the Indians to preach becomes a fruitful ministry and Jim stops teaching and preaching himself, apart once a week to the whole congregation. In this village Jim works with another missionary couple, that he met at University and joined Ecuador around the same time as he. His friend had discovered a tribe completely unreached a few miles by plane from where they stayed and together with two other missionaries they start praying for the door to open for them to go there and evangelise the tribe. They send gifts by aeroplane and communicate friendly words through speakers and it seems like the path is opening for them to reach this completely unreached people group, Jim’s strongest desire since he was first called. The four of them finally go, leaving their wives behind, and there find their death. They land on the beach near the tribe’s encampment and wait for the indigenous they had relentlessly prayed for to come and welcome them, but hiding in the forest, they spear them.

The most interesting part of the book, I found, was to see the evolution of Jim’s faith, from being consumed with zeal for God, and living out the life he had prayed for in Ecuador. Jim was surely a gifted writer, and it was beautiful to read certain pages of his diary, describing so eloquently his love for God. It was also challenging to read of his high standards for his faith and his total surrender to God’s will. It was instructive to read of all the lessons he learned along the way, his ups and downs and the catastrophic situations he faced. To read everything in Jim’s own work in his diary and letters magnifies the story, for we can read of his heart for the lost and his surrender to the Harvest-Master’s will, as he puts it.

Do not leave Jesus behind, Luke 2

Jesus in the temple discussing his Father's business Luke 2:46-49

I have been pondering over the account of Jesus, at twelve years old, being left at the Temple in Luke 2.

Let’s read it :

“Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.” Luke 2:41-46

Do we travel for a day or more thinking Jesus is in our company, but we left Him behind?

Is it possible that we live our Christian lives in such a way that we do not realise when Jesus is with us guiding the way and when we left Him behind? Are we constantly calling to God for guidance and direction or can we not even tell when the Presence of God is with or without us?

Let’s read a passage written centuries before that in Exodus 33. Moses was in the tent of meeting speaking with God, it was right before he saw the glory of the LORD pass by him,

“If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” Exodus 33:13-14

Moses did not want to go anywhere without the Presence of the LORD and of course he did not. We know that the Christian life involves suffering and that whatever path we will take it will be marked with suffering. Actually suffering and persecution is one of the many promises Jesus gives to His disciples. But the promise is not only hardship; the promise is Jesus plus hardship. Not only Jesus and an easy life and not only hardship and not Jesus with us, the promise is God Himself living in us and guiding us and the sufferings and persecutions that will entail from being His followers. Only a fool or someone who likes pain would accept suffering and persecution without the constant Presence of God by our side!

“The LORD is the shade at your right hand” says the psalmist in Psalm 121:5 Our shade is discreet, not showy, it is continually close to us, never leaving us, even from one inch. So is the Presence of the LORD, He speaks to us in whispers as we learn from Elijah’s experience in 1 Kings 19:12. But do we live such lives that we go about serving God without relying on His Presence and listening to His whispers for guidance?

If we do not pay attention to Jesus, we will, like his parents in Luke 2, leave Him behind and when we are far away and wondering where He is, we will, like them, look around us and will not find Him. We will have to take steps backwards and learn the lesson He was teaching us there.

Love the foreigners as yourself

We face two major issues in world mission today – one; the steady and significant decline of Christianity in Europe and two; the rise of Islam in Africa. These following descriptions are what I have witnessed in Italy during my four weeks spent in the country (18th March-15th April), working with churches ministering to African refugees and migrants.

For four weeks I worked in three different parts of Italy, with many missionaries and with many churches. I learned from them about the mission field in Italy, but the main focus of my time there was the migrants and what the Church is already doing and planning to do. I went into the regions of Napoli, Avellino and Campobasso and have visited a dozen of migrant camps.

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Continue reading “Love the foreigners as yourself”

Saying goodbye to 2016

Looking at the historical events of this year, one can but be astounded.
I wonder what our children and grand-children will think studying this page of history. Maybe they will ask us; “Weren’t you scared?”
Politically we used to fear our leaders, the political elites, and we know many who see conspiration theories everywhere, but now we should be fearing the people. Democratic elections have created stir in the whole world that will know shock waves for generations.
In terms of security, we used to fear the leaders too, who have the codes to the nuclear weapons, but now we fear our neighbours. This year again hundreds of people died because of “lone wolves” terrorist attacks that can happen anywhere and to anyone, as it happened notably in my country, in Nice in July and recently in Germany.
And our children will ask us “Weren’t you scared?”
Well no I wasn’t, not because I am naive or unaware of what is happening in the world but because I know, with all my faith, that God reigns. No I am not afraid, because my hope is not in the prosperity of Europe or even in world peace, my hope is in God. “Take heart”, Jesus said, “I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
Not to say that I am not affected by what happens in the world; when Brexit happened and anti-immigrating crimes rose significantly I was a European migrant in England. When the attacks in Nice happened I was about to go on a mission trip to Greece and once there I talked to refugees who told me they shared my grief for what was happening in my country. When the word “post-truth” entered the dictionary, I was entering Bible college and being fully convinced, by Scriptures and by the Holy Spirit, that Jesus is the Truth, that his word endures for ever and will never pass away (Mtt 24:53). And when Trump was elected President of the US, I was studying the vision of Daniel of the kingdom of God, an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, that will never be destroyed (Daniel 7:14). But I wonder how the rest of the world copes, whether people are scared or not, what do they place their hopes in? My prayer for the new year is that the uncertainty and the fear we experience right now will bring people to question in what they place their hope; financial security? political security? social security? what sort of security have they got? We can see that in the lapse of just a year, there can be groundbreaking changes, but God never changes, God is not human that he should lie, nor a human being, that he should change his mind, when he speaks he acts and when he promises he fulfills (Numbers 23:19). Jesus promised that he will come back, and he will, and we will be found in him, if only we believe, if only we have faith in Him.
I wish you a Happy New Year
May God bless you with the gift of faith

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We are living Jesus’ life

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The other day at church an older man came to talk to me. That Sunday the talk had been particularly moving and difficult. It was a man from the organisation Tear Fund talking about his work among the enslaved orphans in Asia. This older man from my church told me that after the sermon, before taking communion he felt worthless. But he told me that when he was about to take the bread and drink the wine he was reminded that as small and seemingly insignificant as he is, he is part of Christ’s body. He shared many thoughts with me that I have written down.

Continue reading “We are living Jesus’ life”

“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as “The women, God help us!” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.”

Dorothy Sayers