Monthly Archives: April 2017
In the cross is health, in the cross is life,
in the cross is protection from enemies,
in the cross is heavenly sweetness,
in the cross strength of mind,
in the cross joy of the Spirit,
in the cross the height of virtue,
in the cross perfection of holiness.
There is no health of the soul, no hope of eternal life, save in the cross.
– Thomas a Kempis, fifteenth century theologian
In the last blog, I wrote about Mary, an elderly believer in our church. She is illiterate, very uneducated and there was a time, many in our church thought of her as the wayside land in the Parable of the Sower. I wrote a previous blog on that. But, she has become a paragon of Christian virtues, except she does not even know that. Oh, how mightily our Creator shapes our lives!
As I had written before, I asked our church members to stop lying at all costs. I told them how when we lie, we may have thousand excuses, but the devil being the father of all lies, those who lie become the children of devil (John 8:44). I thought those words did not have any impact on anyone and was actually discouraged. Then comes Mary, with her testimony.
As mentioned earlier, her husband is a drunkard. He works in another city and every month, he would visit her with his savings. But then he would get drunk, and beat her up and take back all the money, and would get drunk again. By the time he leaves back for his work, he would have wasted all the money he brought with him and also, whatever savings Mary had. So, like all Indian women who are married to drunkards, Mary also developed a self-defence mechanism: lying.
Most of the women in such situations, would lie about the money when their husbands are drunk. They would say how they paid all the debts and hence have no money left. At times, their drunk husbands may become furious and beat them up ever so sincerely, but at least the money would be there. Sometimes, the drunkards would get frustrated as they need money for drinking, and hence would leave their wives without beating so that they can find some other source.
Now, it is easy for me to sit at my home and tell that for a Christian woman to lie is a sin. Make no mistake, lying is a sin. But I am not the one who is going to be beaten up; I am not the one who is going to lose all my savings if I speak the truth. So for some preachers, this is a very sensitive subject. I have heard preachers encourage and even praise their women believers for acting wisely – that is, telling lies to deceive their husbands, as Jesus Himself has said that we should be wise like a serpent. So, it is okay to lie in such situations. Oh, I am not an expert, but when Jesus told us to be wise like a serpent, He probably did not ask us to become like “the serpent.”
And in my monologue about lying, I asked our believers, what would happen when we always tell the truth – will we gain or lose? Immediately everyone enthusiastically told that we would gain a lot if we tell the truth. I pointed out to them that if that is true, no one would ever tell a lie. I told them that when we tell the truth, we will suffer a lot – in every way. But then aren’t we called to suffer for the sake of Christ? Aren’t we supposed to count as loss whatever gain we had, for the sake of Christ? I told them that when we start telling the truth, we will suffer and we will have certain setbacks. But then the LORD will be pleased with us.
Mary took this monologue to her heart and she decided not to lie anymore. When her husband asked her the next time, in his drunken stupor, where she had hidden the money, she told him the truth and he took all the money and got drunk. Apparently, this had happened few times, leaving her penniless for few months. But she braved through it, rejoicing that she was suffering for the sake of Christ and she did not tell any of us about this.
But then, last year, around November, something happened. No, her husband did not stop drinking and surely, he did not become a believer. But when he came home, he brought a huge sum (nearly $2000) in savings. And when he was at home, he did not drink at all and went back to his work without wasting any money. Of course, he still drinks where he is working, but he manages to save lot more than he would, and he brings home huge amounts every month since then. In Indian rupees, we are talking about huge amounts. For the last five months, Mary has been blessed so abundantly, all because she stopped lying and chose to suffer for the sake of Christ. And our Lord does not ignore the sufferings of His children. How sweet and gracious our Lord is!
In January, I wrote about a believer in this blog, but forgot to follow up. Her name is Mary and I wanted to write something that happened in her life four years back. In 2013, her Christian daughter was engaged to get married. The wedding was to take place on the second week of February, 2014.
Weddings in India are very different from weddings in western countries. In India, the dowry plays a huge role in marriages and it is quite expensive for the bride’s side. Some 20 years back, Christians would not give or accept dowries, but nowadays, except few believers, everyone gives and accepts dowries.
In Mary’s household, her husband and her son are not saved. Her husband is a drunkard, but her son promised that he would take care of the wedding expenses of his little sister. So the wedding arrangements were being made and as the new year ushered, they received a set back. Mary’s son fell in love with a girl, eloped with her and got married. His sister, the bride-to-be got upset that he married a Hindu girl, as she was hoping her brother would be accept Jesus before she got married. So, she said few things and that upset her brother and his new wife. So, they decided not to help with the wedding expenses.
Then Mary’s husband informed her that he had saved some money for his daughter’s wedding and that weekend, he would bring that money for the wedding expenses. Except he never reached home. News reached Mary that her husband was out drunk in the road, wearing a garland made up of the most expensive liquor bottles available. All the money had gone.
By now, it was the second week of January and less than a month for the wedding day and Mary had no money to start any arrangements for the wedding. And she came for a prayer meeting in the church and I led the prayer based on Psalm 55:22: Cast your burden on the Lord and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
After the prayer service, all the women had gathered around her and were feeling pity for her condition. They were offering to pray for her, by binding her son, by binding the evil spirit that was working inside her daughter-in-law, by binding the drinking spirit in her husband, by releasing money for her son’s savings and all that. If you are Pentecostal, you would know what I am talking about.
As I was going upstairs, I saw all these women gathered around her and she was telling her sad story about how her son had betrayed her trust, I was moved in my spirit and told her tersely, “So, it is your son who is your trust. Jesus is not your Trust, then. If Jesus is your Trust, cast your burden on Him and He will sustain you” and I walked off. Later I found out that the women were very upset with me, for not understanding the “real” problems that people face in the “real” world and for being so insensitive to a believer’s suffering. However, Mary did not utter any word and she left.
Three days later, she came back for Friday prayer and told my mother-in-law, that when I asked her who was her trust, she felt as if some hot coals were kept deep in her heart and she could not help saying, “Jesus is my Trust. Jesus alone is my Trust.” And she told that from that day on, she is in a spiritually calm place, that Jesus would take care of all her needs. She refused to ask anyone for any money; her village people asked her to seek the help of her son, but she declined.
Then the first week of February came and all of a sudden, the flood gates were opened. Not literally. Suddenly money and help started pouring in from all directions, though she asked for none. Three days before the wedding, all the wedding expenses were paid, all the dowry was settled and every thing they wanted to buy for the wedding, they bought only the best. How it happened? She is not even able to recall.
However, she had one more prayer for the wedding day. Since her husband and her son are not Christians, she wanted the pastor, who is my father-in-law, to give the bride’s hand in wedding. Now, this is sort of a big deal in our male-dominated society. The man would do nothing for the family, but this is his chance to show the world that he is the “man” in his family. This would even cause blood baths in certain places. Since it was her simple trust in the Lord had helped her so far, we asked her to simply pray and wait for the Lord.
On the day of the wedding, we all had assembled by 5 in the evening. It was 5:30 and there was no sign of her son or her husband. So, the wedding started and, still they had not arrived. We tried calling them; but all their phones were switched off. Some of the villagers were supposed to come with them; we tried calling them, and again the phones were switched off. And the time came for the bride’s hand to be given in holy Matrimony to the groom, and since there was no “men” from the girl’s side, her pastor gave the bride away as per Mary’s wish.
After the wedding, the reception and dinner got over and by 8:30 in the night, Mary’s son entered with those villagers and his drunk father. Apparently, these villagers were very upset that a woman, who had left their religion and became a Christian, single-handedly managed to arrange a wedding. So, they went and told her son and her husband that if they did not do something about it, the women in the village may stop respecting men, after all. And they came up with a brilliant idea. The wedding was scheduled to start at 5 pm, let us go after 8:30. They had to wait for us, and by that everyone would know that we, men, wear pants in our family. But by then, the Lord changed their plan to humiliate Mary, to humiliate them instead. Those villagers who had attended the wedding started telling her son how grand the wedding was and how irresponsible he was to miss his own sister’s wedding and he left with his head down.
All these happened because of one woman and her childlike faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Praise be unto Him forever and ever. Amen.
From the “Letters of John Newton”
I am bound to speak well of my Physician–He treats me with great tenderness, and bids me in due time to expect a perfect cure. I know too much of Him (though I know but little) to doubt either His skill or His promise.
It is true, I have suffered sad relapses since I have been under His care. Yet I confess that the fault has not been His–but my own! I am a perverse and unruly patient! I have too often neglected His prescriptions, and broken the regimen He appoints me to observe. This perverseness, joined to the exceeding obstinacy of my disorders, would have caused me to be turned out as an incurable long ago–had I been under any other hand but His! Indeed–there is none like Him! When I have brought myself very low–He has still helped me. Blessed be His name–I am yet kept alive only by means of His perfect care.
Though His medicines are all beneficial–they are not all pleasant. Now and then He gives me a pleasant cordial; but I have many severe disorders, in which there is a needs-be for my frequently taking His bitter and unpalatable medicines!
We sometimes see published in the newspapers, acknowledgments of cures received. Methinks, if I were to publish my own case, that it would run something like this:
“I, John Newton, have long laboured under a multitude of grievous disorders:
a fever of ungoverned passions,
a cancer of pride,
a frenzy of wild imaginations,
a severe lethargy, and
a deadly stroke!
In this deplorable situation, I suffered many things from many physicians, spent every penny I had–yet only grew worse and worse!
In this condition, Jesus, the Physician of souls, found me when I sought Him not. He undertook my recovery freely, without money and without price–these are His terms with all His patients! My fever is now abated, my senses are restored, my faculties are enlivened! In a word, I am a new man! And from His ability, His promise, and the experience of what He has already done–I have the fullest assurance that He will infallibly and perfectly heal me–and that I shall live forever as a monument of His power and grace!”