This weekend I attended the Mission India “Gathering” at The Cove near Asheville. I was truly blessed by their ministry, vision and humility. One of the speakers told this story and it’s too good not to share – I had never heard it before though I knew the song well.
About 150 years ago, there was a great revival in Wales, England. As a result of this, many missionaries came from England to northeast India to spread the Gospel. The region was known as Assam and comprised hundreds of tribes. (I was in this region in February.) The tribal communities were quite primitive and aggressive.
The tribesmen were also called head-hunters because of a social custom which required the male members of the community to collect as many heads as possible. A man’s strength and ability to protect his wife was assessed by the number of heads he had collected. Therefore, a youth of marriageable age would try and collect as many heads as possible and hang them on the walls of his house. The more heads a man had, the more eligible he was considered.
Into this hostile and aggressive community, came a group of Welsh missionaries spreading the message of love, peace, and hope of Jesus Christ. Naturally, they were not welcomed.
One Welsh missionary finally succeeded in converting a man, his wife, and two children. This man’s faith proved contagious and many villagers began to accept Christianity. Angry, the village chief summoned all the villagers. He then called the family who had first converted to renounce their faith in public or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the man sang his reply, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.”
Enraged at the refusal of the man, the chief ordered his archers to arrow down the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the floor, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.”
But the man replied, again singing, “Though none go with me, still I will follow. No turning back.”
The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered the man’s wife to be shot with an arrow to the heart. In a moment she joined her two children in death. Now the chief asked for the last time, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.”
In the face of death the man sang, “The cross before me, the world behind me. No turning back. No turning back.”
He was shot dead like the rest of his family. But with their deaths, a miracle took place. The chief who had ordered the killings was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered, “Why should this man, his wife and two children die for a Man who lived in a far-away land on another continent some 2,000 years ago? There must be some supernatural power behind the family, and I too want that supernatural power.”
In a spontaneous confession of faith, he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior.
I just got back from the very beach pictured above. I love to worship as I walk at dawn. This year as I read my scriptures several verses jumped out at me – they had to do with lifting up. Scripture tell us to lift up – our heart. Our hands. Our souls. And I’d add our mind – I think it is implied in several passages. (Now I am not one to lift up my hands in church…I’m too Presbyterian!)
Lifting up is a positive action – a giving. It is also a position of vulnerability – it’s not defensive. It is a sign of surrender.
I lift up my heart for healing. Laminations 3:41
I lift up my soul for refreshing and restoration. Psalm 25:1
I lift up my hands in worship and surrender. Psalm 63: 4
And I lift up my mind by thinking about the things Paul told us to. Those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable things, excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8) Also as we meditate on scripture our hearts, souls and minds are lifted up. And our hands will follow! Sometimes as we lift up our hands it is easier to lift up the other parts of us.
How different would our day be if we “lifted up” our hearts, souls, hands and minds to the One who made us and desires the best for us. He created us to worship Him. If we are not worshiping Him, we are not fulfilling our purpose.
What do we worship about Him? Everything! He is holy, good, faithful, love, great, mighty, able, glorious, just, merciful, redeemer. He is our hope and refuge. He created us. He loves us. He is in control. You can add your own thoughts.
OK, now, lift it up!
I hate surprises! I don’t like to open my closet door to find a scorpion on the rug. I don’t like to begin to bake a cake only to be surprised that the milk is sour. I don’t like to put on a new pair of hose only to have them run as I do so! I don’t like plan an outdoor event only to have a sudden downpour. You get my drift. I don’t like surprises.
A couple of years ago some friends gave me a surprise birthday party – that was OK! I liked that!
But when the unexpected happens it can throw us for a loop. A car accident. A devastating diagnosis. A reversal of finances. How do we handle it?
I think for all of us at first, immediately, there is shock. And that is God’s way of getting us thorough the first hours and days so that we can cope with the unbearable. Then there may be a time of denial “This can’t be happening.”, “She will come home tonight.”- perhaps those two go hand in hand. I am no expert but I have had some traumatic events in my life and I have seen these things play out in my life.
However, in the shock, in the surprise, in the denial is the overwhelming sense of God’s peace. He promises to never leave or forsake…I can give personal testimony to the truth of that fact. And His peace does pass all understanding. When the unthinkable happens we can know He is there even if we don’t feel or hear Him. For me, often it seems when I need Him the most He feels silent and distant. I am not alone; others, like C.S. Lewis, felt that too.
But don’t give up on Him. We cannot go by feelings only the truth of scripture. It tells us He is tuned into our cries; He hears and answers. Don’t quit reading the scriptures – even if just a sentence or two. Keep praying – even if it is just groaning. He hears our groans and understands them even when we don’t ourselves.
As a father whose child is hurting and would not turn away but is attentive, so God does not turn away from us and is attentive to our cries. He said to Moses at the burning bush, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people…I have heard them crying out…I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue…and to bring them up…” (Ex. 3:7-8) God does not ever change – He still sees, hears, rescues and brings up His children when we cry out for Him.
We can thank Him for that even in the darkest, loneliest times. He is with us – never to leave us. Ever.
My son in law, Maury Davis, graduates this weekend from the University of Virginia with a Masters of Information Technology! (He’ll walk in May.) He did it in less than a year with a full-time job at the University of Virginia with 4 children under eleven and a wife! Amazing! And he did it with a sweet, gentle spirit.
I am so very proud of him! I am a very satisfied mother-in-law (VSMIL) and a very proud mother-in-law (VPMIL)!
I know he did it but the whole family supported him – the weekends the kids did not have a dad around and the many nights my daughter carried the load. They did it together. Such a sweet family seeking to serve God and each other.
Please join in my happiness and pride for them.
When Jesus encountered the woman at the Samaritan well she had lots of questions…some were genuine curiosity, some were genuine, wanting information, some were a way to keep Jesus away. We do that – ask questions, keep talking so we don’t have to see the truth in front of us.
Sometimes we don’t even bother to engage. Just pass on by. Not interested. I do that to the ladies at the perfume counter at the department stores or kiosks at the mall – I don’t even slow down as I pass by. I know that if I do, I’ll get snagged into a sales pitch.
But Jesus and this woman were engaged in conversation in the broiling sun – He had “snagged” her and she was interested. What He was saying was intriguing and He had her attention – but it didn’t make much sense to her.
Then He said to her, “If you knew …you would have asked…and he would have given…”
That caught my attention this morning.
If we really knew we were dealing with the Almighty God who loves us passionately and what He wants to give us then we would ask – in a different way. We would want to grab hold of all He has for us. Instead, we (I) don’t know or don’t acknowledge we are talking with the One who knows, has, governs, creates, sustains all things. We don’t engage Him fully with our full selves. The scripture says, No eye has seen, nor ear heard, no mind has conceived wha God has prepared for those who love him.” (I Corinthians 4:9) Do we really think about that?
If we did…then we would ask. Ask all the questions we have (He never tires), ask for the wisdom we need for the decision ahead; ask for the strength to get through the day; ask for restoration of the relationship; ask for the patience with our child; ask for an extra measure of love for that person so had to love; ask for help in forgiving the past wounds inflicted by others…no end to the questions/needs we have. All we have to do is ask.
In asking we acknowledge we do not know…we’re not supposed to. The important thing is that we know Who has the answer and we turn to Him.
And it says, “He would have given…”
How many times has He been ready and willing to give and we have not asked? We thought we could do it on our own. We didn’t have the time to ask. We miss so much that He wants to give to us.
Now we know…
I read in the Bible yesterday, “Bow Thy heavens, O Lord, and come down.” (Ps. 147:5) Do we really want God to come down? Perhaps we’d like Him to stay in His heaven – distant. He is safer that way. We don’t want Him to intrude into our comfortable lives.
If He did come down, what would He find?
Well, we look at our world and, at first glance it is a mess. Things seem out of control. Hopeless. Killings. Moral decay – if not abandonment. Cheating. Bribery. War. Distrust. Greed. Ingratitude. Selfishness. Bankruptcy. Inequity…the list could go on… It looks grim.
But if we take a deeper look we see good things. Hopeful things. Relationships are getting healed. Forgiveness is being lived out. Progress in the fight to cure terrible diseases. Dialogue between sworn enemies. The Gospel is being preached in more places than ever before. People are getting to know God personally. Neighbors help neighbors. Children laugh. Couples are in love. Flowers bloom. Hope shows in faces.
Maybe some of that seems shallow…maybe it is. But God wants us to enjoy life. It is a gift He gave to us to enjoy. What if you gave someone a lovely gift but all they did was moan about how hard it was to maintain and complain about all they didn’t have? Is that what we do? Too often I think so.
I remember visiting an Eastern European country some years ago with Operation Christmas Child. The country had been under a ruthless dictator. As I looked into the eyes of the people walking in the city – even in the faces of children – I saw such despair. They had no hope. It was very sad…
What if God came down and walked around my town? What if He came to my house? Would He see joy? Delight? Hope? Would He see gratitude?
One of mankind’s greatest sins is ingratitude. Are you guilty? Am I? Right now think of one thing you are grateful for…name it out loud. Thank God for it. That’s a form of worship.
Well…POTUS announced a nuclear deal with Iran. Makes one’s mind spin.
There are Christians suffering in Iran because of their faith in Jesus. Was that issue addressed in these negotiations? Were they considered “collateral damage”? Or maybe just not worth the effort, not valuable. I got the feeling that POTUS was not going to let anything stand in the way of this deal – even lives.
Let’s pray for those held in Iranian prisons because of their faith who may suffer even more intensely now. Pray for their families. We cannot forget them now- especially now.
At a time like this I know I think more as an American and not s a citizen of the world. I am proud of my country and her great history. She is the greatest nation in the world – a beacon of hope and freedom to so many. I fear the light is fading slowly. Maybe not so slowly now…
But God is still alive and well. We have read the last chapter and we know who wins. POTUS is God’s man for this hour but he is not in charge! God is! We can rejoice!