Grace and Truth

…all the words of this life…


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From Muhammed to Jesus

“Belinda, why hasn’t anyone told me before that Jesus rose from the dead?”cropped-jesus.jpg

This was Muslim woman *Safa’s question to me when I first shared the gospel with her just over a year ago…

On Friday I had the great honour and privilege of baptizing Safa*- our first adult convert to be baptized in our Mission.

 

With her permission I will share with you a little of Safa’s story…

Safa moved to Australia with her family when she was six years old. She was brought up a Muslim in a Muslim family. She remembers her father regularly went to mosque to make his prayers.

 

As time went on her family life broke down and violence became a part of it. As Safa grew up she turned away from her childhood faith and entered into an albeit God-less existence, although she stilled called herself a Muslim. Over the course of the years a pre-arranged marriage which didn’t work out, another violently abusive relationship and then the arrival of a baby boy had caused Safa to withdraw from much of life.

As she struggled to bring up her son as a single mother, she remembers spending most of her days simply staring out the window. Eventually she was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and turned to alcohol to alleviate some of the pain of her past.

Most days at midday she would begin to drink and would keep going right till 2 or 3am.

How I became a part of Safa’s life is through the food pantry. We have run this ministry from our garage for five years now. Another single mother whom we had helped with food parcels told me she knew someone who needed help – Safa. So one day I took food around to Safa. As well as the food, I popped into the bag a Bible and a Christian tract. This continued for a few weeks until one day Safa told me she had been reading the Bible but didn’t understand what she was reading. She invited me in for a coffee and to explain it to her.

I shared the basic gospel of Jesus Christ with her. This was when she had said to me:

“Belinda, why hasn’t anyone told me before that Jesus rose from the dead?”

From six years old she had lived in this “Christian” country – and it was not until she was in her forties that she heard the gospel. How terribly sad.

Then she said to me:

“But Belinda- If Jesus rose from the dead that means God is real!”

Her simple faith stunned me. Never before had I come across this beautiful child-like faith. I admit I almost did not know how to react to it. Antagonism, skepticism – these reactions were all familiar to me, but this was something new.

As I left her house that day I praised the Lord. I praised Him for His mercy and lovingkindess, I praised Him that He had sent me to Safa. I praised Him for her childlike faith and beauty.

Week by week we began meeting and reading the Bible together. Safa was full of questions. She couldn’t get enough of this incredible Book. New meaning was coming into her life and suddenly she began seeing that God was real.

“Belinda, I have never before noticed how beautiful those flowers are! It is like I am seeing them for the first time!” Safa said this sort of statement to me regularly as God’s beautiful creation unfolded before her for the first time.

Safa even began dreaming. She dreamt she was dropping down a big hole on her way to hell when suddenly she was saved. Some nights Safa would wake herself up talking aloud to Jesus. She said His presence was so very close to her.

All of this was so encouraging to me and I rejoiced in the Lord.  However one thing was bothering me. I had smelled alcohol on Safa on a number of occasions. I didn’t know anything much about her or her past at this point, but I knew the smell of alcohol and I knew what it meant.

 

At that time I had just come out of a very difficult situation with another alcoholic that we had been ministering to. He had never confessed his alcoholism to us but it was obvious by the copious amounts of drink he consumed whenever we saw him. He had hurt us incredibly by lying to us, abusing us and then ultimately rejecting us as we tried to reach Him with God’s love. That is another story, but now being confronted with another person enslaved to alcohol was potentially too much for me to bear in my recent hurt. I spoke to God about this regularly. I didn’t know what He was going to do about it but I knew that I couldn’t bear being lied to again.

 

And then He did it.

 

One night I dropped food into Safa. She met me on her front porch. She was ready to accept Christ as her Lord and Saviour and to give Him her life. Suddenly the floodgates were opened and she confessed. She confessed her sins to me, she confessed her alcoholism and the hold it had on her. She confessed she was powerless against it. I knew then that this situation was different from the last. That God was working in her and that He had had her confess in absolute childlike honesty everything to me.

 

This was the beginning of Safa being set free.

 

There on her front porch we prayed together. She gave her life to Christ and I broke the power of the demon of alcohol over her in the Name of Jesus.

Safa says that was the night that everything changed.   Even though she still drank, the alcohol lost its grip on her there and then.

 

She began reducing her intake. Her doctors became concerned. They told her she was reducing it too fast and that she would go into cardiac arrest.

She said  “But if I don’t need it why should I drink it?”

They encouraged her to drink more. They said her body needs it. They were scared of what would happen.

When she refused, they helplessly told her to ring the Drug and Alcohol helpline, which she did.

After explaining to the man at the Drug and Alcohol line her situation he told her to continue with what she was doing.  he was amazed by how well she was doing. When he asked her the cause of this sudden change in her life she told him:

“I have gotten to know Jesus.” She ended up witnessing to him on the phone. He asked if he could share her story with the other drug and alcohol counsellors he worked with….

 

Safa asked me one day how she should now answer on official documents as to her religion – should she write “Muslim” or “Christian”?

 

I answered by asking her “Well, Safa, who do you follow – Muhammed or Jesus?”

 

“Jesus!” She exclaimed, “I follow Jesus.  I am a Christian!”

And so Safa was baptized on Friday in front of the ladies from our women’s prayer group.

Safa has found a Man she can trust. A Man who will never harm her or abuse her in any way. A Man who gave up His very life for her.

A Man she is totally in love with….. That Man of Galilee.

On Friday Safa obeyed her Lord and was identified with Him in His death, burial and resurrection.

I am absolutely overjoyed that God led me to Safa. I feel so privileged to have been with her every step of the way as she came to also know Jesus, my wonderful Saviour. I feel so privileged to be able to continue to disciple Safa and watch her grow.

I praise God with the angels in heaven that “there is a new name written down in glory”.

Hallelujah to the Lamb of God!

But one thing I can never forget is her question to me:

“Belinda, why hasn’t anyone told me before that Jesus rose from the dead?”

 

*Name has been changed to protect privacy


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Over my morning coffee…

coffee

I used to think that God has a special place in His heart for the poor and needy, the widow and the fatherless – and He does.  But actually it is more than that.  When God says to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the outcast to your home, to spend yourself on behalf of the poor (Isaiah 58) it is not just that He is being kind, it is because this is the very essence of WHO He is.  This is God Himself, reaching down to us in our poverty, our need and our sin.  When God came to earth as the man, Jesus, this was the ultimate act of sharing with the poor, serving the needy and clothing the naked.  He could have stayed where He was, in the light and worship of glory, but He didn’t.  He spent Himself on behalf of the poor, by coming to this dark, sin-sick, broken world.  He not only identified with humanity by becoming clothed with human flesh, He went further.  By His death on the cross He was numbered amongst the transgressors and although He never sinned, He took the punishment in the place of the transgressors of His divine law – you and me.  This was the ultimate act of intercession.  This was the ultimate act of giving.

Even a cursory reading of the Bible will show God’s heart towards the widows and fatherless, the oppressed and needy.  Although we can never atone for the sin of humanity, that was His work alone, He does call us to share the burden of those who have been forsaken, trampled and broken.  To allow ourselves to see suffering and need and not to walk on by.  As Jackie Pullinger says “love looks like something”.  Love can be sharing your food with the hungry, helping out a single mother, even inviting someone in for a coffee.

God is not interested in self-serving religion or religious activities that are devoid of His heart.  In Isaiah 58 He condemns those who fast because “in the day of your fast you find pleasure, and exploit all your labourers…Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen; to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and that you break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (verses 3-7)

Of course it’s not easy.  It’s not easy and it’s rather uncomfortable to allow yourself to see and identify with human need.  It wars against our fleshly nature which is constantly crying out to us “Comfort! Convenience!”

It’s been hard for me.  I am not going to pretend that I have found it easy.  The hardest part for me has been the intrusion upon my own time. I am naturally a bit of a hermit at heart.  I like my own time and space, and my own company.  But because we have a food
pantry that is operated from our garage we do often have people turn up unexpectedly and at inconvenient times.  In particular God has used one lady with serious mental health issues to crucify my flesh.  It has been painful.  From the start the Holy Spirit told me to never reject her, even in my heart.  That has been hard and I admit, I have not always been able to do it.

But today again she came.  I invited her in for a coffee.  We spent a lovely time together and she ministered to me by singing songs the Holy Ghost had given her.

“I refuse to give up

I refuse to give in

I keep hanging on to the King of Kings

The Lord of Lords…”

As she was leaving my home she turned to me and said “Thank you for always making me feel welcome.  Don’t’ ever lose that.  It is so important to people who have been rejected.”

OH God, help us to hear the cry of your heart and to do it! To become people of action, rather than just of words! To do something, anything!

Love looks like something.


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The Night I Met Evie

Reflections of headlights flashed on the puddles as twilight set in.

I walked from the car-park looking for the others.

When I got to the corner where I was supposed to meet them, they weren’t there.

Where could they be?

I crossed the busy intersection to the other side, but they weren’t there either.

Hmmmm….

So down to the tunnel I went, the rain drops falling on my hair.

The entrance to the tunnel was busy but I made my way through.

Gosh, I didn’t realise how long this tunnel was.  Past a busker winking at me, past the jostling crowds, out the other side.

I walked a little along the river, looked around, but, no, they weren’t there either.

Now I really don’t know what to do.

I stop to think.  I turn slightly and that’s when I see Evie.

Although it’s not until later that I learn her name.

Sitting at the end of the bridge begging.  Her head in her hands, behind the scrawled sign “Please help”.

She looks so young.

I go over and sit with her, behind her sign.

“Hi”

“Hi”

“What are you doing here?”

She is homeless, spent the last few nights on the street.

She tells me that everything has been stolen from her as she had slept, her purse, her jumper, even her sanitary pads.

She says that she has a permanent place to go into on Monday, but it’s Friday and she needs help to get through the next two days.

I sit with her. I tell her about Jesus.  She says, “That’s funny, everyone keeps telling me about Him.”

Even as we speak someone walks past and drops a gospel tract into her begging container.

She points to a man begging in the middle of the bridge.

“He’s mad at me, I have to watch out for him, I’m in his patch and taking his business from him. He’s a druggy.”

We have dinner together and afterward I put her in touch with a women’s shelter, I say that I will pray for her and we part.

I walk back along the river, back through the tunnel.

Back to where I was originally meant to meet with the other street preachers.

And I see them.  Right there. They have been there all along.

I had walked right by them and not seen them.  Somehow.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Tuesday night I pray.  I pray for Evie and other stuff.  I wait on God.

He says to me, clear as anything, “Go to Evie.”

Huh?

“Go to Evie.”

But Lord, she moved into a place yesterday, she is fine now.

“Go to Evie.”

But Lord, she’s not there at the bridge anymore

“She will be there, go to Evie.”

Ok. If you give me an opportunity to go, I will go to her.

Thursday afternoon.

My parents drop in and say they will mind my son.

I drive into the city.

The whole way there I think that I must be crazy, what am I doing?  I could be sitting child-free in a café somewhere…

But I go anyway.

The car parked, I get out, walk. Then, for some reason, I start to run.  I run and run to the bridge.  I come over the crest and look to see if she is there.

She is there.  She is begging.

I run to her, out of breath.

“Evie! what are you doing here? You were meant to move in to a place on Monday!”

She looks at me and says “Why are you running?” as only a teenager can.

I laugh, embarrassed, because I don’t know why I’m running myself.

Then she says “The place didn’t work out”

We have lunch.

Turns out she had gotten to the bridge five minutes before I arrived.

Another time she met my husband and we went out to dinner.

She came to my home once.

She said she was bringing someone for me to meet.

(Please God don’t let it be a man.)

I go out to meet her in the drive-way and she’s carrying a baby girl.

18 month old Rose.

Rose had been removed, but was now returned to her mum, Evie.

Because, Evie tells me, a house has become available for her.

Her boyfriend is getting out of jail

and her mum is coming to live with them too.

They stay for a while.  Rose is so sweet.  Evie is too.

That’s the last time I see her.

She moved into the house with her daughter, boyfriend and mum.

It’s far from here.

But she texts me and tells me that they’re doing well.

…….God didn’t let me see the friends I was meant to meet that night

Instead He wanted me to meet Evie,

A young mum,

homeless

daughterless

penniless

hopeless

But He knew.

And He had His eye on little Rose the whole time.

Truly His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting.


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Feeding Others

holyforchrist777.blogspot.com

holyforchrist777.blogspot.com

“Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season?…” (Luke 12:42)

Following on from Being Fed, after the revelation of my own true state of spiritual starvation, through the depression I suffered, something very interesting happened.  I would like to explain the spiritual principle that has been revealed to me.

God opened my eyes to see my true state of starvation.  I was shattered by the knowledge that I could no longer rely upon myself –in any way.  My body let me down, my mind let me down, with all my own resources at an end all I could do was cling to was Him.  But this knowledge led me to a deeper relationship with Him, one in which I knew I needed to be fed and in fact that was the only hope left for me.  He fed me with the Bread of Life and kept feeding me as I spent time with Him.

Then what happened next is the interesting point:

God then led me to start feeding others.

Because pride in my self, my abilities and strengths had been broken, I began to have a greater sense of compassion for others whom were struggling.  A desire rose up in me to help others because of what I had been through myself.  Out of that desire our food pantry ministry was born four years ago, in which we give out food parcels to people suffering food insecurity both in the Body of Christ and in the community.

And then, after some time, another hunger began to take hold of me, that was to “feed the multitudes” through street-preaching.  This one came as a real surprise to me as the thought of preaching the gospel on the street to passersby absolutely terrified me! I remember the first time I went out there.  I was so scared that I was shaking and I wondered why I was doing this to myself.  Through the terror though there was a fire burning within me.  I was so well-fed, I just had to share some of this food with others.

It somehow didn’t seem right for me to keep feasting when I knew there were others

pastorsponderings.org

pastorsponderings.org

out there who were starving.  Just as Christ broke the bread and poured out the wine as a symbol of His life being poured out for us, He also calls us to be as broken bread and poured out wine for others. Being broken bread and poured out wine hurts.  It’s not easy and it’s certainly not comfortable.  Often it is difficult and something we would not typically choose to do ourselves. But Jesus is still moved with compassion for the great multitudes and just as He said to His disciples then, He says to His disciples now: “You give them something to eat”. (Mark 6:34 & 37)

If we look at the Apostle Peter’s life we can see this spiritual principle at work.  Peter, at first, couldn’t see his own spiritual bankruptcy. Even though He had been with the Lord for about three years, seeing Him minister, learning from Him, Peter still didn’t really know his need of God.  Self-confidently he had declared “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”   (Luke 22:33)  When the moment of truth came however, Peter betrayed Christ and denied Him three times as Jesus had foretold he would do. Peter was heartbroken. I believe in that moment his own true state was revealed to him.  He saw the emptiness within, the starvation of his soul-poverty and he was broken by the knowledge.  The revelation of his impoverishment caused him to retreat and return to the career from which Jesus had called him – fishing. In John 21 we see Jesus in His amazing mercy seeking out Peter in his failure.   He calls out to Peter and the others with him, and look what He says, Children, have you any food?

Jesus immediately gets to the heart of the matter – do you have any food?  Are there any inner resources left in you on which you can depend? Or have you come to the end of yourself?  Have you seen your need of me yet?

The disciples are, of course, thinking merely in the physical realm, but nevertheless their answer is true both physically and spiritually – “No”, they have no food.

So what does Jesus do next?  In His grace He provides the food they weren’t able to provide for themselves, and, as is God’s way, it is in abundance.  “…and now they were not able to draw …in (the net) because of the multitude of fish.” (v 6).

He feeds them.  “Come and eat breakfast,” He says (v12), and He “came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.” (v13)  He came and fed them – but only after they had seen their need of Him.

Immediately after they are fed Jesus seeks to restore Peter.   Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times and each time after Peter declares his love for Him, Jesus says “Feed my lambs”;”Tend my sheep” and “Feed my sheep”.  Why would Jesus single out Peter, the disciple whom had been the one to verbally deny Him, to feed and tend His precious sheep? It’s because of this spiritual principle – Peter had now seen his own bankruptcy and been broken by it. More so than any of the others he had seen his inner emptiness and it was because he could see it that he was ready to be used.  Jesus could not entrust His sheep to merely anyone. He needed someone who had seen their own need, and therefore would be sensitive to need in others.  He needed someone who knew that without God they could do nothing and would therefore be utterly dependent upon Him.  Peter would not be a harsh and unfeeling shepherd, He would now truly love and care for the Master’s sheep because his own pride and independence had been broken.

Watchman Nee said “When once your back is broken you will yield ever after to the slightest touch from God.”

So to sum up:

  1. Here in the West we are spiritually starving.  Starved of eternal relationship with our creator, the source and sustainer of all life, we seek temporal satisfaction elsewhere.  We often don’t know that we are starving.  In some cases this revelation can only be achieved through painful experience.
  2. Once we see our true state of starvation, through God’s intervention, we then naturally seek to be fed.
  3. God then uses us to feed others through the broken bread of our lives

It is my hope and prayer that this post has encouraged you to seek after the only true source of life and satisfaction –Jesus Christ, the Bread of life.  If you already know Him I pray that you will seek Him in greater measure and that ultimately you will share Him with others wherever He may lead you.  I will conclude with a quote from D.T. Niles:

“Evangelism is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”

God bless!