Thursday, October 23, 2014

Scars

Until you understand a man's scars ..... you don't understand the man.

Until you know a woman's scars .... you don't know the woman.


And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. (Luke 7:37 - 47)



Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13, 14)
 

Have you ever wondered why people act the way they act, or do the things they do? Of course you have. We wonder about it from the time we're children. And, very often, the people that we know the best, or think we know the best, are the ones whose actions surprise us the most. And our actions often surprise them!

But God is never surprised. We understand each other very seldom ... and we don't always understand ourselves. But each of us has wounds, and those wounds turn into scars over a period of time, but they never completely go away. And until you understand a person's scars, you can't understand the person.

Here's a young policeman. At the age of 22, he finds a sweet and godly young woman, and they fall very deeply in love. (Is the young man a Christian? I don't know, but he's active in his church throughout his adult life.) They marry, conceive a child .... and the girl dies in childbed, of typhus.

The young man, deep in his heart, vows never to trust his emotions, or perhaps his God, in that way again. He begins a long line of affairs and lengthy cohabitations with prostitutes, and eventually finds another woman, with whom he stays for nearly fifty years. But they never marry. He gives that woman his name, lives with her faithfully on a common-law basis for half a century, shares wealth and poverty .... But he can never bring himself to marry her. That's hardly God's standard for a marriage, of course, and I'm not seeking to excuse it. But, looking at this strange man's strange brand of loyalty, doesn't his reluctance to marry make a bit more sense when you think of the lovely young girl dying of typhus?

Wyatt Earp was scarred. And, without excusing his behavior, we can't hope to understand his adult life until we know those scars.



Were you ever teased or taunted or bullied as a child? Teased about being too skinny, or too fat, or just too clumsy? Most of us were. And it scars us; we never get over it. I can recall embarrassing moments, really humiliating moments, from my childhood and teen years - - - and so can you. And, if you're a young person, I'll give you some bad news: when you're sixty or seventy, you'll still remember them! Childhood scars don't go away, whether emotional, psychological, or physical. And they play a part in making us what we are.

I'll tell you a secret about myself. If we're ever together in person, or on the phone, I can tell you how to make my old nature rise up, and threaten to break through. Say something; and if I ask you to repeat it, say, "You heard what I said!"


I'll come unglued; I'll get angry; I'll lose the sweet reasonableness of Jesus in a heartbeat. Because I probably didn't hear what you said: I have major hearing loss, as a result of childhood ear infections, and when people tease me about the subject of hearing, I simply see red. It's like rubbing sandpaper on a scar. Of course, nobody knows this; if they did, they wouldn't say such things. But until you understand a person's scars, you don't understand the person.

Here's a preacher sitting in his church study one evening. He's one of America's greatest preachers, in the era between Billy Sunday and Billy Graham. And, like Sunday, or the young Graham, he's a dynamo: he's an enemy of sin, and every purveyor of sin knows it. (He loves the victims of sin, but not the purveyors.) On this particular evening, some of the local bosses (booze or prostitution or gambling) have decided to remove him from the scene. They dispatch an assassin to the preacher's office.

The assassin enters through the window, and pulls a gun on the startled pastor. But this isn't Rick Warren or Joel Osteen: this is an old-fashioned, sin-busting, uncompromising man of God, whose life has been threatened many times. He simply opens his desk drawer, pulls out his own revolver, and shoots the assassin dead.

And from that day to this, J. Frank Norris has been known, in many circles, as "the preacher who killed a man." He was exonerated by a jury on grounds of self-defense, but no article about Norris omits the story. The question is, Why did he do it? Or, "How could a man of God do such a thing?" Or, "Didn't he trust God? Why did he have a gun?" Somehow, the questions always center on Norris, and not the men who conspired to murder him.



I don't think Jesus would keep a gun in His desk, but Norris was no Jesus. And I'm not going to criticize his faith; he had vision and faith enough for ten Christians. But until you understand a man's scars, you don't understand the man. And I know that Norris and his father had both been shot, almost fatally, by an estranged relative, 35 years earlier. It left a scar. And until you know the scars....

Why do we despise people who hurt children? Obviously, it's a tragedy when someone like Susan Smith drives her kids into a lake; but they didn't suffer long, and most of us believe that they're with the Lord now. But what of the parents who savagely beat their children, or sexually molest them? Why does that make us so justifiably angry? Is it just because they're "innocent," or is it something more?

It's partly the innocence, but it's also the terrible thought: "What's going to become of these children? What is this doing to their minds and hearts?" Well, we know: it's leaving scars that will lead to horrible consequences later. Abused children tend to become abusive parents; molested children tend to become promiscuous or even prostitutes. No one will defend a prostitute, or a child abuser: but, without resorting to the horrible, damnable "abuse excuse," we need to recognize: the stripper or the streetwalker or the "father" with the clenched fist might have some scar tissue inside. That excuses nothing; but it should not be disregarded when considering them as people. Or praying for them as people. Or witnessing to them.

Jesus is eating dinner at a Pharisee's house. Wouldn't you have loved to hear the conversations? As fascinating as they were, however, they were interrupted.

A woman barges into the room, probably from the street .... and not just any woman. This woman was a pariah, a woman whose immorality was known to the people of the city: she was probably a prostitute. Exactly and precisely the last person on earth you'd expect to find at a Pharisee's luncheon!

But she wasn't there for the Pharisees. She was there for Jesus. She was aching from a lifetime of scars ... or maybe from just a few scars that were unimaginably painful. She needed forgiveness. She was a "bad" woman, and she recognized the good Man (Mark 10:18) when she saw Him. She had to get close to Him!

She had saved her money, so horribly earned, and bought a very expensive alabaster box of ointment. Or maybe she didn't buy it; maybe it was a treasured heirloom. In any case, she knew what to do with it: she washed Jesus' feet with her tears (she probably couldn't look him in the face), and dried them with her hair (she probably wouldn't have sullied them with her sinner's skirts); and she anointed His feet with the ointment.

The host Pharisee was horrified. "He spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner."  (Notice, He didn't speak out loud; Jesus knew his thoughts, just as He knows ours.) In the Jewish world of that time, saying someone was "a sinner" was much worse than the way we use the term: we know that all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But when the Jews called a man or woman a sinner, that man or woman was a very rough customer!

So Jesus spoke to the Pharisee, pointing out that the "sinner woman" had been more courteous to Him than the Pharisee himself; and then He used the example of the debtors who were forgiven. Who would love the generous creditor more, the one who only owed a small debt, or the one who owed the huge debt? Obviously, replied the Pharisee, the one who owed the enormous, unmanageable debt. He'd appreciate the forgiveness more. If there's one thing the Jews of that time understood, it was money-lending and debt!

So Jesus came to the point: "Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little."

Why did Jesus understand the woman's behavior, apart from His omniscience as God the Son? Because he was looking at her scars ... and understanding them. The Pharisees saw the scars, too, but their only reaction was, "How ugly! I'm glad I'm not screwed up like that!"

You and I can't and don't (and probably shouldn't) know all of each other's scars. We certainly don't know the scars of the people we work with, or the people we sit with in church, or the people who repel and disgust us. But God does .... He understands their scars. He understands the scars of the child who's been savagely beaten. He understands the scars of the teenager who's mocked because of a bad complexion. He understands the scars of the young man who loses his bride to typhus. And, while He never falls for the "abuse excuse," God always, always considers our scars.

For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
(Ps. 103:13, 14)

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Urgent Update: Asia Bibi

The case of Asia Bibi, the Pakistani Christian prisoner whose case we have followed here and here, has now reached its most crucial stage thus far: her death sentence, for allegedly blaspheming the "prophet" Muhammad, is being fast-tracked for a hearing in the Pakistani Supreme Court.  Christians are urged to continue in their prayers for this woman and her family.

From The Christian Post:
By Anugrah Kumar
October 19, 2014|7:30 am

The U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide has called on Pakistan's Supreme Court to be prompt in hearing the appeal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman and mother of five children whose death sentence for "blasphemy" was upheld by the Lahore High Court this week.

CSW also called for proper security for Bibi, whose appeal was rejected by the Lahore High Court Thursday.

The Christian mother has "endured grueling conditions in nearly four years of detention on death row, much of it spent in solitary confinement," CSW said in a statement. "Her health has suffered and she has had severe restrictions on visitors."

The Christian rights group explained that her prolonged detention is partly due to security concerns, as blasphemy law victims are often attacked by Islamist extremists. "There has been a lack of progress in her case, with five hearings cancelled this year alone, as well as the intimidation of judges and lawyers."

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Bibi's lawyers have said they will now appeal the death sentence in the Supreme Court, which is the only hope.


"We are disappointed and terribly upset over the decision, however we look forward to the appeal in the Supreme Court, with optimism and with the hope that the Supreme Court of Pakistan will do justice in this case," Michelle Chaudhry, president of the Cecil & Iris Chaudhry Foundation, was quoted as saying.

Bibi "has wrongly been convicted of blasphemy," Chaudhry added. "We remain optimistic that the rule of law will prevail and justice will be done. For now that is our only hope."

Bibi was sentenced in 2010 following an incident the previous year where she was harvesting berries with a group of Muslim women in Sheikhupura. The Muslim women accused her of drinking from the same water bowl as them, which was considered unclean as she is a Christian. Following an argument, the women went to a local cleric and told him that Bibi had blasphemed against Islam.

Bibi's appeal hearing was initially scheduled to take place on March 17, but was delayed and rescheduled, before finally taking place Thursday.

"We are deeply disappointed by the decision of the Lahore High Court," CSW's Chief Operating Officer Andy Dipper said, calling the sentence "a tragic reminder of the continued abuse of the dysfunctional blasphemy laws and the underlying weaknesses in Pakistan's justice system."

"Deeply-rooted problems of prejudice, inefficiency, corruption, and under-resourcing are amplified in blasphemy cases, and even more so for religious minorities," Dipper added. "The only hope she has for justice is when the case is heard in the Supreme Court."

CSW urged Pakistan's Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk to consider Bibi's case "with the utmost urgency, and to ensure her safety both throughout and after the process."

The rights group pointed to a June 19 Supreme Court judgment recommending the establishment of "a special bench to entertain complaints of violations of fundamental rights of minorities in the country."
A proactive approach to providing justice for Bibi would prove the Supreme Court's commitment to ensuring fundamental human rights and justice for all citizens of Pakistan, it said.

See also:
Update on Asia Bibi (Mission Network News)
Lahore: Christian activists ask Supreme Court to deliver speedy justice for Asia Bibi (AsiaNews.it)
Pakistan court upholds Asia Bibi death sentence (BBC)
Persecuted Christian: Will Pakistan's Asia Bibi be killed for alleged blasphemy? (Fox News)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"It's already been gotten right!"

What would you say if someone decided Shakespeare's plays, Charles Dickens' novels, or the music of Beethoven could be rewritten & improved?
   
 I'll be right back. . . 

(Between his unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination for President in 1976, and his defeat of President Jimmy Carter in 1980, private citizen Ronald Reagan, a veteran broadcaster, delivered over 1,000 daily radio broadcasts on political and related topics.  His broadcasts were more like Paul Harvey than Rush Limbaugh, but they were pure Reagan.  Here, as aired on September 6, 1977, are The Great Communicator’s reflections on the King James Bible.)

 Writing in the journal "The Alternative", Richard Hanser, author of The Law & the Prophets and Jesus: What Manner of Man Is This?, has called attention to something that is more than a little mind boggling. It is my understanding that the Bible (both the Old & New Testaments) has been the best selling book in the entire history of printing.

Now another attempt has been made to improve it. I say 'another' because there have been several fairly recent efforts to quote "make the Bible more readable & understandable" unquote. But as Mr. Hanser so eloquently says, "For more than 3 1/2 centuries, its language and its images, have penetrated more deeply into the general culture of the English speaking world, and been more dearly treasured, than anything else ever put on paper." He then quotes the irreverent H. L. Mencken, who spoke of it as purely a literary work and said it was, "probably the most beautiful piece of writing in any language."

They were, of course, speaking of The Authorized Version, the one that came into being when the England of King James was scoured for translators & scholars. It was a time when the English language had reached its peak of richness & beauty.


Now we are to have The Good News Bible which will be in, "the natural English of everyday adult conversation." I'm sure the scholars and clergymen supervised by the American Bible Society were sincerely imbued with the thought that they were taking religion to the people with their Good News Bible, but I can't help feeling we should instead be taking the people to religion and lifting them with the beauty of language that has outlived the centuries.

Mr. Hanser has quoted from both the King James Version & the Good News Bible some well known passages for us to compare. A few thousand years ago Job said "How forcible are right words!" [Job 6:25] The new translators have him saying "Honest words are convincing." That's only for openers. There is the passage [Eccl. 1:18], "For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow". Is it really an improvement to say instead, "The wiser you are, the more worries you have; the more you know the more it hurts?"

In the New Testament, in Matthew, we read "The voice of the one crying in the wilderness. Prepare ye the way." [Matthew 3:3] The Good News version translates that, "Someone is shouting in the desert. Get the road ready." It sounds like a straw boss announcing lunch hour is over.

The hauntingly beautiful 23rd Psalm is the same in both versions, for a few words, "The Lord is my shepherd" but instead of continuing "I shall not want" we are supposed to say "I have everything I need."

The Christmas story has undergone some modernizing, but one can hardly call it improved. The wondrous words "Fear not: for; behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy" has become, "Don't be afraid! I am here with good news for you."

The sponsors of the Good News version boast that their Bible is as readable as the daily paper – and so it is. But do readers of the daily news find themselves moved to wonder, "at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth"? Mr. Hanser suggests that sadly the "tinkering & general horsing around with the sacred texts will no doubt continue" as pious drudges try to get it right. "It will not dawn on them that it has already been gotten right."

This is Ronald Reagan. Thanks for listening. 


Monday, October 6, 2014

Liena's Prayer

What does it mean to be a Christian in Syria today?

In the midst of all the savagery and atrocities coming from ISIS and the other followers of Muhammad comes this answer, from a young Syrian woman named Liena.  Produced by The Voice of the Martyrs, this video shows the reality of life in Syria, and presents a challenge for Christians everywhere.

video

The release of the video precedes the 2014 International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church on November 2.  Our prayers for Liena and her family, as well as for such suffering saints as Saeed Abedini and Asia Bibi, must continue.  They're praying for us.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Victory ... then the crash

And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this
 great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst? 
 (Judges 15:18)

Samson was thirsty and ready to die. The difficulty was totally different from any which the hero had met before. Merely to get thirst assuaged is nothing like so great a matter as to be delivered from a thousand Philistines! but when the thirst was upon him, Samson felt that little present difficulty more weighty than the great past difficulty out of which he had so specially been delivered. It is very usual for God's people, when they have enjoyed a great deliverance, to find a little trouble too much for them. Samson slays a thousand Philistines, and piles them up in heaps, and then faints for a little water! Jacob wrestles with God at Peniel, and overcomes Omnipotence itself, and then goes "halting on his thigh!" Strange that there must be a shrinking of the sinew whenever we win the day. As if the Lord must teach us our littleness, our nothingness, in order to keep us within bounds. Samson boasted right loudly when he said, "I have slain a thousand men." His boastful throat soon grew hoarse with thirst, and he betook himself to prayer. God has many ways of humbling His people. Dear child of God, if after great mercy you are laid very low, your case is not an unusual one. When David had mounted the throne of Israel, he said, "I am this day weak, though anointed king." You must expect to feel weakest when you are enjoying your greatest triumph. If God has wrought for you great deliverances in the past, your present difficulty is only like Samson's thirst, and the Lord will not let you faint, nor suffer the daughter of the uncircumcised to triumph over you. The road of sorrow is the road to heaven, but there are wells of refreshing water all along the route. So, tried brother, cheer your heart with Samson's words, and rest assured that God will deliver you ere long.  


- - - Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Morning and Evening

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Muhammad Rapes Again

Another heartbreaking example of the way women and girls are treated by "the religion of peace," this time in Syria.  Here is Rawan Milad Al-Dah, who was 16 years old at the time this video was made in 2013.  In addition to the automatic curse of being born in a Mohammedan country, Rawan was also caught up in the struggle between President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian rebels attempting to overthrow him - - - the same rebels being provided with aid and materiel by the Obama administration.  The rebels used Rawan, and only God knows how many others, as unwilling "temporary wives" in their "sexual jihad" (Jihad Al-Nikah).  When they were done with her, they presumably went back to using American weapons to attempt the overthrow of Assad. Listen as Rawan describes, yet again, the fruits of Islam:

video

Make no mistake: there are no "good guys" involved in this conflict. Assad himself is one of the nastiest characters in the Mideast, which is saying quite a bit, and everyone from the United Nations to the Obama administration despises him, which is why America has been arming his opponents.  But now, within the past year, the greater threat has come from ISIS.*  ISIS and the Syrian rebels are now battling for supremacy, while Obama and other Western leaders wonder if they shouldn't join forces with Assad after all.  But that's a geopolitical matter; the treatment of women and children by all Mohammedans, even when the women are coming in from "civilized" countries and whoring themselves out voluntarily, is more personal, and more horrific.  It's impossible to sympathize with Assad or his enemies, but anyone who doesn't curse the name of the demon-possessed Muhammad, when hearing Rawan's story, has a cold heart indeed.


That's Islam, praised by Western leaders as "a great and peaceful religion," and even now engaging in sexual slavery as far from the Mideast as England.  The "religion" of Muhammad: coming soon to an area near you, if it's not already there.


*ISIS, the members of which refer to themselves as "the Islamic State," stands for "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria."  However, such sympathizers as Barack Obama refer to the group as ISIL, meaning "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant."  What's the difference?  Very simple, and very telling: the Levant encompasses the West Bank of Israel.  When the Muslims in these various groups quit killing each other (itself a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, Genesis 16:11, 12), they will certainly move on to destroy Israel.  That is the sworn duty of every Muslim alive.