My family – like many in the U.S. – has been touched deeply by addiction to drugs and alcohol. I’m sure many of you can relate. At one time or another, most of us took drugs or drank too much, and years of real, vibrant life were lost to the scourge of addiction. However, when one of my brothers was miraculously, instantaneously delivered and healed of addiction to heroin, alcohol and other substances, our entire family was transformed. The miracle we saw in Steve changed us all, and one-by-one we gave ourselves to Jesus.
This dramatic ending (really a beginning for us) doesn’t usually happen, because drugs and alcohol take their toll before a mind and heart addled by narcotics can absorb the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Steve, however, was shown love and freedom by two of the most Godly women I’ve ever met – Ruth Wynne and Betty Adams, of the Jesus House in Oklahoma City. They loved Steve when no one else would, and he responded. Unfortunately, many people die in their addictions, and families are torn apart because they never receive a credible witness of God’s love. If any of you readers would like to share your story – whether it be sad, painful or glorious – you can post it as a Comment below so others can benefit from your experience.
Tragically, addiction is found all over the world, not only in the U.S. and other affluent countries. Below you can read the account of a family in India that found freedom and healing through the love shared by the people of Gospel for Asia. Transformations take place when we boldly and lovingly care for and empathize with others.
Please read this testimony, then respond by praying for the work of Gospel for Asia, and giving financially to support their efforts. Thank you!
Javesh Crosses the Bridge of Hope
SACHI WATCHED HER HUSBAND BECOME MORE AND MORE DEPENDENT ON ALCOHOL to get through each day. She and Javesh had small children to feed, but whatever money he made, he used on his addiction. The situation grew worse, and their food was beginning to run out.
The only glimmer of hope in Sachi’s and Javesh’s lives was that their son Chakor was enrolled in a Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope center. They knew he was being cared for and given a nutritious meal every day.
While Chakor received the opportunity to learn and grow, things were looking grim for the rest of the family.
One day, during a regular visit to the family’s home, the staff members from the Bridge of Hope center realized how dire Chakor’s family situation truly was. After meeting with the family, they decided to offer Sachi a job as a cook at the center. She was overjoyed at the prospect.
The new job meant income, and an income meant their family wouldn’t have to starve. Sachi was very happy to be able to meet all her children’s needs again.
God Answers Their Prayers
The Bridge of Hope staff continued visiting with and praying for the family, and slowly, Javesh’s life started to change. He stopped drinking alcohol, and he began to use his wages to provide for his family again.
Through the prayers and friendship of the Bridge of Hope staff, Sachi and Javesh saw the love of Jesus and knew that He cared very much for them. The couple and their children embraced the hope that can only be found in Christ.
Today the family attends the local fellowship together, and their home is full of God’s peace. Not only has their outward situation changed drastically, but their inner lives were transformed as well.
Here’s an article that outlines the troubles of alcohol abuse in India.
“Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hate. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”
– Corrie ten Boom
Jesus was oppressed, persecuted and betrayed by the religious leaders of his day – those who said they represented the very God who stood in front of them. Corrie ten Boom was imprisoned, tortured and nearly starved to death by an evil empire ruled by a hate-filled despot. What’s the difference?
Who is more difficult to forgive:
• Those who have served God alongside of you for many years who then disrespect, betray and shun you? These would be fellow Christians who have been your spiritual leaders, your friends, people who you’ve shared meals with, traveled together, taught together and even looked up to. Pastors, family members, band mates and mentors.
• Evil people who you’d expect to act this way? Dictators, thieves, criminals and money-hungry bankers, mortgage lenders and politicians.
Does God allow us room to withhold forgiveness from those who have been our closest friends and spiritual leaders? Jesus certainly didn’t wait to forgive those who betrayed Him. He hung on that cross and asked the Father to forgive them, to refrain from judging them. Does He understand the depth of betrayal we feel from those who name His name? Of course He does. Jesus was also persecuted, tortured and put to death by an evil empire – those who did not name the name of God – and it didn’t make any difference to Him. He extended forgiveness to all.
I’ve talked to many people who’ve left churches for a variety of reasons – many of which are legitimate and understandable – who feel judged, shunned, “unfriended” and betrayed. In almost every case, they’ve found it very difficult to forgive and forget, to move away from the deeply held hurts and wounds, and to get a sense of freedom from the pain they feel.
I also know a lot of people who have been victims of crime, or treated unfairly by those who are not Christians, those who don’t necessarily follow the Golden Rule. Mostly, I’ve heard that it’s easier for them to move on from these violations, and to forgive those who have wronged them.
It seems that it’s a matter of expectations.
We expect fellow believers to walk in love. We expect pastors and Christian leaders to treat us fairly and to remain humble. We expect pastors to be faithful to their wives and families, and to resist pornography, adultery and other sinful behavior. We expect our brothers and sisters in the Lord to defend us when we are wronged, and to love us when we differ in theology or when we resist the latest wind of doctrine blowing through the Church.
On the other hand, we really don’t expect evil people to act righteously. When they steal from us or harm us in any way, we’re not surprised. Forgiveness seems easier to give because we fear for their souls, and we want them to know the Lord. We love them quickly because we desire for them to sense the love of God and come to Him. We can even see God’s hand in allowing their actions, because it gives us an opportunity to love the evildoer and shed God’s love into their hearts.
But judgement, mistreatment and arrogance from another Christian – especially a pastor? Boy, does that wound go deep! I’ve spent time with that wound, and can speak from painful experience. And I’m not alone. It’s very difficult to “forgive and forget” when we’ve been hurt by another Christian, and only the love of God, working in our hearts and minds, can free us and help us to extend that kind of forgiveness.
When we finally reach that precious milestone, though, it’s freedom. No longer are our minds bombarded with thoughts of “righteous anger.” No longer are we held captive by resentment. No longer do we hold God accountable for the actions of a few weak people. No longer can the devil use other people’s sin against us.
When we forgive – no matter what the offense has been, or who has carried it out – we’re free.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36
“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
I had a revelation the other day.
It brought a sweet sense of comfort from the Lord, and gave me freedom in an area that had been troubling me for some time.
It’s never good to feel condemned, or to feel accused of falling short of God’s best. It’s just not what Jesus intended for us. After all, the devil is the accuser of the brethren. I have to say, though, that the accusations that hurt the most come from brothers and sisters in the Lord.
A curious thing happens when a Christian – at least one in local evangelical circles – decides to start thinking for himself and questions the church authority he has submitted to for some time. He may suffer accusation, slander and gossip – even shunning – especially if he decides to confront issues in the church that he disagrees with. And if those are long-held doctrinal beliefs, then there’s usually hell to pay.
But aren’t we supposed to question what we believe?
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
I John 4:1
I John 4:1
Stupid me – I’m afraid that’s what I did when I decided to question certain doctrines and other matters I felt were creeping into my church.
I am not going to rehash all those details here, because that would be pointless, and hurtful to many people. But I do want to stress how hurtful it has been to me, to be told: “Now brother, don’t be bitter” or “Guard against that bitter spirit” or “I can see that you’re bitter about what’s happened.”
Every time I heard something like this, I checked my heart to see if I was holding any unresolved bitterness and sin. And that was part of the problem – I equated bitterness with sin, and it always brought condemnation along with it.
I just didn’t feel “clean” being bitter.
But I had a revelation the other day.
God spoke to me clearly, to let me know that the bitterness I’ve tasted is the same as if I’d unknowingly eaten something bitter, or had been forced to drink poison, or experienced something that pierced my heart like an arrow.
I’m not trying to sound like a victim here – I just want to convey the sense of freedom I experienced when I realized that the bitter taste in my spirit – in my soul – was not from anything I did. It was not sinful. It was not dirty.
The bitterness I felt was due to the heartache of a very painful experience – and the fact that this was not the first time, but the second that a local church’s authoritarianism had crushed my dreams and vision.
Of course, others won’t see it this way, and may even comment here about how wonderful their church is. That’s great. I’m just talking about my experience.
The truth is, though, I’m not alone.
I know many people who have suffered painfully in similar – and worse – fashion. Many have never returned to church – even after many years – and to this day people ask, “What happened to the old you?” or “When are you coming back to church?”
Most folks are well-meaning, but they’re asking the wrong questions. They’re not opening their ears and hearts to the cries of those who hurt and asking them what they’ve experienced.
But don’t do this unless you’re truly prepared to listen to the answer, and see the truth through the eyes of the one who’s hurt.
Because if you’re only going to argue with what you’re hearing; if you’re only going to argue in defense of your church and your pastor, then you may as well not ask. When you open that door and ask your friend to share their hurts and pain with you, and then you choose to ignore what they tell you because it may rock the foundations of what you’ve believed your entire life, then don’t even ask!
I can tell you personally, that it’s been too painful when I’ve shared my bitterness with “friends” who asked me to, then had those people ignore me to this day – almost two years later. This has happened on several occasions, and I have to tell you – it’s grievous. It has left a bitter taste in my spirit.
And it left a sense that I was in sin, because that’s what I had been told so many times.
But I am not in sin.
My bitterness comes from a righteous anger that wells up inside of me because I believe the Body of Christ is supposed to act like Jesus on earth. But when I see injustice, arrogance, self-righteousness and pride in the church – especially within the leadership – I tend to speak up. But that has only brought me separation – separation from people, dreams, vision and goals I’ve worked toward for more than 33 years. And that can be a bitter thing.
But I am clean, and so are you if you are not being hateful toward those who have hurt you. Your bitterness then is not a sin. Be free.
“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”
“Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”
No bail required; charges of ‘proselytizing’ and ‘apostasy’ remain.
INTO THE FIRE by The Nomadic Farmers
ISTANBUL, November 18 (CDN) — Two Christian Iranian women, Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad, 30, were released from prison this afternoon with no bail amid an international campaign calling for their freedom since their arrest on March 5.
The two women, whose health deteriorated while in detention at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, are at their homes recovering from their nine-month ordeal, an Iranian source told Compass. They still could face charges of proselytizing and “apostasy,” or leaving Islam.
The women were released at 3:30 p.m.
“Words are not enough to express our gratitude to the Lord and to His people who have prayed and worked for our release,” the two women said in a statement from United Kingdom-based Elam Ministries.
The women’s lawyer had been working to secure their release, and although they were expected to be released yesterday, he was not able to do so because of the high bail the court was demanding. The Compass source said that it was too soon to determine how the lawyer was able to secure their release without bail today, a rarity for Christians released from prison in Iran.
The source credited their release to international lobbying and pressure on the Iranian government.
“It was from the international pressure, and also the government couldn’t handle it anymore,” said the source. “Already their detention was illegal. At the same time, the government wasn’t ready to prosecute them for apostasy. They already have many headaches. They cannot handle everything.”
The source said he suspected the two women will be very closely watched and would not have full freedom of movement, limiting their contact with others.
Rostampour and Esmaeilabad were arrested in March and detained on charges of “acting against state security,” “taking part in illegal gatherings” and apostasy under Iran’s Revolutionary Court system.
On Aug. 9 the women appeared before a judge who pressured them to recant their faith and return to Islam or spend more time in prison. The two women refused. Last month, on Oct. 7, they were acquitted of the charge of “anti-state activities,” and their case was transferred to the General Court.
With a draft penal code that may include an article mandating death for apostates in accordance to sharia (Islamic law) still under parliamentary review, experts on Iran fear things may get worse for the country’s converts from Islam.
Elam reported that the women were “doing as well as could be expected, and are rejoicing in the Lord’s faithfulness to them.” The women reportedly lost a lot of weight during their imprisonment. Esmaeilabad suffered from back pain, an infected tooth and intense headaches, and Rostampour got severe food poisoning last month.
“Maryam and Marzieh have greatly inspired us all,” Director of Elam Ministries Sam Yeghnazar said today in a press statement. “Their love for the Lord Jesus and their faithfulness to God has been an amazing testimony.”
Compass has also learned that on Oct. 13 the leader of a large network of churches in the northern city of Rasht was arrested and is still in prison. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani has had contact with his family and has been pressured to recant his faith and return to Islam, according to an Iranian Christian who requested anonymity. Nadarkhani is married and has two children under the age of 10.
Have you ever suffered from an ingrown toenail?
There’s no pain quite like it, because you can’t get away from it. With every step the tenderness becomes more acute – the throbbing and discomfort graduate into pricking, stinging, shooting, burning, stabbing torment.
Trust me, I’ve been there. In fact, I let it go for so long that when I finally went to a podiatrist, he said he’d never seen one as bad as mine. So he took photos to submit to a medical journal.
What an idiot! All I had to do was treat my big toe’s affliction from the start, and I would have avoided all kinds of agony. But no, I let it go.
What followed was surgery, removal of the entire nail, bad regrowth (do you know how long it takes a toenail to regrow? 12-18 months!), another removal and regrowth, surgery again, until now: there’s a narrow, discolored, misshapen, hard, thick nail acting as a poor substitute for the healthy keratin that used to be there.
And it will never be right. The trauma that my toe suffered turned a minor, fixable problem into a permanent, scarred, sometimes painful appendage.
Is this a picture of the American Church today?
Focused inward. Growing deeper into itself. Causing pain and discomfort to those connected to it. Infection creeping in. Redness and swelling puffing out the sides. Oozing pus, blood and bodily liquids. Excruciating pain.
Nasty, isn’t it? But can we take an honest look at it?
Why is it so difficult to trim the Church properly? Why will we not admit that there’s a problem? Maybe because none of us want to lose control over or involvement in “our ministry.”
You know, all those things we do at church that keep us occupied with ourselves. Classes for inner healing, dieting, financial success, divorce recovery, discovering our spiritual gifts and where we fit in. Fellowships around quilting, crafting, eating, manhood, womanhood, fatherhood, motherhood and getting out of the hood. Services for inner healing, outer healing, personal prophetic utterances and fillings and fillings and fillings and fillings and fillings …
Am I stepping on any toes yet?
OUCH! That hurts. Sorry. I realize there are valid and necessary ministries and practices of the Church mentioned above, but if that’s ALL we do, then we’re unbalanced, ingrown, self-absorbed and uncaring.
If we think that’s God’s Grand Plan for the people of this planet, then we are downright delusional. C’mon, people, we’re supposed to give Him away!
The more we wrap the “foot” of the Church in a tight, repressive shoe of self-focused activities, the more we suffer. As we continue to look inward we neglect looking outward, and our true ministry – to reconcile the world unto God – is left undone.
God is love. He saved us from sin and brokenness, degradation and eternal damnation. He became us, then took our place of shame to set us free.
So now we’re free.
Why do we want to bind ourselves up and keep all this Love to ourselves? All God wants is for us to give it away. To be a blessing to the nations. As Abraham’s spiritual seed, we are called to bless all the families of the earth, and we’re not going to get that done when we continue to linger at the altar of brokenness.
We’re fixed already! Let’s put those things behind us and move on to what we are created to be. Sons and daughters of the Most High God. Children of the King of the Universe. Followers of Jesus Christ, the Savior of our very souls.
This is who we are. Can we now trim off the excess please, before it grows down beneath the skin of our churches and infects us all?