In His Steps- Charles M Sheldon

What would Jesus do?

The event of a young man asking help from the church community, receiving none, and subsequently dying, makes the pastor of a church rethink what it means to be a Christian. He realises that if he asked “What would Jesus do?” before every minor or major decision that he made, his life would be different. In prayer, he challenges his congregation to ask themselves this question for one year before making decisions in their everyday life. To his surprise a large number of members agree to this challenge. This book follows their lives through this one year.

A singer decides to use her talent to help in the worship services in a nearby slum, rather than singing concerts.

A wealthy woman decides to give away a large portion of her money to establish a newspaper, and builds also a community centre in a needy area.

A former gambler, talks to his old friends in the clubs to lead more meaningful lives.

An editor of a newspaper bans all advertisements related to alcohol and cigarettes from his paper, and ultimately converts it into a Christian Newspaper.

The book walks us through the process that these individuals and many others go through to make the right decisions. It does not gloss over the sacrifice and the pain. It highlights the joy and peace experienced when living in accordance to God’s will.

It is a book that challenges you to rethink your own life and priorities. It is also beautifully and thoughtfully written. A wonderful read for a weekend.

You can find the book on amazon here.

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Hidden Sorrow, Lasting Joy- Anneke Companjen

The forgotten women of the persecuted church

Vietnam: Hanh Ly was allowed to see her husband for 15 minutes a month, that is – if she was lucky. The prison authorities did their best to make anyone visiting their family unlikely. His crime was that he was a Christian and had refused to give up his faith.

Philippines: Esther Biral’s family saw their 2 storey house go up in flames along with all their belongings, because the family had converted to Christianity from Islam.

Middle East: Sara, Hassan and their 2 children have been on the run against Hassan’s own family, who are trying to remove the shame from their family once and for all. They are robbed, poisoned and persecuted. Now they live separated to protect their children.

Kurdistan: Ruth’s husband Mansour was murdered. A bible was found near his body. She now brings up her two small children alone.

China: Alice Juan, whose husband Alan Juan spent 22 years in prison for preaching about his faith says she underwent 4 tests:

  1. Physical endurance- The test of trusting God to provide food, shelter and clothing for herself and her children. To be provided with the strength to work beyond what was humanly possible.
  2. Political tests- Facing discrimination and humiliation from co workers and members of the community. Inability of the children to procure work because of the father’s imprisonment. Being interrogated by authorities, asked to denounce her faith and divorce her husband.
  3. Strength to meet the test- Though she was qualified to work as a secretary, she was transferred to a brick factory as a punishment for disobeying government orders. She could complete her required quota in adverse weather conditions only with God’s strength.
  4. Staying faithful to marriage vows- She was pressured from every side to remarry. Divorcing Alan would remove from her family the stigma of being from the “anti- revolutionary” side. Interested suitors offered her money of gifts, clothes and of a better life with no worries about food or housing.

Alan Juan returned home after 21 years and 8 months to his loving wife. At their 60th wedding anniversary 6 children and 10 grandchildren honoured them.

But not all stories have happy endings. In fact many Christians in the persecuted churches have denounced their faith in the face of oppression with the desire to survive. Some have lost spouses or been forced to remarry. Many of the children succumb to lack of food and medical treatment.

They need our prayers.

Prayers against discouragement

Prayers that more people come to the Lord

Paul and Silas were travelling from town to town preaching about Jesus. One such journey led them to Mecadonia. They met Lydia, who was a rich dealer, who opened her heart to the good news of Jesus. She invited them to reside in her house. The next day while they were preaching, they got on the bad side of the government and were thrown into prison. They spent the night in chains- singing and praising God. A miracle happens. The next day, it was acknowledged that imprisoning and beating them had been a mistake especially since they had rights as citizens. The government tried to cover up the mistake by attempting to release them secretly. They are then released publically and asked to leave the city.

In their suffering, a slave girl was freed, a jailor prevented from committing adultery and the gospel shared many many times.  (Act:16)

This isn’t just a story.

New stories are written every day.

Let’s pray for the characters in each of them.

Open Door International Ministries (http://www.opendoors.org/) is an organisation that serves persecuted Christians worldwide,  provide bible training and deliver bibles in areas where it is forbidden. The details can be found on their website. 

You can find the book on amazon here.

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Eine Handvoll Gluck- Barbara Noack

“Eine Handvoll Gluck is besser als ein Haufen Verstand.

“A handful of luck is better than a heap of Reason.”

That’s what they said in those days, when situations changed by the ticking of seconds, and the government sought to keep up lies, the time during World War 2.

In the midst of the hard times, there was the friendship of Luise and Jola.

This is a story about growing up into adults, friendships, relationships and loss. Luise and Jola remain friends in spite of differences in character and opinion. It is also about surviving loss and adapting to change. Written in an easy to read style, with beautiful similes, which I read over and over, it is a book that tugs at the heart.

Sadly, I could not find an English version of the book.

The German version can be found here.

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Book Review: What Alice forgot

What Alice forgot- Liane Moriarty

Alice has a head injury which causes her to lose memory of the last 10 years. She believes she is 29 years old, madly in love with her husband Nick and pregnant with her first child. Over the course of about 3 weeks, she regretfully discovers that people and relationships have changed. She is able to see that she has changed too, into someone who only resembles her former self.

She tries to rectify her mistakes and desperately tries to patch broken relationships. She needs to forgive, be forgiven and use open communication to clear misunderstandings.

I would recommend this book to all people trying to mend relationships, whether it be spousal or sibling  or mother – child. This is an easy read, but one that made me reflect deeply about the way I have changed in 10 years and how it has affected relationships around me.

You can find this book in amazon here.

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Somebody lost a someone just now

“Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow.” Psalm 144:4

He was a father, a husband, a friend.

She was a sister, a believer, a soul mate.

I hold the dead little sparrow that had fallen off its nest. In vain I had tried to nurture it.

At the funeral home there was a procession of people who had come to ‘see’ the person one last time. The person who was is now referred to as “The body”.

Nameless and impersonal.

One by one the relatives come to hug the widow. Each touch accompanies wailing which seems ceremonial and fake. Yes, we Indians are dramatic. The hustle of the activities keeps the true mourners distracted and busy. There is tea to be made. The relatives to be fed. Funeral arrangements to be made.

Some relatives fight over possessions and rights. Some things are left undone and messy.

The widow is alone. She takes care of the granddaughter. No, the daughter could not come, she did not get her visa yet.

Another thing strikes me, that of the 80 years that the influential, well respected and rich man has lived, the story of the last minutes of his life are repeated, over and over again. Assumptions are made and details added. The last few days are analysed for signs of his illness and wellbeing. His habits discussed. Not his accomplishments, nor his societal contributions. Someone will remember, later, during the funeral service, but not now.

And I think about the futility of life… like a breath…

Putting things into perspective.

“Man is like a mere breath; His days are like a passing shadow.” Psalm 144:4

Someone has to die for us to realize that all in life is futile.

But then life’s circle goes on relentlessly and without mercy.

And we stand by.

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A door mat or a stepping stone

Key verse: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Galations 6:9 (NIV)

I had taken up yet another assignment for my not so pleasant boss.

Correction: I did not have the courage to refuse yet another assignment from the scariest (short tempered, moody and unpredictable) person in my department.

The assignment was time consuming and monotonous, and I would gain nothing from it- not even praise.

Being at the bottom of the corporate ladder and having lower qualifications than most of my colleagues made me an ideal scrape goat for assignments of this kind.

Also the reason why my colleagues called me the door mat- yet again!

The doormat title wasn’t a new one.

The descriptions changed: in childhood it was called caring, helpful, pleasant, friendly; in adulthood it was called people pleasing, diffidence, irresoluteness, non assertiveness.

The feelings of resentment and anger that rose within me, did not diminish over time.

I love my job and unpleasant tasks like this one are scarce.

But after sleepless nights at the computer, a nauseating road trip of 300 kms, and another degrading comment, I did some introspection.

Where was the boundary between being a stepping stone and a door mat?

Should I turn down assignments that are unpleasant (or from an unpleasant person)?

Should I feel taken advantage of when assigned additional tasks?

A verse in the bible reading that day struck me:”If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well; and if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two.”(Matthew 5:39-41)

This was not about developing assertiveness, making priority lists, being productive, and setting professional boundaries.

This was not about self preservation.

The instinct that says: What is in this for me?

 “How do I benefit financially or career wise by doing this task?” “I will not to tire myself out physically and emotionally, so that have energy left to do what I have planned afterwards.”

Our instincts tell us to pursue success, happiness and health.

We falsely believe that we lose something by rendering of ourselves or our possessions.

Our instincts are strong, but blind and need direction. Unless directed towards God, we may lose the very thing that we yearn for. In seeking happiness, we may lose it; in seeking health, become unwell; in seeking satisfaction, become delusional.

Self preservation focuses on self while sacrifice denies self.

The word of God says that it is better to give than to receive.

That pursuing purity of heart is better than pursuing health and happiness.

That in order to reap generously, we are to sow generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6)

We are further asked to give cheerfully, not out of regret or compulsion. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

God promises that if we suffer, he will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. (1Peter 5:10)

I thought back on my boss, the one universally disliked. Whose entrance into the office, caused others to leave. Whose voice caused people to pretend deafness.

God however seemed to say that day: “He’s my child too”.

Suddenly I didn’t feel resentful, I felt sorry for him. I pitied him for the life he had created, his use of threat rather than love to get work completed and his lack of meaningful relationships in life.

I realized that the only way to overcome evil was with love.

I prayed for him that day.

The boss didn’t change and became a wonderful human being.

This assignment didn’t get me the promotion and raise I was waiting for.

What had changed was my attitude.

When a few days later he sent me a thank you note, I thanked him for the opportunity to help him.

I stopped slandering him, and even attempted to defend him when he was unjustly criticized.

I certainly lost my dread of him, even though there were harsh words carelessly tossed at times.

I learned that you don’t lose anything by giving.

Dear Lord, we pray that you will always be first in our lives. Help us to follow your example in selflessness and look to you when we feel weak, insecure and unappreciated. When we are tempted to indulge in ourselves or disregard someone else, remind us that we are all equal in your sight. Help us to understand that we fulfil your purpose in our lives only when we submit ourselves to you. In Jesus name, Amen.

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Deliver us from Evil- Ravi Zacharias

Deliver us from Evil- Ravi Zacharias

I literally picked up the book by its cover, which displays the famous painting by Edvard Munch entitled “Scream”.

Why is there so much evil in this world? Is God at fault?

I was confused and wanted answers, which I thought this book might help answer. It did answer a few.

The first session was long winded and difficult to read. It tried to explain how the American society has changed in the past century in terms of culture and approach to moral values.

The second part talked about our role as Christians in society.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias language is deep, intellectual and complex. He quotes beautiful passages from famous writing and speeches.  He is an apologist. This book is very useful when talking to people who do not believe in religion. It digs deep into the basic understanding of religion and the uniqueness of Christianity. The final message is loud and clear: Evil can be overcome by the power of prayer and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

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