Thrown into Slavery

Thrown into Slavery

PART ONE

Bahar and his paternal uncle, Navi, traveled to a faraway province in their South Asian country in search of work.

Not long after arriving, they had a dispute with some local people. Because Bahar and Navi were poor migrant workers who spoke a different language, they were handed over to corrupt officials. They were immediately thrown into slavery and forced to work long hours.

They were beaten daily and told they would be killed and chopped up into pieces if they didn’t obey.

For 45 days, Bahar and Navi prayed to their Hindu gods, pleading to be released from their slavery. But nothing happened.

Then Bahar said, “I have heard of someone named Jesus, and that if people pray in his name, he answers them.” So they started praying to Jesus, asking him to make a way for their escape. Jesus immediately spoke to them and told them he would rescue them. He told them which day to leave, how to escape, and where to go. Encouraged, they began to pray more earnestly. Six days later, on the exact day Jesus had said, they were able to escape and begin the journey home! Bahar and Navi knew Jesus had saved them.

Don’t miss part two next week.

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Queens, Killer Bees and Multiplication

Queens, Killer Bees and Multiplication

Charlie and Sarah have been stretched a lot lately, and at times they have felt quite discouraged. They continue to find people who seem interested in following Jesus, only for them to lose interest or push away for various reasons. Language is a constant challenge. And recently, three disciple-makers they have invested in for 18 months decided to head in a different direction. 

“As we took our discouragement to the Father,” Sarah shared, “God reminded us of a seemingly unrelated experience a few
years ago …. with bees.

“Several years ago, while stateside, we discovered a colony of bees living inside a wall in our house. After relocating the hive to our backyard in a newly purchased beehive box, Charlie began learning the art of beekeeping while watching the bees grow in numbers. Unfortunately, the colony was lost when the queen bee mated with an Africanized drone, a “killer bee.” The resulting colony was extremely violent; it even tried to kill Charlie when he accidentally bumped the hive while mowing. We thought of buying a new queen and some worker bees to restart a colony, but we sensed God saying to just put the now-empty beehive box into the garage and wait. Maybe our beekeeping days were over. 

“Then, lo and behold, a neighbor found a large clump of bees in a tree and called us. Charlie immediately knew this was a swarm protecting a queen looking for a new home. So, we relocated the swarm to our beehive box, and the colony started growing and multiplying. It is still going strong to this day, making honey that, God willing, will be enjoyed for years to come.

“You see, God provided the first bees. He took them away. And, then he provided us with the second set of bees which continues to multiply to this day. All Charlie did was scoop them off the tree branch while giving them a healthy environment in which to live!

“Job 1:21 says: The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised. God has reminded us that any fruit in ministry is His fruit. We are only called to be obedient disciples. The fruit is not a burden we are asked to bear. 

“Jesus told his disciples: Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Mat 11:28-30)”

When we face discouragement, let’s go to our knees to ask how God wants to mold us to be better servants and witnesses for Him. 
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Obedience to God’s Word Overcomes Systemic Prejudice

Obedience to God’s Word Overcomes Systemic Prejudice

by the Walker Family
The movement with which we are connected is bringing transformation—not just to the lives of families and individuals, but also to deeply rooted social problems including systemic prejudice.

The early church celebrated the Lord’s Supper: “They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity” (Acts 2:46 NLT). A few years ago, we learned of some churches in the Listening Movement that were not taking the Lord’s Supper. India’s systemic sin of casteism was the root of the problem. Casteism dictates that eating with a low-caste person makes a high-caste person spiritually unclean. “We cannot take the Lord’s Supper across caste lines,” they explained. 

Sanjay,* the main leader in the area, didn’t know how to tackle this issue. We were out of the country at the time, so he wrote to us for advice: “What should we do?” 

Teaching obedience is very different from simply teaching about Jesus or about the Bible. Jesus’ final command to His disciples was to make more disciples, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). At its core, casteism is racism. Prejudice in any form is unacceptable to God. It runs contrary to the truth that all of us are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). Within His Church, racism violates the Lord’s commands to both “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34), and “in humility value others above yourselves” (Phil. 2:3b). Casteism, meanwhile, teaches that from birth, some people are better and more valuable than others. 

In the Indian context, caste is a huge issue. The churches needed heart changes about this systemic Indian problem. Mere verbal assents to a teaching we might give weren’t going to suffice. We needed God to touch their hearts. To get there, the churches needed to learn from the Bible, not from us. We gave Sanjay a list of verses addressing the equality of all people in God’s kingdom, and how in Jesus, all barriers – including gender – are dissolved. We also prayed like crazy. 

Sanjay took these Scriptures to the leaders of the movement. They studied God’s Word together. They discussed what God was saying regarding casteism and the Lord’s Supper. Sanjay did not preach or teach. He gave them the Scriptures. He prayed. He asked questions. They all looked at Scripture together. Finally, the leaders (not Sanjay) came to the conclusion that, “If I am in Jesus, I am no longer Brahmin (or whatever caste I was born into). I can either be a Brahmin, or in Jesus, but I cannot be both. If that’s the option, then I want to be in Jesus!” 

It is important to note that we are not turning the above personal application statements into doctrinal statements for all the churches. These particular churches wrestled with the Scripture, then applied it to their personal lives in this context of casteism. This is what it means to teach others to obey Jesus. From the very beginning, even before these Brahmin families called themselves followers of Jesus, they had been taught to not just listen to Bible stories, but to apply them. Thus, when this issue arose, the DNA of “obey the Word” was already established. They had no idea that casteism was anathema to Jesus’ kingdom. So we gave them the Word, they wrestled with it and then applied it to their personal lives. They chose unity over disunity, to count all things as loss compared to knowing Jesus. And since they are committed to teaching their disciples to also obey Jesus, we know they will share the Bible verses with others. 

How do we know they really meant what they said? Through their actions. After declaring they wanted to be “in Jesus,” the leaders did something seldom seen in their context. They apologized. In front of each other, without attempting to save face or defend themselves, they admitted: “We are sorry; we were wrong” both to Sanjay and to their disciples. Apologizing in public is a big deal anywhere, but it’s huge in Asia. Usually, apologies here are passive at best. For someone here to take ownership of a wrong they have done and apologize, not just to someone they consider “above” themselves (Sanjay), but also to people who look up to them (their disciples), is stunning. We were speechless! 

That’s not all. After apologizing, the leaders intentionally gathered multiple churches with mixed caste-background people, and they all took communion together! This may sound like a small thing to outsiders, but this is a huge thing for India. Casteism is the filter through which the vast majority of Indians think about relationships and community. God broke into their hearts and minds through His Word alone. Hebrews 12:4 says, “For the Word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart” (AMP). We have always believed this to be true. Now we have seen it in action, bringing transformation to individuals and to whole churches. What a joy! 

“Teach them to obey all that I’ve commanded you.” Sadly, we Christians tend to believe that lectures, sermons and codified theological doctrines will accomplish this task. But we need to ask ourselves: is all the sharing of information resulting in obedient disciples of Jesus, even when His commands run directly counter to their deeply ingrained cultural patterns and habits? When the Holy Spirit speaks through the Bible, people recognize that they are accountable to Jesus for their obedience (or disobedience). Praise God that discovering His will through group study of His Word helps people learn to obey Jesus for themselves. It is a priceless, humble privilege to watch God tear down destructive attitudes and practices, and build up an out-of-this-world fellowship among people from all kinds of diverse backgrounds. Hallelujah!

This article was used with permission and was first published in Mission Frontiers

What Did God Say About Racism?

What Did God Say About Racism?

Racism and prejudice are unacceptable to God, and casteism is racism to the extreme. Caste teaches that some people are simply better and more valuable than others. It is a huge issue that must be dealt with in movement churches.

North Indian movement leaders knew that new churches needed to learn from the Bible, not from them because only the Lord can touch a heart. So, they gave Raj, a movement trainer, a list of verses that addressed casteism, the equality of all people in God’s Kingdom, as well as who can take the Lord’s Supper.

Raj brought the scriptures to the new church leaders. They studied God’s Word and discussed what He said regarding casteism and the Lord’s Supper. Raj did not preach or teach. He prayed. He asked questions. Finally, the leaders concluded, “If I am in Jesus, I am no longer Brahmin (or whatever caste I was born into). I can either be a Brahmin or in Jesus, but I cannot be both. If that’s the option, I want to be in Jesus!”

Then, the leaders did something rarely seen. They apologized without attempting to save face or defend themselves. They said “I am sorry; I was wrong” to Raj AND to their disciples. For the leaders to own the wrongs they had done, and then to apologize, not just to one considered “above” themselves (Raj), but also to people who look up to them was astounding. 

But they went further. After apologizing, the leaders gathered multiple churches with mixed caste-background people and everyone took communion together!

Your generous donations enabled this training that fostered profound change in the hearts and minds of new disciples. 

 God broke through their natural filter of casteism and into their hearts and minds by His Word alone. Hebrews 12:4 says:
For the word of God is living and active and full of power. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart (AMP).

Thank you for giving so that others may walk in the truth and freedom that comes through God’s Word.

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God Did Not Say ‘Be a Light Among Lights’

God Did Not Say ‘Be a Light Among Lights’

A retired couple from a nearby country felt called to serve unreached people where Karly* lives. They came with a lot of unknowns, including how to best reach the lost.

Karly suggested meeting together to study the Bible. That way, they could learn from Jesus’ example of ministry. After the first meeting, they each agreed to pray and spend time with God in a public place.

Karly’s friend shared her experience: “I went to one place. I asked God to show me his heart for the people around me, but I didn’t really hear anything. So I went to a different place. I prayed again. This time, God impressed on me this phrase: ‘Be a light in the darkness.’ When I heard that, I realized how much time I spend with other believers. God did not say, ‘Be a light among lights.’ I have to go out into the darkness. This is God’s heart.”

“For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light… that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Acts 13:47

*pseudonym

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