Are You Mary or Zechariah?

Are You Mary or Zechariah?

John and another north Indian movement leader traveled to meet with ten Muslim men who had said they wanted to know more about Isa al Masih (Jesus). John and his friend shared some verses from the Qur’an about Jesus and the Old and New Testaments. The group liked what they heard. They did not immediately become followers of Jesus that day, but neither did they argue. They are open. They said, “You have taught us a lot! Please come back.” John plans to return another time.

A key movement practice is to go and go again. We can’t keep returning for years or maybe even months if no one shows spiritual interest. Because the harvest is plentiful, we must not waste time with those who aren’t ready. But where we find authentic interest, we can consider the door to still be open. 

The movement leaders have learned the difference between genuine questioning and argumentative spirits. It is the difference between Mary’s awe-struck “How can this be?” and Zechariah’s scoffing “How can this be?”

Some people, like the group above, say, “Wow. This is a lot to take in. I need some time to think about it. But please come back and tell us more later.” But when we meet those who only want to argue, we can say, “I love you too much to argue,” and move on to others who are open to listening to the Good News. We can trust God to give the skeptics (modern Zechariahs) another chance (and another and another), even if not with us. But we must be willing to move on, staying in step with the Spirit, to find and share with those who are ready to hear the good news.

Related Articles:
A Former Hindu, a Former Muslim … Partners for Jesus 
Jesus Heals as is Written in the Qur’an
Sharing the Gospel with Hindus
If Jesus Suffered a Judas, So Could We

 

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.

Related Articles:
Once from Prision, Once from Hunger, Once from Sin (Part 2)

House Raids and Interrogations
The Spiritual Warfare Increased
House Parties Building Kingdom Relationships
Caught Between the Lions and the Lambs

“I’m Baptized!”

“I’m Baptized!”

After months of doing Discovery Bible Studies with Sue, Havva decided she wanted to be a Jesus follower. 

Knowing that it’s generally better to baptize someone together with their closest community, the women pondered whether to wait for Havva’s husband to come to faith too. And where could they hold the baptism? Bathtubs are rare in their part of West Asia. They brought these matters before God. 

When Havva remembered a public pool she once visited, she called immediately. “Okay, I’m just going to tell you straight,” she said to the owner. “I’m going to be baptized, so I want to come when no one else is around.”

“Oh really?! I’m so happy for you!” the man said. “Yes, please come early. We open at 10, but you can come at nine before anyone else arrives. We’ll be waiting for you.”

Havva and Sue were not expecting that response! On the contrary, a more expected reaction in a 99%-Muslim country would have been anger and a lecture on why she shouldn’t do it. They were amazed! God had made a way.

Later that day, Sue saw a man with a Matthew 28:19 T-shirt walk past … in the middle of Islamic West Asia. “All I could do was gawk as he walked by,” Sue says. “When I finally collected myself, I breathlessly read the verse to Havva, and in [Havva’s language] the verb “baptize” is written in the command form. It hit me like a ton of bricks: the Father is confirming His will to us: ‘Do it.’ I had been worrying, but God had given us a place and a command.”

The following morning when they were in the warm pool waters, Sue got momentarily caught up in the mechanics of how to baptize someone in a pool with no shallow end. “But Havva was focused and got it done,” Sue recalls. “She said, ‘In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, I’m baptized!’ And then she dipped under the water and popped back up. 

“I love that Havva was so determined that she didn’t need me to say or do anything; I just put my hand on her back as she went underwater. It was such a joyful morning! Our Father showered us with His kindness and care because we’re His beloved daughters.”

Sue asks that we pray for Havva to have the opportunity to baptize her husband and daughter when they, too, become followers of Jesus. Her husband is close, but something is still blocking him. Ask the Father for another miracle of faith. 

Related Stories:
Baptism in Risky and Hostile Places
Balking at Baptism
Would You Like to Hear the Story
No More Searching, They Seek Us Out

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. 
Related Reads:
We Walked As He Parted the Waters
Getting to the Harvest is Doable
I Told Him I was Quitting
Trading Tradition for Multiplication

 

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