Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hitting Close to Home

For the past 3 months, I've been journeying through a study on the Apostle Paul and it's called "To Live is Christ" by Beth Moore. It's been an amazing in-depth study of his life, of the Book of Acts and some of Paul's letters to the New Testament Church. So many of parts of his life have hit really close to home for me. Originally called Saul, he was a devout Jew who grew up in the church and kept the law to it's fullest extent. He was so against the followers of Jesus Christ that he had them persecuted and killed all the time, he would even go in search of them to have them killed. After Paul met with Jesus on the Road to Damascus, he became a believer and began sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ, but he was persecuted in many ways. The hatred that his fellow Jews had for him now was taken to great extents. From his own people, the religious leaders and even his family, he was flogged and beaten, imprisoned, and even stoned (2 Corinthians 11:21-31). But he stood on the solid truth of God's Son, Jesus Christ the Messiah, who came to earth, died on a cross and rose again and is now living in heaven preparing an eternal home for us there. He continued to preach the Good News no matter what. I pray that my faith will be as strong as his was.

Back in March 2006, I had the opportunity to go to Bolivia to find some of my dad's family living on the Mennonite Colonies there. It's been wonderful to meet with them. But at the same time, the stories that I hear of my own relatives have been no different than what happened to Paul so many years ago.  In 1995, a young man in Bolivia had been severely beaten by the elders of the church for proclaiming that he was a Believer and that he knew for certain that he was going to heaven. They made his younger brother watch and wanted them both to deny being confident in their eternal heavenly heritage. Are you willing to follow Jesus even when it hurts and others persecute you?? I pray that I will be able to. You can read the story of Paul Buhler here:   http://www.jeanettewindle.com/the_way_of_the_cross_following_jesus_when_it_hurts.htm
What has been done in the name of religion or the church is heartwrenching.

Here I am with dedicated
Missionaries Jake & Dorothy
Fehr near Santa Cruz, Bolivia 
relatives on a Mennonite Colony
Recently, a relative from Bolivia came to visit, one that I had met back in 2006. I prayed for this man. Knowing that his own mind has been twisted with the legalistic ways of the colonies, my heart was heavy for him before he left. I didn't have anything to lose, so I stopped in and prayed for him. My prayer for him is the same as it is for my many relatives who are caught in those same religious ways in Bolivia. I pray that their hearts would be changed, that the Love of God would overtake his hardened heart and that the work that dear missionaries are doing in their country would not be in vain. I know that many Mennonites are becoming Believers, in spite of the persecution by their own people, and choosing to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, no matter what the cost. But it's not easy hearing of these things and to also watch others reap things in their latter years of stuff that they had sown in their earlier years. Oh how we all need the Hand of God in our lives.

On Sunday morning, our sermon in church was about "who am I living for" and "what would I die for." Paul chose to die for Christ..."To live is Christ, to die is gain"...were his words. Am I willing to die for my faith? If my child or a family member asked me to deny my Christ in order to live, or in order for one of my other children to live, would I be strong enough in my faith to say "No, to live is Christ, to die is gain." If someone were to knock on my door and take me to jail for living my life for God, would my faith be strong enough to go through any kind of persecution? I pray that it would.  That's why it's so important to be in the Word of God and developing a daily relationship with God and getting to know His Son Jesus Christ more and more....so that when those times of persecution come, which they will, then we will be able to stand on our firm foundation of faith in God. Ephesians 6 tells us that we need to put on the armor of God daily so we can stand with our feet planted on God and His Word.

synagogue at Capernaum
The hatred that can live in human beings is downright scary. The Jews were "livid" when Paul kept on preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ and their hatred controlled them so much that they dragged him out of the synagogue and began to stone/beat him and left him for dead (Acts 14). We can fast forward to the 1500's when the Anabaptists broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and the severe persecution many believers went through at the hands of angry religious leaders of that time because they simply wanted to step away from infant baptism and have voluntary church membership and they believed in the separation of church and state.  http://www.anabaptists.org/history/what-is-an-anabaptist.html  What is done in the name of religion is absolutely heartbreaking! The religious leaders on the Bolivian colony kept whipping the young 18 year old boy because he knew and proclaimed that he was saved. Yes, this study has hit close to home. What happened to Christians in the Bible is still happening today and has happened throughout history.

The Garden Tomb
Even closer to home yet, is how much closer I feel to the Apostle Paul. What a testimony of a man who, in the early years of his life, thought he had all the right teachings, had been brought up in the church and yet he missed the mark of believing that Jesus was the Messiah. What a testimony he has of being brought to know the Truth and to share it with others through the remainder of his life. As I prepare to go back to Israel in a few
at the Wailing Wall
days, all that I learned through this study is so fresh in my head, just as it was when we journeyed through the study Jesus the One and Only. Each study we do, I get to know The Bible better and better and I get to know the Heart of God better and better and changing me from the inside out. As Paul was writing his letters to the different churches, it was full of love and affection for the Believers and a longing that they would come closer and closer in their relationship with Jesus Christ and to know the Scriptures.  He also longed to meet with them to share about the Good News with them in person, face to face. I am feeling that same way today. I have been able to connect with a couple wonderful Christian women in Israel and we will be meeting together with them while we are there. My heart longs to see their face, give them a hug and to hear about all that God is doing in their lives and through the lives of the Believers in the Holy Land. I know the trip this time will be even more personal and enriching because of meeting together with these women personally.

God is at work!  Hallelujah! Each day is so exciting to find out what He is going to do TODAY! What is He going to give me to add to my Testimony TODAY! Yes, I hope and pray that each day, each week, things will hit close to home, to soften my heart, get me to pray harder, to open my Bible more often and to draw me nearer to the Heart of my Heavenly Father. AMEN!

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