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Archive for December, 2011

Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together”
(Isaiah 40:5).

As we look forward to another new year, what can we expect? Will this be the year that the whole world is converted to Christ? The Lord has promised us that it will happen and we can pray that the Lord Jesus will come soon.

We look around and see many things are still wrong in the world and anticipate the day when Christ will come bringing in the fullness of His redemption.

The day will come when all of the false gods of the unbelievers will be exposed for what they are. Those who worship money and power will be cast aside. All of the wicked rulers who think that they can coerce peoples to follow them will be thrown down. The false god of Islam, Allah, will be shown to be just that – a phony figment of Mohammad’s imagination. The world will be a better, more just place when those who oppress women and children as the Muslims do are on the decrease and Christianity is on the increase.

We look forward to the day when all of the kings of the earth will bow before THE Prince of Peace, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. All nations will acknowledge the blessed Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many people are pessimistic about the future. They think that things will get worse and worse and the whole world will go to pieces. Perhaps they imagine the whole world will be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. We know that the world and everything in it will be burned up one day (see 2Pet. 3:10). But we do not know when that will happen. Our focus now should be on doing the job that God gave us to do while we look forward to the new heavens and the new earth.

Let us not be discouraged by the long period of God’s delay. We need to take heart and work and struggle to defeat the injustices in this world. That is the job that God has given the church. Everywhere that we help orphans, feed the hungry, visit the poor, and stop injustice against the helpless, we are advancing the kingdom of God. We as women can do much to help the helpless and show mercy to those who are disadvantaged. We can do all of this in the strength of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Lo, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20).

While we work to advance God’s kingdom, Jesus has promised to be with us. He is as much with us in our day as He ever was, even in the days when He walked among His disciples.

In His presence, we take courage and He helps us to have the love and compassion that we need to serve others. Knowing that He is with us, we can be assured that we will have every grace that we need, every strength for the work that we can pour our whole hearts and minds into.

Do not be discouraged; bring yourself, with the power of the Holy Spirit, more into conformity with Christ. We will never be able to love as He does with perfect love, but we can strive toward that as a goal.

Remember, He promises to be with us. More than that, He delights to be with us. What a wonderful, amazing thing that our God desires to be with us! This is our motivation to begin the New Year with more love to Him and to others.

And the Lord shall guide you continually” (Isaiah 58:11).

God has not left us alone here on earth. Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us. We can count on Him. No matter what happens to us in the future, Jesus will be guiding us. We are having hard times in this early part of the twenty-first century. Unemployment is high. Taxes are high. Government intrusion and downright coercion is at an all time high. How can we cope with all of this? We must follow Jesus as closely as possible. We must always be in prayer. We must put ourselves in His presence and feel our union with Him. If we have to change our position in life, or move, He will be with us. If our circumstances change so much that we begin to feel helpless, we can cast all our cares on Him. The government thinks it can run our lives, but God is truly the real Ruler of the universe.

It seems often that we are alone, or in a tiny minority, of those who worship God faithfully. We are derided for believing in God. But even if all others around us were to forsake the Lord, we must stay firm. We can do this because we know that He Who is in us is greater than all the evils of the world (see 1John 4:4). Look at the verse at the beginning of this section again – “The Lord shall guide you continually.” This is a promise. Walk with God, and you will not go astray. You have His infallible wisdom to guide you, His mighty power to strengthen you, His unchanging love to comfort you, and His eternal power to defend you.

This is His promise. He will be with us no matter what. We do not know what the New Year will bring. We can pray with other saints all through the ages, “Even so, Lord Jesus come.” If He tarries still, we pray for justice in this world. As women of faith and courage, we can renew our strength and work even harder this year to bring the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ to all those that God calls us to serve.
Blessed New Year to all!!

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“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Christianity offers the most freedom to all humans in the world. This has been true all throughout history. There have been times when women have not been given the credit that is due to them by the Church, but by and large, Christianity has brought freedom for all peoples no matter what nationality or gender.

Consider the beliefs about women of some of the other world religions:

Muslim: “Men shall have the pre-eminence. The ground of the pre-eminence of man over woman is here said to be man’s natural superiority over woman. Women are an inferior class of human beings. … Men are the lords of the women, and women become the virtual slaves of the men. The holy, happy estate of Eve in Eden can never be even approximately secured for her daughters under Islam.”

Ancient Jewish Prayer of Men: “BLESSED ART THOU, O LORD OUR G-D, KING OF THE UNIVERSE, WHO HAST NOT MADE ME A WOMAN.”

Hindu: “that women of high and low caste, as a class, were bad, very bad, worse than demons, as unholy as untruth, and that they could not get Moksha as men. The only hope of their getting this much-desired liberation from Karma and its results … was the worship of their husbands. The husband is said to be the women’s god; there is no other god for her. … Women have no minds. They are lower than pigs.”

Of the examples of the dim view of women in many cultures, the Hindu view is the most blatant. One cannot imagine how any woman could succeed or be happy in that culture. But, that is reckoning without a providential Father God Who raises up people in His own good time to help bring the good news of salvation to many. One woman who was clearly led of God was Pandita Ramabai.

During the nineteenth century in India, many men believed that women were not able to be educated. There was one man, however, who thought differently – Ananta Shatri Dongree, a wealthy Hindu guru. He did not believe that women were just animals. He proved it by educating his wife and his daughter, Pandita Ramabai (1858-1922).

As a child, Ramabai was educated in the Hindu scriptures and by the time she was twenty years old, she had memorized 18,000 verses of the Puranas, the Hindu holy book. She could speak many Indian dialects, as well as English. Her tremendous knowledge impressed the local Hindu scholars. They gave her the name “Pandita,” which means “learned.” They asked her to teach the high-caste Hindu women. She studied the Hindu scriptures in preparation for her class. She discovered that the Hindu scriptures contradicted themselves in almost every area except one – the negative view of women. Ramabai read one thing that they all agreed on, “Women were worse than demons.” She did not believe this, because her father had not raised her to believe this.

Pandita then began to move for reform. She desired to dismantle the Hindu caste system. She mainly wanted to raise the status of women in Indian society. Her efforts became even more intensive when she became a widow with a small daughter.

Among already low-ranking women in India, widows ranked the lowest. Many were burned alive on their husband’s funeral pyres. Those who were allowed to live were forced to become slaves. These women were sent to temples to become temple prostitutes and make money for the Hindu priests. As soon as the women were no longer pleasing to the priests, they were turned out on to the streets to be beggars. Most would die of starvation. Ramabai saw all of this firsthand and founded an organization to reform this terrible treatment of women.

Around this time in her life, Ramabai came into contact with a Baptist missionary and began her journey toward Christianity. For a time she joined a cult which blended Hindu beliefs with Christianity. Then in 1883 she traveled to England and made friends with a woman who was a member of the Anglican community.

Ramabai embraced Christ fully while in England and was baptized. She was joyous, but many back home in India were outraged. They did not want the most famous woman reformer in their country to be a Christian. They wanted her to continue to embrace their culture.

Ramabai did not see any conflict with her culture and Christianity. She did not want to be a part of the Church of England. She just considered herself simply a Christian. She resisted the efforts of the sisters of the Anglican Church to make her conform to western ways. She remained independent in her Christian life. She explained to the English women that she would like to keep the customs of her forefathers as far as she could, as long as the customs were not hurtful. She was able in this way to reach many more women in India for Christ.

With this spirit of independence Ramabai developed her educational system for women and girls. She gave lectures and preached in Hindu temples. She started a school for girls, called Mukti, which means “salvation”. She taught the young girls and women life skills that they could use to support themselves. She did not try to force them to become Christians, but many desired to follow Christ because of her example.

She was an early believer in “life-style evangelism”. Once during a famine, Ramabai fed thousands of people who would have otherwise starved to death.

In the early 1900’s there were revivals in many places in the English speaking world. When Ramabai heard about them, she prayed that revival would happen among her girls. At her school, Mukti, five hundred and fifty women met daily and prayed for God’s blessings. On June 29, 1905, God blessed them by sending an outpouring of His Holy Spirit. During the next few days a thousand girls professed faith in Christ.

During this time of success, the Indian officials were still upset with her for evangelizing. She refused to give in. Though she did not actively seek to convert the girls as other mission schools did, she maintained her faithful Christian life, which was the best way to present the Gospel at that time in that culture. She did not want to present a “western” Gospel, but one that was focused on Christ and Christ alone. Her faith and practices were compatible with her culture rather than just on institutional dogma.

And her beliefs were shown in her deep zeal for revival. She prayed that God would send 100,000 Christians to India to go out and spread the Gospel.

Soon after this, she was asked to care for 25,000 orphans. She believed that God had answered her prayer and began to train them as little followers of Christ.

Pandita Ramabai’s work lives on today. She is known by some as the greatest woman of the nineteenth century living in India. Many have praised her achievements. God can bless any people at any time, even with a woman leader. We can rejoice at how God led her from a devout Hindu home to an earnest faith in Jesus Christ. Thousands are grateful for her testimony, tireless work, and the success she had in raising the status of women in a dark land.
 

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“For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” (II Timothy 1:5).

Most people remember Susanna Wesley as the remarkable mother of Charles and John Wesley, the founders of worldwide Methodism. She is remembered for her devotion to all of her children and the way she took the responsibility for their care with steadfast faith, much grace, and daily trust in God. Perhaps not written about as much has been her strength of character that showed itself in her independent spirit, remarkable especially for her day.

Susanna Annesley was youngest of twenty-five children, so it did not seem unexceptional to her to have 19 children, including two sets of twins.

Susanna was born in London, England, in 1669, when there was much controversy in the church. There was an independently thinking group at the time, called Dissenters, because they dissented from the official Church of England.

Susanna’s father, Dr. Samuel Annesley, was such a man. His conscience would not allow him to sign a document that made changes in the Book of Common Prayer that he could not agree to. He left St. Giles Church in London and founded a new parish. His daughter, Susanna inherited his independent way of thinking, but she would later rejoin the Church of England.

When Susanna was nineteen years old, she married Samuel Wesley, who was a bright, young, easy-going preacher whose father was also a Dissenter. They lived for a few years in London and then moved to Epworth near Lincoln. They lived there for nearly forty years until the death of Rev. Wesley.

Of the nineteen children born to them, only three sons and seven daughters survived to adulthood. Despite their low income, the Wesley’s managed to help all three sons receive M.A.’s from Oxford. All three were ordained in the Church of England.

Samuel and Susanna differed politically. Samuel accepted William of Orange as King William III, but Susanna believed that only the members of the Stuart family should reign. She was for King James II. This is interesting to consider, since James II was rejected for his Catholicism. One wonders what Susanna could have been thinking of. Her pride over this issue got her in trouble one day, because she refused to say “Amen” when her husband was praying for God’s blessing on King William. Samuel was just as headstrong as Susanna, and therefore he decided to move away saying, “We must part, for if we have two Kings, we must have two beds.”

Susanna was concerned about herself and the children being abandoned, but in her own headstrong way replied, “I am more easy in the thoughts of parting because I think we are not likely to live happily together.” She explained further, “Since I am willing to let him quietly enjoy his opinions, he ought not to deprive me of my little liberty of conscience.” This sounds more like the twenty-first century than the seventeenth century!!!  Later, when William III died, they would reunite. Queen Anne was the daughter of James II, and so both Samuel and Susanna could agree on politics at last.

We might wonder at Susanna’s strong spirit, but it was well for her to be so strong. Samuel traveled often and she was left in charge of the children. She began the daily routine that would have a big impact on her famous sons, John and Charles. They would found the Methodist church, and some historians would even refer to Susanna as the founder of Methodism.

The family rose at 5:00 AM, and each hour of the day was organized by activity. Susanna set aside an hour every day and prayed with her different children. On Thursdays, for example, she prayed with John. She would teach them and also exhort them to be mindful of the state of their souls. John would later say that his habit of self-examination began at his mother’s knees. When he left home, he asked her to spend their regular hour in prayer for him, and in writing to him on various spiritual themes.

Susanna’s influence spread outside of her home as well. In later years, John referred to her as a “preacher of righteousness”. She had been recognized as a devout woman and the mistress of a large family. Yet, while her husband was away, she would also pray with the children in the neighborhood. Soon other people began to come to her home. There would usually be between thirty and forty people in attendance. People sought her out to help them in their spiritual growth.

What about the fact that she was a woman? Susanna believed as other women did during her time; the husband is the spiritual head of the home. But this did not stop her from doing what she believed God called her to do. “Though I am not a man, nor a Minister, yet if my heart were sincerely devoted to God, and I was inspired with a true zeal for his glory, I might do somewhat more than I do.”

Because of her belief in a woman’s place, she kept the meetings at her home. She could not help the spontaneous growth that occurred. “With those few neighbours that then came to me, I discoursed more freely and affectionately. I chose the best and most awakening sermons we have. And I spent somewhat more time with them in such exercise, without being careful about the success of my undertaking. Since this, our company increased every night; for I dare deny none that ask admittance.”

One Saturday they had over two hundred people attend and had to turn some away because of the lack of space for them. She made it clear that as a woman she was not seeking to have a congregation. She couldn’t help it if many people came to appreciate her wisdom and guidance and sought her out. She answered her husbands concerns with her own reservations about what she was doing as a woman, “I doubt if it is proper for me to present the prayers of the people to God. Last Sunday I would fain have dismissed them before prayers; but they begged so earnestly to stay, I durst not deny them.” She would gladly have had a man read the sermon, but there wasn’t one present who was literate enough to do so.

Like so many women who lived in her day, or even in the twenty-first century, she was not trying to take a stand for women’s rights. She was only following her burning desire to preach the Gospel.

 

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“For your husband is your Maker, Whose name is the Lord of hosts; … for the Lord has called you, like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,” (Isaiah 54:5,6).

These words would have very special and personal meaning for Christina Forsyth. She would wait until she was forty years old to be married, and then she would be widowed less than a year later. The Lord Himself would be her protector for nearly thirty years as she ministered to the Xolobe people in the very rugged area of Fingoland.

Christina Moir was born in 1844 and lived in Glasgow, Scotland. She had godly, Christian parents. Her mother taught her the Scriptures. Sadly, though, her mother died when Christina was only ten years old. Her father had married late in life and he died when she was only twenty years old.

It seemed that the Lord had directed her to a life of trusting in Him alone right from the beginning. As a young woman, Christina was corresponding with a man, a banker’s son, whom she thought she had an understanding with for marriage. He had gone away to India on business and she was waiting for him. She and her sisters were all writing to him. Soon, her sisters were getting letters, but she was not. She could only suppose that he had lost interest in her. Eventually, even references to her were dropped from her sisters’ letters. She was heartbroken.

Christina decided to deal with this heartbreak in her life by turning to God fully. She wrote a poem about how Christ had suffered for her, and she compared her sufferings to His:

“Here night shuts out the day;
Earth’s fairest flow’rs bloom but fade and die.
And fondest friends forsake. He felt this too.
Cling close to Him; He will not leave in life
Nor yet in death forsake.”
These words would prove very true for her.

For a time, in the late 1870’s, when Christina was in her thirties, she lived with her brother, acting as his hostess, and working in the church where he was the pastor. When he got married, she was no longer needed. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she applied at a Presbyterian mission as an unpaid volunteer. She had inherited some money, and was willing to support herself. The mission was very glad of the help and sent her to Emgwali, to be an assistant to Miss Ogilvie who was teaching South African children. Christina then transferred to the Paterson Mission station to help out when Mrs. Davidson, who was serving with her husband, fell ill. Christina was a tireless worker and applied all of her energy to every task, even though the Zulu wars were going on all around them, and other churches and missions were being burned.

Sometime earlier, when she was living at home, in the mid 1870’s, Christina had met a man named Allan Forsyth. He was impressed with her godly character and proposed marriage to her. She accepted. Allan went off to South America on business. They knew it would be several years before they could be married. It actually turned out to be more like ten years. It was while she was waiting for Allan that Christina served God in South Africa.

Finally in 1884, it was time for Christina to leave for Scotland and marry Allan. Everyone at the Paterson mission was sad to see her go.

During this time, the banker’s son that she had had the understanding with so many years ago had come back to Glasgow and settled down. When he heard that Christina was back in Scotland, he went to see her. He heard that she was about to be married and he traveled to speak with her. He asked her why she had not written to him, and after talking a while they came to realize that their letters to each other had been intercepted by a jealous admirer. The banker’s son had been as heartbroken as Christina when their letters stopped. He had suffered as much as she had from this cruel trick. In spite of this revelation, Christina decided to keep her commitment to Allan. She and the banker’s son parted, but remained friends.

Allan and Christina Forsyth married, but did not remain in Scotland. Allan wanted to go and make his fortune in the Transvaal gold mines in Africa. The newlyweds settled at Lydenburg, South Africa. Less than a year later, in 1885, while Allan was traveling, he slipped from the saddle of his horse as he was trying to cross the Komati River. He was swept away in the raging torrent and drowned. An elder at Christina’s church pressed a slip of paper in her hand. “Thy Maker is thy husband” (Isaiah 54:5). The Lord would comfort her with His presence.

The banker’s son offered her a home with his sisters, but she refused. She wanted to be a missionary again. This time, she would go on the mission field as her own person, instead of just being an aid to someone else. Not only that, but she would go to one of the most difficult places in which to minister. She would go to serve the Xolobe people in Fingoland. There, things were so bad, and the people were so backward, that they were referred to as “wolves” by everyone else. During the time that another missionary worked there, only one Xolobe had become a Christian and kept his faith.

This did not stop Christina, however when she arrived in the rugged area of Xolobe, she wondered whether or not she had overcommitted herself. The people were apathetic at best and openly hostile at worst. They spent their time getting drunk and having orgies. Christina wondered whether or not the work would be impossible, but the Lord reassured her, “The heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the Lord build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the Lord have spoken it, and I will do it” (Ezekiel 36:36).

Christina began by schooling the local children. This work would go on intermittently depending on the attitude and willingness of the parents. Sometimes she taught the children alone, because their parents were gone. They were off drinking and carousing. She fed the children and told them about Jesus. She visited the sick and she brought many orphans to her home.

Often, Christina’s work was dangerous, but the Lord protected her. One night, while walking home, she suddenly decided that she could walk no further and just laid down to sleep until morning. When she awoke, she found that she was so close to a dangerous precipice, that had she gone another step she would have fallen to her death.
Another time, she was accosted by dangerous robbers, but the sudden appearance of a shepherd frightened them away.

The tribal Chief, Mnyila, opposed Christina and forbade his people to attend any of her meetings. She persisted, and eventually a few children became Christians. The first boy who accepted Christ was cruelly tortured by the witch doctors until he renounced the faith.
Amazingly, in spite of all of this, Christina witnessed fifty conversions by 1899. When the people decided to build a church building to hold their meetings, it was burned to the ground. “There is only one thing to do: we must build another,” was Christina’s response.

Year after year, Christina toiled on. She was very lonely most of the time. But she remained cheerful. Finally, her health began to fail. In 1916, it became apparent that she could no longer carry on the heavy work. Her heart was becoming weaker and weaker, and so reluctantly she returned to Scotland.

She said, “I have done very little. I should like to do much more before I die.” She longed to see all of China, Africa, even the whole world converted to Christ. She told her biographer that she would give thirty years of her life to the Xolobe people all over again if given the chance. She died in 1918.

Christina’s life is a wonderful example to us of a woman who turned to God when “jilted”. Many women would not be strong enough to rise above abandonment and widowhood, but Christina went on the serve the Lord in extremely hard conditions and to be totally joyful at the end. I pray that I may be like her, and that many women would be inspired by her story to press on knowing that God is with us and helping us.

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