The missionary adventures of the Stimpson family

Posts tagged “born-again

The Gospel is the Power of God, Pt. 4 – Reconciled

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In Romans 1:16, Paul called the Gospel “the power of God,” but how often have we turned it into a tame thing more fit for nursery rhymes and children’s plays?  The Gospel is God’s power to save men!  Only the Gospel could turn a terrorist into an apostle, an atheist into a Believer, an addict into a lover of God, or a gang member into an evangelist.  Only the Gospel could “persuade a strict dictator to retire, fire the army, teach the poor origami,” as the Newsboys put it so eloquently.

Once a week for a while now, I’ve been discussing a new metaphor the Bible uses to explain the power of the Gospel.  If you missed the earlier posts, check them out here.  Today, let’s look at how, through the Gospel, God reconciled us to Himself.

Reconciled

Paul tells us in Colossians 1:21-22, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”

I love this section.  There’s so much going on here, so bear with me as I unpack it a little.

In two verses, Paul shows us the power of the Gospel in a nutshell – who we were, what God did for us, and who we’re becoming.

Here’s the picture of who we used to be: we were alienated, hostile in mind, and doing evil deeds.  These aren’t pretty words.  These aren’t nice words.

When Paul says we were alienated, he means we were shut out from fellowship and intimacy with God, cut off from Him and all His blessings.  The Greek word he uses implies a former state that we’ve departed from as our relationship deteriorated.  The word was used to describe the breaking apart of the marriage covenant through unfaithfulness and to the division of property.  So Paul is not so much saying that God closed us out because He didn’t like us but that, through our unfaithfulness and stubbornness, we let our relationship fall apart and therefore separated ourselves from Him.

He says we were hostile in mind.  I don’t think the English word hostile carries the weight of what Paul is getting at here.  The word he uses is usually translated “enemy” in the New Testament and sometimes refers specifically to the devil himself.  When Jesus says to love our enemies, He’s using this word.  When He says the enemy sows tares in the midst of the wheat, it’s this word.  When Paul says Jesus will put all His enemies under His feet, and when he says that many have become enemies of the cross, you guessed it, he uses this word.  This is not describing someone who was just a little ticked at God, a little hostile.  It’s describing an enemy of God, “someone openly hostile, animated by deep-seated hatred,” implying “irreconcilable hostility, proceeding out of a ‘personal’ hatred bent on inflicting harm,” as the Helps Word-studies on BibleSuite.com put it.

Paul goes on to describe us as doers of evil deeds.  The Strong’s concordance defines these deeds as “bad, of a bad nature or condition,” “diseased or blind” and “wicked or corrupt.”  No matter how good you think you may have been, without Jesus, even your good deeds were based in selfishness, fear of man, trying to prove something or earn something.  Paul says we did evil, corrupt, diseased, wicked works.  BibleSuite.com goes on to describe these evil deeds as “pain-ridden, emphasizing the inevitable agonies (misery) that always go with evil.”

The word Paul uses here that we translate as evil, poneros, is not the only Greek word for evil, but it is the one that specifically emphasizes the corrupting, disease-spreading, pain-ridden fruit that results.  According to Richard C. Trench in his Synonyms of the New Testament, three Greek words are often translated “evil” in the English Bible – kakos, phaulos, and ponerosKakos has to do mainly with the idea of lacking something that would make it worthy, like the wicked servant at the end of Matthew 24 who lacked good character and honesty.  Phaulos deals with the idea that something is good for nothing, worthless, and devoid of any possibility of good coming from it.  Poneros, on the other hand, Trench calls, “the active worker out of evil.”  He goes on to write, “The kakos may be content to perish in his own corruption, but the poneros is not content unless he is corrupting others as well, and drawing them into the same destruction with himself.”  That, Paul says, is the kind of works we were doing before we knew God.

We had separated ourselves from God, we had made Him our hated enemy, we lived to spread evil, agony, and pain in the world, and God chose to reconcile us.  That’s nuts.

Before looking at what the word “reconcile” means, let’s jump to the end of the section first, so we can see the results of His reconciling efforts.  Where are we headed?  What is God creating in us, these former enemies of His?  He wants to make us “holy, blameless, and above reproach.”

He’s making us holy, turning us into saints, no longer separated from God but separated unto God.  Holy like the Temple in Jerusalem.  Holy like the ground Moses was standing on.  Holy like God Himself.  Different, separate, set apart from the world.  The majority of times this word is used in the New Testament it refers either to the Holy Spirit or to the saints, the church.  That’s what He’s after in us.

Blameless, meaning without spot or blemish.  Morally perfect, with no defects and no cause for blame.  1 Peter 2 refers to false prophets and teachers that Peter calls “blemishes” full of lust and deceit, unsubmissive, blasphemers, like irrational animals, born to be caught and destroyed.  God’s making us into the opposite, into those with no stains or spots or wrinkles.  The old person we used to be, who spread evil and pain and disease without even trying, He’s turning into someone who is blameless before Him.

Above reproach.  This is a legal phrase that essentially means if someone were to take us to court, the case would be thrown out because there’s no evidence to support the spurious claim.  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon describes it as, “that which cannot be called into account, unreproveable, unaccused, blameless.”  BibleSuite.com adds, “not convictable when a person is properly scrutinized (i.e. tried with correct logic).”  This is where we’re headed, according to Paul – that if someone were to take us to court for how we’re living, every allegation would be thrown out for lack of evidence.

So whatever God did through the cross, He plans to take these people who hated him so vehemently and turn them into people set apart for Him, without any stain, with no evidence of any guilt or wrongdoing in their lives.

What He did was reconcile us.

The roots of this word go back to the idea of exchanging money, like going from US dollars to Romanian lei.  The idea is that the situation has completely changed.  Where you once had dollars, now you don’t have anything remotely like dollars.  You’ve got an entirely different monetary unit, made of different materials, with different artwork, usable in a different country.  From this root, the word evolved to mean a ruined relationship becoming completely changed into a restored one.  In the New Testament, it’s used to describe a wife being reconciled to her husband after leaving him, in 1 Corinthians 7:11.  When God reconciles us, he takes a relationship that’s been destroyed beyond fixing, and He fixes it completely.

This is the simple power of the Gospel!  What you were no longer applies.  You’re new now.  You’ve been reconciled to God, you’re old relationship of enmity thrown out and replaced by a new one of friendship, headed toward purity and holiness in all things.

Through Jesus, God reconciled us to Himself, restoring our relationship we had broken.


The Gospel is the Power of God, Pt. 3 – Ransomed

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Way back here, I started a series on the different ways the Bible describes the work of the Gospel in our lives.  As Paul wrote in Romans 1:16, the Gospel is the “power of God” for our salvation.  It’s the power of God, something meant to turn whole nations upside-down!

The Gospel is God’s plan to restore and repair everything ruined by sin and the cruelty of man.  He has no Plan B, no alternative worked out in case the Gospel fails.  This is it.  This is His route to glorify His name, rescue His people, and rebuild His creation.

Here’s the next illustration I want to take a look at:

Ransomed

Jesus came to ransom us.  Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  What’s that mean?  To answer that, we gotta go back to the world Mark was writing in, a world shaped by the Old Testament.

In the Old Testament, the concept of ransoming something entails an exchange, paying a price for another’s release, much like the modern-day concept of paying a ransom to a kidnapper.

In the beginning of Israel’s history, God had laid claim to every firstborn male.  Like a 2-year-old around toys, God pointed at the firstborn men and said, “Mine.”  Every firstborn male, He said, belonged to Him and had to be sacrificed.

Since God isn’t a fan of lobster and doesn’t like human sacrifice, however, He allowed for certain firstborn males to be ransomed, exchanged, so they wouldn’t have to die as an offering.  Every firstborn human male was required to be ransomed.  In exchange for their lives, God took the Levites and 5 shekels (about $60) a head.  Firstborn men in Israel could go on living because God took the Levites’ service as exchange for their lives.

Similarly, firstborn male unclean animals (like lobster) were required to be ransomed, since offering something deemed unclean in sacrifice would be unthinkable.  Everyone who owned a firstborn male of an unclean animal was required to pay 5 shekels to ransom each one, so God wouldn’t have to accept your unclean sacrifice and you could go on running your lobster farm I guess.

Curiously, donkeys were also allowed to be ransomed, at the owner’s discretion.  A firstborn male donkey headed for sacrifice could be exchanged for a lamb if the owner wanted to make the substitution.  My guess is God gave this as a mercy to poor farmers who only had one family donkey that they really needed to survive.

Jesus ransomed us.  On the cross, He exchanged His life for ours.  We deserve the wrath of God, we deserve punishment, we deserve judgment in Hell for eternity, but Jesus took our place, receiving God’s wrath poured out on sin in our place, paying His own life as our ransom.  We were like a donkey headed for the temple to be sacrificed, when Jesus, our lamb, gave Himself in exchange, so we could go on living.


The Gospel is the Power of God, Pt. 2 – Redeemed

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The Gospel changes lives.  The fact that Jesus came, died on a cross, and rose again is more than a fairy tale, more than a nice story to tell kids at bedtime, more than simply some well-written material for Easter plays.  The Gospel is everything.

The Gospel is God’s answer to every problem in our hearts and our world.  Every weakness, fear, disease, cruelty, depravity, confusion, and sickness finds its answer in the Gospel.  Paul called it “the power of God to salvation” in Romans 1:16.

Back here, I started a discussion of some of the ways the Bible describes what the Gospel does in our lives, beginning with the concept of adoption.  If you haven’t read it, go back and take a look.  It’s good stuff.  🙂

Now let’s go on to the next one.

Redeemed

Luke records Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, speaking of the ministry of Jesus in Luke 1:68.  He proclaims, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people!”

To understand this concept of redemption, you’ve got to go into Zechariah’s world as a 1st century Jew raised on the Law and the Prophets.

The concept of redemption shows up repeatedly in the Old Testament.  Over and over again, God is said to have redeemed people.  He redeemed Israel from bondage in Egypt.  He redeemed her from exile in Babylon.  He redeemed people from death, from oppression, from violence.  And in the same way, Zechariah is saying, He is coming in Jesus to redeem us from sin.

Now dig a little deeper and things get even cooler.  In Leviticus 27:13, it says that if someone dedicates an item to God, consecrating it, and they later realize they want it back, they can have it, but they have to redeem it by paying what it’s worth and addding 1/5th to it, making the item theirs again, to do with as they please.  God redeemed us through the cross.  Though we gave ouselves up to the service of sin and darkness, God paid to redeem us through the blood of Jesus.  He bought us back so we could be His again.

Alright, that’s sweet, but let’s keep going further, where things start to get really cool.  In the Old Testament, each family was given land.  This land was their inheritance from God, passed down through the generations, a special gift to them alone that was meant to bless them and serve as a reminder of the covenant God had made with them.

Losing this special gift from God would be a huge disgrace, not to mention the fact that survival in an agrarian society would be next to impossible without your land.  So God provided a way so that, if someone was forced to sell their land due to financial hardship, when they got back on their feet, either they or a family member could come along and redeem it, buying it back and restoring it to its rightful owner.  We were that abandoned plot of land, and Jesus redeemed us through His blood.  He bought us back from the enemy and gave us to our rightful owner, God.  We were His to begin with, and though we had sold ourselves to another, He paid to make us His again.

So what if things went really badly, so bad that you had to sell yourself into slavery to pay off your debts?  Then a family member had the obligation to redeem you if they could, to pay the price for your freedom, so you wouldn’t have to be a slave any longer.  Though you had ruined your life, wasted all your money, and sold yourself into slavery just to survive, a loving family member could pay for your release, and you would be free, redeemed.  Jesus did this on the cross.  He paid for our release from slavery, though we had willfully sold ourselves into it by our own bad choices and hatred of God.

And then there’s the concept of the kinsman redeemer.  Read the book of Ruth to get a good visual of this.  If a woman found herself a widow, without a husband, a home, or sons to take care of her, then the nearest of kin had the obligation to redeem her, to take her as his wife, raise up children for her dead husband, provide for her, love her, and be the husband that she used to have.  It’s a weird idea to our modern minds, where women can date, find a husband on-line, get any job they want, get college degrees, and fly space shuttles, but in ancient Israel, a woman without a husband didn’t have a whole lot of options waiting for her.  She had no way of finding a new husband, and if she remained single, my guess is she’d have to either find some friends or relatives to mooch off of or resort to begging, slavery, or prostitution to survive.  The kinsman redeemer was there to spare her from that life and to make sure she could have as normal a life as possible.

Redemption.  It’s the idea of restoring something back to the way it should have been all along, before things went bad, whatever the costs may be.  Jesus redeemed us.  Though the cost was astronomical, He bought us out of slavery, He paid for us to be His again, He became our kinsman redeemer who gave us everything so we didn’t have to be at the mercy of fate and enemies much bigger and stronger than us.

This is the power of the Gospel, that when we were worthless and lost, without family, land, or even our own freedom, Jesus came and redeemed us with His blood.  We were like the Prodigal Son, we had wasted all our money, sold ourselves into slavery, and we deserved the hard life and judgment of sin we were under, yet God, through Jesus, redeemed us.  He paid to make us His again.  He redeemed us from our slavery and set us free.


Through the Foolishness of Preaching…

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1 Corinthians 1:21 states, “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.” (Good ol’ KJV)

In context, I think Paul is referring here to the content of our preaching being seen as foolishness in the eyes of the world, not the mere fact that we’re preaching it, but street preachers the world over have used this verse to explain why they preach open-air, even though it seems offensive, foolish, annoying, or old-fashioned… and in that vein, I will use it too.  🙂

I get it that not everyone reading this will preach open-air, and probably a lot of you are even offended by the mere thought of it.  I used to be just like you, so don’t worry, I’m not gonna get offended if you don’t wanna jump up on a street corner and start shouting about Jesus.  But regardless of your persuasion, I enjoy it, and street preaching has never been classy or high-brow in the eyes of the world.  It has, however, been one of the main ways the Gospel has spread, throughout history and the Bible.  If you read the Bible without judging it through your modern perspective, I think you’ll have a hard time finding a  method of spreading the Gospel that is more prevalent than open-air preaching.

I don’t want to provide a justification for street preaching here (read some good articles here and here), but to give you just a handful of verses on the topic…

  • Proverbs 1:20 – “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice…”
  • Judges 9:7 – “When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them…”
  • Jeremiah 11:6 – “And the Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem…”
  • Isaiah 29:21 – “…lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate…”
  • Matthew 3:1 – “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea…”
  • Luke 16:7 – “And [Jesus] came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people…”
  • Acts 2:14 – “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem…”
  • Acts 17:17 – “So [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.”
  • Acts 17:22  – “So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said…”

Charles Spurgeon once said, “It would be very easy to prove that revivals of religion have usually been accompanied, if not caused, by a considerable amount of preaching out of doors, or in unusual places.”

George Whitefield said, “I believe I never was more acceptable to my Master than when I was standing to teach those hearers in the open fields.” and “I now preach to ten times more people than I should, if had been confined to the Churches.”

John Wesley wrote in his journal once, “I preached on the green at Bedminster.  I am apt to think many of the hearers scarcely ever heard a Methodist before, or perhaps any other preacher.  What but field-preaching could reach these poor sinners?  And are not their souls also precious in the sight of God?”

Anyway, our friend Alex Grigorescu invited us to join him in some street preaching near Piata Obor last week.  I was excited to go, hearing horror stories from other ministers here of the dangers of street preaching.  I overheard one seasoned missionary saying, like a salty old sailor talking about the whale that got the best of him, “If you wanna prove your stuff, just get out on the streets and do some preaching.  You’ll find out what you’re made of real quick.”  Others told me stories of having angry dogs let loose on them, boxes of knives thrown at them, and the usual rude comments and angry gestures.  Needless to say, I was excited.

Well, to skip to the end of the story, it was a lot more mild of an experience than I expected.  Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but I honestly was hoping for more anger, demonic manifestations, and fits.  A riot would have been really nice.  🙂  Half joking.  Though I have always liked Acts 17:6 – “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…”

We did get a few people shouting, “Go back home!”  “We’re all Christians here!”  “I was born Orthodox and I’ll die Orthodox!” and some Romanian phrases I haven’t learned yet, probably because they’re a little more vulgar.  Most people just ignored us, a lot looked quietly mad, a few shouted at us, and a handful were really open to the message.

Overall, it was an OK experience.  I’ve had times of street preaching that were a lot better and times that were a lot worse.  I honestly felt like I didn’t make a whole lot of sense at times, but some people were genuinely interested in hearing us preaching.

My favorite moment was when I passed a tract to a young man from Sweden who quickly asked in English, “What’s this?”

Let me preface what follows by saying I normally answer more intelligently than I did on this occasion, but for some reason everything got jumbled in my head and came out kinda’ mixed up.

Hear me out as I offer some lame excuses.  I wasn’t expecting someone to talk to me in English, so all I had in my head were Romanian phrases I had been reciting silently to myself.  Besides, I didn’t know how much English this guy spoke, so I was trying to think through what words he would be familiar with.  On top of that, I figured he was Romanian,  and Orthodox, so I was trying to answer in a way that was sensitive to his cultural background and wouldn’t just instantly make him closed to the Gospel.  It was really noisy and people were everywhere, shouting, talking, running, and it made it hard to think straight.  I was cold and my brain wasn’t working so well.  All these factors combined to clog my thoughts and trip up what I was trying to say.  At least, that’s the story I’m sticking with.  🙂

Regardless, I include this here first for your amusement, second for your instruction on what not to say, and third for your encouragement.  If God can use this, He can probably use you.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“Uh, well, it’s the message of the Gospel,” I answered, feeling a little like Ned Flanders.

“What’s that mean?” he asked.

“Umh…” and this is where things got really stupid as I tried to explain the Gospel in a way that Orthodox Believers could grab ahold of without just ignoring it as “not Orthodoxy.”  So I sputtered out something like, “It’s about Jesus, that He died for us…  There’s Hell, and it’s real, and we all deserve it.”  I don’t think I succeeded in explaining the Gospel in a way anybody could grab ahold of.

“I don’t want to go to Hell,” he said somberly.

“No, that’s good.  I mean bad, Hell is bad, but it’s good you don’t want to go.”

“What do I have to do?” he asked.

“Just tell Jesus you want to live for Him, that you’re sorry for the sin in your life.  And live for Him,” I explained poorly, resorting to Christianese and bumper-sticker slogans.

“It’s that easy?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

After asking if we were Mormons (boy do I get tired of this question!), he had to run, but he gave me his phone number and said he wanted to get together and talk more about following Jesus.

Please pray for this Swedish college student, that God would continue to speak to him and lead him into a relationship with Himself through Jesus.  And pray for me to make a little more sense next time!  🙂


The Gospel is the Power of God, Pt. 1 – Adopted

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In Romans 1:16, Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”  The Gospel is the power of God for salvation.  I’ve been meditating on this idea lately, thinking about how we can so often turn the Gospel, this thing of dynamic power that’s meant to turn the world upside-down, into a small thing that’s easy to digest and grab hold of, packaging it in bumper-sticker slogans and T-shirt phrases that are easy to remember and equally easy to forget.

But the Gospel is the power of God on display, His infinite grace working in the lives of finite men.

Over the next few months, once a week, I want to look at some of the metaphors and illustrations the Bible uses to describe the power of the Gospel, skipping over some of the usual ones like “saved,” “born-again,” or, if you’re in Romania, “pocaiti.”

So today, let’s look at the first one…

Adopted

Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”  Through the Gospel, God takes us and makes us part of His family.  We were orphaned, without a father, left to our own, and God found us, took us in, and made us part of His family.

But this is no Cinderella story where the stepsister is mistreated and hated but the real sisters get the perks of family living.  Through Jesus, God has made us sons and daughters, with all the same family privileges the real Son gets.

The word “adoption” Paul uses here is a Greek word made up of two smaller words (also Greek, believe it or not), meaning “son” and “to set in place, to make, to establish.”  Literally, it means He made us into His sons.  We’re not orphans taken in by the state.  We’re not street kids befriended by a kindly old man.  We’re not even, technically-speaking, adopted, where we still have a birth mother and father who might try to track us down some day.  We’re changed.  Those who weren’t sons have been brought home and made into sons.

We’ve been made into sons.  We’ve been “son-ized.”

Here in Romania, we’ve come in contact with some pretty impressive Americanizing.  If you’re just coming out of your 1950s bomb shelter, Americanization is the phenomenon of American culture influencing nations all over the planet, for better or worse.  It’s the reason why, here in Bucharest, you can go to an American restaurant, eat American food, hear American music on the loudspeakers, and hear people speaking the American language of English, all while discussing American movies and wearing American t-shirts.  It’s why Parcul Herestrau here has a statue in honor of Michael Jackson.  Thank you, America.

Yet, despite all the Americanizing, all the aspects of American culture that are evident here, this is very much not America.  This is Romania, and though parts of American culture are influencing this nation, Romanians are still Romanians.  They will never be Americans, no matter how much MTv they watch, how many Nikes they wear, how many Hollywood movies they download, or how well they learn to speak English.  Americanizing can never delete the fact that this is Romania, filled with Romanians who have their own culture and their own way of thinking and their own contributions to give to history.

When God adopts us into His family, He doesn’t just influence our culture from the outside, like Hollywood sending its movies all over the planet, infiltrating society through images and stories.  God changes us deep down inside.  God doesn’t just influence us so we begin to act like sons, talk like sons, think like sons, feel like sons.  No, he makes us sons.  And sons, by their nature, act, talk, think, and feel like sons.

The Gospel is the power of God to turn us into sons of the King.


When an old man becomes a baby

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Jesus said that if we want to see the kingdom of God, we need to become born a second time.  When he told this to Nicodemus in John 3, he was confused and asked facetiously, “How can someone crawl back into his mother’s womb?!”  Translation: “What on earth are you talking about, Jesus?  That doesn’t make any sense.”

A few weeks ago, a new person showed up at our meeting with the Gypsy communities along Mihai Bravu.  78-year-old George, from Transylvania, had just come to town and moved into one of the free rooms at the house where we meet.  I think we all honestly assumed he was already a Christian.  He seemed really nice and normal, and I guess I figured that by the age of 78, he surely had run out of reasons to resist God and given in.  Or if not, surely no amount of preaching by us young guys would convince him otherwise.

I tried to get a picture with George that night, but people kept getting in front of him or pushing him out of the way.  In the photo above, he’s just to the right of the man with the leather jacket.

Anyway, when Andrei, a high school student from Elim Church, shared his testimony of how God had changed his life, forgiven him, and freed him from drug and alcohol addiction, he began to ask if anyone wanted to turn from sin and trust in Jesus.  My first thought, to my shame, wasn’t, “Awesome, I can’t wait to see people get right with God,” but something more like, “Well, everyone here is either already saved, so clouded by sin and religiosity that they think they’re saved, or too old to care anymore, so I hope Andrei doesn’t get disappointed when no one responds.”  Ouch.  Yeah, that bad.

Thankfully, God chose to go with what He wanted and not what I expected.

George came forward for prayer and explained, to my surprise and embarrassment, that he wanted to finally, once and for all, repent of his sin and trust in Jesus.  He was tired of living for himself and was finally ready to become a new man, born all over again.

Well, OK, then. I like when God proves me wrong and does something amazing despite the fact that I’m expecting so little.

So we prayed with George, who refused to stand during prayer, despite his bad knees.  He preferred to come to God on his knees in humility rather than standing in the presence of his King.  As we prayed, we asked that God would fill him with power to live the Christian life and to be a witness to those around him.  We prayed for healing and strengthening of his worn body.

When we were done praying, he got up, saying he had felt an intense amount of heat coming off our hands, and now all the pain was gone from his legs.  Praise God!  He restored George’s heart and his body.

Every week, we pray for George to get healed – he’s always got some new sort of pain or ailment that comes up, sometimes an old pain or ailment that’s returned.  And every week, God heals him of whatever new pain has come on his body.

Be praying for George.  He’s made a commitment to follow after Jesus, and we want to see him finish strong.  He may only have a year or two left on this earth, or he may have a few decades – either way, our prayer is that he’s prepared on that final day to walk boldly into the throne room, knowing who it is he’s lived for these last years of his life.


Cristiana’s Testimony

God is changing lives here in Romania.  I’d like say it’s all because of us, but very little of it is.  We’re doing good work, I think, but the reality is that we’re a very small part of things that God has been doing for a long time and will continue doing with or without us.  There is a growing hunger among the younger generation for something that is deeper and more real than they’ve experienced in the past.  While many are still satisfied with dead religion, going through the motions, the party lifestyle, or pursuing material gains and educational achievements, there are many who are opening their eyes to the true life Jesus offers.

We’ve met a number of young people in their teens and twenties who have given their lives to Jesus, some very recently, and are shining brightly as lights for Him.  I asked a few of them to share their stories on the blog over the next few weeks, because God is changing lives here, and I know you’ll all be excited to read some of what He’s been doing.

So this is Cristiana.  She’s a member of Missio Dei Church, has become a really great friend of ours and the kids, became a Christian about 6 years ago, and loves Jesus with all she has.  And here is her story.

>> Can you briefly describe the process God used to bring you to Himself? Specifically, what were you like before you knew God, what did He do to lead you toward Him, and how has life changed now?

My story actually started at the beginning of high school when I think I was about 15 years old when I met Gabriela. It makes me laugh now, but then there was a strange feeling we both felt that we knew each other and for the following 2 months we tried to figure out why we felt this. It’s been a mystery until now, but it proved to be the ‘triggering’ factor of a heavenly friendship that changed my life forever.

I was raised in a family with a strong orthodox background; I used to be a church-goer since I was a kid, learning by heart a lot of prayers and trying to do as many good deeds as possible, hoping God would find me good enough at the Judgment Day and accept me in Heaven. There were nights when I would just speak freely to God about my feelings and concerns without truly knowing the God who loved me so much and wanted me to know His tender heart and what He did for me. It’s like I was sensing there must be something more to Christianity than just what I was taught.

I started to talk to Gabriela about Christianity and soon she realized I really wanted to know more. She told me about Jesus, the Cross, my sins, forgiveness etc. I crumbled on my knees in April (about just 6-7 months later) telling God I had no idea what He wanted from me, but that He could have His way with me. We started to read the Bible and I recall becoming more and more in love with Jesus, and maybe the most obvious fruit of the Holy Spirit in my life was the abundance of JOY that I was experiencing!!!

Before knowing Jesus I was just an ordinary kid, believing in an impersonal God that would strike me someday for not being good enough, believing a guy or a successful career would make her ‘whole.’ I was a girl who was very ambitious, with a strong character and extremely determined to become ‘someone’ someday.

Praise God I was given a new identity, a new life, a new reason to live and breathe and wake up in the morning! I received newness of life from Jesus! I’m not pursuing the things I used to pursue anymore as I am head over heels in love with my Jesus and I know He is the only One that can fill me.

>> Of everything God used in the process of bringing you to Himself, what do you think was the most important factor?

The most important ‘factor’ was Gabriela. She really loved me and accepted me just the way I was. Her love and tenderness changed my heart and made me question what was different about her. She simply lived out the Gospel when she was with me. She shared life with me, she would give up things for me, and she would be by my side even if everyone was against me. Gabriela showed me how Jesus was like by the way she related to me. Jesus is tender and full of love and never leaves our side, even if all are against us, even if we want to give up ourselves, He never give up on us. This is LOVE- the Love of my life

>> What part of you would you say God has changed the most since you’ve become born-again?

The part that God changed the most since I’ve become born-again is my personality. I used to be very impulsive (and stubborn) especially if something unjust was happening around me or to someone I deeply cared for. To give you a funny example, Gabriela took a not so excellent mark in a subject, and she was crying because the professor was very subjective when putting marks and he also had a reputation for being really harsh — everyone was kind of scared of him. But when I saw my friend crying, I rushed to his desk with her paper in my hands demanding in a strong voice that he change Gabriela’s mark because I believed he was mistaken, arguing with him for 20 minutes. I was very brave but in a wrong way.

I’ve seen a lot of progress here, but I still have to grow and resemble Jesus even more accurately.

>> What was your perception of Jesus before you became born-again? In what ways has this changed?

I didn’t know too much about Him except that He was the Son of God, both the way He was born and died. Eventually, my perception changed and I understood His nature, His heart, and His motives for coming to a sick and dark world, the fact that He wanted a relationship with me and He would rather die than live without me. Jesus revealed Himself to me as:

  • My Defender – the One Who stands for me and protects me
  • My Helper – If I need a hand, I need look no further than His own, that I can put my burdens on His shoulders as He is strong for me
  • My Friend (loyal no matter what) – If hard times come, He will be by my side, if accusations come against me He knows the truth about me, if I lose my health or my physical beauty, His devotion to me will be unchanged. He is with me always and forever
  • My Counselor – If am struggling to see the truth/the way He will be the One who will guide me
  • My Encourager – No matter what, He has words of life for me. Only He can speak to the depths of my heart, only He can tell me who I am and nobody else
  • My Thoughtful – I am always on His mind, engraved on the palms of His hands. Jesus thinks always of how I can be strengthened, encouraged, blessed and built stronger. He always thinks of special ways to express His love and faithfulness to me
  • My Lover – the One who is trustworthy with my inmost feelings, thoughts, and concerns. The One who handles my heart with the most care and handles my inmost person with delicacy and softness
  • My Sharer of Sufferings – If I encounter any difficulty He is willing to carry it for me. He feels my pain because my pain is His pain, my tears are His tears, my heartache is His heartache, my sufferings are His sufferings

>> What was your perception of the church before you became born-again? In what ways has this changed?

Before, the church was just the building itself for me. Now, the Church is the Body of Christ, we are His members, His Temple, and I am an important part of this Body as I was given gifts to serve this body, build it strong and edify it. There is never such a thing as an unimportant member. We are the Church.

>> What do your family and friends think of the changes in you? Is anyone else in your family a born-again Christian?

Tough subject. I met with a lot of disapproval from my family and friends, but I was given the grace and strength to get over all the obstacles even though I was basically just a teenager. It’s incredible how He carried me through it all. It never even crossed my mind to give up, though. I was built strong because He called me to be the one who stands in the gap for my family. The one who stands in the gap gets all the blows, and the difficult circumstances allowed in my life made me strong – strong in faith, strong and brave to stand up for what I believe in. But most of all…the trials worked in me Christ’s character and helped me cultivate a deep and beautiful relationship with Him. And I wouldn’t trade that for anything in the world.

I take comfort in the fact that this is God’s will for me and His will for us is just goodness, lovingkindness, and joy unspeakable. When you understand that nothing touches you and happens without His permission, you thankfully take everything from His loving hands, even if it means you are called to walk alone and misunderstood for a period.

>> What’s your goal in life now?

My deepest desire is to know Him more and grow in the knowledge of His love. I want to live brave, I want to see lives changed for Jesus, I want to be Light in the Darkness, I want to let Jesus love this depraved world through me. I want to leave a legacy of faith.

When my reign ends on this Earth, I want people to say: ‘She was all about Jesus. She was a fearless woman. She was Jesus’ hands and feet. She was beautiful, but with no beauty of her own. Rivers of Love and Joy poured out through her. She was His.’