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One of my readers, Christian author Edmond Sanganyado, spent the early part of his life angry at God for misfortunes which had beset his family.

Now he is grace filled. Conversion came a few months after he came top in his high school class. He was so angry, though, that he was in severe physical pain. This is what happened between graduation and conversion (emphases mine):

My brother’s friend bought me a gift to celebrate that rather normal achievement. A dictionary and a Christian booklet. I chose to read the dictionary than the Christian book. To make matters worse, the Christian book had the most horrible cover I had ever s[ee]n. After my General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level exams, I set myself to read every book I could lay my hands on. Except that Christian booklet.

Even medical scientists have proven anger is one of the most dangerous emotions, it is more deadly than cancer. As anger welled my inside like a volcano on the brink of an eruption, so did my health degenerate. At one time I had a headache which so excruciating that when I wanted to check if I had a fever, I touched my pillow thinking it was my head. My stomach gave in, and I had to walk around with a packet of anti-acids. One of my high school teachers had an encyclopedia of human diseases, I studied it and carried out a self-diagnosis. I probably had depression.

The day following New Year in 2002, I hit an all time low. No book in my library could provide the escape I needed, not even the dictionary. I was in pain and I was in emotional turmoil. On my table lay the Christian booklet with its horrible cover. I picked up, not because I wanted to hear what the author talked about, rather to escape the painful reality called my life.

I flipped through the pages of the book, it was like looking at a mirror. I was only seventeen, but I saw for the first time that God was love

Only His grace could save me, and it did.

This is why I write, I write for myself and for those who read and might be in a similar situation.

I know many who are angry at God, like Edmond, mostly for family difficulties and deaths. I pray they come to conversion as Edmond has.

For those who have difficulty praying or understanding prayer, I highly recommend they read his post ‘What Is Prayer, Really?’ Excerpts follow.

If prayer is simply speaking to God, then my words should be an expression of my deepest longings. My prayer is an outpouring of what lies hidden in my heart. I tell God what I believe, knowing God has given me His word and will continue to do so.

… prayer is operationally simply an exchange of words between God and man. In prayer, God reveals His heart through the Holy Spirit. By the same Spirit, we divulge the innermost substances of our heart. It is the Holy Spirit who searches the deep things of our heart.

“What is in the deepest end of your heart?”

At the surface, I had a review to write, experiments to do, a family to support, debts to pay and a book to sell. But, there was something else at the bottom of my heart. Prayer was revealing that thing, at the bottom of my heart, before the feet of Jesus Christ.

May be tomorrow it will be something different, but today, I only want to give thanks to God. I want to laugh and jump around celebrating the might and strength and faithfulness of God …

Do not allow the stuff at the surface to rob you an opportunity to pray.

How true that is. So often we are distracted from our daily schedules, thinking only of what we need to accomplish that day. We think, ‘I’ll pray later.’ Sometimes, later never comes. We fall asleep before praising and thanking God for His many blessings.

More of Edmond’s insights are in his books The Secret Place and The Good Shepherd. I wish him all the very best with them as well as in his personal and spiritual life.

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the King James Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 6:7-15

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.

Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

——————————————————————-

I’m using the King James Version today because the prose is more traditional and beautiful than the modern translations of the Lord’s Prayer.

The Sermon on the Mount continues. It encompasses Matthew 5 through Matthew 7.

Luke 11 also features the Lord’s Prayer but in a different context. In Luke’s account, the disciples saw Jesus praying and one of them requested (Luke 11:1):

Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.

The disciple was referring to John the Baptist.

In Matthew’s account, Jesus gave instructions to His audience, the disciples — and us — on how to pray.

He tells us not to use the ‘vain repetitions’ of the pagans (verse 7). Modern translations use the word ‘Gentile’. Essentially, the connotation means non-Jew.

Matthew Henry recalls that the Old Testament recounts pagan prayers:

Baal’s priests were hard at it from morning till almost night with their vain repetitions O Baal, hear us O Baal, hear us and vain petitions they were …

Lip-labour in prayer, though ever so well laboured, if that be all, is but lost labour.

John MacArthur cites the pagans of the ancient world:

in the New Testament it says in Acts 19 that for two hours the multitudes stood in theater and screamed “great is Diana of Ephesians, great is Diana of Ephesians, great is Diana of Ephesians.”  They kept saying it over and over for two solid hours. 

Our Lord tells us we have no need to engage in such lost labour, because God our Father knows our needs (verse 8).

Jesus gives the crowd an ancient Jewish prayer, to which He adds only one new line. Henry explains (emphases mine):

Most of the petitions in the Lord’s prayer had been commonly used by the Jews in their devotions, or words to the same effect: but that clause in the fifth petition, As we forgive our debtors, was perfectly new, and therefore our Saviour here shows for what reason he added it, not with any personal reflection upon the peevishness, litigiousness, and ill nature of the men of that generation, though there was cause enough for it, but only from the necessity and importance of the thing itself. God, in forgiving us, has a peculiar respect to our forgiving those that have injured us and therefore, when we pray for pardon, we must mention our making conscience of that duty, not only to remind ourselves of it, but to bind ourselves to it.

Why did our Lord repeat a prayer the Jews already knew?

So many were the corruptions that had crept into this duty of prayer among the Jews, that Christ saw it needful to give a new directory for prayer, to show his disciples what must ordinarily be the matter and method of their prayer, which he gives in words that may very well be used as a form as the summary or contents of the several particulars of our prayers.

We do not need to rely solely on what Christians call the Lord’s Prayer, however, as Jesus presents it, it is a perfect prayer for the following reasons.

I am giving but brief extracts from Henry’s commentary below, which is an excellent exposition of what is the world’s best known prayer. I recommend reading it in full.

In verse 9, Jesus tells us how to begin. ‘Our’, not ‘my’, Father is said because we are acknowledging that God created not only us as individuals, but all of humanity. We are bound together in this commonality:

Intimating, that we must pray, not only alone and for ourselves, but with and for others for we are members one of another, and are called into fellowship with each other.

The word ‘hallowed’ is part of the prayer because of God’s infinite greatness, holiness and majesty:

We give glory to God it may be taken not as a petition, but as an adoration as that, the Lord be magnified, or glorified, for God’s holiness is the greatness and glory of all his perfections. We must begin our prayers with praising God, and it is very fit he should be first served, and that we should give glory to God, before we expect to receive mercy and grace from him. Let him have praise of his perfections, and then let us have the benefit of them.

We then acknowledge our present, temporal location, which we hope improves through our obedience to God’s will, as well as His heavenly kingdom (verse 10):

that it might be done on earth, in this place of our trial and probation (where our work must be done, or it never will be done), as it is done in heaven, that place of rest and joy. We pray that earth may be made more like heaven by the observance of God’s will (this earth, which, through the prevalency of Satan’s will, has become so near akin to hell), and that saints may be made more like the holy angels in their devotion and obedience. We are on earth, blessed be God, not yet under the earth we pray for the living only, not for the dead that have gone down into silence.

We ask for provision of our daily needs — ‘bread’ (verse 11). This is a short yet significant petition because:

Every word here has a lesson in it: (1.) We ask for bread that teaches us sobriety and temperance we ask for bread, not dainties, not superfluities[,] that which is wholesome, though it be not nice. (2.) We ask for our bread that teaches us honesty and industry: we do not ask for the bread out of other people’s mouths, not the bread of deceit (Proverbs 20:17), not the bread of idleness (Proverbs 31:27), but the bread honestly gotten. (3.) We ask for our daily bread which teaches us not to take thought for the morrow (Matthew 6:34), but constantly to depend upon divine Providence, as those that live from hand to mouth. (4.) We beg of God to give it us, not sell it us, nor lend it us, but give it. The greatest of men must be beholden to the mercy of God for their daily bread, (5.) We pray, “Give it to us not to me only, but to others in common with me.” This teaches us charity, and a compassionate concern for the poor and needy. It intimates also, that we ought to pray with our families we and our households eat together, and therefore ought to pray together. (6.) We pray that God would give us this day which teaches us to renew the desire of our souls toward God, as the wants of our bodies are renewed as duly as the day comes, we must pray to our heavenly Father, and reckon we could as well go a day without meat, as without prayer.

We go on to ask for God’s forgiveness and pray that we forgive each other in the same generous, compassionate manner (verse 12):

This is connected with the former and forgive, intimating, that unless our sins be pardoned, we can have no comfort in life, or the supports of it. Our daily bread does but feed us as lambs for the slaughter, if our sins be not pardoned. It intimates, likewise, that we must pray for daily pardon, as duly as we pray for daily bread ...

Note, Those that come to God for the forgiveness of their sins against him, must make conscience of forgiving those who have offended them, else they curse themselves when they say the Lord’s prayer. Our duty is to forgive our debtors as to debts of money, we must not be rigorous and severe in exacting them from those that cannot pay them without ruining themselves and their families but this means debt of injury[;] our debtors are those that trespass against us, that smite us (Matthew 5:39,40), and in strictness of law, might be prosecuted for it we must forbear, and forgive, and forget the affronts put upon us, and the wrongs done us and this is a moral qualification for pardon and peace

We conclude by asking to be delivered from temptation and sin (verse 13):

Negatively: … It is not as if God tempted any to sin but, “Lord, do not let Satan loose upon us chain up that roaring lion, for he is subtle and spiteful Lord, do not leave us to ourselves (Psalm 19:13), for we are very weak, Lord

Positively: … “Lord, deliver us from the evil of the world, the corruption that is in the world through lust[,] from the evil of every condition in the world[,] from the evil of death from the sting of death, which is sin: deliver us from ourselves, from our own evil hearts: deliver us from evil men, that they may not be a snare to us, nor we a prey to them.”

The King James Version concludes with the Doxology, not in many of the modern translations:

… these are encouraging: “Thine is the kingdom thou hast the government of the world, and the protection of the saints, thy willing subjects in it ” God gives and saves like a king. “Thine is the power, to maintain and support that kingdom, and to make good all thine engagements to thy people.” Thine is the glory, as the end of all that which is given to, and done for, the saints, in answer to their prayers for their praise waiteth for him. This is matter of comfort and holy confidence in prayer.

And, let us not forget ‘Amen’:

Lastly, To all this we are taught to affix our Amen, so be it. God’s Amen is a grant his fiat is, it shall be so our Amen is only a summary desire our fiat is, let it be so: it is in the token of our desire and assurance to be heard, that we say Amen. Amen refers to every petition going before, and thus, in compassion to our infirmities, we are taught to knit up the whole in one word, and so to gather up, in the general, what we have lost and let slip in the particulars. It is good to conclude religious duties with some warmth and vigour, that we may go from them with a sweet savour upon our spirits. It was of old the practice of good people to say, Amen, audibly at the end of every prayer, and it is a commendable practice, provided it be done with understanding, as the apostle directs (1 Corinthians 14:16), and uprightly, with life and liveliness, and inward expressions, answerable to that outward expression of desire and confidence.

Our Lord concluded His lesson in prayer with the exhortation to forgive others so that God will show us the same mercy (verse 14), because if we do not forgive others, He will not forgive us (verse 15).

It is worth remembering Matthew 6:6, included in the Lectionary:

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

John MacArthur says:

And I believe if you pray in those terms, the end of verse 6 says, “He will reward you.”  He will reward you.  You know, E. L. Moody once said, that he got so many blessings from God that one day he prayed a very short prayer.  This was it, “Stop God, Amen.”  That was it.  Too much, too much.  Maybe that day would come when we might say stop God, because we’re drowning in His blessing if we learn how to pray as Jesus teaches here. 

MacArthur also gives us the origin of the word ‘barbarian’:

when the Greeks spoke the Greek word wanted to speak of one who was not cultured, they used the word barbaros because all of the uncultured people with foreign languages were unintelligible to them and it sounded like all they were say was bar, bar, bar, bar, bar, bar.  And so barbaros became the word for barbarian.

Interesting!

Let us pray the Lord’s Prayer with renewed fervour now that we know more about its petitions!

Next time: Matthew 6:22-23

Friday’s postconfession introduced Pastor Barney, a medically retired Lutheran minister.

His current ministry focus is on rural pastors in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

Barney’s posts are not only thought-provoking but witty — recommended reading.

One of his posts deals with pastors new to churches in rural areas. In it, he also addresses the problems they face, particularly if they are fresh out of seminary.

To those of us sitting in the pews, Barney says that a pastor’s life is far from easy. The graphic comes from his post, ‘A Country Parson’. Excerpts follow.

Barney has a list of rules for those of us who go to church and complain about those who lead our walk in Christ. In addition to praying for them, he suggests ten great ways we can be generous (emphases in the original):

1. They are not the last pastor you had, who may have been a saint or an idiot!

2. Your budget is small, but your hearts are large! – money is not everything, you have beef, pork[,] eggs[,] chicken they too are tax-deductible.

6. Invite them out for coffee, to the farm or ranch!

7. Buy them season’s tickets to all High School sporting Events, give them invitations to all significant events.

9. Relax, teach them; it takes time, but they’ll change with love and care – If not[,] you’ve left them better ready for rural ministry.

And what follows are the first five of Barney’s 11 survival rules for rural clergy. (The post actually starts with this section, but as most of my readers are laypeople, it seemed fitting for me to prioritise generosity towards the pastor.)

1. You know all that wonderful stuff they taught you in seminary? – Forget it!

2. You know all those wonderful liberal  ideals you think are oh so important? – listen first – talk later!

3. That idea you are going to change the way these folk think and live – Toss it out!

4. Don’t charge in gung ho to change long-established traditions no matter how politically and theologically correct you know they are! Most of your seminary professors and Bishops have not done real ministry in real congregations in years – if ever!

5. Do go to all High School sports, Grade School programs, graduations, County fairs, Rodeos, 4H and FFA are big out here!

Any pastors from the rural Pacific Northwest who are interested in a private conversation with Barney can contact him via his blog.

Yesterday’s post explained the reasons and history behind spiritual discipline during Lent.

Below are some suggestions for Lent for those who would like to do something a bit different.

When I was younger, I used to give up desserts in addition to observing Friday (and Ash Wednesday) fasts. A few years ago, I tried eating only one meal a day. As I was no longer working in town, there was no reason why it couldn’t be done. Since then, I’ve kept this up, rarely eating after dinner.

The ketogenic diet — high fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate — has helped greatly in this regard.

Resources for the ketogenic diet

Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)

A high fat and low carbohydrate way of eating is also very good in treating a variety of physical and mental medical conditions. (Some readers might need to discuss it with their doctor first.) Feeling better helps us to become better ambassadors for Christ:

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Now that I am older and understand it better, sanctification has become more important. Part of this lifelong undertaking includes Bible study.

A few years ago, I was undertaking Bible reading every day during Lent. One year later, I had read it all. Would that I had done so before. These posts of mine explore methods of reading the entirety of Scripture which lend themselves to our busy modern lives:

Why not read the Bible this Lent?

Bible study plan suggestions

You, too, can read the Bible with the Grant Horner system

Update on the Grant Horner Bible Reading System

The Grant Horner Bible Reading System is a success

Prayer is also vital to sanctification — our growth as Christians. However, a question mark remains over certain New Age practices which have migrated into the Church:

Caution on Lenten devotions

The labyrinth: Lenten it isn’t

These suggestions are not to be construed as persuasion to adopt a Lenten discipline. As the Lutheran Pastor Abrahamson said, it is not obligatory nor is it salvific. However, many like to use these 40 days to further their personal sanctification but are not quite sure how to go about it.

I pray that those of us undertaking something special are able to keep a good Lent.

The Hemet (California) Central Church of Christ has a beautiful site called The True Light!

I am privileged to have The True Light‘s author as one of my readers.

Recently, the site published an outstanding prayer to be used in times of crisis. It includes petitions not only for our own households but for the world at large. It is inspired and could be used by any church or home in praying for ourselves and the world.

Please take a few minutes to read the prayer in full.

A brief excerpt follows:

Dear Father, we ask for comfort and peace in both the world and in our personal lives. We ask for the ability to stand firm in our faith, even when persecution may be rising up and testing us. For no matter what happens to us on this earth, we must not lose our faith. For heaven is our home and we live in this hope each day.

Guide our leaders, Lord God of all, that they may see they have turned away from you. For despite all of their efforts at peace and protection, regardless of whatever means of co-operation they may seek from and among other leaders, nothing will be accomplished unless you are at the very center of the process!

We end this prayer now with the note of hope which you have given us in the book of Hebrews, when you said you will never leave us, nor forsake us. Through everything in life, we have the eternal kingdom of heaven as our promise. Let us keep our hearts and minds on Godly things and look ever forward to the time of Christ’s coming!

This must be an outstanding church with an outstanding congregation.

I did tell the site’s author that if every church had a site such as this, there would be many more faithful Christians in the world.

Every post of theirs is a gem and one to treasure. I have added The True Light! to my blogroll and hope that you find it equally edifying. May God bless the site’s author and the Hemet Central Church of Christ’s ministers in their work for His great glory.

My thanks to reader and writer Lleweton who sent me news that Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag — held in a Sudanese prison for so-called apostasy from Islam — is now a free woman.

Legislators from the Republican Party in the United States have managed to persuade Sudan’s courts to liberate this young wife, mother and successful entrepreneur from prison. Ibrahim — despite her Muslim-sounding name — was deserted at a young age by her Islamic father and raised as Ethiopian Orthodox by her Christian mother. At no time was she a Muslim.

When I last wrote on the case on June 17, Oklahoma’s Republican US senator Jim Inhofe led 20 of his peers in asking Secretary of State John Kerry, a Democrat, to grant her and her family asylum in the United States.

Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is also a Christian and has been an American citizen since 2005.

The Associated Press reports that Congressman Chris Smith would like to see Mariam, Daniel and their two children living in safety in the United States.

The Independent (UK) has a recent photo of an emaciated Ibrahim. With God’s mercy, may she be restored to her former health and beauty.

The Christian Post (CP) reports that Sudan’s appeals court threw the case out for insufficient evidence. Sudan’s state news agency Suna confirms the decision.

The CP adds that Republican Congressmen Trent Franks (Arizona) and Frank Wolf (Virginia) have written as follows:

We request that the U.S. State Department, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, review granting Mrs. Ibrahim Significant Public Benefit Parole, asylum, or refugee status, as appropriate. In short, we urge that every legal means necessary be exhausted to ensure that she and her young children are provided safe haven.

I wholeheartedly agree, particularly as Wani is a longstanding American citizen.

God has heard the prayers of His faithful from around the world and has seen that justice be done.

Since my first post about the Sudanese Christian, Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, it transpires that she gave birth to a daughter, Maya, whilst shackled in prison at the end of May 2014.

In mid-May, Ms Ibrahim made world news. She is awaiting flogging and death for apostasy from Islam, despite the fact that her Muslim father deserted her and her mother years ago. He moved away, remarried and fathered more children. Ibrahim’s mother, an Ethiopian, brought Mariam up as an Orthodox Christian from infancy. She was never raised as a Muslim.

Around the time of Maya’s birth, a number of media outlets around the world reported that the Sudanese government was planning on freeing Ibrahim ‘within days’. However, on May 27, Christianity Today reported that the words of a representative from the country’s foreign ministry had been misinterpreted.

Meanwhile, a second Sudanese woman, Faiza Abdalla, has been arrested on the same charges. She has yet to be convicted.

Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, also a Christian, has been frustrated by the lukewarm response from America’s State Department. Wani has been an American citizen since 2005. US News and World Report says that Republican Senator Jim Inhofe (Oklahoma) is leading 20 other US senators in asking Secretary of State John Kerry to grant Wani, Mariam and their two children asylum.

The article points out:

The story of Meriam Ibrahim, whom the Sudanese government has decided was raised in a Muslim environment, meaning she must renounce her belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ or die, has not gotten the same level of attention as the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by a terrorist group that objects to their receiving an education. Nonetheless it is, from an American perspective, just as if not more important because she is the wife of a U.S. citizen, and should, therefore, be a priority for the president and his national security team.

That they have failed to act may be due to the intense negotiations just concluded that produced the release of an American soldier allegedly being held captive in Afghanistan in exchange for the release of five high-ranking terrorist detainees who were being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. As time passes, however, the story of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who went missing nearly five years ago from his post in Afghanistan, becomes all the more mysterious.

Many who have read of Mariam’s case wonder how the charges came about in the first place. If readers suspected money as the root of the problem, they were not be wrong.

On May 22, 2014, the Daily Mail reported (emphases mine):

Her half brother and half sister – who had not seen her for decades – tracked her down so they could get rid of her and take over her successful general store, Meriam’s lawyers alleged.

The spokeswoman added that if Meriam is forced to leave Sudan then her half brother and half sister may well take over the business as well.

It is not clear if, under Sudanese law, such a scheme would work as intended, or if a business owner would be allowed to sell it on …

The Justice Centre Sudan spokeswoman said: ‘When Meriam’s father left her mother when she was six he went to another part of Sudan and had another family.

‘Meriam did not know about this. She did not even know her father had died until many years after the event. Nor did she know he was a Muslim.

‘Meriam’s mother died in 2012 and by then she had still not heard from her half brothers and sisters.

‘There were years and years that went by when that side of the family did not want a relationship with her.

‘Recently Meriam has been running a successful business in Khartoum. It’s a general store in a shopping mall and she has been selling some Ethiopian items as her mother was from there.

They’ve been doing really well and the business was growing and Daniel has been helping her out.

Her half brother and half sister must have heard about this and worked out she was a relative of theirs because of her name.

‘The first thing Meriam knew about them was when her half brother and half sister filed the lawsuit.

‘She was arrested from her home and thrown in jail with no warning.’

To cause their half sister to die because they want to take over her successful business and her money is appalling.

Let us continue praying for Mariam and her family that justice be done.

praying-handsThe closest I get to praying for those who have seriously wronged me in the past is to send a blanket prayer of asking God’s blessing on everyone in the world.

I mean it. It is sincere and I do hope God blesses them. That includes my enemies.

However, for those of us who are our own worst critics, finding out that someone else is piling on the dirt needlessly is, well, nearly unforgiveable. Yet, Scripture tells us we must forgive those who offend us. And those words are in the Lord’s Prayer.

The Revd Walter Bright has an excellent post on the subject called ‘Bitter Free’.

In it, he says that the best way to reach them is not by lecturing them but by showing them a godly and Christian example.

What follows is an excerpt, so please be sure to read his entire post (emphases mine):

The hardest thing to do is to pray for people who don’t like you, could care less about you and are mean-spirited toward you. It’s even more difficult to preach or teach to these same people without being bitter toward them in your sermons. Our calling is to pray for the people of God and not punish them for their sins toward us. We easily fall into sin when we fail to do the first thing – commit to prayer. You will never fulfill the second part of this calling if you fail to obey the first. A lot of pastors use their preaching as pay back to mean-spirited church folk. I have done that before and it is wrong

º Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
º Be angry and sin not
º Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath
º Give no opportunity to the devil
º Let the peace of Christ rule your heart
º Cast all your anxieties and care upon Jesus – He cares

His post contains a very useful compilation of ways we can commit to praying for our enemies — and, possibly, encourage them to mend their differences with us.

If you, like me, find praying for a specific nemesis — past or present — difficult, this is a post well worth consulting.

It was appalling to read that a young  Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Sudanese wife and mother, Dr Mariam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag is about to face 100 lashes and the death penalty in Sudan.

One of Mariam’s relatives turned her in to Sudanese authorities on the basis that she is an apostate.

When President Omar Al-Bashir seized power in a coup, he subjected Sudan to sharia law.  In 2011, the southern part of Sudan declared its independence.

Mariam Ibrahim, aged 26, has an Orthodox mother and a Muslim father. The father deserted the family when Mariam was a child. Not surprisingly, the mother raised her as a Christian. The relative who brought the charges contends that Ibrahim should have been brought up as a Muslim, following her father’s religion. The Sudanese court agrees.

That would have been difficult as the father left the family home when she was a toddler.

President Al-Bashir staged his coup in 1989. Ibrahim was only two years old at the time.

Since the mischief making relative turned her in, Ibrahim underwent a Sharia trial. She was given three or four days (reports differ) to repent of her alleged apostasy and escape the death penalty. Ibrahim maintained that she had always been a Christian and was, therefore, not guilty.

To compound the issue, Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, is also Christian. Because of his religion, under sharia law, he is not allowed to care for the couple’s son, Martin, 18 months of age. Martin is with his mother in prison. He suffers ill health because of the institution’s poor hygiene. Mr Wani is wheelchair-bound and had relied on his wife for his survival.

It is not clear when Ibrahim will be sentenced for flogging then death. The court ruling is up for appeal and has created diplomatic ructions between the US, the UK and Sudan.

Let us pray for our sister Mariam that she escapes both penalties. She is  in her final trimester of  pregnancy with hers and Daniel’s second child. She is in ill health.

The flogging, by the way, is for having illicit sexual relations with a non-Muslim, despite the fact that they married within their own faith.

Let us also pray for her husband Daniel and young son Martin.

Despite what do-gooders say, sharia law affects everyone.

Incidentally, although I include the article from the Daily Mail below, it is more for the photos of the young couple rather than for the reporting. It appears from other sources that Ibrahim was always a Christian, not a recent convert (as the Mail says).

Further reading:

Wikipedia

The Guardian

Internaute (French site) 

Daily Mail

Doubting Thomas Carl-Heinrich-BlochNewer subscribers and readers might enjoy further reflections on Easter.

One of my most popular posts is Doubting Thomas — John 20:19-31. However, I have another which includes reflections for present day Christians from the Reformed (Calvinist) pastor, the Revd P G Mathew of  Grace Valley Christian Center in Davis, California. He examines Thomas’s doubt, looks at the Apostles’ evangelism and offers, among others, this thought (emphases mine):

Declaring the gospel verbally when our lives are disorderly is not evangelism. And perhaps the reason we don’t want to declare the gospel is that we like to sin. But sin–whether it is sexual immorality or greed or whatever else–causes us to be loaded with guilt and we lose conviction and power. How can we have power when we want to practice sin? Proverbs 28:1 tells us “The righteous are as bold as a lion.” Therefore, let us try the way of righteousness and see whether our tongues will declare God’s praises.

Eastertide reminds us that the Apostles and the disciples would need to lessen their dependence on Christ, who would soon ascend to Heaven, returning to God the Father. They were moving from milk to meat. As St Paul wrote to his converts in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3:

1 Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?

Indeed, this message continued in the Church for centuries. Traditionally, the first Sunday after Easter is known as Low Sunday, sometimes called Quasimodo Sunday, for the corruption of the Latin Introit for the day. Translated in English, it is

‘As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile’ and is intended for those baptised the week before.

This is the first time that the catechumens, baptised on Holy Saturday, would appear without their white robes at Mass. My aforementioned post explains more.

Forbidden Bible Verses returns next weekend

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