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Monday, 21 September 2020

A tree and its Fruits

 


The road to racial equality in America has been a long and bumpy one; fortunately the leadership of the movements that progressed it successfully have done so in a particular way. 

The early abolitionists were escaped slaves; one of the most prolific was Harriet Tubman who had a wonderful simple trust in God. After escaping herself to the north she began her work of leading others to freedom and made countless journeys to the south to rescue slaves and lead them back. The slave owners placed a bounty on her head but she had no fear of capture despite often being within a few feet of search parties. Her trust in God was absolute, a legacy from her own father who despite being a slave almost all his life trusted and loved his Savior, fasting every Friday to remember the sacrifice that sets us all free. Later Harriet helped the Union army during the civil war as a spy and scout. This is the pedigree and conviction of those who helped end slavery. 

A century later the civil rights movement under Martin Luther King showed the same source of inspiration and power. Prayer and the humility of non-violence also led to substantial change as it brought about the end of segregation on buses, schools etc, another major step forward. 

Both Harriet and King both realized the nature of their struggle. In the latter’s case he framed it as seeking unity with his white brothers, winning them back. Harriet, even more astoundingly when asked how she viewed the white slave owners said that they ‘didn’t know any better’ they had learned to think that way which is reminiscent of Jesus’ own words on the cross, ‘forgive them Father for they don’t know what they are doing’. Graciousness in spite of great suffering and opposition, their focus was always reconciliatory. 



The more recent events in America and the Black Lives Matter movement seems to be a very different narrative and as such is likely to have a very different result.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

From Darkness to Light – A Tibetan Monk’s Testimony


 


Tenzin Lahkpa - The Tibetan Monk Who Met Jesus



Tenzin Lahkpa was born in a village in the mountains of Amdo (now in west China). His parents proudly named him after the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, who hails from the same region. When he was 15, his mother took him to the local monastery to commence a lifetime of Buddhist study and service. She told her tearful son:

"From the moment you were born, I knew that you would be the one to honor our family and become a monk. I have dreamed about this day since you were very little. You were always so smart and kind. You were always so clever, and I knew that your purpose was to be a monk. I know that this is not easy for you to understand, but you were born to be a monk and lead our people into enlightenment."

In the monastery, Tenzin's life was miserable. It was like a huge, dark prison cell that he felt he would never be able to escape from. In the mornings he joined the other monks begging for food on the streets, and after returning to the monastery each day they were abused verbally, physically, and sexually.

According to Tenzin, some of the older monks and lamas were rampant homosexuals and pedophiles who did not think twice about using small children to satisfy their wicked cravings. On many nights, Tenzin was unable to sleep as he heard the muffled screams of anguished young boys in other parts of the monastery. He also grew disillusioned when he discovered that many of the senior lamas, who are supposed to be celibate, had secret wives and families away from the monastery.

Tenzin longed to escape, but he knew he would never be allowed to go free. For more than 20 years he remained enslaved in monastic life, and despite moving to Lhasa and then to India—where he met the Dalai Lama several times—inner peace eluded him.

While he was in northern India, Tenzin was visited by a relative who was a former monk. He was shocked when this man explained that he had moved to America and had become a Christian. Tenzin had never heard that word before, but when he was told it describes a follower of Jesus, Tenzin recoiled in horror, for all monks had been taught never to utter that Name. It had been drilled into them that the Name of Jesus was so dangerous that it had the power to overturn the very fabric of Tibetan life, and Buddhism itself.

For the next few years Tenzin's interest in Jesus grew, but he was frustrated in his attempts to satisfy his curiosity. One day a letter arrived from his mother, asking him to return home because his father had died. Tenzin was heartbroken and made the long overland journey back to Tibet. Not having a passport, he made it only as far as the Nepal-China border where he was arrested, bound, and severely beaten by Communist officers before being imprisoned for six months.

After contracting tuberculosis, Tenzin was admitted to hospital, where a Tibetanspeaking foreign doctor treated him. The physician wore a small cross on his collar, and when Tenzin asked what it meant, he was told that it meant he was a follower of Jesus Christ.

Tenzin was excited to meet a believer in Jesus, as he had many questions he wanted to ask. The doctor gave him some Christian literature, in both Tibetan and Chinese, and asked him to study it.

One day, the doctor asked if he could pray for Tenzin's healing, for his condition had deteriorated and he needed more than medicine to survive. Tenzin agreed, and later described what happened:

"The doctor walked closer to my bed, put his right hand on my right arm, and began speaking in a language I was not familiar with. Suddenly, without warning, I felt something flow through my arm. It was like a warm, soft blanket. It moved into my shoulders and chest, and then throughout my entire body. I could not understand the doctor's words, but his prayer had something my prayers lacked. It had power."

That moment was a turning point in Tenzin Lahkpa's life. He had come face to face with the reality of God's power, and that night as he fell asleep, he had a dramatic, life-changing dream. He recalled:

"A man in a white robe came to me in my dreams. He had a glow about Him that radiated in every direction. I felt warm and safe in His presence. As He approached me, I could tell there was something wrong with His hands. In His palms were scars that had not completely healed over. I tried to look closer to see if I could catch a glimpse of His face, but I could not.

‘Follow Me,' He said. He spoke perfect Tibetan and had a low, soothing voice like that of a loving father.

‘Are you Jesus?' I asked.

But again, He simply said, ‘Follow Me.'

‘Are you the one to show me the path to truth?'

‘Follow Me, Tenzin. I am the Way. I am the Truth. No one comes to the Path but through Me.'

'Okay,' I answered. ‘I will follow You.'"

For weeks Tenzin remained in hospital, using every spare moment to study the Bible. The doctors and nurses were amazed at his recovery, and Tenzin knew it was due to the healing prayer by the Christian doctor.

Awed by everything he had learned, Tenzin realized that a time was coming when he would have to leave the monastery. His journey to discover the truth was taking him on a radically different path.

After returning home, Tenzin was burdened to share what he had learned with his friends at the monastery. He called a special gathering of the monks and requested a public debate with the head of the monastery, Tashi Lama.

Despite knowing that the monks would react furiously the moment he mentioned Jesus, Tenzin felt a supernatural peace within. God was with him and had promised never to leave or forsake him. Even if he was killed, he knew he would be with his Lord and Master in paradise. There was no reason to fear.


Hundreds of monks crammed into the monastery courtyard to witness the debate. Rumors swirled about the reason for the special meeting, with some assuming that Tenzin planned to challenge the lama's leadership in a bid to replace him.

After struggling to find the right words, Tenzin Lahkpa took a deep breath and boldly declared:

"What if I told you that I prayed to a God who said that He could guide me through the spirit world, and I did not have to earn merits to hear from Him because He gave it all to me by grace? I could not earn it on my own.

When I was lying in the hospital bed, I was told about a God who gave His life for me so that I would not have to suffer any longer. He did not do it because I had earned enough merit. He did it because He loved me. His love leads to the path that ends suffering, and His Name is Jesus."

Instantly, an enraged Tashi Lama screamed, "Grab him now!" and dozens of monks rushed at Tenzin, hissing, "He's a Christian! Kill him!"

The new believer was choked and savagely beaten to a pulp, and his battered and unconscious body was left to die. Even his own brother, who was also a monk, was forced to beat him. Tenzin's mother also suffered for her son's actions, and her house was burned to the ground.

The severely injured disciple of Christ recalled his thoughts as he was being beaten:

"I knew that I must die to myself so that I could live in Christ. And if I could live in Christ, then, although they would kill my body, I would live again with Him. In that moment, I no longer feared death.

Although I was on the ground being kicked and punched by everyone, I was not their prisoner. I was being beaten as a free man. I had more hope in that moment than all the other men there. I was no longer a prisoner of Buddha. They were. I was being beaten for leaving Buddha, and they were beating me because they were too afraid to leave."

Hours later, after darkness had fallen, the blood-splattered Tenzin regained consciousness, and he heard a soothing voice say, "Follow Me, My child." A supernatural peace flooded his soul, and moments later a hand was clamped firmly over his mouth. His brother had returned to help him escape in the night.

Tenzin was put on a bus to a faraway city, where he took months to recover from his injuries. He was warned never to return to his home or he would be killed.

For most of Tenzin's life his identity had been chosen for him. His head was shaved and his clothes were the same as all the other monks, to strip him of individualism and identity. He struggled to think for himself or act independently of the monastery.

He was now free, but it would take a long time to adjust. Despite having no money, bank account, or any connections in this world, he walked away from his former dark way of life and toward Jesus Christ, the Light of the world.

In his new location, Tenzin was eventually contacted by some Christians, who warmly embraced him and explained that he had a unique and precious God-given identity which made him different from everyone else in the world.

Meanwhile, the monks back at the monastery remained furious with Tenzin. In their minds he had dishonored his nation, family, and culture. They tracked him down and tried to force him to recant and return to the monastery. When their pleas fell on deaf ears, they decided it was better for him to be dead than to walk away, and several attempts were made on his life.

Later, Tenzin began working with a medical charity in west China, giving him the opportunity to witness to many sick Tibetans who visited the clinic for treatment. One visitor was a Tibetan lady named Mapu. Tenzin shared the Gospel with her and she believed, becoming the first Tibetan he baptized. Mapu loved him, and they were united in marriage. For 20 years he had scarcely seen a woman and had been completely cut off from all contact with the opposite sex, so marriage was another shocking change to his life.


Tenzin and Mapu now have two sons, and he often says the most wonderful gifts God has given him, apart from salvation, are his wife and children.

Not one to lack courage, in 2017 Tenzin heard that a bacterial infection had broken out in his home area. Many people, including his beloved mother, had died as the epidemic swept through. Despite the threat to murder him if he ever showed his face there again, Tenzin was compelled by the love of God to return to the very monastery where he had almost been beaten to death years earlier. He reasoned:

"I knew that most of them wanted to kill me because they felt I had betrayed them. However, I could not sleep knowing that God had given us the means to save them. I knew that because Jesus loved them, I needed to love them too— even if they hated me. I wanted to be there to serve them and to show them the love of Jesus, and I would do so—even if they killed me."

Tenzin led a medical team to his hometown, providing treatment to more than 1,000 people. The locals were hesitant to receive help from him, but so great was their distress that they put aside their prejudices and accepted the assistance.

One day, Tenzin was sitting in the clinic when Tashi Lama walked in. Tenzin immediately grabbed a chair for him to sit on and bowed to honor his former persecutor. Tashi Lama's eyes grew large when he realized he was being served by the man he had tried to murder.

The next day, all the leading monks gathered as Tenzin presented a plan to build the first health clinic in the town.

Tenzin Lahkpa—who was dedicated to Buddha at a young age and who served many years as a monk—is now a jewel in the crown of Jesus Christ, and a living example of God's ability to transform lives radically from the inside out.

Many years earlier, Tenzin's mother predicted that he would lead their people into enlightenment. He is doing just that. He continues to serve the Living God, and he leads a small Tibetan fellowship.

With living examples like Tenzin Lahkpa displaying the liberating power of Jesus Christ, it's no wonder the lamas of Tibet and the demonic world fear His matchless Name, and why they shudder at the thought that the ‘Jesus virus' might one day spread throughout the Tibetan world.

Note: Quotes in this article are from Tenzin Lahkpa with Eugene Bach, Leaving Buddha: A Tibetan Monk's Encounter with the Living God (Whittaker House, 2019).

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Part-Han 2014

A video with pics from the Laura Vicuna Foundation Christmas party for street children in Manila. 1500 kids from the various drop-in centers get together each year for the Parti-Han, See http://lauravicunafoundation.weebly.com/partihan.html


Sunday, 9 August 2020

Separate them from the herd

 
The natural world is filled with clues as to the true nature of things and God speaks through them when we pause and listen. 

I was watching a brilliant documentary about the Serengeti and the seasonal migration of animals. It showed the various predators as they stalked the herds of antelope and buffalo. Predators have different techniques but what is common to all is they always target the youngest and weakest. The adults have the task of shielding their young, moving them into the centre and guarding them and defending with whatever tools they have while the predators seek to separate them from the herd. Once they have achieved that, they move in for the kill. 

One distinct advantage the herd has though is instinctive ‘situational awareness’. They know the lions are in the Savanna; that the crocodiles are waiting at the water’s edge and so can be prepared for the inevitable attack. They lose a small proportion of the herd. As humans we have lost our situational awareness, even as Christians. Not in relation to animal attacks but in the conflict with the world, the flesh and the devil. 

It proceeds in much the same way but with a more insidious intention. The youngest and weakest are led away from the security of the praying church community, into pastures that seem inviting. The devil cannot make hell look attractive so he makes the route look exciting. There is no quick kill as with a Lion attack, it’s a gradual elimination of beliefs, the end of any prayer-life and even without moral corruption and ruin, the generations which follow are then automatically in the bag too. How many generations are missing from the church in the West now… how many grandparents wearing out their knees praying for them to return? It’s a lot easier to protect in the beginning, than try to recover the lost further down the road. 

We tend to think of ourselves as the top of the food chain on earth, which in the natural world we are; but remember that Jesus refers to us as sheep… mostly lost (and thick) and the only defense we have against our enemy is the rest of the flock , the shepherd and to listen to His voice.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Fruits of Persecution in the Church in China ...


Chinese Christians imprisoned for their faith are memorizing Scripture passages smuggled to them on small pieces of paper because prison guards “can’t take what’s hidden in your heart,” one former prisoner revealed.

In a recent sermon, Wayne Cordeiro, pastor of New Hope Christian Fellowship in Honolulu, Hawaii, shared an experience he had on a trip to China, where the church went to train leaders.

The pastor shared how 22 Christians from the Hunan Province took a 13-hour train ride to attend the leadership training held at a 700-square-foot hotel room. Out of the 22 Christians present, 18 had been imprisoned for their faith, the pastor revealed.

“If we get caught what will happen to me?” Cordeiro began by asking.

“Well, you will get deported in 24 hours, and we will go to prison for three years,” the Chinese Christians responded.

After beginning his lesson, the pastor realized he only had 15 Bibles to pass around, so seven people went without.

“I said, 'turn to 2 Peter 1, we are going to read it.' Just then one lady handed hers to the person next to her, and I thought ‘hmm interesting,'” he recalled.

As the Christians began reading, he quickly realized why she had given her Bible away: she had memorized the whole book.

“When it was done, I went over to her at a break and said, ‘You recited the whole chapter,’” he said. She replied, “In prison, you have much time in prison.”









“Don’t they confiscate the Bible?” he asked.

She said that while any Christian material is indeed confiscated, people smuggle in scripture written on paper and hide it from the prison guards.

“That’s why we memorize it as fast as we can because even though they can take the paper away, they can’t take what’s hidden in your heart,” she explained.

Following the three-day training session, one Chinese Christian man asked Cordeiro, “Could you pray that one day we could just be like you?”

“I looked at him and said, ‘I will not do that,’” he replied. “You guys road a train 13 hours to get here. In my country, if you have to drive more than an hour, people won’t come.”

“You sat on a wooden floor for three days. In my country, if people have to sit for more than 40 minutes they leave. You sat here for not only three days on a hard wooden floor, in my country if it’s not padded pews and air conditioning, people will not come back.”

“In my country, we have an average of two Bibles per family. We don’t read any of them. You hardly have any Bibles and you memorize them from pieces of paper.”

“I will not pray that you become like us, but I will pray that we become just like you,” he concluded.

China has seen explosive growth in the number of believers over the last several decades. Estimates have even suggested that China is on track to have the largest Christian population in the world by 2030.

About 30 million Christians in China are estimated to attend state-sanctioned churches while many others attend illegal underground house churches that are not registered with the government.

In efforts to stunt the rapid growth of Christianity, authorities throughout China have shuttered a number of prominent house churches and arrested Christians for worshiping without the approval of the government.

Previously, Crazy Love author Francis Chan said he believes the reason the underground Chinese church has grown so large is that Chinese Christians "actually believed they could make disciples and start these gatherings because Jesus was enough."

"I started to think, 'This is what made the underground church in China unstoppable. If you have a group of people that actually embrace suffering, how are you ever going to stop them?'" he asked during the "Rethink Church/Rethink Mission" event at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, Virginia, in October.

Chan argued that the problem with churches in the West is they are "so stoppable the moment it gets too difficult."

"What if you actually go, 'I want to suffer for Christ?'" Chan asked. "Will you suffer to obey these things? Will you actually sacrifice? Because it's a lot easier to come somewhere and be fed than to love [others] as much as Christ loved you, as much as the Father loves the Son, and to break bread with [others] thinking, 'Christ was tortured for me; would I do that for [others]?'"

The pastor urged Christians in the West to embrace suffering for the glory of Christ "because the Church is that beautiful and that important."

Monday, 27 July 2020

The works of men




An old man was sitting in his cell and a voice came to him which said, "Come, and I will show you the works of men." He got up and followed. The voice led him to a certain place and shewed him an Ethiopian cutting wood and making a great pile. He struggled to carry it but in vain. But instead of taking some off, he cut more wood which he added to the pile. He did this for a long time. 

Going on a little further, the old man was shown a man standing on the shore of a lake drawing up water and pouring it into a broken receptacle, so that the water ran back into the lake. 

Then the voice said to the old man, "Come, and I will shew you something else." He saw a temple and two men on horseback, opposite one another, carrying a piece of wood crosswise. They wanted to go in through the door but would not because they held their piece of wood crosswise. Neither of them would draw back before the other, so as to carry the wood straight; so they remained outside the door. 

The voice said to the old man, "These men carry the yoke of righteousness with pride, and do not humble themselves so as to correct themselves and walk in the humble way of Christ. So they remain outside the Kingdom of God. The man cutting the wood is he who lives in many sins and instead of repenting he adds more faults to his sins. He who draws the water is he who does good deeds, but mixing bad ones with them, he spoils even his good works. So everyone must be watchful of his actions, lest he labour in vain." 

Someone asked Abba Agathon, 'Which is better, bodily asceticism or interior vigilance?' The old man replied, 'Man is like a tree, bodily asceticism is the foliage, interior vigilance the fruit. According to that which is written, "Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire" (Matt. 3.10) it is clear that all our care should be directed towards the fruit, that is to say, guard of the spirit; but it needs the protection and the embellishment of the foliage, which is bodily asceticism

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Will I go to Heaven ?

                                     

Last week a couple of acquaintances, a brother and sister, were found to be COVID -19 positive, although fortunately asymptomatic thus far. Faced with the sudden possibility of death people often have a change of outlook, re-evaluate their lives in the light of a realization of their mortality. 

My thoughts went to the children of Fatima and particularly Jacinta and Francisco who died very young during the last global pandemic of Spanish flu a century ago. As I recall the story, Our Lady had told them that she would be taking them soon and they asked if they would be going to heaven. The answer was ‘yes’ but in Francisco’s case he would have to ‘pray many rosaries’. 

What is interesting is his wholehearted response. He stopped schooling and rid himself of all trivial pursuits even the play natural for children, and devoted himself to prayer and making sacrifices. It is hard to imagine someone that young having much to atone for – how much more for those of us whose lives have been many times as long as his already! The need for atonement and sanctification must be very great indeed. 

Another thing that makes Francisco’s witness very compelling is that the children had all seen Heaven, Hell and Purgatory in a vision and I imagine this too must have prompted such a resolute response. 

In the last few months more than half a million people have died of this virus, I bet none of them expected to die this year anymore than the ones who will join them between now and December do. If we can draw a lesson from the pandemic I think it’s to ‘be prepared,’ take a moment to reassess the important things in life, consider what happens if … and focus on making atonement for our sins and through prayer to seek the sanctification we need.