Extraordinary Forgiveness

Burrntalive.jpgJanuary the 22nd, 1999, is a day forever etched in the memory of Gladys Staines.

It is the day that her husband Graham, along with their young sons, Timothy and Philip, were burnt alive by a group of around 50 Hindu extremists in Orissa, India, where Graham had been working with the poor, especially those with leprosy.

Gladys has an amazing story to tell of how she and her daughter were able to forgive those who killed those they loved. While their forgiveness was offered right away, the healing took a lot longer.

It is truly remarkable to think that Gladys stayed on in India for many years to continue the work that her husband had begun many years earlier. Many people have been inspired by her life and her determination to continue serving God in a land far from her home country of Australia.

I was extremely privileged to have Gladys join me during my Morning Programme at 98.5 Sonshine FM today to talk about her story which has been told in the book Burnt Alive.

If you’d like to hear from someone who found healing in forgiveness just click play on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

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Who's the guy with the beard?

I posted this a few years ago when I’d been thinking about a few lines from the good book. They come from Luke’s account of what Jesus got up to when he was here a couple of thousand years ago.

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

I suppose that if we reset the scene in modern times it might look more like:

Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”

They replied, “Some say you’re a good man; others say a teacher; others say a religious leader; others say a misunderstood man; others say a fictional character; others say an irrelevant historical figure; others say a prophet; others say a bigot; and still others, that you’re a guy who made Mel Gibson a truck load of money.”

Then comes the question that should be directed to each one of us.

“But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Jesus was very wise in the way he asked his question. (After all, he is Jesus.) He says to his disciples, “Firstly let’s clear up what everyone else is saying about me.” It can be very easy for us to parrot someone else’s idea of who Jesus was or is. There are so many options that we can easily pick one that sounds reasonable to us.

But Jesus doesn’t give the disciples that option. After clearing up the range of things that others were saying, he focuses in on the individuals in front of him and says, “But What about you? Who do you say I am?”

I believe he’s doing the same today. We need to be aware that there are many ideas of who Jesus is but in the end we need to answer that second question for ourselves.

Jesus looks at us all saying “But What about you? Who do you say I am?” Not who do your parents say I am; not who do your workmates say I am; not who do your philosophy books say I am; not who does your pastor say I am; not who does your church say I am, but “Who do you say I am?”

Whether we say we believe the Bible’s idea of who Jesus is or not, we can’t afford to just grab someone else’s ideas on this one. We need to be open enough to have our views challenged. We need to look at how we came to hold the views we do and decide if that’s a good enough reason to think that way.

All the arguments about what people believe about Christians and their views are secondary and irrelevant until we decide what Jesus is about.

If we truly look at the evidence for ourselves and decide that Jesus was just a man we’ve got nothing to lose but if he was who the Bible claims and we don’t acknowledge it, our life could be at stake.

I’m siding with Peter on this one when he answered, “Who do you say I am?” with “The Christ of God.” Exactly what that means for me and the way I live my life is something that I will continue to grapple with for the rest of my life.

Who do you say Jesus is?

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More from Kenya

The Brooks FamilyJohnny has published another post about the current situation in Kenya.

Here are a few lines from his post, Nakuru January 2, 2008, describing his attempts to check on neighbours and survey the situation in Nakuru.

I was unable to visit a few neighborhoods. Seems that the residents are stoning vehicles to keep the police out. Fear and suspicion rule the day here. Neighbors have turned on neighbors and armed gangs are running about causing havoc. Of course not everyone has sunk to this cave man attitude about members of other tribes. We hear stories of neighbors banding together despite ethnic differences to protect each other.

The innocent are getting caught up in what I would describe as tribal conflict between Kikuyus, Luos, and the Kalenjin. I have a friend who is Kissi. In his neighborhood he is a minority. Luos and Kikuyus outnumber his tribe, but do not have numbers large enough to oust each other. Each tribe, Luo and Kikuyu formed security squads to patrol at night. My friend was approached by both sides, but he told me he did not know what to do. Joining any of them would pit him against the others, and ultimately endanger his wife and daughter. Rape is common in these attacks, and the assailants do not care how old or how young you are.

Please take the time to visit Pure Christianity and let Johnny, Kate and their children know that you’re thinking of them and praying for them and the people they are serving during this very difficult time.

Please spread the word. If you keep a blog please point people towards Johnny’s blog so that they can stay up to date with the situation and pray for the specific needs that will arise over the coming weeks and months.

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The Case for Interfaith Dialogue

bigpar.gifIs it arrogant to claim that any one religion has an exclusive connection to God? Does discussing faith matters with followers of other religions mean that we think it doesn’t matter which spiritual path you take? What is the role of interfaith dialogue in our spiritual walk?

I grew up in 60s and 70s in the suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. That means that I’ve generally had little connection with people who follow other spiritual paths. My two trips to India have helped to broaden my understanding of those who don’t hold to the same beliefs that I do. I haven’t changed my view that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, but thankfully I can dialogue with others about their journey without feeling that my own beliefs are being threatened.

The 2009 Parliament of the World’s Religions was recently launched at Federation Square in Melbourne Australia. It’s an event with an 114 year history and it occurs somewhere around the the world every 5 years.

The 2009 event is to be held in Melbourne and is expected to attract eight to ten thousand guests from eighty countries as well as more than five thousand Australians, providing opportunity for ordinary people of faith – Christians, Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists – to share their faith with each other and learn more about what each other believe.

Respected theologian, speaker, author and director of John Mark Ministries, Rev Dr Rowland Croucher believes strongly that interfaith activities are something that ‘real’ Christians need to involve themselves in. I recently spoke to him on 98.5 Sonshine FM.

Rowland has years of experience in talking through the tough questions with a range of people on their own spiritual search. He has some brilliant things to say and I heartily recommend that you listen to our interview by clicking the audio player below.

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Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture

exilesEvery now and then I get to record a radio interview that I want to listen to over and over again. One such case is my interview with Michael Frost about his current book, Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture.

Mike has so many good things to say and he says them so well.

He previously wrote The Shaping of Things to Come together with Alan Hirsch. ‘Shaping’ is a book aimed at church leadership giving leaders ideas on reshaping church for the current culture. It was a great read and so I was very keen to get copies of Exiles and Alan Hirsch’s current book, The Forgotten Ways when I heard that they were available.

I’m currently working my way through Exiles and thoroughly enjoying it, so it’s wonderful to be able to spread Mike’s message to a wider audience through the interview.

We live in a time when more followers of Jesus are living outside the church than ever before. People who are still very keen to follow Christ are giving up on going to church. What does that say about the people that are ‘dropping out’ and what does it say about the church?

In the interview with Michael Frost we look at just what is meant by the term post-Christian culture. We also talk about Mike’s use of the term exiles. Are we really exiled in a foreign culture? How do we thrive in a post-Christian culture while staying faithful to Jesus? How much should we engage with the current culture? How much do we stand up against the existing culture?

My interview will be broadcast on 98.5 Sonshine FM this Sunday night and then replayed on Monday night. You can hear the interview by clicking the play button on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

If you missed my earlier post, I interviewed Alan Hirsch about his current book, The Forgotten Ways, a couple of weeks back and thoroughly enjoyed the conversation.

If you’ve read Exiles I’d love to hear your thoughts. I look forward to your comments.

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