Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Tour Bus, a Sewer’s Manhole Cover, Wounds and Unbelief

This last week everybody in Macau, Hong Kong and China got to follow the 12-hour hijacking of a tour-bus in Philippines when a former policeman kept 25 people from Hong Kong as hostages, releasing 9 of them later during the afternoon (children, old and sick people), but ending by murdering 10 of the remaining hostages. It seems now that all the killing was done by the hijacker. There were suspicions that the police force could have participated in the death of the tourists by the anti-professional and amateurish way they handled the case. The Hong Kong TV showed several live moments of the hijacking and following siege of the bus by the Police up to the blood conclusion, the murder of the hijacker and the rescue of the few hostages and dead bodies.

What seemed as a closed chapter of one more sad story is still having repercussions. This crisis has generated a very strong anti-Filipino mood in Macau and Hong Kong. It’s the critical eyes, evil comments, swearing and even in some radio broadcastings is possible to hear some radio hosts cursing the Filipino population as if the tragedy caused by an unbalanced man and a disorganized Police force was the fault of the whole Filipino population. In the following day one of the teenagers that come to our meetings here in Macau said that she went to a square with her young sister and while there one of the security men asked her if she was a Filipina. She said she was. After a while, she tried to buy something in the market at the square but the security man came to her and told her she was not allowed to buy anything there. In her words: embarrassing. And this is happening in an international community like Macau and Hong Kong. According to a friend, this will be going on for a couple of weeks, and until then the Filipinos will have to be patient and bear the pressure.

But this is a wound that will be painful for a while in the Chinese community. A family of 5 lost 3 people in this tragedy, remaining only the mother and the son who was shot in the head and is treated at the hospital in a critical situation. It’s hard not to empathize and cry together and we watch the weeping of the families. If you are like me, at the moment when these things are happening you should be praying asking for God’s intervention.

Last week a Brazilian missionary family was going to Hong Kong on vacation after a few years without taking a break. While they were walking the mother who was carrying her 6 month baby, passed in front of a construction site and suddenly, as she stepped on a sewer’s manhole cover, the cover under her broke down and she fell in a hole 2 meters deep. Her first reaction was to protect the baby, what she did well, but the fall caused her to break her leg in two places, around the knee area. The baby got some scratches on her face, but that’s was all. The construction company responsible for the construction site, including that manhole cover, went to the hospital to take a basket of fruits. Will this pay the hospital bill? This week we cut our vacation short to help the couple by taking care of their children. The mother is at the hospital still and, as her leg is all swollen, she doesn’t know when she will go under surgery or be discharged from the hospital. It’s a wound that will be painful for a while too.

I saw the circumstances in Pakistan as well. They are really suffering with the flooding there. No water, no food, and the international aid diminishing as nobody want to help a country that may be hosting or helping terrorists. I have prayed a lot for this people, and it’s impossible not to feel their pain and wish to be there to help someway. It’s hard to watch someone asking for water and receiving a stone of rejection or a snake of revenge in return. This is going to be a wound that will take longer time to be healed.

This week I want to talk about Shammah who got a wound that took a long time to be healed. What to do when we are hurt? How to work in the daily circumstances that leave a Mark in our souls?

2 Samuel 23:11,12

Shammah was the son of Agee. The name Agee means “I shall increase”. Agee must have had many plans and expectations. His goal was to succeed, no matter what. His name was a mission statement. But it seems that his plans failed, and all that he got to know was defeat, the frustration, the pain of putting effort and not see the expected results, the loss of all the investment as it vanishes just like water in dry land. Sometimes we have our own plans and we hope to succeed in our efforts, even to the point of taking God out of the picture. We think we can everything by ourselves, in our own strength and skills. For sure, we need to work in excellence, but God has to be part of the process. Otherwise the result will be frustration, depression, suffering, pain, loss. It seems that Shammah was born amidst this chaos and maybe that’s what was in Agee’s mind as he named his son.

The name Shammah means “loss”, “despair”, “astonishment”. Maybe this was the only thing Shammah learned and lived through his whole life. Imagine yourself growing and listening your name associated to pain, suffering, loss, depression. Imagine: “Hey, “loss” (or could be loser) come here”. “Depression”, where are you? “Hey, “pain”, I need you.” Can you imagine a child growing listening to these words?

But there came a day when He changed his story. There came a day when Shammah said “Enough!” Enough of all this pain! Enough of be known as loss and defeat and frustration. The Israeli army was in a lentil field, probably harvesting or protecting it. And there came the Philistines. What happened? The whole troop but Shammah fled from them. He must have remembered of the victories God gave His people, Israel. He must have thought of the victories conquered by David and the other might men who fought along him. He must have considered that God doesn’t change, but on the contrary it was He who needed to change his way of thinking and looking at himself and, more than anything else, his identity. Shammah stood his ground in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck down the enemy. The fields are ripe for the harvest today, but the enemy has tried to scare away the church so that they won’t go harvest the souls. We need, following the example of Shammah, take a stand and defend the field, even if it means that we will be alone.

What we learn here?

1- Our past may or may not direct our present and future. Our attitude will.
It’s not what happened to you that will direct your life, but what you do with that that has happened to you. What is your attitude when bad things happen? What’s your reaction? To fall in self-pity? Or in self complacency? To complain? To be passive? To feed bitterness? To lack in forgiveness? You can allow yourself to be influenced by the things of the past, or you can stand your ground and let God change your story. It’s easy to say that all the evil of the world is the Filipino people’s fault, or the Chinese people, or the North Korean, or the American people, or the Arab people, or the Muslim people. It’s so hard to see our own deficiencies in our attitudes of pride, bitterness, superiority and prejudice. Yes, people are kidnapped, people are killed, people doing good thing fall in sewer manholes, but this doesn’t mean that God is not in the control. And this doesn’t mean that God can change us and teach us in all circumstances. But it means that we will harvest the blessings if we dispose ourselves to go towards these blessings.

2- Many times we will be defending the truth by ourselves.
For many people truth is relative. It depends of the benefit it brings to them. Many people say that everyone has their own truth. Several times we will find ourselves defending the truths of the Bible alone by ourselves, totally abandoned may it be by fear, by the weight of the responsibility truth brings along, by the consequences, etc. Several times we will have people targeting our heads, ideas and positions with their weapons of criticism and verbal violence. But we have to root ourselves in the truth, because it’s the truth that set us free and brings healing to the wounds (John 8:32; 14:6; 8:36). Only the truth can give us a whole vision of life, because if the truth is relative, according to everyone’s vision, people who hijack buses and planes will be excused to do it, abortion will be justifiable, homosexualism will still be an viable option, drugs will keeping on have room among the young, domestic violence will go on being tolerated, pedophilia will find followers, because truth is limited to self-benefit, and ethic and moral will continue to be unrecognized.

3- The enemy doesn’t want us to benefit of the blessings of the Gospel.
We have to keep this in mind: God have already prepared unending blessings for us, but the enemy has been deceiving us trough lies, manipulation, oppression, deceit, giving us a mindset of conformism, passivity, of victims, saying that the situations we go through won’t change and God is unable to change those circumstances. If we won’t stand in the divine promises of the Word of God and spend time of fellowship and intimacy with God we will accept the enemy’s lies and we will become blind in our understanding of who we are in God and what is our destiny Just because o four unbelief that blocks the light of the Gospel of Christ to shine in our minds (2 Corinthians 4:4). We can’t accept to be called losers, frustrated, defeated, depressed, but we have to enjoy the blessings Christ bought for us at the cross.

4- God has called us to harvest the fields with the message of the Gospel.
John 4:35 says that the fields are ripe to the harvest. Jesus prayer was that God would send more workers to the fields, to harvest it. Mark 16:15 brings this reality where we are called to go to the field (world) taking the Gospel to all the living creatures. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus gives us the authority to make disciples (not believers or church members), teaching them the realities of the Kingdom (which is not limited to the church only), baptizing them to enter in this new reality and be assured of the cooperation, of the synergy with God who is always with us, after all we are His fellow-workers (1 Corinthians 3:9; 3 John 8). Do you know what is beautiful about that? It’s that many times when we are hurt, God will bring people who are hurt much more than we are so that we can become agents of healing to them, while He is healing us through this process without our noticing. When we serve we communicate healing and we are healed at the same time.

5- God has got a new name for us. A new identity.
Shammah suffered for a long time by being known as pain or loss or be reminded of the story of defeat suffered by his father and his family. But soon came a moment when he decided to be known by the name God had for him, assuming the new identity of the Kingdom. God has a new name and a new identity for each one of us. He changed Abram, Sarai, Jacob’s name to names that would express His purpose and His character. He wants to express His love, His character, His blessings and His plans in our lives. This new identity is found only in Jesus. For now to be a Filipino is not so good. In some countries to be Brazilian is not much of advantage. To be American is a death sentence in some Muslim countries. But we all can be citizens of Heaven, where nobody can prevent us of enter in but ourselves. Accept the new identity from Heaven to your life.

And in the end we read that the Lord again brought about a great victory. Shammah may have fought the battle, but God gave the victory. We may fight with all our strength but ultimately the victory will be brought about by the Lord. After all we are His fellow-workers and He is ours.

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