"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." (John 14:27)
News of lay-offs and foreclosures, along with the failure of many banking and financial institutions has left many with a sense of fear and insecurity. For some who read these lines, or for some of those nearest and dearest to them, this is more than a news report; it is a personal reality. But even if all was well with the economy, life at its best still contains plenty to inspire fear and trepidation. Jesus has an answer to our fears - His peace!
Fear can only be overcome when we receive the gift of peace Christ offers us. We cannot manufacture this kind of peace. It comes from Christ. It is His peace. It was the peace He had when the storm on Galilee threatened to send Him and His disciples to a watery grave, the peace He had when the mob threatened to throw Him over a cliff, the peace He had when confronted by the devil in the desert, the peace He had even while facing the most terrible of cruel deaths. Yes, in the crucible of His atoning sufferings for our sins, He tasted our fear to the dregs but that was in order that we might drink deeply of His peace. So peace is a gift of Christ to be received by faith.
Jesus says that He gives His peace "not as the world gives." How does the world give? It gives a peace that is dependent upon outward circumstances. So long as our health is good, so long as our bank account is full, so long as our children do well in school, so long as our spouse is faithful, so long as we get the recognition we deserve, so long as it rains enough but not too much or the sun shines but not too hot, we have peace. But Christ's peace is grounded in the faithfulness of God and the certainty that He will keep His promise, above all, the promise that we will dwell forever with Him. That is why Jesus says, "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3)
Notice also that it requires something of us. We must not let our hearts be troubled. The gift must be guarded. We have a fortress in Christ's peace but we must stay within it. The enemy wants to draw us out where we are defenseless. He wants us to forget the truth. The truth is that in Christ, nothing can harm us. We have nothing to fear from any worldly loss. No matter how awful the sufferings of this life, our real good is secure, hidden with God in Christ. This truth we must always keep before our eyes. This will give us the courage to press on. We are being prepared for something wonderful! And while we walk through this "Lenten land" of life, we have Christ always with us, giving us His peace and assuring us that the best is yet to come!
Cambodia Joy: First Worship Service and Our First Patient
"I saw the tears of the oppressed." Eccl. 4:1
By Steve Metzger
Experiencing my first Cambodian Friends Church service in Phnom Penh brought great joy. Beautiful singing, praise and worship in the Khmer language was strangely pleasant but yet familiar. The spiritual joy and peace was evident in the tone and presentation of the leaders and the church members even though we could not understand the words. The common bond of Christ's unity allowed comfort for the two cultures to joyfully worship together.
Sitting on plastic chairs on a tiled floor under a corrugated roof with open walls allowed the cool breeze to sweep through the service and the joyful praise to drift out into the neighborhood. The preschool rendition of the song, "If You're Happy and You Know It" brought smiles to everyone. The message of Denise Beech (Denair Friends) focused on allowing the stone to be rolled away and the grave clothes removed from our spiritually dead bodies.
Mildly distracting from this joyful service were the outside noises, but what caught my attention the most was the laughter and activity of a boy and girl playing in the dirt just outside the meeting room. These were obviously very poor children with stringy dark hair, dirty bodies and very worn clothing. The girl, an older sister about seven years old, wore a filthy striped sweater. Her brother was three--but looked half his age. He had sores on his body. The two children would come into the meeting area by their mother, a very unkempt slight woman. However, she was quite engaged with the service and smiled frequently.
This woman was Pouk Saren, a beggar woman that I met two days earlier at the Russian Market. She was holding her listless naked son asking for money. I was left in the "tuke tuke", which is a taxi cart pulled behind a motorcycle, to guard our medication purchases. I had already ignored several beggar women but was not able to ignore this emaciated child with sores all over his body. We agreed that we would offer treatment. Our driver interpreted for us, telling Pouk that we did not offer money but we would purchase medicine for her son. After instruction on hygiene and medication administration, a testimony and a prayer, she agreed to come to church.
Pouk Saren enjoyed the service, and received tickets for her family to come to the medical clinic. She was welcomed by the Cambodian Christian women, felt God's love and heard caring testimonies. In two days, the boy's strength and energy were restored to his body and the love of Christ brought joy to his mother. Only God knows if Pouk will follow Christ, but I am convinced that Pouk will always remember the day that people from a strange land cared enough to offer medicine and God's love to her very sick son.
In poverty and desperation many Cambodia families have sold themselves or family members so that Cambodia is a center for human trafficking--a modern form of slavery. Women, children and entire families are forced under the control of abusive owners to work in horrible conditions, many in prostitution. Government corruption and bribes prevent the arrest of many rings. The good news is that there are many Christian organizations working on this problem. International Justice Mission has investigators working with authorities rescuing these slaves, and have made solid convictions. Christian organizations, like Hagar International, take rescued women and children to bring them to healing in their life, and the hope of Christ's love. They have three successful businesses that provide job training. In the women's shelter in Phnom Penh I visited, I witnessed God restoring the oppressed, the weary and the hopeless.