The New Testament story of Saul, the Pharisee and ferocious persecutor of the Christians, who became the beloved Paul the Apostle, is one of the greatest stories of forgiveness in the Bible. The account of the transformation of Saul into Paul, is proof of the enormous grace of God and how He desires to forgive and set us free from the sentence of eternal, spiritual death. All God requires is that we humble ourselves before Him, repent, and receive His free gift of salvation and eternal life in His Kingdom. Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:28 were: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins.”
In today’s Mideast Update I will share with you an event from just yesterday, 12/3/2015, just four or five days since Brother Salem was martyred for his faith in Jesus Christ. House of Blessing’s Pastor R called me right after having received the details. If you, the reader, have not read the story about this former Muslim sheikh, I would encourage you to read the previous Mideast Update.
Battling between many forces continues to escalate in the Middle East and the number of dead and injured increases as well. One of the most difficult tasks of the House of Blessing missionaries is trying to reach as many of these as possible before they pass into eternity.
Just hours before I received this report, one of the HOB missionaries in the Fallujah area came across a family that had been caught in one of the bombings. There was a badly injured man. Near him was a woman, four boys and two girls who were already dead. As the missionary approached the man, she said:
“Can I help you? The Lord has sent me! Who are these?”
The man answered and said, “ I am not worthy! I am a very bad man! I know God is angry at me!
The missionary listened to everything he had to say and then asked him, “Why do you say you’re such a bad man?”
“Did you know Sheikh Salem?”
“Yes, I did, of course I knew him.”
“I was the one who killed him! This is why I lost my wife and six children! Why do you want to help me?” I am an evil man!” After saying this, he began to cry.
“God will forgive, if you ask Him to! You are badly injured and I want to pray with you. Will you let me?”
After she said that, he said, “Ever since I killed him, I have not been able to get him out of my mind. I have not been able to sleep and I believe he is following me everywhere I go!” Would you pray with me that God will forgive me? I want to be forgiven for what I have done.”
While all this was going on, Brother Omar, Adel, and some others came to see what was happening. The man, who identified himself as Muhammad, then asked if Fatima, Brother Salem’s widow, was anywhere near. He wanted to see her so he could ask her forgiveness. Omar quickly had someone bring her to the scene.
When Fatima arrived, Muhammad repeated to her everything he had told the others, saying again and again, “I am so sorry I killed this man. He was a man of God, a prophet. I could not get him out of my mind. I could not even sleep, and now my family is also dead! Will God forgive me? Can you forgive me?”
Fatima answered him, “I forgive you, Muhammad. God will forgive you, too. Part of becoming a follower of Jesus is to repent of our sins. You have now repented of killing my husband. The Bible teaches us to confess our sins before each other. Do you have any other sins you need to confess?”
“Yes, I have killed three other men. Can God still forgive me? How can I become as forgiving as you?”
“When we confess our sins and ask for God’s forgiveness, He forgives, and He changes our heart!”
The missionaries then prayed with this broken and humbled man. He was gloriously saved. He then spoke to Fatima, saying, “I know I am dying. I am so grateful for your forgiveness. Would you allow me to kiss your feet Fatima? I feel so much peace in my heart now! Thank you for helping me find Jesus!”
After helping Muhammad pray the sinner’s prayer, the missionaries took the next 90 minutes or so to speak to him from the Word of God. They spoke to him more about the true identity of Jesus, the power of His Blood, and of faith. They continued filling him with God’s Word until he peacefully passed away.
When I heard the account of this man becoming a believer, I remembered how Pastor R and I agreed in prayer when he told me about Brother Salem’s murder. We prayed that our Father would not allow that man to have peace until he found Jesus as Saviour for himself. God answered that prayer within four or five days! We serve a mighty God!
The Bible says much about forgiveness. Here are a few passages of Scripture:
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. Put me in remembrance; let us contend together; state your case, that you may be acquitted. (Isaiah 43:25-26)
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence…” (Ephesians 1:7-8)
“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)
“As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. for the wind passes over it, and it is gone. And its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, and His righteousness to children’s children to such as keep his covenant, and to those who remember His commandments to do them.” (Psalm 103:12-18)
“Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy. He will again have compassion on us and will subdue our iniquities. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19)
Not many people are faced with needing to forgive someone who has murdered a family member. We may ask ourselves, “Could I forgive like that?” Sometimes we will say, without giving it much thought, “Yes, even if someone killed one in my family, I would forgive.” Yet, how many of us hold on to lesser offenses from others. How many times has someone else’s foolishness left us in a “huff” that we have held onto, sometimes for weeks, months, or even years? Food for thought.
While Pastor R was on the phone with me this morning, he gave me a quick summary of what is happening with the House of Blessing missionaries in other parts of the Middle East. The weather is getting colder and colder now as winter approaches. The people are having to scramble for every scrap of food they can find, just to survive. The United Nations relief efforts are becoming less and less. House of Blessing has become an important source, but it is absolutely impossible to meet such a huge need. The need for mattresses, blankets, clothing, wheat, medicine, and Bibles is enormous. God has been gracious though and continues to multiply the supplies and finances as they come through.
In the north, in one area HOB is working, they have been able to welcome 40 new believers to the family of God in the last couple days. In the same area, at least 20 of the new believers have died due to exposure and starvation. The missionaries watch this happen nearly every single day now. The bombing campaigns are so intense, and coming from so many different militaries, that the people find it impossible to find places of safety. Great Britain has now joined the war with their Royal Air Force.
Sister Mofidah, again, in the last two or three days, has been able to treat 80 of the injured. Many of these 80 are experiencing God’s miraculous healing of their injuries, and all 80 accepted Jesus as their Saviour and Lord. The rest of Mofidah’s “Widow Sisterhood” reached another 600! The people are suffering greatly, but are very open to the message of eternal hope which the missionaries are able to bring them.
In the Kurdistan area, the bombing is intensifying, especially since Turkey has become engaged. Turkey however is not bombing ISIS, they are hitting the Kurds. In spite of the bombing, there have been eight new families that have become believers in Jesus. These eight families average between 10-12 family members each.
Word coming out of Iran is that the HOB missionaries were able to reach another ten families there. They continue moving carefully, hoping that they can avoid detection by the authorities, and yet make inroads into the families.
Pastor R did add a quick word about the men that became believers through Shiekh Salem’s preaching at the mosque a few days ago. There have already been 200 new believers added to the family of God through these men! Pastor R and I both felt that the event at this mosque would end up bringing thousands to a commitment to Messiah Jesus! We are seeing the beginning of this already.
As we were beginning to hang up, Pastor R made these comments about the increase in the war. I paraphrase what he said: “Here we have all these nations bringing their militaries into the Middle East, supposedly to help defeat terrorism. All of these bombs are being dropped, missiles are being shot, buildings destroyed everywhere, and thousands of lives being extinguished. The United Nations has their people there, and there is some aid (although not anywhere near what is needed) getting through. Who is reaching their spiritual need? God is still keeping the door open, but who is caring about the need of all these that are dying? Most of the world continues hearing about it, talking about it, and holding meetings and conferences all over the world. It is only the missionaries that are preaching the gospel of the power of Jesus’ Blood, it is the missionaries that are healing the sick and injured, and it is the missionaries that are raising the dead. The missionaries are also the ones that are doing their best to bring in supplies as they are able, in order to try and keep the people alive long enough to be able to help them with their spiritual need. Pray for us, and thank those who have been doing so.”
I heard his heart and soul loud and clear. It was the heart of a man who expects to die on the mission field. It was the heart of a man who has watched and experienced the deaths of over 700 of his own missionaries slaughtered in the last 44 months. He has buried children, and the old. He himself has been attacked many times, sometimes left for dead. The work of the mission is changing in ways not expected. Instead of having intense daily teaching sessions where new missionaries are trained to replace those lost, now the emphasis is to catch the dying before they have passed on, so that they can be led to the Messiah. Then, people are trained in between times, as it is possible to do so.
Today, the need is for prayer…continuous prayer, day after day. The needs are enormous, physically, financially, and spiritually. Our God is able, but He works through His people. We are those people. We must be a support system, no matter what denomination we belong to. God doesn’t care about the denomination, or brand of organization we have joined. We are the Body of Christ, and these on the forefront are our brethren! Let’s continue to pray for the Lord of the Harvest to open doors, so that the return of the Messiah is hastened! He’s coming SOON!
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