Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Enmity in the Camp

Frodo got the call from some friends in Anfalas a couple of weeks ago. There was big trouble. The believers were fighting and it was a bad scene. Ok, I thought, nothing new here. They have fought before. We understand that the Church is the Body of Christ. The enemy hates Christ and hates His body with a great hate. It is not surprising that the enemy would try to cause division and to try and prevent the Church from doing what it is primarily supposed to do; love God and love one another. So, Frodo, Sam, and I jumped in the car and drove on down to Anfalas to see what could be done. I was quite confident that we would see some minor problem blown out of proportion and as soon as we put the light on it all would be put right. This is not the first time I have seriously underestimated the situation.

As we drove down Frodo related the story he heard from one of the villagers who called him. Apparently, a couple of weeks ago someone died and Fili traveled with the body back to Ithilian where they are all from originally. While he was gone Kili watched after Fili's wife and children. Fili's oldest boy is a bit of a hooligan and one day he was playing with rocks and sticks and abusing other children and Kili stepped in only to get hit himself. Kili then smacked him in the head. Fili's wife objected to him smacking her son- even if he did deserved it- and thus began the fight and the estrangement between the two families. For those of you new to this blog Kili and Fili and their families are the only baptized believers in this region of southern Gondor. They are a small church who usually meet together daily for prayer and reading the Word. When we arrived we saw that a fence had been erected between their two houses. This would have been funny had it not been so sad!

We went into Fili's house and sat and talked with them. Frodo spoke with them for about half and hour while Sam and I prayed. It was quite hopeless. Fili's wife was very bitter and angry. I winced at every word she spoke. She insisted that Kili had hit her son and when she protested he hit her as well. Fili said that they would forgive them if only they would ask for forgiveness but that he was not about to go talk to them. Frodo shared Matthew 18 with them and talked about how we are commanded to forgive each other and to reach out to the weaker brother. If Kili sinned then it was Fili's responsibility to go to him and forgive him and love him. They were having none of it. Finally, Frodo stood up and declared that he was through, there was no hope, and we might as well go. Sam spoke for a few minutes then. He also spoke like a teacher to misbehaving students- he said some good things about God's love and forgiveness- but the atmosphere in the house was toxic. The spiritual atmosphere in the room was angry and oppressive. We were not getting anywhere and I was praying hard about what to say. Then it came to me- I trust it was from the Holy Spirit- the Gospel is the power of God for salvation. The Gospel is what is needed here. I had been wanting to go down to Anfalas and share with them a simple story set of how to share the Gospel anyway. So, when it was my turn to speak I told them, 'I am not your teacher and I don't want to speak down to you.' I then in a calm voice shared the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, I then skipped to Jesus. I talked about Man's great sin and God's great sacrifice and redemption. The air cleared. The heaviness and anger left. Fili and his wife seemed to understand and were coming around to the concept of forgiveness in their lives. Then, as if a switch was turned back on, Fili's wife started in again. She was bitter and angry all over. Discouraged and very tired we stood up and went over to Kili's house. I was thinking, 'Man, I can not keep fighting this spiritual warfare like this- I am exhausted.' But I didn't have to. When we got to Kili's house the spirit was great. They greeted us warmly and told us what had happened. It turns out that Kili was sorry that he struck Fili's son and had apologized and had sent his wife to mediate and apologize as well when that didn't work. It turns out he never hit Fili's wife- she made that up! They were glad we were there and hoped that the relationships could be made whole again. Frodo stood up and said, 'I'll be right back!' Sam also got up and went out. I sat for a few minutes with Kili and his wife when Fili's wife came in. She came in quite sheepishly and sat near the door. I got up and went out while they worked it out. When I went outside Fili and Sam had taken down the wall between the two homes. Fili's wife apologized for lying about Kili and all was made right again. Fili himself would not go over yet though. He said he needed a little bit more time to forgive and work things through. I didn't like this at first but then I realized that this was real. He would not put on a show for the outsiders- he was being honest and I knew that that also meant that when forgiveness and reconciliation was complete it would be honest and full. We prayed together and we left. The villagers were all very grateful that we had come and several told us how good it was that we came to straighten out the believers. Many villagers are not brave enough to follow Jesus yet, but they do want the Church there to succeed. They want to believe there is hope.

The enemy is always at work trying to divide us. Light and the truth of the Gospel are our best weapons to fight division and discouragement. Different gifts and personalities in the Church caused division in the first century and they continue to today. Apparently, one of the real struggles that they have in Anfalas is that Fili shares his faith with his fellow villagers and Kili works sharing his faith in two neighboring villages. I looked at them and said, 'Hey, guys it's just Peter and Paul!' One was the Apostle to the Jews and the other the Apostle to the Gentiles. They had different gifts and callings but they were brothers in Christ and working toward the same Kingdom. We can be jealous and misunderstand one another in our callings or we can encourage one another. I'll give you one guess which one Jesus wants us to do!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Can Pop Up At a Funeral

This is a sensational story and I have not written it till now because I wanted to double check all the facts and the witnesses myself. In this world of increasing anger, violence, frustration, and hopelessness I hope that you are encouraged today.

Frodo and Sam were returning from a trip to Anfalas when Frodo received a call on his cell phone. It was his sister saying that he should come home immediately as his aunt had fallen suddenly ill and may not make it. They rushed to the house and prayed for her. She seemed to get better but two weeks later she died. Again, Frodo got the call from his sister and this time was told she was already dead. Frodo called Sam and asked him to come with him to the funeral. Sam- ever loyal and ready to go- said yes and they were off to the uncle's house. The yard was full of wailing people and the body was draped in a cloth in the yard as they were preparing to wash it and get it ready for the burial. Frodo went in and immediately got into an argument with one of the Mullahs there. He said that this woman was a Christian and he did not want a Mullah chanting at the grave. Several of Frodo's relatives are believers but most are not- and certainly none of the neighbors there were believers. So, they argued with him and Sam. They denounced them and said that they had 'sold out' their religion. They told Frodo and Sam that Jesus was powerless and that they were fools for trusting in Him. Frodo turned away from them in disgust. He and Sam went over to the body and stood over it. Frodo says he didn't know why but he lifted up his voice and prayed, 'Lord, this is not a day of mourning! This is a day for you to display your glory!' Then he and Sam went over and sat down in the shade of a tree. Less than five minutes later, as everyone- some 50 or more people- were gathered in the yard waiting for the ladies to prepare everything to wash the body, Frodo's dead aunt suddenly sat up. She says that she knew she was dead but she has not shared anything about what she experienced during that time. Everyone was very surprised and all agree that it was a miracle that Jesus brought about.

I asked Frodo if any of his relatives have come to faith since this event and he said that none of them have. He has been asked several times to come and pray for relatives that are sick but none want to hear more about Jesus. Frodo says the interesting thing is that many of the neighbors want to hear about Jesus. Frodo has a small house group that has been meeting for a couple of years. He started it to reach his family but most of them have not come. Now, he has people from families from three different Middle Earth tribes! It reminds me of the parable of the banquet. Jesus quotes the banquet giver as saying go to the highways and byways and compel them to come in. My house will be full. It will be.

One other interesting thing: Frodo says that his aunt, even though a believer was a very negative person who was always complaining. Not anymore. Since her resurrection she is always smiling, always positive, always thankful, and eager to tell all who will listen about her wonderful Lord. I trust it will not take your death and resurrection to do the same.