Why is human life so sinful?

By Pastor Paul, Bibles for Mideast

So often we wish to abandon our sins. But in our faint-heartedness, we say to ourselves, “I will wait a little bit longer.” Thus we keep away our good intentions.

Once St. Seraphim (a revered Russian monk and spiritual teacher) was asked, “why is man’s life so sinful?”  He replied: “Because he lacks the resolution to renounce sin.”

According to Seraphim*, the devil constantly tries to destroy the unity of our body, soul and spirit. When we sin, this unity—with which human beings were created—is broken. The devil aims to create situations that make us defy rather than obey the Lord’s commandments, and so replace our noble aspirations for perfection with damnation.

Let us not delay the struggle against our sinful ways. Let us be resolute, bold enough to swiftly abandon sin. Do not wait for the eleventh hour, for death may come at 10:30.

Let us pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to preserve the unity of our body, soul and spirit.

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Body must be subordinate to soul, soul subordinate to spirit, and spirit subordinate to God—an essential unity in diversity necessary to restore our spiritual life. Our prayer and fasting are for our sojourn on earth, the aim of our spiritual journey being to grow and walk in the way that preserves the above-mentioned unity.

It is the time for repentance, penitence and to sincerely return to the Father through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit; to leave the sinful nature and to live a virtuous life. Certainly without effort, we cannot and will not succeed.

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the time of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6 :2b).

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* Seraphim (1759-1833), one of the most renowned monastic figures in Russian Orthodox history, lived a life of contemplative prayer and self-denial. He often met with and advised those seeking his counsel.

Papal visit and 'illegal' evangelism’ lead eight young Muslims to Jesus

Report from Bibles for Mideast and an Assembly of Loving God (ALG) church in the Middle East

Inside the Sheikh Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Feb. 5, 2019 ( AP photo/Kamran Jebreili)

Inside the Sheikh Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Feb. 5, 2019 (AP photo/Kamran Jebreili)

While Muslims generally live for their religion and abide by its many laws, none ever learns about a loving God. So when two devout young Muslim men heard the news for the first time in their lives earlier this year—from the Pope, of all people—they couldn't believe their ears.

Pope Francis made a historic visit to their country, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in February. This first-ever papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam, made headlines in many ways.

Around 135,000 people attended a service at a massive sports stadium in the capital city of Abu Dhabi—many of them Catholic migrant workers from places such as the Philippines and South America*, as well as about 4,000 Muslims. The young Muslim men decided to join the crowds at the service and had every intention to cause mischief and challenge the Pope's teachings on Christianity. How could this Christian leader dare come to their country and speak against their Sharia laws?

While the UAE’s constitution establishes Islam as the country’s official religion, it also, officially at least, guarantees freedom of worship to those of other religions. Yet as we have reported in other stories, strict laws exist against proselytizing by non-Muslims, blasphemy and converting from Islam: all considered serious crimes punishable by death.

Due to traffic congestion, however, the young men had to settle for watching the ceremony on a large screen outside the stadium grounds.

Pope Francis cherishes God’s Word

Pope Francis cherishes God’s Word

As soon as the pope concluded his speech, they attempted to leave quickly but were again thwarted by the throngs of people. So they had to wait until the service concluded. By that time someone had passed one of them a note, which the fellow simply pocketed without looking at it.  

When the young Muslim men returned home, they began reflecting on the words they’d heard about Jesus bringing love to humanity, and how the pope explained Jesus had come to defeat fear, sin and death by the power of God's love. This was all news to them! Their conversation went on and on. How about where he said Jesus came poor, but wealthy in love; that He came to serve, but not to be served? That he healed many, but not himself … allowing himself to be wounded and even put to death!

The whole concept of God’s love for humanity was utterly foreign to them. They had never heard of nor known a loving God.  They learned from their Islamic upbringing that yes, God is beneficent and merciful, but never that He was loving.

The very next day, the man who’d gotten the piece of paper found it in his pocket. It turned out to be a gospel tract published by Bibles for Mideast. He unfolded it to read:

“For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son Jesus, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).

He read the whole tract. ‘Such strange, wonderful news!’ he thought. He called many of his friends and invited them over to read and discuss the words with him. When they arrived and began reading and discussing, another few verses printed on the tract impressed them:

“Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, He himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death” (Heb. 2:14-15).

As they talked, they sensed an unusual power moving among them. They decided to call the cell phone number printed on the back of the tract, which happened to be for a Bibles for Mideast pastor in the Middle East. They spoke at length with him, and asked if they could meet him. He told them to pray to God the Father to show them the truth, the way to salvation and eternal life. He said that in three days, they could get together.

The pastor and the ALG (Assembly of Loving God) Church spent the next three days fasting and praying for the eight young men. When the three days were over, the men met with the minister at his church and heard the gospel message. All eight readily accepted Jesus into their lives as personal savior and Lord! An awesome power engulfed them as they did, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit.

For the last month, each has been secretly studying the word of God, and just last week all were baptized. The new believers want to be involved in our Lord’s ministry and are waiting on God for guidance on what steps to take next. They know that persecution will be fierce and that their lives are now in serious danger. Please pray for them: that our Lord will guide, protect and provide for them in all ways.

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* A large migrant community in oil-rich UAE works building gleaming new towers or as domestic help, often under harsh or discriminatory conditions.

Sinking without a Shepherd

By Pastor Paul, Bibles for Mideast

A sheep wandered away from the fold one day and before she knew it, ended up alone in the jungle. Suddenly, she noticed a wolf racing towards her. She turned and fled, fearing that at any moment the wolf would sink its claws into her. The sheep desperately looked for a way to escape and at last, spied a shallow pond. Barely evading the wolf’s reach, she jumped into the pond and in the heat of the chase, the wolf blindly leaped in after her.

To the surprise of them both, the pond was extremely shallow yet filled with deep recesses of mud. After toppling over each other, the sheep and the wolf found themselves a short distance apart, stuck in mud up to their necks. Both had their heads free, but were unable to get themselves out no matter how much they writhed.

The wolf repeatedly snarled at the sheep and roared, “I am going to enjoy the sound of crunching your bones between my teeth!”

He thrashed about in fury but soon became fretful as he found no prospect of escape.

The sheep thoughtfully laughed as the wolf struggled to free himself and asked him, “Do you have a master?”

The wolf disdainfully replied, “I am strong and am my own master. Why do you ask me if I have a master?”

 “You may be strong and all in the jungle, but here all your power has failed to save your life,” the sheep replied.

“And what about you?” retorted the wolf. “You are going to die here in this mud too!”

The sheep smiled mildly, replying, “No, I am not.”

“If even I cannot free myself from this mud,” snapped the wolf, “then how can you, an ordinary sheep?”

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 “I cannot free myself from this mud, but my master can,” the sheep gently replied. “When he doesn't find me with the fold as dusk sets in, he’ll come looking for me. Once he finds me, he’ll raise me up out of the mud, hold me safe on his shoulders, and take me home.”

The wolf fell silent, glaring coldly at the sheep.

Soon enough, as the sky began to darken, the sheep’s master arrived. He immediately recognized the plight she was in and lifted her to safety. And they walked home.

The wolf sadly looked at them and sank down into the muddy waters, his pride going under as well. Why was his own power no longer enough; where was his master, someone to save him?

Aggressive Islamic militants now serving God and bringing multitudes to Christ

Shah* once lived the life of an aggressive Islamic militant in a Muslim-dominated south Asian country. While the state officially recognized Christianity as a minority religion, it also considered blasphemy against Allah and the Prophet Mohamed great crimes. So with no justification, many would persecute Christians by falsely accusing them of such a ‘crime’.

One day, Shah saw a young Christian man associated with Bibles for Mideast holding a Bible and explaining salvation and the second coming of Jesus to a young Muslim fellow. Shah approached to set him straight. outlining the Islamic belief about ‘Prophet Jesus (Isa)’. He proclaimed forcefully the Islamic belief about Prophet Jesus (Isa): he did NOT die on a cross, but was elevated by Allah and will come back again as ‘Mahdi Imam’, a Messiah who will rule the rule the entire world for 40 years under Islamic (Shari'a) law.  

The Christian minister calmly and politely shared with him how Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary and living a sinless life, really did die on the cross of Calvary.  He then rose from the dead as a ransom to save all humanity from sin and death. Those who believe and follow Him are washed by His shed blood on the Cross. They are His bride and He is coming back in the clouds to receive them. That, he said, is what the Bible teaches.

"Your bible is annulled and false!" Shah screamed. He slapped the evangelist and grabbing the bible from his hands, threw it to the ground. He then set it on fire. The other man joined Shah in the assault, and the two decided to tie the minister up with a rope.

By this time a mob had gathered. They brutally beat the Christian and afterwards handed him over to the police, accusing him of blasphemy against the prophet Mohamed. The court then sent him to prison and within days, he was dead.

Shah and the young Muslim, Asif* rejoiced when they heard of the evangelist’s death in prison. They became fast friends in their crusade against Christianity, and made a sport of persecuting Christians by falsely denouncing them.

One day, the young men worked up a plan of attack on a group of Christians they’d heard were having an extended meeting for fasting and prayer. As they walked to the meeting place, a man joined up with them. He talked with them about the Son of God.

Protests in Pakistan over the killing of a young Christian couple falsely accused of blasphemy.  While Pakistan has a mandatory death sentence for those indicted for blasphemy, 12 other countries can punish with death people who leave or change their religion: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Protests in Pakistan over the killing of a young Christian couple falsely accused of blasphemy.
While Pakistan has a mandatory death sentence for those indicted for blasphemy, 12 other countries can punish with death people who leave or change their religion: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

"God sent His Son, born of a virgin woman, not to condemn the world, but so that the world could be saved through him. That man is Jesus, the Son of God." 

Shah and Asif naturally became infuriated, and wanted to beat him up. Instead, they suddenly stepped back in fear. A heavenly host of warrior angels had appeared behind him! And now, he held a burning bible in his hands—looking just like the bible they’d thrown on the ground and burned when they attacked the Bibles for Mideast worker.

The man grew brighter and brighter, His body now shining like many suns. They noticed nail marks in his hands.

In a powerful voice, He proclaimed: "I am Jesus, the Son of God, who was crucified, died and then rose from the dead. I have come to save you. Don’t let Satan misguide you! He is a liar and a thief. The thief does not come except to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly, now and in eternity. Those who gave their lives for me aren’t lost, but are with me in eternal glory. I am totally revealed in this book,” He said. “Follow me and be my witnesses."

"Lord Jesus!” the men cried, closing their eyes and kneeling before Him. “You are our Saviour and Lord! We believe in You!" When they opened their eyes, Jesus and the angels had vanished.

They practically ran to where the Christians were meeting for prayer. The believers reacted in fear when they saw the men rush in. But their alarm turned to wonder as the two shared their experiences with Jesus and boldly declared their new-found faith.

The men spent several days with the prayer group members, learning more about Christianity. But their turning made them enemies of Islamic fundamentalists and terrorists, who set out to kill them. They fled to another area and began seriously studying God’s word, and eventually were anointed pastors. As persecution persisted and grew, the men headed for the mountains and joined in ministry with Bibles for Mideast. It wasn’t long before a new ALG Church was born in one of the mountain villages.

In our first story on Asif and Shah back in November, we reported on their work and a horrific attack they’d suffered, asking for the prayers of God’s people (Urgent prayer request: Pastors attacked and church demolished by terrorists).

God miraculously answered those prayers, so that a mere two weeks later, we had an exciting update: the entire Muslim village is now Christian (Exciting update: entire Muslim village now Christian)!

Please continue to pray for these men and the work they do in so many dangerous areas, as well as for the many new Christians.

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*
Name changed for security reasons

Drug-addicted, suicidal young Muslim meets Jesus and becomes His powerful witness

Sameer, born and brought up in a fanatic Muslim family, strictly followed the practices of Islam. Whenever doing the ritual namaz (prayers prescribed by Islam to be observed five times a day), he would go further and recite du’a (personal supplications) as well.

“I am facing so many problems in my own personal life and family life and do not know how to overcome them!” he would cry to Allah. “Please hear my prayer, answer me and help me to come out from all my troubles.”

By the time he reached his late twenties, Sameer found his problems had only increased. Mentally anguished and exhausted, he fell into deep depression. He hated life. As anger and suicidal thoughts consumed him, he lost the ability to sleep. Friends recommended and supplied him with mandrax tablets [originally developed for medicinal purposes but now considered dangerous and highly addictive—Ed.], crushed and mixed with dagga (marijuana) to smoke in a pipe. When that lost its ability to sedate him, he began injecting it, and drinking more and more alcohol.  Soon, he was hopelessly addicted.

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While drugs, alcohol, and girls helped mask the severe depression, it and the accompanying emptiness always gnawed within. As his drug tolerance grew, his life revolved around finding the next fix.

One day, his heart broken after a bad relationship, Sameer decided he’d had enough. The only way out would be suicide, he figured. He found a rope, headed for a suitable tree, and prepared to hang himself.

It ‘just happened’ that a gospel convention had gotten underway within earshot. Over the loudspeaker, he could hear a man speaking.

“Oh, for the man about to commit suicide, you don’t have to die!” What? Was he addressing him?

“Our Lord Jesus Christ died for you so you can have peace and life!” The speaker went on. “He died as a ransom for your sins and was raised from the dead to glorify you as His child. If you believe in Jesus you will be saved from sin, iniquities and find help for your problems.”

While he could hardly believe his ears, his heart seemed ready to pounce from his chest. Could it be true? He wrapped the rope around his hand and headed to the convention grounds.

When the people gathered saw, many grew fearful and close to panic. Here was a drunken, known fanatic Muslim—holding a rope at that—and joining a gathering where the one preaching, Pastor Paul of Bibles for Mideast, had converted from Islam to Christianity. Surely he must be coming to attack the preacher. When one man tried to pull Pastor Paul to safety, the evangelist instead asked the fellow with the rope to come to the platform.

Sameer approached, explained what had happened, and asked for prayers. As Pastor Paul told him more about Jesus, Sameer knelt down before the Lord.  Joining with the other pastors at the convention, the evangelist laid his hands on the young man’s head and the leaders all prayed over him.

As they did, Sameer had a strange vision. He saw himself as a helpless sheep attacked by wild animals and held among the thorns in a jungle. He felt sure his life was about to end.

Suddenly, Jesus appeared like a shepherd, saved him from the wild animals, freed him from the thorns and carried him away on His shoulder. Walking with him what seemed a long distance away, Jesus then placed him gently in a fold of sheep, safe behind a beautiful, strong fence. 

"You are my child,” He said to Sameer. “I have marked you upon my palms as your savior. Now, be my witness."

"Lord I accept you as my savior!” Sameer cried out. “I will be your witness."

Baptized within a few days, Sameer soon joined Bibles for Mideast as an evangelist. Four years later, living and working in a remote village of North India, he continues to witness to the amazing love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,, winning many to Christ from among both the local Muslim and Hindu population.

While distributing gospel tracts six months ago, still-unknown assailants attacked him. The situation would have been much worse if some neighboring Hindus had not protected him. And his protectors all soon became Christians as well!

Most of the villagers completely accept and appreciate Sameer. In a region with scarce water and no indoor plumbing, he has been helping dig water wells as well as install toilets in their homes. He surely delights our Lord as he witnesses to God’s love and goodness in both word and deed.

Please pray for him and all the work he and Bibles for Mideast attempt to do, with God’s help, in so many restrictive and dangerous areas.