Evangelical Magazine https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com A bimonthly print magazine, published by the Evangelical Movement of Wales Tue, 23 Jul 2019 15:32:32 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 ‘I have looked into Hell’: The reforming work of Josephine Butler https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/i-have-looked-into-hell-the-reforming-work-of-josephine-butler/ Mon, 19 Aug 2019 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/?post_type=em_article&p=2477 Josephine Butler (1828-1907) was largely responsible for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts in 1886 because she was outraged at the painful and humiliating examinations that prostitutes were subjected to, while the men who used their services got off scot free.

These Acts were intended to control the spread of syphilis in Britain’s armed forces. The vagueness of the Act meant that any women living remotely near an army garrison were potential subjects for examination or even imprisonment. In fact, such was the horror of these intimate examinations, that some women resorted to going to prison rather than endure any more. Josephine campaigned for 16 years to end the degradation imposed upon women. She saw it as her calling from God to take up this cause, viewing it as her ‘great crusade.’

But this cause, perhaps the one for which she is best known, was not the only contribution she made to British society and social reform. The education of women, suffrage, the gender pay gap, the abolition of slavery, the plight of working women, the trafficking of children to foreign brothels, and female education were other causes that she espoused. She was one of the 1,500 women who signed the first petition to Parliament in 1866 in favour of women’s suffrage. She was a published author, editing a collection called Woman’s Work and Woman’s Culture. She reached out to writers on women’s issues across Europe and even in Russia, and was instrumental in setting up an International Federation. Her concerns extended to the territories of the British Empire.

A counter-cultural woman

Josephine Butler was a Victorian woman and was stigmatised for talking about such ‘indecent’ subjects in polite company. No doubt she shocked her neighbours when she gave refuge to prostitutes, taking them into her home. She was very modern in her approach, and set up her own women’s refuge, offering training and employment, as well as shelter, food and clothing. Above all she offered the opportunity to hear about Christ’s atoning work.

She wanted to deliver the women from the ‘hell’ of the oakum sheds. These were sheds where women unpicked fibres from old ropes that had been used in shipping. It was degrading work, and often meted out as punishment to prostitutes or unmarried mothers. It was a place of shame.

A woman of faith

Inspired by her Christian faith, Josephine’s motivation came from the view that men and women were created equally in the sight of God and made in his image. She learned of the Lord from her mother, and she said of herself that she was a Wesleyan. Some likened her style of public speaking to Methodist preaching.  She was taken to meetings during times of revivalist interest. It was when she was about 19 years of age that she records a deep spiritual experience – a ‘travail of soul.’ She would sometimes spend a whole night in prayer in her deep desire to know God and be in a right relationship with him.

Josephine’s father was an influence and an example to her. He was involved in politics; a free churchman who was also concerned for abolition and with a great passion for justice. He spoke passionately to his children about anti-slavery, and particularly the fate of female slaves.

Her father’s accounts of slavery and her own witnessing of the misery of the Irish Potato Famine and people’s ‘uncovered skeleton limbs protruding everywhere from their wretched clothing’ began to awaken her social conscience which she attributed to the purpose that God had for her.

She saw her husband George, who came from a well-educated family and was a classics lecturer and headmaster, as a partner and supporter of her work. He acted like a chaplain to the destitute women whom Josephine brought into their home. He was as politically active as his wife and supported women campaigning for women’s issues, such as women’s education.

Rather than continuing a narrative of her life, I would like to draw lessons from Josephine’s life and reflect upon the challenges she brings to our generation.

  • For Josephine, her own suffering (the death of her young daughter) helped her to enter into the experience of the suffering of others. She prayed for opportunities to reach out to others, even finding her grief and depression motivating factors. She saw her suffering as giving her a unique position to understand others who suffered. This reminds me of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ‘the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.’
  • She viewed the women she helped with dignity, never looking down on them or disparaging them. This draws me to the family tree of our dear Lord Jesus, who was a descendent of women with a sexual past (Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba) and reminds me that in Christ, no matter what our past, we are redeemed.
  • Josephine began her ministry by getting down and dirty with the women she started to reach. She sat among the oakum pickers in the workhouse in Liverpool and picked with them, talking as she did. Many of these women were prostitutes. This reminds me that Jesus was not the one to condemn and revile the woman at the well, he pointed her to himself, the Messiah.
  • Her ministry was gospel-centred. The women she sought to reach acknowledged that Josephine wanted them to love God as she did. This reminds me that though Jesus healed the sick and fed the multitudes his mission was to proclaim the good news of God (Mark 1:14). Our deeds of mercy are empty without this.
  • She showed simple kindness to those women whom society had rejected. This reminds me that kindness is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It seems to be in short supply in our busy times, but it costs nothing.
  • She was not afraid to band together with other women in righting social wrongs and becoming politically active. She soon became the Hon. Secretary of the Ladies’ National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act. This reminds me to pray for Christian women in politics and to see the value of women’s organisations.
  • In her campaigning work, Josephine did not simply appeal to the heart, she used such statistical and other information as was available to her to plead her causes. This reminds me to appeal to head and heart in the concerns and the causes that I espouse.
  • She backed her own cause, selling her jewellery to fund her campaign. This reminds me that following the Lord involves personal sacrifice. Any wealth we may have is not our own. It reminds me of the women in the gospels who funded the daily needs of Jesus and his disciples in their itinerant ministry.
  • She drew strength for her work, which she herself describes as exhausting, from ‘even one hour in the presence of God, with every voice silenced except his.’ We too need to re-charge our spiritual batteries through prayer and communion with God.
  • She continued her work in her widowhood. This reminds me of the ministry of widows in the early church. No matter what our status, God has work for us to do.
  • Josephine wrote of her utter consecration to God. What a challenge!
  • She would pray for the coming of Christ, so that it would bring relief to the suffering of others. How often is that great and glorious day on our lips in prayer?

Josephine is commemorated in a stained glass window in St. Olave’s Church in London and in the Lady Chapel of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral.

The author of this article is indebted to the work of The Christian Institute and author Jane Jordan for their work on the life of Josephine Butler.

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Top tips for sharing Jesus with Muslims https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/top-tips-for-sharing-jesus-with-muslims/ Mon, 12 Aug 2019 17:00:29 +0000 https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/?post_type=em_article&p=2503 Brother Silas, a missionary with the Londin City Mission has spent the last 30 years sharing Jesus with people from Muslim communities, both in the United Kingdom and the Middle East. Here are his top tips for beginning gospel conversations with Muslims.

  1. See the opportunity

Instead of feeling uncomfortable about the presence of Muslims near us, we need to see it as a massive opportunity. For centuries, preaching the gospel in Islamic countries has been extremely difficult and dangerous. But Muslims have now come to us, and we can preach the gospel to them without fear of arrest!

  1. See the opportunity for you

Think about where you see Muslims. If you’re in a city, is your shopkeeper, taxi driver or  neighbour Muslim? If you’re in the country, maybe the kebab shop is run by Muslims or there are Muslim families in your area on a day trip?

  1. Seize the opportunity

Start a conversation with someone you think might be a Muslim by asking questions like: ‘Have you always lived in the UK?’ ‘Where else have you lived?’ ‘Do you have a religion?’  ‘Which one?’ ‘When did you become a Muslim?’ ‘What’s the number one thing that convinces you that Islam is true?’ ‘What’s the number one thing that convinces you that Christianity isn’t true?’

  1. If you feel that such questions are overly direct and imposing, remember two things:

    a) Most Muslims are happy to talk about ‘religion’. Unlike most Britons, it’s something they do all the time – so they’re actually the easiest people to talk to about God and faith!
    b) Most Muslims are confident and passionate about their beliefs, so they might interpret your reticence to talking about your faith as a lack of confidence and passion!

  2. Make the most of the opportunity

Here are a few ways to keep the conversation going:

‘I was born Muslim’ – ‘Oh that’s very different! You see there is no such thing as someone being born a Christian because Jesus said that ‘No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’ Do you know what that means?’

‘Islam teaches that there is only 1 God’ – ‘But Christians also believe in one God, so doesn’t that mean that you have as much reason to be a Christian as a Muslim?’

‘Christianity teaches that Jesus is the Son of God rather than a messenger’ – ‘Haven’t you read how Jesus claimed to be God?’ Open up the Bible to show them such a claim, and ask them what they think.

  1. Create further opportunities

If, for example, the Muslim person asks you a question and you get stuck, say, ‘I don’t know the answer to that. Can I have your mobile number, so when I find the answer, we can meet  up and I can explain it to you?

Brother Silas’ guide to common Muslim views

In my conversations with Muslim friends and contacts, I often hear these comparisons being made between British society and Islamic culture. But not all Muslims see things this way!

Islamic Culture British Society
People oriented Task oriented
Communal individualistic
Hospitable inhospitable
Generous stingy
Family is primary Family is secondary
Warm Cold
Relaxed about time Obsessive about time
Morally conservative No moral values

In my conversations with Muslims about religion, they often view Islam in a more positive light than Christianity. Here’s what some say they see, even though they might not be correct!

Muslims Christians
Growing in numbers fast Declining in numbers fast
High moral standards Low moral standards
Pray five times a day Pray once a week
Worship one God Worship three Gods
Have beliefs that easily make sense Have beliefs that make no sense
All ages believe and worship Many old people believe and worship
Confident and assertive about their beliefs Uncertain and timid about their beliefs
Passionate about their beliefs Apathetic about their beliefs
Some have their book memorised None of them have their book memorised
No/few muslims becoming Christians Lots of Christians becoming Muslims.

Bearing in mind these perceptions  may help us share our faith in a more relevant way and maybe even learn from each other!

To learn more, download our free guide, 10 Things to Remember When Speaking to Muslims: https://www.lcm.org.uk/media/upload/2017/12/11/lcm-10-things-to-share-with-muslims.pdf. Here are some good books to help you get started: Dear Abdullah by Rob Scott (published by IVP) Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi (published by Zondervan).

This article first appeared in Changing London, the magazine of London and its city mission in Spring 2018. It has been reprinted with permission.

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The sinful selfie: Understanding the Western world of the twenty-first century https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/the-sinful-selfie-understanding-the-western-world-of-the-twenty-first-century/ Mon, 05 Aug 2019 17:00:20 +0000 https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/?post_type=em_article&p=2476 Our contemporary society matches Paul’s description of the ‘terrible times in the last days’ in the most startling way. The Bible’s picture and the world we see around us look so much alike that it is breath-taking and cannot be ignored. ‘People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God’ (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Read also Ephesians 4:17-19, Romans 1:18-32 and Isaiah 5:18-23.

A society is defined by what it loves. It will legitimise and legislate for the things it loves. And at the heart of the social revolution, we have witnessed in the Western world in recent years is just one thing – the love of the self. ‘I must be free to be myself!’ People must be allowed to show their ‘true colours’ whatever they may be, be ‘true to themselves’ and be an ‘authentic person.’

Believing there is no God, what else is worth living for but yourself and your pleasures? It is not by accident that our phones and cameras are full of selfies.

A history of the self

Will Storr’s 2017 book, ‘Selfie: How the West became self-obsessed’ is a ‘history of the self.’ In it, the author gives his assessment of how the way people view themselves has changed over time. Probably the greatest change in the way people see themselves began in the mid-nineteenth century as Christianity began to be doubted and rejected. Storr calls the Christian view ‘the bad self.’ This secular author has very little grasp of biblical teaching, but we can, in broad terms, go along with that portrayal. We are all fallen sinners. We need redemption.

But, and I am cutting a long story short here, with the rejection of God, the ‘bad self’ view of mankind was rejected too. It is not us who are to blame. We are only what the world and our parents have made us. This approach began with Freud, and by the mid-twentieth century, the idea of ‘the good self’ held sway. Deep down, human beings are fine. We are only messed up by our experiences. Popular psychology was born.

However, in the last few decades, the ‘good self’ has been pushed much further into what Storr calls ‘the special self.’ Not only are we good, we are great. And if we could only build our self-esteem and understand how extraordinary we are, everyone would know true fulfilment.

The special self

This idea started to emerge into popular culture. Around the late 1980s ‘designer labels’ came into vogue. Children shouldn’t have Tesco’s trainers – they had to have an elite logo on their shoes. Children’s names began to change too. Susan and Peter went. Parents bestowed ‘celebrity’ names: Madison, Tuesday etc. ‘My child is special’ was the message. 1997 saw the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and so kicked off a whole raft of books (see the Shape-shifter series for example) about extraordinary, ‘gifted’, special children who are a cut above the average ‘muggle’. They have sold in their millions. People are told ‘you are special’ and ‘you can be anything you want to be.’ Hard-line atheistic secularism offers people no hope beyond this life, so to be ‘special’ becomes the secular hope.

And often people play out their fantasy of being special on their Facebook page. But as Storr indicates, in this digital age, many young people, having been told they are special, hit the brick wall of realising they are just ordinary. They don’t get many ‘likes’. The ‘special’ generation is not equipped to handle being ordinary. And this can turn into self-hatred and even self-harm.

What a tragedy! We have bought into the love of self, not realising that this was bound to let us down because we are lost and the self is fallen and sinful.

But hallelujah, there is a Father in heaven who loves sinners and sent his Son to redeem us. To be forgiven and become God’s child. This is to be truly ‘special.’

Rewriting history

In 2 Timothy chapter 3, Paul goes on to warn us that as the church labours to get the gospel out to people, there will be false teachers who oppose the truth. We should not restrict the idea of false teaching to the religious cults. The greatest heresy foisted upon us, often through the TV and internet, is that of secularism. Through the media, this false ‘gospel’ is preached every day in almost every home.

I was reminded of this recently while taking a break by the sea in Lyme Regis. This town is at the heart of ‘the Jurassic Coast’ where many early finds of dinosaur and other fossils were discovered.

The BBC was in town filming a new series, starring Kate Winslett telling the story of Mary Anning. Anning was from Lyme, a poor girl who is the unsung heroine of palaeontology. She would collect fossils beneath the crumbling cliffs, to sell them on and provide for her mother and others. The family were Congregationalists, and Wikipedia explains that her prized possession was a bound volume of the Dissenters Theological Magazine and Review, in which the family’s pastor, James Wheaton, had published two essays, one insisting on six-day creation and the other urging dissenters to study the new science of geology.

There is a legitimate story to be told here about the recognition of women and women’s contribution to science. It will be interesting to see whether or not the BBC tend to make this great woman into a Darwinist, even though she died in 1847, twelve years before Origin of Species was published. But what is shocking, however, is that the BBC will depict Anning as a lesbian – something for which there is no evidence whatsoever.

Cultural Marxism

But that is of no consequence to a secular society which is in love with itself. It says, ‘Naturally, we should rewrite history in our own image. Isn’t it obvious that we are so great that every significant person of the past must have been just like us?’. This is the ongoing aggressive, cultural Marxism which confronts the faithful church today, just as Pharaoh’s magicians, Jannes and Jambres, opposed the truth and confronted Moses (2 Timothy 3:8).

We may feel threatened and confused by what is happening in our world. But we are not to fear. As we look into Scripture, we realise that God knows all about what is going on, and he is still on the throne. Though this social revolution is deeply anti-Christian, some chameleon-like churches are trying to fit in with it. They have a ‘form of godliness’ but deny its power. Paul would encourage us not to follow them but to ‘continue in what you have learned and become convinced of’ (2 Timothy 3:14).

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What is your destination? https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/what-is-your-destination/ Mon, 29 Jul 2019 17:00:15 +0000 https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/?post_type=em_article&p=2475 You walk into the railway station and stand at the ticket office. The clerk asks for your destination, and you say, ‘You choose’. Thinking to have misheard, she says, ‘I’m sorry?’. You reply, ‘Anywhere’. She looks at the other clerk, then back to you saying, ‘Would that be Anywhere in Scotland, or Anywhere in Wales?’ Of course, that would never happen. Even if your route is undecided, you must at least have a destination in mind.

Life is a journey and for the Christian a pilgrimage. It is not a pilgrimage to earn or merit salvation, but a walk in obedience to the Lord’s commands, looking to him for guidance. Atheists say there is nothing after death – there is no destination. The Bible disagrees and is a signpost to two possible destinations. The big question is – what is your destination?

Two routes and two gates

Jesus described the two routes we could take, and we must first choose the gate which gives us access onto these different roads. ‘Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.’ (Matt. 7:13-14) The big gate is the most popular choice; you can please yourself what you do and where you go, ignoring God and silencing your conscience. The smaller gate is the one Christ chose when on this earth. He obeyed his Father, even when the going got tough, and he suffered on Calvary to purchase a people for God and a bride for himself. The way was stony but led to everlasting glory for Christ in the presence of his Father, and provides everlasting life and joy for all who trust Christ today. It’s not just eternal bliss after we have died, but gives joy we can experience today. It’s like those free samples offered at food festivals that give you a foretaste of the larger product. Paul says we can experience joy and life in ‘the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it…’ (Ephesians 1:14). The guarantee is a pledge or security of the full inheritance we will have in heaven.

Two destinations

Jesus said there are only two possible destinations. Which one we reach will depend on the road we adopted by our life’s end. Everyone begins on the broad way of the world, which at best ignores, or at worst despises God. This way leads to destruction. That is not annihilation, nor a mere loss of consciousness, but an enduring awareness of guilt, regret and sadness (Matthew 8:12). We will be separated from all God’s good and wholesome gifts which we took for granted; instead, we will be surrounded by evildoers and hopelessness. Worst of all, we will acknowledge that God is good and just, and we deserve his judgment.

We need God’s help and power to change the direction of our lives. Unable to do this by our own strength, we must pray for God to forgive us. We must acknowledge Christ died on our behalf as he bore the penalty for our sins, then he will give us the blood-bought ‘ticket’ for our journey and entrance to heaven. That ‘ticket’ is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which gives us the beginning of eternal life now. When we travel in a railway carriage, the inspector will ask us to show our ticket to prove we have paid for the journey. Although God knows all those who are travelling to heaven lawfully, he says that there are signs to show ourselves and others that our claims are genuine. Essentially, they are obedience to God and love to Christ and our brothers and sisters who believe the gospel (1 John 2:3, 3:14).

Journey’s end

What will our final destination be like? Who has been there and returned to tell us what to expect? The only reliable source of information is Jesus Christ, whose home is heaven. When Jesus was leaving the disciples, he revealed, ‘In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.’ (John 14:2-3) The world was made in six days, but Jesus has been preparing our home for 2,000 years. It will be magnificent.

The apostles Paul and John had glimpses of heaven. Paul, in a vision, was caught up into the third heaven or paradise, and ‘heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter’ (2 Corinthians 12:4). He said, however, that when he died, he would ‘be with Christ, for that is far better’ (Philippians 1:23). John said Christ ‘will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’ (Revelation 21:4). There is much to look forward to, but there is more.

The new heavens and the new earth

Believers die and go to be with the Lord, and although without our resurrection bodies, we will not be unconscious. The thief on the cross who believed went straight to paradise and knew he was with his Lord, just as the poor man Lazarus would have known Abraham. The rich man in Hades was also able to reason and talk and could see Lazarus being comforted by Abraham (Luke 16:19-31). We do not know exactly what our intermediate state is like before the resurrection, but for the believer, it will be a joyful conscious existence with some awareness of events on earth. The rich man was aware of his remaining family, and the martyred saints were aware of the continuing persecution back on earth (Revelation 6:10).

Platonism said that anything material was sinful or corrupt, and only the spiritual and immaterial were virtuous and eternal. That idea lingers to this day. Although sinful flesh is corrupt and passes away (1 Corinthians 15:50) at the resurrection believers will have new glorified bodies like Christ’s resurrected body (Philippians 3:21, Romans 8:11,23). There will then be a re-created earth and surrounding universe to enjoy with Christ forever. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones comments on Romans 13:11-14: ‘The whole universe was affected by the fall, so that we do not see it as it was originally. But it will be restored when the great regeneration takes place after our Lord has returned.’

Now that is a destination to look forward to!

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Serving the Lord in Central Asia https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/serving-the-lord-in-central-asia/ Thu, 25 Jul 2019 17:00:09 +0000 https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/?post_type=em_article&p=2474 An interview with Franki and Cindy Yip.

Why do you count Wales as home?

A lot of our important life events took place in Wales, so our family counts Wales as home.

We were born in Hong Kong but were ‘born again’ in the UK. To further our education, we moved to England and eventually to Wales in the mid-1980s. We met while studying at Cardiff University. Each of us also received the calling to mission during our student days.

After graduating from university, we started work in Wales. Franki, a city and transport planner, was involved in the redevelopment of Cardiff Bay. Cindy worked as a pharmacist in the community sector in south Wales. We both enjoyed our jobs and felt settled, but we knew that God had called us into mission, and we continued to prepare ourselves and wait upon his timing.

We married in 1994 at Heath Evangelical Church. The Lord blessed us with two lovely children, and our daughter started school at Lakeside Primary. However, when God called us to move on, we humbly obeyed and followed his path of choosing.

Tell us about your upbringing in Hong Kong and your coming to faith.

Franki. I was brought up in a non-Christian family with two elder brothers. My father was a classical Chinese scholar and a well-known poet while my mum, in contrast, is a good but low-key Chinese artist. As a family, we were very close and looked out for each other. During childhood, both my father and my mother went through life-threatening illnesses at different times, and we witnessed how our parents laid down everything to look after each other (and of course us as well) in their long journeys of recovery. To ensure I received a good education, my parents sent me to a good Anglican school in Hong Kong. It was as part of the curriculum there that I encountered Jesus through studying the four gospels. Jesus’ life, sayings and teaching caught my attention even though I was not keen to study the subject. His life was ingrained into my thought and mind as a result. Then the surprise conversion of my eldest brother was another significant factor. Inspired by God’s love, he gave up his place in a UK medical school so that my family could gather enough money to fund the education of my second brother’s and myself in the UK. Arriving in London, I met a group of lovely, youthful Christians. Through their lives and love for Jesus, I gradually came to see the goodness of coming to God. One evening, I repented from my sins and surrendered my life to Jesus in London while writing a letter to my friend. It was such a joy to receive Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. It was such grace that both of my parents committed their lives to Jesus a few years after that.

Cindy. My two sisters and I were brought up by lovely and kind parents. Although they were not Christians, they chose to send us to Catholic schools to receive a good education. As a child, I learned about the Creator God in the Bible in school but also about different gods through my family’s ancestor worship and folk Buddhism. When I came to the UK, I was exposed to more Christian influence while studying in Christian boarding schools. When I eventually went to university, I was certain that gods exist, but I wasn’t sure which one was the one true God. Seeking the meaning of life, I started to pray. My prayer went like this: ‘Lord, please reveal to me the one true God and lead me to the path of your choosing, no matter what uncertainties or difficulties that may cause.’ The Lord answered my prayer through difficulties and uncertainties, and I encountered him in a personal way. He is sovereign and he is love. I committed my life to him and accepted him as my Lord and Saviour.

What were the joys and challenges of serving the Lord in Central Asia?

It is our joy to see his grace and faithfulness, regardless of our weaknesses and failures. In our years of pioneering ministries in Central Asia among Muslims in particular, we felt privileged to see God’s work in different and often difficult circumstances. Conversions might be rare, but seeing lives being transformed when they encountered God was such a joy! We learned about the glory of God through the suffering of his faithful servants and followers of Jesus from a close distance. We experienced his amazing provisions, miraculous healings and answers to prayers in our lives. It was such a joy and privilege to have close fellowship with believers and workers from such a diverse cultural background.

What happened when you returned to the UK?

We were asked to join the team at the UK headquarters of WEC International.

Franki. In 2012, I took on the coordination role of mobilising UK Chinese diaspora churches. This involves introducing and equipping others for cross-cultural mission and helping churches to rethink world mission as part of their core values.

In the last few years, God has extended the ministry and given opportunities to train Muslim background believers from Central Asia and North Africa. I also helped a non-western mission organisation to develop through mobilising different church networks in different countries, mentoring and preparing a new generation of workers from south-east Asia.

Cindy. I was initially involved in WEC’s short term mission programme, selecting and preparing candidates, and communicating with their home churches while they were abroad. Then I moved on to engaging churches and individuals in London and south-east England and mobilising them into mission. This took the form of speaking in churches and representing WEC in mission conferences, mission fairs and Christian unions. Also, I was on the Acceptance Panel for long term mission candidates helping to select and accept missionary candidates to join WEC long term. Over the last four years, I have been studying part-time for an MA in missiology. My passion is to see missionary personnel being nurtured, developed and empowered for effective and sustainable life, ministry and work. I have now joined Franki in engaging and mobilising the Chinese diaspora throughout the UK.

Many churches are not keen to participate in world mission for various reasons. But when we look back and see the streams of new workers coming to participate in world mission, as well as the churches which step up their commitments to world mission, we thank God for his grace in allowing us to see his work among these brothers, sisters and churches. More excitingly, God has allowed us to see more people from different ‘tribes and nations’ joining the worship of the Lord and involving themselves in God’s mission. These are just glimpses of his glory, and we await more to come (Rev. 5:9-10).

Challenges remain, but it is indeed his work. We feel privileged and honoured to involve in a tiny part of his plan.

So why are you returning to Wales? Will you be available to serve in local churches?

We felt that this move to set up a base back in south Wales was initiated by God, and it is solely by his grace and amazing provision. He must have reasons behind this. We are therefore listening attentively to his leading. We thank God and would like to thank those fellow workers who have been praying with and for us. We are still involved in world mission through our involvement in churches around the UK as well as through training of a new generation of mission workers from different backgrounds around the world. We are open and available for the local churches. Please contact us if we can help you. franki.yip@wecinternational.org

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Seeing others through the eyes of Jesus https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/seeing-others-through-the-eyes-of-jesus/ Mon, 22 Jul 2019 17:00:13 +0000 https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/?post_type=em_article&p=2472 Jesus’ conversation at Jacob’s well with the woman of Samaria gives a wonderful insight into his gracious ministry. Read through John chapter 4 and be encouraged to engage with the people we meet each day in this broken world.

Seeing people with open eyes

Jesus was different from his disciples. They didn’t really see people or have compassion for them. They would have travelled through Samaria without engaging with anyone. The same can be true of us as we live among people – family, neighbours, work, school and college. Do we take any interest in them? Jesus told his disciples to ‘open their eyes.’ Are our eyes open? Do we ‘see’ the people around us?

Jesus and the disciples were travelling from Judea to Galilee. It was midday, and they were hungry. The disciples left Jesus by the well and went into the town to buy food. When they returned, they wanted to have lunch. They were surprised to find Jesus talking with a woman! They couldn’t understand why Jesus would take any interest in a Samaritan woman. They thought to ask her, ‘What do you want?’ In other words, ‘Go away, because we are going to have our lunch!’

The disciples had low expectations. They knew the long history of Jewish-Samaritan tensions. Nothing significant ever happened in Samaria! They knew God was interested in Jewish people, but surely not in Samaritans. Today we, too, may have low expectations of what God can do. Why should we bother with the people around us? Even when we do try to reach out to them, usually nothing happens!

So, we fill our lives with all kinds of interests and activities and ignore the needs of those around us. We allow ‘good’ things to take the place of the ‘best’ things. The disciples were more interested in having lunch than telling this woman the good news of Jesus. Like them, we may not want to ‘get involved’ with people, especially if they have problems!

Jesus was very different. He was weary, but his eyes were open. He saw the woman, and his heart went out to her. His conversation with her revived his strength. When the disciples returned and urged him to eat something, he told them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.’ Showing loving care to the woman fulfilled his ministry and was a much greater priority than having a cool drink or eating lunch!

Looking beyond the surface

As soon as Jesus saw the woman coming to draw water, he knew she was needy. She was coming to draw water at midday, the hottest part of the day. People who live in hot countries do the heavy work in early morning when it is cool. Also, she was coming to an ancient well which was deep and hard to draw water from. There was another, newer, well which served that town and was easier to draw water from. Most people went to that well. So why was this woman drawing water from Jacob’s well in the middle of the day? Do we take time to observe the people among whom we live?

Starting a conversation

The way Jesus started the conversation is very helpful. He asks her to give him a drink. When we have a problem or need help with something, it’s a great opportunity to talk to our neighbours. Usually, they will be very happy to help us.

The woman’s response to Jesus’ request wasn’t encouraging, ‘You are a Jew and I’m a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink? For Jews don’t associate with Samaritans.’ We can be afraid of negative responses and so either don’t begin a conversation or are easily put off.

However, Jesus continues the conversation and moves on to vital issues about his identity and his willingness to give her eternal life, if she will only ask him. This is a great gospel statement. We have only to ask Jesus for eternal life and we will receive it.

Again, the woman’s reply is negative. She challenges Jesus’ claim to greatness and his ability to give her living water. She’s happy with the water from Jacob’s well. Some people today reject the unique claims of Jesus and the wonderful promises he makes. So, it’s important for us to maintain contact with them graciously.

Jesus never treats the woman as she treats him but develops the conversation. Water only satisfies our thirst for a short time, but the gift he gives will become ‘a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ To this, the woman replies that she doesn’t believe there is anything that can relieve her from the daily drudgery of fetching and carrying water. Like many people today, she doesn’t believe that true, deep inner satisfaction is possible and can be found in Jesus.

Responding with compassion

Jesus then talks about her family situation. He knows she has suffered deep pain and sadness in a succession of broken marriages and is now living with a man to whom she is not married. Some people assume that her broken marriages show her to be an immoral woman, but it is almost certain that her husbands had divorced her. Some may have died. She had experienced painful rejection by several husbands. There was nothing she could do when they divorced her. The man she was now living with her wasn’t willing to marry her but expected her to do all the work.

When Jesus spoke about her sad marriage experiences, he was showing loving concern for her. Later she told the people she had met a man who told her ‘everything I ever did.’ How wonderful it is that Jesus knows all about us and doesn’t reject us but affirms his love for us!

Many people around us have experienced deep pain and sadness in their lives. Do we respond to them with compassion? How would we respond to a lady who came to one of our services who had been married five times and was now in a common-law relationship?

Seeing Christ

Through talking with Jesus, the woman began to think about God and his promises. Something she probably hadn’t done for a long time. She said, ‘I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ Then Jesus declared, ‘I who speak to you am he!’ The Messiah has come! He will make sense of all the sadness and pain in her life and give her hope!

Just then, the disciples returned with food. They had no sensitivity to the glorious moment of self-revelation that had just happened. They were glad when the woman left now they could have lunch! They were typical Jewish men and not at all like Jesus. We need to be more like Jesus if we are to make a difference to the lives of the people around us!

The woman told the people, ‘Come see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?’ As a result, many people came to Jesus. He stayed with them for two days and many believed in him. They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Saviour of the world.’

What an encouragement this passage is to us to engage with the people we meet every day in this broken world! They may come to know the Lord and, be, perhaps, the means of many others coming to know him too.

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From bare-knuckle fighter to Sunday school teacher https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/from-bare-knuckle-fighter-to-sunday-school-teacher/ Thu, 18 Jul 2019 17:00:47 +0000 https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/?post_type=em_article&p=2470 I had a hard life growing up, I was bullied in school, and my best friend died. Then at 21, I lost my father, which I never really recovered from. For 21 years I worked underground mining coal but the pit closed and I missed the camaraderie and the purpose mining gave me. I have three grown-up kids, but one of my boys is currently in prison.

But I enjoyed working security for large events and now run drilling rigs in quarries. I met my wife at 14, and she has always stuck by me still to this day. My daughter and granddaughter still live with me, and my boy is looking to join me in church when he comes out of prison.

A hard man

I know that I am a hard man. It was the bullying at school that toughened me up. What had happened to me, I began to love to do to others. Fighting was my passion.

All the boys across the valleys knew me, and many would travel from far and wide to come to our local pub and challenge me in a bare-knuckle fight. I would never back down. I would fight anyone. Even if I lost, it did not bother me; I loved the thrill of the fight. The pain and the injuries made me feel alive.

Anytime church was mentioned to me, I would laugh. I thought it was all nonsense. But a few years ago I was walking my dog down the train line in Abersychan and met an old friend, Colin. He had a similar reputation to me; he was a tough man who I dearly respected. He told me that he had found God and his life had changed. He invited me to church. I laughed and left the conversation in disbelief.

Over the next few weeks, Colin was on my mind. If God can change Colin, perhaps he could do something with me?

A new man

To my surprise, I went to church. I enjoyed it, and I kept going, but it was many months later that God spoke to me.

I was at our weekly men’s meeting on a Thursday night, and as Pastor John was speaking, God worked in my heart, and I came to the realisation that it was all true. I am saved by the blood of the lamb. Jesus is my Lord and my God.

Normally after our weekly men’s meeting, I usually go straight to bed as I have to get up at 5am for work. But this night I couldn’t sleep. I will never forget it. I called Pastor John from my bed at 11:30pm and told him that something has happened to me. I told him I knew it is all true.

A changed man

Last year I had a near miss in the car. The gentlemen in the other car was very angry. He stopped, got out of the car and slammed the door. He came running at me for a fight. I was so tempted to go back to my old ways and teach him a lesson. But instead, I grabbed him by the shirt to restrain him and calmly explained that if it were not for Jesus Christ working in my life, he would be in hospital. The man quietly went back to his car. I now take gospel tracts with me to give out if anything like this happens again. I seem to attract this kind of thing! Jesus showed me a better way, and I am not going back to who I was.

Since then, my faith has grown stronger and stronger. I am now at the door every Sunday morning welcoming people into church, and I run the homeless work for Noddfa. I have also become a Sunday school teacher – the kids love to colour in my tattoos. I am also training to become a deacon. I help Pastor John organise Carols Under the Arch and every year I meet old friends who cannot believe the change in me. They laugh as I once did at Colin. I pray for them.

The truth is that I am a different person now; the world can see it, and it is all down to God.

What I say to people is simple. If God can change my life, He can change anyone’s.

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Being the church https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/being-the-church/ Mon, 15 Jul 2019 17:00:33 +0000 https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/?post_type=em_article&p=2469 Robert Murray McCheyne famously once said, ‘The Christian is someone who ought to make it easier for the unbeliever to believe in God.’ We live in sad days where the vast majority of people are clueless when it comes to either knowing or understanding the gospel. It’s often said that we live in a broken society. The Bible reminds us that we are people whose relationship with God is broken as a result of our sin and rebellion. How distinctive are we as Christians? How do we impact a world so hopelessly lost?

A few years ago I was particularly challenged when I was asked, ‘If we were to stop doing what we were doing, would anyone notice?’ Honestly? Probably not. A couple of neighbours might notice that it would be easier to get in and out of their driveways. But it became apparent that our impact was at best minimal. Why was this?

Firstly, the church had become a place where activity took place, but the majority of people who were impacted for good were either mature believers or folk who had been immersed in a Christian atmosphere and were wholly comfortable with church activity.

Secondly, time, money and effort were invested in upgrading our facilities with the view that people would be more inclined to engage with us and attend our array of services and ministries. Sadly though, nice meetings and facilities don’t help us in reaching broken people with broken lives.

Being salt and light

On the occasion of my induction to the pastorate at Park Chapel in 2002, Rev Jim Webber reminded us that the church is the people and the chapel is the building. What our nation needs is for the church to be the church. A blood-bought people, belonging to God, who have been called out of darkness into his most marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9). A people who not only know the truth but a people who demonstrate this truth. What our nation needs more than anything, is for God’s people to live godly lives in the face of an ungodly generation.

Following his resurrection, the Lord Jesus appeared to his disciples on that first evening (John 20:19) and reminded them that they enjoyed peace with God through his death on the cross. Jesus showed them his wounds, reassuring them that he truly was raised from the dead. He breathed upon them and promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would empower them in being his witnesses, starting in Jerusalem and spreading throughout Judea and Samaria to the far-flung towns and cities throughout the world. He gave them a message of hope and forgiveness.

In Matthew’s gospel, the Lord Jesus says we are to be like ‘salt and light’ (Matthew 5:13-14). Engagement with our local communities is essential if we are to live in obedience to our Saviour. For too long, we have shut ourselves away through fear and apathy. When I moved to Merthyr Tydfil, a local councillor, who wasn’t a believer, told me that what Merthyr needed was to have practical Christians. What he meant by that, was for Christians to engage with and take some responsibility for their community. If we truly believe that Jesus Christ is the only answer for man’s sin and brokenness, then we need to not only preach ‘Christ and him crucified’, but to live out that truth in our lives. The Lord’s solemn pledge made to his disciples on that resurrection evening (John 20:22), was fulfilled through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit, to transform us and make us more Christlike.

This needs to be demonstrated and exhibited before a world that watches, praying that people may see the beauty of the risen Lord in our lives. A forgiven people showing forgiveness. Recipients of God’s grace being gracious. Those who have been shown mercy, being merciful. Sadly some of the most unforgiving, ungracious, judgemental people I have met have been those who profess to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ.

Standing out as God’s people

We often ask, what should we do to reach and connect with a fallen world? But the answer lies not in what we do but in who we are. ‘We are not our own, we have been bought with a price’, children born of God, children of the King. In a world where integrity is rare, deception is the norm, and selfish ambition takes over, God’s people should stand out!

Have we lost our saltiness? Do we hide our light under a bowl? Scripture reminds us that light always overcomes the darkness (John 1:5). People should see in us the light of his life and men would then note our good works, resulting in glorifying God (Matthew 5:16).

I love the story of a Christian man who worked on the line at Hoover’s factory in Merthyr. For many years he graciously witnessed to the saving grace of God in his life, but no-one seemed bothered or interested. Nearing his retirement, he came across a wrench at home which he had borrowed some months earlier from work and had forgotten to take it back. This troubled him to such an extent that he returned it to his foreman one Saturday morning. To his amazement, the foreman thanked him for his honesty and said, ‘I’ve listened to you talk about Jesus on and off for several years, but it had no effect on me. But if your God can make you bring back a wrench, then I want to know this God for myself.’ Often our witness has no effect because people see the inconsistency in our lives. Often our testimony is mere words not backed up with godly living.

Do we use our time, gifts and abilities for his glory? Are our homes utilised for his honour? Are we genuinely troubled with the thought of friends and family going to a lost eternity? When was the last time we wept over our sin and wept over lost souls? When was the last time we earnestly pleaded with the Lord for him to come and intervene in the hearts of men, women, boys and girls?

A praying people

Not only do we need to rediscover what it means to live godly, sacrificial lives, but also we need to rediscover the beauty and power of prayer. Lord, teach us how to pray! (Luke 11:1) We can get so caught up with programs and evangelistic events, that we miss the wood for the trees! A broken world needs to witness at first hand that our God is able to do far more than we can ever dare think or imagine.

As Jesus himself often faced criticism for spending time with people whom society had written off (Matthew 9:11), we too must shrug off similar criticism as we seek to engage with those who are in danger of dying without knowing Christ. The Bible reminds us that people who die without Christ go to hell. But God, in his great mercy, offers an undeserving world His great salvation. This is a day of small things which we should not despise. I’m reminded every week when I look out at the assembled congregation in Park Chapel of the Lord’s continuing grace. People of all ages and backgrounds who have come to saving faith in the Lord Jesus in recent years. Men and women, boys and girls, rich and poor, the educated and the unschooled, the moral and immoral all who have come to know and understand the awfulness of their sin and have come into a personal living relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

Friends, keep on keeping on! Jesus says, ‘you are my witnesses’, salt and light for my name’s sake. These are dark and desperate days, yet God’s arm hasn’t been shortened that he cannot save! He is still building his church, and may we who are his church, continue to pursue holiness and live godly sacrificial lives, engaging with our communities, for his own glory!

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We love because he first loved us https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/we-love-because-he-first-loved-us/ Thu, 11 Jul 2019 17:00:36 +0000 https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/?post_type=em_article&p=2467 I have never forgotten the day I was in church, and a medical student stood up and shared from 1 John 4:19, ‘We love because he first loved us.’ I had always understood the text as it is rendered in the King James version: ‘We love him because he first loved us.’ In a very simple way, this student made me see that not only is the Bible silent as to object of our love but that the context was about love for others rather than love for God. That was an eye-opener!

This is a pregnant statement that is both assuring and convicting. It is the type of statement that you want to frame and put up in your home. It is simple and yet profound. It speaks about us as human beings yet points us to our glorious Maker and Redeemer.

It speaks about us as human beings who need love and are surrounded by a broken world that desperately needs love. Sadly, true love is in serious short supply. What many people call love is actually lust. True love acts sacrificially for the welfare of others.

We are in a world of violence in the home and in society. We are surrounded by men and women who are unfaithful to marriage covenants and other agreements, causing those who are the most vulnerable in those relationships to suffer immense injustice.

Think also of the many people who have suffered the loss of their money and property due to the inconsiderate actions of others. Many have been forced to leave home and country to become refugees for dear life’s sake. They are totally at the mercy of others day by day.

Christians love other people

What I love about this biblical assertion is that it is a statement of fact: ‘We love.’ This is a litmus test of whether we are Christians or not. Christians love. They live for the wellbeing of those around them. This is not only what they should do. It is what they do!

The apostle John stated the same truth earlier in his epistle. He wrote, ‘We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death’ (1 John 3:14). We all must examine ourselves in the light of this truth.

John also wrote, ‘Whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love’ (1 John 4:7b–8). The logic in these words of the apostle is unescapable. Whoever does not love cannot be a true Christian.

I love how John Piper has phrased this recently. He says, ‘Christians are concerned about all human suffering—especially eternal suffering.’ In other words, we do not choose between preventing social ills and eternal damnation. We want to prevent both.

Bearing in mind that we are all born chronically self-centred and selfish, it must take the almighty regenerating work of God in the human soul to turn that self-serving energy around so that we begin to think of and work towards the wellbeing of others first.

What motivates us as Christians to do this? It is God’s love for the world that is now deeply planted in our hearts. We want to emulate him. It is also God’s love for us that causes us to love him back by loving his image-bearers. We owe him an immeasurably great debt.

God’s image is restored in us

What the fall in Genesis 3 did was to mar the image of God in us. Thus, we humans now live like wild beasts. We survive by the law of the jungle – survival of the fittest. That explains why the first brothers, Cain and Abel, ended up with one murdering the other.

Salvation restores the image of God in us. We are renewed in the likeness of God, and thus his nature begins to ooze out of us. We are enabled to love because we become like God whose nature is love. God is love! To say that this is life-changing is an understatement.

We love because God first loved us. He is the prime example. The apostle Paul used this a lot to challenge believers to love. He wrote, ‘Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’ (Ephesians 5:25). He is the example to follow.

This is not for husbands only. All of us must look up to the example the Lord Jesus Christ if we are to love others truly. The apostle Paul also wrote, ‘And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’ (Ephesians 5:2).

In case you are tempted to limit this love to believers loving fellow believers, Jesus taught, ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?’ (Matthew 5:43–46).

There is no excuse. We are to love all those around us. We are to love the good, the bad and the ugly. We are to do so out of gratitude. Look at how much God has loved us in the death of his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the offended party, yet look at what he did for us.

As we saw earlier, this pregnant statement draws a very clear line in the sand. You cannot be in the middle. You must be on one side or the other of salvation. Are you saved, or are you not? Do you love others intentionally, or are you still chronically selfish?

If you find yourself on the wrong side of this line, you should not despair. Go to Christ in prayer and plead with him to save you. Refuse to rest until you see this loving transformation in your life. The broken world needs true Christians exuding with God’s love!

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The Fall Revisited https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/article/the-fall-revisited/ Mon, 08 Jul 2019 17:00:23 +0000 https://www.evangelicalmagazine.com/?post_type=em_article&p=2466 I recently reread my favourite book, Kokoro. It’s an excellent novel, though very little happens! Split into three parts, the relationship unfolds between a student and his sensei. With Natsume Sōseki’s subtle description of mood, you can easily miss a lot of detail the first time you read it. Rereading the book helped illuminate details I’d missed and recapture its brilliance.

I’ve read Genesis 3 on many occasions and taught it in a variety of contexts, but recently I’ve studied it in greater depth. As with the novel I reread, studying Genesis 3, and particularly the three curses, helped me to recapture some of its significance and highlighted details I hadn’t appreciated.

As God declares pronouncements upon the three characters involved in the fall, so they have three significant elements.

Three dealings with death

We begin with the snake and God’s pronouncement upon him. He will eat dust and crawl on his belly in the dust. While it’s not exactly a comment on the dietary habits of snakes, if you crawl around in the dust inevitably you’ll get it in your mouth! But dust itself is significant because God formed Adam from dust in chapter 2. I think the reason for that, is to signify human mortality – when a dead body is left to decompose, it turns back into a dust-like substance, so our essential makeup is mortal. The snake then is cursed by crawling among death and by feasting upon death.

The pronouncement upon the woman involves pain in childbearing and in giving birth, which likely spans the duration from conception to labour. The two words used for pain can mean raw emotional kinds of pain, such as anguish and sorrow. If that’s intended here, as I (and others) believe it is, then it indicates anxiety over whether this child in the womb will be brought safely into the world and sorrow when that is not the case. There is a dance with death in childbirth as a result of the fall.

For the man, his toil of the ground is affected by the curse upon it. The same word as for the woman is used for the man in his painful toil. Again that might include a sense of anxiety. For the community that relies on the harvesting of crops, there is an anxiety over whether those crops will come to fruition, or whether they’ll be blighted bringing famine resulting in death. What’s more, as he has come from the ground, so it will one day swallow him up in death, since he is of the dust of the earth.

The snake crawls among death, and the woman and the man have anxiety and sorrow about death in their roles in childrearing and providing. Even though we try and ignore it, death lingers among us in every situation like a bad odour we cannot eradicate.

Three points of conflict

It’s explicitly stated that there will be enmity between the snake and the woman. The resulting expectation is that the Devil will provoke ongoing conflict with humanity. As that is expanded, the offspring of the snake and the woman reach a moment of conflict where the offspring has their heel struck as the head of the snake’s offspring is struck. This, of course, is the great promise fulfilled in Jesus as he crushes the evil one underfoot as he is struck. It’s also a victory that his people will share in (Romans 16:20). Nevertheless, the conflict of evil with humans still significantly abounds.

The conflict for the woman with the man is a little more contentious, not least because of some ambiguity with the precise intention of the words. The desire of the woman for the man, and the rule of the husband over her, could be interpreted in positive tones. Nevertheless, given the other conflict points in the other curses, I would suggest that there is at least an element of negative conflict and strife in the relationship between men and women – husbands and wives – which is the result of the fall.

For the man, he has conflict with the soil. As he comes to cultivate the earth, so it fights back with thorns and thistles, resulting in difficult and demanding work. He must struggle against the earth just to receive life from it. This struggle is one which continues until that day when the ground claims his life again. The very source of his sustenance for life is the one that will one day reclaim him.

Pre-fall, chapter two is one of harmonious living – animals living with humans, humans living together and all that in a beautiful garden where all food is freely provided on the trees. Post-fall, out of the garden in chapter three and beyond, this harmony becomes a cacophony as conflict abounds between evil, humans and the earth.

Three obstacles to the commission

In chapter one, humans were given their commission to extend God’s loving rule by ruling over all the animals in the created order. Humans were supposed to have a caring dominance over all the fish, birds, domestic and wild animals. But as the curse is given to the snake, so this animal usurps that rule by seeking to dominate. The tables are turned, and humankind now finds it more difficult to exert that loving rule over the creatures.

The commission was also given to increase in number by having numerous children and grandchildren, and so filling the earth with the glory of God as those made in his image. But now, since death is a possibility in childbirth, so the capacity to multiply is inhibited by this new reality.

To help humans to fulfil God’s commission, God gave them the plants and fruit trees to supply their needs. They were freely given to enable humans to flourish in ruling, multiplying and filling. But now, such sources of food were not guaranteed. Not only would it be hard work bringing home the harvest, but also there was now no certainty.

God provided sustenance to rule and to fill the earth and so to take his kingdom as his image bearers into all the earth. But, in light of chapter three, we are significantly limited in our ability to do even the very first task we have been given, and so live for God.

Conclusion

The fall is enormously significant in understanding our desperate human condition. We are unable to do what God would have us do, we end up in a position of conflict with this world and with each other, and death lurks around every corner of our lives. Without Jesus, this is our hopeless condition – this is the condition of the world we inhabit. In revisiting Genesis 3, we are again made aware of the depth of our despair, which can but bring us to our knees in thankfulness that Jesus has come to reverse the fall, conquer evil and bring the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

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