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Three crosses at Calvary have become the symbol by which Christians have remembered the day Jesus of Nazareth died. To those who crucified Him, He was actually being executed for claiming to be the “King of the Jews”, a threat seen by the Roman government as one who would insight insurrection. To the Jews, He was committing blasphemy and they just wanted Him dead. What we fail to remember, however, or even learn, is that the death Jesus died was a very common death for the worst of the worst criminals of His day. Murderers, pirates, those who were threats to the Roman government, all were hung on crosses to die a horrible death that would in many cases run the course of three to four agonizing days before the suffering criminal’s own body drown in its own fluids or he died of exhaustion. Few people even know that the crosses were generally placed in odd numbers, with the worst criminal hung in the center. How fitting this is for Jesus, who, in His death, carried the weight of every sin ever committed by all mankind.
No fewer than three times, Jesus had told His followers that He would die and rise again. In hindsight, we may ask why, after all they saw Him do, did they still doubt Him? Would we have been any better?
One such example of this happening can be found in Mark 8:31-33, “And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him. 33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.” (emphasis mine). Notice how, although just one verse prior, Peter had declared that Jesus was the Christ, he now denied that He, (Jesus) knew what He was talking about when He predicted His own death!
The disciples and others had seen Jesus perform many miracles in His ministry. Perhaps the one that would be considered by many to be the most remarkable was raising Lazarus from the dead. If these men and other witnesses had seen this miracle of a man who had been in the tomb four days walk out when commanded to, why could they not accept it when Jesus said that He would do the same Himself?
One thing we know is this. There were witnesses to the raising of Lazarus. Nobody saw Jesus leave the grave. Sure, stories and theories about conspiracies abounded and continue to even today. But what about the countless sightings of Him in the days that followed?
All of this, however, must be set aside and can be examined later. At this time when we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, let us never think that He died because he was murdered. Let us never think that He was taken against His will. Jesus was living in glory in heaven in perfect harmony with the Father. He willingly came to Earth in the form of an innocent baby, humble and helpless and needing the care of His mother, to grow up and be not a king who would be served, but a servant King. He served us, those who deserve nothing, by giving His life that we may live eternally.
This sacrifice was a gift. And like any gift, it must be accepted. It must be picked up and recognized for what it is. It must be applied and embraced. If you have done this already then I am overjoyed that you have accepted the gift of Jesus and His forgiveness and sacrifice. By the same token, if you have not, let this be the day that you do. If you wish to discuss this with a member of our ministry or have any questions, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Serving Him through Serving Others,
James M. Dakis, D. Min.
You could almost set your calendar by it every year. Between March and May, the rains come to Nairobi County and surrounding areas in Kenya’s capital city where the population of over 3.3 million people live in the nation’s largest city. While one can find all the amenities of a modern western city here, a closer look both inside and just outside can see that much of what is present is still a remnant of the poverty that has stricken this nation since it gained its independence from British rule in 1963.
The slow move to economic growth has come as a result of many things but the relentless and tireless work of godly men such as Mr. George Otieno Sera of Alliance Vision Education Centre, along with his dedicated staff, have seen to it that orphans have been cared for here since October 2008. We have featured some of the events and successes of this wonderful Ministry Partner of ours in the past and are pleased to say that they continue to thrive today. Unfortunately, as is the case every year, the rainy season is upon the people of Nairobi and the flooding has been devastating.
Alliance Vision Education Centre has been blessed yet challenged with the education and oversight of over 200 at-risk children. Needless to say, this is a task which takes an exhausting amount of funding to take on. For this reason, a fundraiser has been started to ensure that the ministry can continue on. You can be an active participant in making these children’s lives better by going to https://www.gofundme.com/avecfundraiser and pledging your support. You can also go to http://avec.webs.com/ and see the AVEC website first-hand to see exactly what is happening.
However you are able to partner with this wonderful ministry, on behalf of all of us involved, I wish to thank you and may the Lord richly bless you.
Serving Him through Serving Others,
James M. Dakis, D.Min.
Committed to serving the Lord in South India, long time Ministry Partner Saripalli Ravi Kumar of Bread of Life Children’s Home of India oversees the daily operations of an orphanage that now is home to eighteen children who have no parents. In a nation of over 1.3 billion people, roughly 20 million children, or 4%, are orphans.
The nation does not have an adequate system for helping these children and in a country that is 80% Hindu and barely 2% Christian. The work of Christian ministries such as Bread of Life is an uphill battle and in constant need of prayer and support as there is very little in the way of local encouragement.
To partner with this wonderful ministry, you can contact them at email@example.com.
Three men worked together in the same office, their desks a few feet apart from each other. They had worked this way for years and through the course of business, they often spoke to one another about work-related matters. Of course, as will happen when people are together over time, they would also discuss other matters of interest from current events, their families, favorite sports teams and plans for their futures.
In the ten or so years they had all worked together, the men, Ben, Dave, and Mike had enjoyed time with each other’s families at the annual company cookout and Christmas Party, but had for the most part developed circles of friends outside of work. One thing was known about Mike, however, not only by Ben and Dave, but by everyone in the office. Mike was a devout Christian. It wasn’t that he bragged about it, but subtle things told everyone that he was. He didn’t have to wave a flag or announce it with a loud voice, you just had to watch.
He wore a Christian lapel pin on his suit jacket every day. On his desk, next to a picture of his wife, was his Bible. In fact, sometimes at lunch people would see him reading it after he had finished eating. Everyone was aware that he never ate his lunch without first taking a moment to bow his head and thank God for the meal provided, even if it was nothing more than a sandwich from home. Several years ago, he had unsuccessfully tried to start an office Bible study after work. Lastly, in a very tasteful way so as not to offend anyone or violate company policy, Mike had been known to invite people to come to church with him and from time to time even asked people about their own relationship with God.
One day, things seemed to begin as any other, but Ben arrived at work looking particularly distressed. He even arrived fifteen minutes late, which was very out of character for him. Several people noticed but said nothing. Not Mike. He went to Ben after he had a chance to get settled in and inquired, “Hi Ben, I noticed you seem a bit stressed today. It may be none of my business, but if you want to talk about it, please know that I’m here”. Ben went on to tell Mike that he had received a notice from his doctor about some test results showing that he had inoperable cancer and he was very scared.
Mike, concerned about his friend, also saw this as an opportunity to talk to him about Jesus. “Ben, I can’t even begin to imagine what you are going through. The shock, horror, and wonder of what is going to happen next must be overwhelming”, Mike explained. “You have no idea”, said Ben, as he tried to find the words to go further, “I’m not even fifty and I don’t know what happens from here!”
Mike seizes the opportunity (He thinks)
Mike saw this as an opportunity to assure Ben that while he, (Mike), had no way to help explain why this had happened, he did have an answer, found in the Bible on his desk, that could give hope for Ben’s future and give him peace of mind now, while he endured the uncertain times. Ben was quite skeptical of this, having never been one to rely on anything religious. He had grown up going to church because his mother made him go and was glad for the day he went away to college so that he no longer had to go. Ben replied as politely as he could, “Thanks, Mike, but I’m not sure I’m interested in that. Besides, you know Dave? Do you remember a few years ago when his wife was in that serious accident and they didn’t think she would ever walk again? Well, look at her now! Not only is she walking again, but she is back to teaching dance lessons at the studio!”
Mike was caught a little off guard. You see, one thing that was unknown to Ben, as well as everyone else in the office, was that Dave also attended church with Mike. In fact, he and his wife led a Bible study at their home on a weekly basis and had provided lodging for missionaries when they were in town. He gave financially to the church and was, in the eyes of anyone who ever asked, a “good, moral person”. Nobody could complain about Dave’s life personally, professionally or otherwise. The only problem was, as a Christian, he wasn’t letting people know that the reason he lived this way was because he was first serving Christ his King instead of himself! By not letting people know this, he was not being a witness for Jesus Christ.
Where does this leave us?
There is a lot of scripture devoted to how we are to present ourselves as Christians, and if we are not careful, we can read too much or too little into it and go too far in any of a number of directions. For example, Jesus, aware that many of the Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were very fond of being noticed when they prayed publicly, warned about this. We read this in Matthew 6:5-7, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” The context here was that the religious leaders were saying, in essence, “Look at me, see how holy I am!” In fact, they wore tefillin, or prayer boxes, with a special prayer or scripture on it often times on their foreheads. It seemed that the larger the box, or larger the prayer in it, the holier the person was implying he was!
Jesus warned at the same time He spoke about praying openly for shows about fasting just for the sake of letting people know that you were doing something for God, or making a bigger deal of it than was necessary. As we continue reading in Matthew’s account of the Gospel, we read in chapter 6:16-18, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”
Notice that Jesus begins this by saying “when ye fast…” indicating that fasting was to be practiced, just as was the praying He spoke about earlier. However, it was the way in which it was perpetrated.
After all, one only needs to open a Bible to find that there are 650 different recorded prayers we can read about that were sent to God by men or women of faith from Adam through the end of John’s writing of Revelation. There are twenty-five recorded prayers of Jesus, Himself in His short thirty-three year life, and when we consider that most of what we have recorded is during an even shorter three-year ministry, the significance is even greater.
Fasting is seen throughout the Bible beginning in Deuteronomy 9:9-18 when Moses fasted for 40 days prior to receiving the Ten Commandments. Other times of fasting throughout the Bible, (we will not explore all of them), were to give thanks, ask for forgiveness, give praise or to ask blessing on others.
Regarding the posture of the person fasting, we have already read above that Jesus tells us to keep ourselves appearing clean and proper, not letting others even know that we are doing it. This is between you and God.
So what does all this mean? Are we, as Christians, supposed to worship God in silence? I have actually met and spoken to way too many Christians who believe this is true. Either that or they feel that speaking out for Christ is the “job” of those called specifically to Christian vocations such as the clergy who serve as ministers in churches, evangelists, missionaries in the field and Christian writers and musicians. However, for the average church-going Christian who works in the secular world and has hobbies and interests that do not always include being inside the church walls 5-7 days a week, it is fine to just have some prayer time with God when it feels right and leaving the ministry duties to the “paid professionals”, let’s see what the Bible tells us.
When Jesus started His ministry, He easily could have recruited only the most highly educated men of religious backgrounds to do the work He had planned. He could have called to be His apostles any number of scribes and Pharisees who had the education to take up the task. However, He instead saw that a willing and humble heart that was capable of opening up to what the Holy Spirit could and would do was far more valuable to furthering His Kingdom.
After a three year ministry, Jesus comforted His followers, letting them know that the Holy Spirit would be with them. We read about this in John 14. Obviously, they were concerned about being left alone. However, He also gave very concrete instructions later, after His resurrection, just before He ascended back into Heaven when He said in Matthew 28: 18-20, “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen’.” (Emphasis added by author)
Jesus, while speaking specifically to the men He had called, was giving instruction to all who would follow Him from that day forward. The instruction to tell others about the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ and what He has done for us as Christians is not reserved for those who hold positions in churches. While the pastor of a church has a designation of addressing his congregation on Sundays and overseeing the flock in general, it is the duty of every Christian to go into the world and share the gospel.
We read in Acts that instruction was given right before Jesus ascended, telling them to not only spread the word locally but to every corner of the globe Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Obviously, if this message is being given to only eleven men, and the scope of the delivery is the entire world, when we consider the limits of first-century technology and travel, there would have been no way they could get the message to the whole world themselves. Furthermore, with more people being born every day, it would be an ongoing job until the end of the ages. It is quite obvious that every Christian had then and has now, the duty to share the gospel with others.
Looking back at the Office
When we look back at the men in the office in our story earlier, in all likelihood there is really nothing “bad” about Dave. After all, we even found out that he is a leader in his church and a good friend. However, is he doing all he can to further the Kingdom of God in his daily walk with unbelievers? Is he truly representing God and letting people know that he walks uprightly because his relationship with Jesus is a strong and personal one that they, too can have? To ask Ben, it looks as if he isn’t.
As we look at this there is a question we must ask ourselves. When you read this account, who are you most like in the story? Are you Mike, the Christian who everyone sees doing God’s work, not because it brings you special favor but because you find joy in serving your Lord? Are you Dave, the Christian who lives a good Christian life around other Christians but keeps things quiet otherwise, to the point that a non-believer wouldn’t even know you had any kind of relationship with God at all? Lastly, are you possibly even Ben, the non-believer who doesn’t know Jesus at all and now, after understanding the need, wants to reach out to Him as your only hope for salvation?
We all have a Choice
One thing is for sure. God has given us free will in our lives. Examine where you are in yours. If you are not sure where it is or if you are sure that it is not where it needs to be, there is no magic formula for getting right with God. Just humbly bow before Him and ask Him to guide you through it. He has been waiting.
Serving Him through Serving Others,
James M. Dakis, D.Min
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Situated outside Nairobi, Kenya, amongst the poorest sections of the capital city, sits the compound of Alliance Vision Education Centre. First initiated in 2007 and opened in 2008, AVEC houses and educates over 200 children who are in their care and in need of sponsorship to help cover the cost of their care.
What many people in the western world do not realize is that there are so many more orphans in East Africa than we could ever imagine. We have not seen such numbers in any Western society for centuries. According to Light of Hope’s website, at https://lightuphope.org/the-plight-of-orphans-in-kenya/, there are an estimated 2 million orphaned or vulnerable children in Kenya alone! Keep in mind that the government does not run any of the orphanages, nor does it have any kind of government programs to help subsidize the financial burdens of the homes that are privately run.
Living Sacrifice Ministries has partnered with Alliance Vision Education Centre in our work for half a decade now and in that time, miraculous things have happened as God has opened doors for these saints who have prayerfully served. In no small part due to the diligence of Mr. George Otieno Sera, a centre which once had schooling for primary students only, has been able to offer high school education as well in recent years!
The needs of the children, the staff, and the upkeep of the grounds are an ongoing challenge. As is the case for most people in Kenya, property is not owned but rented and rented at a premium price. With over 200 mouths of growing children to feed and bodies to clothe, not to mention school supplies and building maintenance, financial support is a need that goes hand in hand with the need for more prayer partners.
At this time I would like to ask if you would prayerfully consider sponsoring a child or even giving a one-time financial gift to this wonderful ministry. To learn more about them, please visit their website at http://avec.webs.com/.
May God Bless you,
James M. Dakis, D.Min.
In Suna-Migori ,Kenya, Living Sacrifice Ministries long-time Ministry Partner, and friend, the Congregation of God, under the leadership of Pastors Jared and Charles Siso, were blessed with an opportunity to bring Christian leaders and future leaders from the community together for a conference that blessed all and further glorified the Lord!
The church itself has had many struggles as we have reported them here and elsewhere, as death has hit the family twice in less than a year with their father going home to be with the Lord most recently. In a time when Kenya and the rest of East Africa are struggling with drought and famine, please lift these saints of God up in prayer.
If you feel led to partner with the Congregation of God in their efforts, you can contact Pastor Charles at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Pastor Jared at email@example.com.
Serving Him through Serving Others,
Reverend James M. Dakis, D. Min