February, 2004 Wingspread - Hated Without a Cause
By Billie Marie Zal
     Why did the world hate Jesus? Certainly He was no threat to mankind. Born in a manger and probably considered a baby “born too soon” by those who knew nothing of His miraculous birth, He did not present any indications of the tremendous impact that lay ahead for the world.
      He grew up an obedient son to Mary, His Mother, and Joseph, His Foster Father. When He was twelve years old He journeyed with His parents to Jerusalem and confounded the wise men there with His knowledge of God and the Old Testament.
      There follows a silence of eighteen years and we assume that He worked with His Foster Father in the carpentry shop. Then when God’s appointed time came, Jesus met His cousin John the Baptist at the River Jordan and was baptized by him. Given a miraculous revelation of this Man who would become the Savior of the world, there was a manifestation of the Triune Godhead. God the Father spoke from Heaven, God the Son stood in the river, and God the Holy Spirit descended as a dove and sat upon Jesus’ shoulder.
      Now the stage was set for the beginning of the Lord’s earthly ministry. It is significant that before He began His ministry He went to a mountain where He fasted for forty days and forty nights. Satan came to tempt Him and offered Him relief from His hunger (by challenging Jesus to turn the stones into bread), power to do miracles that would establish Him in favor with the world for all the ages to come, and the challenge to fall down and worship him. Of course Jesus Christ overcame and the angels came and ministered to Him.
      Now He was prepared to “go steadfastly toward Jerusalem.”
      The miracles began. He healed the sick, cast out devils, turned water into wine, fed the multitudes with only a few loaves of bread and a few fishes. He forgave sinners, and rebuked the religious hypocrites. There was something about this Man, and people would say, “Never spoke a Man like this!”
      So why was He hated? Certainly not because of the miracles. The world loves miracles. Why not? When we receive a miracle we get something for ourselves. True, the people gathered by the thousands to follow Him and hear Him, but they mostly wanted the miracles.
      He began to gather about Himself a group of disciples. People often think that there were always only twelve, but in the beginning there were many more. This is verified by the Word. It
     is said that when He began to speak of His death and being the Savior of the world, “many followed Him no more.”
      His poignant question to the remaining twelve was: “Will ye also go away?” And if we consider this fact (that He had only twelve disciples left) then we must confess that in today’s world it is not considered a very good track record. “Numbers” is usually the indication of a man’s success in the ministry. We forget that “one shall chase one thousand and two shall chase ten thousand.”
      Human beings simply do not want to hear about sacrifice, especially when it means that they must follow a Man who demands all or nothing. Total devotion or none at all. We want to keep the miracles and let the author of the miracles go. Why not? Once we get the miracle do we need HIM? The food problem is solved, the health problem is solved, family problems are worked out, and we are ready to live our own lives and enjoy ourselves.
      However, we often deceive ourselves. We offer ourselves “unconditionally” to God and we pray that His Son may have preeminence in our lives. Then when the trials begin (and they will) we draw back and decide that we really do not want to follow Him after all.
      The reason? It is because to follow Him always leads to a life that is dealt with by His Cross. While He became sin that we might be set free from its power, guilt and penalty, it is also true that we cannot escape the death-dealing blow to our self life, if we truly give Him Lordship. Self dies hard and choices to leave it behind are seldom carried out.
      Jesus stood alone in His insistence that we are all in need of forgiveness and cleansing. There is no difference, in God’s sight, between one sin and the next. The religious leaders of His day hated this message. They considered themselves better than the masses, and they resented the intrusion into their respectability and authority. They had the uppermost seats in church, prayed long prayers, gave great offerings (and let people know about it), and were especially proud of their righteousness.
      Then here comes a Man who says to them that their righteousness is not worth a hill of beans because it is SELF righteousness and what is of self is never of God.
      It is commonly believed that Jesus never spoke unkindly, never got angry, never showed His anger. But listen to what He said to these religious men who were considered the cream of the religious crop: He told them they were like whited sepulchers filled with dead men’s bones; that they pretended to be clean and washed the outside of their cups, but inside they were filthy; that if they hated, they murdered, and if they even looked at a woman with lust they were already committing adultery.
      He praised the widow who cast her mite into the treasury and ignored their grandiose offerings. He was the Champion of the underdogs. He rescued the prostitute who was about to be
     stoned to death, reminding the men who were going to kill her that “whoever is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”
      He was invited to one of the “biggie” dinners and as they sat to eat He rebuked them for not showing Him the common courtesy of washing His feet. Then, when a woman called an adulteress found out where He was, and came to Him, washing His feet with her tears of repentance and drying them with her hair, He gave her absolution and said, “Go and sin no more.”
      His little band of disciples were nothing to brag about. One was a hated tax collector; another was to be the traitor (Judas); another was a doubter who would not even believe in the resurrection until Jesus had him thrust his hand into the wounds in His side and showed him the wounds on His hands and feet. Three were fishermen, and Peter, forever trying to run things, never gave Him the respect He deserved. Two of them were named “sons of thunder” and that sounds like their temperaments were a little unsettled. John, the youngest, was forever “leaning on Jesus’ breast” for security.
      With all these facts before us, why did the religious leaders pay any attention to Him? Why did they not just ignore Him? It is because they knew instinctively that here was no ordinary Man. His words cut deep into the darkness of their conscience. He stood unimpressed. He could not be bought. He hated flattery and only on a few occasions did He ever even praise anyone (He knows the pride of the human heart). He also had the audacity to challenge their system. When no one else did anything about what was going on in the Temple, animals being sold over and over again for the same sacrifice, He took matters into His own hands. He took a whip and chased the money changers out and turned over the tables and said no one would make His Father’s house a den of thieves.
      No one could stand in His presence and be “neutral.” One either loved Him or hated Him. The only solution, then, for the men who held the religious reins in their grip, was to be rid of Jesus. When anyone meets up with one who is filled with God’s Spirit and manifests the truth, we have two choices: get rid of them or let that Truth deliver us from our darkness.
      Getting rid of Jesus, in the case of the religious leaders (the Pharisees) meant to have Him killed. He had once said to them, “Why do you hate me because I tell you the truth?” He had done nothing but give every person who met Him the opportunity to accept that His kingdom was not of this world.....that He would deliver them from themselves. But a new order was coming, and their fear of that order turned them into murderers.
      Not even His Twelve understood just why He had to die. Peter tried to stop the ones who came to take Him away. Then all of them ran, and abandoned Him. When He had prayed that awful prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, He was lonely and He needed friends. Think of that, the Son of God needing our friendship!!!
      So He had asked Peter, James and John to “watch and pray” as He took the cup of sin into His own Body. But they ignored His need and fell asleep. I do not judge these three. Had I been there I would probably have done the same thing. But now we know that Jesus Christ NEEDS US and we do not have to refuse His burdens.
      Of course if we make Him Lord, we, too, will be hated. I heard an evangelist say recently that the world would hate the church because of the miracles that are occurring in these last days. I think not. I think the world will hate the church only if the church stands and teaches “repentance.” Miracles and wonders excite the imagination of the heart; the message of the Cross brings the heart to a place where there is no more of self left, and the will of man bows to the supreme will of the Father, no matter what the cost.
      We are going to be hated then, as Jesus was hated. And if we truly love Him and conform to His image, we won’t hate back. We will not revile and hate when we are hated or curse when we are cursed. We will become children of the Beatitudes and then the world will know that we are sons and daughters of God.
      Being hated is always like a deep wound in our hearts. We are human and we long for love and understanding. But if it is not to be because of our obedience to the will of the Father, then so be it. We won’t have to be ashamed at the judgment seat of Christ.
      If we can be honest with ourselves we are on the way to a brand new life. So often we blame everything and everyone but ourselves for what has happened to us. But God gives each of us a choice and He will honor that choice, be it for our good or for our destruction.
      It is my prayer that all of us will rid ourselves of every weight that keeps us from manifesting Jesus. True, we will be hated without a cause. But we will be LIKE HIM. And what greater gift could we receive than His presence?
      * * * * * * * *
     Originally published in February, 1991

Who is My Neighbor, by Billie Marie Zal

It was Chicago, in the sixties. I had an assignment from my professor of Journalism at Northwestern University to “write about someone whom I had recently met” and I had found no one to write about. So I caught a cab to Skid Row. It was one of those icy, blustery windy city nights with the temperature hovering around the mid twenties. I shivered, although my fur coat provided much warmth and my head was snugly covered by a heavy wool scarf.
      The cab driver looked skeptical as I got out near a tiny “diner” that had once been a street car section. “Hey, Lady,” he said. “You gotta be careful down here, you know that???” I smiled, gave him his fare and walked down the dirty sidewalk. Little piles of debris swept themselves around my feet. Lonely, dark shadows of men lay in doorways, hovering together for warmth. A barrel with fire inside offered some respite to the men who were yet able to stand.
      I stepped inside the diner and for a moment felt cozy. The waitress had a good rapport with the customers. There was laughter, and the usual small talk. My entrance, however, stopped the “show.” Every eye was on me as the conversation ended abruptly. I was definitely “not one of them.” My fur coat, expensive boots, all of it indicated I was an “outsider.”
      I didn’t care. There had to be someone here. Someone whom I could write about. I sat down on one of the high stools at the counter and ordered a cup of coffee. The waitress sat it down hard in front of me and turned away. I was not budging. I waited.
      Suddenly the door flung open and a couple came in. They were wearing mismatched clothing. They were filthy. The woman who was probably in her thirties looked like a corpse and her husband’s face was angry and tired. His bulging nose and the red veins or rather, broken capillaries under his skin told his story: he was drunk.
      I had not seen the little girl at first. She hovered between the two and she couldn’t have been more than three years old. They set her on the stool beside me, eyeing me suspiciously (Could I be a social worker?). They ordered coffee for the three of them, even the child. It was then that I noticed this little one’s clothing. She wore a rag of a dress, a thin coat with no lining, and shoes with no socks.
      SHE WON’T SURVIVE IN THIS WEATHER was my first reaction.
      And then I noticed her hair. It could have been beautiful. Blonde, curly, silky. But it was matted with the filth of the street. Crusts covered her little scalp. And her eyes. I will never forget her eyes. Large pools of misery in a tiny face that would have been wreathed in smiles because children smile easily.
      I reached out to her and touched her. Instantly, her parents said, “Ida Eva, don’t bother the lady.”
      “Ida, Eva.” What a beautiful name!!! This child was mine. Her parents were mine. The people in the diner were mine. My neighbors.
      I reached into my purse and the atmosphere changed. I pulled out some money and held it out to the child. Her parents eyed the money hungrily. Ida Eva just responded by stroking the fur on my coat and saying, “Oh . . . Pretty!” I wished I could have given her my coat. It would have gone for whiskey. But I wished. The money would have to do.
      The waitress, no longer hostile, filled my cup again and again. There was laughter. I belonged. They were my neighbors, all of them.
      When the cab picked me up, the driver asked if I got my story.
      “Yes, I got it,” I replied. Then I told him about Ida Eva and the others.
      “Lady, I hate to disappoint you, but that money will go for booze tonight. And that little girl will be right back sleeping on the street with her parents. “THAT KID AIN’T GOT A CHANCE!”
      Maybe he was right. But maybe not. I had gained an insight into the hearts of those who were “off limits” to most Christians. And I could PRAY.
     Originally published in August, 1991
     Note: This story is one of my favorites. The fur coat mentioned which Billie wanted to give to the little girl, Ida Eva, was later stolen from her at a train station in downtown Chicago, I believe. Billie wrote about that, too, and maybe some day we’ll locate it and include it in a Wingspread. If I remember right, Billie was on another mission for another story that day, too. But WHO IS MY NEIGHBOR is so descriptive of Billie and the way she was. She loved giving money to strangers. The waiters and waitresses always loved to see her coming (smile). I use to love watching her “claim a baby” for Christ while shopping; or watch her engage a total stranger in conversation and know their entire life story by the time we left; and I really loved watching her GIVE - to old friends and strangers alike. God blessed me with getting to witness such Love in a person, up-front, and in a very personal way. I thank Him for that, and for many other things about Billie, but this story, to me, shows how the love of Jesus, thru Billie, reached these people. Rodney
Prayer Requests for February, 2004
Prayer Requests for February:
For: Judy Oakley........her Leukemia is now in remission. Pray that it stays that way and thank God for what He’s already done for her.
For: Our neighbors Jerry and Colleen Brock. Jerry is now home with Hospice care. Colleen’s daughter, Sandra continues to battle her cancer so pray for her strength. And Ginger, Colleen’s daughter-in-law undergoes surgery for a breast tumor as I write. Pray for her recovery. Also, Ginger’s sister, Cheryl had a tumor removed from her spine area recently and is soon to come home from rehab. Thank God for a successful surgery and pray that her rehabilitation goes well. Pray for Colleen as she deals with all this, and for Gary, her son, that they will be comforted and remain positive and strong.
For: Anthony Grayson at Fallsburg, New York. Anthony said to keep him on the prayer list until his habeas efforts are exhausted. So pray for him.
For: For Sister Ann and our sisters in Little Rock who encourage us and pray for all of us daily. Thank you, Sister Ann, for your prayers for my Mom, for our prisoners, and for all of us here.
For: Sister Yolanda and her church in Jersey City..........Bethany Browne Memorial United Methodist Church. They are making progress as they are trying to help prisoners in the county jails there. Pray that God continues to open doors for them.
For: Tony Collier at Dixon, Illinois, who just wants prayer for his family to be healthy, safe and blessed.
For: Marcos Zavala at Lubbock, Texas..........He is still waiting to see a doctor about his hip and leg pain. Pray for his healing.
For: Francis Nolan Holland at Tucker, Arkansas. His Clemency Application has not been decided yet and he asks for continual prayer until the outcome is certain.
For: Eve Maytubby. Eve is a friend of Cantrell Watts who as at OSR at Granite, Oklahoma. She has pain in her hands and Cantrell wants us to pray that whatever causes this will be healed.
For: Dewey Moore at McAlester, Oklahoma, with his legal efforts.
For: All of our brothers on death row in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
For: Willie Davis at Danville Correctional Center in Illinois, who says prayer is good (man, is he right!). He asks for nothing in particular.......just mention of him in your prayers for all things according to God’s will.
For: Ronnie Chaney at Brickeys, Arkansas. His older brother just passed away and he asks that we pray for his Mother, Ella Chaney, as she has to go to Mexico to tend to her late son’s business. Pray for Ronnie, too, for his health.
For: Johnnie Dunnum at Lexington, Oklahoma. He’s taking a medication for high blood pressure which causes him to develop sores on the inside of his nose. Pray that he will adjust to the new medicine and that this side-effect will go away. Pray that his blood pressure and health continue to improve..
For: Crystal, a friend of Ponnell Buchanan’s in Illinois. She has HIV and has been in the hospital for the past four months. Remember Crystal, her family, and Ponnel in your prayers
And, pray for all of us here. We are fine, and thankful for all that God has done, and is doing, but we ask you all to pray that God will continue to lead, direct and enable us to go on with glorifying Him through this ministry.

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