Cush

Woe to the land of whirring wings along the rivers of Cush… Isaiah 18:1

My wife and I had the privilege of visiting the land of Cush, modern day Sudan, in 2006 for a medical missions trip. We were there for a few days but we still feel the impact and the weight it had on us.

We saw it all: end of the twenty-year civil war, intense heat, isolation, poisonous snakes and spiders, no medical facilities, no running water, few maintained roads, unexploded bombs in villages, and civil war casualties in every family we met.

And yet.

And yet, we also saw a strong faith among the Believers, as passionate and on fire as you read about in the Book of Acts! Rejoice that, despite their horrendous physical circumstances, they can maintain a joyous and overcoming life. They are on the front lines as Islam marches through that region.

Pray, just pray.

Trust Me On This

The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. Luke 18:34

Years ago I was walking with a crowd of people in a Chicago suburb to attend a July 4th celebration. Police were called in to direct traffic because it was heavy. One officer directed a car to go in a particular lane, and the driver shook her head and pointed that she wanted to go in a different lane. The exasperated cop said, “Lady, move in this lane. Trust me on this. I know what I’m doing.” She finally obeyed and got to where she needed to go. He had a large picture of how he wanted the traffic to flow, whereas the woman was very focused on where she wanted to go.

Jesus had just predicted his death. His disciples didn’t understand yet. They were mere days away from His crucifixion but it was hard to believe because things had been going well for them. After three years they were still trying to figure Him out! It’s almost as if they were thinking, “you really don’t know what you’re talking about!”

We find ourselves in similar situations. We don’t understand what He’s trying to do in our lives. We’re inclined to think that maybe He doesn’t know what He’s doing. We get tunnel vision and lose sight of the bigger picture.

What’s the bigger picture, you ask? God has begun a really big work in us. He’s molding and fashioning us into something greater. We don’t quite see it and we may never be able to see it clearly, but there are still things God wants to do in us. He wants us to trust Him.

The Altar Call

He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. Revelation 22:20

Could 2009 be the year that Jesus returns? Forget for a moment the theological notions you might have of rapture and tribulation and wars and rumors of wars (not at all to make light of Eschatology and its implications, but stay with me a moment). Are you ready for His return? But you say, "x,y, and z need to take place before…"

Let me phrase it this way, if you were to pass away (unexpectedly, of course) over the New Year's weekend, would you be ready to see Jesus? Are you prepared, as they say, to meet your Maker? You see, whether Jesus comes to us or we go to see Jesus, the end result is more or less the same.

What do you need to do to be ready? The Bible says, "that if you will confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Romans 10:9-10.

Or perhaps, your life has been changed and you are, as the Bible says, a New Creation, how’s your "walk?" Are you reading Scriptures, praying, and fellowshipping with other Believers? If so, keep it up. Keep doing what you're doing. Keep seeking. Keep drawing near to God. It'll be worth it all.

God of the Second Chance

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, who do you persecute me?” Acts 9:3

I could have chosen any number of passages for today’s devotional. As we ring in the New Year, it’s appropriate for us to look at new beginnings, fresh starts, turning over a new leaf. In the twinkling of an eye, Saul-turned-Paul’s life was changed from persecutor to Believer. Later we see the hesitation of those in the Church who were naturally afraid to trust this persecutor.

But, if there’s anything that God is, He’s the God of the Second Chance. Arguably, He’s the God of the Second-Through-Hundredth Chance (or more). Heaven knows we need those chances regularly. You could just be starting The Journey of the Christian faith or fifty years into it; there’s always another chance.

Always.

Perfect Justice

Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation. The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. Isaiah 51:4

Without question, there is a ton of injustice in the world. We’ve all been victims of injustice to one degree or another. In fact, we’ve all been able to tell our stories to the authorities and still correct justice wasn’t handed out. That’s because, try as we might, we are imperfect people. Judges and juries are imperfect (which is a reason we can appeal cases). Sports referees are not perfect (hence we have instant replay). Parents are not perfect. With all of this imperfection, how will it all ever be made right?

There will be a Day when the Perfect Judge will mete out perfect justice to an imperfect world. Can you imagine? Wrongs will be righted. Injustices will be taken care of. The Book of Revelations even hints that “the leaves of the tree [of life] will be for the healing of the nations” Revelations 22:2. That speaks of justice and healing. Take a snapshot of the world we live in today. There are some very serious injustices occurring (more than a bad sports call or an overlooked misdemeanor could ever be). And yet, God will make it right.

Rejoice, brothers and sisters, that we’ll be able to witness true and absolute Justice one day. Until then, we can pray against the gross injustices that are taking place every single day.

Voice of the Martyrs

Solomon’s Response

That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you"…Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours? 2 Chronicles 1:7,10

This is truly an amazing passage of Scripture. It gives us great insight into how God thinks. Solomon could have asked for anything at all. Granted, he was king over Israel and he could have commanded any material or societal whim he desired. But he had all of that. He wanted something that was lasting and meaningful. I also find interesting because it's God who is actually asking the question. Solomon chose wisdom and as a result, he was able to ruling an entire nation in wisdom and penned the Book of Proverbs, (probably) the Song of Solomon, and (probably) Ecclesiastes, among other things.

This is a great question for us to answer. We often crave fame, fortune, glamor, and popularity (to name a few) over sound relationships, wisdom, and integrity. Left to our own 'wisdom' we wouldn't choose wisdom as something to be valued. But if the wisest man in the world chooses wisdom when asked what he wanted from God, we would do well to put wisdom in our top one or two things to request from God!

We need wisdom. We need wisdom to make right mundane 'everyday' choices and big picture 'life' choices.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault. James 1:5

Eternal Life

And this is the testimony; God has given us eternal life,
and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have
the Son of God does not have life.
1 John 5:11-12

I like clarity. Verse twelve is very clear about who has
life and who doesn’t have life. As we prepare for the new year and all it has
for us, it’s eternally important for us to ask whether or not we have the Son
of God in our lives. It’s not a difficult question and most reading this will
know right away if he or she “has” the Son of God.

And yet, it’s a wonderful question to ask and answer. Think
of it. You have the Son of the Living God in your life. You pray to him; you
read His word; you talk to others about Him; and He guides you. If you were to
tell others who are not in the faith this, they might question your sanity, but
those of us who are in this faith know exactly what you are talking about.

Rejoice that he’s considered you worthy to be called a
Child of God; and continue to pray for the opportunities of inviting others
into the Kingdom.

How Fleeting Is My Life?

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my
days; let me know how fleeting is my life.”
Psalm 39:4

As a new year approaches, it’s important for us to step back
to take a broader look at our lives and see how we’re doing. If you’re like me,
when you’re seeking to know God’s specific will for your life (“what do you
want me to do now, Lord?” would be one of those specific prayers in trying to
discern His specific will), it’s like we’re driving in a dense fog. You may
have traveled down that road a thousand times, but when the fog comes, it’s a
chore just to stay between the lines in the road. We’re often in that fog and
while we know God is all around us, we’re so concentrating on the now that we
miss the bigger picture. True, often we’re not privy to the Big Picture right
now, but we can still get a glimpse at it.

So what are these Big Picture things? Even though we may not
realize it now, we won’t be around in sixty or seventy years. Once we’ve lived this
life, it’s gone, over, finished. Big Picture things are things that will last:
relationships, family, friends, character, integrity. Obviously there are more. If we can view that verse in light of these Big Picture things, how are we doing? Could we be doing better? Do you think God is pleased with your progress thus far?

And just as dense fog gives way to blazing sunshine, we’ll
wake up one day and realize exactly what God was trying to do while you were in
the fog of life. Keep at it; keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing fine.

Anna the Prophetess

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem. Luke 2:36-38

Have you ever wondered why these three verses were included in Scripture? In keeping with the overall theme of this week’s devotions, we might conclude that Anna the prophetess was insignificant. She was up in years, had no husband, and spent all of her time in the temple. But that’s the best part. Because she had spent so much time worshiping God, she was attuned to the Spirit of God. Even though she was in her mid-eighties, she blessed the Messiah up close, something God-fearing Jews wait all their lives to do but never get the chance.

I have talked to men and women over the age of seventy who truly believe they are too old to be useful in the Kingdom of God. I think that mission groups do a great disservice to these seasoned veterans (and to the young people who would be blessed as a result of rubbing shoulders with them) by placing age restrictions on who can and who can’t go on missions trips. Look at the experience and depth of insight these Godly men and women bring to anything they do! And in many cultures, having that “gray head of hair” on your team brings maturity and authority that no enthusiastic high school teen could convey.

Nobody is insignificant in God’s eyes. Somehow we need to do better in showing this to the elderly among us. They still have a lot to offer and we still have a lot to learn.