DIVINE APPOINTMENTS

 

I being in the way, the Lord led me… Genesis 24:27 (KJV)

 

Being in a traveling frame of mind, I am thinking about the various folks I’ve shared planes with in the recent past and wondering who I will meet on these flights to Spain. In our “business” we always pray for divine appointments. While it’s obvious that some passengers are heaven-sent, and others are, well, opportunities, I’ve had some memorable encounters.
Like the man who disrupted the whole section of seats near us when the passenger ahead of his wife abruptly lowered the seat, spilling wine all over his wife. Attendants raced to the scene to calm the husband who temper was quickly escalating. The two combatants were safely and literally separated.
And then there was the extended family that sat on either side of the jumbo jet and proceeded to discuss family events over the heads of the whole middle section at about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. That was a long flight.
One darling little girl heading to Africa from Europe had obviously just seen the movie “Frozen.” We were all serenaded with ditties for a while. You can guess her favorite: when she got to “To Let It Go,” she did. One could accurately describe her enthusiasm as voce alta, singing with a LOUD voice.
Of course, we’ve experienced hours of crying babies whose little ears were suffering from the altitude, and there was the little girl who sat behind me sobbed silently. I began making little playful gestures with my fingers over the back of the seat. And then I drew cartoons on the pad I always carry just in case. The cartoons caught her interest, and she responded with her own set of drawings. I learned she was flying alone and was scared to death.
But the passenger I won’t forget was Aisha. I had missed my flight from Frankfort to Moscow because of a glitch with my visa and so didn’t make a most important meeting with Dr. Maria Tschernoskaya. God intervened, and I was able to get a new visa and make the evening flight. I prayed that no one would sit near me so I could catch up on the work that had been neglected due to my delay. That prayer was not to be answered.
I tried to appear busy and unapproachable as the plane filled, and an attractive young lady sat one seat over. We exchanged polite greetings, and then I turned back to my papers. But Aisha was not to be daunted. “What takes you to Moscow? What will you be doing?” Just what I wanted to avoid. I curtly answered her questions, adding that I was to have met with one of the foremost experts in care for orphans and vulnerable children.
Aisha listed quietly and then said, “I work with someone who is an expert in care for orphans and vulnerable children.”
Somewhat interested, I added, “This woman has a model project, and we were to meet to collaborate on a program for all of Eastern Europe.”
“The woman I work with also consults with many people who come to see her work in Moscow,” Aisha remarked.
Finally, I described our vision, and Aisha revealed that she was an Oxford professor who had come to work with—yes, Dr. Maria Tschernoskaya. Together they were developing methods that could be replicated in many of the former Soviet Union facilities.
Eating humble pie, I began to question Aisha, and for the remainder of the flight we exchanged notes, and I wrote as fast as my hand would allow. Aisha with her command of the English language was much more proficient in describing the program than Dr. Tschernoskaya ever could have been. Everything I’d planned to discuss with the noted expert was addressed in my evening with Aisha.
As the plane was preparing for landing, Aisha turned to me and said, “I wasn’t supposed to be on this plane.”
“Nor was I.” I added.
What divine appointments will there be en route to Spain?

 

Father, why am I often surprised at your loving ways? Thank you for always going before us, and thank you that you’re way ahead of us on this flight to Spain. AMEN.

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PASSPORT

 

 

 

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.  Ephesians 2:8, 9

 

 

 

I’ll be leaving for Spain in a few days.  One of our clergymen will be ordained at a church in Madrid, and several of us are going to represent our churches.  As always, I go down the check list of what I need for an international trip:  clothes, meds, reading material, and most important of all MY PASSPORT.

 

One of our missioners had spent months raising funds for a mission in Russia and was so excited to be making his first visit.  He was all packed and ready.  He was on time to meet the team at the counter, but when it was his time to check in, he discovered that he was lacking that important document:  he had left his passport at home, and there wasn’t time to get it and return for the flight.  Some things just can’t be overlooked.

 

Salvation is a little like a passport.  It’s that assurance that we get to our destination.  We can apply for the passport, but there’s no way we can earn it—it’s relational.  We get our passports by virtue of being citizens of this country, and we trust that the standing of our government is such that we have safe passage.

 

I’m so happy that I don’t have to worry about whether I’m good enough or whether I’ve done enough.  Jesus, in his perfect obedience and love of the Father, made provision for my journey and for my final welcome.  He’s even provided for companionship on the way and grace for the turbulence.  We don’t have to worry about losing baggage—in fact, we’re better off without any.

 

I’ll be leaving for Spain in a few days, and my passport is already sitting beside my suitcase.

 

 

 

Father, we are eternally grateful for your divine generosity in providing everything we will ever need through Christ Jesus.  AMEN.

 

GRACE IN TIME

But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. James 4:6 (KJV)

 

Corrie ten Boom recalled her anxiety when family friends experienced a death. She talked with her father, wondering how she would be prepared for such an event. Her father gently asked if she remembered when he handed her the ticket for their ride to Amsterdam. In wonderment, Corrie answered, “When I get on the train.” “And that is what God’s grace is like,” responded Casper ten Boom. “We get it just when we need it.”
Do you ever wonder if you’ll be ready for The Test? I have been anticipating the many changes that I envision for myself as I see the lives of those around me going in directions they’d never anticipated. One thing we can depend on is the constancy of change. Nothing alive remains stagnant. And yet, God promises to supply all our needs, and I believe that is inclusive in every sense: all physical, all material, all emotional, all psychological, and, of course, all grace.
Grace is probably not something we can store up, but we can learn in the short run how to access the grace we need for hard times. We can practice humbly asking; we can learn to trust; and we can expect God to respond to his loving child. No point in wasting time fantasizing about the future. We know that he has prepared for us wonders beyond anything we can think or imagine, and we also know that it is likely there will be dips en route.
As trust grows and as we become more secure in our love for him and his for us, grace becomes a habit. We become more expectant of this precious gift that will carry us through whatever lies in our future, and we understand that his grace has no limit. Therefore, we should come with boldness to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and may find grace for help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). There is enough to carry us joyfully to our destination.

 

Father, grace is your attribute in us that assures our safe passage from one season to the next and from one shore to the other. Cover and saturate us with your grace. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

SELL IT ALL

 

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21

 

Can we play “Let’s Pretend” for just a few minutes? Let’s say we’re with that motley group of disciples who were following Jesus on the eventful day when the rich young man approaches him. Obviously, the young man has an interest in Jesus and his teachings and has a desire to increase his understanding of spiritual things. He genuinely wants to know what he should do to gain eternal life.
You remember the story. Jesus reminds the young man that he’s to keep the commandments, to which the young man respectfully responds that he’s already done that. He probably grew up the way many of us did—listening to the Bible stories and learning rules. He most likely was a dutiful young man who was admired and held out as an example to the other young folks.
Then Jesus gets to the heart of the matter: “Go; sell everything; and give it all away.”
“Sell everything…”
What would be your first reaction? Jesus didn’t say that to me. What if he DID say it to you? We know that he said it to that one young man at a specific point in history.
But WHAT IF? Would you be panicked with fear? Would you be squirming?  Would you think, where do I begin? Would you think that the voice surely couldn’t be God? Would you, like the young man, go away sorrowful?
Of course, God wants to provide for us and to meet our needs. That’s not what this story is about. It’s about love and priorities and trust. A loving Father wants to be first in our lives and wants our trust to be in him to take care of us and not in the things that occupy so much of our time and energy and space.  Does it make you even a tiny bit uncomfortable to think that God just might ask you to make him a greater priority in your life?
When we were helping our parents downsize so they could get the proper medical treatment and care needed, I worked for about a year going through closets and cupboards to sort out the accumulations of decades, the things that might be needed someday. My father’s workshop was the most difficult. My sweet son-in-law helped me by hauling away countless loads of hardware and junk that were part of my dad’s treasures. (Curiously, Dad’s Alzheimer’s provoked him to “hide” a lifetime of expensive collections in the big garbage bin.  You know what happened.)
Jesus said that our hearts are with our treasure. What would we say if he did ask us to give it all away?

 

Father, search our hearts. May you find that Jesus is Lord, and that everything we desire is in him.   May we hold loosely everything that we have, for we are merely stewards. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

YESU ROMO

As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; I will be satisfied with Your likeness when I awake. Psalm 17:15

 

Our missionaries have had an ongoing relationship with Nebbi Diocese in remote, northwest Uganda for more than twenty years. I once spent a six-and-a-half-month visit with them working on a project some years ago, and I return to Nebbi once or twice almost every year. Besides its breathtaking natural beauty, I love the people of Nebbi. They are warm, friendly, and they love Jesus.
In Nebbi, the people have a beautiful greeting for one another. When one approaches the other, he says, “Pakabed ni Yesu,” (meaning “praise Jesus”). And the response is, “Yesu romo,” (“Jesus satisfies.”) Isn’t this a lovely way to greet one another? And the people live in that truth.
Having few financial resources, the Christians of Nebbi have learned to rely on Jesus. My friend Helen prayed for an old gentleman who was experiencing back pains. The next time she saw him, she asked about his health. He looked at her in surprise and remarked that she had prayed for him, and he was fine—of course. The Nebbi folk trust Jesus and look to him every day to supply their daily needs.
In an environment where we have more than we need, I wonder if we know how much we really need Jesus. He told us in John 15:5 that without him we can do nothing. Do we realize how truly impoverished we are without him? And even with all our stuff, are we satisfied unless we’ve found our satisfaction in him?
I came in my office one day and found a lovely pillow that had been embroidered with the text, “Yesu Romo.” One of my young friends had heard me talk about Nebbi and had the pillow made for me. It sits in my favorite chair now and every morning reminds me of the only true source of satisfaction: Jesus.

 

Father, you open your hands wide and fill us with yourself. Nothing can satisfy us like Jesus. May we never seek those things that only temporarily slake our thirst. Thank you for Jesus. AMEN

SUFFERING

Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him… Job 13:15 (KJV)

Who has solved the dilemma of suffering? Even though we may trust God’s love and grace, many of us continue to struggle with his ways. But our quandary doesn’t seem to bother God. He knows what he’s doing, and he often allows pain without any rhyme or reason.
I think the inclusion of the Book of Job in our Bibles is a huge gift. We have the tiniest bit of insight into the back story of Job’s plight. Job is doing everything right, and still he suffers. In his suffering he questions God, the one whom he has pledged to trust even if God chooses to kill him.
The beautiful relationship between Job and God permits the questioning. God isn’t offended. He knows Job’s heart. He knows his integrity, and he knows Job means it when he says, “Though you slay me, I’ll still trust you.” Job trusts even when it doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t question his own righteousness; he doesn’t experience condemnation (except from his friends); and he determines to stay true to God. No matter what.
When Job’s religious friends come to berate his lack of faith and try to uncover his sin, Job doesn’t back down. Even his elders can’t shake that relationship with the One Job has faithfully trusted, and God commends him. The friends are a peripheral issue.
Rather than reprimand him, God turns Job’s attention to his own sovereignty by describing his wonderful works of creation that appeared at his spoken word. Even in listening, no one could have understood God’s marvelous ways. If Job (or anyone else, for that matter) couldn’t understand God’s goodness, how could he (or we) begin to understand suffering and pain?
And yet, God permits good and evil and expects us to hold steady through it all. He who sees the sparrow fall and who clothes the grass of the fields also allows his chosen ones to experience the same suffering that glorified his Son in that dark hour on the cross. God knows that not one particle of our eternal being will perish and always intends the outcome of suffering to be victory through him.
At the end of Job’s story we see his daughters more beautiful than any other girls, and he has more than ever before. Could this be a metaphor for our own painful experiences that evolve into a deeper relationship with our Father and a greater appreciation of his love that is determined to bring many sons (and daughters) to glory?
When God plows up our fields, he always intends a harvest.

Father, we all experience suffering in so many different ways. Thank you for assuring us that randomness is not part of your plan for us. Give us grace to stand, to endure, and to praise. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.

CELEBRATING THE DAY

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24 (KJV)

Today we celebrate Martin Luther King’s Day and honor him for his contributions to our civil rights. But did you know that January also has designated days to recognize our Pharmacists, our House Plants, National Pie Day, and National Puzzle Day, among others? And the church calendar has feast days named for the saints of the church.
My friend Susan always celebrated First Fridays. She held open house on the first Friday of every month around the calendar. It was a multigenerational event with anyone and everyone invited to have lunch and dine on the numerous culinary treats that Susan relished preparing. The gathering was informal and so warm that everyone loved to drop in.
I just learned about Tuesday Presents. My friend Kay said they are undeserved, no-occasion gifts that are given on Tuesday “just because.” Kay said they are a special way of showing love. Among her Tuesday Presents, my friend says she counts her family and friends, grandchildren’s accomplishments, college acceptance letters, and most particularly, our Savior Jesus Christ.
In reflecting on all these ways that we can celebrate the day and the days, I add the verse from Psalm 118. Today, this day, is the day the Lord has made. And with it come all the blessings we have as his children, those “just because” reasons to rejoice. God made this day and gave it to us. Let’s take advantage of that and be glad.

Lord, thank you for all the “just because” gifts you provide out of your profound love to us. May we rejoice and give you great joy in return. AMEN.