For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. Psalm 91:11, 12

My brother was a Green Beret on the front lines the whole time he served in Viet Nam.  For us at home, it was a time of stress and vigil.  Every day our family prayed the 91st Psalm that promises protection from so many types of danger:  night terror, pestilence, lions and serpents, and even tripping on rocks.  And Jack would remind his platoon that people were praying for them.

We heard tales of close calls and firsthand reports of life in a war zone.  And we also heard tales of God’s faithfulness.  It was a joy and relief when Jack was delivered home safely after his tour of duty.

Often we look for “second meanings” in Scripture, as described by C. S. Lewis, and are aware that the dangers we encounter daily may be of a different nature than either of the Psalms mentioned above.  But these dangers can threaten us to the eternal peril of our spirits:  anxiety that God is preoccupied just when we need him; sleepless nights due to all sorts of worries; the hidden presence of Covid 19; and multiple insecurities.  THESE are the everyday enemies against which we most likely need protection.

Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) lived through the Black Plague and the Peasants’ Revolt spending much of her life in seclusion in a small cell (room) attached to one of the churches in Norwich.  Julian, to whom many came for counseling and prayer was known for writing, “All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”  Even though she lived through some of England and the world’s darkest times, her trust in God’s goodness brought assurance to those who sought her wisdom. 

Think of all the verses that God has provided for our encouragement in times like these: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Ps. 46:1).  …my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation (II Sam. 22:3). You are my hiding place, you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance (Ps. 32:7).   Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Ps. 23:4).  And then, Ephesians 6:10-18 reminds us to put on God’s armor for protection from the enemy.

No matter what our circumstance, “His divine power has given us everything we need…” (II Peter 1:3).  God is faithful.  “The one who chose you can be trusted, and he will do this” (I Thess. 5:24).

Father, outside you, there is no place of safety.  Let us hide ourselves in you.  AMEN.


 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light…I Peter 2:9 KJV

Growing up, we often heard sermons that reminded us that, as Christians, we were peculiar.  In my childish mind, I was certain that referred to the list of “thou shalt nots” that informed our somewhat insulated lifestyle.  Not that we were ascetics, but we were different, maybe even peculiar.

To my unsophisticated thinking, those “differences” could be summed up in a list of activities that typically spilled over into social behaviors.  Another synonym for “peculiar,” I thought, was “odd.”  Yep, that’s what we were—odd.  It took years into adulthood for me to see what Peter really meant when he described followers of Jesus as “peculiar.”

One of the online entries defining “peculiar” is “particular” and “special.”  Now as I look out from my COVID shelter, I am thinking that God’s people really arepeculiar in the sense of unique and special.  Physical, emotional, financial, political—you name it—stressors are surrounding us with no certain end in sight.  Peter acknowledges the darkness that doesn’t seem to be vanishing.  And yet, these peculiar people I know rejoice, have hope, encourage and reach out to others, trust, and persevere “as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27).  

Our missions fellowship has a friend, Sunday, who came from Uganda to visit and make presentations at our churches.  Sunday is the director of the Women’s Centre in northwest Nebbi and also the national facilitator of the Threads of Blessing micro enterprise ministry for women.  Sunday came to spend three weeks with us at beginning of March and got here in time to be locked out of her own country.  That was five months ago.

Sunday is one of those “peculiar” Christians.  Instead of whining about being stranded and worrying about the three small children she left at home with relatives, she patiently has trusted God to use her for his purposes.  She has quietly made small visits to mission supporters, made videos about her work, and spent weekends with our local feeding program.  When asked about being stuck here all this time, Sunday flashes her broad smile and says, “It’s okay.”  She trusts God with her family and with her time.  She is odd.

And we all can be peculiar, too.  We must seize this moment to glorify God through our trust, our love, our practical assistance, and whatever he would have us do and be.  We are called for such a time as this.

Father, make us unique in the sense that we are your hands and feet, joyously anticipating how we may serve you by serving others.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave [subjected to the authority of a master] of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”  Luke 1:38

I’ve recently finished reading N. T. Wright’s “The Day the Revolution Began” in which he underscores the purpose of Jesus’ crucifixion.  In contrast to much of our Western theology  that reinforces the concept that Jesus died to save us from hell and to ensure our eternity in heaven, Wright reminds his readers that “It’s not about us.”  Jesus’ death, says Wright, was the convergence of heaven and earth, ushering in his new subjects as 1)servants, 2)image-bearers, and 3) worshippers.  A far cry from our contemporary “sales pitch.”

So much that we hear from our pulpits, Bible studies, and Sunday schools encourage us to pursue God so that we become transformed and have better lives.  As we obey him, love our neighbors as ourselves, do good, and strive to be more earnest, we are blessed and eventually receive the harp, crown, and mansion that have been prepared for us.

But there are so many directives in the New Testament that push us far beyond this self-serving Gospel.  Look at Matthew 16:24, ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Acts 14:22, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God…”  Luke 9:24, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  Romans 12:2, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.”  Philippians 2:4  “…not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” And Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than receive.”  And I could go on…

In Colossians 3:22-24, Paul writes, “Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God; And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;  Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”   In the Old Testament we read that some bondservants—slaves—so loved their masters that they had their ear lobes pierced by an awl indicating they never wanted to leave him and would serve him forever.

When the angel came to Mary, she responded immediately with no caveats, “May it be done to me according to your word…”  Mary jumped into God’s will without training or advance warning.  She simply said, “Yes.”

Today, we expect God to provide time for us to resolve our issues, develop a rule of life or set of personal disciplines, heal our memories, plan our futures, and fatten our portfolios before we serve HIM, bear HIS image, and worship HIM.  Where do Jesus or any of the disciples offer this proviso for servanthood?

Time to grow up and put away childish things.  Serve HIM now; bear HIS IMAGE now; worship HIM now.

Father, what a privilege to be invited to participate in your work in the world.  Open our hearts and spirits to serve you.  AMEN.