Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Devotional: Through Many Tribulations

“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”—Acts 14:22

Often when I read this verse I quickly breeze over, barely acknowledging the weight of its meaning. The apostles weren’t merely offering helpful tips to be a Christian. They were giving a definitive statement; tribulation is a given necessity in order to enter the Kingdom. Paul had just been stoned and left for dead, and now he is telling the young Christians that this is how we must live. Surely it must have seemed strange to a new believer that this much suffering be necessary.

You do not have to live long as a believer to either experience suffering in your own life, or witness it in the lives of those around you. Pain is very real. Babies die suddenly. Children rebel and turn away from families. Cancer afflicts little children. Hurricanes wipe away entire villages. My relatively short time on earth reminds me that I cannot postpone the inevitable. It is through many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom. But this is not a morbid text. It is not a death sentence for the repentant sinner. There is a promise attached to the tribulation—we will enter the Kingdom. This momentary affliction of earthly suffering will be made right in the Kingdom of our Christ. We are able to live, serve, and even die freely because we seek the coming Kingdom, the city that is to come.

We may weep and grieve rightly through the “toils and snares” but we can trust that this grace that brought us through will one day lead us safely home to the Savior.

May this truth strengthen you today, dear Christian. Whether you are facing a sunny season in your life or whether the clouds are down, know that the Kingdom is coming. The darkness has been overcome by the Son.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Whole New Way to Learn About Gender...

Well, sort of. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood launched their redesigned website over the weekend. It's full of free articles, audio, and back issues of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. They truly have done an amazing job. If you are looking for introductory reading, the Fall 2006 issue of the Journal was by women for women, and I frequently go to it as a very helpful resource.

They are the place to go if you are new to understanding biblical gender, or even if you have a little more knowledge on the subject. There is something for everyone.

So, check it out, add it to your favorites, and let them know what you think!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who's Afraid of the Dark?

Though there are many things that can be a source of fear (deep water, heights, large crowds, etc.), fear always seems heightened in darkness. As a child, I used to be afraid of the dark. And though it was often used as an excuse to stay up a little later than normal, there were some nights when I would lay in bed, fearful of the unknown darkness of my bedroom. Now that I am an adult, the fear is a little different. This is partly because I can’t go to my parents room when I have a nightmare, and also because I know more about the world. I watch the news and hear of murders and assaults in my neighborhood, sometimes not far from my own home. Falling asleep in an empty house can often bring back feelings reminiscent of childhood.

Psalm 121:3-4 says: “He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber or sleep.” This is a reminder to us of how we need much, and how God needs nothing. The created must be guarded by the Creator. But this verse also comforts us. The God who needs no sleep, is never asleep. He never tires. He never grows weary. He never dozes off. He is always watching, always guarding, always holding our sleeping heads in His grip. Which is why we can pray at any time of day, even in the middle of the night after a bad dream, and know that He hears us. This verse serves as a promise to the believer. It is not just that God does not need sleep, it is that He says He will not slumber or sleep, calling us to trust in His Word. Though darkness may feel like the unknown, this darkness is not unknown to the Almighty.

God’s does not sleep so we can. He created us as finite creatures who tire and grow weary. He gives us rest as a gift from our labors. When we neglect it because of anxiety, or busyness, we are slowly rendering ourselves useless for the tasks that He has called us to. Psalm 127:2 says: “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” This is a tremendous reality for the believer. There was a period in my life where I was constantly afraid to fall asleep at night. Night after night I would lay in bed while my stomach knotted up in anxiety over being alone in my apartment. There are many verses in the Bible that warn against slothfulness and laziness regarding sleep, but there is another end of the spectrum where we are reminded that sleep is given to us, and commanded, by God. Anxiety is bound up and destroyed underneath the promise that our God never sleeps, which is why we can rest in peace.

And so, when you fall asleep tonight, dear Christian, do not fear. God is protecting you in the slums of Brazil, in the jungles of New Guinea, in the inner-city of Minneapolis, and in the suburbs of America. You can rest knowing that the sleep you receive is a gift from your Heavenly Father, who is not a man that He should need sleep. And if you happen to see Who’s Afraid of the Dark at your local library, trust with confidence that you can no longer say, “I am.”