A Tarnished Crown, A Bloody Cross, An Empty Grave

Man: the crown of God’s creation (see Genesis 1:26-27). But the serpent was crafty and sly. In his deceptive ploy, he came to the woman and caused her to question God’s word.

“You will not surely die,” he hissed. “Rather, you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Eyeing the fruit, the woman liked what she saw. Seeing that it was good for food, pleasing to behold, and desirable to gain wisdom (see Gen 3:6; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:14; James 1:14-15; 1 John 2:16), she ate it, and gave it to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. All of a sudden, shame having attacked their very souls they sewed (perishable) fig leaves together to cover their newly recognized nakedness (see Genesis 3:1-7).

Hearing the LORD God walking in the Garden, they hid from him (but quickly learned that was impossible). They were deceived, desiring worldly pleasures more than God’s purposes for them.

As disobedient children, God disciplined them. Creation’s crown now tarnished, they were put out of that Garden to manage in their own way; they had chosen by their act to live a life of struggling to “make ends meet.” A great gulf was fixed between God and humankind, invoking misconduct, immorality, and terror throughout the earth. It continues today, humans still having the rebellious nature inherited from the “first Adam,” the sentence of death being the final payment (see Genesis 3:22-24).

Yet, God still loved his human creatures. He provided for their physical need, a more durable covering, and when the time was right, a return to his presence (see Genesis 3:21).



The Time Had Fully Come

“But when the time had fully come [some 2000 years ago], God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons” (see Galatians 4:4-5; cf. Mark 1:15; Romans 5:6; Ephesians 1:10).

Shepherds listened to the herald angels singing; the Good News of great joy for all the peoples, they're bringing! "A Savior has been given to you – Christ, the Lord!" (see Luke 2:11) Then, once seeing Him, they go around spreading the word about Him. All are amazed when they hear.


Magi (royal astrologers), too, came from far across the desert sand following the star they had seen in the East. They arrived in Jerusalem and inquired of the one who was born king of the Jews. To Bethlehem their journey concluded, the star looming brightly over the house where the Child was, with Mary His mother. Overjoyed when finally seeing Him, they bowed down and worshiped Him and presented their treasures – their gifts to Him – of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Yet, He had been born to die, from the manger to the cross, paying the price in full for the sins of all – from the poor as the shepherds to the wealthy, as the Magi – bloodying a rugged cross on a hill, paying the price in full for all of humanity, made effective to those who believe, receiving Jesus as Lord.


He was buried in a borrowed grave! But he didn’t stay there. On the third day, as the Scriptures had promised, he rose from the dead. With the grave empty (of Jesus’ body, the clothes that wrapped Him remained) He appeared first to Peter, then to the Twelve, and then to more than 500 others at the same time—such strong evidence indeed of Jesus' resurrection from the dead.



Then, as his disciples stood watching Him ascend into the sky, returning to his Father, two men in white apparel appeared with them, and spoke, “This same Jesus, as you see him go into the heavens, will so come again in like manner, at the Father's will.”

Until then, as Jesus has commanded his disciples (and us), we're to proclaim this good news, as a shining beacon of God's glorious truth to all peoples of the earth.

For further reflection, consider –
Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:8-20; Luke 1:26-38; John 1:1-5, 10-14; Acts 1:1-11; Romans 5:8-10; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Philippians 2:9-11

A Good Neighbor

Sarah, Abraham’s wife, dies. She's 127 years old. (Read it in the Bible at Genesis 23:1-3.) Weeping, Abraham mourns her passing. But then, where is he to bury his beloved spouse, who bore their one and only son, Isaac, in their ripe old age?

Recognizing himself a stranger and a foreigner living among the Hittites, Abraham bargains with them to buy a plot of land to “lay his wife to rest”. The Hittites recognize Abraham’s good reputation among them, so they’re willing to give Abraham the land. Abraham nevertheless pays the agreed-on price of 400 pieces of silver for the land at Machpelah, near Mamre (also called Hebron).

("An investment of time and money in serving God often earns a pleasant return – a good reputation and respect of others [in being a good neighbor]," notes the Life Application Study Bible.)



Centuries later, New Testament times, we see Jesus being asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replies with a parable. (Read it in the Bible at Luke 10:25-37.) Here summarized: A Jewish man, “traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho,” is beaten and robbed, and left for dead. A priest comes by and sees the man, but, perhaps muttering, “I have no time for this,” he ignores him and continues on his way. Later, a Temple assistant (Greek: a Levite) comes along. He too passes on by. 

Lastly, a despised Samaritan sees the hurt Jewish man. Moved with compassion, even though Jews and Samaritans don’t get along (John 4:9), the Samaritan stops and cares for that one in need.

Jesus concludes by asking, "Who was the good neighbor? Was it not the stranger and foreigner with compassion? Go and do likewise.”




Henry Appenzeller
Continue journeying we come to the 19th Century and meet Henry Appenzeller. He arrives at Inchon, Korea, on Easter morning, 1885, one of the first ordained Methodist missionaries there. Reared in a German Reformed church in Pennsylvania, at age of 21 he joins the Methodist Church. And as Horace Allen will say of Appenzeller, he becomes “a most ardent Methodist of the John Wesley type. In Korea, Appenzeller serves God, being a stranger and a foreigner in a foreign land. In less than a year of his arrival he opens a liberal arts boys’ school. But, his calling is preaching, not teaching. Therefore he sees evangelism as the school’s purpose, even though proselytizing is officially banned in Korea.


Horace Allen

Ruth A. Tucker writes, “More than anyone else, Appenzeller laid the foundation for Methodism in Korea.” Read more on Henry Appenzeller in Tucker’s work From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya.


Christ-followers today reside in a world that is fast making them more and more foreigners and strangers in it. Nevertheless, as the apostle Peter admonishes (as we read at 1 Peter 2:12), “Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors....” We're to remain faithful to our “calling” as Christ’s ambassadors. (See 2 Corinthians 5:20-21.) As Jesus commanded us, “Go into all the world…” Mark 16:15.

A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1, NKJV


For Further study, consider

Leviticus 25:26
1 Chronicles 29:15
Psalm 39:12
Luke 2:52
Ephesians 2:19
Hebrews 11:9

Tested and Tried

Continued from Restored to Follow

Abraham faces his ultimate test, we see, as we join him at Genesis 22:2, “Take your son,” God says to him, “your only son – yes, Isaac, whom you love so much … sacrifice him as a burnt offering….”

And, as we watch this historic event, Abraham is obedient to God’s call to him. But does he understand it? Does it come easily for him to obey God’s command, he and his wife Sarah having waited so long a time for their own son? Can we Christ-followers today understand the tests God sends our way? how long would He have us to wait? For what purpose? Yet, as the Life Application Study Bible notes, “not to trip him and watch him fall, but to deepen his capacity [toward obedience] … to develop his character. [Likewise,] God refines us through difficult circumstances [which may include waiting].”

As Abraham and Isaac are traveling to the place that God will show, the boy asks, “Father, I see we have the fire and wood, but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”

“God will provide, my son,” Abraham answers. (See Genesis 22:7.)

And indeed God does provide – a ram caught in a thicket. His care, protection, and provision, just as He promises.

Ours is but to trust and obey.



Centuries later, and we're seeing another historic event: Jesus, the Christ (Messiah), knows to trust and obey. There in the Garden of Gethsemane He prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done,” (Luke 22:42)

“When the right time came, God sent his Son … to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law so that he could adopt us as his own children.” (Galatians 4:4-5, NLT.) God’s provision to rescue us from our evil, darkened nature; He, too, loved His own Son so very much.

And God so loves us. “Even before he made the world … God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” (Ephesians 1:4-5; John 1:12 –13; John 3:16.) How great is the Father’s love!

 “This is why we work hard,” writes the apostle Paul, “… for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers.”
(See 1 Timothy 4:10.)


Zooming still further ahead through history, we arrive at Horace Allen. Born in Delaware, Ohio, in 1858, he is educated at Ohio Wesleyan University, and Miami Medical School in Ohio.

He is appointed by the Presbyterian Church and first serves God’s
Kingdom with his wife Frances as a medical missionary to China. However, because they are bombarded through the night with calls from opium addicts, they soon become dissatisfied with being there.

“Sleep was quite impossible,” he declared.

Agreeing, his wife stated, “Life was made miserable.”



And so, serving less than a year in China, the Allen's are transferred to Korea. Yet, largely
Allen's residence in Seoul, in 1904, 
under armed guard.





due to Korea's way of relating to missionaries, Allen and his wife find no happiness there either. Though tested and tried, even amidst political strife, including Korea’s struggle with Japanese imperialism, the Allen's nevertheless keep at it.





After just a few months in Korea, and perhaps because of having saved the queen’s wounded nephew, Allen is invited by the royal couple to establish a hospital in Seoul. Later, at the request of the Korean king he serves as a diplomat representing Korean interests in America.  (Allen’s works Things Korean and A Chronological Index relate his life in Korea and his diplomatic experience.)



In some respects Horace Allen may have failed as a normal missionary, but as author Wi Jo Kang writes: “[He] left behind a rich legacy of Christian witness to political justice....” It was he, more than anyone else, Ruth A. Tucker writes, “Who paved the way for the long-term presence of Protestant missionaries in Korea.”


“When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing(James 1: 2-4, NLT.)



Information gathered from Ruth A. Tucker’s From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Second Edition, and WikipediA.

Restored to Follow

Previous, see Genesis chapter 20: Abraham, living in a land not his own, fears for his life. “Lest they kill me for you,” Abraham said to his wife Sarah, “say you are my sister.”

Abimelech does take Sarah for himself but commits nothing immoral with her, since God has given him a warning in a dream. So even though Abimelech is not a believer, God protects him from sinning (and of course protects Sarah as well).

Giving Abraham many gifts, and returning Sarah to Abraham, Abimelech sends them away, saying, “Let this compensate you for any wrong I may have done to you,” (Genesis 20:16.) Note, though, that Abraham also did wrong. (Should he have lied and deceived to save his own skin?) Abraham prays to God on behalf of Abimelech; God restores Abimelech and his household.

Now (Genesis 21:22-34), Abimelech visits Abraham again. “It’s obvious God is with you,” he says to Abraham, “Helping you in everything you do. Will you promise me that you will never deceive me, or my descendants? Be loyal to me and this country where you are living as a stranger.”

After settling a complaint Abraham held against Abimelech about a well that Abraham had dug (Genesis 21:24), the two agree together. They settle their differences, agreeing at the well-named Beersheba, “well of the oath".

Abraham had lived for a long time a foreigner in the country of the Philistines. Yet to come: Abraham is about to face his ultimate test…




Fast forwarding now to the New Testament era, when God walked the earth in the person of Jesus, the Son. He, too, was a stranger in the world, even that which He created. (See John 1:10-11.)  Even his own people rejected Him. (See Isaiah 53:3.) All who do accept Him, however, by God’s marvelous grace and love are born again into His family. (See John 1:12, 13; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9.) God calls them to share with the world the wondrous story. (See Matthew 4:18-19; Acts 1:8; Isaiah 6:8-9.)

Peter is one of those disciples, called – with his brother Andrew – out of his livelihood to become “fishers of men,” (Matthew 4:19-20.) Though denying three times that he ever knew Jesus, he repents; Jesus restores him – three times – and predicts how he will die. (See John 21:15-19.)

And so, in the Bible book that bears his name, Peter admonishes and warns, [We, too,] as ‘temporary residents and foreigners’ [in this world should] keep away from worldly desires … [And] be careful to live properly among [our] unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse [us] of doing wrong, they will see [our] honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world…” (1 Peter 2:11-12.)

And as Jesus has called the twelve, so He calls us as strangers in this world, “Follow me.” Answering the call, we can be assured that

He will lead us all the way;
He will teach us what to say.
(See Exodus 4:11-12.)



Fast-forwarding now to the 18/19th Century we meet Henry Martyn “pioneer missionary to Muslims.” Previous: Born in Cornwall, England, in 1781. Graduated with top honors from Cambridge. Turned from God in his youth. But the death of his father, plus the influence of family, friends, and the writings of David Brainerd transformed him spiritually; and gave him a vision for Christ’s Kingdom work on earth.

Continuing: In his desire to glorify God, Martyn set out to practice self-denial. Also celibacy, seeing how the single life offered greater opportunities for “heavenly mindedness.” (See Colossians 3:1-4.) Later, however, he found himself distracted by affection for Lydia Grenfell, his cousin’s sister-in-law, six years older than him. But, convinced he can serve God most effectively unmarried (See 1 Corinthians 7:32.), he bids farewell to Lydia (though he will keep in touch by letters), and sails for India.

A deep confidence in Scripture, translating the New Testament is Martyn’s passion. But he is not unhindered by hostility (the evil one continually working to disrupt Christ’s Kingdom work on earth). Of such Martyn writes, “I wish a spirit of enquiry may be excited, but I lay not much stress upon clear arguments. The work of God is seldom wrought this way.”

Finally, frail in health he seeks rest and recuperation. At this time, he hopes to renew his relationship with Lydia. But before that can happen, he dies in Asia Minor, "a stranger in a strange land", in 1812. Upon his first arrival in India, Martyn had written, Now let me burn out for God.”

“… We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus [restored to follow], so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10.)

Do Not Be Afraid, God Cares

Continued from TRUSTING GOD: TURNING OUR WORRIES, DOUBTS, AND FEARS INTO LAUGHTER AND JOY. The Scripture for this post is  Genesis 21:8-21 and Matthew 1:18-25.


Time-traveling to the Old Testament era, we find Hagar in the wilderness with her son, Ishmael. Having been driven out by Abraham (because of Sarah's jealous demand); she is wandering and about to perish. Her water container (given to her by Abraham when he sent her away) is empty. Afraid, Hagar abandons her son; she doesn’t want to see him die. She weeps.




Flash back: “I heard you walking in the garden," Adam replied to the LORD God, “so I hid because I was afraid, being naked” (Genesis 3:10). And so fear enters the world of mankind, seemingly for the first time.

Before Genesis chapter three, however, Adam and his wife, Eve, walked with God in peace and harmony (hence, no need to be afraid). But then, since mankind’s disobedience, God has to remind His created beings, Do not be afraid.” And God continually reminds us through His Word that we have nothing to fear, but can trust in His care.


Returning to Hagar: (Genesis 21:17 – Hagar was Sarah's maidservant): Hearing her crying, God sends His angel to her: Do not be afraid, Hagar. God cares for you. Go back to the boy. Be assured of God’s promise: He will make a great nation from your son’s descendants.” (Genesis 21:18.) God provides a well full of water there in the wilderness. Hagar refills her container and gives her son a drink.

(This is not the first time, however, Hagar was driven from Abraham and Sarah’s presence. Earlier (Genesis 16 we saw Sarah’s impatience at not being able to have children. We also saw there God’s care for Hagar, the same care He has for all of mankind whom He created in His own image [even though that image was distorted through Adam and Eve’s one act of disobedience]. Thus, that one act sets up God’s continual plea to us, “Do not be afraid. I’m your God who cares for you.”)


Our "time machine" takes us now to the New Testament era, and to Joseph’s dream (Matthew 1:18-25) He is that Joseph who is engaged to Mary, the mother-to-be of the promised Messiah, Jesus.

Do not be afraid, Joseph, to take Mary as your wife,” the angel of the Lord says to him, For the child within her is of the Holy Spirit.”

Waking up, Joseph obeys the angel and lets stand his betrothal to Mary. She gives birth to her son on that blessed Christmas morn in the little town of Bethlehem – the city of David – south of Jerusalem (while she is still a virgin) Luke 2:8-11.
.
Then, the news rings out to the shepherds abiding in their fields. The angel of the Lord encourages them, Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people…” (Luke 2:10.)

Hurrying to the village, where they find Mary and Joseph, the shepherds’ faces brighten in seeing the baby Jesus lying in the manger. It was just as the angel had said to them about this child: “The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today…” (Luke 2:11.)

Witnessing this great event in their lives, the shepherds return to their flocks, giving glory and praise to God, and telling everyone their story, to the astonishment of all those who heard (Luke 2:16-20).



Flash forward: The Jews in Corinth resist the Apostle Paul’s message to them about this Jesus, who was born their Messiah and Lord (Acts 18:1-11). Paul is discouraged. Then, while sleeping one night, in a vision the Lord encourages Paul – and Christ-followers today in sharing the Good News to their neighbors, co-workers, and the ‘nations’: “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city [and around the world] belong to me” (Acts 18:9-10.)

Ours is to Go, as Jesus commissioned, and find His people (Acts 1:8; 2 Corinthians 5:20)


  

We zoom ahead once more, now to the 18th Century, and meet Henry Martyn. As Ruth A. Tucker puts it in her work From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, he is “sometimes described as the pioneer Protestant missionary to Muslims.”

He is born in Cornwall, England, in 1781. Completing his formal education, he enters Cambridge University, graduating from there with top honors in mathematics.





Flash back: Martyn drifts from God in his youth. However, the death of his father, the
David Brainerd
influence of family and friends, and in particular the writings of David Brainerd, bring about his spiritual transformation and a vision for missions.

Of Brainerd, Martyn says, “I long to be like him. Let me forget about the world and be swallowed up in a desire to glorify God.”






And so in 1805 Martyn sails for India. He serves as a chaplain with the East India
Company. He then meets William Carey who recognizes Martyn’s brilliance, and encourages him to do Bible translation. This becomes the yearning of Martyn’s heart.

Martyn serves on military posts, preaches to Europeans and Indians, and establishes schools. He also finds time to work on translating the New Testament into Urdu, and later into Persian and Arabic; his closest assistant is a Muslim convert.

Henry Martyn persists in the work God has called him to despite difficulties (even hostility) and ill health; he is not afraid. At only 31 years of age Henry Martyn departs the physical realm (through death) from Asia Minor in the autumn of 1812.


As the apostle Paul encouraged young Timothy, so it is for Christ-followers today, as we labor in Christ’s cause for the ‘nations’: Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. [He’s your God who cares for you.] Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you” (2 Timothy 4:5.)

Trusting God: Turning Our Worries, Doubts, and Fears into Laughter and Joy

“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14.) Absolutely nothing. He brought everything into being at His spoken command. He can do anything He desires to do with, through, and for His creation. He can do it in His way and in His time. He can make bread from bricks, dissolve pain with a gentle loving touch, cause the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, and the lame to walk. He can dispel evil with the breath of His mouth. With Him there is no such thing as an impossible task.  What is my impossibility? I must give it all (my all) to Jesus.


He performs the impossible for His glory. And in the process, he gives us laughter and joy. This is what he does for Abraham and Sarah. He had promised them the impossible, and we read here in Genesis 21:1-7 of his delivery: Sarah gives birth to a son for Abraham in his old age (he's 100). This baby comes just as God had promised many years earlier (Genesis 21:2; cf. Romans 9:9). Abraham names his son Isaac.

Sarah too (at 99), is far beyond the age for child bearing. (Indeed, she was already far beyond childbearing many years earlier when God made the promise!) “God has brought me laughter,” Sarah declares.

Yet, why does Sarah laugh, being so surprised? If she had simply believed God in the first place, her worry, doubt, and fear would have dissolved and she'd have been relaxed in God’s peace; as we see, God does fulfill his promise, howbeit "in the fullness of time", according to God’s schedule, not ours.



Zooming ahead now, to the New Testament era: We hear of another birth to be (two, in fact) which comes just at the right time (See Galatians 4:4.) – according to God’s perfect plan, not ours.

The angel Gabriel comes to a virgin named Mary and says, “Don’t be afraid, Mary … for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31.)

But before this, Gabriel had already appeared to Zechariah, husband of Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin. Elizabeth is, like Sarah of old, advanced in age, beyond the age of child bearing.

Zechariah is shaking in fear at Gabriel's appearance. Gabriel assures him, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! …Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.” Gabriel goes on, “At his birth you will have great joy and gladness. Many others also will rejoice” (Luke 1:12-14).

Yet, it is the birth of Mary’s baby, Jesus, which will mean greater joy for all ‘nations’ (peoples of the earth), as the baby within her is of the Holy Spirit, the child of the promise – God Himself becoming one of us to set us free from the curse of the Law. (Luke 1:35; John 1:14; Galatians 4:21-31.) (Indeed, the baby who was bringing such joy to Elizabeth and Zechariah, this yet-to-be born baby himself, leaped with joy at Mary's news of the coming Savior of the World!)

And herein is our laughter and joy – we who believe – as Elizabeth proclaims concerning Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed … you are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said” (Luke 1:42, 45.)

And we are blessed who take God at His word – the God of the impossible – and proclaim this Good News of great joy to the ‘nations’ (peoples of the earth).



Moving forward now to the Nineteenth Century and to the South Pacific islands as  we look in on Florence Young, a native of Sydney, Australia. She is teaching a Bible class to the South Seas plantation laborers.

Having studied the Bible since early childhood suits Young well for her teaching ministry now. Thus, she finds her niche in God’s will for her life. Her first class of ten men, meeting on Sunday, soon grows to eighty, about half that number come to her class each evening during the week.

The men have been imported from the islands through trickery and kidnapping – "blackbirding” – to work on the plantations. Even though laboring long hours in the scorching sun, they “sacrifice their hours of rest to come [to Young’s Bible class] and hear the gospel” (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, by Ruth A. Tucker). No impossible task with God. He works even through that blackbirding business to open doors in the Solomon Islands for the spread of His Good News.

So overwhelmed and encouraged at the response, trusting God, Young branches out to other plantations on Queensland, where some 10,000 laborers live. Receiving a monetary gift from George Mueller she begins the Queensland Kanaka (importedlaborers) Mission. With the help of other missionaries, thousands of laborers enroll in classes. Some eventually carry the message of God’s love back to their own people.

God performs His work: Through His people. Yielded to His cause (regardless of the works of man – good or bad). And, there are no worries, doubts, or fears in our walk and work of faith. Let this be our endeavor, therefore, in proclaiming God’s love to the ‘nations’ (all peoples of the earth): Simply take God at His word – trust Him – and relax in the laughter, joy, and peace He gives, implementing 1 Peter 3:15!

“We were filled with laughter, and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, ‘What amazing things the LORD has done for them’” (Psalm 126:2.)

Trusting God through Weakness—Faults, Frailties, Failures, Hardships

God is worthy of our trust, always, including in our weakness -- faults, frailties, failures, and hardships. We all are weak; we all have faults and frailties; we all fail at times, and we all suffer hardships.


The same was true of Abraham, as we read in Genesis chapter 20. Here, fearing for his life, Abraham does it again, what he had done before to protect himself (See Genesis 12:11-13.) -- he lies. (But was it a total lie, or a “little white lie;” a half truth? Is there a difference?) 

Abimelech, king of Gerar, having discovered the deception, asks Abraham, “Whatever possessed you to lie to me, letting me believe that your wife Sarah is your sister. Something grave could have happened to me and my people.”

Abraham answers Abimelech, “I was afraid for my own life. Thinking this was a godless place you may have killed me to get my wife.

“But, it’s not totally untrue,” Abraham adds, “We have the same father but different mothers, so she really is my sister and I her brother.”

Abimelech and Abraham make amends, and Abraham prays to God that Abimelech and his people would be spared. God hears and answers; He is worthy of our total, unwavering trust. As we will see later on, God has indeed kept His promise to Abraham, that Abraham will have a son through his wife Sarah. And through that son of promise all ‘nations’ (peoples) will be blessed.

What has Abraham done here? He's depended upon himself, and has used his own way to try to accomplish what God was leading him to. Just as he has done before.



Fast-forward to the New Testament era
(John 5:1-15), we see Jesus -- the blessing of promise for all ‘nations’ (peoples) -- returning to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. At the pool of Bethesda He sees crowds of sick people -- blind, lame, and paralyzed -- waiting for the stirring of the waters so they can get into the pool and get well.  

Jesus approaches one man lying there. With seemingly no hope and without help to get him into those healing waters, he has remained ill for 38 years.

Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be well?”

“Of course I do,” the man answers, “but there’s no one here to help me get into the water.”

Jesus simply says to him, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk.”

Standing up, he rolls up his mat, and walks away. After 38 years of the man wishing for healing by his own way (being lifted by men into the pool), suddenly he's completely healed!

Jesus is willing and able to help us in our weakness, whatever it may be, in our frailties, faults, and failures, and through hardships and difficult circumstances we may face. He is strong and ever faithful. The Apostle Paul saw this; recognizing his own weakness – his “thorn in the flesh”, he found God's grace to be all-sufficient (See 2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

“My grace is all you need,” the Lord said to Paul, and so He says to us.

Thus, as Paul responded, so should we: “So now [let us be] glad to boast about [our] weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through us [for the ‘nations' (peoples), and the glory of the Father]”.



Again flashing ahead, we come now to eighteenth-century North America and meet Paul Le Jeune, Jesuit missionary, with a degree in theology and philosophy from the University of Paris. (Information gathered from Ruth A. Tucker’s book From Jerusalem toIrian Jaya.)

Jesuit work among the Huron peopleof Canada has been underway for seven years when Le Jeune arrives. Yet, other than a school established for native children, there is little to show for their work.

Nearly forty years old when he arrives (in 1732), Le Jeune seems ill suited to meet the task before him. He is also unprepared for the hardships he will encounter – climactic conditions such as bitter cold winters, hot, humid, and bug-infested summers. Nevertheless, he sets out on his assignment of translating the Scriptures.

“I thought nothing of coming to Canada when I was sent here,” he confesses. “I felt no particular affection for the Savages, but the duty of obedience was binding."

Should we not also have that committed mindset: obeying the call to go into a world of darkness, shining the light of God’s eternal truth among the ‘nations’ (peoples), our neighbors, co-workers, family?

Seven years after Le Jeune began his work, and with ten resident Jesuits, fewer than 100 Hurons in a tribe of about 10,000 will have been converted to Christianity. Two decades later, however, with further increases in missionary workers, half the tribe will have been converted.

And the call for workers continues today. “So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields [who are willing to obey and go]” (Matthew 9:37-38.)