Monday, October 26, 2015

Saved by an Angel?

I was reminded of this excerpt from “God’s Desert Highway” (see tab above) when the subject of angelic visitations came up in conversation this week. It was an unforgettable experience, 28 years ago. [Note: A "wadi" is a dry riverbed that fills up in the rainy season.]

...The next morning, we awoke early and pressed on to the last village we would pass through before Khartoum. From there we had two choices: The long (20 hours) and much more likely to be dry route, or the short (12 hours) and more likely to be wet route. We were told that both should be open, so we chose the short route. As a 12-hour route, it took over 24 hours of driving, pushing, wading, and digging to get through the three wadis in its path. It was a horrible route to have taken.
The first wadi we entered was large. We drove up and down its edge looking for a suitable crossing point. Finally Ahmed stopped and said, "This is the best place for us to cross." Ahmed's "best place" was about 50 yards of water, six to 24 inches deep, under which was six to twelve inches of mud, some of which could be seen above the water’s surface here and there to offer hope. It is difficult to describe the five hours of labour it took us to cross that 50 yards at temperatures that certainly well exceeded 40 degrees Celsius. The mud was often right up to our undercarriage and we were on our bellies in the water trying to dig it out. Then we'd lay branches of the wadi’s trees or shrubs under the tires, and then push. Then after managing to get the vehicle about 80% of the way across, we hit the deepest part. If four local shepherds hadn’t been nearby to come and help us (for a price), I’m sure we would have been there for many additional hours.
Tired, dirty and wet, and our feet cut up from the sturdy thorns of the branches we'd had to walk over as we pushed the vehicle over them, we drove on. The next wadi was worse. Instead of a mere 50 yards of water and mud, this one was at least 100 yards wide, with dozens of deep, steep, muddy and slippery ravines weaving their way across our path. Once again, Ahmed drove up and down its edge looking for the best crossing point. As he began our journey across the wadi at the best place he could find, we entered a ravine that was about five feet deep with slippery mud-soaked sides. We immediately got stuck at the bottom of it. Using piles of branches and some determined digging, we got out, but we got stuck over and over again – the final straw being when all four of our wheels were spinning freely on perfectly level ground in mud that was only one or two-inches deep. And given the energy we’d expended and the heat of the desert, we were getting increasingly fatigued as the wadi was becoming alarmingly impassable. It seemed we couldn’t move forward, and going back the way we’d come was looking equally uncertain as the afternoon sun sapped both our bodies and our spirits. I wondered if we were going to die in this remote and inhospitable place. Then along came a man out of nowhere – a nomad of the land, and he offered us help.
"You'll need to turn back," he told Ahmed. "The farther you go in at this place, the harder it becomes." So he led us out. He just began walking away from us expecting us to follow, and as Ahmed tentatively put his foot on the gas, and as we gave the vehicle a push, the vehicle moved and he was able to turn to follow the man. Somehow – I can’t explain how – he led us out of a place that had taken us over an hour to cross into in a matter of minutes. Once back on the side of the wadi where we’d started, the nomad jumped in the vehicle and directed us north.  It didn’t seem like he took us further than where we had looked before when searching for the best crossing-point, but then suddenly we saw what seemed impossible: a passageway  a level and dry place to cross the wadi where we could drive straight across without a single barrier between us and the other side. 
      Once safely across, we expressed our thanks to him, and as he kindly declined our attempts to pay him for his help, I remember wondering at how gentle the look in his eyes was, and I wondered where he had come from in this lonely place. Eventually, he just turned and walked back into the trees of the wadi from where he’d come. I couldn’t resist wondering if he had been an angel.
Once he had left, and as we paused to take some water from a container we carried, I went aside to a distant bush to be alone for a moment. As I began to thank God for the help he had given us, I began to weep. I remembered the psalm that says, “They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region; they did not find a way to an inhabited city. They were hungry and thirsty; their souls fainted within them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses. He led them also by a straight way, to go to an inhabited city. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness” (Psalm 107:4-8).

It was as though that very psalm came to life for us that day in Sudan. And the only reason we didn’t die was because it seemed as though God showed up.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Protection on Paper

Someone once showed me a poster of "The Christian in Spiritual Armour" that left me feeling like I needed to take a few steroids to measure up to the soldier in that picture. I was a rake of a twenty-something year old, and felt like quite the wimp compared to that muscular dude wielding his powerful sword and shield.

Fortunately, the Apostle Paul's reference to our spiritual armour has nothing to do with our physical stature. The spiritual armour Paul wrote about fits Christians of every size and the sword that goes with it is something that even the most physically weakened Christian is fully capable of swinging.

In fact, I think it would be better to draw the picture of "The Christian in Spiritual Armour" as a young child carrying a paper-product sword and shield rather than some strongman carrying heavy weapons. That's because much of the armour we wear or carry in our spiritual fight is found on paper.

Yes, God calls us to arm ourselves with something found on paper pages. Think about it...
  • The "sword of the Spirit" is clearly referred to as "the Word of God" (Ephesians 6:17).
  • The "shield of faith" (Eph. 6:16) is produced by the Word of God, since we know that "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17).
  • And we know that the "belt of truth" (Eph. 6:14) is also the Word of God, because Jesus prayed that the Father would "sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17)
This means that we are to arm ourselves from the pages of the Bible. When we do so, we can be certain that the words in that book are sharp enough to pierce through any of the enemy's trickery, and that the truth on those pages is fire-proof against the "fiery darts" that our enemy throws at us (Eph. 6:16). Imagine that! A fire-proof shield on combustible paper, and flimsy pages that are made immeasurably strong and sharp by the words of heavenly truth they contain.

What does any of this mean? It means that no matter how weak you may feel, you can wield and wear spiritual armour. It means that a picture of a child with a paper sword and shield is closer to Biblical reality than a poster of a muscular soldier with his hefty steel sword and shield. It's not brawn that beats the enemy back, but it's the person who reads and embraces God's Word who will overcome the enemy's constant lies and accusations.

That is why it's so worthwhile to saturate ourselves in the Bible's precious contents. And the fact that Jesus is the living Word means that all our spiritual armour is available in Him, and that as we spend time meditating on His Word in fellowship with Him, He will bring His Word to life in our hearts, enabling us to be victors against our enemy by His power rather than by any unreliable strength of our own.

© 2015 by Ken Peters