January 10, Tuesday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

Finding God in the Midst of a Long Nightmare 

2 Kings 24:15-17 (NIV)

Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. He also took from Jerusalem to Babylon the king’s mother, his wives, his officials and the prominent people of the land. 16 The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand skilled workers and artisans.

10Having lived in Mexico for many years, I have many friends there, including two men who were deported from the U.S. after living here for many years as illegal immigrants.  One is “Javier” who had lived and worked in California long enough to buy a modest house and raise a family.  The other is “Carlos,” a pastor who was held at a detention facility for undocumented aliens for several months before being deported—it was a nightmare for him.  Overnight, they lost everything.

I consider them “buenos amigos” and I know how devastating the deportation was for both.  Now, I understand that what I’m about to say would make zero sense, even be offensive, to those who don’t adhere to a biblical worldview; but for those who do, realize that deportation was the best thing that could have happened to Javier and Carlos from the standpoint of eternity.  How?  Javier came to believe in Jesus Christ during the aftermath of deportation and in the midst of a crumbing marriage at a retreat where I was the guest speaker.  He would eventually enroll in a local Bible institute and become a leader in the church; once, he seriously considered dropping everything to go to China as a missionary.  As for Carlos, after initially taking a factory job to support his family, he met a boss who later helped him to join the largest Baptist church in the city that, in time, installed him as the pastor of its daughter church.  (Once, a short-term team from Church of Southland worked with him.)

The Old Testament is not silent on this matter, for many Israelites in antiquity would readily empathize with the likes of Javier and Carlos, because they themselves were deported to Babylonia following its crushing invasions of Judah; most of them would never set foot again on their homeland.  One such person was Daniel, who was forcibly taken when he was still a teen.  While Javier and Carlos at least were never separated from their families, Daniel would never see his families again.  How devastating this experience must have been for Daniel, but when seen through the lens of spirituality, deportation was God’s way of drawing Daniel near to him, so much so that he would later become a great prophet of God, while serving as a top official in three different administrations.

I write this neither to the advocates or denouncers of deportation, but to those who see the world through God’s Word.  Jesus says that “in this world you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:32), and often it is through these trials that we learn “not to rely on ourselves but on God” (2 Cor. 1:9).  I hope you would agree that being drawn to God (Jn. 6:44) is far better than anything material that America has to offer.  Don’t get too enamored by America; instead, go where there is a real need and tell those who think that America is heaven that it isn’t so; then tell them about the mansion Jesus has been preparing (Jn. 14:1-3) for the past 2,000 years for those who has placed their trust in him.  Go!

Prayer: Lord, I praise and glorify Your wonderful name.  I pray for all the undocumented immigrants held in detention centers in the U.S., that they would turn to You and trust Jesus for their salvation.  Please remind those who work in these centers to be civil and decent toward those who are held up.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 10


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read Daniel 9:7-8 (ESV): To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame, as at this day, to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. 8 To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you.”

Psalm 137:1-6 (ESV): “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 On the willows there we hung up our lyres. 3 For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! 6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!”

Questions to Consider

  1. According to Prophet Daniel, what is one key reason why God drove out the Israelites to all the lands (i.e., Babylonia)?
  2. Psalm 137 is sung by these Israelites who were forcibly deported to Babylonia. What spiritual effect did this devastating experience have on this once rebellious Israelites? What does this suggest?
  3. Are you going through a difficult moment in your life, like being on the verge of losing your job or marriage? The root (but not necessarily casual) problem may be vertical (you and God), not horizontal.  Pray about it.

Note

  1. Daniel minced no words here: the treachery (NIV: “unfaithfulness”) that the Israelites committed against God. In verse 5, Daniel adds, “We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name.”
  2. This Psalm indicates that the Jewish deportees had repented: whereas before they drew away from God, now they longed to sing the LORD’s song in Babylonia. This suggests that trials and difficult moments can draw us nearer to God.
  3. Personal response.

EVENING REFLECTION

We began the day talking about undocumented workers who occupy the low end of the social ladder.   So, before you look for one to shower him or her with compassion, why not start with people in your life whose job is to serve you, like your employees or people who work in the service industry.  Paul says, “Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited” (Rom. 12:16).  How did you fare today?  Were you proud and arrogant?  Or were you humble and compassionate? Only you know—and God.  Why not pray for a better living tomorrow.

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