The AMI QT Devotionals from August 7-11 are provided by Pastor Ryun Chang who writes about his recent teaching trip to Cuba.
DEVOTIONAL THOUGHTS FOR TODAY
How Did That Happen in Cuba?
Mark 4:26-29 (ESV)
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
In chapter 2 of my book on missions published in Mexico, while writing about the impressive growth of Christian faith in closed countries, I talked about Cuba without actually seeing what God was doing there. I finally had that opportunity during my recent teaching trip to Cuba for a week, taking back with me the reminder that “seeing is believing.”
In 2005, I wrote: “For over 40 years, Cuba was the only country in the Western Hemisphere that had embraced atheism publicly. Many believers were imprisoned because of their faith. But Castro could not kill the church of God. In early 1994, after 35 years of persecution, the Protestants in Cuba began to experience a renaissance. In 1998, six percent of Cubans (700,000) continued to attend church, of which 57 percent were Protestant. For instance, the Methodist congregants grew from 6,000 members in 1959 to 50,000 by 1994. Despite almost no help from outside for 30+ years, it is believed that there are 4,000 churches in Cuba.”
And the first thing I experienced in Cuba, before my first class began, was worshiping in one of these churches on Monday morning (as if Sunday wasn’t enough). Now, this was no ordinary service: over 200 seminarians and local church leaders singing praise to the Lord at the top of their lungs, moving and dancing in the Spirit, and crying out to God in desperate pleas (for most Cubans are in need economically). And what went on in the classroom was no different: 71 seminarians intently studying in a crammed space, praising and crying out to God just as sincerely. Their days began at 5:30 AM to get ready for morning prayers at 6, followed by a time of Bible reading. Only then the first of daily five classes would begin, totaling six hours of classroom instructions.
So, how can we account for this impressive growth without the help of Western missionaries? According to Mark 4:14, the seed in today’s parable can also represent God’s Word; and once it is planted in the soil of human heart, its inherent power does the rest in expanding in God’s Kingdom on earth, through the sharing of God’s Word by ordinary people of faith empowered by the Spirit. That’s what happened in Cuba and can also happen in our country. Are you up for it?
Bible Reading for Today: John 17
Lunch Break Study
Read Phil. 1:15-16 (written during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome): Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.
Heb. 4:12: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Questions to Consider
- Briefly describe what was going with some of Paul’s colleagues in ministry while the apostle was imprisoned in Rome.
- Did Paul think that God’s Word proclaimed by those with wrong motives could not bear any fruit? If the answer is no, then what does this say about God’s Word?
- What does God’s Word intend to accomplish—that is, what does it do for us?
- Apparently, some of Paul’s ministry colleagues, given to envy and rivalry, were glad that the apostle was imprisoned so that they could shine before men through the preaching of God’s Word. In other words, their ministry was not discharged out of good will but in pretense.
- Nevertheless, the apostle Paul felt that as long as these men preached Jesus correctly, God would honor His Word despite the impurity of their motives. This underscores the inherent power of God’s Word that supersedes the flaws of imperfect vessels. Nevertheless, James 3:1 assures that God will judge these types of teachers.
- Everything: God’s Word intends to challenge our values and worldview, to heal us physically, and to disclose what is really in our hearts to transform us (Rom. 12:1).
We began the day reflecting on what God had been doing in Cuba without much help from Western missionaries. We noted how this shows the inherent power of God’s Word to build His kingdom on earth with our minimal participation. Yet I hope that this doesn’t discourage you from being proactive in serving the Lord. So, what can you learn from passionate Cuban believers? Would you spend a moment to allow the Spirit to speak to you about it?