WORD FROM THE CENTER: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2020
Welcome to “Word from The Center” MONDAY, a devotional word from the Center of our faith, Jesus Christ, with reflections on His Word. I’m Gregory Seltz. Today’s verses are 1st Corinthians 1:26-31, where St. Paul writes,
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
PREPARED AND READIED FOR A TIME LIKE THIS!
Those who attend churches that follow a commonly used series of Sunday readings probably heard 1st Corinthians 1:3-9 in worship yesterday. Today, I jumped ahead a bit. Why? Because the end of the First Chapter of Paul’s letter to the people living in Corinth long ago also applies specifically to today. Paul reminded those people who they were without God, who they were with God, and then what they were to do in this life until the day they would see their Creator and Redeemer face to face for all eternity. I thought that was worth jumping forward to, especially because of the uncertain times in which we live. What’s my point? When life reduces you to virtually nothing, whether physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually, and yet you have Jesus as your Lord and Savior by faith, then He is all you need for an abundant, useful, and eternal life, both now and forever. He gives you power to face whatever comes your way each and every day.
Today’s passage from 1st Corinthians also reminded me of the story of a Vietnamese man named Hien Pham. Christian evangelist Ravi Zacharias got to know him while working in Vietnam in 1971. Of Hien, Zacharias said,
One of my interpreters was Hien Pham, an energetic young Christian. He had worked as a translator with the American forces, and was of immense help both to them and to missionaries such as myself…..We did not know if our paths would ever cross again. Seventeen years later, I received a telephone call. ‘Brother Ravi?’ the man asked. Immediately I recognized Hien’s voice, and he soon told me his story.
Shortly after Vietnam fell, Hien was imprisoned on accusations of helping the Americans. His jailers tried to indoctrinate him against democratic ideals and the Christian faith. He was restricted to communist propaganda in French or Vietnamese, and the daily deluge of Marx and Engels began to take its toll. ‘Maybe,’ he thought, ‘I have been lied to. Maybe God does not exist. Maybe the West has deceived me.’ So Hien determined that when he awakened the next day, he would not pray anymore or think of his faith.
The next morning, he was assigned the dreaded chore of cleaning the prison latrines. As he cleaned out a tin can overflowing with toilet paper, his eye caught what seemed to be English printed on one piece of paper. He hurriedly grabbed it, washed it, and after his roommates had retired that night, he retrieved the paper and read the words, ‘Romans, Chapter 8.’ Trembling, he began to read, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. . . for I am convinced that NOTHING shall be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Hien wept. He knew His Bible, and knew that there was not a more relevant passage for one on the verge of surrender. He cried out to God, asking forgiveness, for this was to have been the first day that he would not pray. . . . After finding the Scripture, Hien asked the commander if he could clean the latrines regularly, because he discovered that some official was using a Bible as toilet paper. Each day Hien picked up a portion of Scripture, cleaned it off, and added it to his collection of nightly reading. . . . What his tormentors were using for refuse — the Scriptures — could not be more treasured to Hien.
Lutherans are constantly stressing Paul’s words from Romans 1:16 which declare that the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation.” So we are bold about speaking God’s Law and God’s Gospel. When you are reduced to having only that Gospel message in your life, you more fully understand what a precious jewel it really is. Hien Pham was finally released from prison and fled to Thailand. Today he is a businessperson in the USA, but, more importantly, a Christian whose only boast in life is Christ. God prepared him to be a living testimony to the transforming power of God’s Word. That’s what He does for you too as you put your faith in Christ alone so that you can then love others as God in Christ loves you.
PRAYER – Dear Lord Jesus, let our bold boasting in You alone prepare us to be useful in Your hands, especially for times such as these. AMEN.