repent

Angelina

“I feel useless!”

 As she explained, the rest of the team began to see Kathy’s frustration. She had been invited to Russia specifically to work with the wives of the Russian camp staff during this week at Transformation Christian Center. For several years she had led Bible studies for the women in her church in the U.S. At least one of the studies she had taught had been translated into Russian. Kathy had taken the initiative to find this study, purchase enough copies for the class, and have them shipped ahead and waiting at the Center. She had put in many hours reviewing notes, adjusting for the cross-cultural experience, and praying. She was ready and excited.

 Arriving at the camp, she discovered there was no class.

 So many teenagers had signed up for this session that facilities were overcrowded. To make room for the teens, the staff were asked to leave their families at home. Frustrated, but still a team player, Kathy found other things to do and had not expressed her feelings until asked this morning.

 

Going to the camp director, her team leader explained the situation. “What can we do?” Talking together, they realized there were several women in the adult rehab program who could benefit from such a study. They had never done this before, but this was an opportunity and worth a try.

 Kathy, herself, had mixed feelings. Expecting to work with a group of young but mature Christian women, she now had a ragtag group of women of various ages, education, and understanding. She couldn’t even be sure where these women were spiritually.

 “Lord,” she prayed, “What do you have in mind?” The answer didn’t come immediately.

 The group came together, meeting daily in a forest clearing at the edge of the campground. Although the words themselves never passed through the interpreter, Kathy and the women probably had the same thoughts. “Who is she?” “Who are they?”

 As they diligently worked their way into the study book, the women got to know one another and could sense some of the walls dropping. They opened up, beginning to ask questions based on the study, and then further afield about life in general. There was a rapport building

 By the end of her stay, Kathy had not been able to get more than halfway through the book. On the last day with what she now considered her women, she almost magically pulled out supplies she had brought from home and put on a semi-formal tea party. Then she told the women to keep the books they had been using and try to finish the study on their own.

 Shortly after arriving home, Kathy received a message about Angelina. Angelina. This somewhat large and imposing woman was currently in the drug and alcohol rehab program. Kathy didn’t know much beyond that about her background. At first meeting, there was something almost frightening about her, until she smiled shyly. As the study had progressed, Angelina had opened up more and more and thrown herself into the homework.

 Angelina sent word, through one of the missionaries, thanking Kathy for coming to Russia and helping her understand more about God and the Bible. She thanked her, especially, for giving the study book to keep. She had always had trouble reading, but went ahead and completed the entire Bible study. She was now reading and understanding the Bible.

 God was doing something. Even as she read the e-mail, Kathy continued the prayer she had begun in Russia, “Lord, what do you have in mind?” And two sentences jumped off the page:

 “Two Sundays ago during the church service, [Angelina] went forward to repent. Now she is looking forward to being baptized.” The missionary writing the e-mail continued, “I wanted you to know this, and to thank you for being instrumental in bringing [Angelina] to Christ!”

 Kathy now had a new prayer, “When the original plans for our Bible study didn't materialize, Lord, I wondered what you had in mind.  Thank you for Angelina. Thank you for showing me how you truly have everything under control!”

 How good to serve the God who does have everything under control, who does things well, and who not only uses us to expand His kingdom, but allows us to see and be encouraged by individual human results like Angelina.

Can God be Thankful?

Here we are, less than two weeks from Thanksgiving. I’ve been watching some Facebook friends counting down the days through this month with specific things for which they are thankful. Many people, no matter what their faith, are probably thinking the same way.

Then, earlier this week, this thought hit me. What is God thankful for?

My mind quickly began sorting through the many Bible passages stored away there over my 50+ years of following Christ. I could think of many people who were thankful in scripture. Jesus told his followers to be thankful. The apostolic writers reminded us to be thankful. Jesus, himself, offered thanks to the Father several times.

I couldn’t find any reference in the entire Bible to God the Father being thankful!

Since that initial thought, I’ve searched through various internet posts on the subject. Almost all agree God can be thankful, but they infer that through philosophic or theological arguments rather than the Bible. I can follow their trains of thought, and almost agree with their conclusions.

Here’s one of my own. By our human definition of thankful, we cannot prove that the sovereign, all powerful God has anyone to whom he can offer thanks. He is the ultimate giver, not receiver.

However, He can be pleased and acknowledge when something good is done in His name. Creation is an example, where He consciously and verbally expressed approval over His own work by saying, “. . . it was good.”

He can be pleased and acknowledge when His people do the right thing, as when He declared to Moses, “I am pleased with you.”

I tend to think His ultimate pleasure comes as described by Jesus in Luke 15:8-10. “. . . suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Going along with this, in another of Jesus’ parables, we see a picture of a young man who takes his share of the family wealth, leaves home, and loses everything to bad choices. Then this prodigal son repents, and returns home. His father welcomes him back without harsh words or actions, and shows his pleasure at the son’s return by celebrating. Given as a picture of a sinner returning to his God, it is also a picture of his heavenly Father’s pleasure that he has returned.

As we celebrate our own Thanksgiving holiday in two weeks, we will thank God for some of the specific blessings He has given us over this year. We’ll say, “thank you!”

I sincerely hope that He, in turn, will be pleased with us: for coming to, or back to, Him, and for helping others to do the same.