Sunday, June 26, 2022

Mourning: Christ's Highest Call

 Index to the Devotional Series based on Isaiah 61

WAITING FOR NORMAL BODY PARTS TO ARRIVE - Isaiah 61 Devotional #19

 
"... The LORD has anointed Me ... To console those who mourn in Zion ... Instead of your shame you shall have double honor ..."
– Isaiah 61:1b-7a
 
"I can't be a princess! I'm still waiting for normal body parts to arrive!"
- Mia Thermopolis, from The Princess Diaries (2001) Walt Disney Pictures
* * *

Today's portion of the magnificent Isaiah 61 treasure--the bequest of our Lord's "Blessed Mourners"--is in fact just a single facet of the multi-faced gem that is verse seven, which could itself spawn a thousand sermons.  So it is essential that we first look at the gem from all sides, then rightly divide it for the purposes of this study.

"Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs."
- Isaiah 61:7 (NKJV)

Wow! To begin with, we have three prominent themes: HONOR instead of shame; POSSESSION instead of confusion; and finally, the outcome--boundless, everlasting JOY.  This devotional will focus on the first theme, HONOR.

But what's up with that pesky word "double"?  Double honor.  Double portion.  Is it, like, we're allowed second helpings but not thirds?  

Thankfully, our Lord does not afflict us with unsolvable puzzles.  In fact, Isaiah's 8th-century B.C. audience wouldn't even do a double take.  They were familiar with Old Testament law, wherein the "right of the firstborn" was a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17), not to mention the double honor of continuing the family's patriarchal lineage (Genesis 49:3).  So, while the words "portion," "land," and "possess" all speak of inheritance, the word "double" specifically focuses on FIRSTBORN inheritance.

OK, so what's a verse about firstborn inheritance doing right smack in the middle of God's promises to His "Blessed Mourners" (verses 3-11)?

Because it is absolutely PIVOTAL!  Think of the ground we've covered since verse 3. He first gives them "beauty for ashes": His eternal destiny in exchange for the ashes of their broken dreams.  Right up through verse 6, where they "eat the riches of the Gentiles": His unlimited provision in exchange for the petty possessions and prestige they left behind.

Why?  Because, as Paul said, "You died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3)  Christ--Who is the image of the invisible God, the FIRSTBORN of all creation. (Colossians 1:15) He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the FIRSTBORN from the dead (v. 18), and the FIRSTBORN among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)

But it gets BETTER!...

Jesus Christ is indeed the firstborn among many bretheren, since we are all sons of God through adoption.  Thinking back to the Old Testament "right of the firstborn," that means Jesus gets a double portion of honor and inheritance, while we get ... the scraps, right?

No, no, NO, hallelujah!  And herein lies the mystery of it all: that, having died, and now alive again "hidden with Christ in God," WE ARE ALL FIRSTBORN ... IN HIM!  Hebrews 12:22 speaks of the saints gone to be with Him as "the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven."  And Romans 8:16b-17 speaks directly in terms of our inheritance: "...We are children of God. And if children, then heirs--heirs of God and JOINT HEIRS with Christ."

Did you see that?  It's not a matter of Jesus, the Firstborn, getting a "double portion" and the rest of us getting what's left over.  Rather, IN HIM, we are the church of the firstborn, joint-heirs with the one-and-only Firstborn, Jesus Christ.  IN HIM, we enjoy that "double portion"--instead of shame, the firstborn's honor; and instead of confusion, the firstborn's possession.  There are no leftovers.  It's just the firstborn's portion: ALL THINGS for life and godliness.

Charles Spurgeon proclaimed this same truth in his impassioned sermon "The Joint Heirs and Their Divine Portion," delivered July 28, 1861:

"And O my soul, thy portion cannot be slender nor thy dowry narrow, since it is the same inheritance which Christ has from His Father's hands. Weigh the riches of Christ in scales and his treasures in balances, and then think to count the treasures which belong to the saints. Reach the bottom of Christ's sea of joy, and then hope to understand the bliss which God hath prepared for them that love Him. Overleap the boundaries of Christ's possession if you can, and then dream of finding a limit to the possessions of the elect of God. 'All things are yours, for ye are Christ's and Christ is God's.' [Romans 8:17]"

Now, having surveyed the full breadth of verse 7, let's bite off, at last, today's theme: HONOR instead of shame.  As joint heirs with Christ, one thing we receive is "double honor," that is, the HONOR of the firstborn Son.  And yet, it's paradoxical because we enjoy that glorious honor only by giving it to Him, Who is the One and only being entitled to it.  As Paul stated, "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14)  Meaning, my boast--my honor--lies in the fact that He is everything; I am nothing, and yet at the same time, I am everything IN HIM.

And, if I inherit all the honor of the Firstborn of God, there remains no place for shame.  Why? Because, on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, He bore the utmost shame--MY shame--so I no longer have to!

In our opening teaser, we recall Mia's shock on learning that she was heir to a kingdom she'd never even heard of: "I can't be a princess! I'm still waiting for normal body parts to arrive!"

In Disney's 2001 classic The Princess Diaries, Amelia "Mia" Thermopolis is ashamed of her looks, bullied by classmates, terrified to speak in front of class ... yeah, a typical fifteen-year-old.  But when her world is turned upside down by the sudden revelation that she is a princess, soon to be queen, well ... watch the movie.  But the point is that her surprise inheritance lifts her from shame to honor, from being a nobody to the place of preeminence among her people--a vantage point from which she can truly make a difference.

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father,
Thank You that I am part of that "chosen generation," that ALL THINGS are mine in Jesus Christ the Firstborn.  From this place of strength, may I live--no longer I, but Christ in me--to reflect all honor and praise back to Him, that the world may come to His magnificent light!
In Jesus' name. Amen."

---
Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 6/26/2022.

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2022 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 12, 2022

'SOUPE AU CAILLOU' - MIRACLE RECIPE FROM THE BIBLE - Isaiah 61 Devotional #18

 
"... The LORD has anointed Me ... To console those who mourn in Zion ... You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory you shall boast."
– Isaiah 61:1b-6c
 
"Two travelers, dying of thirst and hunger, entered a farm and asked for something to fortify their feeble stomachs.

"'Gentlemen,' said the farmer, '...leave! For we have neither meat nor bread.'"

So begins the earliest known account (c.1716) of "La Soupe au Caillou (Stone Soup)," by Anne-Marguerite Petit du Noyer (1663-1719), a.k.a. Madame Desnoyers.
* * *

Today's Isaiah 61 episode -- following the story of Christ's dyed-in-the-wool, turn-the-world-upside-down brigade -- brings us to a veritable meat-and-potatoes question: "How do these 'Blessed Mourners' eat!?"  Indeed, those of us who would answer this passage's high calling cannot but ask ourselves whether it includes "holy" hunger and ruination.

It's a fair question, and one that Peter himself raised in Mark 10.  To which, our gracious Lord responded, "... There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions--and in the age to come, eternal life."

Or, for the flat-out meat-and-potatoes perspective, we have Matthew 6: "Don't worry what you'll eat, drink, or wear.  While the world is obsessing over those things, your Father's got you covered.  Be a faithful Kingdom servant, and you'll see that His provision is automatic! [paraphrase mine]"

While this sounds good on paper ... let's face it ... Jesus was just being "poetic," right?  And if we go to the original Greek, we'll discover that it works out to be, like, some abstruse spooky-spiritual meaning?

Actually, the original Greek is clear and simple--no bait-and-switch: "Don't worry, saying, 'What shall we eat/drink/wear?' ... Your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things.  Seek first His Kingdom ..."

If you're starting to see a theme emerging here ... you're right!
- Mark 10: Seek to follow Christ over family and possessions: receive a hundredfold.
- Matthew 6: Seek His Kingdom over food/drink/clothing: receive all those things.

And our Isaiah 61 passage further connects the dots by saying, "You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles."  Which, in today's New Testament context, equates to: "The Christian's provision will come at the hand of non-believers."

How so?

Think about it.  Whatever your perceived source of income--whether a job, business, investments, Social Security (which is just another type of investment)--it all involves a transfer of "riches" from non-believers to you.

But here's where we get tripped up, especially when you add to the mix wars, health crises, economic downturns, investments "underwater" and what not.  How am I to keep afloat when the buying power from my salary/business/investment/Social Security source is down, and the cost of living is through the clouds?  What am I to eat, drink, and wear?

A Christian businessman friend called me just the other day.  "What's your opinion on the coming recession?" he said.  "It's not affected my business yet, but I have other friends that say theirs are slowing down significantly, and I'm getting worried."

It was an opportunity for me to share how the Lord had been changing my own perspective on this very topic.  The bottom line is that the Christian's perceived sources of income are not SOURCES at all; they're just CHANNELS.  Our Heavenly Father--the One Who already knows what we need (Matthew 6)--is the Source!  As long as I consider my job or business (and I have both) as my source, they will let me down.  But when I trust the Lord as my source, and I focus first on serving Him, then He takes care of dredging the channel when it's slow ... or changing channels if necessary.  Economic drought cannot touch me so long as my trust is in Him.

"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit." (Jeremiah 17:7-8 NKJV)

How does this jibe with the promise that we'll "eat the riches of the Gentiles"?

Our "Stone Soup" fable begins with two itinerant men desperately in need of a meal.  The farmer and his neighbors have a rich supply of edibles to which these travelers at first seem to feel they are entitled simply by virtue of their hunger.  But the farmer rebuffs them, saying deceitfully, "Leave! For we have neither meat nor bread."

However, when the protagonists change their approach to one of service, offering to fill a cauldron with lovely "stone soup" for the enjoyment of all ... suddenly, the "Gentiles" are happy to contribute of their riches--a cabbage here, some turnips, seasonings, a cut of meat, and so on.  In the end, the travelers partook of a feast, though they'd added nothing but stones from the dusty road they traveled ... and a willingness to bless.

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father,
Thank You for Your compassionate foreknowledge of all I require for life and godliness--even the mundane necessities such as food and clothing.  This world is not my home; but, as I'm passing through, develop in me the heart of a Kingdom servant.  And may I come to understand, deep down, that You are the infinite Source of provision--not my job, business, or investments, but You alone.  May I trust wholeheartedly in You and eat the riches of the "Gentiles" that You channel my way.  
In Jesus' name. Amen."

---
Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 6/12/2022.

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2022 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, May 15, 2022

DOST COVET DESTRUCTION, THOU MANIAC? - Isaiah 61 Devotional #17

 
"... The LORD has anointed Me ... To console those who mourn in Zion ... They shall call you the Servants of our God."
– Isaiah 61:1b-6b
 
In the midst of the talk I let drop a complimentary word about King Arthur, forgetting for the moment how this woman [Queen Morgan le Fay] hated her brother. That one little compliment was enough. She clouded up like storm; she called for her guards, and said, "Hale me these varlets to the dungeons."

That struck cold on my ears, for her dungeons had a reputation. Nothing occurred to me to say or do. But not so with [my companion] Sandy. As the guard laid a hand upon me, she piped up with the tranquilest confidence, and said, "...Dost covet destruction, thou maniac!? It is The Boss!"

The effect upon madame was electrical. It cleared her countenance and brought back her smiles and all her persuasive graces and blandishments.... She said, "I did but play this little jest with hope to surprise you into some display of your art, as not doubting you would blast the guards with occult fires, consuming them to ashes on the spot, a marvel much beyond mine own ability, yet one which I have long been childishly curious to see."

The guards were less curious, and got out as soon as they got permission.
---
[Later, in the queen's dungeon:]
"Ye will do in all things as this lord shall command," [said Morgan le Fay]. "It is The Boss...."

The queen's guards fell into line, and she and they marched away, with their torch-bearers, and woke the echoes of the cavernous tunnels with the measured beat of their retreating footfalls. I had the prisoner taken from the rack and placed upon his bed, and medicaments applied to his hurts, and wine given him to drink....

Then I said, "Now, my friend, tell me your side of this matter ... If my reputation has come to you right and straight, you should not be afraid to speak."

[His wife] broke in, eagerly: "Ah, dear my lord, an ye will but persuade him! Consider how these his tortures wound me! Oh, and he will not speak!--whereas, the healing, the solace that lie in a blessed swift death--"

"What are you maundering about? He's going out from here a free man and whole--he's not going to die."

The man's white face lit up, and the woman flung herself at me in a most surprising explosion of joy, and cried out: "He is saved!--for it is the king's word by the mouth of the king's servant--Arthur, the king whose word is gold!"

--A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain: Chapters 16 and 17 (excerpts)
* * *

Our last Isaiah 61 expedition broke off mid-sentence, as we meditated on a solemn promise made to our Lord's "Blessed Mourners" (those who share His heart of compassion and action for the lost): "You shall be called priests of the Lord...." (verse 6a). And we discovered the blessed role of the believer as a New Testament priest: for inspiration, instruction, righteousness, and spreading the glorious gospel of redemption in Jesus Christ.

But then, verse 6b caps off that thought with the assurance that we will further be called "the Servants of our God." 

OK, so the "priest" part sounded pretty good; but how does "servant" add anything? 

"Servant of God": cliché, and pretext nowadays for anything from ... why the pastor doesn't need a raise, to ... why it's my "holy calling" to pontificate on social media.  And yet, we know that Scripture contains no idle thought, so let's have a closer look at what this promise means: "THEY SHALL CALL YOU the Servants of our God."

Think of it! We who identify as "Blessed Mourners" are ordained by Jesus Christ Himself to carry on His Isaiah 61 commission until the end of the age. And we've already seen what-all that entails! In short, just like the Early Church, we're sent forth to turn the world upside down. 

But HOW? Maybe you feel just as Moses did, as he expressed at the burning bush: (a) I'm not impressive, (b) I'm not good at public speaking, and (c) in the end ... why should anyone listen to me!?

Notice that God never disagreed with Moses' statements. Instead, he graciously helped Moses understand that it wasn't about him; it was about HIM. 

"God said to Moses, "I AM Who I AM." And He said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:14) And, sure enough, the people responded by acknowledging him as a "Servant of our God." (Exodus 14:31)

But it didn't stop there. Now that Moses was no longer just Moses, but a Servant of the Living "I AM" God ... he could stand before a king and TELL HIM WHAT TO DO: "Let My people go!"
 
Back to us ...
"But you shall be named the priests of the Lord." (Isaiah 61:6a) That's a fantastic start. But, as with Moses ... what are the chances that anyone will listen to us because we're priests? Not hardly! Which is why we need the rest of the sentence: "THEY SHALL CALL YOU the Servants of our God" (verse 6b).

When the World comes to realize--by witness of the Holy Spirit anointing upon us with revival and signs following (which are sadly a rare thing in the Church today, and for which we ought to be praying with every cell of our being ... but that's a topic for a different time)--that we are indeed representatives of Almighty God, NOW we too can stand before kings, principalities and powers, and TELL THEM WHAT TO DO. 

Why? Because they can see and know that we are servants of a HIGHER King. While verse 6a speaks to who WE are, 6b is all about Who HE is, in--and through--us.

In Mark Twain's novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, we find the main character, a modern-day factory worker named Hank, transported magically back to sixth-century England where he becomes a servant and right-hand man to the fabulous King Arthur himself. 

As "The Boss" -- an honorary title of nobility that the people had given him -- Hank is able to walk into the castle of the wicked queenlet Morgan le Fay (who happens to be Arthur's sister) in a small neighboring kingdom and TELL HER WHAT TO DO, including, in the end, emptying her dungeon of all its oppressed and tortured occupants. Why? Not because he was Hank Morgan, but by virtue of his rank as The Boss, servant of King Arthur--"the king whose word is gold!"

Sure, this stuff plays well in fiction. But in the real world? No way!

WAY!...

We already saw how the Israelites recognized Moses as a Servant of God, and he was able to stand before Pharaoh. Here are a few more historical examples of those who stood before kings:

- "Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, 'Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you SERVANTS OF THE MOST HIGH GOD, and come here!' Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire." (Daniel 3:26) These three were actually servants of Nebuchadnezzar, but he now realized that they were truly servants of a Higher Power. And he immediately issued a decree saying that anyone who should speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would do so at the peril of his life.

- "Then the king [Darius] arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, 'Daniel, SERVANT OF THE LIVING GOD, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?'" (Daniel 6:19-20) Though Daniel was in the service of Darius, now Darius recognized Who Daniel's TRUE Master was. And he, too, immediately issued a decree: that all men, everywhere, should "tremble in fear" at the God of Daniel.

- Later, when Zerubbabel and the Jews began rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem, Tatnai, the governor of Palestine wrote a letter of complaint to Darius, saying, "Thus [Zerubbabel and his men] answered us, saying, 'We are the SERVANTS OF THE GOD OF HEAVEN AND EARTH and are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and finished....'" (Ezra 5:11) On receipt of the letter, Darius not only dissed Governor Tatnai's complaint, but he validated Zerubbabel's claims, instructing the governor to actually fund the temple construction and not interfere with it under penalty of death.

But there's more ...

Not only does the Master give His servants grace to stand before a lost world, with its authorities and powers that be, and see His will be done because they realize we are His servants. He further gives us authority to successfully stand against spiritual principalities, powers, rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:11-12)

Christ Himself affirmed this in Luke 10:17-19: "And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through Thy name.' And He said unto them, 'I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.'"

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father,
Thank you for ordaining me as a member of Your royal priesthood of believers to bring inspiration, instruction, righteousness, and spreading the glorious gospel of redemption in Jesus Christ. And yet, I have NO illusions of being able to accomplish this great task on my own. Birth in me a heart of prayer for sovereign revival--and may it begin with me through daily repentance--until Your power, anointing, and signs follow the Church in America once again. May we become that city on a hill, so men and women everywhere declare us to be SERVANTS OF GOD ... and come to our Master's light!
In Jesus' name. Amen."

---
Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 5/15/2022. 

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2022 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 24, 2022

AND YE SHALL BE NAMED...'FOREIGN DEVIL'? - Isaiah 61 Devotional #16

 
"... The LORD has anointed Me ... To console those who mourn in Zion ... But you shall be named the priests of the Lord."
– Isaiah 61:1b-6a
 
"Life is pitiful, death so familiar, suffering and pain so common, yet I would not be anywhere else.  Do not wish me out of this or in any way seek to get me out, for I will not be got out while this trial is on.  These are my people, God has given them to me, and I will live or die for Him and His glory."
-- Gladys Aylward, Missionary to China, during the Japanese Occupation
* * *

Our latest stop along the glorious Isaiah 61 prophetic journey is this somewhat bewildering statement, made, of course, to the same "Blessed Mournful" we've been studying -- those so utterly broken-hearted at the fallen state of their world, so outrageously sold out to Jesus, that they're ready to make a difference, whatever the cost:
"... But you shall be named the priests of the Lord."

"But, Lord ..." we might say, "with all due respect ... You're obviously confused!  Jesus Himself revealed the 61st chapter of Isaiah to be a New Testament prophecy when He said, 'Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.' (Luke 4:21)  And, You know ... NOT every New Testament believer is a priest.  In fact, Protestants believe that NO ONE can be a priest anymore except Christ Himself -- our final, eternal High Priest. (Hebrews 10:11-14)"

To which, our loving Father would remind us that the apostle Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote:

   "...You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a HOLY PRIESTHOOD..." (I Peter 2:5)

And he goes on to say:

   "But you are a chosen generation, a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;" (I Peter 2:9)

And, to whom was Peter addressing these statements?  To a New Testament audience of believers, specifically defined as: elect by GOD THE FATHER, sanctified by the HOLY SPIRIT, and washed in the blood of JESUS CHRIST! (See I Peter 1:1-2)

Well, I guess if the Holy Trinity is in agreement that I'm a priest -- a "royal" and "holy" one, no less! -- that not only settles the matter, but ... leapin' lizards! ... I'd better hop to it and find out what's expected of me in this role!

It's quite simple, really.  So simple, in fact, that we may have just now missed it.  Back to I Peter 2:9: "But you are ... a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD ... [SO] THAT you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light."

That's it!?  

That's it, indeed.  And yet, it's HUGE!  To truly unpack the concept of being "His own special people ... proclaim[ing His] praises," would require opening the bottomless treasure chest of Isaiah 62 -- the glorious sequel to Isaiah 61 that continues the prophecy from the Messianic Age on into the Age to Come (i.e., upon Messiah's return).  And, though that's outside the scope of this series, we can venture to crack open the lid of that chest and steal a peek:

   "You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth." (Isaiah 62:6b-7)

So, what does a chosen, royal, holy, special, NEW TESTAMENT generation of priests look like?  Same idea as the Old Testament priesthood, but ever-so-much-more-so!  

Under the Old Covenant, priests were God's representatives to inspire and instruct the people, administer judgment in righteousness, and accept the blood sacrifices on God's behalf to atone for sin.  In short, their purpose in life was to "channel" (as best they could, given their flawed human nature) the character of God -- Who is the Source of all inspiration, instruction, righteousness, and atonement.

So, what about a New Covenant priesthood? And WHAT does Gladys Aylward have to do with all this?

Gladys Aylward (1902-1970) was an ordinary English girl from a working-class family. She had to cut short her education at age 14 and go to work.  At age 28, feeling God's call on her life to be a missionary to China, she attended Bible school for three months with China Inland Mission, but was told flat-out that she did not qualify for an assignment in China.  

Not to be so easily dissuaded, Gladys took a job as a domestic helper (maid) in London and saved her shillings until she was able to purchase a railway ticket to the remote town of Yangcheng, China, where she had been told a lone elderly Englishwoman, Mrs. Jeannie Lawson, was serving as a missionary. The journey was fearfully difficult.  At one point, Gladys was forced off the train by Russian soldiers, and she had to walk about thirty miles through the snow to the nearest village.

But when she finally arrived in Yangcheng, her difficulties began in earnest.  In the midst of Gladys working long hours to rehabilitate a derelict old building into an inn for transient mule trains, and while struggling to learn the language and ways of a people who knew absolutely nothing of Judeo-Christian culture and niceties -- where even the children looked on her as a "foreign devil" and would hurl dirt clods at her in the streets ... In the midst of all this, her missionary partner, Jeannie Lawson, fell from the second floor of the building they were repairing ... and died!  

Now Gladys Aylward was all alone in a land that was not hers, surrounded by people who, for the most part, still did not understand nor appreciate what she was doing there, and with the China Inland Mission's assessment still heavy on her mind: "You're not qualified."  NOW was her opportunity to call it all a big mistake and make her way back home to England.  And no one would have blamed her for doing so!

But Gladys understood one glorious concept that carried her through: that if God had called her to China -- as she was utterly sure He had -- then THIS, not England, was her home.  And if God had called her to be a missionary, then that's precisely what she would be. Failure was impossible as long as God was behind her.  In her own words:

   "If God has called you to China or any other place and you are sure in your own heart, let nothing deter you. Remember, it is God who has called you and it is the same as when He called Moses or Samuel."

Fast-forward six years.  Gladys Aylward, now a Chinese citizen and the only white woman in Yangcheng, is running the missionary outpost known as "The Inn of the Eight Happinesses," preaching the gospel to travelers.  She has adopted numerous Chinese children, whom she cares for at the mission.  And, in her spare time, she travels the surrounding countryside as a government emissary to educate women about the new regulations against foot-binding ... and, of course, to share the good news of Jesus Christ wherever she goes.

By this time, the people who, in years past, had called her a "foreign devil" now referred to Gladys by a new and affectionate title: "Ai-weh-deh" -- "The Virtuous One."  See, she had earned the respect and love of everyone, from the children who once threw dirt clods at her, to the Mandarin official (what we would call a mayor) of Yangcheng, who considered her his "right-hand man."  Gladys stood for righteousness and against oppression, often risking her life in the process, such as when she stepped into the local prison to intervene and defuse a violent prison riot in progress and to advocate for the prisoners' welfare with the Yangcheng leadership.

Gladys Aylward's capping achievement was in 1938, when the Japanese violence reached her beloved Yangcheng, and she found herself leading 100 children to safety through a perilous war zone.  But in her own words, again:

  "Life is pitiful, death so familiar, suffering and pain so common, yet I would not be anywhere else.  Do not wish me out of this or in any way seek to get me out, for I will not be got out while this trial is on.  These are my people, God has given them to me, and I will live or die for Him and His glory."

In conclusion, we see a passionately brave hero of the faith whose life was a monument of "praise in the earth" -- to inspiration, instruction, righteousness, and the glorious gospel of redemption in Jesus Christ.

But, WAIT!  Isn't that the definition of a New Testament PRIEST?  Indeed it is, Hallelujah!  Where could we find a BETTER example than in Gladys Aylward?  

And now, as Christ Himself would say, "Go and do thou likewise!"

* * *
To find out more about this remarkable lady, read her autobiography, Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman (1970).  Or, for a synoptic view (if more than a bit Hollywoodized), watch the movie The Inn of the Sixth Happiness (1958).

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father,
I've never thought of myself as a "holy, royal priest." But, at Your word, so be it!  Please, may I never rest -- nor give You rest -- until You've birthed Your own high-priestly heart within me.  Please do IN me all you NEED to ... so You can do THROUGH me all you WANT to!
In Jesus' name. Amen"

---
Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 4/24/2022. 

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2022 All Rights Reserved