Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Joy To The World"1 (Lyrics)
Isaiah 41:13 – For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you." (ESV)
My most cherished nativity scene (of which I have many!) is one from Malawi that I brought back with me in 1998. This nativity scene almost got me arrested — or worse! Let me tell you the tale.
I'd spent over two weeks visiting mission partners in Malawi, from Blantyre in the south to Livingstonia in the north, and it was time to head to Zimbabwe. The party with whom I was travelling arrived at the airport only to find that our flight back to Blantyre and on to Harare was cancelled. The good news was that a later flight would take us directly to Harare and arrive at almost the same time. The even-better news was the invitation to spend the time in the well-appointed VIP lounge in the upper area. A small commotion in the public area below barely drew our attention until it grew in volume. A squad of four soldiers following a lieutenant was marching down the main concourse. They ascended the steps to the VIP lounge, at which time the officer in charge greeted us in a most friendly manner with a crisp, mostly English accent, and said, "Good afternoon, gentle people." (Yes, that's what he said.) "Could you please direct me to Mr. Stright?" Every eye turned toward me, as I meekly raised my hand in response. "Sir, please come with us." Four well-armed soldiers fell in around me, and we descended the stairs. On reaching the main floor, a door was opened, and we descended more stairs to a basement in near darkness, after the brilliant African sunlight above. I was led to an ominous machine with a large commercial screen, which I discovered was an X-ray machine upon which lay my suitcase. "Please, sir, identify your luggage for us," which I did with a slight tremble in my voice, "This one." "Now, please, sir," (he then hesitated and more forcefully said) "Please open the baggage." As I prepared to do so, four submachine guns were levelled at me. As I approached my suitcase, I got a glimpse of the X-ray screen, where I saw, perfectly lined up, eight surface-to-air missiles across the length of my suitcase. As my bag was opened, there were my ebony nativity figurines depicting a Malawian version of the Christmas characters, very tall and very thin. As the machine guns lowered, the lieutenant calmly said to me, "Next time, sir, muss them up a bit!"
The story ends with my safe arrival back in the VIP lounge to a chorus of clapping from folks who never expected to see me again!
Here is where I must tell you about the fear that I felt from the moment that my name was mentioned until the nativity set was revealed. Many things go through your mind when you doubt that you'll ever see day again.
I don't know what fear we will face today, whether real or simply imagined, whether a fear for mind, body, or spirit. But I pray that we will face it in the context of the faith that is the foundation of our lives, by which we can face all things through Christ Who strengthens us.
2 Timothy 1:7 – For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (ESV)
Prayer: God, we live in fearful times. Many rise up or go to bed with the thought, "I am scared. I am worried. I am anxious. I don't know what is going to happen to me, or my neighbours, or my church, or my country, or the rest of the world." Remind us in pandemic and political turmoil that day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, and second by second, You are with us; we are not alone. Remind us when facing our greatest fears that we can trust in You. We know that we can't do this on our own. We need You, and we need to hear Jesus saying, "Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." Amen. (John 14:27b ESV)
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So well done, Kenn!
Thank you , this was a good one.
Thanks for the encouragement, Kenn.
Good story Kenn and a great lesson for all.
Is 41:13 is nicely expressed in The Message.
Thanks and same to you and your beautiful family.
A wonderful story and a wonderful prayer. Thank you.
Great word today Kenn.
Great devotional this morning, Kenn. Thanks for it and prayers for continued provocations.
Thank you, Ken, for sharing this encouraging devotional with us.
Very interesting story, it must have been terrifying. Thanks for sharing and may God continue to bless you, Kenn!
Such a well-told illustration of your chosen scripture and reminder of our Father’s loving care. Thank you again, Kenn.
What a terrifying experience! Thanks for sharing and for the reminder to “Fear Not.”
An amazing story.
Thanks for sharing it today.
Blessings my friend.
Ken, who would have thought a peaceful nativity set would trigger such a hoo-haw. Only the Lord, who used it for His reasons, including this devotional. Thank you for this writing.
A timely reminder in this period of apprehension re the pandemic, the war between truth and deception going on south of our border and increasing superpower national saber rattling. Thank you.
Great story. Great prayer. The lack of normal and the fear of “if ever” is causing much distress. Being in this old age bracket has taught us that worry and fear demands more energy than we want to lose. May YOU and YOURs stay healthy.
That was such a good story, Kenn.
Having once lived in South Africa, I can empathize with you.
Sometimes you fear for your life,
Kenn, this devotional was indeed a nail-biter — guns aimed as you faced your fear. That Nativity set will always hold a special place in your collection. This is a blessed addition to my morning.
Thank you Kenn, for sharing this event with us.
It’s a wonderful story of how fear can be upon us when we don’t know what’s ahead.
Praise God for being with you and holding you up.
Thanks, and God bless,
Thank you so much for writing this wonderful devotional! It was my answer to prayer this morning!
I praise God for your service to Him – allowing Him to give you the words that so many need to hear.
Wow, what an experience you went through at the airport but thankfully ended well. Yes, our Lord is always there to guide and carry us through so many unexpected circumstances in our lives. I appreciated in your writing that you reflected on verse 4:13 of Philippians. That verse was my “mantra” that helped me gain back my mobility. Blessings for these interesting and positive writings you do.
What an awesome Devotional, and wow that was scary beyond belief. In times like that you were blessed with your strong Faith. Thanks for sharing your story.
We all need to always give our fears, worries, and anxious times over to God. He is always there beside us.
Keep up the awesome work on your devotionals. I feel so blessed with the daily devotionals you all write. Thanks again.
What a beautiful and timely reflection. I’m so glad that your experience continues to inspire – bring hope and trust in Christ.
I too collect nativities. One of my favorites is an olive wood one that I purchased in Bethlehem during the intifada. The shop keeper was so grateful to make a sale. I treasure it along with an African “thorn bush” nativity, and a Guatemalan nativity. My bread-dough is in need of repair, but it reminds me God’s the potter and his ability to reshape our lives.
Blessings this Advent,
Good morning Kenn,
I thought your devotional was going to be on a different aspect of “fear”. “Fear the Lord” which I have always had trouble with. I change the word automatically to “respect the Lord”. Therefore, I was taken by surprise and loved your story. I can imagine your fear in 1998 of those machine guns. I am glad it was solved so simply. I can imagine your memories of your experiences (all of them) in Malawi as you set up that nativity scene each year.
Thank you for sharing and reminding us not to “fear” the Lord but to trust in him and ask for his help. Merry Christmas with all its special memories and hope.
Thank you for today’s devotional Kenn. Glad you came through it ok. Years ago I had a similar experience on a much, much lower scale. My Father-in-Law immigrated from Slovakia (then Czechoslovakia). All he brought with him was a few clothes, his Bible, and a metal crucifix. He was a faithful Christian of the Roman Catholic faith. When he died at the age of 94, my husband gave me his dad’s Crucifix which I have carried in my purse ever since. Early on, once in our travels, I was held up at by the Security people who went through my purse because of the metal detection. I was not afraid, and when they saw what it was, they apologized and let me carry on. So nothing near to your experience, of along the same lines. I respect every denomination, and every faith that practices the tenets as set down by whatever name given to whom we as Christians call God.
If only everyone could do that.
Take care, keep writing and most of all……keep well.
Your Holy Spirit timing from God was PERFECT (to God be the Glory).
The enemy has recently been, I suspect, attacking many of us BIG TIME, to the point of near-paralysis, yet we know Jesus is the Victor.
Thank you, a sister in Christ.
Oh, Kenn! I must admit my heart was in my mouth when they escorted you “below”.
It all ended “happily ever after,” as they say in fairy tales, but thank you for reminding us of others who face daily dangers from governments hostile to their beliefs.
Blessings to you and keep your DDs coming to inspire and provoke us! Warmest greetings,
Good morning Kenn,
I have just reread this, this morning. I can see you meekly raising your hand when he asked for you!!! What a dramatic moment then and what followed, you tell it so well. Fear is a part of our daily lives, and we must know how to handle it. Thank you for this devotional, the prayer is such a good help.
Do take care, stay safe and may you and your family have a joyous, peaceful, happy Christmas season.