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- Praise God in the face of danger
Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life. I was repainting an old garden ornament in my garage when God used a beautiful sound to lift my spirit. I opened the window to hear more clearly and to see what was making it. A red-breasted robin was singing from the top of a neighbour’s tree – praising God from the depth of his being. “Always a great thing to do,” I thought. But the robin’s was not the only sound I heard. In a nearby tree two magpies were lurking. Their clacking and ticking sounds told me that they would gladly eat that robin’s eggs and chicks, and even the robin itself, if they were hungry enough. I wondered if I could still praise God when those who threatened my life were so nearby and constantly reminding me of the danger they posed. Then I remembered that Peter gives us these five guide-points for living in the face of such danger (1 Pet. 1:13-16 NIV): 1.“Prepare your minds for action.” 2.“Be self-controlled.” 3.“Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you.” 4.“Do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” 5.“But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” Peter goes on to tell us threatened Christians to consider Jesus’ example and “follow in His steps” (2:13-25). I find it challenging to follow these points and I pray that God will help me adjust my life where necessary so I can, like the robin, praise Him even in the face of danger. Jesus said:“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store ... yet your heavenly Father feeds them” (Mt. 6:26). What great examples birds are for us! I encourage you to follow God’s example and praise Him even in the midst of the difficulties He has given you. October 2012.
- Father God cares
Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life. Every parent wants the best for their child Good food to prevent disease Good clothes to look smart and keep clean A good education, leading to a good job as part of a lifelong career Our God and Father is no different. He loves and cares for us more than any human dad or mum can possibly do. Like a good parent, Father God allows his children to grow into maturity sometimes by their experiencing of tough times: Having to eat foods that are good for them, not just candies all the time Going to school for the first time, rather than staying at home all day with mother Moving out from home, working to provide for their own room and food during University education Suffering misunderstanding, even from close friends Suffering bad treatment and betrayal from people who deliberately want to do you harm Parents can only do so much in protecting their children from the troubles of this world in which we live. In the Bible, Father God tells us to expect hard times as well as good times. He also promises to be with us – although usually invisible to us – during those times. “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 1 Peter 4:12-14, 19. February 2013.
- The river Nile
Cross thought: Christian ideas seen in every day Sudanese life. The River Nile flows relentlessly through Khartoum. Its water level rises or falls, following rains away in distant places like Ethiopia and Uganda, as well as Eastern and Southern Sudan. It is true that the effects of events very far away can be seen and felt by people who live today alongside the river shores. It is also true the Nile is used for generating electricity and for watering crops in the fertile silt soil. Most people do not understand “how”, but they are very pleased “it works”. It is accepted that processes people do not understand and events that happen a far, long way away change their lives! Almost 2,000 years ago our Lord Jesus Christ died on a cross just outside Jerusalem. It is a long time ago. And it is hard to understand everything God achieved in this death. Yet there is no doubt that the difference it makes to people’s lives today can be seen and personally experienced. “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, … Christ the power of God and Christ the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:23-24. May 2007.
- Coffee time
Cross thought: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life. Coffee is sometimes called “Black gold” by the people who grow it in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia. Drinking coffee may often be a social experience, but the smell and taste can also be enjoyed alone. As long as fair prices are paid all along the chain of production, coffee plays an important part in “trade, not aid”. Many people earn a living from growing, shipping, roasting and selling coffee. Many more of us simply love to drink it – with or without sugar – and we don’t think of what 'the poor bean' has been through! Coffee arabica plants are pruned to 2-3 meters height for a high yield and for easier harvest. With right conditions and good care the same branch can have blossom, ripening berries and mature fruit all at the same time. A tree is fruitful for 25 years. The coffee bean is the seed of the berry (or coffee-cherry). Hand picking is followed by washing and rolling to remove the flesh and skin. Then the bean is fermented and dried before hulling, a process which scours the husk away. Finally the coffee is sorted, graded, stored and shipped. The coffee bean passes through a rough tough process before it becomes useful as a drink. Next time you drink a refreshing coffee with your friends, think about this: “He (Jesus Christ) was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed”, Isaiah 53:5. On the cross Jesus paid what he thought you were worth. Enjoy your Saviour! June 2007.
- Building bricks
Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in every day Sudanese life. There is so much building development going on in Khartoum it is impossible to miss it. Homes, schools, churches, mosques, hospitals, factories, hotels and more, are all being built. Foundations are the key to success for any building. A solid and secure foundation, one that will never move, is essential for building to succeed. It is also true our own lives need to be developed on good principles. Society may give us traditions to follow. Television from other parts of the world may suggest different things for us to try. But there is only one best way. Knowing Jesus Christ gives us the foundation for living to please God. Jesus’ birth was an expression of God’s love to the world. For a little while God lived among humanity in a way that showed people how he could best be understood. Jesus’ life was a life of obedience to a higher, heavenly will. God the Son chose against his human will. He only did things that pleased God the Father. Jesus death was God’s self-sacrifice for the forgiveness of all people. His perfect sacrifice made atonement for all of the sins, of all of the sinners, from all times. Since Jesus lived, died and rose we can be forgiven. Here and now. “For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ”, 1 Corinthians 3:11. July 2007.
- Colourful Bougainvilleas
Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life. Bougainvilleas are a shrubby flower often seen from the streets of Khartoum. The spiky thorns make a good defence against thieves and any other unwanted intruders. It’s blooms are beautifully brilliant in their variety of colours: blazing red, white, yellow, orange, mauve, purple and many different shades of pink. Every branch from the bougainvillea will divide into three more if the bush is pruned at the correct time. It will always seem rather unfair. It may not appear a good way to reward the plant for such enjoyment as it has given. Yet cutting back a flowering branch is the only way for it to produce many more of the best flowers (technically known as “bracts” because they are not actually flowers!). The flamboyant bougainvillea almost seems out of place in Sudan – a country wracked by painful wars and, especially in the north, with such a harsh climate. But Creator God has enabled the bushes to be here to brighten up many a difficult life. The plans of God are always the best ones. He does bring good out of evil. We get the best out of life when we work together with him rather than going our own way. God prunes to make beautiful any life given over to his hands. “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush Jesus and to cause him to suffer, …… the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. Jesus will see the result of the suffering of his soul and be satisfied”, Isaiah 53:10-11. August 2007.
- Donkey carts
Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life. How many of these donkey carts do you see on the streets in Sudan? They appear to carry just about anything, from steel rods, to furniture, and even take people as passengers in some of the more remote places. Imagine you were that donkey. All day, every day, pulling heavy loads here and there. The heat from the sun sapping your energy. The traffic noise and fumes badly affecting your hearing and your breathing. The potholes and road debris are regular traps to avoid. You do your master’s bidding. You go where he takes you. You move whatever he wants you to move. In return, he looks after your basic needs for food, water, shade and rest. Sometimes life can be a burden, even for Christian people. We try to obey God as sincerely as we can. We put all our energy into his work. We seek to live a holy life, avoiding the traps of Satan, our enemy, who wants to make us fall down. Peter wrote to men and women who were helping to lead Christian groups going through persecution and other sufferings. He urged them to take regular time to look away from this world with all its troubles. To think deeply about Jesus and his eternal rewards, helps keep this daily life in true perspective. “Cast all your anxiety on Jesus Christ because he cares for you”, 1 Peter 5:7. September 2007.
- Don't forget the tree!
Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life. Trees, like this silhouette on Crocodile island in the Blue Nile, are a part of daily life. We enjoy sitting in the shade they offer. We watch birds feeding or nesting within their branches. We may use their leaves for a variety of purposes, like the Neem planted to keep locusts and other crop pests away. We may eat their pods or fruits, like the Tamara Hindi, the Moringah, the Mango and the Date. We could make boats from some big trunks, as people do along from Abu Rof in Omdurman. We may simply burn some tree wood. Many people take trees for granted. My neighbour’s children used to climb my trees to get the fruit. They did so before it was really ready to eat – and it would frequently be wasted, thrown away on the ground after just one bite! The spread of the desert in Sudan used to increase as trees were chopped down for immediate use. They were never replaced with more for the future. These sad mistakes remind us never to neglect one old wooden tree. It was sometimes called a cross. On it, all the wrongs of the world have been put right. Today, we can be changed by it’s fruit. We dare not lose our opportunity. “Jesus Christ himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed”, 1 Peter 2:24. October 2007.
- A trustworthy sacrificial Lamb
Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life. I write this just as the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan has finished and the Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations are happening. Muslim friends exchange gifts and their families feast together for several days. I enjoyed some delightful Sudanese hospitality from various neighbours when I lived in Khartoum Bahri 1999-2003. One big difference between Islam and Christianity can be understood when thinking about Ramadan and its genuine human self-sacrifice. Muslims appear to be trying to earn their acceptance by God. Muslim people sincerely do their best, completing everything in the “Din” – the duties of Islam – E’shahada (the testimony or declaration of faith), Salat (regular prayer), Zakat (almsgiving or paying religious tax), Sawm (fasting), and Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). These are the basic activities controlling every Muslim’s way of life. Christians are trusting in someone else – someone who is able – to save them. They know they cannot do enough to save themselves. Christian people have understood that they will never be good enough to stand before the Holy God. We trust the Lamb of God (Jesus), who has taken away the sin of the world, to be our Saviour, John 1:29. Can you see the difference? Are you trusting in yourself? Or are you trusting in God to save you? “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world”, 1 John 2:1-2. November 2007.
- Drink only clean water!
Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life. It is easy to be thirsty in Sudan! The sun’s heat and the dusty conditions make it necessary to drink water – and to drink plenty of it. My dictionary defines “thirst” as “a craving to drink, accompanied by a feeling of dryness in the mouth and throat”. When you crave water, you long for it intensely; you eagerly desire it. It is good that water is made available at many places similar to the one pictured above. Thirsting for water is actually a safety device that Creator God has built into our human bodies. We need water to live on. And God has made sure that when we have not got enough water inside of us we soon become aware of our need. God has also built into our lives other desires. We want to be accepted. We want to be loved. We want to be forgiven. We want to be clean on the inside as well as on the outside. It is easy to wash or shower ourselves every day, but cleansing our skin does nothing for our spirit or our soul. God never gives us a desire without giving us a legitimate way of meeting it. Feeling clean within is possible – God has made it so. Life must be lived in the way our Creator planned from the start. Since God has given you this desire, make sure you are satisfied in the only way He has provided. “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in Jesus. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life”, 1 John 5:11-12. December 2007.
- The Shepherd knows best
Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life. Nobody knows for certain what will happen in the next twelve months. Some people may worry when they look ahead because of the dangers they think might happen: a return to war, a constant struggle to provide for the family needs; with daily risks of injury or disease. Other people may be excited looking ahead. This is the year they plan to be married, or to graduate from university, or to finish training at work, enabled to live more independently. For those who have known bad times, the New Year brings an apparent chance to start afresh. We learn from our mistakes and make sure they will not happen again. We are a year more experienced than we were this time last year. Hopefully, we are a year wiser as well as a year older! Psalm 23 is a picture of how God looks after his people: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake”. Did you notice the four personal benefits the Psalm-writer enjoys by knowing God as his friend? When the Psalmist thinks about the future he remains confident, certain that God will be ever present and always willingly helping: ”Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – the darkest valley – I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me”. So, as we go ahead into 2008 … “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart”, Hebrews 12:2-3. He is our shepherd! January 2008.
- Water gives life
Cross thoughts: Christian ideas seen in Sudanese every day life. Which of these two pictures (above) is more like your Christian life today? The River Nile enables Sudan to produce crops along its shores. These “donkey pumps” can often be heard and seen chugging their motors to raise water from the river into irrigation channels and on to feed the fields. There are few things more sad than a pump that is not working! The potential is there. The feed pipe is in the water. The motor and fuel needed are ready to work. But the “donkey pump” stands there lifeless. Because it has no life in itself, it cannot pump the water of life through to the dry fields. From time to time Christian people become like this dry and dead pump. We know we should be different, but we also know there is a dryness in our personal time with God. This quickly leads to a lack of productivity in our Christian life and witness. Make time today. Meet with Jesus on your knees. Learn from Him. Love Him. And then live with Him. Get your Christian life working once again. Jesus said: “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”. John 7:37-38. February 2008.