Sabbaths, Feasts, and More
Marking Jewish Themes with Devotion
“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it” (Matthew 16:5).
The first Messianic Jewish Bible Institute began in a small, fishing village about 50 kilometers outside of Odessa, Ukraine. It was a shabby and neglected Communist indoctrination camp for Russian youth. Located at the end of an unpaved road lined with homes made of mud bricks and thatched roofs, the village resembled something out of “Fiddler on the Roof.” Frozen in time, the little hamlet remained about 100 years behind the USA.
Sometimes the wind blew so hard through the windows that it would blow the candles out on the table. Our first winter in Ukraine became one of the coldest they had in 25 years. We went often without heat, electricity, and water. For these pampered Americans, it was a rough beginning. I wanted to return to my warm home in Texas, nearly every day for the first year.
One particular morning is imprinted on my memory. The heat and electricity had quit, so Julia and I huddled in the kitchen all bundled up in our winter coats, hats, scarves, and mittens. Julia worked on her homeschooling for the day, while I endeavored to cook an egg on the stove for her breakfast. Suddenly, the gas went out too. I just looked at that raw egg, staring me in the face, and thought what am I going to do?
I offered Julia cold cereal explaining that the gas stopped working, and she could not have an egg for breakfast. She stood up suddenly and burst into tears. Julia was only eight-years-old at the time and had been very courageous through all the rough transitions that life in Ukraine demanded of her. But I wasn’t surprised to see such an emotional outburst.
She finally caught her breath and between sobs, she said, “Mama, Mama, I feel like I am losing my life.”
I ran to her and threw my arms around her neck. I sobbed too. After a couple of minutes, I said, “Julia, I feel like I am losing my life too. In truth, we both are losing our lives. Jesus has granted us the privilege of losing our lives. Something dies in us as we sacrifice so that something eternal can live in others.”
That was a hard moment — one of the hardest of my life — but I would not trade it for all the memories of Julia’s childhood. It became a strong life lesson lived in living color about embracing the irony of God’s kingdom–about how you really find your life when you lose it. That moment is still paying off and has even multiplied in benefit and reward! That is just how God works when you turn the controls over to Him.
For more study…
Philippians 3:7-8, Matthew 19:29, Hebrews 11:24-27
Work it out in daily life…
God doesn’t call everyone to live abroad in an under-developed nation, but he does call each to pick up her cross and follow Him, no matter the cost. Identify a burden in your life that is requiring spiritual action from you to give up your own will for the betterment of a person or situation. Ask God for wisdom as you make choices. Recognize it and praise God for the opportunity to be formed in His image. Find scriptures that will strengthen your resolve to press on in joy.
©Bonnie Saul Wilks