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Patricia Raybon

Patricia Raybon

A writer of faith by day and mysteries by night, Patricia Raybon is an award-winning author whose books, essays, and devotionals encourage readers to find our joy, hope, and justice in the living Christ. Her debut work of fiction, the historical detective mystery All That Is Secret, is set for release October 5, 2021, from Tyndale House. A mother of two and grandmother of five, Patricia supports Bible-translation projects worldwide. She and her husband, Dan, live in Colorado where they enjoy gardening, biking, college basketball, and family movie nights. Find her online at patriciaraybon.com 

Articles by Patricia Raybon

Safely Ashore

In Papua New Guinea, the Kandas tribe awaited with excitement the arrival of New Testament Bibles printed in their language. To get there, however, both the books and their visitors had to travel on the ocean in small boats to reach the village.

What gave them courage to travel across great waters? Their seafaring skills, yes. But they also know who created the seas. He is the One who guides each of us across our life’s churning waves and deepest waters.

As David wrote, “Where can I go from your Spirit?” (Psalm 139:7). “If I go up to the heavens, you are there . . . if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (vv. 8–10).

These words would resonate deeply with the Kandas, who live on an island nation whose tropical coasts, dense rainforests, and rugged mountains have been called “The Last Unknown.” Yet as believers there and everywhere know, no place or problem is too remote for God. “Even the darkness will not be dark to you,” says Psalm 139:12, and “the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.”

On stormy waters, therefore, our Lord speaks, “Peace, be still!” and the waves and wind obey (Mark 4:39 nkjv). So, don’t fear life’s deep or turbulent waters today. Our God safely leads us ashore.

Better with God

On her college volleyball team, my granddaughter learned a winning principle. When the ball came her way, no matter what, she could “better the ball.” She could make a play that left her teammates in a better situation—without throwing tantrums, blaming, or making excuses. Always make the situation better.

That was Daniel’s response when he and three Hebrew friends were taken into captivity by Babylon’s king Nebuchadnezzar. Although they were given pagan names and ordered to three years of “training” in the enemy’s palace, Daniel didn’t rage. Instead, he asked permission not to defile himself in God’s sight by eating the king’s rich food and wine. As this intriguing Bible story shows, after consuming nothing but vegetables and water for ten days (Daniel 1:12), Daniel and his friends “looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food” (v. 15).

Another time, Nebuchadnezzar threatened to kill Daniel and all palace wise men if they couldn’t repeat the king’s disturbing dream and interpret it. Again, Daniel didn’t panic, but sought mercy “from the God of heaven,” and the mystery was revealed to him in a vision (2:18–19). As Daniel declared of God, “wisdom and power are his” (v. 20). Throughout his captivity, Daniel sought God’s best despite the conflicts he faced. In our own troubles, may we follow that example, making the situation better by taking it to God.

Finding Joy in Praise

When the famous British writer C. S. Lewis first gave his life to Christ, he initially resisted praising God. In fact, he called it “a stumbling block.” His struggle was “in the suggestion that God Himself demanded it.” Yet Lewis finally realized “it is in the process of being worshipped that God communicates His presence” to His people. Then we, “in perfect love with God,” find joy in Him no more separable “than the brightness a mirror receives” from the “brightness it sheds.”

The prophet Habakkuk arrived at this conclusion centuries earlier. After complaining to God about evils aimed at the people of Judah, Habakkuk came to see that praising God leads to joy—not in what God does, but in who He is. Thus, even in a national or world crisis, God is still great. As the prophet declared: 

“Though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord” (Habakkuk 3:17–18).

“I will be joyful in God my Savior,” he added.  As C. S. Lewis also realized, “The whole world rings with praise.” Habakkuk, likewise, surrendered to praising God always, finding rich joy in the One who “marches on forever” (v. 6).

 

Wisely Weeding

My grandchildren are running around my backyard. Playing games? No, pulling weeds. “Pulling them up by the roots!” the youngest says, showing me a hefty prize. Her delight as we tackled weeds that day was how much we enjoyed plucking the weedy roots—clearing away each pesky menace. Before the joy, however, came the choice to go after them.

Intentional weeding is also the first step in removing personal sin. Thus, David asked the Lord: “Search me, God, and know my heart . . . . See if there is any offensive way in me (Psalm 139:23–24).

What a wise approach, to go after our sin by asking God to show it to us. He above all knows everything about us. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me,” wrote the psalmist. “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar” (vv. 1–2).

Such knowledge, David added, “is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (v. 6). Even before a sin takes root, therefore, the Lord can alert us to the danger. He knows our “landscape.” So, when a sneaky sinful attitude tries to take root, He is first to know and point it out.  

“You hem me in behind and before,” wrote David. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,” (vv. 5–6). May we closely follow our Savior to higher ground!

Never Give Up

“Time went by. War came in.” That’s how Bishop Semi Nigo of the Keliko people of South Sudan described delays in his church’s long struggle to get the Bible in their own language. Not one word, in fact, had ever been printed in the Keliko language. Decades earlier, Bishop Nigo’s grandfather had courageously started a Bible translation project, but war and unrest kept halting the effort. Yet, despite repeated attacks on their refugee camps in northern Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the bishop and fellow believers kept the project alive.

Their persistence paid off.  After nearly three decades, the New Testament Bible in Keliko was delivered to the refugees in a rousing celebration. “The motivation of the Keliko is beyond words,” said one project consultant.

The commitment of the Keliko reflects the perseverance God asked of Joshua. As the Lord told him, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8). With equal persistence, the Keliko pursued translating Scripture. Now, “when you see them in the camps, they are smiling,” said one translator. Hearing and understanding the Bible “gives them hope.” Like the Keliko people, may we never give up seeking the power and wisdom of Scripture.

Remember to Sing

Nancy Gustafson, a retired opera singer, was devastated when she visited her mother and saw her decline from dementia. Her mom no longer recognized her and barely spoke. After several monthly visits, Nancy had an idea. She started singing Christmas carols. Her mother’s eyes lit up at the musical sounds, and she began singing too—for twenty minutes! Then Nancy’s mom laughed, joking they were “The Gustafson Family Singers!” The dramatic turnaround suggested the power of music, as some therapists conclude, to evoke lost memories. Singing “old favorites” has also been shown to boost mood, reduce falls, lessen visits to the emergency room, and decrease the need for sedative drugs.

More research is underway on a music-memory link. Yet as the Bible reveals, the joy that comes from singing is a gift from God—and it’s real. “How good it is to sing praises to our God; how pleasant and fitting to praise him!” (Psalm 147:1).

Throughout the Scriptures, in fact, God’s people are urged to lift their voices in songs of praise to Him. “Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things” (Isaiah 12:5). “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:3). Our singing inspires us, but also those who hear it. May we all remember: Our God is great and worthy of praise.

Recovering What’s Lost

At the phone store, the young pastor steeled himself for bad news. His smart phone, accidentally dropped during our Bible class, was a total loss, right? Actually, no. The store clerk recovered all of the pastor’s data, including his Bible videos and photos. She also recovered “every photo I’d ever deleted,” he said. The store also “replaced my broken phone with a brand new phone.” As he said, “I recovered all I had lost and more.”

David once led his own recovery mission after an attack by the vicious Amalekites. Spurned by Philistine rulers, David and his army discovered the Amalekites had raided and burned down their town of Ziklag—taking captive “the women and everyone else in it,” including all their wives and children (1 Samuel 30:2). “So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep” (v. 4). The soldiers were so bitter with their leader David that they talked of stoning him (v. 6).

But David “found strength in the Lord his God” (v. 6).  As the Lord promised, David pursued the Amalekites and “recovered everything the Amalekites had taken . . . nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back” (vv. 1819). As we face spiritual attacks that “rob” us even of hope, may we find renewed strength in God. He will be with us in every challenge of life.

Free at Last

Twenty long years passed before British journalist John McCarthy—a five-year hostage during Lebanon’s grueling civil war—met the man who negotiated his release. When McCarthy finally met U.N. envoy Giandomenico Picco, McCarthy simply said, “Thank you for my freedom!” His heartfelt words carried great weight because Picco had risked his own life during dangerous negotiations to secure freedom for McCarthy and others.

We as believers can relate to such hard-won freedom. Jesus gave up His life—enduring death on a Roman cross—to secure spiritual freedom for all people, including each of us. Now as His followers, b we know “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free,” the apostle Paul boldly declared (Galatians 5:1).

The gospel of John also teaches of freedom in Christ, noting, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

But free in what ways? In Christ, we experience freedom not only from sin and its hold on us but also from guilt, shame, worry, Satan’s lies, superstitions, false teaching, and eternal death. No longer hostages, we have freedom to show love to enemies, walk in kindness, live with hope, and love our neighbors. As we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, we can forgive as we have been forgiven.

For all of this, let us thank God today. Then let us love so others will know the power of His freedom too.

Our Compassionate God

The winter night was cold when someone threw a large stone through a Jewish child’s bedroom window. A star of David had been displayed in the window, along with a menorah to celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. In the child’s town of Billings, Montana, thousands of people—many of them believers in Jesus—responded to the hateful act with compassion. Choosing to identify with the hurt and fear of their Jewish neighbors, they pasted pictures of menorahs in their own windows.

As believers in Jesus, we too receive great compassion. Our Savior humbled Himself to live among us (John 1:14), identifying with us. He, “being in very nature God . . . made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant” on our behalf (Philippians 2:6–7). Then, feeling as we feel and weeping as we weep, He died on a cross, sacrificing His live to save ours.

Nothing we struggle with is beyond our Savior’s concern. If someone “throws rocks” at our lives, He comforts us. If life brings disappointments, He walks with us through despair. “Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar” (Psalm 138:6). In our troubles, He preserves us, stretching out His hand against both “the anger of [our] foes” (v. 7) and our own deepest fears. Thank You, God, for Your compassionate love.

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