Tuesday, September 29, 2009
“For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
God is a beacon of hope on to the world, and through His Son, Christ Jesus, He sets light upon the world shining His love, His truth, His grace, His mercy and His compassion unto the world through the power of His righteousness that guides the faithful through the murky, rocky waters of this world to the safe shores of their Heavenly Home. He is that great Lighthouse set amidst the distant seas, to guide us through the dangerous waters, to guide us all dangers that seek to afflict us, that we may be protected until that time we reach His tender, loving kindness that regardless of what may come our way, regardless of what may seek to beat against the bow of our ship, that we may know that there is nothing that can so harm us that it can rob us of that grace, nothing that can take from us that safe landing.
Yet there are those who, through their wisdom, in rejecting the light of God, seek to lurk in dark and hidden places, working evil as they try to do their own will, their own way in this world. They set sail under a gloomy banner and they keep themselves in shadowy places, hoping that that they will be able to stay just out of the range of the light, hoping to drag others to their concealed places that they may put a veil over their eyes, trying to hide them from the light and the light from them, burying them in the obscure places that they hope that God will not be able to see.
Through their actions they become agents of chaos and harm, hurt and pain, suffering and affliction as they work their wicked ways in this world, taking free men captive, persecuting the proud, violating the innocent, destroying the good, all that they may, in their own self righteousness, in their hatred and their fear, their loathing and their rejection of all that is good that they may assert their dominance on this world. Their life isn’t given to helping those in need, but in making the need greater as they take prisoners and make slaves as they become a force for evil in this world.
God though is clear, and through His Son, Christ Jesus, in the text today, makes His heart and His will known. Those who seek to hide themselves from the light, those who seek to abide in darkness, they do so far from His grace, far from His Spirit as they do what they want, believing that there are no consequences for their actions, that they will never have to be forced to take responsibility for the deeds in which they have done. Yet, for as much as they try to conceal themselves, as much as they may try to keep themselves far from sight, what is done in the darkness, it shall always be brought into the light, as His will is done on earth as it is in Heaven.
What needs to be remembered is the faithful assurances and promises of the Lord. It’s hard, at times to find oneself abiding in them when things seem so hard, when they seem so harsh and evil is on the march and wicked iniquity seems to be on the rise, and it looks as if it will have the inevitable triumph. Yet God is ever devoted and loyal to His children, contending with their cause as He dedicates Himself to their plight.
It’s here then that we know that justice will always be done and that the Lord will bring all men, all people who work wickedness and iniquity, hatred and fear as their weapons of choice in this world to justice through His divine integrity and His loving compassion, His tender mercies for His children. He will never let such evil abide for all times in all places, but rather He shall move through this world, in this day for the cause of His people to put an end to their suffering at the hands of others. He shall move in this world, never failing or forsaking the sheep of His pasture, never leaving them to the wolves unto the slaughter.
A mighty fortress, God protects His people, guarding them against unrighteousness as He searches for them in the darkness, that once more His light may shine upon their lives and they may be then brought out of the gloomy, murky estate that they are held in, to the safe places that He has intended for them. A rock of ages, He sets Himself as a firm foundation so that even in the harshest of days, even in the worst of times His light will still be anchored in their souls, giving them some measure of solace, some measure of peace in the further reaches of their soul, a understanding that cannot be taken away, come what may, come what must.
Trust therefore in the Lord and the power of His light, knowing that it is there to illuminate all places and that there is no darkness that can abide or stand against it. A loving and merciful Heavenly Father, He is always there for His people regardless of where they may be, regardless of what may hold them, and He is at work to give them hope in even the most hopeless, even the most challenging of adversity, putting to flight the unrighteousness of this world and letting His justice come to bear throughout this world.
Trust in the Lord knowing that He does not just leave His people adrift in a sea of no hope as they are left to wonder just how long it will be before they are finally engulfed by despair and hurt, hardship and pain, suffering and sorrow, as it seems like there is nothing left for them but the darkness that now overwhelms and encompasses them. A God of Deliverance, He shall always set Himself to work, moving through this world and in it for the cause of His people in all that they see, all that they know, and all that they face.
Abide therefore in His light, letting it encompass you, that hope and faith may overwhelm you, that you may stand with courage unto all the days of this age, like the saints of old and the saints to come, given the mercy and compassion, the love and kindness of the Lord.
For this is His promise, this is His assurance unto all His people.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Monday, September 28, 2009
“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
1 Corinthians 2:13-14
Why? Why do men take captive other men? Why do they take them hostage, ripping them away from their homes and from their families and from all that they love and care for? Why do they ransom them off, holding their lives cheap as if it was nothing more than something to be bought and sold in the marketplace? Why do they traffic in human flesh, trading life as if it was nothing more than cattle or life stock, laying to waste lives as they strip it of all dignity? Why do they make slaves of people, robbing them of everything, even their pride?
Why do these things happen? That is the question that we so often struggle with as we hear of the plight and the struggle of the hostages and the prisoner, the captive and the slaves, those languishing in bitter agony and painful suffering as their world is ripped away from them. It all seems so senseless as their lives are held in the hands of tyrants and terrorists, pirates and dictators who would do anything it would seem to extend their power and authority, to increase their wealth and influence, to further than ambition and their agenda amidst this world.
It’s easy to just say that they are misunderstood as some people do. We have heard the argument put forward that we have the wrong idea about them or that we have misconstrued their intentions and their work because we just don’t comprehend what it is that they are doing. Some even go as far as, in some of the cases, blaming the victims, claiming the true victims are those who are taking the captives, and making prisoners out of people. After all, we just have misinterpreted their motives and what they are doing, it is argued.
It’s easy to just say that it’s because there is evil in this world, as most of us do. We look upon the chaos and the havoc that is wreaked and we are left to realize that there are wicked and vile people who give no value to life as they hold it contemptuous, as nothing more than a weapon they can use to cause hurt and pain, suffering and sorrow in this world and then throw it away as if it never mattered. We see the anguish and the agony of those despicable people who buy and sell human flesh as if there was no dignity to be held in life as it is destroyed right before us, hidden in plain sight and we know that there is evil in this world, that there is a corruption in this existence that does so much harm. It’s hard to disregard the wickedness of these people’s iniquity as they work their malicious malevolence in this world.
But it’s not just that and that alone, there is something more to it altogether…
It is a rejection of the Spirit of God, as these men embrace this world and all of the foolishness, all of the wickedness and hate, all of the fear and loathing that it can inspire. It is a rejection of everything good and righteous that the Lord offers unto this world through the power of His Spirit as they reject love and compassion, mercy and grace and instead embrace the vilest of iniquity and sin that can bring the worst sorrow.
After all, how can any who take captive abide in the Spirit when we know that where the Spirit is, there is liberty? (2 Corinthians 3:17) How can they abide in the Spirit of the Lord when we know that where the Spirit of the Lord is, men and women abide in that fundamental and basic commandment to love their neighbors, to love their fellow man as themselves? (Mark 12:28-31)
Why though is this significant for the Christian to understand? Why is this important for them to understand and to have knowledge of?
It’s because of that greatest commandment taught unto us by the Lord. As hard is it may be, and for as much evil as they work in this world the believer is called to love their fellow man as they love themselves. Take that with what we are taught in Matthew’s Gospel account as we are told that we are to love our enemy and pray for those who seek to persecute us. (Matthew 5:44)
How though do we pray for ourselves and how do we pray for the Spirit in our lives?
In the book of Psalms David offers up a prayer that should and does instruct us all as he cries out to the Lord, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” (Psalm 51:10-13)
As hard as it may be for us, we must also pray this for those who would persecute and who would take prisoners, those who would take captives and make slaves. We do this so that the Spirit of the Lord may come upon them, creating a clean heart in them, that it may wash away the foolishness and the evil of this world. We do it so they may have the right Spirit within them, that they may put aside their wickedness and their vile ways, their sinful iniquity and their fearful loathing and come to a sincere understanding of the love of God. We do it that they may come to salvation in Christ Jesus that they may repent of their sins, and come to justice, releasing those whom they take, those whom they hold in such bitter estate amidst their dark immorality and the hatred.
We do so because we know that there is a transformative power in the Spirit of the Lord that can and will convict even the most hardened of hearts, and the most wicked of people and bring them out of the darkness and into the light. It is then that they will finally stop and the people of God, the children of God, whom He cares for so deeply will finally be made safe.
Pray earnestly therefore knowing that there is power in it and that the Lord will work His will and His ways throughout this world through the humble supplication of His people as they raise their voices up to Him. Pray for His Spirit, that Spirit that brings liberty and freedom, justice and righteousness with it, that finally the integrity will be restored to life and the dignity will no longer be robbed from the innocent as they are held in dark, hidden places. Pray with all of your heart and all of your soul, with all of your spirit and all of you mind, knowing that there is strength in the power and the precepts of the Lord and that He will not let such malice and iniquity abide for all ages in all places.
He shall, as He promises, bring His goodness, His love, and His mercy to bear and their will come a time then when, one way or another, the Spirit shall set free all prisoners and captives, slaves and hostages that are held throughout this world.
What a wondrous promise, what a blessed assurance that truly is for all to put their faith and hope, the courage and their confidence, their strength and their expectations in as they look to the Lord their God with a faithful, devoted heart, committed to His wisdom and his ways.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
1 I will sing of the LORD's great love forever;
with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever,
that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
3 You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant,
4 'I will establish your line forever
and make your throne firm through all generations.' "
5 The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD ?
Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings?
7 In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared;
he is more awesome than all who surround him.
8 O LORD God Almighty, who is like you?
You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.
9 You rule over the surging sea;
when its waves mount up, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like one of the slain;
with your strong arm you scattered your enemies.
11 The heavens are yours, and yours also the earth;
you founded the world and all that is in it.
12 You created the north and the south;
Tabor and Hermon sing for joy at your name.
13 Your arm is endued with power;
your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
love and faithfulness go before you.
15 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.
16 They rejoice in your name all day long;
they exult in your righteousness.
17 For you are their glory and strength,
and by your favor you exalt our horn.
18 Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.
Friday, September 25, 2009
"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.' "But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the LORD Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. "'When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,' says the LORD Almighty.’I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land was left so desolate behind them that no one could come or go. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.' "
Short of the salvation that is granted through the life, sacrifice and death of Christ Jesus, His only begotten and beloved Son, given at the cross and made complete with his resurrection, conquering the power of sin, death and the Devil before his ascension to the right hand of the Throne of Might on High, one of the greatest of ways that the Lord shows His love onto His children is in how He instructs them to love one another. After all, the greatest of commandments is that we love the Lord our God with all of our hearts and all of our souls and all of our might, the second though is like unto it, that we love our brothers and our sisters, that we love our fellow man as we love ourselves. (Mark 12:28-31)
This is the means in which justice is truly administered and compassion and mercy is shown. As love, that transcending love of God that is given through the power of the Spirit in our lives, comes to encompass us we dedicate ourselves to being a force for God and for His goodness and His benevolence, abandoning the sin of our former selves and the shameful delight of its vanity, selfishness and self-righteousness. We become a force for freedom rather than a shameful oppressor, we offer ourselves for the cause of liberty rather than the cause of hatred, we seek justice rather than seek fear, and, in all things, through all things, we devote ourselves to the cause of the captives and the slaves held in dark bondage and cruel subjugation.
There are many ways the dark prince of this world afflicts his captivity on this world, binding the hearts and the souls, the bodies and the minds of men and women. Through his dark powers he ties the hands of people and he straps a stone to their neck, casting them amidst a sea of trouble then watching with delight as they drown, the hope drained from them as the old adversary, through his grim hold, asserts his dominance on this world. The war he wages may be a spiritual conflict, it may be a battle for the soul, but he will try to break not just the soul and the spirit, not just the heart and the essence of a person, but the body and the mind as well, hoping the shatter them to their very core.
To deal then in love with your fellow man held in such captivity, held hostage by the power of the Devil, regardless of how that hostility is made manifest by him, is the calling for every Christian, for every faithful child of God, hearing the voice of Christ in their heart through the Spirit moving with them. Make no mistake, to ignore it, to refuse to pay attention to it, to pretend as if does not matter, constitutes an act of betrayal against God and His Holy Word and Divine Commands.
In Zechariah we hear the account of the Prophet talking about how the Lord told his people to care for the widows and the fatherless, the aliens and the poor and not to oppress them, and how they ignored him. It’s clear though that by God’s words and by His careful admonition that His judgment was solely upon those who did oppress and those who did make slaves of those who were in need. It was upon all who turned a blind eye to it as well, and who refused to show compassion and mercy, those who refused to administer true justice. After all, a sin of omission is just as much a sin as a sin of commission.
Is that really how we want to consider our lives? Given to turning a blind eye to suffering and affliction, sorrow and pain, anguish and agony amidst the captivity of this world? As the ones who could have dedicated themselves to pushing back against the dark power of the old adversary as he takes prisoners and hostages by his evil authority but who turned their back, believing it was someone else’s job or someone else’s calling or duty or obligation to administer true justice and show mercy and compassion? Is that really how God would want us to use the gifts He has given us?
If we are truly called to be imitators of Christ, if we truly are called to live our lives as He lived His, then the answer we must forever and always come to is “No”. We are called to something better and more as we dedicate our lives to ending captivity and to being a force for justice, mercy, compassion, and liberty in this world, regardless of whether it is a captivity of the body, the mind, the spirit or the soul.
Yes these days… the days may be long and the struggles great as we toil amidst this world against the forces of evil that would seek to devour and destroy. But even in that, we know we have the Lord God Almighty listening to our prayers and hearing our calls. He shall then answer them, shining His light and His love as a beacon amidst the darkest of places, even in the darkest of hours that would seek to so afflict people in their greatest need. A God who would never ask us to go it alone, we know that He truly is the Spirit of liberty and justice and where He is freedom shall reign. There we know that as we hear His words telling us to be this force for His will in the world, this voice for His calling in this temporal existence, we will not be alone nor will we be left to face the challenges alone. He shall walk beside us and He shall, through His Holy Hand administer His justice against the wicked and the vile, against the evils of this age and all ages.
Trust then that Rock of Ages know that this is the blessed assurance of our calling from the Lord, a true and faithful promise that we know through His calling. Therefore put your hope and your trust in it, knowing that God does not fail or forsake those who work according to His will to put an end to oppression. He is there to put to flight the acts of corruption that would so violate His commands of love as He works as an ever vigilant force for good in this world.
Blessed be His Holy Name for that.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and Of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Romans 12:1 and 2
All too often there are those who conform themselves to this world, abandoning the path of righteousness and letting themselves be tools for wickedness and iniquity. They seek not the Lord and His wisdom, nor Christ and his love nor do they try to find the Spirit and that peace that comes through it. Instead they let themselves become a force for evil and for sin as they put themselves and their will above the will of our Heavenly Father. And there, though they may pretend as if it is somehow different, they establish themselves to be gods with power over life and power over death, dominating through misery and despair every step that is taken.
They hold men and women in captivity, ransoming them or selling them, using them as slaves and as property, asserting their dominance over them as if it was meant to be them, not the Lord God Almighty who is meant to control the destinies and fate of mankind. They hold nothing sacred but themselves and their own power as they do what they want, when they want with no thought or consideration as to anything but themselves as they make light of humanity and rip the innocence away from those whom they come in contact with, those whom they touch. In the end they leave nothing but the hollow, shallow frame of their victims in their path, or the broken forms of their bodies all around them.
They conform not only to this world and to the evil that can be present in it but they seek to transform it into their own heavy, dark image as they try to set a fog about it that our eyes will be unable to see the works of their hands and the deeds of their hearts as they move around us, causing so much hurt and pain, suffering and sorrow, agony and anguish. They set the world ablaze through the chaos of their hands so that when it is done, from the ashes, they can remake every place in their own grim, dark image.
But then, through the history of humanity, it’s so often how it ends up happening when we follow our own path, letting the unrighteousness and the wickedness of the prince of this world overtake us. We establish ourselves to be the highest authority, we create for ourselves false idols and false gods to justify what we are doing, false gods made in our own image, whether its power or money or our own political agenda and we completely forsake the nature of humanity with all of the value that the Lord, our God, places in it. In the end all it causes is pain and torment as we think only of ourselves and our own gratification, never stopping to consider the effects that it has on anyone else’s life.
Then why would we? This, after all, is what our false gods demand of us.
A captivity of the spirit and a captivity of the soul…
Here, what we have to remember is that every captive and prisoner, every slave and hostage, they are held by those who are taken captive as well. By their conformation to this world and the prince of it they have let their spirit and their souls be taken captive and held hostage by the force of evil, an authority that forces them into their wicked actions, because of their unwillingness to break free or to seek that which will give them liberty, by their own unwillingness to be transformed by the presence that ransoms all those who are taken hostage by the forces of sin, death and the devil. Through their rejection of what is good and their acceptance of that which is evil as they become agents of misery they ensure their own captivity through their thoughts, words and deeds, holding themselves in the darkest of places that afflicts not just their victims to distress but themselves as well.
This is why we pray for all to be moved by a sincere repentance, because the compassion and the mercy of the Lord demands that we do. We do so not because we accept what these men of darkness do nor because we somehow believe it is right or anything less than pure evil. We do it because they, through their works, have set themselves captive and only when they are ransomed by the love of Christ and his great sacrifice is an end put to their wicked ways and to ensure the freedom of all hostages and prisoners, all captives and slaves. It’s only then that finally a true and lasting sense of freedom is sought.
Just as we seek not to conform to this world but to be transformed by the everlasting love of the Lord through and by the power of His Holy and Divine Spirit, let us pray also that all those who, in their wickedness, working their vile ways throughout this world are also transformed that they may find the errors of their ways and come to finally know that their ways are not God’s way and their judgments are not God’s judgment. Let us pray that though evil fills their heart they may come to know the hatred and the fear that they have inflicted on this world that they may finally come to know the hatred and the fear that Satan has so darkened their hearts with. Let us pray that they see their evil for what it truly is, a rejection of all that is good and righteous, a rejection of all that is given in love and compassion, and have hope that finally they too shall be set free.
We may not understand how the captivity of their spirit works nor may we understand how their souls have been taken hostage, disgusted by their acts and by all that they have done to cause misery and pain, yet we what we must understand is that when the Spirit of the Lord moves there is freedom, there is a lasting sense of liberty and it overtakes. This is the best force for true freedom in this world, and when it is at work God reveals His truth even to the most wicked of men who have worked in the most contemptuous ways to let them finally understand the true cost and the true toll of their deeds, transforming them from evil calling to set those that they hold in their tight grip free.
So seek to pray that these who work such wickedness and iniquity in this world may come to be transformed and made whole that once they do they shall no longer move with such vileness in their ways but shall seek to set all their hostages and prisoners, all their captives and slaves free, bringing themselves to justice so they can answer for the crimes that they have committed against their fellow man and all of humanity.
In this then true justice will finally be served and a lasting and abiding sense of hope shall overtake and overshadow the dark presence at work in this world, shining the light of the Lord and the love of Christ and the peace of the Spirit in all of the hidden, murky places that we know exist in this world and through this world. It will be then that there will be no captivity that shall so bind and capture the innocent, no captivity that will rob them of their dignity and their lives, just an abiding understanding that we are called to be transformed by the Spirit through the sacrifice of Christ that calls us to the greatest possible love.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Friday, September 18, 2009
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Turn your eyes upon Jesus . . . Turn your eyes upon Jesus, that was the words, that was the theme of our hymn today, and that should be the words of our heart, that should be the theme of our soul and our spirit. To look around the world today and see it for what it is, it's hard to see goodness, it's hard to see compassion, as we focus ourselves, our thoughts and our minds, our hearts and our spirits to the plight and the sufferings of the hostages and the captives, to the prisoners and the slaves who are so brutally ripped from their homes, from their families, their friends and their loved ones, from the innocence that they once had in their soul. It's hard to see love, it's hard to see compassion and mercy, it's hard to see the will and the hand of God at work as it should be in all things and through all things, and there, amidst desperation and despair, amidst agony and suffering, torment and sorrow, we have to wonder, where is God in all of this? Why has He not revealed Himself? He is a God of righteousness, a God of mercy who is always contending with the cause of His children. So where is He? Why has He not revealed Himself in these places? Why is evil still allowed to triumph, why is it still allowed to rise, to be on the march?
We wonder, and yet it seems that there is no real good answer. And yet, amidst our captivity, amidst our Gospel lesson, we find that there is always an answer. And that answer comes in the love of Christ. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." We think about that in terms of our own personal salvation, or in terms of our refuge to that Rock of Salvation, that Rock of Ages. And yet it means so much more than that to us amidst our own personal struggles, and the struggles of the hostages and prisoners. Because what we consider when we consider that lesson is the true nature of what Christ's sacrifice was, the true nature of what His sacrifice means to us. For that sacrifice was a price that was paid, each and every one of us, we were lost, we were bound to sin, death, and the Devil. We were held in captivity to iniquity and unrighteousness, to hatred and to loathing. And there amidst that captivty that we were held in, to that dark prince, that prince of this world, that old adversary who seeks our demise, amidst that captivity and bondage, those dark chains that kept us submissive to him and to his will, Christ came, that Messiah who was promised even in the days of old. Even in the first days of man's first iniquity, He came and He set us free, He set captivity captive, and He ransomed all the poor lost sinners out there, setting them free amidst His love and compassion.
And if this is the Gospel message of Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, if this is the Gospel message of God our Heavenly Father, who cares for His children, who has so much compassion for them, and if this is the power that they have over the great might, the great authority that Satan has in this world, then how much more power, how much more authority do they have over unrighteous men, against wicked men, how much more power does our Triune God have against those vile perpetrators of such brutal iniquity? There, we know that God our Heavenly Father has the power to set captivity captive, to ransom all the poor and lost souls by the power of His hand, and that in faith, in righteousness, in grace, in mercy He shall do just that according to His will and according to His desire in His time. We don't have to question where God is in all of this, we have to question when is God going to work His will? And there we know the answer, because it is only a matter of time. It is only a matter of time for He is ever faithful to His promises and to His assurances.
Consider how long people waited for the coming Messiah. It got to a point where they thought He would never come, it got to that point where they believed He was never going to show up. And just as they started to assume that, here He comes. Here He comes, born in the most meager of estates, born in the most humble of circumstances. God is not going to make the prisoners and the captives wait for thousands of years before the captivity is ended, He is not going to make them wait for generation after generation for unrighteous men to be put in their place. But yet what this serves for is a valuable lesson to show us that there is only a matter of time before God’s righteousness and the righteousness of Christ that leads the way to that path of redemption shall come again in glory upon this Earth to set to flight all challenges that we face. And what a wonderful and glorious lesson that is, what a faithful assurance that we can place all of our hope in knowing that have a loving Heavenly Father, knowing that we have a loving God who is willing to do so much for us, who is willing to offer so much to us.
Place your hope and your faith in God and His promises as you lift up the hostages and the prisoners, praying that the Holy Spirit shall come upon them and give them peace, but also praying that His will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, knowing that His will, His Spirit, is a Spirit of liberty, a Spirit of Freedom, waiting to set His people free. Place your hope and your trust on that safe reliance and know that God will never let you down, know that God will never fail or forsake His children, nor will He lead them like lambs unto the slaughter in a world of wolves waiting to devour them. Trust in that promise and know that God is always faithful.
Lord, grant this unto this all.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
“When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh up unto the people, he will invade them with his troops. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds' feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.”
There is always darkness at the doorsteps…
There is always darkness at the doorsteps waiting to enter, waiting to get in. It stands at the gates, like a flood pounding, hammering against the walls, pushing hard against it, trying to crack the barriers that hold it in place, to come pouring in, and to drown the all that it washes by, the weak and the strong, the brave and the afraid, the rich and the poor, with no distinction as to who they are.
At its hand there comes chaos as the darkness sweeps by and the world, it doesn’t seem to make sense, it doesn’t seem to have any meaning or purpose. It’s just full of the hurt and the pain, the agony and the sorrow, the suffering and the despair that can be heaped upon it, as the pressure builds and it seems to crush us all under its weight, a little bit of our humanity dying with each and every step, with each and every challenge and struggle. Evil seems to dominate over the world as we see it and as we know it and we are left to wonder if there is a time, or even a moment, where it will all seem to make sense again.
But then how can we look to the harm that can be inflicted by wickedness, by iniquity and hatred, by spitefulness and malevolence on the rise, on the march in the world and not feel as if a little piece of us is dying inside as the innocence is ripped away from so many? How can we look to the chaos and the darkness that can be imposed as evil means wreak their tyranny and injustice, their vicious loathing of human life on the world and not find that an abiding sense of grief overtakes us as we look to so many who are held captive in so many ways?
There are many ways that unrighteousness and wickedness seems to take men and women prisoner in this world as slavery of the body and the mind, the spirit and the soul, seems to bind our hands and crush us under its dark weight, leaving nothing more than the broken, shattered frame of the person its victim once was. Ernest Hemmingway, the great American Novelist, once wrote in his novel A Farewell to Arms “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure that it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.”
How true is that?
We speak a lot of the captivity and the breaking of political prisoners cast to dungeons or who are murdered, of young girls who are grabbed from the street, drugged, and sold for their flesh as they are made into sex slaves, devoured for the pleasure violent and perverse men. We talk a lot of ransoming of men and women who are kidnapped and held by terrorists and pirates, sold back as if they were property or murdered as if their lives weren’t anything more than a game that ended, of slaves who are made of freemen used as if nothing more than an object or a machine to toil for the wealth and the glory of others, killed when they are of no more use, their lives held worthless and then destroyed.
Though they are the disturbing and vile ways men and women are held in dark bondage, they are not the only way. Each day illness takes countless families hostage and prisoner as they find sorrow overtaking them. Spousal abuse happens all around us in places we would have never thought, as violence seems to dominate the lives of those who are held in its grip. Alcoholism and drug addiction takes so many as they seek a way out of their lives and find that it instead comes to dominate their life, holding them enslaved to their next drink or their next fix. Poverty as families sleep in cars, shelter lines seem to go on and on forever, and veterans who gave so much for our freedom are left to the streets, their hopes and dreams squashed under the weight of such harsh conditions.
Yet there is hope…
Even amidst the greatest of darkness’ that seek to overtake us, even amidst the greatest of chaos that overwhelm us, there is hope, and it’s found in the words of the Prophet.
There is a loving God, a compassionate God, a God of deliverance and of mercy who contends with the cause of His children, and regardless of the struggle, regardless of the ordeal, He is at work in this world, seeking to set them free from the captivity that now takes such hold over them.
Yes unrighteousness and iniquity, evil and sin is always around us, as the Adversary tries to assert his dominance on this world. We see it all around us as Satan never relents, using ever weapon in his arsenal to prey upon the weakness of men and women, trying to break people, to destroy them, so that his dark hold over them will be made complete. Yet, against the power of the Lord God Almighty, and the strength of His hand, all the forces of the dark prince are fleeting, soon to pass as the peace and the love of the Lord sets it to flight. Our proof? The life, the death and the resurrection of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who, for our sake, was made man.
A world held in dark bondage to the powers of sin, death and the Devil, Christ set it free. Through his encompassing sacrifice he conquered the grave, giving it no more power over us, and their he set captivity captive and ransomed us enslaved hostages to it. Freedom came through his love and his sacrifice, through God’s mercy and compassion and it guided us through the darkness to a path of redemption that we would once more be able to find ourselves amidst our heavenly home.
Yet the Devil, knowing his days were numbered, and his power gone, is always trying to reassert it in this world.
Still, if this is the power of the Lord, if this is the grace of our Heavenly Father and the firm reliance by which we place our hope on, knowing that he is the strength of our salvation, then how much more can He do now against the forces of iniquity in this world? How much more can he do for the cause and the struggle of His children whom he has promised never to fail or forsake?
Regardless of the struggle, regardless of the ordeal, regardless of the captivity, regardless of all that is waged by the dark power of the forces of iniquity and hatred, chaos and sin as evil seeks to triumph over us, put your faith and your reliance on the Lord, lifting the cause of His people to Him in humble submission to His word and know that the Your Heavenly Father will hear the cries, will hear the calls, and shall see the plight, working through all things to set all people free that they will once more, in justice, be able to abide in liberty.
This is the hope and faith of the broken and the wounded, healed by the miraculous touch of the Lord God Almighty.
Lord, grant this unto us all.
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
God, the King eternal, who divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
1 Give ear to my words, O LORD,
consider my sighing.
2 Listen to my cry for help,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.
4 You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil;
with you the wicked cannot dwell.
5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence;
you hate all who do wrong.
6 You destroy those who tell lies;
bloodthirsty and deceitful men
the LORD abhors.
7 But I, by your great mercy,
will come into your house;
in reverence will I bow down
toward your holy temple.
8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies—
make straight your way before me.
9 Not a word from their mouth can be trusted;
their heart is filled with destruction.
Their throat is an open grave;
with their tongue they speak deceit.
10 Declare them guilty, O God!
Let their intrigues be their downfall.
Banish them for their many sins,
for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.
12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous;
you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
Because of the life, the death and the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, because of that encompassing love that He has shown for His children, we have come in grace to the blessing and the miracle of the Holy Spirit, to know of a God, our Heavenly Father, the God of love. The God who draws us close in His compassion and His mercy, in His righteousness and in His great and encompassing love for us. He brings us in, He showers us with His blessings, He shines His grace upon us, that infinite mercy that transcends all of our human understanding, all of our human wisdom. And there, there though we have sinned, though we have transgressed, we know that we find forgiveness through a sincere faith, through that rebirth, that rejuvenation that we have as His disciples, called to do better, called to be better, called to live better lives through the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in our life.
But there is a side of God that we don't always talk about, because we have come to know that great love, and that is the side of God that abhors evil, the side of God that cannot stand unrighteousness, that looks upon the wicked and evil transgressions that men can commit against their fellow man, and finds His heart sinking deep within Him. A God who cannot contend with the unrighteousness, we find there a God of justice, a God who still has that love and mercy within His heart, a God who still has that compassion in His heart, but a God who because of that love, mercy and compassion must work through this world with a hand of judgment, with a hand of wrath against all of those who would seek to subjugate, all those who seek to take slaves, all those who would seek to bind up their fellow man, holding their lives to be cheap and without value, without purpose, in order that they can fulfill their own ambitions of greed, of power and ambition. Ambition becomes nothing more than their guiding star, as they turn from the righteousness of God, as they turn from the good that God can do, as they let wickedness and iniquity encompass them.
And here we know that because of that justice and because of that love, that God does not let His children stay in their company forever. He does not let them be ruled over by such wickedness forever. And there He comes in His judgment, to work His will in this world in order to assure the blessings of His peace and His comfort come upon His children. And there we know that the wicked men of brutal iniquity, the wicked men's trangressions shall not stand upon this Earth forever but that God's judgment, God's justice and God's will, it will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
In the words of the Psalmist today we hear that he kneels, that he kneels down in humble submission to the Lord and to His word. He cries out, he prays out to the Lord, for His eyes not to be far from him, not to be distant from him, that His ears will hear and that His heart will reach out, and that the enemies, not of that man, not of that Psalmist, but of God, they will shown that their ways are not His ways, and their unrighteousness cannot be joined in unity with God's righteousness. And here we know that the Lord listens, that the Lord hears those calls, and that by His holy hand, His works which are good and righteous, which are good and merciful, will come to bear upon this world.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills; *
from where is my help to come?
2 My help comes from the LORD, *
the maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved *
and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.
4 Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel *
shall neither slumber nor sleep;
5 The LORD himself watches over you; *
the LORD is your shade at your right hand,
6 So that the sun shall not strike you by day, *
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; *
it is he who shall keep you safe.
8 The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, *
from this time forth for evermore.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
Imagine for a moment…
Close your eyes and imagine for a moment that it was you…
In the depth of a dark, hidden place, it was you. You see the walls around you, they’re filled with the dank must that fills your lungs, its heavy, clinging to the back of your throat, as you cough. Yet all it sounds like is a whimper in your ears. Despair, pain, sorrow, loneliness, they’re your only companions as you lay there clinging to the fading memories of your home and your family. Soon you know they will be nothing more than a distant thought, and you’ll wonder if it was all perhaps just a dream, that life you had, that love you knew… a dream from which you will always awaken to the cold, harsh realities of your existence.
You hear the steps echoing… long steps moving closer and closer, and your mind beginnings to play tricks on you. In the echo you can almost hear an army coming. Hope, despite everything you know, everything you’ve come to know, trickles in for but a moment as you wonder if finally they have come to rescue you. But as the grim certainity of what’s happened to you settles in, that hope quickly passes as all that’s left is perhaps the hope that death will finally come to rescue you.
Close your eyes and imagine that that is your life… the only life you have come to know amidst your agony and your anguish, as you cry out wishing for some release, for some escape… for any escape…
Imagine for a moment…
Once your life was filled with happiness and joy, with the love of your friends and your family and everything just felt so hopeful. Now though… now it’s just a misty haze in your mind. You’re lost in a tunnel and the end seems to get further and further from you. It almost feels as if you can look down at your body as a spirit, as your soul hovers above it, yet you don’t recognize who that person is anymore. The drugs they feed you, they shove down your throat, it poisons you, killing you off bit by bit until your nothing more than a walking, breathing corpse.
Your body is used, your innocence is ripped away from you and yet you don’t even notice anymore, your hollow frame has become as if nothing more than an empty vessel from which all life is drained from. Soon, you’ll be used until you can’t be used anymore, and when that happens you’ll be cast aside, your body broken, any life left within you drained. Still, there is a part of you, an ever shrinking corner, that’s still alive, and it still hopes there will come a day when this torment, when this agony will finally pass. Though you don’t know how you’d live your life again, you just hope for some shred of dignity… some shred of dignity regained as it all seems to be robbed from you…
Close your eyes and imagine that is your life… a life not of your choosing but one dealt to you by those who would show hatred, using pain and suffering as their weapon to subjugate as they hold life to be contemptuous.
We can’t imagine… we can’t even come close to imagining anything close to the suffering and the sorrow, the anguish and the agony, the desperation and the despair felt by the prisoners and the hostages, the slaves and the captives, ripped from their lives. We can’t imagine crying their cries or feeling their sting. For those of us fortunate enough to live our world in this sheltered protection we now find ourselves in we can’t even imagine.
Yet we should strive to, and, amidst the distress and the misery that can be afflicted in this world so prone to chaos we should forever try to put ourselves in their place, in their position that, even in our own small way we may know what they are going through that it will call us to a greater love and a greater devotion to them.
In our text today we read that we are to love our neighbors as our ourselves, that aside from loving the Lord our God with all of our heart and all of our might, all of our soul and all of our strength, this is the second greatest commandment. Yet how can we show that love if we do not even try to put ourselves in their place, if we just let them become a distant thought in our minds that we do not even try to relate to or understand? Perhaps we shall not ever fully know what they go through, being unable to even imagine, a blessing in the lives of all of those who are able to cling to their innocence and their humanity in a world of evil because of the sacrifices of so many to keep us safe and guarded; yet love, the love we are called to by our Savior, should call us to look to the agony of those held in such dark and vile estate and to look upon their faces as they are, to know what they know, so it can call us to a greater compassion for them.
This then becomes a love… a transformative, encompassing love that calls us to action, to humble ourselves before the Lord and, in lifting up their plight and struggles, their affliction and plight to Him, that asks what we may do for their cause. It’s a love that, like the Good Samaritan, cannot pass by or ignore the suffering and the anguish of those who are left to do nothing more than die because of the greed or the ambition or the hatred of wicked men who rob and beat and murder for their own gain.
Look therefore to the calling of the Lord, lift up your prayers to Him, hearing the lesson of Christ Jesus, who suffered more than any for the cause of our dark captivity that the bondage of sin, death and the devil might finally be broken and we would be ransomed. Love your neighbor as you love yourself, love the captives and the prisoners, the slaves and the hostages so much that you are willing to put yourself in their place to know their suffering that it may call you to a greater service to them. Seek not the safe route or the easy route, putting it all out of your mind that it does not trouble you, but instead try to be more, try to do more, giving all of your strength and might to the Lord for the cause of His beloved children.
Until that time of Christ’s blessed return never believe the work is done, and go to it with dedication, praying for the courage to show all that is needed that even amidst the greatest of challenges in this world you know that God is contending with the plight of the afflicted and the despair of the tormented. Trust in the promises and the assurances of the Lord as you put on the whole armor of God, knowing that He will not fail you or forsake you when you do battle in love for your fellow man, for your brothers and sisters who are so cruelly subjugated and kept in slavery. His justice, His will, it will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and you then shall be used as the vessel of that divine calling in all that you are and all that you do.
So imagine for a moment… close your eyes and imagine for a moment… then open them once more ready to do battle in the greatest of loves against a world set ablaze by chaos and hatred.
Lord, grant this strength and love unto us all.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
1 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
2 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
4 I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
5 For you have heard my vows, O God;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
6 Increase the days of the king's life,
his years for many generations.
7 May he be enthroned in God's presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
8 Then will I ever sing praise to your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.
Monday, September 14, 2009
“My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”
For generations, amidst the greatest of captivities, it would be four words that Prophets and Apostles, Saints and Disciples, whose lives were held to be cheap and without meaning, would put their hope and their faith in. Four simple words that told unto them, go, walk in the ways of the Lord, walk in His divine precepts, see the world for what it is, see the world for all that it holds, for all that it shows unto you, and know… know that there is a faithful, vigilant God, a God who contends with the cause of His children and who, in their darkest of hours, in their greatest of need, He shall give them hope and courage to overcome the greatest of adversity.
In those four words, there would be trust and expectation that would set to flight despair and darkness, as those who put their reliance on them in devoted anticipation of their fulfillment would look to the Lord, their God, and know that He would never fail them or forsake them (Joshua 1:5), for He had a plan for their lives that He had set into motion even from the moment of their conception whilst they were in the womb, their lives being formed by His Holy Hand. (Jeremiah 1:5) For those who looked to that promise, to that blessed assurance there would be power… wonderful, wonder working power that would know not the force of this world or the iniquity of evil as it marched forward with little to no regard to human life or the rights and the spirit of freedom interwoven into the soul. All it would know, through those four words, was a transcending, encompassing love that surpassed all the knowledge and wisdom of this world, all the power and the force of this temporal existence.
“Great is thy faithfulness.”
The power of the Lord is not the power of force. It does not hold its strength in swords or in spears, nor is it found in any of the weapons of steel and iron that can be forged in this world. It’s might is not in armies marching forward or in navies setting sail, or in the sheer power of numbers by which we, in our human logic and our worldly understanding, mark the strength of nations with. No, it’s in the authority that He speaks with and in the manner in which He contends with the cause and the plight, the suffering and the sorrow of His children. The intensity of God’s love and compassion is in the hope that springs forth from the grace and the mercy that He shows. It’s in the depths that He does go to fight for and to make free His people who find themselves held in dark, hidden places, gripped by neck by the hands of evil and wicked men who would seek to choke the life out of them, using them as nothing more than pawns in their vile games of terror and hatred, as contempt guides their way.
The power of the Lord is in His faithfulness, and in the blessed assurances of comfort that He offers unto His people, and it’s a power in which we know there is no force, no army, no strength in this world can stand against, even as it seems that evil is on the march and chaos surrounds us. God, in His compassion, will never fail us as He reminds us that each and every step of the way He is there beside us.
He is beside us…
Even as tyrants rise, laying waste to the land, holding their people in bitter estate, casting all those who oppose them to the dark, dank dungeons that would seek to silence them, God is there beside His children, contending evermore with their cause. Even as slavery seems still to inflict itself on the people, breaking their bodies and forcing them to build, out of hatred for men, wealth for the glory of men, the Lord is there to show that the whip has no power and it’s sting is fleeting. Even as human trafficking rips the innocence and the life from our sons and our daughters, using them in lust and in hatred until there is nothing left and then casting them aside to death, the Heavenly Father shows His love, letting us know that such wickedness is not long for this earth. Even as terror seems all around us, as wicked men of violence and hatred push forward, taking prisons, ransoming and murdering them for their own purposes and devices, there is always a God of deliverance there with the poor and the inflicted, letting His people know that their power shall soon fade.
Though we may not always see or understand His plan, though it may seem incomprehensible to us as we pray and we seek peace, as we seek out His wisdom amidst the darkest of days, amidst the greatest of chaos He is there, showing His faithfulness as He walks beside the prisoners and the captives, the slaves and the hostages, working His will in this world that His justice will be done.
Seek therefore His wisdom and His strength, asking what can be done in your life to work His will for the freedom and the liberty of those who are so brutally ripped away from their homes and from all that they know and all that they love. Like the Saints who have come before, like the blessed martyrs who know stand before the throne of light, kneel in humble submission to the Lord and ask “What, Heavenly Father, may I do to work Your will and desire on this earth, to contend with You in the cause of the hostages and the prisoners held in such dark estate?” Ask of God and seek His answer, knowing that Gospel of Christ we are called to deliver to this world is a message of freedom and justice unto a world lost to the depravity of sin and iniquity, evil and hatred, and that our lives must be given to its advancement, even in the greatest of challenge, even in the greatest of dangers, that all may know that there is a living God, and, through His Son, Christ Jesus, we are called to live in service to our fellow man, showing the power of the Lord in our lives even in the greatest of challenges.
Be of courage and strength, knowing that the Lord is faithful and that His faithfulness is your faithfulness that hope may shine forth from your spirit as you hear the calling of the Spirit, giving your life, in all ways, in all things, to the cause of freedom and justice, equality and liberty. It is then that you shall know that you, in a lost and sinful world, have given yourself over to the cause and the calling of the Lord, to be used as vessels of His holy and divine purpose in this world and that though dark forces of wickedness and violence may seek to dominate you they shall have no power over you.
Let not then any suffer so long as you have strength, let not any find themselves to be afflicted amidst their plight as captivity seeks to keep its dark hold over them, but give yourself over to the precepts and the plans of the Lord, knowing that His faithfulness shall guide your way each and every step of the way as you walk in the path of His righteousness for the challenges that seek to overtake His children. Lose not your hope when the troubles seem so great, but know that God is there beside you, and beside all those that are in need and trouble, giving strength beyond anything that could have been imagined in all the world.
After all, with the faithfulness of the Lord on our side, the love of Christ in our Heart and the calling of the Spirit in our Soul, who can stand against us?
Lord, grant this unto us all.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Friday, September 11, 2009
“O my God, I trust in thee: let me not be ashamed, let not mine enemies triumph over me. Yea, let none that wait on thee be ashamed: let them be ashamed which transgress without cause.”
Psalm 25:2 and 3
We never really talk about it…
As we pray for the hostages and the prisoners, as we pray for those who are bought and sold, kept in the dark, grim bondage of slavery by those who would subjugate and oppress, as we pray for those who are held for ransom, or murdered by terrorists who seek to work their vile ways, feeding off of chaos and suffering, affliction and sorrow, we never really speak of what captivity truly is…
Throughout the world we see so many examples of it, so many brutal reminders of its existence in this sinful world, as evil men of bitter iniquity inflict themselves on the lives of the innocent, ripping them away from all they have, all that they know, seeking not just to rob them of all that they love, but all of their hopes and dreams as well. In dark, hidden places they plan to set the world ablaze in turmoil and madness. Then from the smoldering ashes they appear to do as they will, holding life cheap and contemptuous, without any real value to it.
What is captivity though?
It is fear that is inflicted over the minds of people; a tool of hatred and tyranny, of darkness and oppression used to rule over the weak without mercy and without compassion. It is fear that is imposed by the forces of evil on the march, rising to subjugate not just the body but the mind, the spirit and the soul of humanity. It is the triumph of that fear and that hatred, used as a weapon by the enemies of freedom and liberty, justice and equality, the enemies of God, who seek to impose their ways and their will, not the will of the Lord, on their fellow man.
Today marches a bitter anniversary in the United States. Eight years ago, by the sheer force of terror, there were those who sought not just to murder and kill the innocent but, through the power of fear and hatred, to take an entire nation, and its people captive. Darkness seemed to loom, to ascend, to rise up from the smoke of that attack as we were forced to look on in horror and the shock of it all seemed so powerful, so terrifying.
Never could we have imagined that such evil, such hatred could have come to affect us in such a real way as we were shaken from our reality only to be woken to a misty haze and our comfort and our peace laid shattered at our feet.
Yet even from that darkness, there came a reminder, even as death seemed to surround us, life being so powerfully, so poignantly ripped away from so many right before our very eyes as terror and hatred found its way to our shore there came the deafening cry, the deafen call of the defiant, who would never relent, who would never surrender, who would never let their enemies triumph over their spirit and their soul. In love and sacrifice they gave their lives for the lives of their brothers and sisters as they rushed into the fire of that world set ablaze.
It is here that, through their lives and their sacrifices, a commanding lesson is taught, one that should always and forever overtake our spirits as we look to the chaos that all too often seems to surround us in this world of sin and iniquity where evil seems to have so much power. Though wicked men, though evil men of brutal oppression and bitter hatred may seek to subjugate us through fear as they work their vile ways, the only triumph they have is the triumph of our desperation and our despair when we forfeit hope, surrendering ourselves to them, willing to give up all that of value that we know and to abandon our fellow man to torture and torment, to brutality and to death.
Though it would have been easy for America and its people to surrender on that day to fear, the heroes of September 11th, they refused to let those who transgressed without cause to have the triumph, they refused to surrender their nation and the people they protected to the bitter captivity that these terrorists sought to inflict upon them. They gave their lives so that we may live free amidst liberty and hope, never to be held hostage to terror and the oppression of the mind.
To all of us it offers a lesson that they taught with their life. Always praying and holding steadfast to our faith we must look to the captivity and the tyranny in this world as a challenge from the enemies of humanity who would seek to hold life cheap and rise to the same spirit of love, dedication and sacrifice that those who rose on September 11th did as they heard the cries of the people. Ours must be to look to the fear and the hatred that is inflicted and never let it overtake us, finding the ways in which we can serve liberty and justice, the ways that we can work to set people free from the dark bondage and grim chains of slavery, of that terror that holds life to be cheap, without any real dignity or value. Ours must be to hear the calling of the Lord and remember the promise of the miracle of His touch, knowing always that “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)
Let not fear or hatred dominate, let not terror weave itself into this world, instead, rise up and hear the cries of the afflicted and the pained as they suffer in torture and torment, as wicked men seek to rule this world and the people of it through their iniquity and sin. Let the Spirit of the Lord and the love of Christ dominate your life as courage and sacrifice, as strength and compassion moves you to look up the captivity that can be so used as such a terrible and terrifying weapon as nothing more than a tool of weak men whose ways shall soon fade from this earth. Be compelled therefore by the Lord, a God of deliverance and mercy, to make a stand against all evil and darkness that may surround us and rob hope from the innocent and the life from His children.
It will be then that we will know that, in the lesson of great heroes, lessons bore in blood and sacrifice, that we will know that we have never let ourselves surrender or relent in our own weakness to captivity, whether it is our own or the captivity that can be inflicted and imposed on our fellow man. It will be then that we know that our enemies and the enemies of the Lord shall never triumph and that our Heavenly Father is contending with the cause of His people, using His people to make that glorious stand for that sacred cause of freedom, liberty and justice.
Lord, grant this unto us all.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Henry Patrick Cochran was born last night, 9-9-09, at 10:16 pm to our dear friend and P4H guest host Matt Cochran and his wife Rose. Henry is shown listening to the show this morning with his proud father. Congratulations to Matt and Rose on this new blessing in their lives!
“Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel. And the Egyptians made the children of Israel to serve with rigour.”
Exodus 1:8, and 11-13
Do we truly and rightly value the freedom we have been given as a gift from God, granted by His love and His grace in our lives? Do we cherish it, do we hold it up with awe? Do we truly take the time to understand the true nature of it in our lives and knowing that it could be a fleeting thing, quick to crumble in our hands as brutality and pain sets in and unrighteous men seek to subjugate for their own power and glory, using tyranny and oppression as the weapons to enslave men and women, robbing them of everything, including their dignity and their pride?
For the children of Israel, they could not have foreseen the days that would come. For generations they had lived and prospered, they had multiplied in the lands of Egypt as they made their homes there, finding themselves no longer wandering amidst the vast, wide and open deserts that their fathers had known. There wasn’t a single one left who could or did remember the days of Abraham and Isaac, none who remembered first hand Israel, and the return of Joseph as he brought his father and his brothers to this land where he had found himself, by the grace of God, elevated to the court of the Pharaohs. Ages had passed and one generation faded to another until this had become the only land, the only home they had ever known.
Then would rise a king who did not know Joseph, who had forgotten about his loyalty to the royal court and to his fathers, and the freedom and the peace that the children of Israel had known for so long would quickly crumble as he gripped them tight by the neck and chained them in the dark bondage of slavery. Liberty was fleeting and all that would be known now was the harsh, hard sting of the taskmasters whip as it cracked against their backs as they were forced to build the cities and the monuments to Pharaoh. Life no longer held value, it was regarded as cheap, as they were treated with less dignity than the cattle of the fields, and led like lambs unto the slaughter. Worked to death, when they were no longer capable, no longer able to do the tasks they were once capable of, their bodies bruised and broken, they would be pushed harder until the life was drained from them.
But then, the harsh, hard reality of this existence, filled with sin and iniquity, filled with pain and sorrow, is that freedom and liberty, it is a gift from God, not a guarantee. With all the suffering and the hurt in this world, with all of the evil deeds of wicked men who work their vile ways, it must be valued and cherished, but more than anything else it must be prayed for as we call out to the Lord that He sets the poor and the afflicted, the ransomed and the captives free. It must be fought for as we seek to work God’s will, understanding that it’s His will that justice and liberty, freedom and equality will reign over the lives of the people.
Throughout the world today we see the effects of chaos as tyranny and oppression, as slavery and bondage is used as a tool by evil men of brutal transgression... evil men who remember not the Lord or His ways, who fear and hate people and, out of that fear and hatred, subjugates them for their own ambitions, wealth and political purposes. It robs life of its value and its dignity, as it destroys the body and crushes the spirit.
Yet the Lord is clear, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
God’s desire is that we work towards freedom, that we work towards liberty, that we hear the calling of His Holy Spirit and that we strive towards the cause of the oppressed and subjugated, never letting slavery and captivity reign, making excuses as to why we ignore the cries of those held in dark bondage. God’s desire is that we so value and cherish the cause of the free that we dedicate our lives to deeper, more abiding love and compassion for our brothers and sisters, that we never falter in our steps as we seek to bring them once more to breathe the blessed air of liberty. In mercy our devotion must be to see the pain inflicted even if done in the dark places hidden from our site, to hear the cries, even if the sound is muffled by the lonesome spots where these souls are kept and to push forward to the cause of justice, if it is just even in our prayers, as we uplift their cause and their plight to Him.
Never let yourself be so deceived into thinking there is nothing you can do or that you are doing enough. Listen for the voice of God calling unto you, telling you what more can be done and seek out His wisdom and truth knowing that He has more for each of us to do. Know that amidst the struggles of this world we are warriors for the Prince of Peace, that Messiah who set captivity captive and ransomed those even most lost to the bondage of sin. As imitators of Christ our goal must be the same, to be so moved by the Spirit that we are used to do more amidst the sorrow and the suffering of those who have felt their freedom robbed from them that we are always taking up this cause in our lives.
Let not those who know not the Lord and His people dominate the hearts and the souls, the bodies and the minds of God’s children, but look to the Lord as a God of Deliverance always contending with the cause of His people. Just as He sent Moses to bring the children of Israel out of the hands of Pharaoh, liberating them from the whip and the chains, so too shall He deliver now, amidst the present age, even when the power and the forces of those who use such vile means seems to be without question. A God of mercy, compassion and love who is always standing beside His children, caring for them as only a Father can as He protects and shelters the with His holy hand, He shall not, He will not let such unrighteousness stand for all ages. Take hope in this because this is the blessed assurance, the true and faithful promise He has delivered unto His children, and one we should hold high for the world to see and hear and know as we cling to it in steadfast faith, through this generation and in all generations.
Lord, grant this truth unto us all.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Monday, September 7, 2009
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Autopsy results have identified a body handed over to British authorities in Baghdad earlier this week as Alec MacLachlan, one of five hostages held captive by Shiite militants since May 2007. Via Wales Online:
A body handed to the British authorities in Iraq is that of Alec MacLachlan, Gordon Brown confirmed tonight.
The Prime Minister announced with "deepest regret" that Mr MacLachlan’s remains had been identified.
He vowed to bring the terrorists responsible for the murder to justice and said the thoughts of the whole country were with Mr MacLachlan’s family.
Mr Brown said: "It’s with the deepest regret that the body passed to the British Embassy is now discovered to be that of Alec MacLachlan. My thoughts, and I believe the thoughts of the whole country, are with the family at this time of great grief.
"No family should have to endure what they have gone through, the loss through the hostage taking then the period of silence and not knowing what is happening and now to find that their loved one is lost."
Mr. MacLachlan was one of four bodyguards hired to protect IT specialist Peter Moore, whom was working at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad. The bodies of Jason Creswell and Jason Swindlehurst were delivered to the British in June of this year. The British government reported in July that it believed Mr. McLachlan and fellow hostage Alan McMenemy were dead, although they could not confirm it at the time. There is no word yet on the fate of Mr. Moore.
It is heartbreaking to see this tragic conclusion to the ordeal that these men and their families have suffered through for so long. We pray for the comfort and consolation of Mr. MacLachlan's family and loved ones, and continue to pray for the families of the other men who lost their lives. Please continue to pray for all the hostages still held in captivity throughout the world.
Arc of Septimus Severus, Rome, circa 200 AD
“Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”
2 Corinthians 3:17
Even the most wicked, who dwell amidst sin and iniquity, letting their own self righteous ways guide their path, know that darkness cannot dwell amidst the light without being cast out, without being cut through and dispersed. So they hide themselves in secret places where they hope that they cannot be found or they set themselves above lands where they establish their own dominion, where their word can be the law. In darkness do they keep themselves and in darkness they rule over, seeking, striving, struggling forever to keep the light from shining in.
Though kept in the gloomy shadows of sin and iniquity we know that these places, they exist. In bleak and depressing estate these hidden men and these hidden places exist seeking to set up and preserve their authority over the body and soul, the spirit and the minds of people, as they keep them locked away out of site, hoping to keep a veil over the eyes of the world that they may carry on as they have, destroying lives through their transgressions against their brothers and sisters.
The bitter, brutal captivity that guides their path…
Though locked away we know of it…
We know of it with every story of the girl who goes missing, snatched from the streets, quickly grabbed and ushered away, to be sold as a sex slave. Taken by human traffickers who will drug them and sell them, their flesh treated as meat at a butchers shop, their innocence ripped from them, their lives seeming as if it had ended the moment they are taken.
We know of it with every tale of slavery that we still hear, as men and women are treated as if they are animals, there to build and to work for the glory of others. Beaten and broken they are kept in line with terror and fear as they are used and then cast aside, thrown away when they no longer are able to do the work that their now shattered bodies were once capable of doing.
We know of it with every account of political, ethnic and religious persecution in brutal dictatorships that still occurs as tolerance and acceptance is cast aside for scapegoating, bigotry and hatred. Cast to prisons, left to rot and die, or murdered in grim death camps, the victims of genocide and ethnic cleansing, life is held cheap as they are used, as the victims are used as the political tools of thugs and despots trying to extend and hold on to their power.
We know of it with every report of piracy and terrorism that still makes the news, as men and women are taken and held captive, most just happen ending up being at the wrong place at the wrong time when they are ripped away. Ransomed off for money or murdered to make a political point, their faces burned into our memories as their names become a testimony to the evil that can still be inflicted on the innocent.
Darkness and danger lurk, sometimes even in the places where we least suspect, casting the world to chaos as anguish and sorrow become the pained cries of those who are taken and those who are left behind to wonder if they are ever to see those whom they so love and care for ever again, or if they are lost in a sea of iniquity, left to drown amidst the hatred and bitterness that can so grip the souls of men.
But there is hope, for “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.”
Our Heavenly Father is a God of Deliverance. Through His Son Christ Jesus the sick were healed from their captivity as He made the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers clean and the dead once more draw breath on this earth. Through that Messiah, that beloved Savior, and the blood that was spilled as He served as the great and encompassing sacrifice for humanity’s dark bondage to the slavery of sin, death and the Devil was drowned, and, as we were ransomed by that mercy shown unto us, captivity was set to flight.
If this conquest of darkness is capable by God, who is the Light, as He cuts through it as if it never was there to begin with then how much more is possible through His holy name? How much more is He capable of doing against princes and principalities and the dark forces of this world? How much more can He do to ensure the freedom and the liberty of His precious and beloved children when the forces of this world mount against them, seeking to bind them through hatred and fear as they seek to grab them and strangle the life from them?
A God of justice and mercy, love and compassion, He shall forever cut through the darkness, setting Himself to work in this world that the slave and the captive, that all those who are held in chains and bondage, kept from our sight in hidden places, are set free that they may once more breath the blessed air of freedom, drawing it once more deep into their lungs. No weapon is able to withstand that promise made by the Lord, no power is able to stand against that assurance, no authority has dominion over it, for it is the cause and the calling of a loving God who never fails or forsakes His children, leaving them like lambs unto the slaughter to be devoured by wolves as if they were nothing more than prey.
Where evil lurks, God is at work, His Spirit shall forever be, proclaiming freedom and liberty, proclaiming the judgments of His hand, declaring His righteousness in all places, through all challenges, granting His peace and His comfort for the cause of His children. After all, “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
Take comfort in the blessed assurances of the Lord, our Heavenly Father, and, in faith, believe in the promises He has given unto His people. Though captivity and chaos may be all around us, God is at work, and forever shall be as long as evil forces are on the rise, seeking to overtake and overwhelm His children, putting their lives in jeopardy. He shall not be far off or far distant from them and from their plight and their struggle. He shall never turn His eyes from their anguish or shut His ears from their cries. No, a God who always contends with the cause of His people, He does not and will not just be removed from them, abandoning them in their hour of deepest need. He shall, instead, be a shield unto His people, protecting them each and every step of the way, and, in His time, in His way, according to His word, He shall set them free.
Even as comfort and peace seems fleeting amidst this world and the darkness and captivity that can seem to overwhelm it, we can always take solace in that promise that He has given unto His people, for iniquity and sin shall not have power over man forever and He shall, in His righteousness, show this unto us all.
Lord, grant this faith unto us all.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.