Friday, October 30, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/30/09

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
Psalm 43:5

How often in our lives do we find ourselves cast into the pits of despair, as hopelessness seems to be all around us, as we find that as much as try to find peace and comfort, as much as we try to find happiness, all we can find is darkness surrounding us? We come to a simple truth, to a simple reality, that seems to encompass our beings and to show its face in our lives: there is a captivity and a bondage that exists amidst this world. There is a darkness that seems to almost overtake it as chaos seems all around us. We wander and we drift and we find ourselves lost, wondering if there couldn’t be something more for us, something better for us, and yet finding that it’s elusive in our lives. There is a stumbling block that is placed there, it is placed there by the power of the Devil. For you see, the Devil can’t just let us abide in peace, he can’t just let us abide in comfort, he can’t just let us find ourselves in happiness. No, for when we do, we open our hearts and our minds, we open our spirits and our souls to the Lord, and we find that it is simple, it is easy to abide there in faith, for we don’t question where God could be in all of this. But when the Devil can take root in our spirit, when he can take root in our souls, he can cast us down as he cast Job down before us. He can make us question, he make us ask amidst our lives, where is God in all of this, where is the Lord in all of this? And there he knows he has us chained in his bondage, he knows he has us chained amidst his power, as he brings us to a slavery, a slavery of the spirit that burdens our souls and that seeks to break our hearts, that seeks to leave amidst the pits of sorrow and anguish, agony and suffering, torment and torture. And we know nothing then, nothing except the pain that we feel amidst all of it.

Yet as we find ourselves amidst this, as we find ourselves living within this, we come to a basic and fundamental truth, a basic and fundamental truth that has been spoken unto us by the Psalmist and it’s been repeated throughout his works over and over again. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” We read again and now “What Lord wait I for, my hope is in thee,” and again “In thee Lord will I hope, thou will hear, O my God, let thy mercy upon us, O God, according as we hope in thee.” The reoccurring theme, the constant theme, the ever vigilant word of the Lord in our lives testifying to our souls and to our spirits and our beings, is that God is a God of hope, and that amidst this hope comes a deliverance, for He is the help of our countenance. We shall praise Him for despite the captivity that this world may have in store, whether it is a captivity of the body or a captivity of the soul, whether it is a captivity that we know in our flesh or a captivity that we feel in our minds, God shall free us, He shall free us. There shall be none that shall be known as slaves who are abiding in His righteousness, there shall be none that are known as hostages who abide in His reconciliation. And we know this, for the Lord our God sent unto us deliverance through Christ Jesus, His only begotten Son, that whoever shall believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

And there, a Savior, a Savior foretold of even at the time of man’s first disobedience and sin, man’s first fall to the Devil, and to his temptation and to his captivity and his bondage, we were prophesied of that there would come one greater man who would restore us to the love and the perfection that God had originally intended for us. And if we cannot put our hope in this deliverance, the we can put our hope in the deliverance of nothing, because there is nothing that shall forever give us that triumph that we so desire and we so long for. But when we put our hope in this, when we put our trust in this blessed assurance from the Lord, it is there that we know though that if this is the power of the Lord our God, if this is the power of the Lord God Almighty, then how much more authority does He wield, how much more power does He wield amidst this world and the powers that are in it? For we read in the words of the Psalmist that He heals the brokenhearted, that He provides for the needy, we read in the words of Christ Jesus that He heals the sick. We read in the words of the Apostles and the Disciples that His Spirit is the Spirit of Liberty, a Spirit of Freedom. And what a wondrous and glorious blessing that is.

Trust therefore, trust therefore in the promises that the Lord has given, even as your spirit feels that it is in the midst of despair, even as it feels that you have lost hope, even as it feels that something is disquieted within you, and you cry out, you long out for the mercy of the Lord, for the peace of the Lord that transcends all understanding, for there you shall know that He shall be beside your side, and as He said to the Psalmist so He says to us, His rod and His staff shall comfort us as He leads us down the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. This is our faithful assurance, this is our faithful promise, and in all things we shall build our hope upon this for He can break even the strongest bonds of captivity, even the strongest of bondage that so envelops our lives.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/29/09

“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the LORD.”
Psalm 31:24

Hope breeds strength and strength, courage, yet how is it possible to have hope in this world as we see so many struggling, so many battling, so many held in such grim and meager estates as their peace and their comfort is robbed from them leaving them with what seems like the darkness of iniquity as they find themselves in sin's grasp? The life is strangled from them as they are taken from everything they know, from everything they care about and love. They can hold on to nothing as they look upon their place and are left to wonder how it is that they have found themselves now in the places where they are. Sorrow and pain seems to surround them, and anguish and agony seems to fill their lungs with every breath that they take.

Oppression and persecution, captivity and tyranny seem so often to be the tools of this world as subjugation and repression comes so easily and liberty seems so fleeting. There is nothing left then for those who are held as hostages or are kept in dark dungeons or who have been made into slaves but to wonder why and what for as their lives seem to draw to an end right before their eyes. What is really left to them, what is really left for them as they come to understand that there is nothing but the horrors and the torment that can be inflicted on them by wicked and evil men as their hearts are broken, their spirits are burdened and their souls find themselves in such torturous places? Suffering seems to be all that is left to them amidst all of this.

Where then is the hope? Where then can they draw their strength from? Where can they find the courage that they so desperately need, the courage that seems to have fled from them as they have found themselves now in these darker places, their faces hidden from the world? What is really left to them now as they cry out, longing for something more, something better, a life that they fear that they will never see again, loved ones that they are afraid that they will never be able to touch or to hold in their arms again? Where is it? What is it? Why is it?

They long for the answers deep within them as they find themselves held amidst chaos and sorrow, amidst pain and agony never knowing what will come of their lives, never knowing when it will come to an end, if this day will be their last and this breath will be their final one. They have nothing but the dread and the terror that fills them as they live amidst the horrors of evil and unrighteousness that fills the hearts of their captors and their persecutors, those tyrants who live by their own code, following their own ways with little thought or consideration beyond their own greed, and ambition and self righteousness.

Yet in the Psalm of David today do we hear the words of truth, the words of righteousness, spoken by the ancient King of Israel. Through God, our Heavenly Father, there is a shelter, there is a refuge for even the most lost of souls, and by His righteousness He shall deliver His people from the hands of iniquity and sorrow. He shall turn His ears to their cries, His eyes to their plight as He finds Himself there with them. He shall be the safe haven, the sanctuary of their souls, to give them the peace and comfort, shining truth and love in their lives, giving them a light that will cut through the darkness that now so envelops them. He shall be their rock and their fortress through all of these grim days, through all of these painful days, even as all they seem to know is suffering and sorrow.

Regardless of the traps that this world may set, regardless of what wicked and evil men may do to try and ensnare their victims, regardless of the hold that Satan may have on this world the Lord shall free His people from it, showing that He is the one with the power and the authority as He puts it all to flight. There is power in His love and His compassion, in His mercy and His guidance and He shall shine through in all things, through all things for the cause of His people. It is there that we know that those who place their trust in the evils of this world shall find their end as God works through this temporal existence to shine His light, to bring His hope unto all those who are in desperate need.

There is, after all, no captivity that God, the Lord God Almighty, cannot conquer and has not conquered. The freedom that came from Christ, our Savior, at the cross, is a transcending freedom that puts to end the dark hold of the bondage we all felt to sin, death and the Devil, as he set captivity captive and ransomed a lost and fallen race. It is here that God tells us that come what may, come what must His power is the ultimate power in this world, and that His authority shall never be broken, regardless of what may be thrown against His people. Their lives may be consumed with agony, their days and their years with grief, they may have even forgotten what freedom and justice is, but He shall break through to show His love unto His people in all things, through all things, as He has always done through every chapter, through ever place in history, for He is our God and we are His people and all the time is in His hands, regardless of what it may seem like.

Through the faith that He gives unto His people in the love and the mercy, the compassion and the grace He shall not let them be put to shame, He shall not let them perish, regardless of what may rise up against them in this age or through any age. He shall always and forever preserve the faithful and contend with the cause of the needy and the oppressed, never letting their story end with the darkness that now seems to consume them and the chaos that seems to so overtake them. It is His promise unto His people and one that He has always and forever remained faithful to throughout all times, in all places.

This is the hope that breeds strength and the strength that breeds courage, and it comes from the power of the Lord God Almighty, a loving Heavenly Father who never fails or forsakes His people, a merciful and caring Heavenly Father who never abandons them regardless of what the world may throw at them. It is a hope that stems from the faithful assurances of His promises as He shows that He is at work in their lives, through their lives for their good and for their cause. He does not let them be devoured nor does He let them be destroyed even as it seems like all that they know is pain and suffering. He is moving and He is at work in their lives.

Be of hope and place your trust therefore in the promises of the Lord and know that whatever may come, whatever may be He shall be on their for His people, giving them the strength they need to endure, just as He did to the prophets and the disciples, the saints and the apostles, the kings and the martyrs throughout all of the ages. He was at work in their lives and He shall be at work in the lives of all people who find themselves amidst the darkest of days of hardship and sorrow, regardless of the captivity that seeks to swallow them, that seeks to destroy them.

Praise be to His glorious name for that.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end, Amen.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/27/09

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
1 John 2:16-17

Come what may, come what must, come the whole world and all of its sin and corruption bearing down against the child of God, still the victory does not belong to the forces of wickedness or the lusts of this age. The triumph… the inevitable triumph of the spirit and the soul, the victory of the heart and the mind, it shall, forever and always, belong to the Lord God Almighty, the Heavenly Father who reigns for above and who cares for and protects His children amidst all the challenges of this generation and this temporal existence. It is the promise of the Lord, and the glory of His Word as His truth encompasses our lives.

It’s hard. We look around the world and all that we see is pain and suffering, sorrow and agony, anguish and hurt. We hear the cries of the captives and the prisoners, the slaves and the hostages, we feel the torment they endure, we see their faces, and we watch as all that they know and all that they care about is ripped from them as peace seems so elusive and suffering seems so quick to come. We want to do so much. It’s hard for us to abide in this world because we want to do so much and yet what is their left for us to do when wicked men of brutal iniquity take men and women, tearing apart their lives and crushing their spirits and breaking their hearts. We want to do so much as the news reaches us and we feel the darkness of this world all around us.

Yet, as hard as it may be for us we soon come to realize that there isn’t a whole lot that we can do. We can raise the hostages and the captives in our prayers, we can give our support to the organizations that contend with their cause, we can donate money or time to groups that defend them. But, in the end, we have to come to realize that it’s not in our hands, it’s not in our control. As much as we may want it to be we don’t have the authority or the power to end all of the slavery and the persecution, the human trafficking and the captivity, the oppression and the hostage taking in the world. If we did after all, there would none of this for any to contend with, for any to battle against and we would abide in the blessings of peace all around us as the wickedness of this brutal iniquity faded from this earth.

There is one though, and He has the power and the authority to put a flight to all of these challenges and all of this iniquity. Where we are weak, He is strong, and His grace is sufficient for us through all of the struggles and the adversity in this world, through all the ages. (2 Corinthians 10:7-12) It is here that we see the promises of the Lord, our God and we know that through it all He is the one with the strength as He shows the intensity of His love for His children throughout the world. It is there that we know that “The world passeth away, and the lusts thereof…” but the will of the Lord and those who do it, those who live in it, allowing their lives to be guided by it, they “abideth forever” through the glory of the Lord.

So much so does God push back against the forces of evil and wickedness, darkness and sorrow in this world that He gave His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, as a sin offering that all might be reconciled unto Him. Even as we were lost to the captivity of this world, held in bondage to the power of iniquity, to the grim hold of Sin, Death and the Devil, this long awaited Messiah, the King of kings, and the Suffering Servant, put it all to flight as he ransomed us from it in the power of God’s love and encompassing mercy. In that one life, all life would be freed from this world and the corruption and the iniquity of it as we were all set to liberty by the cause of our loving Heavenly Father.

Here we know, as the hymnist did, “Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us. We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us. This world's prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none, he's judged; the deed is done; one little word can fell him.” We have the might and the authority of the Lord, our God on our side, we have the love and the compassion of His Son Christ Jesus with us, through all of the trials of this world, we have the strength and the force of the Holy Spirit and there is nothing in this world, nothing of this world that can stand against it, come what may, come what must, come trials and tribulation. For the Lord, in His divine grace, shall put to flight to all of it as the wickedness of this world fades and the chaos it brings is finally and forever put to an end.

Show not pride in your life. Rather humble yourself before the Lord your God and know that He is at work in this world, letting His will and His ways be known. We may not see it at the time, nor may we always understand it, but He is always there and He is contending with the cause of His people regardless of the challenges that they face, regardless of the struggles that they know. He is there and He is at work, putting an end to the lusts and the powers of this world as they afflict the souls of the innocent and make weak the spirits of the strong. He shall never let captivity be the end of one persons story. Rather, in glory, He shall uplift them, He shall raise them above and show them mercy and kindness in their lives even as they feel their comfort and their peace fleeting.

Pray to the Lord, raising your voice for this cause and this calling in the love that you have for your fellow man, knowing that the Lord, He hears our prayers and He answers them according to the encompassing and the transcending love and compassion that He has for His people in their lives. Forever at work in this world, forever a guiding and an encompassing presence He moves in the most significant of ways in our lives, through our lives shining His truth and His mercy in all things, through all things according to His promises and His blessed assurances.

Even as it seems like evil is on the rise and the power of this world cannot be overcome, place your faith and trust on those Words of the Lord that tell you that these things too shall pass, that they are fleeting and they shall soon fade away as He lets himself be known by His grace and His mercy throughout this world, putting to flight all of the challenges and the adversity, putting an end to all of the torture and the torment as He proves that wickedness and iniquity, hatred and loathing shall have no dominion over His people. What a glorious and wondrous knowledge that truly is as we seek out His will and His ways in our lives and we raise up the cause of all of those held in such bitter estates by the forces of wickedness in this world.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Morning Prayer 10/27/09

God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/26/09

The Last Judgment, Michelangelo, 1541

“The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness. The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness. When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and the hope of unjust men perisheth.”
Proverbs 11:5-7

They may seem as if they are in control, they may seem as if they have power and authority as they hold life to be cheap, as they rob the dignity from the lives of men, yet in the end they are the slaves, they are the captives, they are the ones held in bondage. For it is by their own unrighteousness, by their own evil and their own wickedness that they have chained themselves to sin and iniquity, showing hatred and contempt to their fellow man. They build their place in this world based on error and on fear, on pain and suffering, inflicting themselves on the spirits and the souls, the bodies and the minds of the innocent, ripping away all that is precious, all that has any meaning to them in their lives. They build their place amidst this temporal existence by turning their back on the Lord and His love. In that the Lord shall turn his back on them at the time of judgment.

All around us we see the fruits of unrighteousness, and the bitter seeds of scorn. We see men who make slaves of their fellow man, who persecute them amidst tyranny and oppression, who make them hostages in captivity, buying and selling flesh as if it was nothing more than cattle at the market. We see them working their own will, their own judgment, oblivious or ignorant, completely turned from the will of the Lord as they bring pain and suffering, hurt and sorrow, anguish and agony in all that they are, in all that they do. They work such wickedness in this world, bringing with them a hurt unlike anything we could ever have imagined in the lives of all of those who they affect, all of those that they touch.

They claim to do it for a cause or that they do it with justice on their side, yet in the end all they do bring is evil and iniquity as they cast the world into darkness and chaos. And for what? For their own gain. It is for no other reason than their own selfish gain. They do it for money or for power or for influence, they do it to quench their thirst for more as they show no care, no love for their fellow man, for those whom they hurt and cause to suffer amidst the torture and the torment that they inflict upon them. They dwell not in the light of the Lord but in the dark, gloomy places where they somehow believe that they are hidden from His sights and from His vision.

Unrighteousness follows them and wickedness is their calling, evil is their weapon and iniquity is their shield as they show that there is no depth that they will not sink to, no depth that they will not lower themselves to as they murder and they kill, as they tear families apart and forever scar the spirits and break the hearts of their victims. By this they show their true nature, they show their true character as they treat others as if animals in their hubris and their contempt, knowing nothing more than their own selfish ambition and their own spiteful wants.

There is no excuse that they can give, there is no reason that they can give that will make this somehow right or righteous, no argument that they can make that will make the slavery and the bondage, the captivity and the persecution that they bring acceptable. They have given themselves over to sin, choosing to follow a path of darkness and hatred, scorn and brutality as they work their way in this world, showing themselves to be agents of wickedness. They have gone down the road of the old Adversary who would seek to make slaves of all men, robbing them of all of their peace and their comfort. They have walked with him down his road and they have become a thorn that rips and tears at the flesh of men, destroying all who come in their sight as if they are a poison that is working through their system.

Yet God is clear… Our Lord, our Heavenly Father, He is clear and His message is a transcending message that comes to men throughout the generations, regardless of the age. Those who dwell in such iniquity, those who commit such brutal transgression with nothing but hatred and loathing in their hearts, those who act with such malice and contempt, they shall not have power or authority for long. By their own unrighteousness they shall fall. By their own sin they shall find that they have been robbed of their peace and their comfort just as they have robbed so many others of theirs for so long. Though they may seem strong, their power shall fade amidst the ages as God shows that ultimately they are weak and He is strong.

By His righteousness and through His mercy, in His love and according to His compassion He shall shine His truth in our lives and He shall show that such people, that such men, they will be broken amidst their own acts, amidst their own iniquity and sin. Yes it may seem as if they have the strength for now, it may seem as if they have the authority for now as they move throughout this world believing that they never shall be accountable for their actions or for the deeds that they do, for the pain that they so inflict. Yet that’s not the end of the story and this present age is not where it stops.

Throughout all the trials and tribulations, throughout all of the challenges and the adversity, even when it seems as if wickedness is on the rise and like pain is always right at the doorsteps, God is there to prove that it is He who has all of the power, that it is He who has all of the authority as He trips them in their iniquity. It is there that they shall fall amidst their own unrighteousness and their own hatred as they find that they cannot stand against the might of a living God who is forever and always at work in this world, contending with the cause of His people, walking beside them even as they seem lost amidst the great afflictions of this world.

The wicked and the unjust, they shall perish in their own iniquity as they find that they are unable to escape the judgment of the Lord and that they were unable to hide the brutal sins of their heart from Him no matter how hard it is that they may have tried. He sees it all and He knows it all and He shall not let it stand, for this is not His will and these are not His ways. There we know that He shall deliver His people from evil as He shows that His will, it will be done on earth as it is heaven, for, as He has shown through the life and the death, the encompassing sacrifice of Christ Jesus, His own begotten Son, for our reconciliation, we are precious to Him and He has love and compassion for us, as we are His children and He is our Heavenly Father.

Trust therefore in the judgment of the Lord and know that these things too shall come to pass as He shines His truth and His righteousness from above for our lives, in our lives, guiding us by His Holy and Divine presence, ensuring that we know His truth and His righteousness throughout all of our lives. Know that He is at work and that even though it may seem as evil is on the rise, the final power and authority belongs to the Lord, our God, amidst the tender mercy and the gracious precepts of His wings, in which He shall always and forever shelter us in according to His great love.

Trust in His power even against the present challenges, even in the present age and know that He shall never fail or forsake His people, that He is at work and He is putting to flight the transgressions and the captivity of iniquity and wickedness, just as Christ Jesus put it to flight on the cross so many generations before when He conquered the power of Sin, Death and the Devil and that dark captivity that we were bound to amidst those grim and bleak powers.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Morning Prayer 10/26/09

Psalm 52

1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?

2 Your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor,
you who practice deceit.

3 You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.

4 You love every harmful word,
O you deceitful tongue!

5 Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.

6 The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at him, saying,

7 "Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!"

8 But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God's unfailing love
for ever and ever.

9 I will praise you forever for what you have done;
in your name I will hope, for your name is good.
I will praise you in the presence of your saints.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/22/09

Descent into Hell, icon from the Ferapontov Monastery

“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)”
Ephesians 4:7-10

As He descended into hell the most brutal of captivities bore down on Him. Despite the perfect life that He lived, despite the innocence of His soul and the blamelessness of His spirit, He would know the anguish and the agony, the suffering and the sorrow of the evilest of iniquity and the vilest of pain coming to weigh on His very being.

He had come to set men free, yet before He could do that, before He could bring them unto the blessed liberty of God’s wondrous freedom, He had to know the dark chains and the grim bonds of Satan’s evil power that He might conquer it. In love and mercy, in compassion and grace did He come, yet He would have to be first despised and persecuted, held in contempt and die before He could bring the light of the Lord unto this world. On the cross He would feel the torture of the world’s sins, the sting of death’s authority over the flesh. As the life drained from His temporal existence he would feel the despair of the Devil’s kingdom, the misery of the old Adversary's realm.

Yet Christ Jesus, the long awaited liberator, the Messiah and the Redeemer, would know that these things, they would be fleeting. For as He came down from Heaven, as He was made man, as He lived this mortal life with all of its temptations, with all of its lures and enticements, still that perfect son of God, even as the weight of the world bore down on Him, would not abandon us or His cause, leading captivity captive, and ransoming us all from the dark power and the grim hold of Satan’s imprisonment. Through Him we would have liberty, as freedom came to bear on this world and the bondage to sin, death and the Devil, the chains that so constrained us amidst pain and iniquity, sorrow and hurt, suffering and torment, would finally be broken.

By the power of Christ we would all be set emancipated from that slavery.

Here we come to know that there is no bondage, there is no wickedness, no iniquity, no pain or suffering that Christ Jesus, our Lord and our Redeemer, has not known through the course of His life. As He was made man in the flesh He came to know it all, he came to feel it all, to see it first hand, His lips trembling as he called out to God, His Father. He endured the worst of what the world, the most terrible of what the Devil had to offer and always confident in the promises and the faithful assurances of the Lord God Almighty, He overcame in the inevitable triumph of the spirit and the glorious wonder of the soul.

If this is the miracle and the power of the Lord, our God, if this is the miracle and the wonder of Christ, our Savior, then how much more faith, how much more trust can we put on our God through the captivity and the persecution of this world? How much more faith and reliance can we have in Him against the wickedness and the iniquity inflicted through this world? For we know that Christ, through God, is a conquering hero, and that He shall, through the power and the authority of the Holy and Divine Spirit, set men free from even the darkest of places, even the most grim of estates.

Perhaps we don’t always see the hand of God at work in this world, perhaps, as we look at the suffering and the sorrow that is inflicted on the prisoners and the slaves, the hostages and the captives, as we hear their cries amidst their sorrow and their pain, we too cry out not that differently than Christ did on the cross, asking “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken us?” We can’t find the purpose or the meaning behind the agony and the anguish, the torture and the torment of this vile wickedness in the world as it seems like evil is on the rise and chaos is setting the world ablaze.

Yet, just because there is evil in the world, just because there is pain and suffering, sorrow and torment, just because there is agony and anguish as the lives of people are held cheap and without value, without integrity or worth, does not mean that God is not at work in this world. He is there through all things, in all things, never abandoning, or failing, never forsaking or deserting His children. In faithful love and wondrous assurance He is there for them to guide them and protect them even in the most lost places that they find themselves held, showing His truth and His righteousness, His grace and His mercy in their lives.

It is here that we know that He brings justice with Him that, even in the most distressing of times, even in the most mournful of estates, there shall be a peace and a comfort that shall be known by His people.

Yes, it can be hard for us to understand the role and the authority of evil in this world, it can be difficult to comprehend the power that it has in the lives of people, for we see these dark times and these horrible places and we long for an end to be put to them. Why then, we wonder, does God not just come in judgment to put an end to it all?

He has. Through the life and death, through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus and that resurrection from the grave, He has. Captivity has been led captive and there is an inevitable peace that comes to bear in the life of all people. Regardless of the challenges and the suffering of this present age then their shall come a day when the Lord will set it all to flight and when He shall, in glory, put an end to all wickedness in this world. Until that day when Christ’s glorious return leads us all to our Heavenly home, we know that the Lord God shall contend with the cause of all who are held in any sort of captivity, who are chained by the bondage of this world and the suffering that it brings.

Here we can build our hope on the solid rock of His salvation, a glorious and a wondrous salvation that comes through mercy and love, through a compassion and a grace that He shows unto all of His people in all of their plights and all of their challenges. We can place all of our trust on His assurances knowing that even these things too shall come to an end, and just as He, through Christ, put an end to the captivity of sin, death and the Devil, He shall, through the Spirit, put an end to all the captivity of this current age.

Never then lose hope, be of good courage and strength, building your hope on the hope of the Lord, knowing that He shall never fail you or forsake you, He shall never leave you to the paw of the lion or the teeth of the wolves, to be devoured. He shall always, and forever shine the light of His truth and His love even in the darkest and the most grim of places for the cause of His people throughout this world, in all places, through all things, according to the great love that He has for them.

What a faithful and wondrous assurance we all have to shelter our spirits in.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Morning Prayer 10/22/09

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to you, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly yours, utterly dedicated unto you; and then use us, we pray you, as you will, and always to your glory and the welfare of your people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Morning Prayer 10/21/09

God, the author of peace and lover of concord, to know you is eternal life and to serve you is perfect freedom: Defend us, your humble servants, in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in your defense, may not fear the power of any adversaries; through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Evening Prayer 10/20/09

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Mid-Day Devotion 10/20/09

David and Goliath, Titian, 1540s

“Have mercy upon me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death: that I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation. The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah. The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. For the needy shall not always be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever. Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight. Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.”
Psalm 9:13-20

Hope must always prevail…

In a world so given to wickedness and evil, a world so given to sin and suffering, hurt and pain, it is hope that must prevail even against all odds, even against the judgments of this age that tell us that the Lord, our God, has abandoned us or has died like some Olympian idol of those ancient days. It must be the triumph of the spirit even as the world around us tells us that our Heavenly Father, who has promised unto us such great and wondrous things, such amazing miracles, such blessed assurances, is not there.

There can be little question that David, the great and righteous king of Israel, had his moments of doubt and uncertainty as he looked to the world that was around him. He had been subjected to challenges in his life that he could have never even imagined, he faced trials that he never would have been able to have foreseen in his life. A humble shepherd tending his father’s flock how could have he really known what it was that was in store for him? How could have he really have even come close to predicting the twists and the turns, the undue hardship that his life would have as he found himself in those trying times of his life?

All around him he saw iniquity. Whether it was as Goliath, the hero of the Philistine, stood in the valley of Elah mocking God and looking upon his servant with contempt, ready to destroy him where he stood, or Saul, the first King of the people of Israel, chasing him through the nation, ready to kill him as soon as he caught him, or Absalom, his son, rising up in rebellion to overthrow him, David faced the hardest of tribulations and the greatest of turmoils in his life.

Yet, even through those darkest of days, even through those grimmest of challenges he knew that the hand of the Lord guided him and that He was sheltered under the wings of His righteousness. Even as iniquity seemed on the rise, even as evil seemed all around him and unrighteousness threatened to swallow him he trusted that the Lord, his God, was there by his side, keeping him safe as He protected him, letting not the sin of the corrupted swallow him whole.

He knew that God, loving and merciful, would care for the needy, and when the expectations of the poor and the afflicted were placed on Him he would not fail them or forsake them. He would not let the brutal pain that so threatened them overtake them and swallow them whole or prevail against them as evil sought to triumph over them. He would, in His judgment, offer them all that they needed to ensure the inevitable victory of the soul that came even amidst the cries and the longing of the spirit. Even as death seemed to be at the gates, even as it seemed to surround them, God would come upon them through the power of His Holy and Divine Spirit, to offer to them the peace and the comfort they so needed as He reconciled Himself unto them.

His hope, faithful and vigilant, devoted and miraculous, would always and forever reign even over the wicked iniquity of evil men who were guided by their own unrighteousness, even as it seemed like their power was unmatched and unstoppable even amidst this world.

Unchanging and inalterable in His very nature, God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is there, in love, to give His hope unto His people even in the most trying of times of challenge and affliction, even amidst this present age, even amidst this current generation. So much so does He love His children, so much so does He give them hope that He would offer unto this world His only Son as a sacrifice to put an end to the captivity of sin, death and the Devil, ending that dark bondage, that grim slavery that so bound all men and women throughout the world to iniquity and unrighteousness, to suffering and sorrow.

If that is the love of God amidst captivity, ransoming a lost and fallen race through the precious blood of His beloved Son, giving unto us a Messiah, a Deliverer, who would make way our path back to our blessed Heavenly home, then how much more does He do, how much more can He do against the wickedness of men? The triumph of Christ Jesus over Satan, that old and ancient of adversaries, shows that there is no end to God’s power and His might, there is no end to His compassion and His love. Why then would we question the hope that we have in His mercy now when it is so needed amidst this temporal existence?

Yes there is wickedness and unrighteousness in this world, and it is going to inflict itself on the weak and the innocent, robbing the dignity from the lives of the people as it pretends that their lives have no value or integrity to it. Yet the character and the hearts of these people are known by the Lord, and He shall, in judgment, look upon their faces and tell them that their unrighteousness shall not stand, their evil shall not win the day, it shall not have the victory that they so seek, for He shall contend with the cause of His people and there is no dark or hidden place where they can keep themselves where He will be unable to find them.

It is there that we know He shall end the captivity of the prisoners, He shall put a stop to the persecution by tyrants, He will halt the trafficking of human flesh and let not slavery degrade the life that He has created for His divine purpose. He shall bring liberty and freedom to the poor and the oppressed, the needy and the afflicted even as they feel like all the world has forgotten about them. He shall hear their cries and see their faces, offering to them the comfort and the peace that has seemed so elusive to them.

This is the faithful assurance of His promises and we know that God is always devoted, completely and utterly to His Word.

Lose not hope even as this world seems set ablaze amidst the fires of chaos and wickedness and iniquity. Know then that God is on the move, that He is on the rise and that He is fighting for the cause of His people in this age as He has through all the ages, shining His light and His truth in this world, showing His grace and His compassion unto His people regardless of the challenge or the adversity. They shall not be given to suffering and sorrow for all time, nor shall He abandon them to agony and anguish as they are tortured and tormented by the rise of evil in this world. He shall be there to shine His love in their lives through all things, in all things according to the mercy He holds in His hands.

Have faith in that knowing that He shall forever and always remain true to that promise given unto David and unto all people in all places who look to Him as the source and the fount of all hope in this temporal existence, through this generation and all of the generations. He shall be there in truth and righteousness, present in mercy and in love for the cause of His people throughout the world, come what may, come what must.

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Morning Prayer 10/20/09

Psalm 28

1 To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit.

2 Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
toward your Most Holy Place.

3 Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbors
but harbor malice in their hearts.

4 Repay them for their deeds
and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back upon them what they deserve.

5 Since they show no regard for the works of the LORD
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
and never build them up again.

6 Praise be to the LORD,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.

7 The LORD is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to him in song.

8 The LORD is the strength of his people,
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.

9 Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/19/09

St. John the Evangelist at Patmos, Velazquez, 1618

“And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? And whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, these are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”
Revelations 7:13-14

The great tribulation, the great affliction amidst this world of toil and trial, hardship and despair…

We look at this temporal existence that surrounds us as we abide in this corporeal existence and we are left with a deep longing in our souls as our spirit seems to be crushed. We know pain and suffering, we feel adversity and agony, we see sorrow and troubles, as we hear the cries of those who are left in nothing but their own anguish to weep and sigh. There is darkness and grief, torture and torment in the challenges of this world. Joy is fleeting and peace elusive as we are left to wonder why and what for? As the afflicted are left in the gloomy places, in their grim estate we are left with this deep yearning as the tears run down our cheeks, and all that seems to be left to us is to call out for the Lord in His mercy and His compassion.

We want to believe, we need to believe that there is a reason and purpose for the unrighteousness, and the wickedness, the sin and iniquity that would take men and women captive with no thought or consideration to who they are, with no belief that there is anything value or worth in their lives. We want to believe there is some sort of rationale that would lead to the persecution of the weak and the trafficking of the innocent, as their flesh is bought and sold, as their bodies are used and beaten, as if there was no dignity or integrity in their lives. We want to believe because it just doesn’t make sense, it all seems so stupid or foolish or vain.

There is, after all, no other way to explain the vanity of men who would subjugate and oppress, who would let such evil guide their way and path in this world, holding humanity cheap as they rob all the goodness from a person’s life, as if it was never even there to begin with, as if it held nothing of any intrinsic value to begin with. It is a abiding sense of hatred that directs their life, and, as much as we may not be able to understand it, it affects all of our lives in the most significant of ways. It touches our spirits and our souls in the most substantial of ways. After all we may not be in the same bondage, we may not be held amidst the same captivity, yet we know that Satan, he is at work in this world, seeking to chain all people to his wickedness and iniquity, to rob us all of our peace and comfort.

His tools may be different in the lives of people, it may vary from spirit to spirit, from soul to soul, but he is at work in this world like a roaring lion seeking to devour us, like a slithering serpent seeking to deceive us. Whether through illness or poverty, disease or destitution, plague or pestilence he is at work through all things to try and ensnare us in his traps. The difference is that through the persecution and the troubles of the captives and slaves, the hostages and the prisoners we see the full manifestation of his evil in this world.

If this was all that we were to know, if this was all that we were to see or to feel or to understand we would live in such grim estate, in such abiding darkness that would overtake and overshadow us amidst this temporal existence. Yet there is hope…

There is always hope…

In the words of the hymn today we heard the glorious promise of the Lord. It is the same triumphant promise that our text today proclaims in the words of the Evangelist John who saw that great vision of the final days play out before his very eyes. Whatever affliction may come, whatever tribulation we may know there is a God above who loves and cares for His people, a Heavenly Father who abides with them throughout all of the challenges and the trials that they face. He is a loving God who shows compassion and mercy to them all of the days of their lives through the kindness and the grace that He has for them. And through the washing flood of Jesus’ blood He reconciles the poor and the afflicted, the hurt and troubled to Him, that even though they may face persecution and hardship, toil and pain, anguish and agony they shall stand before the throne of light in perfect robes of white, their souls cleansed as they dwell forever in God’s love.

Through the love of the Lamb there is an inevitable triumph that comes as he declares victory over the roaring lion and the hungry wolf that would seek to devour us all. It is a triumph of the spirit and the soul and one that can never be taken away from us, regardless what the world may throw at us. Perhaps it is our fate to be despised and scorned amidst this life, perhaps it may be our fate to know the disdain and the hatred of wicked men who work their wicked ways. Yet in the love of God shall we forever know the liberty and the freedom that the Spirit brings as it works for the cause of justice in this world.

Therefore despair not in the misery of this world and do not give up hope, do not lose heart amidst the agony and the desolation that we see amidst this present age and this current day, for these things are fleeting and they shall soon fade from existence as God shows us the path on high to the glory of His kingdom. Feel not the hurt and the pain, the suffering and the sorrow even as it seems to wash through you, the captivity and the bondage of this world shall pass and there will come a day when all those who rejected the power that this worlds slavery tried to assert over them shall stand with the blessed legions of martyrs and saints whom the Lord has drawn now close to Him. Then shall we forever and always sing salvations wondrous and miraculous refrain.

Pray for the hostages and the prisoners, the captives and the slaves, pray for all who are held in any bondage throughout this present age, and know that, whether it is in this world or the next, God shall finally grant them the peace that they have so longed for and that has remained so allusive to them. He shall, through the power of His Spirit, draw them close to Him in the love that He has for them, holding them tight even as it seems as if they are washed away to drown in this world, in this generation, by the forces of hatred and iniquity. This is never the end of the story, this is never the end of God’s grace.

Keep your faith and hold on to that abiding trust through all things, in all things, according to the wondrous love and the blessed promises He has made, knowing that He is ever faithful and ever devoted to the cause of His people, constant as a guiding star to guide us through this world once more to our Heavenly home in safety and in Love. Never, dear brothers and sisters, lose hope in that, for He shall be there always and forever for you, showing His grace in the times of His children’s greatest of needs in wisdom and in truth.

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/16/09

The Israel Stele, 19th Dynasty Egypt

1 The fool says in his heart,
"There is no God."
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.
2 God looks down from heaven
on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.
3 Everyone has turned away,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.
4 Will the evildoers never learn—
those who devour my people as men eat bread
and who do not call on God?
5 There they were, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.
6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
Psalm 53

Throughout their history, throughout their existence and their time, there is very little that the children knew beside from captivity. There were moments of peace and comfort, there were moments of joy and happiness, of freedom and liberty as they lived their lives, and yet it was only a matter of time before some warring tribe, some foreign enemy came upon them to kidnap their people and to make them slaves. We read the story of Abraham having to go and rescue Lot, or we read the story of Joseph being cast into the pit and sold as a slave. The children of Israel, slaves in Goshen, in Egyptian territory, as the Egyptian taskmasters whipped them and held mercilessly. Tale after tale, story after story.

David, even David, sitting on the throne of Israel, the mighty, he knew it, for he was the hero of the Israelites, he was the hero of his people, whom God had chosen to deliver the people from another potential captivity as the Philistines had stood before the armies of Saul, threatening to make slaves of them under the command of their champion, Goliath. And yet by the hand of the Lord, by the might of the Lord, they were delivered from that potential captivity, they were delivered from that potential slavery, just as God had delivered them each and every step of the way throughout their history, from Abraham rescuing Lot to Moses delivering the Israelites out of the hands of the Egyptians. Each and every step of the way, He was there for them, He was in their lives, so that evil would not befall them, so that those who say that there is no God, those who dwell in their own unrighteousness, those who would abandon God and His path, those who would abandon the Lord and His divine righteousness and His gracious precepts, would not be able to triumph over them or to stand over them, to tear them apart, to rip them apart. And what a wonderful blessing, what a blessed comfort that had to be to them as they knew so much pain and suffering, so much agony and anguish in their lives.

Just as the Lord our God protected the children of Israel in those trying times of trial and tribulation, of suffering and pain, so too now does He walk beside His children, so too does He stand with His children even as they find themselves in the most brutal of captivities, the most bitter of estates, as they find that hardship is all around them and struggle is before them. For the Lord does not allow captivity to stand. He is the spirit of liberty, He is the spirit of freedom, who works with a divine sense of justice against unrighteousness, against wickedness, against iniquity, against hatred and fear and loathing, against that slavery that would bind the hearts and the souls, the spirits and the bodies of men. God does not let it stand for all ages, in all ages, through all time. Instead, what He does do is show that He is at work, weaving together the rescue of His people as He finds them in the dark, hidden places, as He finds them in places of captivity where they are held, where they are so persecuted, where they are shown nothing but brutality, but He draws them closer, showing that His love and His mercy, His compassion and His grace transcends the ages and transcends time itself in all places and through places, according to His love and mercy.

And what a blessed assurance that truly is, not just for the people who are held by pirates and by terrorists, by tyrants and dictators, but for each and every one of us, for you see, Satan tries to work his captivity over each and every person, to inflict them in the most harsh of ways, in the basest of deceptions and the basest of evil and wickedness. He tries to work his captivity in us so that he can destroy each and every one of us, yet the ultimate destruction goes to him and to those who do his bidding in this world, those who work his will in this world even if they don’t recognize it at the time they are doing it. For you see, we have a faithful assurance, a blessed promise that comes through the word of the Lord: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Through Jesus Christ our Savior, captivity was taken captive and we were all ransomed by the glorious and wondrous power of the Cross.

There is no captivity, no deception, no situation that God cannot rescue His people from, if we just put our hope and our reliance on Him, knowing that He is working His will and His way, that He is delivering us from evil, just as He promised unto us that He would, even from the earliest of days. Place your hope and your trust in those promises, in those assurances, that great and encompassing love and know that you will never be disappointed, for as He was with David, as He was with Moses, so too shall He be with you all the days of your life, never failing you or forsaking you, letting no man, no evil stand against you all the days of your life.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/15/09

Saul Attacking David, Guercino, 1646

“For thy word's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them. Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears.”
2 Samuel 7:22-23

The days and the weeks, the months and the years since David left the pastures and the fields where he tended and cared for his father’s flock couldn’t have been anything he had expected. His life twisted and turned in so many significant ways. Once the great hero of the Valley of Elah as he slew the giant Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, it was not long before Saul viewed him as a threat to his power and his rule. He would look upon him with scorn and contempt, sending David into exile as he fled to places where the King’s long arm could not reach him. He knew that to stay was to risk capture, and, in that captivity, to forfeit his life.

Yet the Lord did not let that happen. He had plans for the life of His servant and He would not just give David to the hands of His enemies that his days would draw to a close, the life crushed from his lungs. He would not just abandon the same boy he had shown so much favor to in the Valley of Elah, forsaking him now in the present struggles and the current ordeals that sought to rob the life from him. He would guide him, He would protect Him, He would shelter him even as it seemed like everything he knew was coming to an end and soon so would he. There was one faithful assurance, one blessed trust that he could put all of his hope in. The Lord, his God, was by his side even in the darkest of days that now enveloped his life.

Now… now as David gave his praises to the Lord, as he called out to Him, it would not be in agony or in pain, it would not be in suffering or in trials, it would not be amidst his plight and his despair. No, for now he wore the crown of Israel, sitting upon the throne of the mighty in the halls of power, ruling over the people of God as their king. From the dank, grim caves he hid in as Saul hunted for him, to royal palace in all of its splendor the Lord had guided David all of the days of his life, showing him that He had a grand design and a wondrous plan for his life even when it seemed like everything in this world would have weighed down and crushed him amidst the heavy burdens that overtook him.

Perhaps, at moments, the young David had wondered, after all he raised up his voice crying out to the Lord and His mercies on more occasions than he perhaps now cared to remember. He was left to feel the hurt and the misery of what had seemed to be such a hopeless estate. There were times when it had to feel like there was no light at the end of the tunnel for which he could look upon and chart the course of his spirit towards. Yet, even as the spirit seemed amidst desolation and despair, the soul… the soul, God strengthened and preserved until that time when David could see the fullness of God’s plan for him.

The hope and the trust, the faith and the belief that David had in his confidence in the Lord would never be disappointed. As he relied on God with all of his expectations, placing all of his fears and his doubts, all of his hurt and sorrow, all of his grief and agony at His feet, he shown that God does not just abandon His people, nor does He just leave them to their suffering. As he once proclaimed to Saul, “The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee” (1 Samuel 17:37) so now the Lord once more showed him in his life.

The nature of God and the love that He has for His people, it does not change. The mercy and the compassion that He shows, it does not just fade away as one generation fades to the next or one age gives way to another. As He was there for David, guiding him all of the days of his life, protecting and sheltering him through all that He faced and all that He knew so too does He guide the lives of His people in the present age and in the current world. He is there showing His devotion and His grace, giving strength to them in their hour of need and saying unto them that He has a plan and a design for their lives.

Like it was for David, it is perhaps hard at times, in a world so prone to chaos and suffering, to see that plan or to see those designs. As evil seems to be on the rise and wickedness on the march it is perhaps hard to believe that God could possibly be there working His will and His ways. There is a brutal captivity in this temporal existence that seeks to make slaves of men and women, and rob them of their lives and their assurances. It comes in many forms, from the captivity of tyrants and terrorists who subjugate and murder, persecute and hold hostage, and the slavery of those who rob the innocence and the life from their victims, to the captivity of the spirit and the body that the Devil inflicts through sickness and poverty and disease and pestilence and addiction. There are just so many ways that the old Adversary, through his corruption and iniquity, seeks to ensnare us all.

We see the signs of this struggle and this despair in the world all around as we battle not just the worldly wickedness, and pray not just for those taken prisoner and captive in far off lands, but for all who are held in captivity throughout the world regardless of what that captivity may be. There is so much agony and pain, so much suffering and sorrow and it just seems to be everywhere around us as challenges mark our way and turmoil guides our days.

Yet we have hope. We have a transcending, encompassing hope that surpasses all human knowledge, wisdom and understanding. It is the hope that we gain in our reliance in God and our faith that He shall be there to guide us through the days of struggle and hardship, pain and hurt. It is the confidence we have that He shall deliver us just as He delivered David. Through His Son, our Savior, Christ Jesus, we have been reconciled unto Him, delivered from the dark hold that sin, death and the Devil had over us. In that same love He guides us through all of the days of our life, shining His grace in our lives making us strong where we had been weak, and giving us courage where we found nothing but fear.

Regardless then of what the Devil may throw our way, regardless of what captivities may seek to grab a hold of us, regardless of what power this world may seek to assert over us, we know that in His love God is there for us through all that we are and all that we do. He has a plan for us, and He leads us to it according to His righteousness. There is nothing in this world or of this world, there is no evil or wickedness, no iniquity that can be inflicted that can separate us from that truth of His encompassing love and compassion, His overshadowing mercy and grace for His people.

Whatever then the world may bring, whatever captivity it may seek to ensnare you with, trust in the promises of the Lord and the wonders of His love, knowing that He shall never fail you or forsake you. He will deliver and He will do so in strength even when it seems like all of the courage has fled from us. This we shall always know, this we shall always have hope in and it is a wondrous blessing of freedom and liberty for our spirits that will forever guide our souls to the promises of His assurances for our life.

In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/13/09

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
Jeremiah 29:11

To have lived amidst the trials and the tribulations of the prophet Jeremiah, those dark, mournful days of struggle and adversity where his life was held in such contempt, the hands of his enemies forever seeming to be raised against him in the challenges that we before him. He would cry out as the grim and somber reminders of his life given to the great battles for his faith were all around him. It would almost seem as they were ready to swallow him whole as they overshadowed him. You could hear the sorrow in his voice as he wondered about his every existence, feeling the gloom and the despair almost overtake him, leaving him with nothing more than the shattered frame of a broken spirit and a crushed soul.

It was wickedness and iniquity that he saw all around him as men turned from God’s law, from God’s path to pursue their own selfish ambition and self righteousness. They worshipped at the feet of idols that we blind to the evil that they could do and that we deaf to the cries of those whom they afflicted. They gave their lives over to their own lusts and desires that would burn inside of them and bring pain to whomever they touched, destroying whatever they set themselves upon. Their fall may have been complete yet they seemed as if their strength was unmatched as they lifted themselves up above all else in creation.

To be called amidst these days wore at Jeremiah, as he felt the life and the energy drain from him. His heart was wounded by the hurt that could be inflicted by one man against another and on the Lord their God as the people turned so quickly from Him. His life was taken into his own hands as people of power and wealth, influence and authority rose up against him. They sought his death, his demise, as they plotted and schemed against this servant of God and the call to righteousness that escaped from his lips to their ears. There was nothing but pain and agony, hurt and sorrow in this world, in this temporal existence for Jeremiah.

Yet, from the Lord, the same God who knew him whilst he was still in the womb, and laid out His grand design and plan for him (Jeremiah 1:5) there would come a promise. Looking to the life and the struggles that were before Him God would not turn His eyes from him. He would not, like the idols of this world, look upon him with eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear and lips that could not speak. He would know the plight and the struggle, the trial and the turmoil that was before him and He would give His Spirit unto Him, standing beside him, walking beside him all of the days of his life with a compassion and a mercy, a love and a peace that would transcend all human understanding, all worldly wisdom and knowledge.

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

The world that Jeremiah knew is not that different from the world that we know. We look around us and we see evil on the rise, we see wickedness on the march and we know that there are men of brutal iniquity seeking to set the world ablaze. They bow before the gods and the idols that they create in their own image that somehow make their hatred and their contempt for their fellow man alright as they bind them in the dark chains of bitter slavery and captivity. They rob the innocence from our children, and the life from our people with no thought or consideration beyond their own self righteousness and selfish ambition as they bring nothing more than hurt and pain with their steps.

And like Jeremiah, we are called to do more than just watch, we are called to do more than just look upon their acts and their actions, then turn from it, no longer to see or to hear what it is that is actually going on. We are called to do more than just pretend as if whatever it is, whatever it may be, it’s all just alright as suffering and oppression are used as weapons of brutality. Whatever the risk, whatever the challenge, regardless of the trials that may be faced, we are called to do more than just sit back from places of safety and comfort as such great evil is done in this world.

In faith and by faith we are called to be the messengers of God, to proclaim His word and His commands, to proclaim His love and His direction. Ours is to be advocates for the freedom and the liberty that He declares through His Word and His grace. Never ignoring the plight and the struggle of those held in the dark and hidden places of captivity ours is a calling to be the voice of those whose cries are muffled by the bleak and sorrowful places where they are kept. Ours must be to announce the justice and the judgment of the Lord, telling those that take prisoners and hostages, captives and slaves that their way is not His way and their will is not His will, that their self righteousness shall be met with the righteousness of the Lord and it shall find that theirs shall not stand.

Perhaps it is a struggle that is hard at times as we find that it seems like our words fall on deaf ears, or that the challenges still seem like they are before us. Yet we can always take confidence, we can always have trust in the knowledge that God is ever devoted and ever vigilant, contending forever with the cause of His people. He never fails them or forsakes them, He never abandons them or leaves them to the paw of the loin or the mouth of the wolf, to be devoured by this world. In His mercy He is there for them, giving them His Spirit and sheltering them with His wings.

Draw comfort and peace in that knowledge even as the days of struggle and turmoil trial and hardship are before you, knowing that just as He spoke unto Jeremiah so too does He speak unto us, telling unto His people “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” It is then that we know that we have lived according to the calling of the Lord and the design that He has for our lives even amidst the greatest of struggles for the cause of His people. It is then that we know that we have, through the power of His Spirit, shown the strength that He has given unto us for the deeper service we are to offer unto our fellow man in the greatest of challenges that threaten to crush their spirit and their soul.

Regardless of the trials and the turmoil, regardless of how hard the days may seem, draw comfort from that assurance, knowing there shall come a day when God’s justice shall come to bear and the victory shall be claimed by His Holy and righteous hand regardless of the power those wicked men of brutal iniquity may seem to hold in their hands. God shall be the ultimate authority, and we the vessels, and the instrument of His word and His will in this world through all of the days of our life.

Live therefore in that service, in that love, taking your comfort in the Lord, knowing that He shall guide even the most lost of souls, even the most captive of spirits to the blessed air of freedom through His divine precepts and wondrous blessings, of which this world has no strength or supremacy over.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end, Amen.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/12/09

David Playing the Harp, Marc Chagall, 1956

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock.”
Psalm 27:1-5

There is an ancient and transcending belief. It is one that carried prophets and kings, saints and apostles, disciples and martyrs for generations. It guided their lives and their paths according to the wonders and the righteousness that could come to encompass their lives in even the harshest of times, even in the most difficult of challenges while it seemed like darkness surrounded them. Their bodies bruised and broken, their frame left crumbled on the ground, their life held cheap by their enemies as they raised their hands against them in brutal oppression and subjugation, they knew one fundamental and basic truth. It would be a hope and a faith that would carry them through all the days of their lives.

They knew that there was God who presided from above. He was not just some far distant deity who watched from isolated places, from desolate locations, unable or unwilling to intervene in the plight and the struggle of men. He did not just sit atop a perch somewhere on some lonely mountain, watching as events unfolding, indifferent to the cries and the calls of those who were in need, those who found themselves held in dark places. He did not just let pain and agony, anguish and hurt, suffering and sorrow encompass their life until there was nothing left for them but the grim realities of this mortal existence. He did not just let the grim and brutal grief of this temporal plane overshadow their lives as they dwelt amidst the torment of another man’s hand raised against them.

He was the light of their salvation, the strength of their lives. When the wicked rose against them, seeking to devour them when they stumbled, when their enemies rose up against them in the darkest of days to destroy them their God would never forsake them or abandon them. He would never leave them to the evil devices of iniquities grim hold over their lives. Devoted to them in the love that He had for His children He would guide them and lead them according to His righteousness all of the days of their lives. This would be His faithful assurance to them as His love was made manifest in their lives through His grace according to His great compassion and mercy.

Perhaps they were not perfect men and women. Who amongst any of us are? We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23) our righteousness reliant solely on His righteousness, our salvation based solely on that which is granted through His Son, our Savior Christ Jesus. Yet to our Heavenly Father, that was inconsequential, as He guided and sheltered the life of His people, protecting them against the transgressions of their fellow man as they sought to oppress. His love, undeserved, yet inalterable, would offer to them all that they needed even as their world seemed to come crumbling down all around them and they were left to feel the deep gnawing of the impending chaos all around them.

Never willing to abide with the slavery and the captivity of His people at the hands of wicked and brutal transgression as iniquity and pain marks their way the Lord God Almighty contended with their cause in their time of need and the hour of their adversity. He was there through all things, in all things, for those who placed their hope and trust in Him even when it seemed like all they would know was hurt and pain.

As He promises “I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed” (Malachi 3:6) so the Lord delivers.

The Lord, our God, is unchanging through the ages, and though we may live in a different world or a different generation than that age when the Psalm was first written we know that the words spoken are just as applicable today as they were in days gone by. He is there for the cause and the struggle of His people, He is there contending with their plight and their turmoil through even the times of greatest challenge and harshest adversity. He is there showing His light and His love as He proves that He is just as powerful, just as strong in this world today as He has been in days gone past.

This is the hopeful assurance, the blessed promise that the people of God, wherever they may be, whomever has a hold on them, can trust all of the days of their lives. They can place their faith and their trust in the words that He has always spoken unto them, tell them to abide in courage and strength for He walks beside them all of the days of their life. There is no wickedness, no iniquity, no evil that can be left standing when it comes up against the power and the might of the Lord, our Heavenly Father. He shall set it to flight as He ransoms His people even in the harshest of times, even in the deepest of challenges that now seem to so encompass and overshadow their lives.

Perhaps it may seem as evil is on the rise and the days of darkness are long and full of hurt and sorrow. Yet through His love and by His mercy God shall show that He is there to make way the path on high. There the march of evil and the onset of this torment shall be put to a halt as He makes His will and desire known and proves Him to be a Just God who believes in the cause of liberty and freedom throughout the world.

This is a love then that all of people can put their hope and trust in all of the days of their life, knowing that though it may seem as if the struggle is great and the challenges are enormous, He shall be there as the transformative power of liberation and emancipation in their life, abolishing the authority of the wicked and their brutal oppression as they seek to assert their evil on this world. He shall be there to show that He does not contend with their cause and that their will is not His will, their way is not His way. Just as Christ set to flight the dark bondage of our captivity to sin, death and the Devil so too shall God break the grim chains that would seek to hold prisoners and hostages, slaves and captives in this world according to the wickedness of man’s iniquity and corruption.

It will be then that, like David, we shall too be able to sing our praises to the Lord, knowing that He has heard our cries and our calls for justice and that He has delivered according to His compassion and love, His mercy and His grace. It is then that, like the host of saints and martyrs, who have come before, know that God’s triumph shall be the ultimate victory of the soul and the spirit even against all of the challenges and the struggles of this world and in this world.

Lord, grant this unto us all…

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mid-Day Devotion 10/8/09

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”
Galatians 5:1

There is freedom that comes from the cross, a blessed and wondrous freedom that can only come from the salvation that was granted in Christ Jesus and his encompassing sacrifice that was made at the heights of Calvary as he died for us and all of our sins. Once where we were held in the dark bondage of slavery to sin, death and the Devil, the Messiah came, the Son of God was made man, and he set captivity captive as he ransomed each and every one of us, freeing us from that yoke that once held us in such dark and meager estates.

But then, as it was triumphantly proclaimed, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

By God’s grace, by Christ’s love, by the Spirit’s power, life is valued and preserved through the compassion that is freely shown unto each and every one of our Heavenly Father’s precious and beloved children. It is the wondrous miracle of hope, the amazing blessing of liberty that is granted through the precious blood of the Lamb that washes us clean. The bitter slavery that would chain us in our iniquity and our sins would be broken, no longer to have any power or authority over us as we came to know that there is a God in Heaven who is forever there for us and for our freedom through any and all of the challenges that we face in our life.

Knowing that do not have the strength to go it alone or to do it by ourselves, He, in the most significant of ways, showed that we never have to but that instead there was a purpose and a love that was in our lives that would guide us through the darkest chapters of it. No longer did we have to abide in fear wondering about the inevitable time of our deaths, no longer did we have to live scared believing that there was no hope in our lives as we felt the courage and the strength drain from us, knowing it will only be a matter of time before the old Adversary, in his wicked contempt, would come to claim us. We were reconciled to the Lord by the power of His light cutting through the darkness in our lives as Christ made way the path to righteousness and the Spirit led us down it.

If this is then the love that God showed us in even the greatest of challenges, if this is the power that the Lord demonstrated even in the heaviest times of trial and adversity, how much devotion He had for us even as we found ourselves so lost and hurt, then how much more authority does He demonstrate against the forces of evil and wickedness in this world as it seems to be on the rise, marching forward, setting the world ablaze in the chaos that it seeks to inflict? If this is the might of the Lord during those dark and trying times then can it really be thought that as the captives and the slaves, the prisoners and the hostages held amidst this world are going to be left to the wickedness of brutal oppression and spiteful subjugation?

The Lord God Almighty is a God of freedom who does not let His children suffer in captivity and slavery, as their lives are held cheap by the forces of evil working their wicked ways amidst this world. He is a God of freedom who has liberty in His hand and justice in His will, always and forever moving as a force for good as He shows that He is the ever present, ever vigilant strength that moves through this world, bringing the dream of freedom to fruition through the power of His might. He does not abandon His people in their hour of need, nor does He forsake them to the yoke of slavery or the bondage of captivity as they find the life is choked from them by those who would hold them in such grim estate.

The Lord God Almighty is a God of deliverance who does not just turn a blind eye when the evil is on the rise and their wickedness is on the move, using iniquity and transgression to oppress their fellow man in the most brutal, the most spiteful of ways. He does not let those who hold the life that He has created in His divine image so cheaply and without value stand as He shows that He is on the move, forever weaving Himself through the course of human events to work miracles in the lives of those who are chained amidst the hatred of contempt filled men letting their own sin rob the dignity from the lives of others. He does not fail those who are in such desperate places, nor does He just ignore their cries and their pleas as they find themselves in such places of despair and agony as misery overtakes their spirit and soul.

The Lord God Almighty is a God of mercy forever bond to the course and the destiny of His people as He looks upon their faces with compassion and kindness in the wondrous glory of His encompassing love. He is at work, moving through this world even as cruelty seems to be all around us and everything seems so cast amidst chaos, to show that He is there and that it is His power that has authority, not just in the present age but throughout all of the generations that have since come and gone. He does not just hide His face when the challenge is on and when pain and suffering seems to be so prevalent. Rather He is there to show that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. That light just happens to be Him, putting to flight the power and the grim hold of the darkness that would seek to so overshadow and imprison people in the brutality of the hard, harsh slavery that can be inflicted onto them.

This is the wondrous miracle of God’s great love and one that all people, in all places can put all their hope and their reliance on through the promises that the Lord has made. His assurances stand even when it seems like everything around us is collapsing. It is then that His great compassion shows itself, contending with the plight of those who are held in captivity, knowing nothing more than darkness that can be afflicted against them. He is there, through the darkness to shine His light and His truth, His righteousness and His mercy showing Himself to be the Deliverer with liberty pouring forth from His hands.

And so even as the challenges seem great, even as the struggle may now seem as if it was on us, put your hope and your faith in the Lord, that God of freedom who works His will and His ways amidst this world, knowing that He will show forth His love in all things, through all things according to the great mercy that He has. Just as Christ has delivered the people from sin, ransoming that lost and fallen race whose fate was so bitterly decided as they found themselves forever held in the dark bondage of slavery to sin and iniquity as the Prince of this World asserted his dominance over us, so too now does God continue to show forth the same love against the ever present dangers that would seek to so ensnare us in this world and rob the life from them.

It is in that love, it is in that power that you can place all hope and reliance, in the faithful trust then that you have in the Lord. What a wondrous blessing that truly and richly is in all the struggles and ordeals, in all of the trials and turmoil of this world.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Ghost, Amen.