Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mid-Day Devotion 2/9/10

4th-century fresco of a bearded Christ in the Catacomb of Commodilla

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.”
2 Thessalonians 1:3-4


How do we keep our faith in times like these? How is it even possible? How do we hold fast to the blessed devotion that we are to have in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, to our God when it seems as if troubles and hardship are so near at hand, are so close to us amidst the trials and the tribulations of this temporal existence? As anguish and agony, as pain and suffering seem so near at hand, as the blessed children of God are persecuted and oppressed, as captives are taken and slaves are made of men, how do we cling to the grace of the Lord, believing that His mercy will transcend it all?

Those had to be the questions that would come to encompass the lives of the believers in that early church in Thesssalonica as the Apostle Paul wrote to them.

They had seen it all, and there had to be times when it seemed like it was just too much; the crucifixion of the Savior, the death of the apostles, the persecution of the disciples, the subjugation of the believers. With the Pagan Romans their lives were held to be cheap, and without value, to the followers of the Law of Moses they were seen with contempt, judged as radicals, threatening their way of life. There were few that these communities of Christ could call friend in the world as were stoned and beheaded, as they were hauled before courts and tribunals, as they were cast from society, viewed with scorn and malice.

Yet still, they, with the body of believers throughout the ancient world, they stood for their faith, unwilling to let the forces of this world rip it away from them. Even as John was given the sight to look upon the final days, He would write of their faith as He saw the places that it would take them. Asking, who are those adorned in robes of white amidst the Kingdom of Heaven, he would be told, “thou knowest… 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 7:14)

Still, though their hearts and their souls were transfixed upon the Spiritual conquest that came through their faith in Christ Jesus, their eyes and their minds saw the Temporal pain. Mere men and women, there had to be times when they questioned, why and what for? After all, God is great and just, and His promise has always been to contend with the cause of His people, could He not just have put an end to all of the struggle and the sorrow, all of the trails and the hardship that they saw. Through Christ an end was put to the spiritual captivity of men, (Ephesians 4:8) so why not the temporal slavery?

How did they, even in times such as those stand fast, rising above persecution and tribulation to rest in the blessed, wondrous comfort of the Lord’s promise?

In their faith they knew that this world and all of the evils of it, it shall pass away, fleeting amidst its own lusts and corruption, but the things of God, the truth of God, the Will of God, they shall stand for an eternity. (1 John 2:17) Though hurt and suffering all this world may find itself full of, through the love of the Lord, they knew that they would be protected and that, in the day of judgment, while the unrighteous fell upon their own swords of hatred and slavery, they would stand before the throne of the Lord, the redeemed children of God.

You see, God protects us in this world. Small and unprepared for the challenges that are there we are a lot like David standing against Goliath, The world may mock us and the Lord for standing against it with our faith, looking at it as being inadequate to stand against its force. Like the hero of the Philistine, it may laugh at us and say “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? Come to me, and I will give thy flesh unto the fowls of the air, and to the beasts of the field.” But, in faith, our resounding answer, regardless of the threat, regardless of the challenge must always be, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands.” (1 Samuel 17:43-47)

God’s judgment, and His justice comes….

Regardless of how we view the world or how it is that we may see it, regardless of the challenges and the evil that are in it or the struggles that are before us, God is there and the power of His love guides the course of our lives in grace and mercy. That is why the Thessalonians could hold to their faith regardless of what the world threw at them, that is why we pray for the hostages, seeking and imploring the Lord’s compassion, that is how we know that God is there beside all the slaves and the prisoners, all the captives and the persecuted, never leaving the oppression and the subjugation that they now know as the end of the story.

Though we may question how or when, though we may not know the time or the place, the unrighteous shall see the righteousness of the Lord and come to understand that they have stood against the people of the living God and the love that comes through His hand. Then shall the faith that carried us through this world be rewarded as the transcending grace guides us to the green pastures of God’s mercy and we find that peace and comfort encompasses our lives.

Yes, there are times when we perhaps question, yes there are times when we are left to wonder or when it feels as if God is far off, far distant from us, but when we trust in Him, even when it is hard and when the times of trial and difficulty are upon us, we know that that “the battle is the Lord’s” and through the power of His might and the supremacy of His justice, He shall deliver us from all that this world and it’s corruption has to offer.

What a blessing that truly is…

So with David, with the Church in Thessalonica, stand fast for your faith, stand firm in your faith, feeling the presence of the Lord through the power of His Holy Spirit, knowing that it is through His hand that true liberty and freedom shall come to the persecuted and the oppressed, to the prisoners and the hostages, and that no slavery shall be left to stand in all ages and in all places, for, by His righteousness, shall we stand in the final days, washed clean of the pain that this world and its authority has to offer.

Blessed be His glorious and powerful name for that encompassing, transcending miracle that sets all wickedness to flight.

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

First Prayer:

Though struggles all this world does fill, though challenges and hardship stand before us, You, O Lord, are the transcending authority that surpasses all that this temporal existence may seek to inflict upon the lives of the people. In humility then do we come before Your majesty, seeking and imploring Your mercy in the lives of Your people, that though persecution may come, Your grace shall encompass the lives of Your children, blessed in Your sight.

To You do we give the honor and praise then for the thwarted hijacking of an Ethiopian ship by two American vessels. Through the hands of men, through the bravery of their spirits, You worked Your way that those who had perhaps once seemed as if they were to be lost, are now returned to their lives, spared of the pain and the suffering that would have been inflicted upon them. There is a blessed miracle there that is not lost in our sights and we glorify Your name as You make Your mercy known.

Still throughout the world there are those persecuted and oppressed, political prisoners are held and captives are ransomed or murdered, slaves are traded, and bondage has become a way of life. Yet we know that this is not Your way nor is it Your will.

For them then do we pray, imploring You to move in this world and through this world for the cause of Your people. Let not darkness threaten to swallow them whole, let not unrighteousness seek to rob them of their lives, let not sin and iniquity take from them the dignity that You assign to life. According to Your love, abiding in Your promises let Your mercy and Your justice come to bear that, though they may find themselves in the hidden places, they shall not escape Your sight as You let Your Spirit come upon them to bring them to the peace that comes through Your love.

Then shall all testify that there is no faith given in vain as it grows exceedingly in the grace of Your precepts.

In the name of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You in the Kingdom, one God, world without end, Amen.

Second Prayer:

As we grow in Your faith, as we are lead by Your hand let Your love be shown throughout this world in the works of Your hands, as Your people are led by the encompassing mercy of Your transcending love O Lord.

Justice amidst this world so often seems allusive as we wander amidst a lost and fallen existence so given to sin and iniquity. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the lives of the prisoners and the hostages, the captives and the slaves, as they find that persecution and oppression are so near to them, threatening their peace and their lives. To You then, a God of mercy and a God of love, a God of liberty who is always contending with the cause of Your children, do we commend all these lost souls, humbly beseeching You in prayerful petition to maintain their cause, declaring Your justice in their lives.

Hear their names O Lord, see their faces, let their struggles be Your struggles and their cause be the cause of Your heart as Your Spirit restores them, healing them from the pain that now so ensnares them as it seeks to rob them of all peace and rest. Let them not fall by unrighteousness but show them that there is a loving God who blesses their lives and who walks beside them even when the journey seems dark and alone.

Show those who seek to make slaves out of men and women, those who trade in human flesh that their wickedness shall not be left to stand, but that by Your justice they shall be brought to justice. Let not their hatred be a stumbling block unto them, but bring them to repentance that no longer shall they find that the ways of the old Adversary come so easily to them. Then shall mercy be bestowed upon them as they, through Your light and love, set those that they have once held with such contempt free by the true liberty that comes through Your Spirit.

For all prisoners and hostages do we pray Lord that no struggle shall come to overtake them. Set poverty and disease, intolerance and hatred, sickness and affliction to flight by the promises that You have made to heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds, that no longer shall they find themselves held in any form of captivity.

Then shall all see the glories of Your ways as the mercy of Your hand comes to bear in the lives of all people in all place, regardless of the struggle or the challenge that would befall them.

In the name of Your Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You in the Kingdom, one God, world without end, Amen.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). :)