Monday, March 1, 2010

Mid-Day Devotion 3/1/10

St. Paul in Prison, Rembrandt, 1627

“Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”
Psalm 73:25-26

The quiet of Paul’s cell as he sat, waiting for judgment from Caesar...

He could probably still close his eyes and see the faces of his dear friends, now so far from him, he could probably still hear the testimonies of those who, through the Spirit working within him, found faith, redeemed from the lost, wandering life that had once encompassed their souls... he could remember and the scenes perhaps played out in his head over and over again, time and time again as he was left with nothing else but his thoughts for company as the quiet of the moment overtook him.

It had been a long road for him to now find himself in the places he was, held in prison, the sum of the Roman persecution and oppression coming to bear in his life. Earlier in his ministry he would write to the church in Philippi that “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Now, as death was so close at hand, it had to strike him how differently his life worked out from the plans of his design and how unforeseen this must have been in the earlier years of his life when his course had seemed so set against the course of events that had now seemed to overtake him.

It wouldn’t be long now before he would be beheaded, his temporal life drawn to a close as he felt the full weight of the brutal subjugation of God’s people come down on him and his days were over.

Yet never did Paul lose faith or sit and find himself questioning why or what for? He might have wondered at the evil or the iniquity that would place him in this position, yet, even amidst that, he would never question God or God’s love for him. At that moment when his life and his life’s work should have been a crisis of the soul he stood fast and he stood firm amidst his resolve, finding his abiding faith was enough to carry him through regardless of the trials and the tribulation, regardless of the challenges that were before him.

Then, though in the eyes of men his life might have been held cheap or worthless, without any value or merit to it, as the dignity was robbed from it, in the eyes of God he was a blessed and beloved child, bought and redeemed in the precious blood of the lamb. Though power and authority might have came, though their strength might have been enough to rip away from him that precious gift of life granted unto him by God, it could never rob from him the promises and the assurances given unto him in the righteousness of Christ Jesus.

As Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, would utter generations and ages later as he was left to question his life and his future, as he was left to wonder if his time was quickly drawing to a close amidst the challenges of this world and the authority of men, “Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht Anders tun. Gott hilfe mir. Amen... Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

It is here then that we come to the transcending, encompassing truth of God’s love for us... where our flesh and our hearts fail, where they seem so fleeting amidst the challenges and the trials of this world as the tribulation seems to overtake us, it is God who is our strength, guarding us, protecting us, guiding us through the darkest of days and the deepest of adversity to lead us, in love, to the places of His mercy. It is by His compassion that the bondage and the captivity, the persecution and the oppression of this world has no power over us, for He breaks the chains and sets our spirits free.

Yes, the times of difficulty may be before us as the war is waged and chaos and darkness seem to surround us, the times of challenge may seek to consume us like a fire that has been set ablaze as this world seeks to assert its authority over us, laying claim to our bodies and our minds, our spirits and our souls as it tries to break us. And yes, when it cannot break us it tries to kill us as it brings such an overwhelming sense of sorrow and pain into our lives.

God is there though in those times to guide us and protect us, to lead us according to the promises that He makes. The promise He made to Joshua, “there shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:5) He gave unto Paul and carried forward throughout the generations and the lives of the blessed saints and martyrs who now find their eternal rest amidst the peace of heaven that those same words, that those same assurances may rest at our feet and find weight in our heart.

Let not then the strength of this world or the struggles found therein overtake you, do not look upon this age and wonder about the advance of wickedness in this temporal existence, but rather look upon the face of God. Like the prophets and the apostles, like the saints and the disciples of days passed hear the whispering promises of God carry your soul forward as He bestows Himself upon your life in compassion and mercy.

Trust that His grace shall be brought to bear in the lives of all people who suffer and struggle, all people who feel the abiding persecution and captivity of this corporeal plane in their lives. He has strengthened even the most lost of souls and made His power known as His light has come to bear in the darkest of times and the darkest of places throughout the course of history. It shall then be no different in our times and in our world, for the same love that has carried His people forward throughout the generations shall be the same love that carries them forward even today, regardless of what this world may bring to bear against them.

Yes, it may be hard to put that control in God’s hands. We don’t necessarily like to believe that there are times and situations when we are not in charge or when things are too much for us. But where it has been shown that the hearts and the hands of men, the flesh and the beings of humanity has failed, the Lord God Almighty, through the power of His Holy Spirit, has weaved through the course of our events to show that the strength shall always rest in His power as His hand is raised as a shield to protect the poor and the needy, the subjugated and the oppressed as He brings liberty and justice to bear in their lives.

What more proof do we need amidst our world and in our world of that as His grace comes to bear in our lives and that love comes, amidst His compassion, to bear in this world?

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

First Prayer:

Blessed is Your Holy Name Lord for the measure of grace that You bring to bear in our lives and through our lives. Though our hearts may fail and our flesh may fall it is You who is there to give strength to our souls as You carry forward our spirits amidst this world in the loving promises that You have made unto us.

It is in that understanding Lord that we see You at work in the rescue of the Navios Apollon, as finally the crew of this ship is able to return to their homes, and find the family that they had been so cruelly ripped from waiting their safe return. It was by Your hand that finally justice came to bear in their lives as You worked through the course of human events to bring them freedom amidst their captivity and we give You glory and praise for that.

Heal them now Lord. The events that overtook them change people amidst the hurt and the harm that it causes. Show unto them that every day, that every moment is a precious gift granted unto them by Your loving kindness as they see the mercy of Your being in their lives. Find the wounded places within them, the bruised and the hurt places that hide in the heart and the soul and bind them up that they shall find the wonders of life and love are once more upon them as they live in peace and comfort, far from those dark and hidden places they were held amidst in such brutal captivity and meagre estate.

Let mercy come to bear in the lives of all prisoners and hostages, all captives and slaves. Let understanding and compassion come to the lives of their families as they long for their safe return. Give strength unto Your people and guard them in Your loving precepts through all that they are and all that they face that they may know that You are with them through all of the trials and tribulations that would now so threaten to overtake them.

Then shall all come to know the truth of Your promises and the power of Your righteousness through all of this worlds challenges and hardships, even as sorrow and suffering seem so near at hand.

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:

Let Your help come upon Your people O Lord, for the ungodly and the unrighteous seek to assert their dominance over the hearts and the minds of Your people. Let not their wickedness hold strength over the innocent and the weak, let not their iniquity assert might over the poor and the disenfranchised but lift Your hand that freedom and justice shall be the weapons that slay the darkness that now holds their souls captive, bound amidst their own hatred.

May You Lord show Your triumph in the lives of all prisoners and hostages, all captives and slaves as You move in such powerful ways to show You are the ultimate authority in this world.

Where they yearn, where they cry out, where they long for liberty be...

Where they suffer and struggle, where they find sorrow and hardship be...

Where darkness and pain seem so ready to overtake them grant unto them Your mercy....

Though love and compassion seem so far off, so far distant in their lives at this time of their bitter and brutal subjugation give strength unto them that they may know that they are not alone, for You contend with their cause. Lead them from the darkness to the light of Your grace as You show unto them that the promises of Your blessings are proclaimed in their lives as a testimony to the care that You show unto them.

By truth show the unrighteous that their captivity and bondage shall not stand for all ages.

Let Your righteousness come to bear in their lives as You show them the depth that their depravity shall take them to and the path to darkness and misery that they pave. Let not their hands bring suffering any longer, nor let their hearts be hardened by the weakness of their iniquity. Bring them to repentance that true and abiding justice shall bear in their lives and they are able to cast off the death that now cloaks them in their own fall that now remains so near, so close at hand. Show them their errors that they may turn from their own works and transfix their eyes upon the cross of Christ that they may come to disperse the gloomy clouds of night that had so engulfed their lives.

For any who are held in any bondage do we pray Lord, uplifting them to You, seeking and imploring Your grace in their lives. Set them free from sickness and disease, from intolerance and hatred, poverty and destitution, and let Your mercy come to bear in their lives as they find that there is hope in a world that had, for so long seemed so hopeless to them and they are brought to the peace that had so eluded them for so long.

Then shall all raise songs of praise as they joyfully take up Your name for the great and abiding mercy You make known even in this world of struggle and turmoil, this world of toil and anguish.

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.

No comments: