Abandoning

Day 297

Prayer for the day

Seven times a day do I praise you, because of your righteous judgments.

Scripture for the day

Jeremiah 3-5, 1 Timothy 4

The descriptions of Israel’s and Judah’s sins against God are disturbing. Like children who refuse to love their parents, and like a wife who opens herself to many lovers, Israel and Judah have abandoned the love and care of God, seeking instead other gods and other nations. They have given up on God, though God has not given up on them. They praise God with their lips, while at the same time doubting God’s existence and intervention in their hearts. Their sins are many, their betrayal the most heinous.

This betrayal cuts to the core of their relationship with God. They have taken the covenant God cut with them and trampled it underfoot, to the extent that God gives Israel a “certificate of divorce,” the metaphor being completed. God has married Israel and Judah, and Israel has so strayed from her vows that God “divorces” her. While this is not the end of the story (God will call her back), it certainly is a painful and unnecessary way to live. Instead of honouring their commitment and loving God with everything, in gratitude, they reject. And in turn, they are rejected.

Paul warns Timothy of a similar propensity in the people of God to whom he ministers. They will be led astray, says Paul, by some who claim to be preaching the truth but who instead lead them into deadly error. These will place unnecessary restrictions on the people of God and lead them into places of sin in order to ruin the relationship they enjoy with their God. Paul warns them of this behaviour, and encourages all of God’s people to stand firm and to cling to their fist love and commitment, their love and care for the God who created them, called them, and loved them.

May we cling to God.

Qualifications

Day 296

Prayer for the day

Show your goodness, O LORD, to those who are good and to those who are true of heart.

Scripture for the day

Jeremiah 1-2, 1 Timothy 3

It is universally recognized within the church that ministry is not limited to those paid clergy who perform some rituals for the church. Instead, ministry is something that is not only open, but is commanded for all of God’s people. We are all called to be ministers, helping people recognize their needs (vs. wants) and facilitating the meeting of those needs with the strength and power of the Holy Spirit.

Too often, however, we doubt our ability to minister. We claim to be too young, too old, not well trained enough, not smart enough, too smart, etc. And while this may be true for very SPECIFIC ministries, the call to ministry is not so easily rejected.

Jeremiah had a tough time with his call to ministry (and to its fulfillment, but more on that later!). He believed that he was too young, too tongue-tied, too untried to be the prophet God had called him to be. He believed that his qualifications were not up to snuff when it came to the call of God on his life.

God, however, had a different opinion. It seems that when God calls someone to a specific ministry, God will provide the qualifications for that ministry. Jeremiah may have been young, may have not been eloquent, but God’s call and God’s care raised him up to be what he needed to be.

Paul counsels Timothy about the qualifications for overseers in the church. He counsels to take care, and ensure the qualifications are in place because this position in ministry has a higher requirement. Yet looking through the qualifications, aren’t most of these requirements things Christians should be anyway? The call to be an overseer comes with the qualifications because of its nature, but the call of God will ensure the qualifications.

What are you called to? God has already gifted you for it!

To Please

Day 295

Prayer for the day

Almighty God, my heavenly Father: I have sinned against you, through my own fault, in thought, and word, and deed, in what I have done and what I have left undone. For the sake of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me all my offences; and grant that I may serve you in newness of life, to the glory of your Name. Amen.

Scripture for the day

Isaiah 65-66, 1 Timothy 2

In writing Timothy, Paul gives regulations and recommendations about how men and women ought to conduct themselves in life and in worship. Many pages have been written about the contextual difficulties of 1 Timothy 2 and the regulations Paul lays down, whether they are contextually driven or divine mandate. Regardless of the specific recommendations and regulations, what we see here is what is best at the time to ensure that the hearts of Timothy’s congregation remain in the proper place and that their conduct is that which pleases God, both in the church and outside of it.

Isaiah has much to say about the activities and heart states that truly please God. In these last few chapters of the book, God speaks through the prophet to tell of the time to come when all things will be made right, and when God will mete out His perfect justice: to the righteous, eternity and joy, and to the wicked, punishment and shame. God will do these things, He says, according to his perfect judgment, which will include both the activities of the world and also the hearts of the nations. People will be judged not just according to their actions, but according to the rationale of their actions as well.

Reading these two passages should give even the most diligent believer pause. It is not simply enough to act well. Nor is it enough to believe correctly. It is in the convergence of belief, action, and right heart that the pleasure of God is to be found.

Patience

Day 294

Prayer for the day

Show me your ways, O LORD, and teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.

Scripture for the day

Isaiah 62-64, 1 Timothy 1

It’s the one thing you don’t really want to pray for because you know it’ll be tested: patience. I can’t count the number of times I’ve prayed for God to give me the patience to deal with something, only to realize that in dealing with this thing, I’ve been learning (sometimes!) patience.

Paul, in his first letter to Timothy, claims that God saved him, the worst of sinners, in order to demonstrate God’s unbelievable patience. Not only does God love His creation, He loves it so much that He is willing to wait for it. He loves His creation so much that He does not simply destroy wicked; He waits for the wicked to respond to His incredible grace. To Paul, this patience is the perfect character of God. It is almost incomprehensible that God would be gracious enough to wait for the wicked, yet Paul says he is living proof of this patience.

Isaiah regularly points to the patience of God in dealing with the people of Israel. Interestingly, when they are crying out to God and asking how long they will be oppressed, they are missing the fact that God’s patience, the fact that God does not come immediately is also their salvation. God is not only patient through the good times, but through the bad times as well. They may not see immediate salvation, but wonderfully, they do not see immediate annihilation, which is the very real and appropriate punishment for their (and our) significant disobedience.

Thanks be to God that He is the patient God, the one willing to wait for His creation, seeking and saving those who are in an incredible hurry to be destroyed.

Peace, Peace

Day 293

Prayer for the day

Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; let those who love your salvation continually say, “Great is the LORD!” Though I am poor and afflicted, the LORD will have regard for me. You are my helper and my deliverer, do not tarry, O my God.

Scripture for the day

Isaiah 59-61, 2 Thessalonians 3

Paul ends his second letter to the Christians in Thessalonica with a blessing: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.”

This blessing, this wish and prayer for the Christians who remain true to the teachings Paul has handed down is indeed full of hope and full of joy. It is also seemingly impossible. To be given peace at all times and in every way seems entirely contrary to the human condition and experience. Peace constantly eludes us. We do not have peace in our relationships with each other, with our spouses and children, with our fellow Christians and with non-Christians. We do not have peace at home or at work or at school, yet the prayer of Paul is unchanged. May God give you peace. At all times. In every way.

Isaiah pointed to a time when this peace given at all times and in every way would not only be a possibility but a reality. He pointed forward to a time when the people of God would be such a people of peace that violence would no longer be heard of in their country. He envisioned a time when the peace of God would truly rule in the hearts of those who belonged to God, and this peace would not be the temporary cessation of conflict but a peace that pervaded every aspect of existence.

Life in Christ today is but a foretaste of the true peace of God we will experience as we continue to grow in
Christ and in the favour of God.

May you know His peace today.

Holding Firm

Day 292

Prayer for the day

Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe; you are my crag and my stronghold.

Scripture for the day

Isaiah 56-58, 2 Thessalonians 2

Is it possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason? Is it possible to hold to the law without actually pleasing God? It would seem from Isaiah’s condemnation of the Israelite that this is not only possible, but a regular stumbling block for them (and possibly for us).

God’s rebuke of the people is that they have been seeking to obey the law, but have been missing the actual point of the law, and so have been breaking it in spirit while keeping it in letter. They have been fasting, but in fasting they have not understood the purpose. They have forgotten why they were fasting, forgotten that fasting is a reminder from God of their reliance on Him, of their humility, as well as a ritual. Isaiah speaks the words of God, saying that the fasting that repents in ashes and the fasting that has no real effect are equally missing the point. The fasting that God desires is the fasting that works itself out in justice and equity. This is active fasting, fasting that accomplishes its purpose. This is the true law-keeping.

True lawlessness is encountered in the second letter to the Christians in Thessalonica. They are encouraged to stand firm against the “man of lawlessness,” who is someone trying to lead others astray through false teaching. Paul then encourages the people who hear these words, the ones who listen to the teachings, to stand firm, to understand where their faith comes from, the basis of their trust in God, and calls them to live according to the law that God has written on their hearts. In this way they will keep the spirit of the law as God has commanded it and not fall into error and condemnation.
Thanks be to God for the law written on our hearts. Let’s keep it rightly, and well.

Prompted by Faith

Day 291

Prayer for the day

Bow down your ear, O LORD, and answer me . . . Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful.

Scripture for the day

Isaiah 53-55, 2 Thessalonians 1

Why do we do what we do? Is there always good rationale for the actions that we take, or do we sometimes simply act without any regard or thought for consequences or reasoning? It seems to often be the case that our motivation for action is divided. We do some things out of fear, some out of loyalty, misplaced or otherwise. We do some things out of a desire to please, some out of a desire to harm.

The Apostle Paul, in seeking the best for the Thessalonian Christians, desired that the things they did be the things prompted by the life of faith. He prayed that the actions they would take would be motivated solely by the faith they had in the God to whom they had dedicated themselves. These actions, because they are motivated by faith in a God who does not disappoint, would be actions approved by this God. They would be actions that this God desired, so long as the Christians remained loyal and true to the God they were serving.

The prophet Isaiah called the people of Israel to a similar life. He would speak the words of God to them, confident that if they lived out those words in trust, that God would bless them and care for them, and that their actions would be pleasing to God.

In desiring to live the life of faith, the Thessalonians, the Israelites, and we, the people of God today, seek the same thing: to live a life that is worthy of the God we follow. We pray that the lives we live will be acceptable because our trust and faith is in the one who does not fail.

May our faith be true and our hopes realized.