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.

The Whole Thing?

Day 290

Prayer for the day

Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.

Scripture for the day

Isaiah 50-52, 1 Thessalonians 5

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

It’s often easy for us to forget that the work of God is not simply the work of the soul or the spirit. God is interested in more than our spirit. God is interested, vitally and desperately interested, in the entirety of us. God cares not only for the spiritual, but for the physical as well. It is not simply enough to believe with the spirit; we are called to holistic worship, and holistic holiness.

When Paul prays for the Christians in Thessalonica, he doesn’t pray that God would save their souls. He doesn’t pray that God would save their bodies. He prays that God would sanctify them “through and through,” body, soul, and spirit, so that each would be kept blameless until the coming of Jesus Christ.

His hope is that the Thessalonians would be sanctified in their entirety so that they would be presented wholly holy to God!

This hope is the same as that of the prophet Isaiah. He continually struggles with the people to have them sanctified entirely, down to the way they use their money. He prays that they would worship God and not idols, that they would turn wholly back to their God and away from their sickness and despair, away from the pain they cause themselves through idolatry and disobedience.

Both Testaments are clear that both obedience and disobedience are embodied states: we cannot separate the spirit from the body and hope to save the one and destroy the other. We are whole people and God desires his whole people to be holy.

Why So Holy?

Day 289

Prayer for the day

Accept, O LORD, the willing tribute of my lips, and teach me your judgments.

Scripture for the day

Isaiah 47-49, 1 Thessalonians 4

There are innumerable passages in the scriptures that call for people to be holy. We are regularly called to live a life that is pleasing to God, a life that is set apart, holy. One of the questions that lingers, however, is “why?” Why should we live in this way? Is it simply because God said it, so I believe it, and that settles it, as the bumper sticker has it? Or is there something deeper going on?

Many would argue that holiness is simply the way we were meant to live, and so we ought to get “back to our roots.” However, the scriptures have more to say on the matter than simply getting back to our roots.

The book of Isaiah is one major contributor to the call to holy living. In Isaiah, the prophet speaks the words of God to the people of God, desiring that they would turn from their wickedness and embrace God’s way for their lives.

The important point here is that there is a purpose for this embrace. God desires that they live this way in order that His fame would spread. This is not the narcissist God coming out. Rather, this is a God who knows what is best, and when people are seen living that best, it is attractive, and so more and more will be drawn to the best.

Paul picks up this thread in the book of 1 Thessalonians, writing that the Christians in Thessalonica ought to be set apart by their refusal to live lives of sexual promiscuity and immorality. Instead, says Paul, they should live lives that honour the God who gave them life. In this way they will hold up the God who saves, and his name will be famous!

May we contribute to the fame and glory of our God together.

There is no other!

Day 288

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 45-46, 1 Thessalonians 3

It’s an interesting study. Follow the thread of idolatry and worship through the First Testament. In the beginning, the children of Israel believed that God was a great God, but the great God among many. As we move forward in history, God reveals more and more of himself until the children of Israel begin to understand that God is not merely one god among many, but THE God, and that there was no other. This God was and is the only God. All others are mere imitations, idols, things made by human hands and invented by human (or wicked supernatural) minds.

The Israelites have moved then from a henotheistic faith (one god among many), to a monotheistic faith (only One God). And this one God is choosing careful words to teach them about this God. This God is more powerful than they’ve ever imagined.

Paul knows a thing or two about this one God and about this one God’s power. He speaks of God as the one who has given the Christians of Thessalonica to him, and him to them. He speaks of God as the one who gives faith, who gives love, who gives strength, courage, and who gives holiness. This God Paul serves is not just powerful; this God is all-powerful, and uses His power for the betterment of His creation.

What a glorious and incredible God we have the privilege of serving together.

By Name

Day 287

Prayer for the day

Let those who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the LORD!”

Scripture for the day

Isaiah 43-44, 1 Thessalonians 2

“I have summoned you by name,” says the LORD by the prophet. “You are mine.”

What a declaration! Isaiah speaks to his people and proclaims their destiny, the reality that lies behind all that has been going on for them. He declares their identity and their future all in one statement. They have been called by God, called by name. God knows them. God loves them. God draws them by name. And then when they have been summoned, their identity is truly pronounced: you are MINE.

The people of Israel are given identity by Isaiah. They belong to God. God is asserting his ownership of them in this passage, not to be a burden to them, but to be an encouragement, and a reminder. They were created as a people by this God who has called them, and now, this God is doing wonderful things to them and through them. They are to remember that the wonderful things that are happening and will happen are not happening of their own accord, but by the word of the God to whom they belong.

Paul has similar words to say to the Christians in Thessalonica. He reminds them that they gave themselves to this God when he was among them, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. He reminds them of the work he did among them, “encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

There’s that word again: “Call.” It seems that in both of these passages, God desires to remind the people that this salvation they have received, these lives they are living, are not a result of their worthiness or effort, but the result of the call of God.

Today, when you hear his voice, will you listen?

Idols

Day 286

Prayer for the day

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth. Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory. Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer. For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Scripture for the day

Isaiah 41-42, 1 Thessalonians 1

It’s incredible and depressing the amount of power that we attribute to things without true power. We end up worshipping things that we think are strong and powerful, things that we think will attribute or confer their power to us. And every time, we are disappointed.

We are disappointed because everything that claims to possess or confer power in this world but does not draw its power from the source of true power, God, will leave us with a slight facsimile of true power.

Isaiah speaks of true power when he recounts God’s words about the impotence of idols. God declares Himself the powerful one, the one who is able to effect real change, true transformation. All the idols, claims Isaiah, are impotent, powerless shades, mere shadows of divinity.

It is only by recognizing idols for what they are that the Israelites are able to unmask their powerless forms and ascribe true power to the one to whom it belongs.

Paul speaks to the Thessalonians about their wisdom in turning from idols to the true God in order to partake in the saving power of the God who can truly save. This God has power not only to save, but to raise from the dead, to create in us new life, and to bring us to Himself whole and newly made.

May you turn from whatever idols you’ve worshipped and know the true power of the living God.

But Why?

Day 285

Prayer for the day

Let your loving-kindness be my comfort, as you have promised to your servant. Let your compassion come to me, that I may live, for your law is my delight.

Scripture for the day

Isaiah 39-40, Colossians 4

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among Christians lately. Many Christians in the developed world are claiming to be persecuted for their faith. While I believe that some genuinely are, I also believe that many are misunderstanding the idea of persecution. Some believe they are suffering because of Christ, but in truth, they are either not suffering, or they are suffering for an entirely different reason.

Paul is very clear that his suffering and imprisonment are directly related to his proclamation of the mysterious gospel of Jesus Christ. He claims this in numerous places in his letters and gives clear examples of how and why this is happening.

Paul’s suffering is true suffering. He is beaten and imprisoned. Paul is hurt, he is in pain, and he truly suffers, but he does so because he is preaching the good news of Jesus. The message is offensive, and Paul knows it.

The suffering of the people of Israel is also because of God, but not because of how they are following God well. Rather, their suffering is connected to their disobedience and refusal to follow God in the way God has deemed fit. Should they follow appropriately, this kind of suffering will be eliminated.

Unlike both forms of suffering mentioned, there is a third kind, the kind many Christians claim is happening to them. This is the suffering that comes from being a jerk and then being treated poorly because of it.

We are called not to offend with our personalities, but with the gospel. We are called to suffer because of the gospel and only because of the gospel.

If we can get this straight, our suffering will not be in vain!