Saturday, November 28, 2020

November 28: Of Deceptive Conflation



Daniel 5:1-31
2 Peter 2:1-22
Psalm 119:113-128
Proverbs 28:19-20

In your humble writer's opinion, one of the greatest deceptions being perpetrated today is the one of "conflation", which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as "the actor or process of combining two or more separate things into one whole, especially pieces of text or ideas".  This is where a person insists that a sinner and a sin be conflated, and says that if a Christian does not accept the sin, neither do they love the sinner.  And typically follows it up with an accusation of hatefulness and dishonesty - "I thought you said you were a Christian?  If you were, how could you hate a person?"

What's tragic is that many well intentioned people fall for this.  They don't want to be hateful; they don't even want to be in a position where they might be accused of hatefulness.  So they capitulate.  They choose to condone the sin.  Peter explains how their situation is made much worse.  If, by their good intentions, they had begun to escape "the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning."  I struggled with this until I realized it meant that, the sinner believing he was now living righteously, he no longer had reason to change.  

It's worse for the deceivers.  Peter doesn't mince words, comparing them with angels sent to hell and put "in chains of darkness to be held for judgment".  He makes clear what he thinks is in store for such people, comparing them to the "ancient world when He brought flood on its ungodly people" and "the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah [which He] made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly."

How then do we avoid both temptations - to be deceiver, and to be deceived?  Today's psalm gives us good guidance.  

  1. First, we cleave to God's Word.  "I hate double-minded people, but I love Your law.  You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in Your word."  
  2. Then, having clung ferociously to His word, we come against the deceivers, the deception, and the temptation to deceive. "Away from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commands of my God."
  3. And when our strength flags, as it inevitably will, we cry out to Him: "Sustain me, my God, according to Your promise, and I will live…uphold me, and I will be delivered."

Father, Satan is working overtime, and to us his packaging can look really enticing.  Please protect us, and open our hearts, minds and eyes to the deception of conflation, and remind us that to love someone is to want for them not necessarily what THEY want for themselves, but what YOU want for them. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

November 27: Of God-Begotten Transformations

Daniel 4:1-37
2 Peter 1:1-21
Psalm 119:97-112
Proverbs 28:17-18

In the Old and New Testament readings today, two people who seem as different as chalk and cheese.  Nebuchadnezzar, earthly king and conqueror, builder of the majestic city of Babylon who answered to no one; and Peter, modestly successful fisherman, arrogant coward.  

Yet today we read the former abandon his arrogance and his gods, and confess God's existence and nature, declaring Him God the Most High, honoring and glorifying "Him who lives forever".  And we read the depth of the arrogant, uneducated fisherman's insight when he writes of faith, goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love.  Peter?  Self control, from the man who cut off the servant's ear?  Perseverance from the man who could not stay the course that terrible night till the rooster crowed?

Two people, so different, coming from and heading toward different places, yet both transformed, and brought to the same place, the same conclusion about the existence and sovereignty of our God.  How?  Not by their own hand, but by God's.  And no, it wasn't easy.

But think of this: the same God who knew what it would take, and how long it would take, to change Nebuchadnezzar's heart so he would glorify God, and Peter's heart so he would be ready and willing to put aside "the tent of this body" - that God is the God who knows us as well, knows what we need in order to turn to Him the same way.  The God who called both those men to holiness calls us to the same thing as well.  And He's willing to do whatever it takes.

If you are like me, you will have days of frustration, despair and hopelessness even.  You wonder why.  You wonder what the point of it all is.  You wonder whether or not it is worth going on.  A job, perhaps.  Or being a parent.  Or a spouse.  Or even trying to be a Christian.  Where do we find the how?

Thankfully, Peter is pretty straight up with us. In verses 2-4, he makes it clear.  First, he reassures us that the grace and peace that we sometimes struggle to find can be ours - and IN ABUNDANCE! - if we get to know God and Jesus our Lord.  And he even tells us how God's divine power has given us everything - EVERYTHING! - we need for a godly life, not a helpless, hopeless one.  

Father, when we struggle, remind us that if you could change, and cared enough to change, both Nebuchadnezzar and Peter, then you care enough to change us as well, and will do whatever it takes to call us to holiness.  Then, when we struggle through the transformation You ordained, help us to get to know You, and to receive the grace and peace You promised came with the relationship.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thursday, November 26

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 26, 2020

 

“Your word, Lord, is eternal;

    it stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness continues through all generations;

    you established the earth, and it endures.

Your laws endure to this day,

    for all things serve you.” (Psalm 119:89-91)

 

 

On this Thanksgiving Day, we pause to give thanks for God’s faithfulness to us over this trying and tumultuous year.  Like Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, we found ourselves cast into the fire of COVID-19’s dangers and major economic and social repercussions.  We have regrettably become disconnected from family and friends out of caution.  Our hearts hurt in grappling with the losses that we have faced.

 

Yet, God has remained faithful and steadfast.  His love has not faded, and His Word stands firm.  As this year has demonstrated, our trust in smaller things can quickly fail us, but God will not.  In our toughest moments, we cling to His sovereignty and recognize how much we need Him and His presence.

 

Daniel and his friends provided outstanding examples of trusting God through the trials of life.  Instead of looking for the “easy out” of bowing to Babylon’s pressures, they instead maintained their commitment to God.  Please meditate on this bold declaration of trust:  “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17,18)

 

God did indeed deliver them from the furnace, sending the pre-incarnate Jesus into the fire to rescue these faithful servants.  Importantly, we see their heart:  that their trust lay in God Himself, not their circumstances.

 

Which fires has God brought you through this year?  Have you recorded these examples in a journal or at least shared with family and friends?  How have you become more convinced of God’s faithfulness this year?

 

 

Lord God, thank You for Your tremendous faithfulness to us.  Help us to grow in trust and to look to Your character in times of fiery trials.  Preserve our dear family and friends during these days of COVID-19 and many other struggles, from economic loss to loneliness.  Bring healing to our relationships and to our country.  Help us to carry a spirit of thanksgiving forward from today.  In Jesus’s mighty Name, amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

November 25

Daniel 1

Think of when you transitioned into adulthood and left home. Maybe your first experience of leaving home was going to college or maybe you left and got married. In every case, transitioning is hard and adjustments have to be made. Now let's take  look at Daniel who, at age 12 or 13 was torn from his home, put into exile, and enrolled in an extensive training program designed to transform him into a Babylonian bureaucrat. This new culture came into direct conflict with the clear instructions of God's word that was ingrained on Daniel's heart. As I was reading  this I was wondering what's the take away from all this? As Christians we aren't in exile but, like Daniel, are we not under pressure to compromise our values? Don't we daily come into conflict with situations that go against God's word which is engraved in our hearts? There is so much to learn here from Daniel's attitude and actions about how to respond when our Biblical values are challenged. It's hard to always know what to do but I think one simple measure to keep in mind is will what I do or say bring glory to God? As we read through Daniel we see incredible character fueled  by unwaivering faith. I pray for all of us that by faith and the power of the Holy Spirit we have the wisdom to obey the word of God which is engraved on our hearts when we feel the pressure of the word calling us to compromise.

Randi

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Weary World Rejoices

Today's Bible reading: November 24th

Focus verse
Psalm 119:50 - my comfort in my suffering is this: your promise preserves my life

2020. I'd say this year has been a rollercoaster, and while there have been ups and downs, there sure have been a lot of downs! Don't get me wrong, there are gifts to experience on a daily basis, and I have been able to enjoy numerous blessings this year including expanding our home projects and my husband getting a new job that we've been praying for for years.

We're now in November. Personally, I'm getting continually tired... My work situation is draining me as I hear "covid positive" on a regular basis and have to make notifications, put safeguards in place, and counsel staff and residents through this scary time. Weary is truly how I have felt over the past few weeks. Many of us have pushed through this year and excessively exerted ourselves. How do we seek comfort in our suffering? In our times of weariness? 

In Psalm 119 (which is a super long Psalm!) the psalmist suggests that we can be comforted in our suffering, and that God's promise is what preserves us: keeps us safe, protects us, guards us, and keeps us from decaying. God's promises are numerous. He promises to be gracious, to be with us, to fight for us, to strengthen us, to give us peace, to love us with unfailing love, to use all things for good. And it doesn't end there. The more of the Bible that we read, the more promises we discover. Our bitter hearts become softened.

Comfort from God doesn't take away the challenges we are facing, but it can change our attitude and perspective as we go through the trials. God's Word has revived me. His promises are so much more than I deserve. As we prepare to enter the season of Advent, we can reflect on God sending His son into our world as a baby. This amazing gift to us is the fulfillment of so many promises, most importantly, the gift of eternal life outside of this broken world. A thrill of hope… And if that isn't reason to rejoice, I don't know what is!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

November 21: Of James’s Four P’s


Ezekiel 42:1-43:27
James 5:1-20
Psalm 119:1-16
Proverbs 28:6-7

For someone who used to doubt and disrespect his older brother, James turned out ok, didn't he?  

I read today's NT reading and couldn't help but think of four P's: Priorities, Prayer, Patience and Perseverance.  James is pretty clear about what our Priorities should be - not luxury and self indulgence obtained possibly by cheating and stealing.  No, he talks about how our lives should be lived in ways as to help turn "a sinner from the error of their way".  And not just for the sinner's benefit, but for ours.

And how are we to do this?  With Prayer.  James makes clear we are to pray in all circumstances - good, bad, ill, even in sin.  We are to pray because those "offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up", and "if they have sinned, they will be forgiven."

But what to do when our prayers seem to go unanswered?  Again James is clear: we are to be Patient.  Things happen in their proper time, so we are to wait as "the farmer waits for the land to y field its valuable crop".  We are to wait patiently, without grumbling.  And we are to Persevere through the struggle for which we have prayed, just as Job did.  We are able to do so because we can trust in the Lord's compassion and mercy.

My youngest, a junior in high school, spoke up at the dinner table today, expressing tremendous anger and frustration at the pandemic and its disruptions.  I understand.  When I was his age, I went to school, I swam, and I hung out with friends.  He is denied all three.  I'd like for him to learn James's Four P's, but anyone who has tried to raise teenagers knows this not when they are at their most receptive.  What then to do?

Well first, I will prioritize.  I will try and spend time with him this week, giving him time to vent his frustrations.  And then hopefully I can encourage him to pray - alone, perhaps together, for the challenging conditions, the coronavirus and all who've been afflicted.  After that, I hope to model patience - to wait upon the Lord in faith.  And when, inevitably, he experiences doubt, I hope to help him persevere, with words of encouragement.

Father, during this difficult time, instead of worldly objectives, help us make it our priority to live lives that will point sinners back to you.  Teach us to pray for what You want, to be patient and wait on Your schedule, and when afflicted by doubt, to persevere in the knowledge of Your love and compassion.

Friday, November 20, 2020

November 20: Of a Parent’s Love


Ezekiel 40:28-41:26
James 4:1-17
Psalm 118:19-29
Proverbs 28:3-5

"When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."

How often have you had to say no to your child?  How much did it hurt to see the look of disappointment on their faces, even hear their words of anger?  And, as you refused them their request, how much did you wish they'd asked for something else, something good for them, so that the very love that prevented you from granting their wish this time would have gladly acceded instead?  

The way James describes it, that seems to be exactly the way it is with God.  He wants to give us good things - "if it is the Lord's will".  He wants us to "come near to [Him] and He will come near to [us]". But He cannot, when we chase what we want for ourselves, instead of seeking what He wants for us.  The psalmist agrees with James - he writes of the aspiration to "give You thanks, for You answered me".  He declares that God wants to answer us. 

What then should we do that we learn to seek what God wants for us?  Perhaps we might begin by acknowledging our finiteness.  Perhaps we should pretend not to know on our own what is good for us; perhaps even confess that we have no way of knowing what is to come - not even "what will happen tomorrow".  Or that our lives have any guarantee of duration - for we "are a mist that appears for a little while, then vanishes".

When we confess all that, when we acknowledge our dependence on HIm, perhaps then we are transformed from the proud God opposes, to the humble on whom He shows favor.  And then, perhaps, we might receive the spirit He jealously longs to cause to dwell in us, we might receive His grace.  And then, like children who listen to their parents, we will know what to ask so that He will give - freely, abundantly.

Father, break us of the pride that leads to pretensions of self sufficiency and omniscience.  Remind us not just of our imperfections, but the incomprehensible blessing we have in a perfect, omnipotent and loving Father who wants us to give the perfect good things only He knows  we want and need.