December 31, 2014

Bad news, yet there is hope

Today we drove from northern Arizona through heavy snow and white-out conditions on icy and slushy roads with crazy traffic and bitter winds. We were happy to arrive without incident in warmer clime, raining but with the desert greening in the moisture, full of hope for the leaves and blossoms soon to come.

During the drive, we listened to a talk show discussion the theme of “anti-cop” concerning recent killings of police officers. Even though many are frustrated with what they call ‘lack of police accountability’ most agreed that this violence is inexcusable. We wondered about the anarchy, the lack of accountability in so many other areas, and how the news these days is usually bad.

Tonight, I’m reading some sad news passages in the Bible, or at least they remind me of current sad events. The first was an OT passage where the people of God were in great distress. Their land had fallen to Babylon with many taken into captivity. Those who survived this catastrophe grieved, yet God sent them Jeremiah who challenged them to examine their ways and return to God with contrite hearts. He said to God . . .

“The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning. The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned! For this our heart has become sick, for these things our eyes have grown dim, for Mount Zion which lies desolate; jackals prowl over it. But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations. Why do you forget us forever, why do you forsake us for so many days? Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us.” (Lamentations 5:15–22)

My thoughts went to the state of God’s people in the western world. So many professing Christians are taken captive by the world, the flesh, the prince of darkness. It seems at times that God has forsaken us. We too are in need of examining our ways and returning to God.

Then I read the closing verses of Romans where Paul sends his greetings to his friends and co-workers. One line stood out: “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well.” (Romans 16:3–4)

Earlier I posted my ‘word’ for 2015 – humility. Again, God pokes at my need for it. Humility is not thinking less of self, but thinking of self much less. That isn’t easy, but what about being so taken up with serving others that I would risk my neck for their life? This is an over-the-top example of humility. I’m not there yet.

The next assigned passage is familiar to Christian women. One even wrote a book with the title, “The Proverbs 31 Woman and Other Impossible Dreams” as the woman described here makes all of us look bad. It begins with this . . . “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:10–12)

After several descriptions of her godly life and resourcefulness, the passage ends with, “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:25–30)

At this, most of us gulp and give up. Reaching this ideal is so remote that it gets rejected, or is said to be out of date, or even laughed at. This also is both a sad commentary on the state of our values, and a challenge to me. This woman is not thinking about herself or trying to show off in any way. She is humble, thinking of her family and how to serve their best interests. I’m not there yet either.

But there is good news. The Bible points to a time when the problem of sin will be over. Satan has already lost the battle and his manipulations are temporary. I can say as Jeremiah said, “But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations . . . . Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!” Lamentations 5:19–22).

The world around is self-destructing and full of bad news. I feel totally unable to be a more humble person, never mind do anything that will help others desire godliness, never mind gain it. Yet there is hope – nothing is impossible with God. 

New Devotional Guide: John D. Barry and Rebecca Kruyswijk, Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

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