Thursday, December 31, 2015

The year ends with both ups and downs



Lamentations 4:1–5:22, Romans 16:1–27, Proverbs 31:10–31

Jeremiah’s lament for his people ends this reading and this year. He describes God’s judgment on the sins of the prophets and priests, how they wandered blind through the streets, defiled and untouchable, fugitives and cast out. “The Lord himself has scattered them; he will regard them no more; no honor was shown to the priests, no favor to the elders.” (Lamentations 4:16)

But these spiritual leaders were not the only ones who had been shipwrecked. Jeremiah also wrote, “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.”

Then he ends with a cry to God: “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)

One characteristic of my spiritual gift is that I easily see the dark side of things and am quick to be personally convicted of sin. Like Jeremiah, I always see what is wrong with me and have trouble keeping my focus on God’s blessings. For that, I crave the company of those who look on the bright side of life, and who find it easier to remember the goodness of God and the power of His grace. 

I also need the Word of God to remind me of how His grace has transformed my life. For instance, In Proverbs 31, God describes an excellent wife who is far more precious than jewels, and some of that description He has made true of me (which makes me semi-precious! :-))

I provide food for my household, make investments and use the profits wisely. I exercise and keep fit, work hard and give to the poor. I am “not afraid of snow for (my) household” because our clothing is warm and I make “bed coverings” (quilts) for us too. (Proverbs 31:15–22)

While I can feel weak and am sometimes silly, God gives me “strength and dignity” and the faith to “laugh at the time to come.” I seek His wisdom and kindness, and my hubby says that I “look well to the ways of (our) household” and am never idle. Our children bless me, and so does my husband. This is all because of Christ.

I’m so glad that He has taught me to fear the Lord and that He “gives me of the fruit of my hands, and lets my works be praised.” (Proverbs 31:25–31)

This last section of Romans also highlights a few women that Paul commended, giving me encouragement as part of God’s family and a member of His church. Paul commended “Phoebe, a servant of the church” and told his readers to “welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.”

He sent greetings to Prisca and her husband Aquila, his fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their necks for his life, and “Mary, who has worked hard for you.” He wrote of the mother of Rufus, “who has been a mother to me as well.” (Romans 16:6, 13)

Paul’s last words present goals for me as well as encouragement. My obedience need to increase. I need to increase in being “wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil” knowing that perfection will not be achieved in this life, but I could do better.

His last promise is deeply desired in my life as spiritual warfare never seems to slow down. Paul writes, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:19–20)

I’d love to crust that liar under my feet and for that hope, I am thankful. I can say with the apostle, “To the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

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Thus ends the devotional readings from Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan by John D. Barry and Rebecca Kruyswijk, (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

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