Posts tagged ‘Amos’

November 20, 2014

The Purpose of Temptation

by Steven Dilla

Daily Reading
Amos 9 (Listen – 2:56)
Luke 4 (Listen – 5:51)

The Purpose of Temptation | by John Wesley
Throwback Thursday: Heaviness through Manifold Temptations (1872, London)

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. — Luke 4.1

For what ends, then, does God permit heaviness to befall so many of his children? 

The first and great end of God’s permitting the temptations which bring heaviness on his children, is the trial of their faith, which is tried by these, even as gold by the fire. Now we know, gold tried in the fire is purified thereby; is separated from its dross. And so is faith in the fire of temptation; the more it is tried, the more it is purified; — yea, and not only purified, but also strengthened, confirmed, increased abundantly, by so many more proofs of the wisdom and power, the love and faithfulness, of God.

Yet another is, their advance in holiness: holiness of heart, and holiness of conversation; the latter naturally resulting from the former; for a good tree will bring forth good fruit. And all inward holiness is the immediate fruit of the faith that works by love. By this the blessed Spirit purifies the heart from pride, self-will, passion; from love of the world, from foolish and hurtful desires, from vile and vain affections. Beside that, sanctified afflictions have, through the grace of God, an immediate and direct tendency to holiness. Through the operation of his Spirit, they humble, more and more, and abase the soul before God. They calm and meeken our turbulent spirit, tame the fierceness of our nature, soften our obstinacy and self-will, crucify us to the world, and bring us to expect all our strength from, and to seek all our happiness in, God.

And all these terminate in that great end, that our faith, hope, love, and holiness may be found, if it doth not yet appear, unto praise from God himself, and honor from men and angels, and glory, assigned by the great Judge to all that have endured unto the end. So many ways do these “light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!”

___________________

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ___________________________________

Tags: ,
November 19, 2014

Street Art, Emerson, Pascal, and Love

by Steven Dilla

Daily Reading
Amos 8 (Listen – 2:16)
Luke 3 (Listen – 5:15)

Trash bags laying across the subway grates that line New York City sidewalks are not uncommon, unless they’ve been installed as street art by Joshua Allen Harris. [1] Air rushes through the grates as trains jet underneath, inflating Harris’ trash bags to reveal life-size articulating sculptures of dogs, polar bears, and giraffes. Each animal in the series is a striking image of latency and potential. In similar fashion, the law was dormant for centuries until Christ became its living perfection. Christ came as the complete articulation of the law and revealed its full purpose as love. This, in every way, is good news——but it requires a difficult step in order to embrace.

The offense of the gospel is that as the good news of Christ is found as we realize both the tragedy of our brokenness and the insufficiency of our good works. Admitting guilt is intensely difficult. Ralph Waldo Emerson observes, “We believe in ourselves as we do not believe in others. We permit all things to ourselves, and that which we call sin in others is experiment for us… No man admits at last that he can be lost, or that the crime in him is as black as is in the felon.” [2] Yet when we hold ourselves next to Christ, his perfection reveals our counterfeit. We can no longer go on pretending we have it all together; we are crushed by the magnitude of his infinite glory. But we are not alone. 

In his inaugural address of the gospel, John the Baptist proclaims, “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” in Christ (Luke 3.6). Christ is love fully articulated, his sacrifice washing over us like a tidal wave of grace. John announces the absolute relief to our pain; in Christ we have, offered freely, all that we never could earn for ourselves.

It is the height of Christ’s beauty, not the depth of our depravity, that is most shocking about the gospel. There is something in Christ we have never seen; Pascal confronts the reality of our world, “Evil is easy. Its forms are infinite; good is almost unique.” [3] Christ took all we deserved but could not bear. In Christ we see all that we hope, but cannot attain. Christ is love brought to life in surprising and magnificent ways.

Prayer: Father, show us your love as we read the story of Christ in Luke. Heal us of our brokenness through your Son, the suffering servant who left the glory of heaven, filled with love for you, in order to give himself in love for us.

___________________

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ___________________________________

Footnotes

[1] Installations throughout 2008-2012, joshuaallenharris.com. | [2] Emerson, R.W. Essay 14. | [3] Pascal, B. Pensées 5.408: Justice and the Reason of Effects.

Tags: ,
November 18, 2014

The Cost of Peace on Earth

by Steven Dilla

Daily Reading:
Amos 7 (Listen – 2:50)
Luke 2 (Listen – 6:41)

Oppression masquerading as peace. Most modern tellings of the Christmas story begin, as Luke does, with the decree sent out from Caesar Augustus for all to register. Augustus took numerous censuses; his first on record is from 28 B.C.E. when the Empire was barely over 4 million people and his last, taken over 40 years later, when the population was almost 5 million. The Empire’s rate of growth, and overall size, is massive by ancient standards. Augustus pursued what he called “peace” at whatever cost, because he knew it lead to growth, yet Augustus’ “peace” is far from tranquility——more aptly described as stability won by sword. 

N.T. Wright explains, “Here is the old king in Rome, turning sixty in the year Jesus was born: he represents perhaps the best that pagan kingdoms can do. At least he knows that peace and stability are good things; unfortunately he has had to kill a lot of people to bring them about, and to kill a lot more, on a regular basis, to preserve them.” [2] Indeed, to maintain stability in even a small part of Augustus’ empire, Herod barbarously murders every male toddler and infant in Bethlehem at the mere threat of a new king.

Peace in a world at war comes at a cost. Augustus was neither the first or last leader to attempt to bring peace by coercion. The angel’s announcement of Christ, “Peace among those with whom [God] is pleased,” would have been as intimidating as it was promising. [3] What kind of peace would God bring——and what would it cost?

“What Luke is getting at here, what the angels are getting at is the peace we’re talking about is not a peace between us or a peace within us;” says Timothy Keller, “it’s a peace between God and us.” [4] All peace on earth comes from this peace: all struggles are brought to an end, all sins relieved——humankind restored. Augustus brought peace for himself through the destruction of others, Jesus brought peace to others through the destruction of himself. The cost of peace on earth has been paid; the good news of Christ is that we are heirs to the victory of God’s love.

Prayer: God, forgive us for the ways in which we find ourselves at war——for unforgiveness, envy, lust, and other worldly strivings. Our only hope for peace with one another is found in the peace that you gave us through the sacrifice of your Son. Use our words and actions to generously share with others the peace you’ve given us.

___________________

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ___________________________________

Footnotes

[1] Res Gestae 8.2 and 8.4. | [2] Wright, T. (1996). The Lord and His Prayer (p. 78). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. | [3] Luke 2.14 | [4] Keller, T.J., 2013. The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive, New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church. “Christmas Peace,” 1996.

Tags: ,
November 17, 2014

The Linchpin of Generous Words

by Steven Dilla

Daily Reading
Amos 6 (Listen – 2:22)
Luke 1.39-80 (Listen – 9:58)

Emotions run high during the holidays… people in the United States are more likely to feel their stress increase rather than decrease,” notes the American Psychological Association. [1] In this way, the human experience around Christ’s birth hasn’t changed since Mary responded to the angel’s announcement. Mary initially replied not with exuberant praise but simple obedience; “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Her unadorned submission stands in stark contrast to the deluge of joy-filled worship Luke records from her just eight verses later:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” [2]

Mary was overwhelmed in her first response, not only by the presence of an angel in front of her, but also by the immense pressure of the news that she would soon become an unwed mother. Her plans for her future——her marriage, social status, everything——would have vanished in an instant. She tells no one, rushing out of her town before anyone can see her body is changing, and walks into the house of Elizabeth.

Elizabeth’s generosity of spirit was the linchpin. Luke records, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” [3] This is when everything changes. God has affirmed her through the words of someone else. Mary wasn’t self-anointed——and there is such power in the affirmation of her trusted friend she immediately bursts into ardent worship, looking toward the future with profound hope [4].

It’s a risk to affirm something unseen in someone. Elizabeth’s words made no sense apart from her faith. Yet they were the very thing that led Mary to her need for a Savior and her faithful response to live into the journey to which God called her.

Prayer: Father, help us see what you see in people and give us courage to affirm them in your love and will for their lives. Use our lives, even if it costs us the vision we have for our future. We rejoice in you; you are our Savior.

___________________

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ___________________________________

Footnotes

[1] http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2006/12/holiday-stress.pdf | [2] Luke 1.46-49 | [3] Luke 1.41-42 | [4] Luke 1.46-55

Tags: ,
November 14, 2014

The Justice of God

by Bethany

Daily Reading:
Amos 3 (Listen – 2:01)
Psalm 146-147 (Listen – 1:03)

Rwanda: As a young attorney at the Department of Justice, Gary Haugen took a leave of absence to direct the United Nations’ investigation of the Rwandan genocide. He saw human rights atrocities – burned piles of bodies, children hacked to death with machetes, the decaying body of a woman with her child’s corpse beneath her. Perhaps the most disorienting thing he discovered, however, was that those who were tasked with bringing about justice, e.g., the police, were the ones who had carried out the injustice that he saw. Who are you supposed to turn to when the justice-keepers become the justice-breakers?

Justice: Justice has two aspects – showing favor to the oppressed and enacting punishment for the perpetrators. The Psalmist praised the Lord for possessing these twin aspects of justice: “[The Lord] executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free; the Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin” [1].

Truth: Today, Haugen serves as President of the International Justice Mission, which seeks to reform the rule of law in the developing world [2]. In his book, The Good News About Injustice, Haugen says that the good news about injustice is that God cares about it. He writes, “Amid a world of injustice, oppression and abuse, we can know some simple truths about God if we study his Word. No matter what the circumstances, we can depend on what he has revealed about himself. In regard to injustice, our heavenly Father bids us to trust in four solid truths about his character: (1) God loves justice and, conversely, hates injustice, (2) God has compassion for those who suffer injustice – everywhere around the world, without distinction or favor, (3) God judges and condemns those who perpetrate injustice, and (4) God seeks active rescue for the victims of injustice” [3].

Prayer: Lord, You love justice and hate injustice. Yet we recognize that, as sinners, we perpetrate injustice. We may not murder, but Jesus teaches us that we commit murder if we are angry with our brothers [4]. Yet we praise him for bearing judgment for us. On the cross, justice kissed love. Therefore, cause us to cherish your justice and, in response, seek it. Amen.

 ___________________________________

Weekend Readings

Saturday: Amos 4 (Listen – 2:22); Psalms 148-50 (Listen – 2:40)
Sunday: Amos 5 (Listen – 2:22); Luke 1.1-48 (Listen – 9:48)

___________________

FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

 ___________________________________

Footnotes

[1] Psalm 146:7-9 ESV  |  [2] For more information on the International Justice Mission, see www.ijm.org. See also Wikipedia, International Justice Mission.  |  [3] Gary Haugen. The Good News About Injustice: A Witness of Courage in a Hurting World. InterVarsity Press. (1999), p. 69-70.  |  [4] See Matthew 5:21-26.

Tags: ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 164 other followers