Thursday, August 18, 2011

You Alone

My Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of You.

You and You alone know my needs.

You love me more than I am able to love You.
O Father, grant unto me, Your servant, all which I cannot ask.
For a cross I dare not ask, nor for consolation;
I dare only to stand in Your presence.
My heart is open to You.
You see my needs of which I myself am unaware.
Behold and lift me up!
In Your presence I stand,
awed and silenced by Your will and Your judgments,
into which my mind cannot penetrate.
To You I offer myself as a sacrifice.
No other desire is mine but to fulfill Your will.
Teach me how to pray.
Pray You, Yourself, within me.


~ Philaret of Moscow

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Freedom in Captivity

This past week, my daily scripture reading brought me to the book of Daniel. Also this past week, the stock market became wildly manic swinging 400 points up, then down, then up and then down again. I think the whole world became seasick on that crazy ride. Other things happened, too, this week - America mourned the loss of 30 Special Forces in Afghanistan, a field of Republican (mostly) hopefuls flocked to Iowa for the Straw Polls all touting ideas and principles strongly opposed to our present government policies, and the phone call we had hoped to get about a job never came. So what do those things and the book of Daniel have to do with one another? Quite a lot, actually.

Consider Daniel and his friends. They and a host of others were taken prisoner from Jerusalem when it fell to Nebuchadnezzer, king of Babylon, the mightiest nation on the earth at the time. The scripture says that the boys were youths, most likely in their teens. They were chosen to be trained as servants to the King, and thus were to be re-educated in the ways of Babylon. They were even given new names. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah became Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Their identities as Israelites, God's people, were to be erased and they were to be absorbed into the fabric of Babylon. These young men, however displaced, continued to put their trust in God, and through wisdom and discretion continued to serve God in a heathen nation before a ruthless king, ultimately leading that King to declare of God, "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endures from generation to generation." Daniel 4:3.

Despite the dangers of political intrigues, Nebuchadnezzer's ragings, fiery furnaces, and lions' dens, Daniel and friends remained faithful to their God even as they served a heathen king in a heathen land. Because of their faithfulness, wisdom, and discretion, they became leaders in Babylon, to the praise and glory of God. They continued to lead righteous lives even as the Babylonian throne changed hands over and over again, so that when the time of Israel's captivity ended, there were still faithful men and women living in the land (see Esther), who were ready to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild 70 years later. (Nehemiah)

In many ways, Believers today - though freer than most - live lives of certain captivity. Our nation retains only shadows of its Christian heritage and we are to mind our P's and Q's politically and culturally speaking. More and more our government encroaches on our freedoms to where we cannot even mention the name of Jesus at public school events, many public gatherings, and even at funeral services in Veteran's cemeteries. All aspects of our lives have become and are becoming more and more regulated by public policies designed for "our national good". Healthcare, the car industry, banking, energy, manufacturing, education and more have seen more government regulation, and indeed out-and-out takeover.

These are frustrating times for the Believer. We can beat our heads against the wall fighting the arbitrary ways of men, or we can, like Daniel, remember that it is God who is sovereign, it is God who orders the way of men and nations, and that if we walk faithfully with wisdom and discretion, we will see that God's purposes are never thwarted, that he doesn't need perfect conditions in which to show forth his glory. He will see his people through.

In John 14, Jesus tells us, "Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me." and "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." In John 15, Jesus reassures us that we can live as Daniel did long ago in Babylon when he tells us, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you." The promises of God are not dependent on any particular political, economical, or cultural condition. They are dependent upon God Himself, for "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." (Jn.16:33) Because of this I can be courageous, be at peace, live righteously in all things, serve the king, live in the land, and know that our sovereign Lord holds all things in his hand.