God’s Heart for the Vulnerable

When the Old Testament talks about God’s justice, it often does so by highlighting His particular concern for those most vulnerable to injustice. Three particular groups are highlighted repeatedly: the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner (or, in different English translations, the stranger, alien, sojourner, or immigrant).

Not only does God love and provide for these vulnerable groups of people, He also commands His people to do the same. As we saw yesterday, God even instilled policies to ensure that these vulnerable groups has the means to provide for basic needs such as food.

Later, God sent prophets to rebuke those who had failed to protect these vulnerable groups. Jeremiah and Malachi warn of God’s judgment for those who failed to keep these commands, listing mistreatment of the orphan, widow, and foreigner alongside sins such as adultery, sorcery, lying, and shedding innocent blood.

The Bible also takes these three groups—widows, orphans, and foreigners—as metaphors for how God rescues each of us in the midst of our vulnerability. The Prophet Isaiah compares God to a husband, redeeming a widow. In Galatians, Paul describes our salvation in Jesus as a process of being adopted as God’s children. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes that those of us who are Gentiles were once strangers and aliens to God’s covenant with the Jewish people, but that by Christ’s death, we can be naturalized in as citizens of God’s kingdom, reconciled to Him and also to one another.

God deeply loves the vulnerable—and, at least in a spiritual sense, that includes all of us.

Reflection Questions:

1. How could you practically serve and reflect God’s love toward those who are vulnerable in your community?

2. How might recognizing your own vulnerability—and God’s grace in redeeming us in the midst of it—inform how you respond to those who are vulnerable as widows, orphans, or foreigners in our society and around the globe?

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Lasting Peace

Remember the story of Dorothy, the young girl from Kansas, who followed the yellow brick road in search of the Emerald City and the great wizard of Oz? At one point in her quest, she and her companions wander into a field of poppies. Though Dorothy doesn’t know it, she is standing on dangerous ground because the flowers exude a scent that can lull unwary travelers into a sleep that will last forever.

Our own world can sometimes function like that gorgeous field of poppies, lulling us by its pleasures and seducing us by its comforts — a nicer house, a better job, a thinner body. We become consumed with pleasant distractions instead of focused on our spiritual journey. Like the flying monkeys Dorothy later encountered, trouble, too, can ensnare us. The stock market plunges and fear proliferates. Our children struggle and anxiety takes over. Our career disappoints and depression sets in.

Of course God can use our difficulties, as well as our desires, to advance his plans. It is sometimes true, as the saying goes, that the obstacle itself is the path. A sickness can lead to deeper prayer and greater empathy. A difficult child can lead to greater faith and patience. Nothing is wasted in the lives of those who belong to God. Even our pleasurable pursuits can help us discern his will. The mistake comes from pursuing or resisting desires and difficulties on our own, without seeking God’s help and guidance.

Think for a moment about the things that upset you most in the past week as well as the ones providing the most joy. Do any of them have the whiff of eternity about them, or do they merely carry the scent of this world? Is the power and presence of God the driving force of your life, or are you constantly buffeted by the winds of success, comfort, fear, or anxiety?

If pursued or resisted without reference to God, both our struggles and desires can obscure not only the path ahead but the fact that we are even on a path. If we want to experience lasting peace, it is vital to keep walking on the path of faith, to continue to follow the one who loves us, God our Father.

Hard Times Are Good Times

God will lead me through some difficult times. The difficult times help me learn new things about him. Real friendships grow deeper in difficult times. God wants to be my close friend; any difficulty that comes into my life can bring me closer to him.

PRAYER

God, sometimes I wish you were a “make-it-all-better” kind of God. I wish you could help me fast-forward through bad days and hit instant replay on good days. But sometimes you’re more of a “wait-and-all-will-be-well” kind of God. I ask that you help me sort through my feelings, so I can make good choices and learn what you are trying to teach me. Amen.

God Is Eternal and My Comforter

Time defines anything in this world. We are born on a particular day and die on a particular day. This defines how long we have lived. There are manufactured dates, expiry date, etc.

Now, if time had limits, then there is a beginning and an end. Man has never been able to come to a conclusion on when time began, neither can he predict when it would end. When one of my friends was not paid their monthly salary because of recession, managing their home became difficult.

One month became two, three, six and nine months and before we knew we were counting years. At that time finding another job was next to impossible. If running their house for them was a challenge, for me praying for them became a challenge. What do you pray for and it seemed our prayers were not answered.

It was at that time God taught me saying a man lives, say, for 80 years. If in the 80 years for 3 years he has severe financial difficulty, it doesn’t take away the 77 years of financial stability. How they handle the 3 years would impact the way they would have to live the following years.

In the same way when I take the timeline of this world, the 80 years becomes just a dot, but how I live in this dot determines where I would be after I die. As Christians we believe in a new heaven and a new earth which would be flawless like the garden of Eden, and entry is granted only if we have lived our life on earth pleasing to God. Else we will find ourselves in the torrid place called hell.

In all this only our time on earth has a beginning and end. What a comfort it is to know that however tired and weary these years are, we have a God who is eternal and He will give us rest, free from all difficulties. Sometimes I catch myself asking the question what if I am wrong in believing this. But it scares me to live a life thinking it is wrong and what if it turns out to be the truth.

When I think of myself in hell eternally, I realize the most difficult times in our life on earth have a limited time period. It is comforting to know that these difficult times will pass.

God Is Gracious/Merciful & Righteous/Just

We take comfort in doing what we feel is right as God is gracious and merciful, and He is so slow to anger and is great in loving kindness. We don’t realize that God may be slow to anger, but He sure gets angry and His anger lasts for a moment and, yes, His favor a long time.

Have we noticed that in the moment of anger God killed Aaron’s sons when they gave unholy fire to the Lord? It’s the same God who killed Ananias and Saphira for lying to Him. Couldn’t God see, their intent, they sold their possessions to give to the Lord? Yes, they did keep a little bit for themselves. Did this really warrant death?

By those standards I should be consumed by God’s wrath, but His mercy and grace has given me opportunities to turn to him. The Bible is clear that God’s grace and mercy is for me to turn to Him and to be more like Him. Just as I have experienced His grace and mercy, I need to be gracious and merciful to my fellow human being. This means I willingly choose to show love and not hurt them the way they deserve.

So where is my justice? God says revenge is mine. Many a times like Jonah we are waiting to see God punish our enemies. We get angry and upset when we believe He doesn’t do it.

Here God wants us to be gracious and merciful like Him. Just as He gives us opportunities to turn to Him, He is waiting for our enemy to turn to Him. When that happens, our enemy now becomes our brother/sister and as Christians we go through the process of reconciliation.

Can this God be just and righteous? The gracious merciful God of today will be the righteous judge on the Day of Judgment when there will be no grace and mercy. All of us need to give an account of our actions. Justice will prevail on that day. As humans we tend to judge others, but God wants us to judge ourselves and be found blameless by His standard.

So as human beings we need God’s grace and mercy to be gracious and merciful to our fellow beings and also constantly judge ourselves so we would be found righteous on the Day of Judgment. The vice versa is dangerous.

God Is Jealous and Zealous

God being jealous is an image difficult to imagine. Don’t we get jealous when our best friend is spending time with somebody else when they should be spending time with us? Now, God created us in His image to have a relationship with Him. He is waiting for us to spend time with Him. Doesn’t He have the right to be jealous for our attention? God wants us to give Him first place in our thoughts and actions willingly and joyfully.

Closely associated with being jealous is being zealous, which shows the attitude of our heart. God is zealous about us. I have realized that it is not a matter of right or wrong but it’s a matter of our heart being zealous for the Lord. Our zeal for the Lord helps us to grow closer to Him and to get to know Him more intimately. Once we start knowing God, we want to please Him and avoid doing the things He doesn’t like which automatically means we are obeying Him.

As humans we all have some zeal – It can be to please ourselves, our family, our friends, to become famous or to pursue our own goals. God is jealous about that zeal. God has the best planned for us and He just wants us to partner with him.

As a parent I get angry when my son does not obey me. Yes, sometimes it’s the human anger which is caused because I can’t control my emotions. There are times I am angry because he fails to trust what I am telling him, as the situation is beyond his understanding.

There are times I punish him because I want him to learn a lesson. As a child my son can learn to trust me or he can move away from me and start doing things behind my back. Being a parent I am able to understand a lot of instructions my parents gave me as a child which I questioned as a child.

There is a joy as a parent when we know our children trust us and they know in their heart that we wish them well however annoying and irritating we may be. This is the same joy God wants with us. Let our misplaced zeal not arouse God’s jealousy.

God Guides You Part 4

Adversity, trials and tribulations are unavoidable periods all individuals experience. It is often during the wilderness seasons of distress when we seek to comprehend God’s plan and guidance in our lives.

Whilst in your wilderness or valley you might experience a range of emotions and thoughts that must immediately be checked so that your faith will properly align with God’s guiding power in your life.

As a Christian one should expect to enjoy the abundant life of Jesus Christ, but shouldn’t be naïve in believing that trials will not occur. That is one thing we should expect, especially when one is truly living as an ambassador for Christ. Weapons may be formed against you but thanks be to God that they WILL NOT Prosper!

During some of the most challenging moments in life remember that God guides you:

In a career setback

When an unexpected health report is disclosed

In a financial setback

When in-laws, relatives and family members ignore, scowl and exclude you

In the midst of an unexpected pregnancy

During the challenges of conception

Through the loss of a loved one

In revealing toxic relationships, business partnerships and associations

When individuals attempt to bully and intimidate, only because they are jealous and insecure

When a college professor challenges your Christianity beliefs and values

By disclosing the character of colleagues who’ve clandestinely worked together to disqualify you for a promotion

When colleagues discount your ideas

When family, friends and loved ones misunderstand you

When you feel lonely (remember you are not alone, God is with you)

In Pressure

After the rejection letter, notice and statement

During the challenges of God-honoring relationships

When you are forced to relocate and start over

When new opportunities and breakthroughs appear

Although adversity shows up, be encouraged that God knows all and He will never leave you nor forsake you. God is guiding you and ordering your steps in the midst of the pressure, pain, heat and discomfort you currently face. Be mindful today that God is working everything out for your good, because you love him and have been called according to his purpose.

Even in the most intense seasons of life, God guides us and is producing something in us that will fulfill his overall purpose in our lives.

God guides You!