Today, I was reading Luke 2:22-40 as part of my daily devotions. Here we read how Mary & Joseph when presenting Jesus in the Temple bring “a pair fo doves or two young pigeons” (v24). Commenting on this verse Thabiti Anyabwile had this to say about our view and thinking on poverty:
“The two turtledoves or the two young pigeons were to be offered if a family could not afford to offer a lamb and a turtledove (v. 24; Lev 12:6-8). In other words, Jesus was born into poverty. What does it mean that the Savior of the World, the Son of God, was born to a poor mother and family? I think it implies at least seven things:
Poverty is not a sin
Poverty does not prevent a person from worshipping God.
Poverty does not prevent a person from worshipping God.
Poverty does not necessarily doom a person to poverty forever.
Poverty does not excuse unrighteousness.
Poverty is not harmful in and of itself.
Poverty is a cross that God entrusts to some people for a time.
If some teacher or preacher tries to convince you that poverty is a sin, that poverty is God’s condemnation of you, that you have to give a certain amount of money to worship God, or that poverty excuses your sin, then do not listen to that teacher. Remember Jesus. Jesus and his family were poor, and none of those things were true of him. Jesus was not in sin. God the Father was well pleased with him.
…If we despise the poor, we show we would have likely despised the boy Jesus himself. Our Lord was poor and has infused righteous poverty with dignity and holiness.
If you’ve not seen this excellent article on the Gospel Coalition website relating C.S. Lewisadvice to people facing the atomic bomb and coronavirus, then can I suggest you take a couple of minutes to read it. It is brilliant.
Today I’ve been studying Daniel 10. It is an amazing chapter about the intersection of prayer, spiritual conflict and the advancement of God’s plans and purposes.
Two quotes that really help us grasp the impact of this chapter:
“If once the curtain were pulled back, and the spiritual world behind it came to view, it would expose to our spiritual vision a struggle so intense, so convulsive, sweeping everything within its range, that the fiercest battle ever fought on earth would seem, by comparison, a mere game. Not here, but up there–that is where the real conflict is waged. Our earthly struggle drones in its backlash.”
Abraham Kuper (1837-1920), journalist, theologian and prime minister of the Netherlands.
“Take the supernatural seriously and realize that we are in a warfare that cannot and should not be domesticated by reinterpreting everything in the biblical worldview so that it fits nicely with secular; naturalistic ways of thinking about the world. Be ready for the extraordinary as well as the ordinary ways that evil spirits work. Don’t be anxious, as though they were stronger than Jesus”
In these unusual times, I thought it would be helpful to quote Paul David Tripp, on the importance of getting control of what you meditate on:
“What controls your meditation will control your thoughts about God, yourself, others, your situation, and even the nature of life itself. And as you mediate on what you are suffering, your joy wanes, your hope fades, and God seems increasingly distant. In the meantime, God hasn’t changed, his truth is still true, and what you’re acing hasn’t grown bigger, but it all seems bigger, darker, and more impossible. Your suffering has replaced God and his truth as the lens through which you look at and understand life.”
“A person with hope does not get tangled up with concerns for how his wishes will be fulfilled. So, too, his prayer is not directed toward the gift, but toward the one who gives it. His prayer might still contain just as many desires, but ultimately it is not a question of having a wish come true but of expressing an unlimited faith is the giver of all good things….For the prayer of hope it is essential that there are no guarantees asked, no conditions posed, and no proofs demanded, only that you expect everything from the other without binding him. Hope is based on the premise that the other gives only what is good. Hope includes an openness by which you wait for the other to make his loving promise come true, even though you never know when, where or how this might happen.” (Henri Nouwen)
“Before the hills in order stood, or earth received her form, from everlasting Thou art God, to endless years the same. O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, be thou our guard while life shall last, And our eternal home.”
I’m so glad that I finally got round to reading ‘Serious Times‘ by James Emery White. His chapter on vocation is just brilliant! Here is a rather long extract, but it is worth reading all of it!
“As I approached forty, I knew I was entering a new season of life and ministry, so I committed myself anew to finding what I was to do with the rest of my life. Instead of discovery, there was a rude awakening. As I faced such questions as What do I do best? and Where could I make the most impact? the unmistakable voice of the Holy Spirit whispered, “These are the wrong questions.” I thought to myself, What do you mean these are the wrong questions? They are the ones everybody else gets to ask! I didn’t want them to be the wrong questions. They were the only questions I knew, and more than that, they were the ones I most wanted answered. But the troubling idea that I was misguided did not go away. I began to pray and reflect on what was wrong with my quest; I searched the Scriptures. All to no avail. Then my misgivings began to take shape.
It dawned on me that there was not a single case in all of Scripture where someone went on a journey of self-discovery in order to find and follow God’s vocational call. I could not find a single case in Scripture where people went on a hunt for their vocational niche in light of their personality, gifting or experience. I had bought into the self-absorbed thinking that begins and ends with “who I am in Christ” (translation: what is my personal makeup and what it would take to make me fulfilled), and that became a license for the wholesale pursuit of personal pleasure.
In my journey through the biblical materials, I found that people were invited to do something (as with Jeremiah or the disciples), selected to do something (along the lines of David or Samuel) or presented with the opportunity to do something (as were ESter or Deborah). I could not find a single case of someone going off in search of their innate identity, much less trying to order their steps to fulfil who they were “made” to be. Not once did a biblical character say, “This is what would satisfy me, or make me happy, or allow me to be healthy and whole,” and then map out a strategy to make it happen. They simply lived their life in faithfulness and responded to what God brought their way. They submitted their gifts and abilities, investments and labor, to him. And even if God never brought anything their way, they embraced their place in life with the belief that at the very least that had been brought their way.”