Hard Realities of Faith
SUNDAY, September 4
When asked to write for the Home Altar about “hard realities of faith,” I admit I wasn’t eager to accept. At heart I’m an encourager who enjoys proclaiming and celebrating God’s unconditional love and transformational grace. I don’t enjoy wrestling with difficult topics like God’s judgment and our stubborn resistance to change. In the past, I wouldn’t have chosen to preach on today’s passage, which describes God’s Word as fire and a hammer that breaks a rock to pieces (v. 29).
However, in recent years God has been stretching me and teaching me the importance of addressing hard realities. I’ve come to see that true transformation, lasting hope, and persistent peace are not possible without seeing and addressing (both individually and corporately), the reality of our sin, shame, and pain.
Lord God, give us the courage to wrestle with hard realities of faith. Break apart the stubborn places in our hearts and lives, that we may ultimately experience more healing and hope together. Amen.
PRAYER FOCUS: SABBATH REST
Work Against Injustice
MONDAY, September 5
Today’s passage asks, “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?” (v. 2). This doesn’t apply to me, does it? I’m a compassionate person who daily seeks to help those who are hurting.
Yet as I reflect on this passage, I see I have shown partiality to the wicked at times by remaining silent in the face of injustice. I haven’t fully embraced God’s call to “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (vv. 3-4, NIV).
Participating in the Covenant’s anti-racism discipleship cohort last year helped me understand it’s not enough to resist racist ideology. As Christ followers we’re called to actively pursue racial righteousness.
Dear Lord, we confess we have not fully embraced your call to actively work against injustice in the world. Please stir our hearts, open our eyes, and move our lives to pursue your righteousness more actively together. Amen.
From Hope to Devastation
TUESDAY, September 6
This passage starts with a beautiful description of the hope God gave Israel for a fruitful life, yet it ends in devastation as God takes his provision away, leaving Israel to its own sinful devices. This contrast between hope and devastation is reinforced in verse 7: “He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress” (NIV).
The Hebrew words for justice and bloodshed (mishpat and mispach) sound alike, as do those for righteousness and distress (sedaqah and seaqah). Yet their meanings are completely different. How often do we bring about devastation because we misunderstand, distort, or reject God’s justice and righteousness?
Lord, we confess that while you have given us all we need for fruitful lives, we often find ourselves devastated because we misunderstand, distort, or reject your justice and righteousness. Please open our eyes to see your truth and our sin, that we might move from devastation to a place of vibrant, fruitful life through the power of your transforming grace. Amen.
PRAYER FOCUS: THANKFULNESS FOR WORK
Abandoned or Invited?
WEDNESDAY, September 7
Once again, we hear Israel move from hope to devastation as the vine transplanted from Egypt becomes ravaged and burned up. Why did God take away provisions and break down walls of protection? Why does God abandon us?
Several years ago, after a bike accident that resulted in a serious head injury, I felt abandoned by God as I struggled with excruciating headaches, endless tears, and mental confusion. In time, I heard God inviting me to admit my weakness, lean more on his strength, and let myself be showered with his love. God also used that time to slow me down, refocus my mind, and recenter my life more fully in his peace and my God-given purpose.
Dear Lord, when we feel abandoned, may we hear your invitation to draw closer to you as we confess our weakness, lean on your strength, and cry out with hope. “Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved” (v. 19, NIV). Amen.
THURSDAY, September 8
Sadly, our world is increasingly divided. At first glance, today’s passage doesn’t offer much hope for reconciliation. Jesus said, “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division” (v. 51, NIV).
Isn’t Jesus the Prince of peace who prayed for unity? Why would he bring division? Because Jesus isn’t a peacekeeper, maintaining the status quo. Jesus is the Peacemaker who came to save our broken world by revealing and healing divisions that exist between us and God, and each other too.
Jesus came to bring fire on earth (v. 49). Fire is a sign of judgment and purification. To experience Christ’s peace and lasting unity, we need to confess our sin and welcome God’s purifying and transforming grace.
Lord, when we try to simply keep the peace, we often miss the reality of divisions that exist among us. Please help us to welcome your grace-filled fire that judges and purifies our hearts so we may share in your peacemaking and experience lasting unity. Amen
PRAYER FOCUS: COMMITMENT TO WORKING PEOPLE
FRIDAY, September 9
An incredible testimony of the triumphant power of faith to part seas, knock down walls, administer justice, quench flames, and even raise the dead!
Yet, verses 35-40 speak even more loudly to me: “There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection…..None of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect” (NIV).
In the face of suffering, how did those saints remain faithful? How did they keep their trust in God and hold onto concern for people who come after them? How can we do the same?
Dear Lord, thank you for saints who proclaimed the triumphant power of faith. Thank you also for saints who spoke powerfully through their persevering faith. May we too be faithful, loving people who press on in tough times as we trust your plan for something better for all. Amen.
Persevere in the Race!
SATURDAY, September 10
When the pandemic hit in 2020, many longed to get back to “normal.” But that didn’t happen. This passage became central in our vision at Saranac Community Church, urging us not to give up hope or to long for old ways but to run with perseverance as we fixed our eyes on Jesus.
This passage also challenged me/us to welcome discomfort by digging deeper into the tough realities in our world (such as fear, isolation, racial injustice, political tension), that we might lighten our load of weighty hindrances and sinful entanglements. While it’s still challenging to navigate hard realities, I thank God for the increased health and hope we’re experiencing at SCC as we’ve committed to journeying through tough times together.
Dear Lord, please give us the courage to keep wrestling with hard realities, so we can better see our brokenness and welcome the power of your transforming grace. Jesus, may we persevere in the race as together we fix our eyes on you! Amen.
PRAYER FOCUS: FAIR WAGES FOR ALL