What Have I Done Lately?

done lately

“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast. Shout aloud! Don’t be timid. Tell my people Israel of their sins! Yet they act so pious! They come to the Temple every day and seem delighted to learn all about me. They act like a righteous nation that would never abandon the laws of its God. They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls  and a restorer of homes.
“Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don’t pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day. Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day, and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly. Then the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob. I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Read: Isaiah 57:15 – 59:21, Philippians 1:1-26, Psalm 71:1-24, Proverbs 24:9-10

Relate: This is normally the portion of the devotional where I will give a story or an illustration. Perhaps I might dig a little deeper into the history or the literal meaning of the highlight scripture. Not today. Instead, please scroll back up and read Isaiah 58 again, aloud if possible.

React: What have I done today for the poor and the oppressed? Not what have I posted to facebook. Not what have I written or complained about. What have I done? What conversation have I had? What have I given or sacrificed? What time have I invested towards what cause? If the answer to these questions is “nothing” then do I really dare call myself a Christian? Can I really believe that I am in good standing with God if I am not loving my neighbor? Have I created for myself a lifestyle of shelter and seclusion so that I will not even come into contact with the poor and oppressed? Has this shelter and seclusion bred apathy in my life? God forgive me.

Respond: 

God, I say I want to follow You, but all too often I am not going where You go. I am not doing what You long to do. For this, please forgive me. For the sake of the world, You left heaven and went and lived among a poor family in an oppressed culture. Yet all too often, those who claim to be Your followers continue in affluent seclusion from the same. For my culpability in this, forgive me. Help me to live love. Help me to walk out You not just in what I write but in how I live. Let me be Your hands extended.

 

 

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25 thoughts on “What Have I Done Lately?

  1. Love the comment “lifestyle of shelter and seclusion.” It’s the perfect picture of where we often choose to live–not pushing too many envelopes lest we become too involved, keeping our boundaries tight lest we see too many hurting people and feel obligated. Love this. Thank you.

  2. Beejai: I would encourage you to believe that this alone is an act that lifts a great spiritual weight from the shoulders of the oppressed. Yes, the face-to-face encounter is immediate and vivid, but just reflecting on individuals in need that we know is to lend them the power of the Holy Spirit that stands at our shoulders.
    Bless you for your concern.

    • I disagree. The world is full of people who feel sympathy but all too empty of people who act in compassion. James makes it clear faith without action is worthless and John using the same example says that love without action is a lie.

      • Beejai: I understand the Biblical basis for your post, and I am not discounting the need for direct material support to the needy. What I am offering is that prayer is a form of action that brings the Holy Spirit into relation with those that need his support, empowering them to do for themselves.

        • Thank you for your response and I do believe that your heart is well intentioned, but I still have two problems with this.

          First, while prayer most definitely is the single greatest thing we can be doing, it is certainly not the only thing. Understanding two things: “He who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins” and “the fervent prayer of the righteousness avails much”. If we are not putting feet to our prayers we are in sin and therefore, our prayers are ineffective. I would even go so far as to say that “I will pray for them” is a copout. Anyone who truly is praying will also, soon start going. If they aren’t, yet say they are praying, I call them a liar.

          The second thing is the garbage of “empowering them to do for themselves.” This all too often sounds to me like the same nonsense that brings us “It is their own fault they are poor.” Let me give you a very true example. I know a man who was a Christian living in Iran. Because of his faith, he was not able to financially support his family. So he moved to Turkey. This happened back in the late nineties. Although he speaks the language well, a bias against Persians and another against Christians prevents him from getting the jobs his masters in business management qualifies him for. Even still, for a long time, even lesser jobs enabled him to earn far more than he was in Iran. Then Syria imploded, ISIS invaded, and refugees ran. These refugees, again, are usually the best and the brightest Syria has to offer. The poor, the uneducated, the slackers all got swept up by the Syrian government, one of the rebel groups, or ISIS. Those that were smart enough to avoid this ran. So now Turkey (and Jordan and Lebanon) has been flooded with intelligent and hard working refugees. None of these economies can support this influx and all three already had more willing workers than they had available jobs. So now what my Iranian friend is being forced to compete with a huge influx of potential employees while wages drop and jobs disappear. Financially he is no better off today in Turkey than he was two decades ago in Iran. Is this his fault? He is already a highly educated, hard working, morally exemplary man. What he needs is for the church in the west to be the church.

          America prides itself on being a government by the people for the people. If the church spoke out with the voice God has given them, there is no way on earth any politician would not be bending over backward to get as many refugees in as quickly as possible. Unfortunately it is the conservative so called “Christians” who are usually most vocal about keeping our borders secure and closed. This is sin. The government turns around and says their constituents want lower taxes and less social programs and that we want private volunteer (church) groups to carry the load. But such groups aren’t even handling the social needs already there so why should we let in more refugees? They have a legitimate point. The fact that local churches are not doing more to meet the currently existing social needs in their neighborhoods… this is sin. But the church is made up of individuals. They will complain that they have tried to do such things and nobody shows up. Again, legitimate. That more individuals are not investing more of their time, talents, and treasure to meet the needs… is sin. Individuals includes me. Individuals include you. So again… what are we doing?

          Yes, we should pray. Then when we get up off our knees, lets find the local food bank, homeless shelter, or refugee organization, etc and say, “how can I help?” Once we have committed to regularly doing this, lets meet with our church pastors, boards, and elders and ask “what more can we, as a church be doing?” Then lets contact our political leaders, at every level, and put them on notice that your vote, in large measure, will be determined based on what they can do for the poor, oppressed, and marginalized. When we as individuals and as a corporate body begin doing this, those of the church in other parts of the world, like my friend, will be empowered. It is time for the church of the West to get off our religious high horse and start being the Church. This is what Isaiah was demanding to the “religious” people of his day and its message is just as relevant for us now.

        • Beejai:

          I am glad that I have provided an outlet for this passionate expression. I too feel the crushing burden of the world’s pain. But the greed and selfishness that create the consequences you describe are not of human origin, and unless rooted out through meditative prayer will continue to wreak havoc in the world.

          I will also offer that I am actively looking to relocate from my current community largely because I believe that it is too placid. So I was not suggesting that prayer is an alternative to action. I was offering that I see it as an essential part of the process. In fact, after a day spent doing what I do in the world, I lay down and prayerfully meditate. It’s my way of staying open to messages regarding what is most important to do next. In my particular case, it is often to sit still and do what I can to protect people from that ancient source of ill will. Actually getting to go out and do something practical is a blessed relief, let me tell you!

        • I agree that what we are combating is not of human origin. That is the primary thrust of what I was talking about in Waging War. I know and have read enough from you to know where your intention and heart lies, but I can’t say the same for all who are reading this including the comments and I couldn’t just let it lie since there are so many others who use the same or similar concepts simply as a cop out.

          Be Blessed.

        • Your concern is well founded. I actually started down this path because your reflection gave me the sense that you were doubting that the work you do here in spirit has value. It felt like coming to a friend’s house and seeing the moving van pull away.

  3. Please Lord, teach us all to put what we believe into practice!

    How can we go on calling ourselves Christian if we do not move as Christ moved, love as Christ loved, and sacrifice for those around us as He sacrificed for us?

    God please pour out Your love and Your Spirit upon us! We need You in us now!

  4. Prayer 🙏🏽 can and does change things. Action is also required. This post was excellent. I love God and his word it is so beautiful. I really enjoyed the exchanges of thoughts, it helps us all to challenge those beliefs we have, does it line up with what God says. Thanks

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