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Thursday, March 21, 2024

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. (Philippians 1:9-11)

A Prayer of Saint Patrick

Permit us not, O Lord, to hear your word in vain. Convince us of its truth, cause us to feel its power and bind us to yourself with cords of faith and hope and love that never shall be broken. We bind to ourselves today, you our God: your power to hold us, your hand to guide us, your eye to watch us, your ear to hear us, your wisdom to teach us, your word to give us speech, your presence to defend us, this day and every day; in the name of the blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to whom be the kingdom, and the power and the glory, forever and forever. Amen.

A Kind of Explosion of Joy - Lesslie Newbigin

There has been a long tradition which sees the mission of the Church primarily as obedience to a command. It has been customary to speak of ‘the missionary mandate.’ This way of putting the matter is certainly not without justification, and yet it seems to me that it misses the point. It tends to make mission a burden rather than a joy, to make it part of the law rather than part of the gospel. If one looks at the New Testament evidence, one gets another impression. Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is more like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.

Maxims for Christian Living - Chad Bird

"A number of years ago, the Orthodox theologian, Fr. Thomas Hopko, composed 55 maxims to guide Christians in their daily lives and struggles. Here are ten of my favorites." (from Chad Bird)

  1. Be always with Christ.

  2. Have a short prayer that you constantly repeat when your mind is not occupied with other things.

  3. Be an ordinary person.

  4. Be simple, hidden, quiet and small.

  5. Don’t compare yourself with anyone.

  6. Don’t seek or expect praise or pity from anyone.

  7. Be merciful with yourself and with others.

  8. Have no expectations except to be fiercely tempted to your last breath.

  9. Endure the trial of yourself and your own faults and sins peacefully, serenely, because you know that God’s mercy is greater than your brokenness.

  10. Get help when you need it, without fear and without shame.

Is It Time to Quit ‘Quiet Time’?

If today’s common rituals of Bible engagement are not working, then we must disrupt them in favor of deep learning practices. These new habits could consist of communal listening, deep diving, repeated reading of whole books of the Bible, or some other strategy. But the assumption that daily devotions alone will yield scriptural literacy and fluency no longer appears tenable, because it never was.

The goal is not to ditch quiet time. We have been given easy access to the whole of God’s instruction, and times of solitary prayer and reflection are part of a well-rounded Christian life. But we may need to shift the devotional center of gravity away from solitary practices and toward communal ones.

We hope to see Christian families and churches recreate a culture of vigorous communal Scripture engagement that would cause quiet times to overflow into the practices that produce just and peaceful communities.

The Peace of Wild Things - Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

A Prayer for Saint Lucy's Day

God our redeemer,

who gave light to the world that was in darkness

by the healing power of the Saviour’s cross:

shed that light on us, we pray,

that with your martyr Lucy

we may, by the purity of our lives,

reflect the light of Christ

and, by the merits of his passion,

come to the light of everlasting life;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who is alive and reigns with you,

in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and for ever.

What We Stand For - Tony Payne

The gospel is the announcement (which we find only in Scripture) of God’s gracious work in Christ—to send his Son as a man to die for our sins and rise for our justification, to set his risen Son on the throne as the ruler and saviour of his people, to redeem a people for himself (a people who in response to his gospel are zealous for good works).

Thanksgiving - John Webster

Thanksgiving in the church of Jesus Christ is a deep reality. It’s not just a sign that Christians are a well-mannered lot who say nice things about one another and are suitably grateful to God for their blessings. Thanksgiving is one of the signs of convertedness — that is, it’s a mark of the fact that those who live in Christ have been remade, transplanted out of one way of living into another, new way. Because they have turned to God from idols — because under the impulse of God they have abandoned an entire way of living — their mode of existence has been turned inside-out. … Christian life is new life because it transforms us out of our refusal to live thankfully to a life which acknowledges, celebrates, and lives from the grace of God. Part of what makes the church such a strange reality in the world is that it’s a place where callousness and ingratitude are being set aside and human beings are beginning to learn one of the fundamental things we must learn if we are to be healed — namely, how to say those words which can chase away an entire army of demons: we give thanks to God always. (via)

The Relevance of Hebrews - Raymond Brown

The importance of this letter is to be discerned not only in the way it expounds a number of theological issues of contemporary significance, but also in its interpretation of basic human problems, relevant in every generation. The letter’s opening paragraph explains that by his death Jesus ‘provided purification for sins’ (1:3 NIV), and that phrase forms the substance of the letter’s argument in its central section. The issue of human guilt is as old as time itself, but, for all man’s sophistication and the elaborate psychological escape routes he has provided for himself to evade the responsibility for his sin, men and women still suffer because of this powerful malevolent force, the enemy within. This sinister tyrant has the persuasive ability to make us do the things which, in our better moments, we would despise, or say the things we would hate other people to say to us, or feed on thoughts which, if given verbal expression in company, would scarcely allow us to hold up our heads for shame. There is a timelessness about the message of Hebrews. It addresses its clear message of forgiveness and hope to every man or woman weighed down by a sense of guilt.

Another issue of perennial significance is the matter of death and the life to come. Modern man does everything to hide from the reality of death, but we cannot evade it. We can only move day by day closer to it. It is the great inescapable reality and this letter addresses itself to the human anguish of lives that are ‘held in slavery by their fear of death’ (2:15 NIV). The teaching of Hebrews is that Christ has effected an eternal deliverance. He not only came into this world as a baby at Bethlehem (2:14; 10:5–9), but he voluntarily exposed himself to the experience of death that he might enter fully into our human anguish. He suffered death and tasted death (2:9) for everyone. He knew that it was the great enemy of mankind, the devil, who had the ability to tyrannize man with the fear of death and the uncertain beyond. Jesus passed through that experience victoriously, conquering the powers of sin, death and the devil, and emerged as one brought back from the dead by the God who procures and inspires peace (13:20) in the hearts and lives of all those who believe in him. Those who take seriously the teaching of this letter can look death in the face and bless God that, delivered from fear, they have peace and hope.

Hebrews is a distinct challenge to any superficial or undemanding interpretations of the gospel. It reminds us of Christ’s teaching about discipleship, that if any man will follow him he needs to take up his cross, and that without some experience of denial and self-crucifixion he cannot possibly belong to the followers of Jesus. In the past some forms of well-intentioned evangelism have suffered because they have presented the Christian life as the way to happiness, fulfilment, or peace, without also explaining that it is the way of the cross which is also the way to glory. Jesus reverently submitted himself to God’s will (5:7) and in the experience of suffering ‘learned obedience’ (5:8) and was ‘made perfect’ (5:9). We do no justice to the New Testament gospel if we rob it of its sacrificial dimension and merely emphasize the benefits of the Christian life to the total exclusion of its cost.