For the conversion of Joppa, Israel

February 28, 2015

I have previously reflected on the importance of Joppa (Jaffa) as a gateway in Holy Scripture. In Summit Park, the highest point of Joppa, Israel, are the excavated remains of a brick wall from an Egyptian fortress built by Ramses II, about 1250 years before Christ. Ramses II is the “Pharaoh of the Exodus,” and I thought I would use the ten plagues of Egypt as a model of prayer for Joppa.

The first plague turned the Nile River into blood. Hapi was the god of the annual flooding of the Nile in ancient Egyptian religion. Two titles of Hapi were Lord of the Fishes and Birds of the Marshes and Lord of the River Bringing Vegetation.
Khnum (also spelled Khnemu) was originally the god of the source of the Nile River. Since the annual flooding of the Nile brought with it silt and clay, and its water brought life to its surroundings, he was thought to be the creator of the bodies of human children, which he made at a potter’s wheel, from clay, and placed in their mothers’ wombs.

Psalm 29 excerpts (ESV)

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
You are the Source of Life, O Lord. You are the Lord of Life.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
You gathered the Jewish people from the nations of the earth, and changed the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, to Hebrew, that all of them may call upon the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is over the Mediterranean Sea, the Jaffa bay, the Yarqon River, and the Ayalon stream.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

You turned the Nile River into blood, and displayed your sovereignty over Hapi and Khnum. You, not they, are the Creator and Sustainer of Life.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
At Joppa, You called forth Tabitha (gazelle) to resurrection life.
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
We cry, “Glory!” for the establishment of Your kingdom in Israel as it is in heaven. We cry, “Glory!” at the Gate of Faith in Summit Park.
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.

The river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. We declare that the river of the water of life shall flow through Joppa.
May the Lord give strength to his people!
You have chosen the children of Israel. Sing, Joppa! Sing, O ancient port.
O Mighty One to save, rejoice over Joppa with loud singing.
May the Lord bless his people with peace!
Sing to the Lord a new song, O Joppa, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. Sing a new song, for He has done marvelous things! His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him.

References: Exodus 7:16-21, Zephaniah 3:9,17, Revelation 22:1-2, Psalm 98:1, Isaiah 42:10, Time to Defeat the Devil by Chuck D. Pierce, p. 70-72, Wikipedia.

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A Crucified People – Lent Reflection by Barnabas Piper, The Gospel Project

February 25, 2015

Thanks to a tweet yesterday from the Gospel Project (@Gospel_Project) I discovered this excellent reflection from Barnabas Piper.  It’s perfect for Lent.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Take up your cross, and follow me,” said Jesus. Follow Him where? And why do we need this cross? I thought He bore the cross so I don’t have to.

“It’s my cross to bear,” said the Christian. What is? That job he hates, the nagging spouse, the contentious deacon, an illness, a rebellious child. In religious nomenclature we have substituted common frustrations of life for the cross and bear those instead.

Christians, the cross we are to bear is the same Jesus bore, a symbol of death and a tool of destruction. It is the cross on which we lay down our lives for our friends and love our wives as Christ loved the church, on which the old is killed and sin is put to death. We take up the cross so that we can give up our lives. What is crucified is our own lordship over ourselves, the god of self that was born in Eden and has controlled humanity since. Each day we bear our cross and follow Jesus, and in so doing that self-god is killed day-by-day.  (emphasis added)

The whole reflection is EXCELLENT.  I highly recommend it!


Reflections on this week’s Lent Lectionary from Deuteronomy

February 24, 2015

If you’re following the 1979 Book of Common Prayer Lectionary for Lent [see the table here, or use the ESV BCP reading plan here] in recent days, the OT Lessons have been from Deuteronomy 7 – 9.

Last night I found myself struck by Dt. 8:16 about how the Lord humbled and tested the Israelites by feeding them manna.

He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. (NIV)

It wasn’t merely the 40 years wandering in the Wilderness that was God’s way to humble and to test their hearts, but also His provision of manna.

At first that seemed surprising to me when I consciously considered what is written.  How could God’s miraculous provision of food for 40 years in the desert be a test or a form of humbling?  I think the answer comes in the context of the passages.  First, the Israelites are warned not to forget God when they have eaten the fruit of the land and are “satisfied.”   And they are strongly warned against becoming proud in their ability to provide for themselves (vs. 17-18):

 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

And it is these verses that I think provide the key to how God’s provision of manna is humbling.  It’s because there was absolutely NOTHING the Israelites could do to earn it, work for it, control it – NOTHING they could take pride in.  Manna is an example of sheer free GRACE.  A gift.  Utterly unearned.  It is humbling to have to need God so much, not to be able to provide for daily needs in our own strength.

As one who to often falls into the trap of trusting in my own performance and thinking that it somehow “adds” to God’s favor towards me, I needed this reminder this Lent.  Today I am praying:

Lord, starve my pride this Lent that I may feast on the riches of Your grace and learn to depend utterly on You as the Israelites depended on You for manna.  May my heart be satisfied in what You provide, not in the pride I take in my own efforts and accomplishments. May I rejoice in needing You each day.

***

The Rev. James A. Gibson in South Carolina who posts daily devotionals on the lectionary at Vicar’s Versicles today focuses on the follow up verses in Deut. 9, and his words continued to challenge me and give me much to reflect on.  His entry is titled Grace in the Old Testament.

I recommend the whole entry, but here’s an excerpt:

… after forty years of wandering in the wilderness because of disobedience, the Israelites are reminded that they are completely undeserving of the gift God is giving them. It is not because of their righteousness that they are entering the land. Rather, it is because of wickedness that all the other nations are being judged. Israel will be the beneficiary of God’s judgment on the other nations purely because of God’s gracious choice. There could be no more unlikely people for God to have chosen and Moses reminds the Israelites of this fact in no uncertain terms.

“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people,” Moses says. “Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness.”

The Israelites are constantly reminded of how stubborn and stiff-necked they are. Time and time again, they forgot about how God had delivered them out of slavery in Egypt. They forgot about all the signs and wonders, the parting of the Red Sea, the water from the rock, the manna from heaven. However, the more they rebelled, it seems, the more gracious God was in providing for them, even though he was so often provoked to anger.

Read the whole entry here.


Lent Prayers – St. Augustine: Move me to do what is Holy

February 24, 2015

Thanks to John Birch at Faith and Worship, I was reminded of this great prayer from St. Augustine, which we first posted in 2007, and then again in Lent 2009,

Breathe on me, Holy Spirit,
that I may think what is holy.
Move me, Holy Spirit,
that I may do what is holy.
Attract me, Holy Spirit,
that I may love what is holy.
Strengthen me, Holy Spirit,
that I may guard what is holy.
Guard me, Holy Spirit,
that I may keep what is holy.

– St Augustine of Hippo (AD354-430)

There are at least 8 or 9 other great quotes and prayers from St. Augustine we’ve posted in years’ past.  You can find them here.


Music for Lent. At the Cross – by Keith and Kristyn Getty, Graham Kendrick

February 24, 2015

Here is a brand new song by Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty and Graham Kendrick.  It makes a great declaration for Lent: I will be satisfied in Christ and trust His worth, not my own righteousness.  Below the lyrics, I’ve excerpted a portion of Graham Kendrick’s reflection on the thoughts which inspired the song.

At the Cross (My Worth is Not in What I Own)

My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross

My worth is not in skill or name
In win or lose, in pride or shame
But in the blood of Christ that flowed
At the cross

Refrain:
I rejoice in my Redeemer
Greatest Treasure,
Wellspring of my soul
I will trust in Him, no other.
My soul is satisfied in Him alone.

As summer flowers we fade and die
Fame, youth and beauty hurry by
But life eternal calls to us
At the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might
Or human wisdom’s fleeting light
But I will boast in knowing Christ
At the cross

Refrain
Two wonders here that I confess
My worth and my unworthiness
My value fixed – my ransom paid
At the cross

Refrain

By Keith Getty, Kristyn Getty, and Graham Kendrick
Copyright © 2014 Getty Music Publishing and Make Way Music,
http://www.grahamkendrick.co.uk

In writing about the inspiration for the song, Graham Kendrick writes:

We know that our culture calibrates human worth by measures of wealth and status, skills and achievement, beauty and youth, power and so on, but we don’t always appreciate how deeply those values are ingrained into us and how effective they are in driving our behaviour. Christians are little different. We need to sing about our worth from God’s perspective, not ours or our cultures, and God’s perspective centres in on the cross.

John Stott wrote; ‘Our self is a complex entity of good and evil, glory and shame, of creation and fall…we are created, fallen and redeemed, then re-created in God’s image’ ….. ‘Standing before the cross we see simultaneously our worth and unworthiness, since we perceive both the greatness of his love in dying, and the greatness of our sin in causing him to die’ [The Cross p. 285]

William Temple wrote: ‘My worth is what I am worth to God, and that is a marvellous great deal, for Christ died for me’

Read the full story behind the song here

Go to www.gettymusic.com for sheet music, tutorial video and more


Lent Quotes. Martin Luther – Unworthy to pray?

February 23, 2015

Some say, “I would feel better about God hearing my prayer if I were more worthy and lived a better life.” I simply answer: If you don’t want to pray before you feel that you are worthy or qualified, then you will never pray again. Prayer must not be based on or depend on your personal worthiness or the quality of the prayer itself; rather, it must be based on the unchanging truth of God’s promise. If the prayer is based on itself or on anything else besides God’s promise, then it’s a false prayer that deceives you—even if your heart is breaking with intense devotion and you are weeping drops of blood.

We pray because we are unworthy to pray. Our prayers are heard precisely because we believe that we are unworthy. We become worthy to pray when we risk everything on God’s faithfulness alone.

So go ahead and feel unworthy. But know in your heart that it’s a thousand times more important to honor God’s truthfulness. Yes, everything depends on this alone. Don’t turn his faithful promise into a lie by your doubts. For your worthiness doesn’t help you, and neither does your unworthiness hinder you. A lack of faith is what condemns you, but confidence in God is what makes you worthy.

But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Luke 18:13

Martin Luther; James C. Galvin, Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional


Malcolm Guite on Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness

February 21, 2015

In his Feb. 19 Lenten devotional, Malcolm Guite makes a REALLY helpful point that we should not merely focus on Jesus’ overcoming temptation as some kind of example for us of how we should resist the devil:

If Jesus were simply set before me as an example of heroic human achievement I would despair. His very success in resisting temptation would just make me feel worse about my failure. But he is not just my exemplar, he is my saviour, he is the one who takes my place and stands in for me, and in the mystery of redemption he acts for me and makes up, in his resistance to evil what is lacking in mine.

Such a powerful truth!

Here’s the link for the full entry including his original sonnet “Stones into bread”.


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