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.


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”.


Two good Anglican articles / reflections on Lent

February 20, 2015

In the focus on trying to get an updated compilation of links to Lent devotional sites and resources, I never got a chance to excerpt or link two reflections by Anglican pastors and bloggers which I found helpful.  Both articles speak to the tension between the Reformed and Catholic heritage within Anglicanism in regard to the observance of Lent.

From Andrew Symes at Anglican Mainstream:  Lent: Living the Gospel

I’m taking a risk in talking about Ash Wednesday and Lent. Some of my friends will regard me as deeply suspect. The next thing they know I might be caught lighting a candle, wearing a flash of purple over my surplice or, heaven forbid, putting ash on someone’s forehead.

I grew up in a low church environment deeply suspicious of symbols, and anything which might suggest that the symbol itself is worshipped or taken as an end in itself. But I’ve also seen the other side: high churches in other parts of the world crammed on Ash Wednesday, full of superstitious people desperate to get the mark of ash but with no understanding of repentance or intention of doing it even if they did.

Lent and its trappings can be misunderstood, but the true message of Lent is a really good corrective to the many wrong understandings of the Gospel that have been common over the years. The idea, first, of somehow atoning for my own sins by my penance, shown in the medieval excesses of self flagellation and crawling over sharp cobblestones but with its echoes in the contemporary examples of self denial (eg giving up chocolate) which have nothing to do with God or Christ. But as a reaction, the much more common idea today that talk of sin, repentance and self mortification is seen as at best quaint and at worst Pharisaism, judgmentalism and a dangerous purveyor of low self-esteem.

Full entry

From Fr. Lee Nelson at the Anglican Pastor blog:  Anglican Ash Wednesday: Catholic or Reformed?  This is a short article tracing a bit of the development of the Ash Wednesday liturgy from Cranmer in 1548 to the present day.

I want to take you back with me to the year 1548. It is the year before the very first Book of Common Prayer, and it is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. For many centuries you and your family have come into the church the day before to have your confession heard, and on this day, you have come to receive ashes on the forehead, but on this day no such ashes would be given.

In fact that year, there were no candles on Candlemass, no palms on Palm Sunday, no veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. As the historian Eamon Duffy recounts, “the entire edifice of Catholic culture and liturgy was being dismantled in England.” Now, we must say in fairness to the reformers, and here specifically Cranmer, that they had their reasons. They found no such customs in the ancient Church. In fact, what they found was hard, taxing penance – punishment inflicted on sinners by an authoritative Church.

Full entry


43 Poems for Lent – a complete index of Patrick Comerford’s 2012 blog series

February 20, 2015

We continue to get many dozens of visitors at L&B who are looking for Lent poems.  Last year I posted a compilation of some Lent poems, a compilation of Holy Week poemsGood Friday poems, and Easter poems.  All four compilations are somewhat rough, and I need to update them all, since I now have additional poems by Malcolm Guite, Teresa Roberts Johnson and others to add.

As a small beginning to continue to upgrade our liturgical-year-themed poetry resources here at L&B, I thought it would be helpful if I compiled a complete index of the Rev. Patrick Comerford’s Lent 2012 series of daily Lenten poems, one of the best-ever Lenten blog series, in my opinion! It was that series that really stirred up a fresh interest for me in liturgically-themed poetry.

(Patrick Comerford is a priest in the Church of Ireland (Anglican), Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Adjunct Assistant Professor in the University of Dublin (Trinity College Dublin) and a Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.)

***

Poems for Lent (1): ‘Ash Wednesday’, TS Eliot

Poems for Lent (2): ‘Lent,’ George Herbert

Poems for Lent (3): ‘Indifference,’ by GA Studdert Kennedy

Poems for Lent (4): ‘Lenten Thoughts of a High Anglican,’ by John Betjeman

Poems for Lent (5): ‘Marked by Ashes,’ by Walter Brueggemann

Poems for Lent (6): ‘The Retreat,’ by Henry Vaughan

Poems for Lent (7): ‘Lent’ by Christina Rossetti

Poems for Lent (8): ‘Amen,’ by Leonard Cohen

Poems for Lent (9): ‘Sunday Morning, King’s Cambridge,’ by John Betjeman

Poems for Lent (10): ‘The Absence,’ by RS Thomas

Poems for Lent (11): ‘Untitled (The Fallen Angels left all there),’ by Patrick Kavanagh

Poems for Lent (12): ‘Forest Song,’ by Sir Shane Leslie

Poems for Lent (13): ‘Evensong,’ by CS Lewis

Poems for Lent (14): ‘In the Street,’ by Winifred M Letts

Poems for Lent (15): ‘Desert Places,’ by Robert Frost

Poems for Lent (16): ‘Lenten Communion,’ by Katharine Tynan

Poem for Lent (17): ‘Autobiography,’ by Louis MacNeice

Poems for Lent (18): ‘Christians and Pagans,’ by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Poems for Lent (19): ‘Confession’ (‘O What a cunning guest’), by George Herbert

Poems for Lent (20): ‘Christ’s Bloody Sweat’ by Robert Southwell

Poems for Lent (21): ‘Holy Cross,’ by Sir Shane Leslie

Poems for Lent (22): ‘St Patrick’s Day with Neil,’ by Thomas McCarthy

Poem for Lent (23): ‘Sunday Morning,’ by Louis MacNeice

Poems for Lent (24): ‘Man of the House,’ by Katherine Tynan

Poems for Lent (25): ‘The Snowdrop Monument (in Lichfield Cathedral)’ by Jean Ingelow

Poems for Lent (26): ‘Mid-Lent,’ by Christina Rossetti

Poems for Lent (27): ‘I saw the Sun at Midnight,’ by Joseph Mary Plunkett

Poems for Lent (28): ‘Barnfloor and Winepress,’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Poems for Lent (29): ‘Here It Is,’ by Leonard Cohen

Poems for Lent (30): ‘Fifth Sunday In Lent’ by John Keble

Poems for Lent (31): ‘Annunciation,’ by John Donne

Poems for Lent (32): ‘What the Thunder said,’ from ‘The Waste Land’ by TS Eliot

Poems for Lent (33): ‘Affliction’ by George Herbert

Poems for Lent (34): ‘Julian at the Mysteries’ by CP Cavafy

Poems for Lent (35): ‘It is a thing most wonderful,’ by William Walsham How

Poems for Lent (36): ‘Batter my heart, three person’d God’ by John Donne

Poems for Lent (37): ‘The Donkey,’ by GK Chesterton

Poems for Lent (38): ‘Sonnet written in Holy Week at Genoa,’ by Oscar Wilde

Poems for Lent (39): ‘All in an April Evening,’ by Katharine Tynan

Poems for Lent (40): ‘I see His Blood Upon the Rose,’ by Joseph Mary Plunkett

Poems for Lent (41): ‘The Last Supper,’ by Ranier Maria Rilke

Poems for Lent (42): ‘Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward,’ by John Donne

Poems for Lent (43): ‘Sepulchre,’ by George Herbert

***

Note: We had previously compiled a list of 7 Easter poems posted by Patrick Comerford in 2012.

You’ll find all our Lent poem posts and resources here.  (Right now it’s a small collection, but I expect it to grow this Lent!).  I expect to soon break up the “Poems, Hymns and Songs” category into two or three separate categories to separate poetry from music.


Lent prayer theme: Global intercession for the persecuted, for missionaries, unreached peoples… etc.

February 20, 2015

One of the themes in material we plan to post and Tweet here during Lent will be prayer for the persecuted church, missionaries, and for unreached peoples and nations.  We will also post resources for  “spiritual warfare” – praying for God to thwart religious violence and evil.   For those of you interested in such posts, you might want to bookmark our Global Intercession category.

Here are a few of our recent entries from that category:


Praying for Egypt and the families of the 21 Coptic Christian martyrs

February 20, 2015

Although I’ve tweeted a lot of resources and prayers related to the martyrdom by ISIS of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in Libya last week, I never got a chance to post anything here at the blog.  That seems a huge oversight, and I would like to urge continued prayer today in response to the killings.  Prayer for Egypt, and prayer for the families of those martyred for their faith.

Here are some important links & resources, as well as some of the tweets I’ve seen in recent days that included good prayers:

Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt has issued a Statement and a call to prayer for Egypt:

The Anglican Church in Egypt and the world expresses its deep condolences to the families of these men, and also to his Holiness Pope Tawadros II, patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

Please join me in praying for peace in Libya, Egypt, and the entire Middle East. Please pray the international community will act in wisdom, correctly and efficiently, and support Egypt in its war on terror. Please pray the churches of Egypt will comfort their sons and daughters, encouraging them to resist fear and hatred. And please pray for the perpetrators of this terrible crime, that God would be merciful to them and change their hearts.

Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

Such cheer may seem impossible, but it is God’s promise. Please pray for us, that we may live lives worthy of his name, and hold to the testimony exhibited by the brave Egyptians in Libya.

Dr. Foley Beach, Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America also issued a Call to Prayer for Egypt and the families of the martyrs, which excerpted parts of Archbishop Mouneer’s statement.

***

Ramez Attallah, head of the Bible Society of Egypt wrote an update on the situation in Egypt, including a number of specific prayer requests:

As many of you know, these men were simple, Egyptian laborers who had gone to Libya to make a living. They were captured and executed by ISIS for being – as the video caption charges – “People of the Cross”. Egyptians have been shocked by this news and it is the most talked about event in our country at this time.

The purpose of the video was to foment sectarian strife in Egypt between Christians and Muslims. Those Islamic extremists clearly intended to provoke the 10 million Christians in Egypt to rise up violently against their Muslim neighbors.

But the loving and caring response of Muslims all over the nation softened the blow which many Christians felt. Up till now the Christians of Egypt have responded with restraint, sorrowfully calling out to God.

The President and dozens of political leaders personally gave their condolences to the Coptic Pope. The Prime Minister travelled to the small village where most of these men come from, sitting on the floor with their poor relatives to express his concern. All this sends a clear message that Christians are considered an integral part of the fabric of Egyptian society.

Prayer Requests
1. Pray for comfort for the families of the victims who are in a terrible emotional state.
2. Pray for the effective mass distribution of a Scripture tract we have just produced (above left), that God’s Word will comfort and challenge the many who will receive it.
3. As I write, there is news of more Egyptians being kidnapped in Libya. Lord have mercy!

Please pray for Egypt as we pass through this painful period.

***

Here is a page where you can find the names of the 21 martyred Egyptian Christians so you can keep their families in prayer.

***

Pastor Scotty Smith, one of my favorite prayer bloggers, posted a powerful prayer in response to the martyrdoms at his Gospel Coalition blog:

When the Lamb broke the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of all who had been martyred for the word of God and for being faithful in their testimony. They shouted to the Lord and said, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you judge the people who belong to this world and avenge our blood for what they have done to us?” Then a white robe was given to each of them. And they were told to rest a little longer until the full number of their brothers and sisters—their fellow servants of Jesus who were to be martyred—had joined them. Rev. 6:9-11(NLT)

Dear heavenly Father, images of our orange-clad Egyptian brothers, paraded along the seashore before their martyrdom, brought many emotions to play in my heart. I felt a moment of fear, then anger and disgust, and then a tad of hatred for enemies of the cross and a longing for vengeance. I felt all of these things, until I entered the sanctuary of your Word.

     Father, though I don’t fully understand, I rest in the assurance that you are as sovereign over the number of your children to be martyred, as you are in control of sunrise and sunset, seedtime and harvest, the day Jesus entered our world and the timing of his return. You give and you take away, blessed be the name of our Lord.

     The Lamb who was broken for our sins, is alone worthy to break the seals of your unfolding story of redemption and restoration. There’s no consternation or vexation in heaven, just exaltation of the God who does all things well—in your time and in your way. “Stuff” doesn’t just happen; sovereignty is always happening. We believe; help us when we feel weak, Father.

     When will Jesus return, and when will you avenge the glory of your name and eradicate all evil? You delay because you are a merciful and grace-full God. Through Jesus, you have secured a family as numerous as stars, sand, and dust, from all nations and people groups. Perhaps among those who took the lives of our Egyptian brothers is another like Saul of Tarsus, whom you call and appoint another Apostle of Grace (Acts 7:54-59).

     So we pray for grieving families in Egypt, Father, and we join the cry of martyrs in heaven, “How long, O Lord?” Grant us grace and courage, to share the gospel, serve our neighbors, and love our enemies, until this day becomes that Day. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ beautiful and triumphant name. 

***

NY Times bestselling author and popular (excellent!) Christian blogger Ann Voskamp has written two amazing blog entries in response to the martyrdoms, challenging us all to be “people of the cross.”  I commend them both HIGHLY.

The Wake-Up Call that is ISIS: Who in the Church is Answering?

The Call for the Next 40 Days: To the Nations & People of The Cross

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Finally, a few tweets I’ve found helpful in recent days:


Lent thoughts from Anne Kennedy: Rest in the completed work of Christ

February 20, 2015

The closing paragraph of the Rev. Anne Kennedy’s Ash Wednesday reflection at her blog Preventing Grace really struck a chord with me:

I have finally, after much consideration, fixed on a discipline for myself for Lent. It came towards the end of Matt’s sermon this morning. He instructed us, bleary eyed as we were at 7 in the morning, to “Rest on the finished work of Christ.” And I felt quite undone by the andmonishment. None of my works are ever completed, even when I only do them one at time. None of my rest is really rest. But Jesus has finished the work of Salvation. His work is perfect and complete. And his work is for me. I don’t have to save myself. I can’t even when I give it the good college try. I fail in all my doings. I have nothing and am nothing. So I will sit down, on his work, and stop trying. There is no holiness for me, this Lent, that doesn’t come from Jesus himself and what he has already done and is continuing to do. So I will sit in the place of his mercy, and be still. And will fail at being still. And all the time, he will go on in his perfect completeness.

Here’s the link to the full blog entry

These words are such a needed reminder for those of us tempted to turn Lent into an attempt to perform great spiritual disciplines in our own strength.


Archbishop Foley Beach’s Lent Message – Sins of Neglect

February 19, 2015

ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach has a very good and challenging Lent message, focused on the theme of sins of neglect, sins of omission.  As you read it, prayerfully take some time for self-examination.  Here’s a key excerpt:

This year as you prayerfully examine your own life during Lent, I want to encourage you to look for your sins of neglect.  What are your sins of omission?  “What is God asking me to do which I am refusing to do?”

Am I neglecting my time alone with God?
Am I neglecting feeding the poor?
Am I neglecting speaking out against evil?
Am I neglecting teaching my children about my faith in Jesus?
Am I neglecting taking care of my body?
Am I neglecting praying for and loving my enemies?
Am I neglecting returning to the Lord His portion of my earnings?
Am I neglecting caring for those in pain around me?
Am I neglecting time with my spouse?

The list could go on and on. You get the point: What are my sins of neglect of which I need to repent?

In trying to deal with my sins of neglect, I have noticed two issues which seem to arise.  Firstly, to repent of these sins costs me time.  They usually take time to accomplish, which means that if I am going to follow God’s leading and repent, then I am going to have to stop doing something that I am currently doing in order to make time for it.  To minister to the needy means I have to give up time doing something else.  To spend more time studying the Scriptures means I am going to have to give up time doing something else.

Secondly, I have noticed that, more often than not, I am blinded to my sins of neglect.  It takes someone else, a sermon, the Scriptures, a book, or a friend to point them out to me.  I am afraid this is a pattern for most of us. We don’t think we have an issue, and then the Holy Spirit convicts us and brings it to our attention.  Because they are usually blind spots, this means we are used to living with them; they are comfortable in our lives.  To repent will make us uneasy and it is often difficult!  We have to be intentional, and oftentimes, we need someone to hold us accountable.

Here’s the full entry


Bp. John Guernsey – Praying for Persecuted Christians in Lent AND Praying for the Terrorists who persecute them

February 19, 2015

Bishop John Guernsey of the ACNA Mid-Atlantic Diocese has written a Lenten letter calling for sacrificial prayer for persecuted believers around the world.  In a startling twist however, he is ALSO urging believers to pray for the terrorists who persecute them, and he has linked to a very helpful resource to help us pray, as well as providing some suggested ways of praying.

This Lenten season is a time of renewal of our spiritual disciplines of prayer, reading and studying Scripture, fasting, sacrificial giving of our money and our time for the sake of others.

Especially during this season, would you commit to making prayer for our persecuted brothers and sisters a central part of your devotions? Would you pray more earnestly for their witness and for their deliverance? Would you pray for God to turn even these acts of evil for his Kingdom purposes?

And would you pray for the terrorists themselves to repent and turn to Christ? Did you know there’s even a website where you can find profiles of terrorists so you can adopt one and commit to pray for him to repent and come to Christ. It’s Adopt a Terrorist for Prayer.

The site offers insightful suggestions as to how to pray for a terrorist. I’m praying for Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, to repent and turn to Christ. So I’m using the Adopt a Terrorist for Prayer guide to intercede for him, praying…

  • for irresistible pursuit by God’s Spirit: “Holy Spirit, relentlessly pursue Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to the depths of his hideout, that he may not escape your grace.”
  • for powerful demonstrations of God’s grace: “Lord, expose Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi to the precious testimony of Jesus’ followers.”
  • for vulnerability: “Dear God, strip from Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi all his defenses that he may turn to Jesus for hope and salvation.”
  • for conviction of sin and sense of shame: “Jesus, confront and overwhelm Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi with his shameful deeds and sinful nature till he becomes desperate for righteousness from you.”
  • for God’s honor: “God, may the redemption of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi clearly display your character and glory.”
  • against spiritual blindness and bondage: “Lord, release Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi from Satan’s grip and open him to sense and know your grace in Jesus.”

Our God is mighty to save. Let’s cry out to him this Lent (and beyond!) for justice for his precious children.

From here

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Update:  Just after I posted this, I recalled that I had seen a link earlier this week to a post at Desiring God about praying for our enemies.  I went and dug it up.  It’s a very challenging article by John Piper:  Pray for those who abuse you.  It’s worth prayerful reading, and it makes a powerful double punch when combined with Bp. Guernsey’s letter.


Bishop Julian Dobbs – Lent Bible Study Video series on Vimeo

February 19, 2015

Thanks to a link posted by Pat Dague at Incline Your Heart, I just discovered that Bishop Julian Dobbs of the ACNA is posting a Lenten Bible Study Series on Vimeo:  “What Happens After We Die”

Here’s how the Rev. Matt Kennedy at Church of the Good Shepherd described the series:

Bishop Dobbs has begun a Lenten video teaching series entitled: “What Happens After We Die”. In it he will discuss death, Hell, Heaven, and the Resurrection. The first video deals with the biblical concept of “Hades”. The series is expositional, grounded in the Scriptures, so you’ll need your Bible as you watch and listen.

Here’s the link to Bishop Dobbs’ Vimeo page so you can watch all the episodes.


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