Scotty Smith: A Prayer for Releasing the Fragrance of Christ

April 24, 2015

Yesterday Pastor Scotty Smith posted an excellent prayer at Heavenward, his prayer blog at The Gospel Coalition site.

This line in particular really struck me and stuck with me throughout the day:

Keep me in the place of humility, brokenness, and dependence that more of the sweet perfume of the gospel may waft upward before you as an offering of praise and released through me, wherever you send me.

Amen! (though really…, on second thought, who wants more brokenness?!?!?  BUT… if it will make Christ’s glory more beautiful in my life, I really DO want to be able to pray these words!)

***

Here’s the beginning of the prayer and the Scriptures which shaped his prayer:

Apr 23, 2015 | Scotty Smith

     But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 2 Cor. 2:14-15 (NLT)

     But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2 Cor. 4:7 (ESV)

     Dear heavenly Father, these wonderful words tell the story of how I want to live up till the Day Jesus either returns, or the day you choose to bring me home. May the fragrance of Jesus and the aroma of grace being increasingly released through this fragile jar of clay that I am.

     Keep me in the place of humility, brokenness, and dependence that more of the sweet perfume of the gospel may waft upward before you as an offering of praise and released through me, wherever you send me. Father, thank you for making me Christ’s captive and a prisoner of hope. Thank you for rescuing me from sin and death, from my guilt and shame, from the illusion of self-sufficiency and the lie of self-righteousness.

You can read the rest here.


Mark D. Roberts: Because of the Resurrection – an Easter postscript, part 2

April 23, 2015

This is a follow up entry to the Easter Quote we posted yesterday, by Presbyterian pastor Mark D. Roberts

Because of the resurrection, we reverence the cross.

Because of the resurrection, the cross is one of the best known symbols in the world.

Because of the resurrection, what was once the sign of horrific death is now a sign of life and hope.

Because of the resurrection, the death of Jesus is remembered, cherished, even celebrated.

Because of the resurrection, the Stations of the Cross lead, not to death, but to life.

Because of the resurrection, we are reborn into a living hope.

Because of the resurrection, we know that we too will live anew.

Because of the resurrection, everything is different.

Because of the resurrection, new life has begun.

Christ is risen!

He is risen, indeed!

From a 2011 devotional by Mark D. Roberts


Easter Quotes – Mark D. Roberts: Without the Resurrection, An Easter Postscript

April 22, 2015

During the fourteen days prior to Easter, I was reflecting on the Stations of the Cross in preparation for a deeper experience of the reality of Jesus’ death, and therefore a greater celebration of his resurrection. Today, on the Monday after Easter, I want to add an Easter postscript.

Without the resurrection, the cross of Jesus really wouldn’t matter much.

Without the resurrection, we’d never have known about Jesus’ prayer on the Mount of Olives, where he submitted to the will of his Heavenly Father.

Without the resurrection, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus would have been long forgotten.

Without the resurrection, the Sanhedrin who condemned Jesus would have been seen as largely correct in their estimation of him as a blasphemer who needed to be silenced.

Without the resurrection, Peter’s denial of Jesus might seem like a judicious way to preserve his own life.

Without the resurrection, we’d probably never have heard the name of Pontius Pilate, unless we happened to take a class in Jewish history in the Roman Period.

Without the resurrection, the fact that Jesus was scourged and crowned with thorns would seem to be a sad but fitting end to one who pretended to usher in the kingdom of God.

Without the resurrection, Jesus would have been one more nameless individual who took up his cross on the way to dying a cruel death.

Without the resurrection, Simon of Cyrene would have disappeared into the dust of history.

Without the resurrection, the women who mourned for Jesus would have continued to mourn for a long, long time . . . not for only two days.

Without the resurrection, most of us would know very little about crucifixion, unless we had seen the movie Spartacus. (Of course there would be no Passion of the Christ film.)

Without the resurrection, the promise of Jesus to the thief, that he would join Jesus in Paradise, would seem like a bad, sad joke.

Without the resurrection, the presence of Jesus’ mother at the cross would be painful in the extreme, without a hint of meaning or hope.

Without the resurrection, the cross would be largely forgotten, and it would not appear on millions of buildings or around millions of necks.

Without the resurrection, the tomb would have been the final resting place of Jesus, until his body was exhumed so his bones could be placed in a ossuary (box for bones).

Without the resurrection, there would be no Stations of the Cross.

Without the resurrection, there would be no Christian church.

Without the resurrection, there would be no assurance of salvation.

Without the resurrection, there would be no reason to hope.

Without the resurrection, there would be only death.

From a 2011 Easter Devotional by Presybterian Pastor Mark D. Roberts


An Easter Prayer by Mark D. Roberts

April 21, 2015

An Easter Prayer by Presybterian pastor & blogger Mark D. Roberts:

PRAYER: Gracious God, how we praise you for your power made known in the resurrection. Death could not defeat you. Rather, the death of Jesus set the stage for an extraordinary display of your power. Christ is risen! You have won the battle. Alleluia!

Yet the power of the resurrection is not merely something we celebrate joyfully, but also something we can experience daily. Your power is for us, helping us, guiding us, setting us free. Your power is in us, healing us, renewing us, and gifting us for ministry, so that we might serve you in the church and in the world.

Even as we celebrate the power of your resurrection on this Easter Sunday, may we live by that power today and each day of our lives. And may your church be renewed by this power, so that we might live each day as a demonstration of your resurrection.

To you be all the glory. Alleluia!  Amen.

From here (where there is a longer, excellent Easter devotional)


An Easter reflection on the abrubt ending of the Gospel of Mark – the women’s choice…

April 17, 2015

One of our followers on Twitter, Mark Daniels, recently posted an Easter reflection on the unusual ending of the Gospel of Mark.  I found it very striking and thought provoking.  I’m posting a few excerpts.  FYI:  This is written in the format of a preacher’s dialog with the Lord about his sermon as he wrestled with the text of Mark 16:1-8 (the abrubt ending…):

 

But it seemed too good to be true to the women,” I answered. […] I went on, caught up with enthusiasm: “They were trying to take it all in and they had come in contact with one of Your messengers, luminescent with Your holiness and Your splendor. And…”

“And what?”

And they had to decide whether they believed or not.

“Did they believe that the One they had seen crucified was risen or not?

“Did they believe that through Jesus, the power of sin and death over our eternal lives was erased?

“They must have rifled through their memories and remembered all of the times that Jesus had healed diseases, cast out demons, and raised from the dead, exercising power for others and never for Himself, power that only God possesses.

“They must have remembered all the times He had promised–in promises that seemed so strange to them at the time He made them–that He would be raised from death by God the Father after having suffered the rejection of the world.

[…]

As they ran from the tomb, the women’s ecstasy must have transformed from bewilderment to awe-filled joy!

“Jesus, dead on Good Friday, was now risen and alive and on the march on Easter Sunday.

[…]

“So, why, Lord” I asked, “does the gospel of Mark leave things like this at the tomb…with the women fearful and in awe and processing what they’ve heard and trying to decide?”

“Because, Mark,” God replied patiently, “that’s where most of the people of the world are right now.

“Most Christians believe, but can’t decide whether to share what they believe with others. They’re afraid.

“And the rest of the world has heard something of Easter, but hasn’t decided whether to believe–to trust–or not.

“Your job and the job of every Christian is to keep telling others about Jesus–by your words and by your actions–so that they can follow the Jesus they can’t yet see into My bright eternity, where they will see Him always and ever…where sin and death will be distant memories, where all hurts will be forever healed, where love and power will envelop the saints, where every tear will be dried, and where you will live with joy and certainty and purpose forever and ever.

“Everything depended on the women telling others. And they did. If they hadn’t, you might not be celebrating Easter this year…or any year.”

What decision will you and I make?

Will we follow and share Jesus, like Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James, and Salome?

Or will we remain silent?

(emphasis of the last 4 lines added)

The full entry “Your Easter Decision” is here.


Easter Quotes – The Practice of Resurrection (Eugene Peterson)

April 16, 2015

Practice-of-Resurrection

Graphic and quote from: Embrace the God Life

This is a wonderful quote to help us DELIBERATELY continue celebrating Jesus’ resurrection during the 50 days of Eastertide and beyond:

The practice of resurrection is an intentional, deliberate decision to believe and participate in resurrection life, life out of death, life that trumps death, life that is the last word, Jesus life.

-Eugene Peterson, Practice Resurrection

I’ve been reflecting the past 24 hours or so once again on what it means to “Practice Resurrection” – those famous words from Wendell Berry’s Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front which happen to make an excellent slogan for those of us wanting to celebrate the full 50 days of Eastertide.  I find Eugene Peterson’s words above timely and helpful because they specifically point us to Jesus.  “Practice Resurrection” can in some circles be watered down to “Celebrate Spring” “Be Creative” “Try Something New”  etc etc…  I hope those of us exhorting ourselves and others to “Practice Resurrection” this Eastertide will keep Jesus at the center of our celebration.  It’s not just some abstract idea of resurrection we’re celebrating, but Jesus Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead and the difference He makes for our lives and the world.

I hope to have some more thoughts about what that means and looks like in the coming days.  Stay tuned.  And DO keep practicing resurrection – choosing to deliberately unite yourself to Christ, counting yourself dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus (Rom 6:11), today and always…


Music for Easter (Pascha): Paschal Canon Odes 1 & 3, Byzantine Choir of St. George Cathedral

April 15, 2015

 

Great&HolyPaschaBrowsing Easter music on iTunes the other day, I came across an excellent Orthodox Easter recording Great and Holy Pascha by the Byzantine Choir of St. George Orthodox Cathedral (in Pittsburgh, PA). Here’s their website.

Odes 1 and 3 of the Paschal Canon of St. John of Damascus are available in a YouTube video, which I really enjoyed.  I found the description accompanying the video particularly helpful – the words are powerful and rich, and they make a great devotional reflection.

I’ve posted that description below the YouTube video.  Note that the words don’t correspond exactly to the chant.

Verse and Hymn from the Orthodox Resurrection service – 1st and 3rd Ode chanted in the 1st Tone.

Easter is the greatest festival of the Christian year in the Orthodox Church and the Easter services abound with joyful celebration. Thus it is no surprise that the overarching theme of the Canon is the resurrection and the renewal of creation through the power of Christ who has taken upon our humanity and restored it. Also, the idea of the soul being released from the bondage of sin and the corporeal body through the Resurrection of Christ is emphasized. The second Ode is omitted due to its sombre ethos which does not fit in with the joyful mood of Pascha.

The first ode sets the scene by exclaiming that it is the ‘Day of Resurrection!’ and thus a time for rejoicing and celebrating what the Lord has done. It is the Lord’s Pascha which has ‘brought us from death to life’ and thus has brought us from earth to heaven. This is also reminiscent of Moses leading the children of Israel through the Red Sea to the Promised Land which is now our heaven. The only response that is expected from us, and not only us, but all creation, including angels (cf. Ode 5), is to sing with joyful cries the “triumphant hymns!” and to enjoy the feast; for “Christ our eternal joy has risen!”

The third Ode which is based on the barrenness of Hannah from the Old Testament, which is now renewed, and the barren rock that Moses smote and brought forth water for the “thirsty congregation and their beasts” is now done for us. Christ is the fountain of immortality who offers a drink of “a new beverage”. There are also overtones of baptism in this Ode; “fountain of Incorruption springing from the tomb of Christ” and that “I was buried with Thee, and today I arise with thy arising. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee” which are real acts enacted physically and spiritually during Baptism where a person dies with Christ in order to arise with Him after immersion.

English version:

Ode 1

Eirmos: It is the Day of Resurrection! Let us be radiant, O people! Pascha! The Lord’s Pascha! For Christ our God has brought us from death to life, and from earth unto heaven, as we sing triumphant hymns!

Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead. (before each troparion).

Let us purify our senses and we shall behold Christ, radiant with inaccessible light of the Resurrection, and shall hear Him saying clearly, “Rejoice!” As we sing the triumphant hymns!

Let heavens rejoice in a worthy manner, the earth be glad, and the whole world, visible and the invisible, keep the Feast. For Christ our eternal joy has risen!

katavasia: It is the Day of Resurrection!…

Ode 3

Eirmos: Come, let us drink a new beverage, not miraculously drawn from a barren rock, but the fountain of Incorruption springing from the tomb of Christ in Whom we are established.

Refrain: Christ is risen from the dead.

Now all things are filled with light: heaven and earth, and the nethermost regions. So let all creation celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, whereby it is established.
Yesterday, O Christ, I was buried with Thee, and today I arise with thy arising. Yesterday I was crucified with Thee. Glorify me, O Savior, with Thee in Thy Kingdom.

katavasia: Come, let us drink…

Hypakoe: When at dawn, the women with Mary came and found the stone rolled away from the sepulcher, they heard from the angel: Why seek among the dead (as if He were a mortal man) Him Who lives in everlasting light? Behold the grave-clothes. Run and tell the world that the Lord is risen, and has slain death. For He is the Son of God Who saves mankind.


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