Inward Battles

Scripture: Ephesians 6.11
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Praying and sinning will never live together in the same heart. Prayer will consume sin, or sin will choke prayer. ― J.C. Ryle

Reflection: Inward Battles
By Steven Dilla

One of the Fruit of the Spirit is peace — a gift which we receive from God. Yet here, in Ephesians, the focus of scripture turns to war. Timothy Keller, in a sermon on spiritual warfare, quotes the 19th century Anglican bishop of Liverpool J.C. Ryle on the way spiritual war and peace exist in the life of healthy followers of Christ:

Let me talk to you about true Christianity. There’s a vast quantity of religion currently in the world that is not true, genuine Christianity. It passes muster, it satisfies sleepy consciences; but it is not good money. It is not the real thing…

There are thousands of men and women who go to chapels and churches every Sunday and call themselves Christians… But you never see any ‘fight’ about their religion! Of spiritual strife, and exertion, and conflict, and self-denial, and watching, and warring they know literally nothing at all.

Let us consider these propositions.…The saddest symptom about many so-called Christians is the utter absence of anything like conflict or fight. They eat, they drink, they dress, they work, they amuse themselves, they get money, they spend money, they go through a scanty round of formal religious services once or even twice a week, but the great spiritual warfare … its watchings and strugglings, its agonies and anxieties, its battles and contests … of all this they appear to know nothing at all.

Do you find in your heart of hearts a spiritual struggle? Are you conscious of two principles within you, contending for the mastery? Do you feel anything of war in your inward man? Well, let us thank God for it! It is a good sign. It is strongly probable evidence of the great work of sanctification.All true saints are soldiers. A real Christian can be known as much by his inward warfare as by his inward peace.

May the peace of Christ be in you as you fight the good fight necessary to cultivate the fruit of heaven on earth.

The Refrain
For God, who commended the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 9 (Listen – 4.16)
Ephesians 6 (Listen – 3:17)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 10 (Listen – 4.27) Philippians 1 (Listen – 4:03)
1 Kings 11 (Listen – 7.05) Philippians 2 (Listen – 3:45)

The Idol of Immorality, Impurity, and Greed

Scripture: Ephesians 5:3, 5
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed…For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Reflection: The Idol of Immorality, Impurity, and Greed
By John Tillman

Paul, in Ephesians 5:3-6, describes three qualities that the church must not allow a “hint” of—immorality, impurity, and greed. (We have a tendency to ignore that greed is in there…)

Why is it, according to Paul, that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the kingdom? “Such a person is an idolater,” Paul says. Modern sophisticates that we are, we have trouble admitting to idolatry. We think of idolaters as foolish primitives staring into the light of a sacrificial fire, not children of the technological age staring into the lights of our devices.

We are correct when we assess idolatry’s primitive nature. Where we are wrong is in thinking that our modernity exempts us from its allure.

This past week many articles were written about the death of Hugh Hefner. There is much for our culture to idolize about him. His story of rising from impoverished roots to become the multi-millionaire-magnate of a publishing empire would be irresistible in our culture even without the added sex appeal.

Hefner was the high-priest of a uniquely American religion of erotica, venerating sex as the chief marker of identity, as the chief goal of individual self expression, and as the ultimate pathway to self-actualization and self-worth. There is nothing holier (worth protecting) in secular culture than sexuality and sexual expression. When it comes to sex, we have all become Cameron Frye.

“She will have given him, what he has built up in his mind as the end-all-be-all of existence.” — Ferris Bueller.

But Paul reveals to us that what is truly at the root of sexual immorality, is exactly the same thing that is at the root of greed—selfishness.

We worship this idol, by making an altar of our own bodies and sacrificing the bodies of others upon it. Yet just as with every other form of idolatry, the benefits we seek at the feet of an idol can only be found in the true God. Carved stone rain gods can’t bring rain, and our photoshopped gods of sexual expression leave us just as dry—alone in a loveless drought.

In the end we must recognize that the reason Paul connected sexual immorality and greed is that the two forms of idolatry are identical. They each are concerned with “getting mine” without regard to what the costs are to other humans.

Reclaiming sexuality as an honoring celebration of God’s image in our physical bodies and as a unique emotional and spiritual union for couples is a difficult, and narrow path. When we walk this path we will be marked as strangers and aliens in a foreign land.

A Reading
…not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” This man, I tell you went home again justified… — Luke 18:13-14

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 8 (Listen – 10:23)
Ephesians 5 (Listen – 3:42)

From Privilege to Prisoner to Priest

Scripture: Ephesians 4:1-2
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Many churches in the United States celebrate the Feast of St Francis of Assisi on October 4 each year. The feast commemorates the life of St Francis, who was born in the 12th century. Jon provides us an excellent reflection on today’s reading in Ephesians drawn from events of Francis’s life.

Reflection: From Privilege to Prisoner to Priest
By Jon Polk

St. Francis of Assisi is generally known for his peaceful disposition and love for animals and nature. The Prayer of St. Francis (authorship uncertain, but often attributed to Francis) begins,

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

However, this devoted follower of Christ, widely regarded for his vow of poverty, did not begin life in a humble way. Francis was born in Italy around 1181 to a wealthy cloth merchant and his beautiful French wife. By age 14, Francis, spoiled by luxury, dropped out of school and gained a reputation as a rebellious teen, known for drinking, partying, and vanity.

His privileged upbringing afforded him training in archery and horsemanship and when war broke out in 1202, he joined the cavalry. Having no combat experience, Francis was easily captured by opposing forces and imprisoned for a year before ransom was negotiated.

But during his time as a prisoner of war, Francis began to receive visions from God and arrived home a changed man. He turned his heart towards God and spent time in prayer, seeking direction.

Eventually he felt the call of Christ to serve the Church and to live a life of extreme poverty—fully devoted to Christianity. He is considered by many to be one of the purest examples of living the Christian life, other than Jesus himself.

Certainly, Francis embodies Paul’s encouragement to the Ephesians to “life a life worthy of the calling you have received” and to “be completely humble and gentle.”

Francis’ deep dedication and gratitude to God is seen expressed in these excerpts from a song he composed, Canticle of the Sun. May these words guide our worship and service to Christ.

Most High, all powerful, good Lord,
Yours are the praises, the glory, the honor,
and all blessing.

To You alone, Most High, do they belong,
and no man is worthy to mention Your name.

Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, they shall be crowned.

Woe to those who die in mortal sin.
Blessed are those whom death will
find in Your most holy will,
for the second death shall do them no harm.

Praise and bless my Lord,
and give Him thanks
and serve Him with great humility.

The Refrain
The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who all upon him faithfully.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 7 (Listen – 7:47)
Ephesians 4 (Listen – 3:58)

Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer From Argentina :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Ephesians 3:14-17
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

This re-imagining and expansion of the Lord’s Prayer as a step-by-step confession of our weakness is a model for us to follow as we pray, not just the Lord’s Prayer, but the Psalms, Christ’s other prayers in Scripture, or prayers that we read from believers throughout history. May our insufficiencies always bring us to the feet of the sufficient Savior and may our hearts continue to be shaped by the indwelling and empowering Holy Spirit. — John

Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer From Argentina :: Worldwide Prayer

Our Father in heaven

We want to pray, “Hallowed be your name.”
For we acknowledge your holiness.

We want to pray, “Your Kingdom come:
But we behave as if this was our kingdom!

We want to pray, “Your will be done”
But we so easily put our will before yours!

We want to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread”
But we desire the bread for tomorrow as well!

We want to pray “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”
But we do not even forgive unintentional debts!

Lord, have mercy on us.
Help us to follow your example of forgiveness.

And because “Yours is the Kingdom”
Give us concern for all human beings…

Because “Yours is the power”
Help us to proclaim your Word with power.

Because “Yours is the glory”
May our lives reflect that divine glory

In the name of Jesus, name above all names, we pray.

Amen.

*Prayer from Hallowed be Your Name: A collection of prayers from around the world, Dr. Tony Cupit, Editor.

The Request for Presence
Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let these who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70:4

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 6 (Listen – 5:10)
Ephesians 3 (Listen – 2:41)

Putting To Death Racial Hostility

Scripture: Ephesians 2:15-16
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

Reflection: Putting To Death Racial Hostility
By John Tillman

In the ancient world, every race and people claimed supremacy. Supremacy of race or of country is an ideology that is based on one of the oldest, perhaps first, sins: pride.

The secular vision of evolution does not posit equality as a trait or as a policy. In fact evolutionary biology is the source of much of the past century’s eugenics-based racist thought.

Our culture’s concept of human equality is based not in science, but in Christ. The wellspring of the concept of racial equality is the cross of Christ as described in the above verse from Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church. The first voice in history crying out for racial equality and the end of slavery was a Christian one.

This is why it is such an enduring tragedy that throughout history the church has struggled to keep various strains of racism from infecting and crippling the church and its work. Every era of the church is touched—and sometimes scarred—with this struggle.

While it is true that without Christian abolitionists, the abomination of racial slavery would still be common, it is equally true that many Christians also stood on the other side. Many lent support to slavery as a legal institution—allowing economic needs and cultural norms to force an ungodly twisting of their theology. (Economic needs and cultural norms fuel today’s illegal slavery crisis—including sexual slavery and secular society still has no answer to the problem.)

Idolatry takes many forms and modern Christians are just as susceptible to them as our first century counterparts were. We must not let nationalistic pride become the idol that keeps us from pursuing the death of racial hostility through the cross of Christ. Only at the cross can we drop our pride, let our hostility die, and take up the new life of unity that Christ died to give us.

Christians must take the lead in racial issues because we have the only viable ideology that, if we let it, will counter the ideology of hate. We cannot grow weary. We cannot tire of addressing the issue. We have the only answer.

Because so many Christians haven’t yet learned, these words of Paul must continually be proclaimed—that in Christ the barriers of race, language, culture, and social class are all transcended. For man to put up these superficial fences truly reflects the superficiality of his humanity. — Dr. Nelson Hayashida

The Request for Presence
Be seated on your lofty throne, O Most High; O Lord, judge the nations. — Psalm 7:8

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 4-5 (Listen – 7:21)
Ephesians 2 (Listen – 3:04)

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