Prayer of Dedication from the USA :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Titus 3.3-5
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

Psalm 80.3
Restore us oh God; make your face shine upon us that we may be saved.

This poetic prayer of dedication from the USA meshes well with our recent reflections on martyrdom. We are living sacrifices. We hope in God even if he slay us. For his sake we are slaughtered all day long, yet not separated from his love. In this we join in his sufferings and in being molded more and more into the likeness of Christ. — John

Reflection: Prayer of Dedication from the USA :: Worldwide Prayer

You broke my body like bread, and you poured out
My blood like wine, and you celebrated my life
Through death was threatening on every side,
And you Made me to be in the likeness of your Son.

Will I not praise you now and forever?
Will I not lift holy hands to the father of my breath,
the brother of my every step,
the mother of my longing heart?
Shall I not dance in adoration to such a God?

May no unholy thing disgrace the presence of my God,
May all who see Him tremble in fear and praise His holy name.
For the Lord is a great God, the King of all the earth;
He looks into our hearts, and untangles all of our confusions.

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

The Morning Psalm
He sent forth his word and healed them and saved them from the grave. — Psalm 107.20

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 16 (Listen – 3:46)
Titus 2 (Listen – 2:01)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 17 (Listen – 7:19) Titus 3 (Listen – 2:05)
2 Kings 18 (Listen – 6:52) Philemon (Listen – 2:52)

Where Martyrdom Begins Part 2

Scripture: Titus 1.1-2
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness—in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time…

Even though Western Christians are not facing anything that could truly be called persecution, it is still possible, even in a modern, Western, Christian church to be martyred. Yesterday, and today we are looking back at a not-so-recent story of a martyr that never really made it into the headlines and reflect on where martyrdom begins for every Christian. — John

Reflection: Where Martyrdom Begins Part 2
By John Tillman

As terrible as Father Jacques Hamel’s death was, on July 26th 2016, it was over in nearly an instant, especially when contrasted against his 85 year life and his over half-century of priestly labor.

Father Hamel gave his life when he took up the mantle of calling himself a follower of Christ. He then gave it up formally and vocationally on June 30, 1958 when he became a priest. And he continued to give it up functionally, day-by-day, serving the community until the day he died. Discussing his retirement he is reported to have said, “Have you ever seen a retired pastor? I will work until my last breath.” Then he went out and did it.

Giving up your life for others, doesn’t always mean that you die. An example of this is the nun, Sister Danielle, who escaped the church as the attackers were distracted while executing Hamel. She flagged down a motorist, and brought the authorities. She did this at risk of her own life, and her action ensured the men could do no further harm to the community.

Father Hamel and Sister Danielle — one running out the door to bring help, one bleeding out on the floor of the church — both gave up their lives to stop further violence. Both took up their crosses, one for the final time and one who will continue to do so for the rest of her life.

Yes. Physically giving up your life — being martyred — on behalf of others is loving as Christ did on one day of his life. But giving up your rights purposely, embracing humiliating servitude to help others, and doing it with a heart of love and not resentment, is how Christ loved us on every other day of his life.

Father Hamel’s martyrdom didn’t begin at knifepoint; it began at an altar. It is there — at an inner altar of sacrifice — that every believer’s martyrdom should and must begin. We must live as sacrifices every day, ready for any day to be the final day.

It is not through our own bravery or strength that we can do this, but only through reliance on Christ. Relying on their own bravery, Christ’s disciples fled his side, abandoned him, and broke their oaths.

Martyrdom is merely completed at the hands of aggressors. It begins in each of us. Not everyone, thank God, will be a martyr. But every believer who lives, and loves as Jesus commanded, must daily embrace such an end.

Revised and abridged from a post on Garage For Faith.

The Greeting
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy Name and glory in your praise. — Psalm 106.47

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 15 (Listen – 6:21)
Titus 1 (Listen – 2:24)

Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1

Scripture: 2 Timothy 4.6-8
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.

Even though Western Christians are not facing anything that could truly be called persecution, it is still possible, even in a modern, Western, Christian church to be martyred. Over the next two days we will look back at a not-so-recent story of a martyr that never really made it into the headlines and reflect on where martyrdom begins for every Christian. — John

Reflection: Where Martyrdom Begins Part 1
By John Tillman

Does martyrdom begin when a knife is held to your throat? If laying down our lives for another shows the greatest love, is it not possible to show that love unless our lives are taken in violence?

On July 26th, 2016, near the city of Rouen, in France, a Catholic priest, Father Jacques Hamel, was killed in a vicious attack. The attack occurred during mass in the church at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray, where, despite being of retirement age, the 85 year old had served as auxiliary priest since 2005.

It’s easy to think that when Jesus referred to laying his life down for his friends, he was referring to his imminent death on the cross. And we are right to do so. He died for us. He gave up his life on the cross. But stopping there simplifies what Jesus did — and what he said — into one single act.

Dying on the cross was not the only way that Jesus gave up his life for his disciples. On the cross it was finished, not begun. Jesus didn’t just live for himself his whole life and then in one grand gesture, decide to sacrifice his life for all of humanity. He gave up his life for his followers in little moments and big ones, bit by bit, in every minute that he was with them.

When Jesus talked about giving up his life and commanded his followers to do as he did, he hadn’t died yet. What he had just done was wash their feet. He had lowered himself from his position as leader to serve them. And he served them in a way that was unreasonable, even degrading, in the eyes of some.

Our laying down our lives for each other as Christ did may include physical martyrdom, but it definitely includes more than that. It is harder than that. Father Hamel spent seconds—perhaps minutes—dying for his flock. He spent more than a half-century serving them.

We are commanded to take up our cross daily, not finally. It is in the so-called small, everyday sacrifices that we give our lives for each other. We do it in each hour, each moment, that we remember to not stay in lofty positions as respected teachers and friends, but to lower ourselves, perhaps humiliatingly, to serve each other.

Revised and abridged from a post on Garage For Faith.

The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Protect my life and deliver me; let me not be put to shame, for I have trusted in you. — Psalm 25.19

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 14 (Listen – 5:06)
2 Timothy 4 (Listen – 2:48)

The Heart of the Reformation

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3.14-15
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

Reflection: The Heart of the Reformation
By Steven Dilla

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther, then a Catholic Priest, pounded his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Posting topics for debate on the church door was commonplace, and wouldn’t have felt monumental that particular day, but Luther’s confrontation of Catholicism would ultimately spark the Protestant Reformation.

While we want to fasten on the Word, we also want to show how we’re part of a chain in history that goes back, and back, and back. We’re not trying to be so innovative that we’re the first generation to get it all right. — D.A. Carson

Reading the language of Luther, John Calvin, and the other Reformers can be disheartening today. In addition to calling the Pope the “antichrist,” Calvin also hurled names like “pigs,” “riffraff,” and “asses” at his opponents.

“When you read Luther and Calvin, a lot of their polemical statements, a lot of the ways in which they talk about the Papacy, and so-on, you look at them and say, ‘you shouldn’t talk that way,’” concludes Timothy Keller. “But that was a different situation… It was life-and-death.”

The tension of orthodoxy and ecumenicism is the foundation for understanding how the Reformation affects faith today. In an article on the tendency to overuse the label “heretic,” Episcopal Priest Justin Holcomb observes, “We may be tempted to think that since theology so easily divides, we are better off simply agreeing to disagree.”

We must remember that the sum of what Christians should believe is not identical to the essentials we must believe for salvation. We need to leave room for believers to grow in their understanding of the faith. We believe in justification by faith in Christ, not justification by accuracy of doctrine. We are saved by grace, not by intellectual precision. — Justin Holcomb

This doesn’t mean the abandonment of disciplined and thoughtful faith, however. Holcomb reminds, “In order to love God aright, and to be assured of the salvation he offers, we must know who God is and what he has done for us in and through Jesus Christ.”

Modern believers won’t handle the relationship between the Protestant and Catholic Churches the same (even Dr. Keller admits, “I don’t own all that rhetoric”), but we can grow in our understanding of the gospel through the words of the Reformers.

The reason we believe the Reformation is so important is because we think they did get the Bible right. You had a massive movement in which people sought to look at Scripture and find out what the biblical gospel truly was. — Timothy Keller

Integrating the gospel-centrality of the Reformation with a humble and winsome unity with Christians from various theological backgrounds is critical today. And there may be greater opportunity as Protestant support of the Pope soars. For his part, Pope Francis has extended an olive branch. In a letter to Evangelicals and Catholics in Chicago the Pope writes:

We know that the visible unity of the Church is the work and gift of the Holy Spirit, who will bring it about in His time… The division among Christians is the fruit of our sin, and it is a scandal and our greatest impediment for the mission for which the Lord has called us: announcing the Good News of the Gospel.

Today, the blood of the many Christians slaughtered in diverse parts of the world cries out to heaven. The one that persecutes does not make a mistake, he doesn’t ask if they are Catholic, Evangelical, Orthodox… they are Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, and that is enough. This blood challenges us: Do we have the right to make our divisions a priority while the blood of our brothers is shed for the testimony of Jesus Christ?

This is the moment of reconciliation, to accept “the unity in reconciled diversity,” an expression of Oscar Cullman. We know very well what divides us, let us be more strengthened in what unites us: the common faith in Jesus Christ as the only Lord and Savior, the Word of God, and Baptism. — Pope Francis

Luther’s intention wasn’t division, but renewal. The heart of the Reformation is the recovery of the gospel, inside the Church, for the good of the world. The Reformers teach us that waywardness in the Church — whether theological heresy or structural division — is overcome by the work of Christ, and that by joining this work we plant seeds of faith for future generations.

The Request for Presence
Early in the morning I cry out to you, for in your word is my trust. — Psalm 115.1

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 13 (Listen – 4:33)
2 Timothy 3 (Listen – 2:21)

Related Articles

Choosing Gentleness Over Violence

Scripture: 2 Timothy 2.24-25
The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.

Reflection: Choosing Gentleness Over Violence
By John Tillman

When we discuss differences online, the overheated rhetoric of partisan headlines becomes a part of our own speech. We share articles or videos that describe our opponents—not their arguments or political positions—as being destroyed, ripped, blasted, shredded. The more violent and dehumanizing the verb, the better.

This isn’t just verbal hyperbole. It is being borne out in actions as more and more people are physically assaulted following online opinion, that leads to opposition, that leads to violence or threats of violence. These types of actions can be extreme and political, such as the attempted assassinations of Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 or of Republican Congressional members in 2017. They can also be smaller in spectacle, and fly below the news radar.

Gamergate was the name given to attacks on women critiquing the portrayal of female characters in video games. Though it started years ago, many of these attacks—threats, vandalism, hacking, and doxxing attacks—are still going on today. Women are also often attacked using these methods after reporting sexual abuse by powerful men.

We should resist the urge to shrug off these events with denial. Christians believe that God’s Word became flesh, yet somehow we are reluctant to admit the power of our own words to become physicalized into actions. What we say and how we say it matters because, as Jesus taught, the words of our mouths come from our hearts and reveal our inward sinfulness. Sticks and stones start as words and words start in our sinful hearts. This is true not only of the words we speak or type ourselves, but the words we lend our digital voices to. By posting, liking, and retweeting articles about our ideological rivals being “destroyed” we are revealing not our ideological righteousness, but our theological sinfulness.

In Paul’s exhortation to Timothy he encourages faithfulness to the Gospel, and fidelity to right teaching, but Paul specifically instructs Timothy not to be resentful or quarrelsome and to instruct opponents with gentleness. This was no low-stakes conflict that Paul was advising Timothy in. The very heart of what it meant to be a Christian and the definition of salvation through Christ was at stake. It was much, much more important than who misinterpreted whose tweet this week. Yet, still Paul’s charge was to teach gently.

We cannot continue posting and liking things that are resentful, quarrelsome, and the opposite of gentle, yet expect to represent Christ and the Gospel in the world. If we refuse to choose one or the other, we risk showing the world a resentful, quarrelsome, violent Christ.

The Request for Presence
O Lord, watch over us and save us from this generation for ever. — Psalm 12.7

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
2 Kings 11-12 (Listen – 7:38)
2 Timothy 2 (Listen – 3:17)

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