Humble in Suffering

Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 5.6-11
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 

10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Reflection: Humble in Suffering
By John Tillman

Some leaders love to scare us by telling us we will be crushed in suffering if they lose. Peter promises we will suffer, yet rejoice, standing firm.

Some leaders love to promise pain and suffering aimed at any group we find threatening. To the world, our enemies’ suffering is acceptable—even good. This is the way of the world, yet some Christians have joined in this, advocating for governments to cause suffering to force a diaspora of political opponents.

Peter, more than anyone else, knows that Jesus does not want us to cause suffering for our enemies. (John 18.10-11; Luke 22.50-51) Jesus healed those Peter struck with his sword. For the Christian, suffering must never be a whip to lash out at others. But it may be a spur to our own sanctification and a kindly attempt by God to break down our pride.

Let us never see suffering as a tool for us to wield. Let us never suffer for doing evil—being cruel and unloving. Instead, let us suffer for doing good and seek God’s face. (1 Peter 3.13-17)

Let us pray this prayer over the weekend based on 1 Peter 5.6-11.

Humble in Suffering
We humble ourselves, in suffering, Lord.
We place ourselves under your hand
For our protection
For our perfection
For our comfort
For our correction
Your hand is mighty and can accomplish anything within and around us.

Our anxious thoughts we give to you.
Our fearful doubts we give to you.
Our selfish desires we give to you.
All of these we entrust you with because you care for us.

Keep our minds sharp and aware—awake to the dangers and threats of our enemy the devil. 
Do not let us be complacent, but neither let us be fearful.
May his prowling and roaring be the pacing and grumbling of frustration, for we are not unaware of his schemes.

Help us to stand firm in solidarity with those suffering worse than us.
Help us be an example and encouragement to those suffering far less.
Remind us, Lord, that suffering is temporary.

When the time is right
When we are needed
When we are ready
You will lift us up,
Empower us,
And save us.
Through us, may you be glorified by those with whom we share your grace and who accept your mercy.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning; so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life. — Psalm 90.14

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

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 42 (Listen 3:12) 
1 Peter 5 (Listen 2:11)

Read more about What to Expect When Suffering
When in suffering, we can at times be surprised by the emotions that are stirred. We can encounter deep sadness, anguish, and even rage.

Read more about A Prayer for Crisis
Psalm 89 shows us a helpful and repeatable pattern of prayer for those in suffering, doubt, frustration, or crisis.

Love One Another

Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 3:8-9
8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 

Reflection: Love One Another
By Erin Newton

If you took time to read all the verses that command God’s people to love one another and pursue peace, it would take quite a while. Love one another. (John 13.34-35) Show faithful love and compassion to one another. (Zechariah 7.9). Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. (Romans 12.10). Let us consider one another in order to provoke love. (Hebrews 10.24) And on and on. Why the repetition? Wouldn’t one command have been enough?

People have always struggled in relationships. Families are broken. Friendships are strained. Neighbors are viewed as enemies. Since the breaking of peace in the Garden of Eden, humanity has been at odds with itself. This should not be so. This is the brokenness of our world.

After exhorting people in specific relationships, one last call to unity is given to the whole congregation. Peter reminds his church to seek what is good: Love. Sympathy. Compassion. Humility. Cautious words. Slowness to speak. Blessings to others.

We cannot blame our hatred, rudeness, malice, anger, or selfishness on ignorance. Too many commands have taught us to behave otherwise. Being a jerk is a conscious decision. We choose not to love someone. We choose not to speak kindly. We choose not to withhold insults.

For those who live in the United States, many will awaken to news of newly elected leaders. Some of the results will be for decisions or people we supported and others will not.

Over the last few years, culture has sunk into a climate of animosity. Our values and beliefs have turned us against one another. Sadly, it has seeped into our churches. Christians, united by the Holy Spirit, have turned against one another.

For our friends around the world, it will be another day with other concerns. No matter what the day brings, we still have the opportunity to choose our responses to one another.

Let us strive for something worthwhile. Let us strive for peace. If we are going to use up all our emotional energy targeting something, let it be with the energy of love and kindness. If we are going to be screaming, may it be words of life and encouragement. If we are going to focus our attention on someone for something they said, let us put our noses into our Bibles and read God’s words instead.

People will be watching us today and in the days to come. Be a worthy spectacle.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught the people, saying: “Good people draw what is good from the store of goodness in their hearts; bad people draw what is bad from the store of badness. For the words of the mouth flow out of what fills the heart.” — Luke 6.45

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

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 40 (Listen 8:21) 
1 Peter 3 (Listen 3:30)

Read more about Good and Pleasant Unity? A Prayer for Election Week
Talking about unity is almost universally seen as a political power grab and talking of civility is seen as capitulation.

Read more about Confessing Hostility—Guided Prayer
Like rebellious, prodigal children, our hostility breaks fellowship with you and with our brothers and sisters.

Deo Gratias

Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 3.17-18
For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

From John: After celebrating Thanksgiving yesterday in the United States, we continue to focus on giving thanks over this weekend by looking back at this post from 2019 offering praise and thankfulness to our God.

Reflection: Deo Gratias
By William Cooper (fl. 1653)

St. Augustine inaugurated that ancient custom among Christians, in whose mouths you should always hear these words: Deo Gratias, “Thanks be to God!” When they met and saluted one another, Deo Gratias, “God be thanked.” When they heard any tidings of persecution or protection, favor or frown, gain or loss, cross or comfort — still Deo Gratias.

“What,” said Augustine, “shall brothers in Christ not give God thanks when they see one another? What better thing can we speak, or think, or write, than this? God be thanked! Nothing can be more compendiously spoken, nor more gladly heard, nor more solemnly understood, nor more profitably acted, than this; God be thanked!”

Such a frame of heart had holy Job: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

And such a one was in the sweet singer of Israel: “I will bless the Lord at all times.” Notable is that of Chrysostom: “There is nothing, nothing we can study, more pleasing to God than to be thankful — not only in good days but also when things fall cross. This is the best sacrifice and oblation we offer God.”

This made Jerome say, “It is peculiar to Christians to give thanks in adversity. To praise God for benefits, this [anyone] can do. To give God thanks in dangers according to the apostle’s sense, and in miseries — to always to say, ‘Blessed be God’ — this is the highest pitch of virtue. Here is your Christian; such a one takes up his cross, and follows his Savior: no loss or cross can dishearten him.”

To give God thanks for crosses and afflictions is to be numbered among those singular things which Christians are bound to excel in. We ought excel beyond [those who do not believe] in loving our enemies and blessing those that curse — which our Savior exhorts and commands.

We must thank the Lord for afflicting us, and for laying the cross upon us, because it is so far below what we deserve at his hands. To drink as He drank it we cannot — we need not. Thank God, then, that you have such a little share of it — when all was your portion by right and justice. This is worthy of our thanks.

Text excerpted from How Must We In All Things Give Thanks? 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Oh God, you know my foolishness, and my faults are not hidden from you. — Psalm 69.6

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

Today’s Readings
1 Chronicles 22 (Listen – 3:25)
1 Peter 3 (Listen – 3:30)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Chronicles 23 (Listen – 4:20), 1 Peter 4 (Listen – 2:50)
1 Chronicles 24-25 (Listen – 7:01), 1 Peter 5 (Listen – 2:11)

Read more about A Thanksgiving
Deny me wealth, fear, far remove
The love of power or name;
Hope thrives in straits, in weakness love,
And faith in the world’s shame.

Read more about Thanksgiving Stirs God’s Heart
If we could only see the heart of the Father, we would be drawn into praise and thanksgiving more often. — Richard Foster

Things Even Angels Question

Scripture Focus: Daniel 12.5-6, 8-9, 13
5 Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. 6 One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?” 
8 I heard, but I did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will the outcome of all this be?” 
9 He replied, “Go your way, Daniel…13 “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” 

1 Peter 1.10-12
10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. 

Reflection: Things Even Angels Question
By John Tillman

Most responses to apocalyptic prophecies start with what, when, where, why, or who.

Daniel asks questions. (Daniel 7.15; 12.8) John asks questions. (Revelation 10.9) Even the angels in Daniel’s visions ask questions. (Daniel 12.5-6)

Peter seemed to have this passage in mind when he wrote that even angels long to look into these things. (1 Peter 1.10-12) The “these things” Peter was writing about are prophets, like Daniel, who searched with care regarding times and dates. Yet, Jesus also told the disciples, including Peter, that times and dates were not for them to know, but only the Father. (Acts 1.6-8)

End times prophecies are one of those areas in which well meaning believers can start missing the forest for the trees. We can become so obsessed with finding some little hint or clue regarding the life to come that we forget to live the life God calls us to now. 

Identifying a date, a time, a leader, a moment, won’t matter if we are not doing justice, walking humbly, and loving mercy (Micah 6.8). Knowledge can be a clanging gong and a symbol (pun intended) of self-interest rather than care for others. (1 Corinthians 13.1-2

Asking questions isn’t bad. But eventually Gabriel, instead of answering Daniel’s questions, tells him to move on. 

Two other humans in Scripture question Gabriel. In contrast with Daniel, who is strengthened to speak so that he may ask questions, Zechariah is struck mute for expressing doubt through his questions. Mary questions Gabriel, but instead of being struck mute is indwelt by the Holy Spirit to prophesy when she meets Elizabeth.

From Zechariah, we can learn that even without speaking, we can testify to the message of Christ.
From Mary and Daniel, we can learn that revelations and prophecies are sometimes meant to be rolled up and sealed until the proper time—to be pondered and treasured in our hearts rather than shared.

From all three, we learn that at the right time, our tongues will be loosed to sing (Luke 1.64, 67-80), our hearts will be moved to prophesy (Luke 1.41-55), and our scroll of revelation may be unsealed. (Daniel 12.9-10; Revelation 5.2-5)

We can follow the instructions Gabriel spoke to Daniel. (Daniel 12.13)
We can go. Move on from doubts and questions to faith and action.
We can rest. We can trust the outcome of life and eternity to Christ.
We can rise. At the proper time, in this life or the next, we will be raised up.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Short Verse
I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. — Revelation 1.8

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Daniel 12  (Listen – 2:40)
Psalm 119:49-72 (Listen – 15:14)

Read more about Breaking the Rhyme Scheme
Christians do not believe in cyclical, neverending, repetition. We know that an end is coming and a new beginning. However, history does rhyme.

Read more about Living Is Harder—Readers’ Choice
Living for Christ in the world often makes a larger difference in the world than dramatic sacrifices.

Wrongly Placed Fear—Readers’ Choice

Selected by reader, Jason Tilley
This reminds me of David who, dogged in the wilderness and hunted to the point of despair, still chose to let Saul live when he had the chance. He trusted in God, not his own hands. It meant he would suffer longer, but he trusted nonetheless. I think the fear of status loss in the West is dead-on. When we could be an example to the world by loving each other through our differences, we instead become petty, entitled bickerers.

Originally published, May 14, 2020, based on readings from Isaiah 13 & 1 Peter 1.

Scripture Focus: 1 Peter 1.17
Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

Reflection: Wrongly Placed Fear—Readers’ Choice
By John Tillman

Christians have been taught that we are “living out our time as foreigners.” But in western culture, that was built on Christianity, it has been too easy to forget and too easy to feel at home right here in the world. But for the first time, some Christians are beginning to feel unwelcome.

This cannot be called persecution. It is at worst a loss of status.

Persecution of Christians around the world is more than murder, rape, and torture. In the countries in which Christians suffer the most, persecution is social and systemic.

It is this type of persecution—a systemic loss of legal rights and status—that scares Christians in the west more than facing down a knife attack, a rampaging truck, or a bullet.

This fear has made American Christians a paranoid and unpredictable group. Liable to believe fake news, liable to vote for candidates and support policies that two decades ago would have been inconceivable, and liable to turn on each other.

Nothing demonstrates our paranoia better than the increasingly divisive nature of religious dialogue. Progressive Christians blame conservative Christians for being dogmatic and mean-spirited. Conservatives blame progressives for abandoning central Christian teachings.

This is how people act when they are living in fear. But this is not the reverent fear of the Lord that Peter speaks of. That reverence is born out of love and leads to loving one another deeply, from the heart.

We live in fear that the Lord will let us suffer rather than rejoicing in that suffering as Peter instructs. We are living in fear that soon we will be considered the extremists—cast out from society.

The believers Peter was writing to were the losers and outcasts. They had literally been scattered from their homeland and cast out to the margins.

Christian thought has always been extremist thought. It is a revolutionary rejection of the world’s power structure. Jesus was crucified for extremist thought. It was Christian extremist thought that brought down slavery.

We need not fear being marginalized if we properly fear God. Christianity has done much of its best work from the margins.

It was from the margins that first-century Christians won more than converts, they won the culture. Not by winning court cases or electing the right officials, but by demonstrating the extremity of God’s love that comes from the Gospel.

May God give us grace to follow their example.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Let my mouth be full of your praise and your glory all the day long. — Psalm 71.8
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Ezekiel 3  (Listen – 4:41)
Psalm 39 (Listen – 1:49)

Read more about Where Martyrdom Begins Part 2
Giving up your life for others, doesn’t always mean that you die.

Read more about Supporting our Work
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