Hope and Prayer

Hebrews 6.19-20
We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf.

By Thomas Aquinas

Petition is an expression of hope, since it is said in Ps. 37:5: “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass.” But it is plain from the Lord’s Prayer that one may pray to God not only for eternal blessedness, but also for the good things of this present life, both spiritual and temporal, and for deliverance from evils which will have no place in eternal blessedness. It follows that eternal blessedness is not the proper object of hope.

The good which we should properly and principally hope to receive from God is eternal life, which consists in the enjoyment of God. We ought indeed to hope for nothing less than himself from God, since the goodness by which he bestows good things on a creature is nothing less than his essence. The proper and principal object of hope is therefore eternal blessedness.

Eternal blessedness does not enter into the heart of man perfectly, in such a way that the wayfarer may know what it is, or of what kind it is. But a man can apprehend it under the universal idea of perfect good, and in this way the movement of hope arises. It is therefore with point that the apostle says in Heb. 6:19: “we have hope . . . which enters into that within the veil,” since what we hope for is yet veiled, as it were.

We ought not to pray to God for any other good things unless they relate to eternal blessedness. Hope is therefore concerned principally with eternal blessedness, and secondarily with other things which are sought of God for the sake of it, just as faith also is concerned principally with such things as relate to God.

All other things seem small to one who sets his heart on something great. To one who hopes for eternal life, therefore, nothing else appears arduous in comparison with this hope. But some other things can yet be arduous in relation to the capacity of him who hopes. There can accordingly be hope in regard to them, as things subservient to the principal object of hope.

*Excerpted and language updated from Whether Eternal Blessedness is the Proper Object of Hope

Today’s Reading
2 Kings 24 (Listen – 3:21)
Hebrews 6 (Listen – 2:58)

God and the Public Square

Hebrews 5.14

Solid (spiritual) food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

By Christopher Wright

By stressing human choices as well as God’s ultimate control, the bible avoids slipping into fatalism or determinism. It affirms both sides of the paradox: humans are morally responsible for their choices and actions and their public consequences; yet God retains sovereign control over final outcomes and destinies.

The Bible presents the public square — human life lived in society and the marketplace — as riddled with sin, corruption, greed, injustice, and violence. That can be seen at local and global dimensions, from sharp practices at the market stall or corner shop, to the massive distortions and inequities of international trade.

Isaiah 65:17–25 is a glorious portrayal of the new creation — a new heavens and a new earth. It looks forward to human life that is no longer subject to weariness and decay, in which there will be fulfillment in family and work, in which the curses of frustration and injustice will be gone forever, in which there will be close and joyful fellowship with God, and in which there will be environmental harmony and safety.

The New Testament carries this vision forward in the light of the redemption achieved by Christ through the cross, and especially in the light of the resurrection. Paul comprehensively and repeatedly includes “all things” not only in what God created through Christ, but what he plans to redeem through Christ.

The final vision of the whole Bible is not of our escaping from the world to some ethereal paradise, but rather of God coming down to live with us once again in a purged and restored creation, in which all the fruit of human civilization will be brought into the city of God.

Your daily work matters because it matters to God. It has its own intrinsic value and worth. If it contributes in any way to the needs of society, the service of others, the stewardship of the earth’s resources, then it has some place in God’s plans for this creation and in the new creation. And if you do it conscientiously as a disciple of Jesus — bearing witness to him, being always ready to give an answer to those who enquire about your faith, and being willing to suffer for Christ if called to — then he will enable your life to bear fruit in ways you may never be aware of. You are engaged in the mission of God’s people.

*Excerpt from Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God’s People, originally posted as part of our Summer Reading Series.

Today’s Reading
2 Kings 23 (Listen – 7:43)
Hebrews 5 (Listen – 1:57)

The Root of Peace

Hebrews 4.12
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

It is no mistake that today’s verse, on the power and efficacy of God’s word, falls directly in the middle of a passage about rest and weakness. The author opens by saying, “The promise of entering his rest still stands,” and ends with: “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily. This is why the Puritan and Jewish Sabbaths were so exactingly intentional. And not even our group leisure activities can do for us what Sabbath rituals could once be counted on to do. — Judith Shulevitz

We need rest, “to remind ourselves that there is more to us than our work, and the machinery of self-censorship must shut down, too, stilling the eternal inner murmur of self-reproach,” observes Judith Shulevitz in The New York Times. Shulevitz left the faith of her childhood only to become burned out by the torrent of modern striving.

We don’t have to strive, the author of Hebrews says, because Christ has striven — to the point of death — on our behalf. Creation is the story of rest interrupted; salvation the invitation back in. In this way Sabbath rest operates as a tuning fork.

We start each day with our personal security resting not on the accepting love of God and the sacrifice of Christ but on our present feelings or recent achievements in the Christian life. Since these arguments will not quiet the human conscience, we are inevitably moved either to discouragement and apathy or to a self-righteousness which falsifies the record to achieve a sense of peace. The faith that is able to warm itself at the fire of God’s love, instead of having to steal love and self-acceptance from other sources, is actually the root of peace. — Richard Lovelace

Only the word of God can do this. It cuts away at our disordered loves, prunes our pride, heals our brokenness. It’s living and active — and it brings the peace we need, now and for eternity.

Today’s Reading
2 Kings 22 (Listen – 3:45)
Hebrews 4 (Listen – 2:43)

David Brooks on Simplicity and Morality :: The Weekend Reading List

“One of the troublesome things about today’s simplicity movements is that they are often just alternate forms of consumption” — David Brooks

The desire to simplify, in-light of rampant materialism, gained traction over the past decade and blossomed into an overwhelming market of goods and services. Blogs, magazines, products, and even consultants have captured the public imagination — largely because most of us feel underwater when it comes to work, family, and personal life.

A New York Times headline this week summed up recent research — and affirmed what most of us already sense — Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family. Life seems to become perpetually more overwhelming, despite the time and money we spend simplifying — a reality David Brooks examines in his column on The Evolution of Simplicity this week:
Magazines like Real Simple are sometimes asking you to strip away your stuff so you can buy new, simpler stuff. There’s a whiff of the haute bourgeoisie ethos here — that simplification is not really spiritual or antimaterialism; just a more refined, organic, locally grown and morally status-building form of materialism.

Brooks criticized the agnostic heart of modern simplicity movements, “Today’s simplicity movements are also not as philosophically explicit as older ones. The Puritans were stripping away the material for a closer contact with God…  It’s easy to see what today’s simplifiers are throwing away; it’s not always clear what they are for.” Espousing moral frameworks, while rare for the rest of the Times, is something Brooks has become known for in his writing.

“David Brooks was struggling with sin,” a profile of the author begins. “More precisely, he was seeking a way to translate the Christian understanding of sin into secular terms for millions of readers.” The profile, in this week’s Columbia Journalism Review, continues:
[Brooks] consulted Pastor Timothy Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and one of the country’s most prominent evangelicals. There are many explicitly Christian descriptions of sin: fallenness, brokenness, depravity. Keller suggested Brooks try a more neutral phrasing: “disordered love.” When we blab a secret at a party, for example, we misplace love of popularity over love of friendship.

Disordered love is an Augustinian framework which Dr. Keller regularly expounds upon in his teaching and writing. And it seems to have struck a cord with Brooks: “All of us love certain things,” he told the 2015 graduating class at Dartmouth. “But you don’t really know the nature of your love until you’ve tested it with reality.” The commencement address warned against what Brooks’ calls, “completely garbage advice: Listen to your inner voice. Be true to yourself. Follow your passion. Your future is limitless.”

In contrast, Brooks instructed, commit to what counts — order your loves — “The highest joy is found in sending down roots.”

Your fulfillment in life will not come from how much you explore your freedom and keep your options open. That’s the path to a frazzled, scattered life in which you try to please everyone and end up pleasing no one. Your fulfillment will come by how well you end your freedom.

Making a commitment simply means falling in love with something and then building a structure of behavior around it that will carry you through when your love falters.
Simplicity isn’t found by hiring a closet consultant. True simplicity is experienced by ordering our loves — it’s a profoundly spiritual act. Brooks concludes, “In a world of rampant materialism and manifold opportunities, many people these days are apparently learning who they are by choosing what they can do without.”

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. — Jesus
Today’s Reading
2 Kings 19 (Listen – 6:11)
Hebrews 1 (Listen – 2:15)


This Weekend’s Readings
2 Kings 20 (Listen – 3:39) Hebrews 2 (Listen – 2:47)
2 Kings 21 (Listen – 4:06) Hebrews 3 (Listen – 2:25)

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