Spiritual Vigilance Needed :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 4.14
Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.

Reflection: Spiritual Vigilance Needed :: Worldwide Prayer
By John Tillman

Like the families stirringly described by Nehemiah, most people would never shirk from giving their all in defending their homes from physical attack. If one’s family or children were under a physical threat, the instinct of every person is to rise up, to stand between them and danger.

But the dangers of spiritual life are more subtle than a home invasion—and more dangerous. And though we would risk our lives to stop an intruder armed with a gun, often the more dangerous invaders of idolatry, greed, and selfishness pass right through our defenses.

In many cases, our spiritual vigilance is lacking.

May we all, parents or not, pray this prayer solemnly, recognizing that whether biological children are in our arms or not, Christ expects us to bring ALL the little children of our world to his arms for protection.

A Prayer for Our Children
From Jamaica

Father of all the families of the earth!
Hear now our prayer for the children.
May those who would bear children recognize your great grace in according them a part in the mystery of the generation of life and your judgment upon all who cause your “little ones” to stumble.

Remember in your love the children at risk in our time— those whose homes are the streets of great cities, those who have been displaced by war and other calamities, and who by experience understand the feeling of Him who said, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Loving Lord Jesus, sometimes “despised and rejected of men”, You know the pain and distress of youth who feel rejected and neglected and starved of affection.

So bless all those who as parents or mentors, offer love and guidance to the young.

May we so live, and so order our societies that the youth of our time, like the perfect Son of Man, may grow and develop “in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.”

Hear this our prayer O God and answer the yearning of our hearts for the renewal and redemption of all your wonderful Creation, especially for our young people, our glory and our hope, for the sake of your loving Son, Jesus Christ our Savior.

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

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad. — Psalm 14.7

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

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 4 (Listen -3:38)
Acts 14 (Listen -3:54)

Read more about God Shivering on Concrete
God’s love is evident…in the many Christian and secular organizations that move, at times into dangerous circumstances, to help the downtrodden.

Read more about The House God Desires
When we make room for God in our hearts and lives, he will enter.
And when our lives are over, we will awake in the house of God.

Repair What Is At Your Door

Scripture Focus: Nehemiah 3.12
Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters. 

Reflection: Repair What Is At Your Door
By John Tillman

The third chapter of Nehemiah is like the slowly scrolling credits of a film with detailed information flowing by about the many people, families, groups, and individuals who rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem. Hidden in biblical lists such as this are innumerable, amazing details. 

Many sections of the wall were built by those whose homes were just inside. This was not only convenient but practical. One is unlikely to cut corners when the wall being built is directly protecting one’s own home.

Along with the priests, individuals, and other groups listed as rebuilding the wall are the daughters of Shallum. Shallum was an important leader in the community and came from an important family. He was a ruler over half of the district of Jerusalem. His father, Hallohesh, was one of the leaders who would sign a document, committing to keep the law of the Lord. (Nehemiah 10.14)

Some commentators have suggested that these women were likely wealthy heiresses or widows and merely aided with financial support. This proposal seems to lean greatly on details that have no scriptural support. Surely, such wealth among a population of exiles would be mentioned by such a detail-oriented recorder?

The recorder (probably Ezra, compiling records such as this one with Nehemiah’s personal accounts) draws no special attention to the women. Nor does he offer any explanation for their inclusion, such as “for he had no sons,” or any other qualifying, mitigating circumstance. 

The writer gives no exclusion of work they failed to do, nor does he give any inclusion of special work they did beyond others, nor does he give any isolation of tasks they were limited to. We are left to conclude then, that they were simply co-laboring with their father as a part of the wide and varied community of God’s people doing God’s work. Neither Nehemiah or Ezra the scribe felt a need to defend these women for joining in the work of God that was occurring at their doorsteps. 

Rather than attempt to defend them, may we simply join them. May we all do in God’s name, whatever good our hands find to do.
What broken and neglected people, places, and things are outside the doorstep of your church?
What is outside YOUR doorstep that needs to be rebuilt?

May God’s church—men, women, youth, children, leaders, laborers, the wealthy, and the poor—join in the work of God that he is calling you to in your community.

Divine Hours Prayer: Concluding Prayer of the Church
Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord, Amen.

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

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 3 (Listen -5:43)
Acts 13 (Listen -7:36)

Read more about Acts of Faith
For who will deny that true religion consists, in a great measure, in vigorous and lively actings of the will and the fervent exercises of the heart?

Read more about The Purpose Beyond Growth
The essential idea of the Cross is a life lost to be found again in those around.

Politically Ambiguous Religion

Scripture: Romans 1.16-17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

Reflection: Politically Ambiguous Religion
By John Tillman

Constantine, Emperor of Rome from 306 AD to 337 AD, is known as a “Christian Emperor” but for most of his public life was a follower of Sol Invictus and seemed to be unable or unwilling to renounce publicly this politically advantageous faith, only being baptized in the last moments of his life.

Constantine’s statements were frequently ambiguous enough that Sol Invictus supporters would assume he was reverencing the Sun and Christians would assume he was reverencing the Son of God. One of several examples noted in A Brief History of Sunday, by Justo Gonzalez is that when walking to set the lines that the walls of Constantinople would follow, he was asked how far he intended to walk and responded, “As far as the One who leads me.” Christians understood this “one” to be their God, and devotees of the Sun to be theirs.

This ambiguous rhetorical caution is repeated in Constantine’s edict that made, from a Christian point of view, the day we call Sunday a day of Christian rest and worship. From the viewpoint of a Sol Invictus worshiper, Constantine promoted their religion to primacy by enshrining the day of the sun, Sunday, as the first day of the week—demoting the god Saturn by demoting Saturday.

Was Constantine faking or just being “ecumenical?” Was he being wise yet innocent, as Jesus advised? Or was he being “ashamed of the gospel”? Maybe a little of both? We don’t know for sure, but many of his actions seem to indicate sincerity.

Faith devoted to the way of Christ is rarely politically expedient and being a Christian in political service involves careful, refined, rhetorical language. Yet, Christians in any party have proved to be a politically naive group—swallowing whatever politicians want as long as they quote the Bible verses we like and avoid the ones we don’t.

We have been duped by politicians who have no demonstrable history of spiritual practice, discipline, or charity but who suddenly start standing on stages with famous Christian pastors, talking about prayer or about helping the poor.

May we view faith that conveniently seems similar to our own with grace, but also with wisdom—accepting but also testing. When it comes to politicians, and anyone else, may the only standard we judge them by be the one Jesus gave us: by the fruit of their actions.

The Call to Prayer
Sing to the Lord and bless his Name; proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations and his wonders among all peoples. — Psalm 96.2-3

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 12 (Listen – 6:30)
Acts 22 (Listen – 5:55)

A Prayer for My People from China :: Worldwide Prayer

Scripture: Acts 19.24-26
A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all.

Reflection: A Prayer for My People from China :: Worldwide Prayer

Loving God,
For my people, I cry out to you,
For my people lacking food and clothing
For the many unemployed
For those denied the opportunity to worship you
For those prevented from expressing their opinions
For the many different ethnic groups
I cry out to you.

Oh Lord,
May my people find economic stability
May my people work for peace

And above all, may your holy Word
Make a powerful impact throughout my nation

Oh Lord, hear my prayer, in Jesus’ name

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

The Prayer Appointed for the Week
Father in Heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into His Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 9 (Listen – 7:46)
Acts 19 (Listen – 5:47)

This Weekend’s Readings
Nehemiah 10 (Listen – 4:41) Acts 20 (Listen – 5:22)
Nehemiah 11 (Listen – 5:05) Acts 21 (Listen – 5:55)

A Sacrament of Fellowship :: Throwback Thursday

Scripture: Nehemiah 8.10
Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Reflection: A Sacrament of Fellowship :: Throwback Thursday
By Martin Luther — 1519 AD

The significance or purpose of this sacrament is the fellowship of all saints, whence it derives its common name synaxis or communio, that is, fellowship; and communicare means to take part in this fellowship, or as we say, to go to the sacrament, because Christ and all saints are one spiritual body, just as the inhabitants of a city are one community and body, each citizen being a member of the other and a member of the entire city.

All the saints, therefore, are members of Christ and of the Church, which is a spiritual and eternal city of God, and whoever is taken into this city is said to be received into the community of saints, and to be incorporated into Christ’s spiritual body and made a member of Him.

If any one be in despair, if he be distressed by his sinful conscience or terrified by death, or have any other burden on his heart, and desire to be rid of them all, let him go joyfully to the sacrament of the altar and lay down his grief in the midst of the congregation and seek help from the entire company of the spiritual body; just as when a citizen whose property has suffered injury or misfortune at the hands of his enemies makes complaint to his town council and fellow citizens and asks them for help.

Therefore, the immeasurable grace and mercy of God are given us in this sacrament, that we may there lay down all misery and tribulation and put it on the congregation, and especially on Christ, and may joyfully strengthen and comfort ourselves and say: “Though I am a sinner and have fallen, though this or that misfortune has befallen me, I will go to the sacrament to receive a sign from God that I have on my side Christ’s righteousness. If I die, I am not alone in death; if I suffer, they suffer with me. I have shared all my misfortune with Christ and the saints, since I have a sure sign of their love toward me.”

This is the benefit to be derived from this sacrament, this is the use we should make of it; then the heart cannot but rejoice and be comforted.

*Translation J.J. Schindel, edited for length.

The Request for Presence
Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name. — Psalm 86.11

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

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Nehemiah 8 (Listen – 4:07)
Acts 18 (Listen – 4:06)