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)

Faith Like Harriet :: Weekend Reading List

“I always told God, ‘I’m going to hold steady on you, and you’ve got to see me through,’” Harriet Tubman said near the end of her life. Known as “Moses” to the slaves she lead to freedom along the Underground Railroad, Tubman was herself a former slave whose life radiated in faith, hope, and service to others.

In her well researched series, People of Faith, author Rebecca Price Janney chronicles the risks and sacrifices Tubman endured as she leveraged her freedom for others. Reflecting on her first moments after crossing the border into a free state, Tubman said:

I looked at my hands to see if I was the same person, now that I was free. There was such a glory over everything. The sun came up like gold through the trees and over the fields, and I felt like I was in Heaven.

But to this solemn resolution I came; I was free, and they should be free also; I would make a home for them in the North, and the Lord helping me, I would bring them all there. Oh, how I prayed then, lying all alone on the cold, damp ground; “Oh, dear Lord,” I said, “I ain’t got no friend but you. Come to my help, Lord, for I’m in trouble!”

“Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus instructed his followers. “Believe in God; believe also in me.” Seeing a command like this fulfilled in the life and work of Harriet Tubman is challenging for all believers—something people who knew Tubman then, and study her now, have all noted. A profile in Christianity Today records:

Tubman said she would listen carefully to the voice of God as she led slaves north, and she would only go where she felt God was leading her. Fellow abolitionist Thomas Garrett said of her, “I never met any person of any color who had more confidence in the voice of God.”

This week Secretary of the Treasury Jacob J. Lew announced that “for the first time in more than a century, the front of our currency will feature the portrait of a woman — Harriet Tubman on the $20 note.” Tubman is among multiple Christian figures to be added to US currency in the next four years.

In our celebration of the great people of faith who walked before us we must be drawn to the one from whom they drew all their strength and to whom they poured out all their praise. “Twasn’t me,” Tubman declared, “’twas the Lord! I always told Him, ‘I trust to you. I don’t know where to go or what to do, but I expect You to lead me,’ and He always did.”

Weekend Reading List

Today’s Reading
Ecclesiastes 9 (Listen – 3:13)
Titus 1 (Listen – 2:24)

This Weekend’s Readings
Ecclesiastes 10 (Listen – 2:33) Titus 2 (Listen – 2:01)
Ecclesiastes 11 (Listen – 1:40) Titus 3 (Listen – 2:05)

 

Every Good Work

Titus 3.1

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work.

One of the strengths of an annual Scripture reading plan is that we engage with passages which would normally get overlooked. There are relatively few circumstances in a person’s life which might drive them directly to Titus 3 or 2 Kings 17. (One instructs a Christian leader to remind his followers “to be submissive to rulers.” and the other another tells of the king of Assyria finding “treachery in Hoshea.”)

I’m always struck by the view from the co-working space from which I write on Madison Avenue (pictured above). Gazing at the towering buildings quickly transitions into finding myself lost in the reality that every possible human emotion is present within the limits of my view.
At any given moment on this island there is someone who has just received the promotion or funding of their dreams — while another is watching their career slip through their fingers. People are falling in love, strolling hand in hand by others who are hustling to a meeting with their divorce attorney. Some have found new faith, others have fallen into addiction, and still others wonder how long they can hold on before everything falls apart.

Materialism has taught us that there is a unique product, service, message (even pasta sauce) for each of these people. Therefore, it follows, that if each person were to follow a devotional and scripture reading plan, some days would be “better” than others. But what do we mean by better? Is it just a message’s ability to placate to my immediate need?

I’m regularly challenged by Timothy Keller’s framework for answered and unanswered prayer:
God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows. — Timothy Keller

Titus 3 challenges Christians to be “ready for every good work.” How are you and I to know what that will take? We cannot plan for every good work — there are too many variables. The value proposition of a Scripture reading plan is that it prepares us for every good work.

Reading Scripture daily engages the heart and mind — transcending daily worries and desires — so that we are prepared for every good work.

P.S. Thanks for being one of over 4,000 daily readers on The Park Forum. We’re so thankful to seek after God with you. We pray this devotional series helps cultivate vibrant faith and sharpen your insight into culture so you’re better equipped to love and serve those around you.

Today’s Reading
2 Kings 17 (Listen – 7:19)
Titus 3 (Listen – 2:05)

How To Become an Idolater

2 Kings 16.7

So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.”

The historic record in 2 Kings 16 provides the background for some of the most significant Messianic prophecy in the Hebrew Bible. Combining this record with Chronicles, Isaiah, and an Assyrian account we understand what was happening to God’s people during time when much of the ancient Near East was being consumed by Assyria.

  • To fight Assyria’s rising power the kings of Syria and Samaria became allies and were joined by Philistia and Edom. Israel also joined the alliance (Israel was divided from Judah, which maintained control of Jerusalem).
  • Judah, led by King Ahaz, refused to join the alliance.
  • When it became clear the alliance would overtake Judah, King Ahaz turned to the Assyrians for help.
The prophet Isaiah attempted to dissuade King Ahaz from aligning with the Assyrians by speaking God’s assurances and warnings for his people. “Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you… It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.” Yet the reality of the threat at his door and the assurance of the Assyrians’ power proved more appealing to Ahaz.
For this help Ahaz depleted the treasury, and even stripped the Temple, in order to pay the heavy tribute demanded of him by the Assyrian king. Judah’s king went so far as to install Assyrian cultic furnishings in the Temple. — Craig Evans

The path to idolatry isn’t mystical and faith-filled, but concrete and pragmatic. Ahaz sought counsel in the most proven and mighty voices of his day — though they led him away from intimacy with God. His desired outcome was noble; he wanted to ensure his kingdom lasted through the threat at hand — that peace came to his house and his people.

The solution for idolatry isn’t to ignore concrete realities, but to find a reality beyond them in Immanuel: God with us. Folded into God’s promise for Ahab is one we can draw hope from today:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. — Isaiah 9.6

Idolatry is exposed in Scripture as transactional — exchanging personal effort for short-term satisfaction. The Gospel, Immanuel, is revealed as a stark contrast to the unpredictability and insufficiency of our own efforts.

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