on the Lord’s Supper

Christ Institutes the Eucharist

When you wish to go to the Lord’s Supper listen to the words spoken, and be assured that they contain the whole treasure on which you are to stand and rely, for they are really spoken to you. My body is given, my blood is shed, Christ declares. Why? Just for you to eat and drink? No; but for the remission of sins. This is what strikes you; and everything else that is done and said has no other purpose than that your sins may be forgiven. But if it is to serve for the forgiveness of sins, it must be able also to overcome death. For where sin is gone, there death is gone, and hell besides; where these are gone, all sorrow is gone and all blessedness has come.

– Martin Luther

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a calm and quiet Lent

Ossessione

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.

(Ps 131, ESV)

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on the power of Christ

El Ángel caido

It is plain that if Christ were powerless, He could not be expelling demons and despoiling idols, for the spirits would not have obeyed a powerless man. But if they are manifestly expelled by the naming of His name, it must be evident that He is not powerless. This especially true because spirits, seeing even what is unseen by men, could tell if Christ were powerless and refuse to obey Him at all. Now what unbelievers do not believe, the spirits see: namely, that He is God. Therefore, they fly and fall at His feet, saying just what they uttered when He was in body: ‘I know who You are—the Holy One of God’ (Luke 4:34), and, ‘What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure You by God, do not torment me’ (Mark 5:7)

St. Athanasius, On the Incarnation, 32.4-5

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Luther on living by faith

Living solely by faith is a difficult way of life.

– Martin Luther

on man’s sin and God’s love

INRI

God is loving to man, and loving in no small measure. For say not, ‘I have committed fornication and adultery: I have done dreadful things, and not once only, but often: will He forgive? Will He grant pardon?’

Hear what the Psalmist says: ‘How great is the multitude of Your goodness, O Lord!’

Your accumulated offenses surpass not the multitude of God’s mercies: your wounds surpass not the great Physician’s skill. Only give yourself up in faith: tell the Physician your ailment: say also, like David, ‘I said, I will confess me my sin unto the Lord,’ and the same shall be done in your case, which he says immediately, ‘And you forgave the wickedness of my heart.’

– St Cyril of Jerusalem, Second Catechetical Lecture

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Luther on anxiety

When I feel anxious about sin and hell, I remind myself that when I have Christ, I have all that is necessary. Neither death, sin, nor the devil can hurt me. If I believe in Christ, I have fulfilled the law; it cannot accuse me. I have conquered hell; it cannot hold me. Everything the Christ has is mine. Though him, we obtain all his possessions and eternal life. Even if I am weak in faith, I still have the same treasure and the same Christ that others have. There’s no difference: we are all made perfect through faith in him, not by what we do.

– Martin Luther

Bonhoeffer on silence

Eco

We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Meditating on the Word

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on the devil and beauty

Eminent Doom

The devil doesn’t come dressed in a red cape and pointy horns. He comes as everything you’ve ever wished for.

– Tucker Max, Assholes Finish First

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quote via: Larmoyante

a blessed Christmas eve

Holy Family

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others – the armies of heaven – praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

O God, You make this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light. Grant that as we have known the mysteries of that Light on earth we may also come to the fullness of His joys in heaven; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

(Lutheran Service Book)

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exchanging life for things

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.

– Henry David Thoreau

a prayer for correction and guidance

Celtic Church Ruin

We beseech Thee, O Lord, mercifully to correct our wanderings, and by the guiding radiance of Thy compassion to bring us to the salutary vision of Thy truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Gothic Missal

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a blessing

Cross in the fields

In times of trouble, may the LORD answer your cry.
May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm.
May he send you help from his sanctuary
and strengthen you from Jerusalem.
May he remember all your gifts
and look favorably on your burnt offerings.

May he grant you your heart’s desires
and make all your plans succeed.
May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory
and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.
May the LORD answer all your prayers.

Psalm 20.1-5, NLT

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‘impossible’ grace

Pescatore all'alba sulle foci del fiume Chidro - San Pietro In Bevagna - Taranto - Italy [ Explored Jan 4, 2013 #56]“Impossible.”

All too often that is our human response to the notion that God conveys grace through means like the sacraments. Perhaps, in America, we are too steeped in a Christianity influenced heavily by a Zwinglian flavor of Reformed thought or an overly-sensationalized, Pentecostal television ministries. Perhaps, in 2013, we are too intellectually-sophisticated to believe that God would choose to work through things as mundane as water, bread, and wine.

Such struggles are not new. Tertullian wrote about the human tendency to expect God to work only in the spectacular in the second and third century. In his work, On Baptism, he wrote:

There is absolutely nothing which makes men’s minds more obdurate than the simplicity of the divine works which are visible in the act, when compared with the grandeur which is promised thereto in the effect; so that from the very fact, that with so great simplicity, without pomp, without any considerable novelty of preparation, finally, without expense, a man is dipped in water, and amid the utterance of some few words, is sprinkled, and then rises again, not much (or not at all) the cleaner, the consequent attainment of eternity is esteemed the more incredible.

Some things never change, do they? Neither our tendency toward disbelief…nor God’s condescension to lavish his grace upon us plainly and wonderfully.

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asking, searching, and knocking

619 Door-Abbaye La Pierre Qui Vire Bourgogne

So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jesus, the Gospel of St. Mark 11.9-11 (HCSB)

The hard part is not to ask, search, or knock.  Anyone can and does do that.  The hard part is to keep asking, searching, and knocking—in the midst of a world that ridicules your faith, in the midst of times that seemingly cannot get more desperate, or in the midst of a deafening quiet when it appears God will be silent for ever.

“Keep asking…keep searching…keep knocking.”

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Luther on prayer

folded_hands

None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience.

It is a great matter when in extreme need, to take hold on prayer.

I know, whenever I have earnestly prayed, I have been amply heard, and have obtained more than I prayed for; God, indeed, sometimes delayed, but at last he came.

Martin Luther, Table Talk

photo credit: unit25 on stock.xchng

on God’s gifts

We are not simply the final destinations in the flow of God’s gifts. Rather, we find ourselves midstream, so to speak. The gifts flow into us, and they on from us. From Christ, gifts flow to us, each one of us; from us, they flow to those in need.

– Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge

pursued by goodness (getting Ps 23 right)

You have a ways to go yet

This morning in church we read Psalm 23.

There is absolutely nothing even remotely odd about that.  After all, this is one of the most beloved and comforting psalms in the entire Psalter.  This morning our focus was on the first part of verse six, which is traditionally rendered:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life (Ps 23.6a, ESV)

This translation is well and good…except it is not nearly strong enough to describe God’s actions toward us.  Most English bibles have followed the tradition established by the KJV and translated the Hebrew word radaph (רָדַף) as ‘followed,‘ but a quick look at the standard lexicons shows that this word is more often understood aspursued.’  God’s actions here are better understood like this:

Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life (Ps 23.6, HCSB)

I don’t know about you, but being pursued feels a whole lot different than merely being followed.  God, in his goodness and faithful love, does exactly that–he pursues us…

Relentlessly.  Tirelessly.  Persistently.  Lovingly.  Mercifully.

Thanks be to God!

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the Lord…a strong refuge

The Castle of BelogradchikThe LORD is good,a strong refuge when trouble comes.
He is close to those who trust in him.
But he will sweep away his enemies
in an overwhelming flood.
He will pursue his foes
into the darkness of the night.

Nahum 1.7-8, NLT

 

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morning prayer, Psalm 61

Aonach Meadhoin, Glen Shiel

God, hear my cry;
pay attention to my prayer.
I call to You from the ends of the earth
when my heart is without strength.
Lead me to a rock that is high above me,
for You have been a refuge for me,
a strong tower in the face of the enemy.
I will live in Your tent forever
and take refuge under the shelter of Your wings

Psalm 61.1-4, HCSB

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an Orthodox prayer

Inflame our hearts with love for Thee, O Christ our God, that loving Thee with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our soul, and with all our strength, and our neighbors as ourselves, we may obey Thy commandments and glorify Thee, the Giver of all good things.  Amen.

on good works

om10 - father forgive

It is the perversity of the world that, when we preach about forgiveness of sins by pure grace and without merit of man, it should either say we forbid good works, or else try to draw the conclusion that man may continue to live in sin and follow his own pleasure; when the fact is, we should particularly strive to live a life the very reverse of sinful, that our doctrine may draw people to good works, unto the praise and honor and glory of God.  Our doctrine, rightly apprehended, does not influence to pride and vice, but to humility and obedience.

Martin Luther, House Postils, Seventh Sunday after Trinity

Many non-Lutherans mistakenly believe that Luther was soft on sanctification, and many Lutherans proudly proclaim as much (implicitly or explicitly).  Both are wrong. Though lost on many contemporary, American Lutherans, Martin Luther was an outspoken champion of good works for the benefit and blessing of our neighbor.  Unfortunately, in reaction to anything that even remotely smacks of Pietism, American Lutherans especially recoil at the language of “works” regardless of context.

Truth is, it is impossible that the Christian life, forever affected by the unfathomable grace of Christ Jesus, could be marked by anything but a striving for good works.  Such efforts do not reflect a misguided attempt to secure the blessings of God but are the overflow of thanksgiving from a sinner whose life has been inexorably changed.

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our yes to evil

With each one of us there is a Yes to the evil that can be held back by God’s grace alone. But God is mightier than all evil in the world.

- Bo Giertz, Hammer of God

God working through suffering

Water for Sale

God works against evil and suffering. But God, in immense divine power and inscrutable divine wisdom, also works through evil and suffering.

- Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge

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the love of God

religionSurely the whole world does not grasp the tiniest syllable of the statement that God is love. No human religion can hold its own in the face of the judgment, but it is solely in the blood of Christ that we have confidence on the Day of Judgment.

– Martin Luther

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heart trouble

All sorrows, all heartaches, all disappointments, all bereavements, and all heart troubles lose their bitterness in the sweetness of the Savior’s tender promise: ‘I will come again.’

– from Meditations on the Gospels

we are called to be the church

image

from “A Statement of Faith of the United Church of Canada”

Wilberforce on holiness

There is no shortcut to holiness; it must be the business of our whole lives.

- William Wilberforce

new writing endeavors

Reaper RPAS Aircraft Lands at Kandahar, Afghanistan

 

I haven’t given up blogging for Lent, but my blogging will be slowing down for the next six months as I begin my current master’s thesis.  I will be researching and writing a Just War tradition (JWT) evaluation on the United States’ use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA or “drones”).  The paper will look at both the use of RPA in theory and in practice and see whether the jus in bello (justice in war) facets of JWT challenge us to make changes in either our doctrine or praxis.

My initial hunch is that, while placing a greater burden to be used ethically than traditional weapons systems, there is nothing inherently immoral about RPA.  I also expect to find that our current use of RPA around the world violates the jus in bello JWT principle of discrimination more than other weapons systems.  These are only my initial gut feelings, however, and I am open to whatever my research suggests.

Either way, things will be slower around here for the next few months.  I still plan to post from time to time, though, so don’t abandon me completely!

photo credit: Creative Commons | Ministry of Defence

seeing and experiencing

2013-02-07 17.25.29

“By God’s design, people are not to be won over to his kingdom primarily by our clever arguments, scary religious tracts, impressive programs, or our sheer insistence that they are going to hell unless they share our theological opinions.  No, they are to be won over by the way in which we replicate Calvary to them.  They are to see and experience the reality of the coming kingdom in us.”

– Gregory A. Boyd

two primary choices in life…

There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist or accept responsibility for changing them.

- Denis Waitley

 

entirely for Him and Him alone

for_him_alone

When we think seriously about what it will cost others if we obey the call of Jesus, we tell God He doesn’t know what our obedience will mean.  Keep to the point–He does know.  Shut out every other thought and keep yourself before God in this one thing only–my utmost for His highest.  I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.

Oswald Chambers

Justin Martyr on responsibility

We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed. And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be. But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble…For not like other things, as trees and quadrupeds, which cannot act by choice, did God make man: for neither would he be worthy of reward or praise did he not of himself choose the good, but were created for this end; nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than what he was made.

Justin Martyr, First Apology

prayer for the third Sunday of Advent

it's that time of the year again

Stir up thy power, O Lord, and with great might come
among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins,
let thy bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver
us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and
the Holy Ghost, be honor and glory, world without end.

Amen.

– Book of Common Prayer

 

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Ignatius on humility

Neither the ends of the earth nor the kingdoms of this age are of any use to me.  It is better for me to die for Jesus Christ than to rule over the ends of the earth.

The Letter of Ignatius to the Romans

Ignatius on responding to persecution

Tress in Fog

Pray continually for the rest of humankind as well, that they may find God, for there is in them hope for repentance.  Therefore allow them to be instructed by you, at least by your deeds.  In response to their anger, be gentle; in response to their boasts, be humble  in response to their slander, offer prayers; in response to their errors, be steadfast in the faith; in response to their cruelty, be civilized; do no be eager to imitate them.  Let us show by our forbearance that we are their brothers and sisters, and let us be eager to be imitators of the Lord.

– The Letter of Ignatius to the Ephesians

 Much could be said about these magnificent words of instruction, but nothing honestly need be said about them.  They are instruction, reminder, rebuke, and encouragement enough.

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prayer for the second Sunday of Advent

Second sunday in Advent and two candles are lit

Merciful God, who sent thy messengers the prophets to
preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation:
Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins,
that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our
Redeemer; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

Amen.

– Book of Common Prayer

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those who devoutly practice peace

Skyline Speedboat

Therefore let us unite with those who devoutly practice peace and not with those who hypocritically wish for peace.

– 1 Clement 15.1

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let us fix our eyes…

bwbruno6

Let us fix our eyes on the blood of Christ and understand how precious it is to his Father, because, being poured out for our salvation, it won for the whole world the grace of repentance.

– 1 Clement 7.4

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purpose brings meaning

 

the greatest cause of atheism

stavropoleos

The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.

– Brennan Manning

(h/t: Chris Marlow)

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God in every detail

The sliding feeling

We can all see God in exceptional things, but it requires the growth of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail.

– Oswald Chambers

 

photo credit: Creative Commons | broo_am

on self importance, from Embracing Obscurity

The trouble with you and me and the rest of humanity is not that we lack self-confidence (as we’re told by the world) but that we have far too much self-importance. The thought of being just another of the roughly one hundred billion people to have ever graced this planet offends us—whether we realize it or not.

Anonymous, Embracing Obscurity

on ambition

Prayer is the language

I have to learn that the aim in life is God’s, not mine. God is using me from His great personal standpoint, and all He asks of me is that I trust Him, and never say—‘Lord, this gives me such heartache.’ To talk in that way makes me a clog. When I stop telling God what I want, He can catch me up for what He wants without let or hindrance. He can crumple me up or exalt me, He can do anything He chooses. He simply asks me to have implicit faith in Himself and in His goodness. Self-pity is of the devil; if I go off on that line I cannot be used by God for His purpose in the world.

– Oswald Chambers

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help our unbelief

Votive

Steadfast God, we strive to believe but pray for help in our unbelief! Move close to us on those days when we do not feel your presence. We claim your promise that you will be with us to the end. Strengthen our faith. Amen.

–Moravian Daily Texts for Oct 18, 2012

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who can live on Your holy mountain?

Votive candle!!!

Lord , who can dwell in Your tent? Who can live on Your holy mountain? The one who lives honestly, practices righteousness, and acknowledges the truth in his heart — who does not slander with his tongue, who does not harm his friend or discredit his neighbor, who despises the one rejected by the Lord but honors those who fear the Lord , who keeps his word whatever the cost, who does not lend his money at interest or take a bribe against the innocent — the one who does these things will never be moved.

– Psalm 15.1-5 (HCSB)

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John Wesley on war

And surely all our declamations on the strength of human reason, and the eminence of our virtues, are no more than the cant and jargon of pride and ignorance, so long as there is such a thing as war in the world. Men in general can never be allowed to be reasonable creatures, till they know not war any more. So long as this monster stalks uncontrolled, where is reason, virtue, humanity? They are utterly excluded; they have no place; they are a name, and nothing more.

–John Wesley, “The Doctrine of Original Sin, According to Scripture, Reason, and Experience”

photo credit: Creative Commons, Chad McDonald | quote HT: John Meunier

on the American Dream, from Embracing Obscurity

A lot of us are caught up in this religious version of the American dream, even in the church.

Anonymous, Embracing Obscurity

from Embracing Obscurity

We’re intoxicated with a desire to be known, recognized, appreciated, and respected.  We crave to be a “somebody” and do notable things, to achieve our dreams and gain the admiration of others.  To be something–anything–other than nothing.

Anonymous, Embracing Obscurity

Note: This is the first in a series of ‘teaser’ quotes from the forthcoming book, Embracing Obscurity, that releases on October 1st.  I will be doing a full review this week so check back for more!

Chrysostom on riches

faith and material things

Only Hope

Faith tells us that God alone can supply the material things on which we depend.  He gives some people more than they need, not that they can enjoy great luxury, but to make them stewards of this bounty on behalf of orphans, the sick, and the crippled.  If they are bad stewards, keeping this bounty to themselves, they will become poor in spirit, and their hearts will fill with misery.  If they are good stewards, they will become rich in spirit, their hearts filling with joy.

John Crystostom

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thoughts on Leadership

If your meeting room, your board room, or your office (take your pick) isn’t a nursery for ideas, a rumpus room where seals frolic, forget it. Burn the table, lock the room, fire the clerks. You will rarely come up with any ideas worth entertaining. The full room with the heavy people trudging in with long faces to solve problems by beating them to death is very death itself. Serious confrontations rarely arrive at serious ends. Unless the people you meet with are fun loving kids out for a romp, tossing ideas like confetti, and letting the damn bits fall where they may, no spirit will ever rouse, no notion will ever birth, no love will be mentioned, no climax reached. You must swim at your meetings, you must jump for baskets, you must take hefty swings for great or missed drives, you must run and dive, you must fall and roll, and when the fun stops, get the hell out.

 credited to Ray Bradbury in The Leader’s Edge 

(HT: BarefootPreachr)

St Thomas Aquinas on humor

Theologians aren’t probably really high up on your list of funny folks…but Thomas Aquinas apparently (and thankfully) understood the benefit of humor and the God-given gift of laughter:

It is against reason to be burdensome to others, showing no amusement and acting as a wet blanket. Those without a sense of fun, who never say anything ridiculous, and are cantankerous with those who do, are called grumpy and rude/p
– Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, Question 148, Article 4.

Head over to a Craig Adam’s site to see a few more quotes. Then enjoy watching something like this…

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prayer for good stewardship

Generous and giving God, we confess today that we are not always good stewards of our hearts or our resources. Forgive us and help us realize all that we possess belongs to you. Create within us sharing and giving hearts. Amen.

– the Daily Texts for 16 March 12, Moravian Church in North America

Chrysostom on riches

droplet of water

Regarding the accumulation of riches, Chrysostom writes:

We who are disciples of Christ claim that our purpose on earth is to lay up treasures in heaven.  But our actions often belie our words.  Many Christians build for themselves fine houses, lay out splendid gardens, construct bathhouses, and buy fields.  It is small wonder, then, that may pagans refuse to believe what we say.  “If their eyes are set on mansions in heaven,” they ask, “why are they building mansions on earth?”

Oh that the ‘golden-mouthed’ one could see the mass of riches we Christians store up for ourselves, especially in the West and America!  Are Jesus’ words too hard for us?  Or are others right to conclude that we do not sincerely believe this faith which we confess?

We would do well to “lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.  Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfector of our faith” (Heb 12.1-2, HCSB).

risk and the Christian life

Odd as it may seem and counter to ordinary human expectations, the Christian life consists in taking the risk of allowing ourselves to be endowed with gifts from God.

– Thomas Oden

living for today and the future

“A [Christian] should always act as if he was going to die tomorrow; yet he should treat his body as if it was going to live for many years.”

– Evagrios the Solitary, 4th cent. AD

The encouragement to ‘live today as if it was our last’ is somewhat trite and only partly correct.  While we should be motivated to act toward others as if today was our final day, we must always act towards ourselves as though we would live to be one hundred.

The first motivation keeps us from passing up opportunities to serve, to grow, to forgive, and to love.  Indeed, when looking back from our deathbeds, our lives will seem short and our missed opportunities many.  Carpe diem.  Let us seize the day, redeem our time, and make the most of each day–recognizing each as a gift that we dare not take for granted.

Simultaneously, the latter truth prevents us from neglecting our own health and wellness, without which it is impossible to do those things inspired by former.  We must care for ourselves–physically, emotionally, spiritually–precisely that we might seize today and act as though these hours were our final ones on earth.

Unfortunately, our society tends to reverse the truths taught by Evagrios.  We act as though we would live forever–putting off indefinitely those things we ought to be busy about right now.  At the same time, we treat our bodies as though we would die tomorrow–neglecting wellness in favor of the immediate satisfaction of gluttony and sloth.

We must get the order right, that we might make a real difference in the lives of those around us.

be our Prince of Peace

Lord, we know of the cruelties of war shown to us vividly in video clips. Yet, we are unable and sometimes unwilling to be peacemakers. O God, come and save us. Be our Prince of peace. Amen.

 
– the Daily Texts for 9 Jan 12, Moravian Church in North America

for the good of all…

We have no right to our possessions; they have been entrusted to us for the good of all.  Let us then invest with the Lord what he has given us, for we have nothing that does not come from him:  we are dependent upon him for our very existence.  And we ourselves particularly, who have a special and greater debt, since God not only created us but purchased us as well; what can we regard as our own when we do not possess even ourselves?

– Paulinus of Nola (5th cent monk), in Common Prayer

resolution or inspiration?

This is the time of year when people are into making resolutions…resolving to change this or that in the new year, typically along the lines of losing weight, getting in shape, eating better, or something like that. Unfortunately, for most, these resolutions will be little more than speed bumps along the status quo. In a few weeks, things will be right back to the way they were before.

I don’t make resolutions.

Resolutions look the wrong way–backward, to what might have been.

Inspiration, on the other hand, looks the right way–forward, to what might be.

Instead of beginning the year dwelling on what might have been, if only you had some something different last year, seek inspiration and focus on what you might achieve this year. Pursue a dream you’ve been putting off because of it’s supposed impossibility. Take up a new hobby or skill you’ve wanted to do but haven’t.

Start making a difference in the world right where you are.

Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets and “The Road Not Taken” one of my favorite poems. It is all about what happened when the author found inspiration and courage to do something new…

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

In 2012, instead of resolving to ‘fix’ the problems of last year, focus on finding inspiration, take the road ‘less traveled by,’ and start changing the world.

It will make all the difference.

(Pssst…If you enjoyed this post, I’d be grateful if you shared it…thanks!)

The unexamined faith is not worth believing.

–Roger Olsen

Get going. Be useful, generous, moderate and self-denying in your manner of life. Treat the lack of positive action on your part as sin. If God chooses to bless you with material prosperity, don’t use it on the absurd task of keeping up with the current trends and fads. By using your money modestly and without display, show that you are not a slave to fashion. Be an example of someone who uses his or her wealth for purposes that are more important than showing off or making a big impression. Demonstrate through the way you live that worldly things are not even close to the value of heavenly things.

– William Wilberforce, quoted in Advent Conspiracy 

Christmas in America is more about getting what we want than giving what people need. Is this the tradition we want to pass down to or children?

The Advent Conspiracy 

Worship is not for the purpose of remembering the Reformation, hailing the founding of America, saluting mothers, boy scouts, girl scouts, or grandparents. Worship does not celebrate Independence Day, Memorial Day, or Labor Day. No. Worship remembers the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ… . All that goes into an actual service of worship must pertain to the event of God revealing Himself to us, becoming incarnate in our history, and redeeming us from the power of the evil one, setting us free to enjoy Him forever.

– Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation 

Whenever Scripture talks about praising God publicly, it’s talking about something extremely dangerous. This is because announcing his praise is nothing other than opposing the devil, the world, our own sinful nature, and everything evil. For how can you praise God without first declaring that the world is guilty and condemned? All who condemn the world are asking to be hated and put themselves in a very dangerous situation.

– Martin Luther (LW 12:393)

It always seems impossible until it is done.

– Nelson Mandela

These words, “Serve one another humbly in love,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself,” are eternal words. No one can think about, urge, and practice then enough.

– Martin Luther


Time is the precious commodity of life..

– Corbett Barr

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
And lead me along the path of everlasting life.

– Psalm 139.23-24 (NLT)


Let us leave a little room for reflection in our lives, room too for silence Let us look within ourselves and see whether there is some delightful hidden place inside where we can be free of noise and argument Let us hear the Word of God in stillness and perhaps we will then come to understand it.

– St. Augustine, quoted in Common Prayer

We are called to be contemplatives in the heart of all the world—by seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time, and his hand in every happening; seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.

– Mother Teresa

the blessing of discomfort

I found this great post from Michael Hyatt while clearing out my Instapaper inbox today.  He cites a benediction forwarded to him by his wife.

To describe it as counter-cultural is an understatement.  It’s revolutionary.

May God bless you with discomfort

At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,

So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger

At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,

So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears

To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,

So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them

And turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness

To believe that you can make a difference in the world,

So that you can do what others claim cannot be done

To bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor.

Amen

Can you imagine a world of Christians receiving this blessing…and then acting on it?  A continent?  A nation?  A congregation?  It would change the world.

the best news I’ve heard all day…

Though we are overwhelmed by our sins, you forgive them all.
Psalm 65.3 (NLT)

Amen.

For God is a God of the humble, the miserable, the troubled, the oppressed, the despairing, and those who have become totally nothing. He lifts the lowly, feeds the hungry, heals the blind, comforts the miserable and troubled, justifies the sinner, raises the dead, and saves the despairing and the condemned. For he is the almighty Creator who makes everything from nothing.

– Martin Luther (LW 26:314)

Live a life that looks like madness.

- Dan Allender

To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common—this is my symphony.

– William Henry Channing

My work is not to fix people. It is to lead people in the worship of God and to lead them in living a holy life.

– Eugene Peterson, The Pastor: A Memoir

The first step of humility is to cherish at all times the sense of awe with which we should turn to God.

– Benedict of Nursia

Instruct those who are rich in the present age not to be arrogant or to set their hope on the uncertainty of wealth, but on God, who richly provides us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the age to come, so that they may take hold of life that is real.

– 1 Timothy 6.17-19 (HCSB)

Farmer and son in rural Ethiopia, Oromo region.

To be brave in the small things is just as important as being brave in the big things. War, famine, and death all take their toll, but it’s the cold shoulders, ambivalence, and unspoken tension that ruin us in the end. The little things are the most important, because in the end, life is not a few big things, but a hundred thousand little ones.

– Evan David Olson

The goal is not to remove everything from our lives. The goal is to remove the unimportant, so that only the meaningful remains.

– Towards simplicity (via becomingminimalist)

Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.

Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.

– Psalm 82.3-4 (NLT)

vision and adequacy

If the size of your vision for your life isn’t intimidating to you, there’s a good chance it’s insulting to God.

– Pastor Steven Furtick

If we feel adequate to handle on our own anything God has called us to, chances are we are misunderstanding the calling or are way too overconfident in ourselves. On the other hand, the more we feel intimidated and even overwhelmed, the more we must rely on God’s grace and provision to see us through…which is exactly where he would have us be.

The basis for the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount is not what works but rather the way God is. Cheek-turning is not advocated as what works (it usually does not), but advocated because this is the way God is – God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. This is not a stratagem for getting what we want but the only manner of life available, now that, in Jesus, we have seen what God wants. We seek reconciliation with the neighbor, not because we feel so much better afterward, but because reconciliation is what God is doing in the world through Christ.

– Stanley Hauerwas, Resident Aliens

what will you do right now to improve the world?

Anne Frank

I found the Anne Frank quote I posted earlier on Twitter this morning.  In case you missed it:

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

The problem is…I first read it and thought, “Yes!” then read it a few more times through the day, then thought about it some more…and here it is, the close of the day.

What did I do today to act on her wisdom and encouragement?  Nothing.

Did I do anything today to start to improve the world?  Sadly, no.

So today, I failed miserably.  But today is not over and tomorrow is another day.  Continuous opportunities to grab the moments with which we have been blessed and use them to start something.

Start something small.  Start something big.

It really doesn’t matter so long as you start something.

Start changing the world!

It is a terrible blight on evangelical Christianity that our churches have sent more soldiers to the Middle East than missionaries. If Christians are so concerned about the threat of Islamofascism, then what better way to confront it than with the Gospel of Christ?

– Laurence Vance, on Memorial Day and American Christianity’s often idolatrous relationship to the military (via kre-do)

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

– Anne Frank

sex trafficking of Americans

…Human trafficking is much closer to home than you think; victims, younger than ever, are just as likely to be the homegrown American girl next door as illegally imported foreigners.

– Vanity Fair

To show great love for God and our neighbor we need not do great things. It is how much love we put in the doing that makes our offering something beautiful for God.

– Mother Teresa

Small people talk about other people.

Average people talk about material items.

Great people talk about ideas.

– Fran Lebowitz (via greyroads)

leaders and servants

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

– Jesus

The world would be better off if people tried to become better. And people would become better if they stopped trying to become better off.

– Peter Maurin

image courtesy of stock.xchng

we do not exist for ourselves

We do not exist for ourselves.

– Thomas Merton
image courtesy of stock.xchng

Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end.

– Henry David Thoreau

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realize they were big things.

– Kurt Vonnegut

on war and HIV/AIDS

Stunning truth:  More people die each day of HIV/AIDS than died in American military forces during the entire Iraq War (2003-2010).

Where is the outcry over the former amidst the deafening outrage over the latter?

Why will so many take up the banner to offer protest while so few take up the yoke to offer help?

photo courtesy of stock.xchng

If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we simply have less empathy for people of other cultures living in faraway countries than we do for Americans. Our compassion for others seems to be directly correlated to whether people are close to us socially, emotionally, culturally, ethnically, economically, and geographically.

– Richard Stearns, The Hole in Our Gospel

It is the broken heart that makes us human in the end.

– Melanie Rae Thon

If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him?

– 1 John 3.17 (HCSB)