Reflections on the Morning Scriptures

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

—Thessalonians 5:1-11 (TNIV)

Yesterday we saw Paul encouraging Christians by reminding them of their hope that is in Christ. Today, he reminds us that even though we eagerly look forward to our Lord’s return, none of us know when that will be. I have always found it curious that those who accuse Paul of being mistaken about when Jesus will return, fail to come to grips with this passage in which he states clearly that none of us know the date or time.

What we must pick up from today’s passage is that we are to live as people who live in the light. Christ’s return will be swift and sudden and there will be no chance to turn back from it. Consequently, we must live with eager expectation and hope. As he did in his letters to the Romans and Ephesians, Paul again urges us to put on protective clothing, which implies that we are at war with the forces of evil and darkness. Yet as Paul reminds us, albeit implicitly, we are not in this fight alone nor do we live life alone. We have the Lord on our side to help us persevere. Because of this, and because of his cross, we are not to fear Jesus’ return because we know we have been saved by his blood and are sustained by his living presence in us. Instead, we are to look forward to it because then our redemption will be completed.

This is part of our Christian hope, a hope that is based on God’s great love and mercy for us. Do not neglect your hope. Read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it. Do this first and foremost by making time each day to read God’s word to you contained in Scripture. You will find great power to live as God calls you to live and in doing so, you will find great hope and joy.

Remembering Kent State

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the confrontation between the Ohio National Guard and students at KSU. When it was all over, four students lay dead and others seriously wounded. I was a junior in high school when this happened and I remember wondering if our country was not coming apart at the seams. It was simply unbelievable. Take a moment today to remember this tragedy and ask God to heal his broken and hurting world.

An Argument Against Purgatory

[Purgatory] was firmly rejected, on good biblical and theological grounds, by the sixteenth-century Reformers. The arguments regularly advanced in support of some kind of purgatory, however modernized, do not come from the Bible. I cannot stress sufficiently that if we raise the question of punishment for sin, this is something that has already been dealt with on the cross of Jesus. Paul says, in his most central and careful statement, not that God punished Jesus, but that God “condemned sin in the flesh” of Jesus (Romans 8:3). The idea that Christians need to suffer punishment for their sins in a post-mortem purgatory, or anywhere else, reveals a straightforward failure to grasp the very heart of what was achieved on the cross.

—N.T. Wright, For All the Saints

The Gift of Friendship

If poverty pinches, if grief saddens, if pain overcomes us, if exile darkens our life, if any other misfortune fills us with foreboding, let there be good friends at hand who know how to “weep with them that weep” as well as “rejoice with them that rejoice.” With such good friends such bitter trials are lessened, the heavy burdens are lightened, the obstacles are met and overcome.

—Augustine, Letter 130.2.4

I have said it before and I will say it again. Let God love you through his people.

The Reason for the Incarnation

There was no other reason for the birth of the Son of God save that of being able to die on the cross. The progress of the passion was accomplished in this mortal flesh, which through the ineffable purpose of God’s mercy became for us redemptive sacrifice, abolition of sin, and the ground of resurrection to eternal life.

—Leo the Great, Sermon 48.1

Love Made Manifest in the Church

Love does indeed renew the one who hears, or rather obeys, its command; but only that love which Jesus distinguished from a natural love by the qualification: “As I have loved you.” From the entire human race throughout the world this love fathers together into one body a new people, to be the bride of God’s only Son. White indeed are her garments, for she has been made new; and the source of her renewal is none other than this new commandment. And so all her members make each other’s welfare their common care. They love one another as God loves them so that they may be brothers and sisters of his only Son.

—Augustine, Treatise 65 on John

The Nature of Love

James considers it natural that a person with faith also has works. It is not a heavy and moralistic Christian duty; it is the Christian possibility and life-style—response comes with true faith. If we love God, we are to love and care for the poor and hungry too.

—Thomas Pettepiece, Visions of a World Hungry

Freedom of Prayer

In the soul’s fellowship with God in prayer, there are things which can and should be formulated in words. But there are also things for which we can find no words. [Likewise], there come times when I have nothing more to say to God [while praying]. At such times it is wonderful to say to God, “May I be in thy presence, Lord? I have nothing more to say to thee, but I do love to be in thy presence.” We can come into his presence and rest our weary souls in quiet contemplation of him. Our groanings, which cannot be uttered, rise to him and tell him better than words how dependent we are on him.

—O. Hallesby, Prayer