Advent Meditation

From Anglican Mainstream.

St. Andrew serves as a worthy saint to consider as a model in our Advent journey. In this Advent season can our words and actions, show forth the love and compassion of the incarnate Lord?  Can we consider as part of the start of each day how we can bring the incarnate God to those we meet? With each person this day that we speak with can we share the story of faith so that people feel comfortable exploring the great questions in life with us on the journey? These seem to be some of the great hallmarks of St. Andrew the Apostle.

Engage the meditation for today.

Why Read the Bible: More on Good Relationships

We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.

–1 Thessalonians 2:2-9 (NIV)

We continue to look at reasons why reading the Bible is a good idea if you are interested in living life as you were created to live it. In today’s passage, we see several lessons, of which I will mention three.

First, without saying it, notice the element of joy that runs through this passage. Yesterday we talked about God’s desire for us to live our lives with joy, about how joy is not contingent on the circumstances and the state of our relationships in our lives. Rather, joy is a blessing from God and is present in any and every circumstance when we do what he asks us to do. We see that illustrated here when Paul tells us that despite being treated outrageously in Philippi, he preached GOD’s gospel, even in the face of strong opposition (read Acts 16:19-40 for the particulars). Paul found joy in doing what God had called him to do and he was not going to let some minor things like getting beaten, flogged, thrown in prison, and threatened with death rob him of the joy he experienced in doing God’s will in his life. Notice also, that Paul’s joy was not based on the results of his work. If that were the case, Paul would have been one unhappy dude.

If you want to live your life with joy, then simply pay attention and do what the Lord asks you to do.

You see, Paul took Jesus’ advice seriously about whom to fear. He didn’t fear those who could simply kill his body but then were unable to do anything more. No, he feared the One who can kill both body and soul (Matthew 10:28). Fear should never be the basis on which to have a relationship with anyone, God included. But we need to always be cognizant of the fact that God is God and we are not, and a healthy respect for God and his omnipotent and sovereign power is a necessary ingredient in having a healthy and meaningful relationship with God.

Second, notice the transparency that undergirds Paul’s description of his work and dealing with other people. In Paul’s case, his work was preaching the Gospel, but the same principle applies to us in our own work. Paul reminds us that God wants us to be transparent in our words and actions with others. Paul tells us he did not resort to trickeration in his work, that he was not acting out of impure motives or greed. He wasn’t seeking the approval of others; instead, he was seeking only God’s approval. How freeing that would be if we only followed it! How many times do we fall victim to the slavery of public opinion or to our own base desires and get weighed down terribly as a result?

Last, notice the emphasis on self-responsibility in this passage. Paul tells the Thessalonians that even though he was entitled to their support because he was an Apostle of Christ, he refused it. Instead, Paul worked hard to support himself so that he would not be an unnecessary burden on others (sometimes the circumstances of life force us to become a burden on others, like when we become desperately sick or incapacitated, but Paul is not talking about that here). Self-responsibility goes hand-in-hand with being the free moral agents God created us to be. It is impossible to make moral (or immoral) decisions without being held accountable for those decisions and thus God expects us to take responsibility for our decisions, thoughts, speech, and behaviors because he will hold us accountable for them one day.

Here, then, are three lessons we learn about God’s will for our relationships with him and others. If you want real power for living, start by learning and practicing these lessons if you are not doing so already. You will discover joy, meaning, and purpose like you’ve never experienced before. But that’s the key. You have to try before you can experience.

A Prayer for the Feast Day of St. Andrew the Apostle

Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and  brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Dr. John Stott Opines on Scripture

Timely. Relevant. Pay attention, class.

Although it is sometimes said in Anglican circles that Scripture, tradition and reason form a ‘threefold cord’ which restrains and directs the church, and although there are not lacking those who regard these three as having equal authority, yet official pronouncements continue to uphold the primary, the supreme authority of Scripture, while accepting the important place of tradition and reason in the elucidation of Scripture.  Thus, the report on the Bible issued by the 1958 Lambeth Conference contained this heartening statement: ‘The Church is not “over” the Holy Scriptures, but “under” them, in the sense that the process of canonization was not one whereby the Church conferred authority on the books but one whereby the Church acknowledged them to possess authority.  And why?  The books were recognized as giving the witness of the Apostles to the life, teaching, death, and resurrection of the Lord and the interpretation by the Apostles of these events.  To that apostolic authority the Church must ever bow.’

Advent Meditation

From Anglican Mainstream.

The words of the Prophet Isaiah typically serve as a bellwether for our Advent journey and the section appointed in the Anglican Lectionary for today certainly serves that purpose for those of us now setting our on our Advent journey.  Like the setting of the text in the 7th Century BC, we find ourselves in circumstances not dissimilar to Isaiah’s concerns about Judah. At this point in the story the people of Judah are in distress and uneasiness with their existence.

Over the past years I have found these meditations to be quite good and so I will provide a link for you to them each day during Advent. May the Lord bless your use of them.

Engage the meditation.

Why Read the Bible: To Learn About Joy

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

–1 Thessalonians 1:4-6 (NIV)

We continue to look at what the Bible can teach us about ourselves and our relationship with God and each other. Today we look at what the NT means by “joy.” We often use joy and happiness interchangeably, but that is usually not a good idea from a biblical perspective. Happiness is contingent upon people and events. When we experience success and people treat us well, we experience happiness. But when things go south on us–we lose a job or suffer loss of any kind or people turn on us–we are robbed of happiness (if you don’t believe me, go online to the Columbus Dispatch and read the letters to the sports editor after an Ohio State football game, whether the Buckeyes win or lose).

Not so with joy. As Paul tells us here, the source of real joy is God himself living in us in the form of his promised Holy Spirit. We can experience joy (chara in the Greek, which the BDAG defines as “the experience of gladness”) in any circumstance. I have seen this most notably at Christian funerals. Last year, for example, my father-in-law died right before Christmas. This had the potential to add extra insult to injury because he died right before a major family holiday. Yes, there was sadness and and a keen sense of loss in our family, but there was also joy because we knew that Don is all right, that he is in good hands. We know that our separation from him is only for a season, not forever. That is why Paul told the Thessalonians not to grieve as those without hope grieve. Yes, we grieve for ourselves and our loss, but we do not grieve for those who have died in Christ because we know they are not lost, and this knowledge produces joy in us.

Clearly then, joy is produced in us when we develop a relationship with God. We find joy because we know God’s love for us and we have heard and believe his Gospel. Faith always seeks understanding and when the latter comes, joy accompanies it because we know we are loved and claimed forever by the Source and Author of all life. That is why our Christian joy is not contingent on circumstances and people the way our happiness is. True, we can also find joy in circumstances and people when they manifest God’s great love, mercy, and grace as when John leaped for joy in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary visited her (Luke 1:44) or the Apostles returned to Jerusalem in great joy after our Lord’s Ascension (Luke 24:52), but our Source of joy always remains with God and God does not change. That is why our joy does not change and that is why the Thessalonians welcomed the Gospel with joy, even in the face of great suffering because of it. They had God’s Holy Spirit living in them, testifying to them that they were loved and claimed forever by God through Christ and no circumstance or person could rob them of that hope and promise.

That is real power for living in a broken world where all sorts of things can go wrong and in which evil rears its ugly head all too frequently.

God intends for those whom he loves that they have joy in their lives. It is and always has been a distinctive trademark of Christians, and will more often than not turn heads and make those who do not possess it stand up and take notice, prompting them to ask what the secret is.

Do you have the joy of Christ in your life?

Happy Thanksgiving

I wish you a happy Thanksgiving today. Please take a few moments and stop to give praise and thanks to God for his bountiful blessings to us as individuals and as a nation. I am thankful for God’s gift of himself to us, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I am thankful for God’s call to ordained ministry and CANA that made it possible. I am thankful for St. Andrew’s and for my bishop, Roger Ames. I am thankful for the beauty of the Anglican Tradition and worship and for my Methodist heritage.

I am thankful for my family and friends, past and present, and for a childhood that was second to none. I am thankful for my family of origin and for the many wonderful memories I have of Thanksgiving growing up in the small town of Van Wert. What a blessing it was to have two wonderful parents and my extended family all living in the same town. I am thankful for my bride, who is the bestest wife a man could ever want. She always tries to honor our family traditions and for that I am very thankful. I am thankful for my kids and for the gift of fatherhood.

Mom basting the turkey at Thanksgiving

What are you thankful for?

From the Methodist Hymnal

Come, Ye Thankful People, Come

Come, ye thankful people, come,
raise the song of harvest home;
all is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
God our Maker doth provide
for our wants to be supplied;
come to God’s own temple, come,
raise the song of harvest home.

All the world is God’s own field,
fruit as praise to God we yield;
wheat and tares together sown
are to joy or sorrow grown;
first the blade and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear;
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be.

For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take the harvest home;
from the field shall in that day
all offenses purge away,
giving angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast;
but the fruitful ears to store
in the garner evermore.

Even so, Lord, quickly come,
bring thy final harvest home;
gather thou thy people in,
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there, forever purified,
in thy presence to abide;
come, with all thine angels, come,
raise the glorious harvest home.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A Thanksgiving Litany

Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Cal Thomas: Shopping On Thanksgiving — Is Nothing Sacred?

In recent years we have seen the first wave of the advertising onslaught around Halloween. And that has been mostly a few trees popping -up in department stores. But this year, the line between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been bulldozed. Ads for 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. sales on “Black Friday” and even 10 p.m. sales on Thanksgiving evening are the norm. And like virginity that has been violated, it will be impossible to re-draw the lines.

Read it all.

Why Read Scripture: Insights Into Our Prayer Life

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

–Luke 18:35-43 (NIV)

We continue to look at what insights reading Scripture can offer us about our relationship with God and among ourselves. Today’s passage is instructive about prayer. There is something inherently poignant about this scene. We see one who is literally in darkness reach out to Jesus to heal him, and we can relate. We may not be physically blind but each of us has our own darkness in which we sit and like the man in this story, we desperately want to be healed.

As we read the story, we are tempted to think of times we have cried out to Jesus in prayer only to have our prayer remain ostensibly unanswered and we wonder what is wrong with us. I do not know why some prayer remains unanswered while others seem to get theirs answered. What Luke makes clear to us in this passage, however, is this. God will answer prayer when the results bring him glory. We see this illustrated in the final verses of today’s passage. The man praises God and when the people saw what Jesus had done, so do they.

Therefore, before we ask God for things, we should ask ourselves if our petitions are likely to bring God glory and how it might do so. We should remember that prayer exists to bring God glory; it is not primarily for our benefit. And we must also remember that it is God who knows ultimately whether our petitions will bring glory to him and his Name.

This knowledge about prayer can change the way we pray. At minimum, it forces us to be more reflective about the nature of our praying. What are we asking for and why are we asking for it? Who will benefit most from answered prayer? Do we really want our prayers to bring glory to God or is it really about us and our needs? For example, what a difference it would make in the nature of our prayer if we asked God to help us bring him glory in the way we deal with an illness rather than to ask him first and foremost for healing of that illness. Or what a difference in the nature of our prayers if in the midst of suffering, we ask not that God remove our suffering but that he empowers us to handle our suffering in ways that will make people stop and ask how we can handle our adversity so well and with such grace.

Of course, we will not be able to pray like this unless we have a deep faith and trust in God that he really does love us and really is concerned about us as human beings.

I am not suggesting that we stop asking God for things in prayer. What today’s passage reminds us, however, is that we need to approach prayer in faith and with a proper attitude, a God-centered attitude. When we do that, we can have confidence that more often than not, God will not only hear our prayers but will be pleased to answer them because our primary desire is to please him and bring him honor and glory.