The Prayer of St. Patrick (390-461 A.D.)
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
Christ shield me today
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation. Amen.
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance (Romans 5:3 NRSV): Literal translation – Not only that but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.
Which is it - suffering or tribulation; endurance or perseverance?
Actually, they’re all one and the same thing. The key word here is patience: c. 1200 AD, from Old French pacience “patience; sufferance”, and directly from Latin patientia “the quality of suffering or enduring.” St Paul’s message is a plea for patience accompanied by a progression of its rewards, arriving at its ultimate destination – “God’s love that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit”. A story:
An anxious patient, lying on her sickbed, turned to her doctor and asked: “Doctor, how long will I have to lie here and suffer?” “Just a day at a time”, replied the wise physician.
Just a day at a time: one of life’s most wonderful philosophies! Just a day at a time we will emerge from our current restrictions and we’ll be met by new burdens, duties, hopes, and fears. As we stand today on the brink of a new chapter in our life story, which, if it brings more uncertainty than clarity, will record great changes in the history of our country, in the history of us as families, individuals, and church, let’s not be dismayed or discouraged by the overwhelming extent of its possibilities. Rather, let’s find comfort and encouragement in the fact that God delivers the future in small pieces, in fact, “just a day at a time”.
We can’t live tomorrow today. Nor can we live next week tomorrow. But, with God’s help, we can bear the burdens and the challenges that come to us today.
We have God’s assurance that each day in the future will find us equipped with the amount of strength that will be necessary to bear its load, to endure its trial, to fight its battle and persevere. We have this assurance because we have a Friend who has promised to be with us in his love and his power “to the end of the age” – Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, whose own suffering produced endurance, endurance - character, character - hope, and hope. . . God’s love. We’ll win the race of faith patiently, Dear Saints, just one day at a time.
Wednesday May 27th 2020.
My eyes are ever toward the Lord (Psalm 25:15).
I hope you’re all able to answer this question? It’s not a trick question either. What is the shortest distance between two points? Answer: A straight line. I wonder if you’ve ever tried to sail or steer a boat in a straight line (on a true course)? If you have, you’ll know that it is quite a challenge, especially at night. The important thing is to keep your eyes fixed on a point on the horizon, a land mark, or ocean marker and keep the nose (prow) of the boat pointing toward that fixed point.
“My eyes are ever toward the Lord”, says the child of God. In the merry-go-round world in which we live, there are heartaches and disappointments, frustrations and vexations, trials and temptations; yet, in the midst of it all, we steer a true line by fixing our eyes on our Lord. This way, we share every trial with him, and by doing so, our burdens become light, and our trials lose their sting.
I wonder how often during the day and the dark hours of the night are we aware that our eyes meet the gaze of our Saviour? In those moments of recognition there is hope and strength because “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. . . When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears, and rescues them from all their troubles” (Psalm 34:15,17).
Do we keep our eyes “toward the Lord”? Or do we fixate on the stormy seas that draw us down into despair, like Peter on the Sea of Galilee? We must press on, “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith , who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
In the passage above, the Christian life is likened to a running race (see also 2 Timothy 4:7;1 Corinthians 9:24,25). Notice how we are to run: by “faith” and “looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith”. In him we have both our goal and our source of strength. In the midst of the world’s distractions, steer a true course through life by fixing your eyes “ever toward the Lord.”
The Lord bless you and keep you in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.
Tuesday May 12th 2020.
Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7). When [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22 NRSV).
God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, are three different Persons of the one Godhead - Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of humanity, from the best-selling book in history, “The Holy Bible”.
Lightning McQueen: “This organic fuel is great! Why haven't I heard about it?”
Fillmore: “It's a conspiracy, man! The oil companies have got a grip on the Government! They're feeding us a bunch of lies, man!”
McQueen: “Okay, I'll take a case!”
Lightning McQueen (a flashy, red racing car) and Fillmore (a hippy, green VW Kombi van), are characters from the hit children’s movie, “Cars”.
Both scenes give rise to the notion of conspiracy. And there’s no shortage of conspiracy theories surrounding our current situation. I won’t elaborate on them; what I want to do is examine the concept of conspiracy from a biblical perspective. First, a definition.
The word “conspire” is from the Latin, conspirare, literally “to breathe together” – com “with, together” (see con-) + spirare “to breathe” (see spirit). This conveys the neutral or good sense of “to contribute jointly to a certain result”. The most profound example of this use of the word is demonstrated in the Holy Bible where God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit conspire or work together to breathe life into existence. Sadly, we rarely, if ever, consider the word in its proper or glorious use.
The bad sense or sinister meaning we usually attach to conspire is “aspire or plan maliciously, agree together to commit a criminal or reprehensible act”. This carries the baggage of plotting together, agreeing by spoken oath to commit a bad act, engenders fear and mistrust, and co-opts evil for selfish or maniacal gain, power, and control.
Whilst I am not ignorant of human beings in cahoots with sin to collaborate, manipulate, and orchestrate all manner of mischief, I am also fully aware of the folly of it all:
“The words of the Teacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What do people gain from all the toil at which they toil under the sun? A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hurries to the place where it rises. The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they continue to flow. All things are wearisome;
more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has already been, in the ages before us. The people of long ago are not remembered, nor will there be any remembrance of people yet to come by those who come after them” (Ecclesiastes 1).
Put simply, God blows raspberries at humanities’ feeble attempts to determine the course of history. But for his children who are concerned or worried about evil, the Lord provides out of his mercy and love: The Whole Armour of God.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
This is not an “if we”, “then God will”, situation. These are the gifts and promises bestowed on all Christians that they may be assured of God’s protection and peace. Jesus promises, “What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29).
Monday May 4th 2020.
In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27 NRSV).
Following the work I have done on this coming Sunday’s sermon, and the previous God moments offering, I am motivated to press home the love that God has for us, his children, and the absolute security and certainty of the Christian’s hope.
The situation that St Paul had to address in this letter was a heated dispute among Christian converts in Galatia. Some maintained that certain Old Testament rituals had to be observed (especially circumcision) before one could claim to be a Christian.
Paul campaigned vigorously against these errors, highlighting that people wishing to follow Christ are no longer bound by Old Testament ceremonies and rituals, but that we are saved by grace alone through faith in the saving work of Christ. It is in this context that he wrote: “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”
This is an extraordinary passage and one that I would encourage all Christians to study and embrace. The first part clearly states that you and I are the children of God, not by natural birth, but by faith in Jesus Christ our Saviour’s, atoning sacrifice. He took what had been rent asunder by sin, and brought us back into spiritual fellowship with God – back into the Father-child relationship of God’s family.
The second sentence declares that we have been restored to this privilege through baptism. Essentially, in the language of scripture we are told that in baptism, Jesus has removed the filthy garments of our own righteousness and has replaced them with the pure robes of his own flawless righteousness. In the New Testament, baptism is much more than a ceremony; it is a sacrament, a means of grace, a holy, divine sign of God’s acceptance. Through the divine Word that accompanies the water in baptism, our sins are “washed away” (Acts 22:16), and we are empowered to live the “sanctified” life (1 Corinthians 6:11) by the Holy Spirit working through the Word.
Always remember that we are baptised Christians, forgiven, cleansed, and sanctified (made holy) by our wonderful, gracious Redeemer, Jesus. You are special, you are loved, and your salvation is assured and protected by your baptism into Christ.
Thursday 30th April 2020.
13. For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
There’s an old legend that says that every time a sinner is converted, the angels of heaven enter his or her name in the margin of a large Bible, opposite the Bible passage which brought the individual to faith. It’s only a legend, (perhaps an amalgam inspired by Luke 15:10 and the “book of life” [Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3,13,17,20,21,22]?), but if it were true, how wide would the margins have to be to fit all the names of the redeemed opposite John chapter 3, verse 16?!
How can we ever sufficiently thank God for the ever-flowing stream of comfort and hope that permeates our lives through the divine assurance of this crowning jewel of the Bible? When we are weary from trials, assailed by doubts, when our faith reaches breaking-point beneath the burden of anxiety and distress; how often have these words of blessed assurance melted our fears like candle wax, and soothed our souls like the warmth of spring sunshine on our backs!
John 3:16 is God’s love note to you and me. In these few beautiful words, God reassures us that, no matter what happens, he is the eternal lover of our souls. In fact, his love for us is so great that he gave the most precious Gift he could, his only begotten Son, so that we may live with him in eternal joy and glory.
My recommendation to every Christian is to have this precious reminder displayed in clear sight in your homes, your workplaces, and carry it on a card or a tract on your person. Fridge magnets, posters, wall tapestries, tracts, cards, chopping boards, diaries, (a tattoo on the back of your eyelids), will provide a timely reminder that when the going gets tough, you will find peace in our blessed Redeemer’s comforting assurance.
A hint – don’t just read it; say it out loud and let the words be music to your ears, and the vibration in your chest ripple through your mind, body, and soul.
Because this is God’s promise to you, you can stake your life on it. Be blessed my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” Say it; feel it; believe it, and smile because you know it’s true!
Thursday 30th April 2020.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I (Psalm 61:2 NRSV).
There are many occasions when people have fled to the shelter of a rock for safety. Those who defended the island of Malta in 1941. Those who used the Catacombs beneath Rome for worship during times of persecution. Early Christians who sought refuge in the Cappadocian “fairy chimneys” in Turkey. The rocky Hindu Kush (Caucasus mountains) that have helped Afghans repel invasions for millennia, from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan; Soviet Russia to the Northern Alliance.
What striking illustrations of the rock to which Christians flee when the world just seems to be crumbling around them! This rock is the shelter of God’s love. Everything around us may seem to be washing away. Our feeble faith may seem to be no match for the destructive winds that seek to blow us off course. The storms of life may threaten to sink our ship.
Yet, there is a Rock! A Rock that is mightier than all our fears. A Rock that is higher than we – a Rock that is above and below the quicksand of all temporal things. This is the Rock which the psalmist clung to constantly when the foundations of his world seemed to wash away. “The LORD is my rock… in whom I take refuge.” “You are indeed my rock and my fortress.” “He alone is my rock and my salvation” (Psalm 18:2; Psalm 31:3; Psalm 62:2&6).
Too often we think of Christianity as something abstract. A set of propositions to be memorised. A list of doctrines to be debated. But at the heart of our religion and faith is a glorious reality which has concrete meaning here and now.
In the midst of a world in upheaval we have a rock! It is the rock of our Saviour’s love, mercy, unfailing guidance, and protection. Jesus is that rock which is “higher than I”. Jesus is the rock to which we cling, and he is the rock of which we sing: “Rock of ages, cleft for me, Let me hide myself in Thee” (see God’s love for Moses Exodus 33:).
Whatever may be going on in the world both around and within us, may we turn from the shallow, shifting sands of earthly wisdom, and to the rock that is higher and stronger than we – our Friend, Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, our Rock and our Redeemer. There is no foundation firmer. There is no assurance more solid. His fortress of love is impenetrable.
Wednesday 29th April 2020.
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own (Matthew 6:34 NRSV).
What will happen tomorrow? Any honest appraisal of the years that lie immediately ahead of us will undoubtedly include a large helping of ominous conjecture. The entire human family is in turmoil – economically, socially, psychologically, politically, philosophically, morally, militarily, scientifically, medically… In fact, some Christians may be wondering whether we are living in that period of upheaval described by Jesus in Luke 21:25-26 when he says that there will be distress and confusion among nations; “People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world.”
Reports abound that people are finding the pressure and uncertainty just too much for them. Their inability to cope with life is being expressed in the rise of cults and bizarre premonitions, increased alcohol consumption, drug addiction, divorce, an explosion in mental illness, domestic violence, and myriad other social problems. You might say the nations are suffering from “cosmic anxiety”.
How do we, as Christians, cope with all the pressures and uncertainty of these trying times? There’s no perfect answer – no sedative that will make all of the pressure subside. But there is a mind-set and a heart-set that enables believers to “cope”. Jesus encourages us to adopt this attitude when he says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33 KJV).
Jesus teaches us how to deal with problems in any age by encouraging us to place God, who already knows everything we need, at the centre of our lives and thinking. We should fix our hearts, minds, and eyes on him, rather than the storms which brew, whether real or imagined. Our heavenly Father is the Lord, both, of our lives and the storms which threaten us. He is all-powerful, and he will “cope”. And in his love, revealed through his beloved Son, he will see his beloved children through.
Let’s pray: Lord, in your love, help us to cope – come what may. Help us to find daily strength in your mercy and your might, relying not on ourselves but on your grace, through Jesus Christ, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
Monday 27th April 2020.
When I awake—I am still with you (Psalm 139:18 translated from the Hebrew).
On Saturday afternoon, my father returned home after one month of confinement to a hospital bed in Brisbane. My mother sent me a photograph of him and I understand why the hospital staff nicknamed my father, “The Mummy”. He is almost covered head to toe in bandages following lengthy surgery. Then on Sunday, my sister, Leanne was admitted to hospital in Alice Springs and placed in quarantine with suspected pneumonia. I pray that my brother, James is okay where he lives in Tokyo. Like other mortals, I feel a modicum of distress when I hear unsettling news.
When ill at ease, my reflex is to turn to scripture for perspective, and voila, Psalm 139 again speaks a simple, yet profound truth: When I awake—I am still with you. I have nothing to fear. Only one of two things can ever happen to me, and both are good. If I should die, I will be with Jesus. If I should live, I will be with Jesus. Either way, I will be together with Jesus.
What a thought to cherish! In good health or in sickness, in joy or sorrow, in life or death, Jesus and I will always be together. “When I awake—I am still with you”, says David. That is the comfort in every Christian trial. The night may be long and trying, sleep intermittent and feverish, body faint, heart anxious, but regardless what trials the night may bring, “when I awake, I am still with you”! And what greater comfort can there be than to be with Christ!
Even when the night of “life’s fleeting moment” is over, when the veil of eternity is lifted and the Sun of righteousness beams in all his healing brilliance - even in death, “when I awake, I am still with you”! How can we ever thank our heavenly Father for assurance so glorious?
Dear Saints, there is nothing in sickness that can harm us when through faith in Jesus, we rest eternally in the security of our Father’s hands. He is always present with us in sickness or in good health, and in the presence of God, no evil dare come near us!
We can rest assured with the conviction that Christ’s healing presence pervades every scene of life, and remains with us at the very door of death. Praise be to God in the highest heaven and in our every breath.
Saturday 18th April 2020.