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D E V OT I O N S A N D P R AY E R S

C at h e d r a l C h u r c h of the Advent ( E p i s c o pa l )


Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. PSALM 19:14


We continue to receive clarity. In some ways unsurprising, where we have been is telling us where we are headed. What we continue to discern has much less to do with change, and much more to do with an affirmation of what has brought most of us to the Advent. Lord willing, we will continue to stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us, as we move forward as a church for the sake of the gospel. The entire visioning process has been bathed in prayer. From the beginning, we have kept the humble hope in front of us, that we would prayerfully discern the Lord’s will for the Advent. I am now asking you to join me in praying with specificity and consistency. As an aid, you are holding this daily prayer and study guide. My hope is that you will join me and (hopefully) hundreds of others in being intentional about praying for the Advent, especially around the areas of Discipleship, Ministry Development, Outreach, Shepherding, Worship, and Communication. Jesus tells us that apart from him, we can do nothing (John 15:4). And so we meet him in his word, and we go to him in prayer. As faithful and talented as our congregation is, we have what we have because of Jesus. In his mercy, he uses us – broken jars of clay – to carry the gospel message forward, but only to show that the power belongs to God and not to us (2 Corinthians 4:7). Will you join with me, and pray as faithful men and women in this place have for generations? By God’s grace, may he lead us from strength to strength.

—T HE VERY REVEREND ANDREW C. PE AR SON, JR


D E V OT I O N S A N D P R AY E R S


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WEEK ONE

WORSHIP

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. ROMANS 12:1


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WEEK ONE

Sunday Whatever else Revelation is, it is a glimpse of the inexpressible reality of God—­a reality that is wholly and completely other than anything we are. He is holy. Twice in scripture, we hear that he is “holy, holy, holy”: here in Revelation, and also in Isaiah, as Isaiah glimpses the same realit y. Isaiah’s response to that glimpse? “ Woe is me!” Even partially apprehending who God is leaves us recognizing our own unworthiness. But God, being rich in mercy, comes to us, just as he went to Isaiah, telling us that we are loved. Our response is worship, and the same thing that Isaiah uttered, “Here I am.” All of our worship is witnessing to this rich, merciful grace of God.

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” R E V E L AT I O N 4 : 8

P R AY E R

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid, cleanse the thoughts of hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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WEEK ONE

Monday Worship is one of the most misunderstood words in the Bible. Many Christians think that worship is confined to Sunday mornings. It doesn’t help that we call what we do on Sundays “worship,” because it leads people to believe that it’s a special time set aside for that one activity. Worship is a word derived from old English meaning “worth-ship”: to give God his worth. Paul reminds us that spiritual worship—true worship­—is to give ourselves wholly over to God. That is, to worship God is to obey God (12:2). Worship is something that we do in all of our lives, not just on Sunday mornings. There is a church in a residential neighborhood that has limited parking. As such, many parishioners on Sunday mornings park illegally. After a number of complaints from the neighbors, the police began writing tickets for the church attenders. As one might expect, the Christians were not happy, pleading: “But officer, we were here to worship God!” Which is true worship? Using your faith as an excuse to park illegally, or loving your neighbor by not blocking their driveway? Worship is dedicating ourselves to the Lord Jesus and walking in his ways all days of our lives, for his glory.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. ROMANS 12:1

P R AY E R

Heavenly Father, we pray that we would worship you in spirit and in truth, and that all of our life might be worship. Amen.


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WEEK ONE

Tu e s d a y Most of the words we use concerning worship in the Bible either regard temple worship or heavenly worship. Otherwise, “worship words” are used figuratively. In a word, the vocabulary pertaining to temple worship is not translatable to our Sunday gatherings. One often hears talk about church being worship, our buildings being sanctuaries, and the Lord’s table being an altar. This is greatly disturbing, not least because it is so biblically wrong. All the language of temple, altar, sanctuary, service, priests, and offerings is taken up and fulfilled in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest. He is our temple, our tabernacle, our offering, and our sacrifice. Thus, our whole lives are our spiritual worship as we obey him and do his will. We do still worship in church—but only in the sense that we breathe in church. We don’t go to church to worship any more than we go to church to breathe. These ideas no doubt go somewhat against the grain. As Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne have said: “Many have sat, Sunday after Sunday, for years on end, hearing our pastor say, ‘ We welcome you today to our hour of worship.’ Yet study the Scriptures and see.”

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. HEBREWS 12:28-29

P R AY E R

O Lord, that we would worship you with our whole lives and that we might learn from your word what true worship is. Amen.


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WEEK ONE

We d n e s d a y The Old Testament understanding was that God’s presence was centrally located in the Temple. There were manifestations of God’s presence outside of the Temple, but they seem to be exceptional. Today, when we read from the Bible the invitation to “enter his courts with praise,” or about the “House of the Lord,” let’s not equate the Old Testament Temple with our church building. The presence of the Lord is found when two or three are gathered together in his name and share in the ministry of God’s word. He is not more present in a building than he is in a small group Bible study. God’s presence is to be found amongst his people, not in buildings of stone. This was the significance of the veil in the Temple being torn in two: God, now reconciled with sinners, has made his people his temple.

Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever. PSALM 100:2-5

P R AY E R

Heavenly Father, we thank you that because of Jesus you have made us like living stones being built up as a spiritual house where you dwell. We pray that you would make us aware of your presence in our lives by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that we may show forth your glory in the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


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WEEK ONE

Thursday What is it to worship? Can we say there is something called “false worship”? Jesus makes an announcement that with him comes something ver y new and ver y present: true worshipers will worship God in Spirit and Truth. What does this mean? Among whatever else, it elevates the proclamation of Jesus’ ver y present work as the mediator and advocate between us and God. If we worship from our flesh and amidst falsehood, it is not worship at all. What is it to worship? To profess and proclaim Christ. All that we do in our services of worship frees us to worship God freely all the time: that our hearts would surely be fixed to the promise of his gracious love and forgiveness of sins. All else falls away.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. JOHN 4:23-24

P R AY E R

O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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WEEK ONE

Friday From the beginning, God has provided for us as his church, renewing the Advent’s work and witness in this cit y, and far beyond. As our past belongs to the Lord, so too our f uture; for whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord. His work is completed, and so he sits and declares his renewing and always new word. As he knows our thoughts even before they are on our tongues, so too does he know the work he has given us to do. Could this be true? Do we believe this? If so, the consequences are vast: we may at once pray for the humility and confidence to remain faithful and attentive to that which he has purposed from the beginning and which he will see through to the end.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.” R E V E L AT I O N 2 1 : 5 - 6

P R AY E R

Father, watch over the Church of the Advent: guard, protect, and keep it from all harm, as you guide, encourage, and strengthen it to love and serve you with a gladness and singleness of heart. In this world, we will have trouble; yet we take heart, for you have overcome the world. Let this word dwell in us richly, as your grace keeps us humbly faithful, aroused from carelessness, and restored from beginning to end. We ask this only through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


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WEEK ONE

Saturday Apart from Jesus Christ, we cannot know God. John reminds us that Jesus is God (1:1-3). Because of the cross of Christ, we now have access to the Father where before we were separated by sin. If not for Jesus, God would be unknowable. When we gather together as God’s people, Jesus is our focus. Sometimes people have taken this to mean that when we meet on Sundays that our time is primarily vertical. That is, what we can offer Jesus. Certainly that is part of our time together, but it is also horizontal. Much of what we do on Sunday morning can be done in our own homes. (It may be the only preaching that you can agree wholeheartedly with!) What we cannot have in our homes is the fellowship we enjoy with our church family sharing in the word of God together. And we are assured that Christ makes himself known in his word, and when his people gather together in his name. A friend recently started a congregation whose “aim as a church is to know Jesus and make him known.” This is what the church is to be about: to put forth Jesus is to make God known.

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. JOHN 1:18

P R AY E R

Lord, we pray that in our Sunday gatherings we would see Jesus. That those who do not know you would come to know you as Lord and Savior, and that those who do know you would grow in grace and be dedicated to greater service in your name. Amen.


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WEEK TWO

C O M M U N I C AT I O N

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. ROMANS 10:17


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WEEK TWO

Sunday “What’s the one thing that…” It is a question asked in various ways throughout our lives. Without too much effort, it quickly goes to what lies at core of your soul. My children. A chance to do it again. Love. If I knew it would be all right. To be free from it. When we think about the one thing that recognizes what needs to be communicated fundamentally, it comes down to hearing the news that Christ died for you. Everything else merely sets up this single event of hearing this word. Paul calls it the word of Christ: the word of “Christ and him crucified,” that it is finished. Putting all the eggs in that one basket feels somehow so vulnerable and weak, as so much can crowd out the hearing. What if I miss it? I can be so easily distracted. But we remember that the word is carried by the Spirit, waking our ears to hear. God speaks and creates. That which he wants to happen will happen. He speaks and we hear. We are given the gift of faith, and so we believe and confess that Christ died for us.

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. ROMANS 10:17

P R AY E R

Lord, speak to us by your word and open the ears of our hearts to hear you. Amen.


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WEEK TWO

Monday God’s response to his people in distress (v.19) is to send out his word, being sufficient to do the work of healing and deliverance, and to instill praise in the heart of the saved. Most of us would agree that God’s word is authoritative, but do we believe that it is sufficient? When in distress and in trouble, we can acknowledge that God is in control, but would prefer something more practical, something stronger, than turning to God’s word. After all, it seems a strange thing to send God’s people his word when faced with destruction. In our own lives, are we turning to God’s primary means of communicating with us, the Bible, to avert disaster? It’s not a trick (“a Bible verse a day keeps distress away”); but it is God actively speaking words of peace into the hearts of his people. God’s love is steadfast. We can look back on our lives and give testimony to that truth – but only in hindsight. What of those times when our hearts doubt that God’s love is steadfast? We need reminding. Not just memories, but audible, legible words and songs (like this Psalm) that declare the truth of who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus.

He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! PSALM 107:20-22

P R AY E R

Almighty God, by whose spoken word all things were brought into existence, and by which all things are sustained: speak your word that we may hear and believe, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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WEEK TWO

Tu e s d a y What burns within you? What is that thing that sometimes swells and fills and overflows from a deep part of you? From the part of our hearts that has not yet heard the gospel, these are self-centered and sometimes shameful things that come forth. And yet Jeremiah shows that it sometimes goes two ways, saying that there was in his heart “a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in”—he was talking about the living word of the Lord himself, and the good news of his gospel. When you have been loved, you burn to tell about it. Pray for all at the Advent, that all would first know of the Lord’s love of them, while they are yet sinners. And then pray to have this burning word to tell others.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? ROMANS 10:14

P R AY E R

Morning by morning, Lord, you awaken my ear to hear your word, and you give me the voice to sustain with a word those who are weary: be with us, the Advent. Let us proclaim the freeing power of your gospel, that all may hear and believe; let us confess with one voice, “my Lord and my God,” through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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WEEK TWO

We d n e s d a y The prayer of David is that not only his spoken words would be acceptable to the Lord, but also the meditation of his heart. He has spent the previous verses of Psalm 19 declaring God’s clarity when he speaks, even when he doesn’t use words. In the same way, David asks that he not be double-minded, speaking one thing with his lips but another in his heart. This is a truth about our sinful selves. Knowing this, David declares his faith in the Lord, who is his rock and redeemer. Because we are all bent toward duplicity, we need One to come and save us and establish us on a sure foundation.. Being a Christian means speaking truth. A church once hung a banner outside of its front door reading, “Truth Told Here!” Knowing God allows us to know the Truth and gives us the ability to speak it. By this I mean that we are able to be honest about who we are, but moreover, honest about who God is and what he has done for us in Jesus.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. PSALM 19:14

P R AY E R

O Lord, make us speakers of your truth. May all that we say and do bring honor to your name, but also the thoughts and desires of our hearts. We ask this in the name of Jesus, who is our Rock and Redeemer. Amen.


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WEEK TWO

Thursday In the creation story, God creates day and night. It is during the day when our lives are lived and work is done, and in the night where we rest in our homes. Even in non-Christian cultures, being indoors during the day is considered eccentric, while being out and about at night is suspect. And thus, the parallels between light and darkness, salvation and sin are apt. Light also brings clarity. There was a painting in my home growing up that I saw every day, but it wasn’t until a picture-light was installed over it that I was able actually to see it. In the same way, our articulation of the gospel should be well-lit; that is, clear. The ministr y we share at the Advent should be in the light. If our witness is the least bit clouded, it risks being misunderstood and could be a disservice to the gospel. In a large church like the Advent, communication is often difficult. Recognizing this is why it is a priority. Let us pray that we strive to be as clear as we can be, not only about the person and work of Jesus Christ, but how we communicate our mission and ministry together.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. GENESIS 1:3

P R AY E R

Lord Jesus, in You there is no darkness at all; the day and the night are both alike. We pray that as your people, we would dwell with you in that light and clearly proclaim your gospel to a world in darkness. Amen.


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WEEK TWO

Friday As we behold the way God communicates with us—his speaking and our hearing—we are struck by his strength, power, and authority. He creates and sustains all things, willing things into being by his words. And as he speaks his word of gospel, he speaks life, restoration, reconciliation and all else besides. He speaks salvation itself—Christ died for you because he loves you. He speaks the church itself into existence: his bride, whom he loves. His church—even our church, the Advent—is itself a creature of his creative word of the gospel. The old phrase for this is creatura evangelii. We are here by his Word, and so we shall remain: as a branch remains in the vine, by the Lord’s grace, so shall the Advent remain and be upheld by the word of his power: a witness of his love for sinners and sufferers.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. HEBREWS 1:3

P R AY E R

O Lord, you are the vine and we are the branches; apart from you we can do nothing. Uphold and sustain us as your church, providing life and light to each of us, even as we go forth into the world by the power of your Spirit. Give to each us the courage to believe, and the comfort to hope, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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WEEK TWO

Saturday Where do you go when you need something certain? When life throws the curve ball and puts you off-balance, where do you go? We all have things in life that leave us groping in the dark for something—anything—that is sure, certain, familiar. Where do you go, and to whom do you turn? Do you try to remember some advice from your mother? Do you turn to an old family saying? Google or Facebook? Whatever it is, in those moments, you are seeking something much more than mere information. At our core, we are seeking certainty and an assurance that things are going to be okay. The Bible makes tremendous claims about itself: it is a living and active word that does its work on us in its own way. We are grateful that its final word and work on us is a gracious one, giving certain comfort to the timid and fearful: let us indeed “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the certain and sure hope we have as an anchor for our souls.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. HEBREWS 4:12

P R AY E R

Blessed Lord, which hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; grant us that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them; that by patience and comfort of thy holy word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


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WEEK THREE

SHEPHERDING

I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord. JEREMIAH 23:4


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WEEK THREE

Sunday Paul speaks to the pastors of the Ephesian church before he heads to Jerusalem, and they don’t expect to see him again (20:38). Be deliberate about your pastoring, he tells them. What does it mean to pastor? God’s plan for the church is to have pastors (sometimes called elders, other times overseers, but used interchangeably) to oversee congregations. Pastor is a funny word. It means shepherd, but because of how we translate that word into English, pastor has stuck in our vocabulary. Worse yet, when we talk about being pastoral, most people think of pastoral care. Pastoral care is part of pastoring, but only part. Shepherds look after flocks. A shepherd with one sheep is not much of a shepherd. So to pastor means to pastor a congregation, not individuals. Of course, there is a place for one-on-one work, but a pastor is never more pastoral than when he is preaching. That is the occasion when the flock is gathered together and directed and guided by the pastor. To pay attention to the flock is to pastor all of them through the ministry of the word.

Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. ACTS 20:28

P R AY E R

O God, who didst lead thy holy apostles to ordain ministers in every place: Grant that thy Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, may choose suitable persons for the ministry of Word and Sacrament, and may uphold them in their work for the extension of thy kingdom; through him who is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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WEEK THREE

Monday We can be excused from thinking that our ears are the only ears that we have. What if we stretched a metaphor to say that the new hearts that we receive from hearing the gospel have ears? What if our new hearts hear the words from Romans 12, and—well—take those words to heart? What if new affections are stirred, with a desire to give that which we ourselves have received? What if the things which our new hearts love are the very things loved by God? What if that love fueled a new way of seeing and hearing things, and our behavior started to change? What if all of this happened because our new hearts were stirred?

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. ROMANS 12:9-13

P R AY E R

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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WEEK THREE

Tu e s d a y Shepherds of the Lord’s flock are marked by their humility, prompting Peter to plead that each of us clothe ourselves with humility toward one another. Strangely, shepherds of the Lord’s flock are at the same time themselves sheep. Knowing that is part of what keeps shepherds humble: as we are led by the Good Shepherd, from that leading we humbly lead others. Where are we to lead the Lord’s flock? How are we to shepherd the flock of God among us? Among other things, by sharing the grace we have been given as sinners and sufferers with others. Always and in a significant way, the church as the flock of God exists for sheep who are not yet a part of it. Why? That question is answered with a question. How could we not? In gratitude for that which we’ve been given, we give of that which is not our possession anyway. As someone once said: he is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.

Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly. I PETER 5:2

P R AY E R

Gracious Lord, we beseech thee: give ear to our prayers, and by thy grace, open the eyes of our hearts, that we may know the hope to which we are called, and the riches of the glorious inheritance of your saints, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


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WEEK THREE

We d n e s d a y God promises to provide for his people. Faithless and wandering we may be; faithful, certain, and true He is. Like sheep with our heads down, we wander mindlessly to the next tuft of grass. Our moving away from the Shepherd so often lacks signposts or great fanfare. We may or may not look up to see that we are now in a foreign place, far away from the Lord and the rest of his flock. But God promises to provide for His people. The Lord will provide shepherds after His own heart, shepherds who will feed and care for his flock. Shepherds who will pray; who will provide comfort and encouragement; who will welcome sheep back to the fold; who will guide, protect, and lead the flock to green pastures. God promises to provide for his people.

And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. JEREMIAH 3:15

P R AY E R

O God, whose Son Jesus is the Good Shepherd of thy people: grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calleth us each by name, and follow where he doth lead; who, with thee and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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WEEK THREE

Thursday Jeremiah writes in the context of God’s people being under bad shepherds. Biblically speaking, the root of the word shepherd is related to ruling: to shepherd is to rule. Though God here is speaking of bad kings, the principles are soundly applied to pastors as well. A shepherd’s job is to care for his sheep that they might live in peace. Sheep can sleep at night because they know the shepherd looks after them. If they wander off, he finds them. When hungry, he leads them to graze. If the shepherd is not doing these things, he’s a bad shepherd. He is not marked by his status or staff, but by his work. How can you tell someone is a shepherd? By seeing how he cares for his sheep. A person may look like a pastor, with a title and robes, but is that enough? No—pastors are marked by their work. Bad shepherding and pastoring are disastrous. The flock is scattered, the sheep starve, they are devoured by wolves. The mark of a good pastor? He feeds and tends his flock with the word of God. He is faithful and diligent in his duties; you can identify him by what he is doing.

I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the Lord. JEREMIAH 23:4

P R AY E R

O God, whose Son Jesus is the Good Shepherd of thy people; grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calleth us each by name, and follow where he doth lead. Amen.


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WEEK THREE

Friday “The Lord is my shepherd.” Probably all of us know this opening from Psalm 23. In it is carried the hopeful promise that the Lord is for me, and not just with me. A shepherd sees himself as existing for his sheep, laying down his own preferences for another and making sure the sheep are okay. Sheep are needy animals. They cannot make it on their own. The Lord promises to tend his church as a shepherd—gathering, carrying, and leading. The remarkable fact is that some of us have been given the privilege of being a part of that promise as well.

He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. ISAIAH 40:11

P R AY E R

Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep; no one takes your life from you, but you lay it down of your own accord, so that those under your care may live. Open the eyes of your church to see the needs of others, that we might welcome new sheep into your fold, care for those who are hurting, and restore those who are lost. We are each a sinner of your own redeeming and a lamb of your own flock: hear our prayer, asked only through you. Amen.


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WEEK THREE

Saturday I once saw a sheep farmer pull his truck up to a sheep pen. As soon as they saw the truck, they ran to the trough. The appearance of the shepherd meant that they were to be fed. And he fed them. What if the farmer decided to mend the fence instead? Not only would the sheep have been disappointed, but if other activities occupied him, they might starve. They could possibly graze on some grass throughout the day, but eventually would find themselves malnourished. The same is true of pastors who do not feed their sheep with spiritual food: the preached word and the visible word of the Lord’s Supper. Unfortunately, there are a number of malnourished—even starving—Christians in churches today. Either the shepherd has abdicated his responsibility, or is feeding the sheep a diet of junk. Jesus says to Peter, upon whose confession the church is built, to feed his sheep. And so that is what pastors do: they feed the sheep. For when they are on a steady and rich diet of God’s word, the sheep will run to feed when they see the pastor coming.

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” JOHN 21:17

P R AY E R

O Lord, we pray that those whom you have appointed as pastors would feed your sheep, not with food of their own making, but that which comes from you. Amen.


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WEEK FOUR

OUTREACH

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. JOHN 13:34-35


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WEEK FOUR

Sunday How many songs, how many movies, how many books and stories deal with love? As each of us survey the landscapes of our lives, how much of the topography features love? As we age, how much of our mind and heart is occupied by love and its aches? The whole of the world seems so often to run on the axis of love—not in a saccharine, greeting-card sort of way, but as something that stops everything else. What is the only thing that can stop fear, shame, loneliness, meaningless, or a sense of powerlessness? In a word—love. The Bible makes bold, stark, and unmistakable claims: we love only because we are first loved. You love someone only because someone in your past loved you. We love our children so that they may one day love their children. We love only because God has loved us first. Love is at the center of the gospel: God showed his love in this, that while we were yet sinning, he died for us. We are loved by God not because we are lovely. We are loved into a loveliness by the love of God. And so we love.

We love because he first loved us. I JOHN 4:19

P R AY E R

O God, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee: mercifully grant that thy Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


33

WEEK FOUR

Monday A great line from the hymn Praise My Soul the King of Heaven says Jesus is “slow to chide and swift to bless.” May the church be marked by this biblical truth. All too often, the propensity of the church is to condemn—the opposite of what Jesus came to do. The church’s primary mission is not behavioral modification, or to diagnose all that is wrong with the world. The church is about lifting up Jesus who came into the world in order that we might be saved by his death and resurrection. The world does a good job on its own condemning people; the church should be a refuge for the condemned. Jesus does not differentiate between sinners, nor should we prefer certain kinds of sinners in our church. No—the church is in the business of seeing people saved, not condemned. Praise the Father for sending his Son into the world in order that sinners like us, condemned and dying, might be raised to new life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. JOHN 3:17

P R AY E R

O God of all the nations of the earth: remember the multitudes who have been created in thine image but have not known the redeeming work of our Savior Jesus Christ; and grant that, by the prayers and labors of thy holy Church, they may be brought to know and worship thee as thou hast been revealed in thy Son; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


34

WEEK FOUR

Tu e s d a y How do you identify a Christian? By a fish on their car or a cross around their neck? No, they are identified by love. But what does it look like to love other believers? In Exodus, we are told an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (21:24). In Luke, we hear the golden rule: “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (6:31) But here in John, Jesus gives us the platinum rule. Those other rules may work in society, but even the golden rule—at some level—is self-centered. Let’s say you really like receiving hugs. Following the golden rule, you should give out hugs indiscriminately. Now, it may come as a surprise that some don’t like receiving hugs. So what does it look like to love others? It looks like the love that Jesus has for us. He loved us so much that he was willing to lay down his life for us. Our love for one another is to be marked by sacrifice. In a word, we as believers ought to relate to one another as family. As Jesus loved us without any expectation of reciprocation, so we ought to love one another.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. JOHN 13:34-35

P R AY E R

Jesus, loving others is hard. By the power of your Holy Spirit, make me more and more like you. Amen.


35

WEEK FOUR

We d n e s d a y It seems so simple. Love your neighbor. Put their interests first. Think about other people more and about yourself less. Do the right thing. Just do the right thing. It seems so simple. Why does it sometimes get so difficult then? I want to want to love my neighbor as myself, but I do not see myself doing what I wish I would do, at least with any consistency. (And even when I do, I start to question my own motives …) And who is my neighbor? I sometimes am not sure which is easier: to be loving towards those with whom I live, towards complete strangers, or to those “less fortunate” than me. So what am I to do? In the midst of this conundrum, believe in Christ all the more. Would you be having the conundrum if you did not already know what to do? Would you be having the conundrum if the Lord did not place that within you? Most of the time, you already have an idea of what it would be concretely for you to love your neighbor as yourself. Who and what do you have in mind? As you pray, what’s next?

And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. M AT T H E W 2 2 : 3 9

P R AY E R

Lord, we ask you mercifully to receive the prayers of your people which call upon you: grant that we may both perceive and know what things we ought to do, and also to have the grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same, through Jesus Christ. Amen.


36

WEEK FOUR

Thursday Let’s highlight three things Jesus says. Go. This requires followers of Jesus to go out. The current model of most churches is to put on programs that might attract people into their fellowship. This is not all bad, but it does mean that those you attract are likely to already be Christians. The command is to go, not wait for the nations to come to you. And Jesus promises to be with us when we go. Make disciples. All Christians are disciples of Jesus, that is, followers and students of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t say “make converts,” but commissions us not only to evangelize, but also to help build up new believers in their faith and to continue the lifelong work of teaching all that he has commanded. Baptize new converts and then disciple them by spending time in God’s word with them. All nations. The gospel is for everyone. Christianity is the only global religion. Other religions have spread through migration, but the diversity of Christian believers as a result of this Great Commission has produced a truly global church. Does our church reflect this truth?

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. M AT T H E W 2 8 : 1 9 - 2 0

P R AY E R

Lord Jesus, you give us this Great Commission; it is overwhelming, but you promise that you are greater and will be with us. We pray that you give us the courage to go out and that, by your Holy Spirit, we might make disciples of all nations. Amen.


37

WEEK FOUR

Friday The Christian faith calls a thing what it is. And often, determining what is good and what is evil is not as hard as we think. We know what is good because “he has told you.” The problem comes when our own hearts begin to cloud the word of God. We look for loopholes or worse yet, we find a bit of Scripture to defend our position, setting it against the vast witness of the Bible. It is easy for us to pray, “Lord let there be justice, but if there be injustice, let it be in my favor!” We like justice when it works for us, but we know that if justice were to be served, who could stand? To do justice here is not going around and making sure ever yone gets what they deserve (God will sort that out), but by showing mercy. This is what the gospel is all about. Jesus, in the name of justice, could have said, “they don’t deserve salvation,” remained in heaven, and left us to our rightful punishment. Instead, he took upon himself what justice demanded by dying for us, showing us mercy. May we understand justice through the lens of the cross of Christ.

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? MICAH 6:8

P R AY E R

Almighty God: Grant us grace fearlessly to contend against evil and to make no peace with oppression; and, that we may use our freedom, in the maintenance of justice, by showing mercy to others, especially those who do not deserve it. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


38

WEEK FOUR

Saturday God cares about cities because God cares about people. As God moves among people, we find people moving into cities: more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities, and that trend will only continue. God cares about cities and about Birmingham. As a church, as the Lord speaks to us about Birmingham, we want to respond to his word and pray to the Lord on its behalf, seeking its welfare. We have been in the city of Birmingham since its founding: how will the Lord continue to use us for the welfare of the city?

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. JEREMIAH 29:4-7

P R AY E R

Thou only art holy; thou only art the Lord; thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father. Hear the prayers of your people, offered through the merits and mediation of your Son our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.


39

WEEK FIVE

DISCIPLESHIP

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. EPHESIANS 4:11-12


40

WEEK FIVE

Sunday What does it mean to be a disciple? Most would say it has to do with being a pupil, learner, or student—even noting the shared root with the word “discipline” as it relates to instruction. And surely these are right, inasmuch as they say what they say. Apprentices of a master are that master’s disciples. They have the discipline of being instructed by the master, humbly learning as pupils and students. And yet, all this seems somehow lacking when we think of being a disciple of the Lord. Mere pupils? Does being a disciple just mean exercising discipline in order to learn his pattern of instruction? Christian discipleship always involves hearing. Discipleship is “hearing-ship.” There is something about the Lord’s words: when heard, disciples are made. The proclamation, “Hear!”: it is as if the ear awakens to the voice of its creator, just as the waves and winds once obeyed the same voice (“Peace! Be still!”). More than instruction, discipleship is hearing. While information and learning are interesting, the hearing involved in discipleship is more than information. Transformation and changed lives, maybe?

Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one. DEUTERONOMY 6:4

P R AY E R

Lord, we beseech thee to keep this your Church and household continually beneath thy grace; that we will lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace, and may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Christ our Lord. Amen.


41

WEEK FIVE

Monday Paul writes with the conviction that God has given all Christians gifts and that they are to be used. The giftedness is not in question, but whether they are used or not is. But note first that the gifts are a result of the “grace given to us.” God, in his mercy, has shown you grace in and through Jesus Christ. Part of God’s grace to his people is that he has given them gifts in order that the gospel might go out. This is done in a variety of ways, but primarily through the verbal proclamation of the gospel. We all feel the reticence to exercise our gifts for the glory of God; in fact, we are much more comfortable exercising them for our own glory. We delight in telling of our own accomplishments, but too often hesitate to talk about what Christ accomplished on the cross. Gifts are meant to be used to glorify the Lord Jesus. And we do that by proclaiming the gospel.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them. ROMANS 12:6

P R AY E R

Sovereign God, thy cause, not my own, engages my heart, and I appeal to thee with greatest freedom to set up thy kingdom in every place where Satan reigns; glorify thyself and I shall rejoice, for to bring honor to thy name is my sole desire. I adore thee that thou art God, and long that others should know it, feel it, and rejoice in it. O that all men might love and praise thee, that thou mightest have all the glory from the intelligent world! Amen. (Arthur Barnett, in The Valley of Vision)


42

WEEK FIVE

Tu e s d a y Here the ordained pastor is given his marching orders. He is to sink himself into equipping those God has given him to love as their shepherd to do the work of ministry. This is counter to the prevailing idea of ministry in many churches. Since the mid-20th century, ministry has become the exclusive domain of those who have been professionally trained, and most parishioners are content with the arrangement. This is a far cry from the biblical model. God has not raised up chaplains, but those who are to be trained in how to handle the word of God and to train up others in handling the word of God. The work of the ministry is not done by the pastors, but by all believers. We mustn’t say, “That’s the pastor’s job,” or “I’m not qualified.” If we do, the blame must be laid at the feet of the pastor who has not done what God has called them to do. The work of the ministry is for the people of God in order that the body of Christ might be built up.

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. EPHESIANS 4:11-12

P R AY E R

Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of thy faithful people is governed and sanctified: receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all members of thy holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve thee; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


43

WEEK FIVE

We d n e s d a y There is an urgency in the callings of the first disciples. The Lord speaks and is heard; immediately, they leave and follow. What happened to that urgent immediacy? Why don’t we experience that same effect today? To be sure, many do. Around the world, each day the word speaks and does its work, bringing immediate and sudden change. The proclamation of the freeing power of the gospel creates a transformed life that begins to make disciples in the places where God has placed that person. For many of us, however, we are like someone who—after looking in the mirror—walks away, forgetting what we look like. There seems to be no impetus, no catalyst, no urgency for change. Perhaps the Spirit will simply work his work as you read his word, and create the same response of the disciples: you may immediately leave your nets and follow. For others, it may be only after you realize that the stranger rode through town and saved you from danger that you look up and ask, “Who was that masked man?” And then you begin to hear.

And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. M AT T H E W 4 : 1 9 - 2 0

P R AY E R

O Lord, speak to your servants and to your church, speak so that we may hear. Speak and call us in such a way that we might hear and follow, going to the places where God has placed us, responding to the grace we have been given by doing that which he has given us to do, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


44

WEEK FIVE

Thursday A tiny backwater village, Nazareth was a place of no consequence, without any expectation that anyone from there would amount to anything. To award someone from there as “least likely to succeed” does not go far enough: they would be viewed derisively and with contempt by anyone with any standing. And such is the lineage of the Lord. That God works from hidden, offensive, and even scandalous places is not to be missed. Paul calls the cross—the place where God works his work finally, fully, and completely—folly to the Gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews. God works through opposites, bringing life from death, strength from weakness, and light from dark. For those among us who think they could never pass the muster of being a disciple, as if discipleship is advanced Christianity and only for people who are “serious,” remember this: the Lord came from Nazareth, God-made-flesh and born of a virgin. And then the same Lord who was present as the Word even before there was a beginning was killed on a cross for our redemption. There is no thing more surprising or unexpected that that. Come and see.

Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” JOHN 1:46

P R AY E R

Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation. You hate nothing that you have made, and will not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should be converted and live: have mercy on us, at once calling us and giving us courage to follow, for Christ’s sake. Amen.


45

WEEK FIVE

Friday What a wonderful declaration of belief ! After the resurrection, Jesus had appeared to the other disciples, but not to Thomas. The others told him, “We have seen the Lord!” but Thomas responded that unless he not only saw Jesus but actually touched him, he would never believe. Jesus answers his challenge by appearing before him and inviting him to reach out and touch him. Jesus issues an exhortation: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Jesus is speaking of those of us who come to him by faith through the preaching of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sight is not a prerequisite for belief; the Holy Spirit prepares our hearts for the word to do its work. And then like Thomas, it becomes personal, our story. Each of Christ’s own come to know him as “My Lord and my God.” The Lord does not ransom a faceless group of people, but you and countless others that he calls by name.

Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ JOHN 20:28

P R AY E R

Lord, I thank you that I may believe without seeing. I thank you because you have let me see so much. How many times have you not met me in your word? I have been able to see your image, and I have heard your voice. My eyes have seen your salvation, but more than all this is your promise that I may believe without seeing. I don’t need to know of experience or ask for proof. You allow me to trust in you alone. You guarantee that this is the truth. However poor I may be, I still have you. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Amen. (from To Live with Christ, Bo Giertz)


46

WEEK FIVE

Saturday Before arriving at verse 16, Paul tells us to “put on…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another …[and] forgiving each other.” Above all of this, he says to put on love. This is a tall order, especially in light of what comes naturally to us (see 3:8-10). How does this happen? First, we “let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts” (3:15). That is, we allow Jesus to come and sit on the throne of our lives. When Jesus rules our lives, there is peace. Paul then says, in addition to being in that relationship to Jesus as Lord and Savior, to let the word of Christ dwell in us. Spending time dwelling in the Bible has a transformative effect. By the power of the Holy Spirit, God speaks to us through his word and does a work on our hearts. It should also be noted that this time in God’s word is not simply personal, but corporate. This is a ministry that is shared with other believers. We should gossip the gospel together.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. COLOSSIANS 3:16

P R AY E R

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


47

WEEK SIX

MINISTRY DEVELOPMENT

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” ROMANS 10:14-15


48

WEEK SIX

Sunday No one is ever too far gone. There are no degrees of being lost. We see in the life of Paul (and if we are honest, our own lives) that God’s arm is never too short to save. We know not the time or the means by which God will call his own to himself, but we can be assured that he uses us. God, in his mercy, has commissioned us to be his laborers. By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are able to be more than conquerors, for we know who it is that goes before us. The Holy Spirit plows up hard hearts so that we might gratuitously sow the seeds of the gospel near and far. We make a mistake if we get into the business of judging the soil of the heart. For remember: we each are one of those who were once far off and have been bought with a price, and made a child of God. If Jesus can save you or me, he can save anyone.

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. I TIMOTHY 1:15-16

P R AY E R

Heavenly Father, we pray for those who never think of you, who cannot pray for themselves for they are spiritually dead. We pray that you would burden our hearts to pray for the lost, for you alone can bring them back. Amen.


49

WEEK SIX

Monday Not everyone is called to full-time ministry, or what is sometimes called “vocational ministry”—but it is likely that some of us who are reading this are. But each and all of us are called to ministry. The default mode for all of us is a green light. All of us are called to go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. The world is in dying decay, and needs the word of life and light. People in your sphere need this life and love. You and I need this word. All who are given the gift of faith are also given other gifts to serve the body: prayer, discipling, hospitality, evangelism, service, teaching, and more. Some are called to serve the Lord and his church full-time. By the Lord’s grace, we will continue to discern this call among parts of our own parish. We will also come alongside others beyond our own body, to support and encourage their ministry to proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. This is the succession of the apostolic witness of the gospel from generation to generation.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” MARK 16:15

P R AY E R

May the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God, and of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.


50

WEEK SIX

Tu e s d a y Scripture is not static. There is a dynamism that is always present, often at several levels. There is the promise of a personal power that each of us receive, as the gospel is the power of God unleashed for our salvation. There is also the power given as the Spirit himself comes upon us. It is a power that reorders and reorients, stirring each of us to love the things which God himself loves. But there is also the dynamism that never leaves us within our own borders. There is a constant flow outward. From a central hub of our new hearts, the power is a centrifugal power, always moving outward. This is why we see the church being at the same time our parish family as well as our brothers and sisters in other parts of Birmingham, Alabama, the United States, North America, Europe, South America, Australia, Asia, and Africa. The gospel and the Spirit give courage and power for our church in Birmingham, as well as for part in the wider body of Christendom.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. ACTS 1:8

P R AY E R

Almighty God, raise up laborers to tend to your vineyard, shepherds to pastor your flock, and ministers to proclaim your gospel. Give us the grace to discern our own gifts, as well as to come alongside others among us who are called to serve you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


51

WEEK SIX

We d n e s d a y How are they to preach unless they are sent? This a good question for us to pray through together, recognizing the vitality of proclaiming the gospel and its freedom to those who struggle from guilt or sin’s power. How are they to preach unless they are sent? Preachers (which includes you and me—we who proclaim the news that Christ died for sinners and sufferers) are sent by God, and are a part of a body of believers. They are real people who come with a real message of salvation from God. Their feet are beautiful, as they carry the messenger to the ends of the earth, so that the message can be spoken and land on the ear, bringing forth faith. What does this mean for you and me? Two things. First, we as the Advent are called to identify and equip those whose particular gifts may one day include full-time, vocational ministry. Some from among us are almost certainly being called, even now. Second, we are all among those called to proclaim Christ and his salvation. So many around us thirst—the pulpit is not the only place we can share the news of the one who himself is the Living Water.

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” ROMANS 10:15

P R AY E R

Almighty God and eternal Father, who governs all things in heaven and on earth: mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and grant us thy grace to hear you, through Christ our Lord. Amen.


52

WEEK SIX

Thursday What is the work to which the Holy Spirit has called Saul and Barnabas? It is the work of an itinerant evangelist throughout the Mediterranean world. They would go from place to place, and, by God’s grace, establish a church through their preaching ministry. Christians rightly get excited about these missionary endeavors, but we forget the cost. Think of the church in Antioch: God is asking them to release their best and brightest to go out. No doubt, some met this prompting of God with stiff resistance. The Kingdom-mindedness that is seen here in Acts is far removed from most churches today. Rather than realizing that releasing our best and brightest would result in more people hearing the gospel, we hold on to them tightly. Things were going well in Antioch, and that is why God intervened. Antioch could have remained thriving but at the expense of the world. To whom much is given, much is required (Luke 12:48).

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. ACTS 13:2-3

P R AY E R

Almighty and everlasting God, we thank you for thy servants, whom thou didst call to preach the gospel to those who are lost. Raise up, we beseech thee, in this and every land evangelists and heralds of thy kingdom, that thy Church may proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior Jesus Christ; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


53

WEEK SIX

Friday We have made a mistake in determining who should be involved in the work of ministry. When identifying laborers for the vineyard, we should look for conviction, character, and competency. Most look for only the last! God is not looking for the strongest, but the one whose knowledge of him shapes those traits listed above. In fact, he uses what is weak in order that he might be glorified. Regardless of how we serve, is our ministry marked by our weakness? Do we understand that spiritually, we walk with a limp? The ministry given to us is not our ministry; it is not a way for us to be involved in the church. Everything we do should point to Jesus who died for us. If our ministries point to ourselves or are an impediment to seeing Jesus, then we mistake ourselves for being strong. Are we embracing the person and work of Jesus Christ and the sure testimony of the Bible? Are our lives a reflection of these gospel convictions? And last and least, do we have the abilities to undertake the ministry given to us? Without conviction and character, competency is for naught.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. ‌God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ROMANS 5:6, 8

P R AY E R

Almighty God, who willest to be glorified in thy saints to be a light in the world; shine in our hearts, that we may show forth thy praise, who hast called us out of darkness vinto thy marvelous light; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


54

WEEK SIX

Saturday What is the only basis for any confidence we have? Why would we presume to say that we are a church with a living, daring confidence in God’s grace through the gospel of Jesus Christ? The last part is significant: through the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are emboldened to stand confidently. There is no part of you or I in this economy; it is not in self-confidence that we stand, but in Christ-confidence. It really is not about us. We have been crucified with Christ, so it is no longer about you or me, but about Christ alone, who loved me and gave himself for me. What is the one thing we know, and which we can proclaim to others? Christ Jesus, and that he died for us so that we may live. This is the same old story that the world needs to hear. By the Lord’s grace, it is the story we will carry out as emissaries, ambassadors, and messengers.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I CORINTHIANS 2:1-2

P R AY E R

Almighty God: we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves. Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ. Amen.


I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. JOHN 15:5


SOLI DEO GLORIA


ADVENTBIRMINGHAM.ORG

Profile for Cathedral Church of the Advent

Cathedral Church of the Advent Devotions Book  

Part of a series of publications for Cathedral Church of the Advent Visioning Plan.

Cathedral Church of the Advent Devotions Book  

Part of a series of publications for Cathedral Church of the Advent Visioning Plan.

Profile for theadvent
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