Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

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I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

HT: 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, A Man of Conscience by Malcolm Muggeridge

This piece from Plough is  excerpted from the book A Third Testament, and is based on a 1974 CBC television series by the same name.

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer photograph National German Archive

 

An excerpt:

It is an awesome thought that the eighteen months or so that Bonhoeffer spent as a prisoner in Tegel Prison was spiritually the richest, and intellectually and artistically the most fertile, period of his life. All his circumstances prior to his imprisonment were conducive to him becoming a useful and enlightened citizen. Indeed, he had already become a pillar of the Confessional Church – a teacher, preacher and scholar of growing renown, inside Germany and abroad. All this (and I do not mean it disparagingly at all) was to be expected from so honorable and honest a product of a God-fearing, cultivated, upper-middle-class home.

In his cell, however, the theologian became a mystic, the pastor became a martyr, and the teacher produced, in his Letters and Papers from Prison, one of the great contemporary classics of Christian literature. It is very difficult indeed for a twentieth-century mind to accept, or even grasp, the notion of the blessedness of affliction. Bonhoeffer provides us with a perfect object lesson. His greatness grew directly out of his affliction, and through the very hopelessness of his earthly state, he was able to generate hope at a dark moment in history, when it was most sorely needed, comforting and heartening many.

When Bonhoeffer heard in prison that the plot of July 1944 had failed, he realized that Hitler, having miraculously survived the assassination attempt, would be merciless in liquidating the conspirators. Now he knew that, in human terms, their cause was lost. God had overruled their earthly purpose, and nothing remained for him but to come to terms, once and for all, with the Cross. In the plot’s failure lay his triumph, as in losing his life he would gain it. This is beautifully conveyed in his last writings in prison.

I have never regretted my decision in the summer of 1939 to return to Germany, for I’m firmly convinced – however strange it may seem – that my life has followed a straight and unbroken course, at any rate in its outward conduct. It has been an uninterrupted enrichment of experience, for which I can only be thankful. If I were to end my life here in these conditions, that would have a meaning that I think I could understand.

Do click here to read this classic piece on Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The Spread of the Gospel!

How far did the Church spread in the first century? Who took the Gospel to Ukraine in the AD 60s? Ethiopia in the 4th century? China in the 7th century? Greenland in the 11th century? What was happening with Christianity in the 300s? 600s? 900s? The Spread of the Gospel Map is a powerful visual depiction of the most important movement in history: the spread of Christianity. Charting the geographic progress of the Gospel over the last 2,000 years, this map shows the missionary journeys of the apostles, the outposts of the early church, the hotbeds of persecution, the staging grounds of the Church’s major theological battles, and more. Be reminded of the power of the Gospel to transform “every nation and tribe and language and people,” and be inspired by the legacies of the brave brothers and sisters who faithfully carried the Gospel of Christ to the farthest ends of the earth. Go here to learn more about it.

The Good Lie: Free Materials for this Heartwarming Film

Culture watch team Damaris are offering free official community resources for The Good Lie. This engaging and heartwarming film, starring Academy Award winner Reese Witherspoon, reflects the real-life stories of the “Lost Boys” of Sudan’s 1983 civil war, their challenges to integrate with Western culture, and how their beliefs and values encourage others to find a wider understanding of family and community.

This film, and the true events on which it is based, are deeply moving. Sudan’s civil war displaced 20,000 children who were forced to run from their homes, walk hundreds of miles in search of refuge and then wait indefinitely for resettlement.

The Good Lie
uses an authentic approach, featuring a cast including real-life Lost Boys and their children, and former child soldiers. It is a hopeful and engaging film which encourages us to think about how to deal with differences in cultures, and what “family” and “community” really mean in this globally connected world.

Damaris’ free resources encourage discussion about these important issues and provide a wonderful means to get the most out of a group viewing. (Film now available on DVD in USA, releasing in UK 24 April.)

Sign up for information like this from Internet Evangelism Day.

With 1.5 billion English speakers – the need for simple English

English is unique in being a world language. In a review of new book What is English? And Why Should We Care? (Tim William Machan, OUP), London Times columnist Oliver Kamm writes:

…debates over the nature and purpose of English are longstanding. It’s not only the language but its speakers who are different from the past. In the middle of the past century, about 400 million people spoke English. The total is now 1.5 billion, while the proportion of them living in Britain, North America and Australasia has declined. There is no historical parallel for this growth in English usage and the shift in the language’s center of gravity.”

That’s over 20% of the world’s population who can speak English to some degree. And since English is the language of the Internet, much higher education, and the majority of websites, there is a big incentive for young people in every nation to learn it. With only about 360 million people as first-language speakers, 75% of the 1.5 million are using it as a second language.

Of course, in an ideal world, there would be adequate Christian resources, online and offline, in the heart language of everyone. But failing that, we should be making our evangelistic and discipleship resources as accessible as possible to all second-language English speakers. How?

Read more: http://www.internetevangelismday.com/blog/archives/11463#ixzz3Ufym6Vl5
at Internet Evangelism Day
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

The Gift at Christmas: Christ and the Gospel in Luther’s Church Postils

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Here is one of my more  recent essays on Christmas. I wrote this for the Institute of Lutheran Theology’s Word at Work magazine:

 The Gift at Christmas: Christ and the Gospel in Luther’s Church Postils

Now it is evident that the Gospel teaches nothing but the foregoing two things, Christ and his example and two kinds of good works, the one belonging to Christ by which we are saved through faith, the other belonging to us by which our neighbor receives help. Whosoever therefore teaches any thing different from the Gospel leads people astray; and whosoever does not teach the Gospel in these two parts leads people all the more astray and is worse than the former who teaches without the Gospel, because he abuses and corrupts God’s Word. –Martin Luther, Church Postil for Christmas Day, Luke 2:1-14

“For unto you this day is born a Savior” has to be just about the most wonderful words in the world with the possible exception of “Christ is risen!” and “I love you.” Christmas is for many people the best day of the year, even more popular than Easter. Rather than get theologically correct and tell people Christmas would not be a big deal without Easter’s “Christ is risen” let us take the time to make an evangelical point people can remember this year, and that is “For unto you.” Let me explain.

In 1521 Martin Luther received an assignment from Frederick the Elector to write a collection of sermons on the Sundays of the church year, especially the Easter Sundays. The necessity was that many of the pastors of the new evangelische church had never written a sermon and did not know how. In the past they were content to read the Epistle and Gospel and a sermon by someone like John Tauler. Many of those sermons were admirable but at times not evangelical. It was hoped Luther would provide good examples of what an evangelical sermon should be.

This was a significant year for evangelical history. Luther began these sermons after he had received a death warrant from the Pope and in another year he would come under the double ban with the Emperor’s condemnation. However, after that Luther would be whisked away to Wartburg where he would add some more sermons to the Postils while he was translating the New Testament into German.

In a way the Church Postils was a Christmas gift from the Elector to Christian posterity. Luther began the series with Advent and wrote some wonderful sermons where he laid out his understanding of the Gospel in most simple terms. Have you ever wondered if your sermons or the sermons you are hearing are true to Luther’s ideal? Just go to Google and read some of Luther’s Postils, then decide. One thing I noticed right away is that Luther thought the Gospel was a very specific thing concerning the gift Christ is for each of us and how each of us is to go out and be a gift to our neighbor.

There is a sermon for each Sunday in the season of Advent and six sermons for the various services connected with the observance of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as the special days that follow. I commend them to you to read for devotion at your leisure. Below find some excerpts to whet your appetite.

The text for the 1st Sunday in Advent was Matthew 21:1-9. In reference to Zechariah, Luther says the Church (“O Daughter Zion”) received a twofold gift from Christ. The first is faith and the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer’s heart and the second gift being Christ himself. We hear echoes of the spirituality found in his famous treatise “On Christian Liberty” which was written at the same time. Luther tells us that because of the gift of Christ himself the Church “may glory in the blessings given by Christ, as though everything Christ is and has were her own. This is getting close to what we can share with others as the “real meaning of Christmas.”

In his first sermon on Christmas Day (Titus 2:11-15) we have another tip on what we can tell people why Christmas is such a wonderful thing, “The people are to be taught who Christ is, why he came and what blessings his coming brought us… Christ did not come to dwell on earth for his own advantage, but for our good. Therefore he did not retain his goodness and grace within himself. After his ascension he caused this to be proclaimed in public preaching throughout the world.”

In the next Postil (Luke 2:1-14) Luther continues to stress what makes the Gospel good news, explaining again that it contains the gift of faith and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit so that we might truly believe and that it is necessary that we understand that Christ is a gift. The example of Christ giving Himself for us is a gift and our being a gift by following the example of Christ is part of the Gospel. All of this is to be understood clearly first before the subject of good works is addressed.

 This is the principal thing and the principal treasure in every Gospel, before any doctrine of good works can be taken out of it. Christ must above all things become our own and we become his, before we can do good works. But this cannot occur except through the faith that teaches us rightly to understand the Gospel and properly to lay hold of it. This is the only way in which Christ can be rightly known so that the conscience is satisfied and made to rejoice. Out of this grow love and praise to God who in Christ has bestowed upon us such unspeakable gifts. This gives courage to do or leave undone, and living or dying, to suffer every thing that is well pleasing to God. This is what is meant by Isaiah 9: 6, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,”: to us, to us is born, and to us is given this child. Therefore see to it that you do not find pleasure in the Gospel only as a history, for that is only transient; neither regard it only as an example, for it is of no value without faith; but see to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you.

So here is what I find to be the principle point and one that people can easily remember: the same way that Luther taught what is so essential for us to lay hold of concerning the meaning of Holy Communion, that each individual must believe it is also for him or her, this is how we are to understand the Gift at Christmas: “He does not simply say, Christ is born, but to you he is born, neither does he say, I bring glad tidings, but to you I bring glad tidings of great joy.”

Christ is born “for you.” This is the meaning of Christmas. Share it as the shepherds did.

We might also want to meditate on the following words from the Postil on Luke 2:1-14, and perhaps share it with those we gather with at Christmas. They are wise words on why it is we can come before the manger in true awe. We leave you to take this Good News into your heart deeply and tuck it away as it were, away in the manger of your heart, tucked away in safety to bring out and share at the right time:

This Gospel is so clear that it requires very little explanation, but it should be well considered and taken deeply to heart; and no one will receive more benefit from it than those who, with a calm, quiet heart, banish everything else from their mind, and diligently look into it. It is just as the sun which is reflected in calm water and gives out vigorous warmth, but which cannot be so readily seen nor can it give out such warmth in water that is in roaring and rapid motion. Therefore, if you would be enlightened and warmed, if you would see the wonders of divine grace and have your heart aglow and enlightened, devout and joyful, go where you can silently meditate and lay hold of this picture deep in your heart, and you will see miracle upon miracle.

What is Advent?

listening-is-an-act-of-love

Though Advent (literally “arrival”) has been observed for centuries as a time to contemplate Christ’s birth, most people today acknowledge it only with a blank look. December flies by in a flurry of activities, and what is called “the holidays” turns out to be the most stressful time of the year.

It is also a time of contrasting emotions. We are eager, yet frazzled; sentimental, yet indifferent. One minute we glow at the thought of getting together with our family and friends; the next we feel utterly lonely. Our hope is mingled with dread, our anticipation with despair. We sense the deeper meanings of the season but grasp at them in vain; and in the end, all the bustle leaves us frustrated and drained.

Even we who do not experience such tensions – who genuinely love Christmas – often miss its point. Content with candles and carols and good food, we bask in the warmth of familiar traditions, in reciprocated acts of kindness, and in feelings of general goodwill. How many of us remember the harsh realities of Christ’s first coming: the dank stable, the cold night, the closed door of the inn? How many of us share the longing of the ancient prophets, who awaited the Messiah with such aching intensity that they foresaw his arrival thousands of years before he was born?

Mother Teresa once noted that the first person to welcome Christ was John the Baptist, who leaped for joy on recognizing him, though both of them were still within their mothers’ wombs. We, in stark contrast, are often so dulled by superficial distractions that we are incapable of hearing any voice within, let alone listening to it. Consequently, the feeling we know as Christmas cheer lacks any real connection to the vital spirit that radiated from the manger.

We miss the essence of Christmas unless we become, in the words of Eberhard Arnold, “mindful of how Christ’s birth took place.” Once we do, we will sense immediately that Advent marks something momentous: God’s coming into our midst. That coming is not just something that happened in the past. It is a recurring possibility here and now. And thus Advent is not merely a commemorative event or an anniversary, but a yearly opportunity for us to consider the future, second Advent – the promised coming of God’s kingdom on earth.

Such an understanding of Christmas is possible only insofar as we let go of the false props of convention and seek to unlock its central paradox. That paradox, to paraphrase the modern martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is the fact that God’s coming is not only a matter of glad tidings but, first of all, “frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.”

The love that descended to Bethlehem is not the easy sympathy of an avuncular God, but a burning fire whose light chases away every shadow, floods every corner, and turns midnight into noon. This love reveals sin and overcomes it. It conquers darkness with such forcefulness and intensity that it scatters the proud, humbles the mighty, feeds the hungry, and sends the rich away empty-handed (Luke 1:51-53)

Because a transformation of this scale can never be achieved by human means, but only by divine intervention, Advent (to quote Bonhoeffer again) might be compared to a prison cell “in which one waits and hopes and does various unessential things… but is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside.” It is a fitting metaphor. But dependency does not release us from responsibility. If the essence of Advent is expectancy, it is also readiness for action: watchfulness for every opening, and willingness to risk everything for freedom and a new beginning.

That is why the imagery of nativity scenes is not sufficient to explain the Christmas message. Yes, God came into the feeding trough of an animal. But it was not only as a baby that he lay there. This child was the same man who was crucified on Golgotha, and who rose again. Within the manger lies the cross – and the hope of redemption and resurrection.

To recognize this requires reverence and humility. It requires faith. We might ask, “What grounds are there for such hope?” Or we might seek to become like children, and believe. Mary did. So did the shepherds and the wise men of the East. So can each of us, wherever we are.

-Charles Moore

Used with permission.

How Can I Get More Page Views for My Ministry’s Website?

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How Can I Get More Page Views for My Ministry’s Website?

This is, of course, a very important question, and let me say upfront that there is no easy path here. The tips   I am going to give you will help. Once you have determined what works for you and you discover your sweet spot  and do it consistently you will experience increase.

One can pay for a company to do SEO work (search engine optimization), but it is very expensive and ever since Google and other search engines altered the way they search to avoid those tricks and also began to give some priority to social media, SEO is much less popular.  So the good news is if you are already using social media, all you need to do is tweak how you use it.

I have a website for my business (Sound Shore Media), but I do not devote much time for it. I have the clients I want and I spend my time promoting them, not me. However, I do want it to do respectably well. I turned to a friend of mine, Rev. Mark Ryman, a pastor in the North American Lutheran Church. Mark has been a blogger (daily devotions) for a while, and he put his experience to work for the Carolinas Mission District. I was actually asking him for some advice about something else and the conversation turned to getting more pageviews (ignore the term “hits,” it is page views you want to use as metrics). He has seen consistent growth in their daily devotions site. He has discovered that the photo-graphics are a huge factor in driving people to the site…particularly if the go-between is social media. Take away the photo-graphic as he had to do a couple of times because Facebook was acting up that day, and the people reached via Facebook halves.

Pastor Ryman said, “Internet has gone from text to image to sound to video. Each step you take, increases interest. Using a graphic makes a difference and the graphic used makes a difference.”

His advice to gain more page views is to see that you:

  1. Make daily updates to your site
  2. That those updates are what people are looking for
  3. That they are graphical (use images).
  4. That multiple promotions are made each day via social media

Therefore:

  1. Determine what you are trying to achieve and who is your audience
  2. What are they responding to (what do they seem to like most that you post)
  3. Continue to tweak what you are doing to improve it and then post it on each social media you are using.

Your ministry may or may not find value in using Google Ads for a website or Facebook ads for FB (I do not recommend it), but you definitely will by discerning what you want to do, what you are able to do and then posting it and promoting it via social media on a daily basis.

 

 

“Going Viral with the Gospel” conference will explore what it means to proclaim the gospel in today’s world.

The Institute of Lutheran Theology invites you for serious theological reflection on the topic of evangelism. Under the title, “Going Viral with the Gospel,” we will explore what it means to proclaim the gospel in today’s world.
Main Presenters

  • Dr. Dennis Bielfeldt
  • Dr. Eugene Bunkowske
  • Rev. Kip Tyler

Breakout sessions will be led by graduates from ILT!

  • Dave Wollan
  • John Lewis
  • Becky Hand
 
 

Pricing

  • $100 – Conference Registration
  • $50 – Student
  • $50 – Emeritus Pastor

(Any person who registers before September 1 will receive a free T-shirt.)

Are you unable to come in person? Order the DVD for yourself, or to share with your church! The DVD will include full conference coverage of the speakers and breakout sessions. Special features will include additional interviews and a sneak peak at future ILT events!

$25 – Conference DVD

Contact Info:
 
Or, visit us at  www.ilt.org