A Lovely Morning Prayer

I was doing some research the other day on monasticism and ran across the Prayer Foundation. They have an order of lay monks, the Knights of Prayer, except these monks are evangelical Protestants who use terms like “born again” and “Sinner’s Prayer” without blushing. So that’s cool. But anyway, I only bring them up to point out something lovely I got from their website. Apparently many of the monks of their order pray a particular prayer in the morning. I found it, read it, loved it, and now include it in my own morning devotions. Here’s the full thing, actually a hymn called “I Bind unto Myself Today,” which was adapted from a prayer attributed to St. Patrick.

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 day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the 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 the 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 starlit 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 and 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,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

A Lovely Morning Prayer

Karl and Me: What Life is Like as a Theologian

One of my favorite books, which I discovered last year, is Evangelical Theology: An Introduction by Karl Barth (pronounced “Bart,” by the way). I got the book because I expected it to be an introduction to the theology of Barth, which is altogether interesting. That’s not what it was, as I found out, but I suppose that what it turned out to be was far better. Evangelical Theology is not so much a book of theology but a book about theology, specifically about the nature and doing of theology. It’s an introduction not to specific theological ideas, but to the project of theology itself.

I found this to be surprisingly refreshing. While I would like to (and at some point maybe will) cover a great deal of what this book has to say, I want to write briefly today about the second major section of the book, which is about “theological existence” (life as a theologian). Barth breaks down each major topic with four simple terms, and this one is possibly my favorite. What does it mean to be a theologian? What is it like? What should it be like? These are the questions Barth addresses in these four chapters.

In these chapters, Barth characterizes the theologian using four words, four traits. All I’ll really do in this post is give a summary of his presentation on these elements and explain how I can identify with them. So here are Barth’s four characterizing elements of theological life (and before I get into these, I should briefly note that Barth sees every Christian as at least something of a theologian):

  1. Wonder: To Barth, the first driving characteristic of the theologian is wonder. The theologian encounters the God of the Gospel, finds himself addressed by the Divine Word, and can only be astonished and amazed in return. He learns of God and finds that every new discovery is one more compelling. He is driven back again and again to see this wonder who is the God revealed in Christ.
  2. Concern: The next characteristic of the theologian for Barth is concern. The theologian is preeminently concerned with what he finds in his theological studies about the God of the Gospel and His ways and acts. They press on his mind day after day, questions and potential answers, and impose themselves upon every experience. He cannot escape constant concern for divine truth, no matter what is going on around him.
  3. Commitment: Barth also makes the point that the theologian is fundamentally committed to God and His Gospel, to the theological work of understanding through questions and answers. He yields his thoughts to God alone, and refuses to back down or give up from the fight to know divine truth. Most importantly, He seeks to know this truth on the basis of God’s personal revelation of Himself in Christ alone.
  4. Faith: Finally, and rather naturally, Barth points out the role of faith for the theologian. Faith for Barth is not just a leap into the dark. It’s not following the evidence, and then going one extra step. It’s neither blind fancy, nor the result of reason, not an existential decision. For Barth, faith is what happens when God shows up and encounters us personally in Jesus Christ through the Spirit, calling us and freeing us to become for Him and trust Him in this new opportunity. Faith consists constantly in this living in the God-created freedom to follow whatever He reveals of Himself in Christ. This is the rule of faith for all theology, and for every theologian, in Barth’s conception.

If it isn’t obvious, I can identify with these characteristics like nobody’s business. His chapter on concern in particular resonates with me deeply. Nothing I see or hear or experience can escape the wrath of theological concern in my mind. Truly, Barth’s description is my life.

If none of this makes sense to you, then I suppose you’re not a theologian. But if you are, you should see just how right and true this is. I plan to post more on this topic, and hopefully it will be beneficial to someone.

Karl and Me: What Life is Like as a Theologian

Learning a Reflex of Prayer

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 6:18

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I’m in college again (yay!), specifically the Baptist College of Florida. One of the classes I’m taking here is Spiritual Formation 101. This class is about spiritual disciplines, training in Christian growth. Yes, it does feel weird to take a class about such matters, and to study formats and theory behind daily devotions. But it actually is a good class for me, because I am required to do a devotion daily, including a certain number of parts, and log it in a spiritual journal, which I will have to turn in at the end of the semester.

This is, to be honest, just what I’ve always needed. Accountability and structure is very good for me, and helps me, paradoxically, to feel like I have the freedom to actually accomplish what I’d like to do. And a set time of prayer in the mornings is quite good.

But I’m not here to babble on about my SF 101 devotions. I’m more interested in its effects on me. Becoming consistent in my prayers, along with my Scripture reading (which has been in Ephesians and Philippians so far), has been seemingly affecting how I think and respond throughout the day. More and more I find myself thinking when various things happen: I should pray.

It’s often a little thing. I’m about to go to work, and I feel like I should pray for provision (I work for tips, remember!). Sometimes at work I feel prompted to pray for the safety and fortunes of all the drivers. When people barely tip or don’t tip, I often feel like I should pray for God to bless them financially (Quite often the people who don’t tip don’t seem to have much extra cash, and while that makes me wonder why they’re ordering expensive Papa John’s pizza, I nonetheless feel they need prayer). 

Of course, some of these habits started earlier, but they’ve all been more pronounced as of late. More various and new prayers come to mind, too. Recently I delivered to a man in a rehab clinic who was missing most of his fingers. Certainly I was prompted to pray for him. I regularly deliver to nurses in a nearby hospital, and I usually go in the ER entrance. The last time I did this it struck me that the people sitting in the waiting room probably need my prayers, too, so I prayed for them as well.

None of this is, of course, to brag about my prayer life. In fact, it would be quite foolish of me to do so, for I believe I am still drastically weak in prayer. I wanted instead to emphasize the direction that more prayer and Scripture reading has been shaping me (or, to be more accurate, where the Spirit has been moving me through prayer and Scripture). I’ve had prayer continually impressed on my heart. Verses like Ephesians 6:18 above just keep grabbing my attention and convicting me. And it’s changing my thoughts. I’m starting to think more in general about prayer as a response to the many things I see in my day, whether for thanksgiving or for request.

This is, I believe, an important work of the Spirit which I have been waiting for and hope (and pray!) will continue, and one which I believe we all need. It’s about developing a reflex of prayer. I hope to reach the place where my natural response to whatsoever I see is to approach the throne of grace through Jesus Christ my High Priest. That kind of reflex, that instinct, is something Spirit-led and Spirit-given, and can only draw you nearer to Christ and to all of the people you find yourself praying for. This reflex is something Paul seems to have had himself, and something he wanted to see in all of the churches he served.

Honestly, at this point I can’t think of anything much more to say about this, so I suppose I will let Scripture speak, and pray that God will bless us all with this reflex of prayer.

Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. Pray also for me, that the message may be given to me when I open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. For this I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I might be bold enough in Him to speak as I should.

Ephesians 6:18-20

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 4:6

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Learning a Reflex of Prayer

Just A Quick Update

So I haven’t been posting much as of late. I figured I’d just drop by and point out why. Ready?

*Drumroll*

It’s because I’m back in school. Yay! I’m working hard at the Baptist College of Florida, and between that, work, and church I don’t have tons of time for blogging. I certainly won’t be quitting here, but it will have to move back a couple notches in priority, which also means a couple notches in frequency. I’ll aim to at least post once a week, but we’ll see what actually happens.

In the mean time, try some blogs I like such as Reformedish or Think Theology. They’re pretty cool. Or if you don’t mind reading stuff that takes 20 tries to wrap your head around, you can try The Evangelical Calvinist.

Just A Quick Update

Apology: Who I Am, What I’m Doing, and What I Should Change

Who am I? I’m Caleb, a silly, nerdy 20-year-old with an obsessive interest in theology and a (relatively) new family. I’m a student, a learner. I’m young and inexperienced, but nonetheless feel the constant need to try to wrap my head around things real adults have worked on for thousands of years. I have no qualifications unless Google proficiency and fascination count. In what should emphatically be taken in the least pretentious way possible, I am the creature Karl Barth called a theologian: someone whose encounter with Jesus and His Scriptures forces him into endless wonder, concern, commitment, and faith. I’m socially awkward and fail at developing the conversations and relationships which should characterize a Christian lighting up the dark world around him. I’m as fallible, both intellectually and morally, as they come, and well aware of it.

What am I doing? On this little blog, I spill my thoughts. I take the major ideas and debates running around in my head as I study and put them into concrete, written form to share with the world. Why do I share with the world? Different reasons, I guess. On one hand, I’m looking for dialogue. I want to share what I think and hear what people have to say in response. I want to know if you think I’m on the right track, or if you have a correction, question, or suggestion. Has anything I’ve had to say given anyone edification, clarity, or a challenge? I would like to find out. On the other hand, I’m also filled with “OH MY GOODNESS THIS IS SO AMAZING AND EVERYONE NEEDS TO HEAR IT” zeal with some of the ideas I stumble across. I find what look like treasures to me in my studies, and then want to share them for the benefit of others. And sometimes I just find myself moved or touched and want to throw whatever helped me out there in case it can help someone else. Finally, in all honesty sometimes I just feel cheated that no one ever taught me something before, and I want to put it out there because I wish someone had put it out there for me all through my life.

So why am I babbling about all of this? Because I want to clarify myself. It has come to my attention at various times that I concern people about this or that, and that sometimes I confuse or flat out subvert some of my friends and family, by Christ and by nature. Yet I’m not a teacher, as if that weren’t obvious. But I want to make it clear that I don’t try to or intend to be. I might write like one sometimes, but that’s not conscious or intentional. It’s just the style I’ve wound up with. I don’t think I’ve got all the answers, or even most of them, and even many things I say that I say with a lot of confidence or certainty should really come with labels like experimentalprovisional, or I just thought of this yesterday and may change my mind by tomorrow. Some of my posts really ought to come with expiration dates. 

In fact, the only thing I hold as axiomatic, the only belief which I cannot and will not ever question, is my belief that I am utterly fallible. I always believe that I could be wrong, and probably am in more than a few places. Because I view myself as radically prone to error, I call every one of my beliefs into question at some point or another. This, of course, includes all of my Christian beliefs, and praise be to God that Jesus has held up with remarkable (divine!) strength in all of my questioning. But I know most of you share a great deal of my beliefs about God, Jesus, the Bible, etc. So these are also your beliefs that I call into question. But I don’t do this because of anything I see weak or wrong in the beliefs themselves, but because of what I see weak in myself, who believes them. I’m constantly testing and refining, because I know I can be wrong on absolutely anything. This doesn’t mean I think I am, and in fact I still hold to most things I’ve believed and been taught since childhood, although many of them have received new twists or emphases.

This brings me to another point where I confuse people. I spend a lot of time defending people I disagree with. Off the top of my head Catholics make a good (and controversial in my experience) example. Some people also seem to think pro-gay believers are in this group, though I have not given any defenses on here for them at all. But I do defend my opponents, despite strongly disagreeing with them. And I do this for a reason. I believe as a Christian I am called to truth and love, which in debate means an emphasis on clarity and charity. I must always make sure to represent people I disagree with accurately, and weed out misconceptions, straw men, and bad arguments against them before I even start to debate with them. A commitment to clarity and charity means I am not allowed to simply throw popular talking points at my opponents; I have to take them seriously on their own terms, give them a fair hearing, and only then make any serious work towards dismantling their position, though of course the whole time I am allowed to and should be clear that I disagree with them, sometimes strongly. (And honestly, once the caricatures are out of the way I am highly critical of both Catholics and progressive pro-gay believers, and even many people I like who agree with me on most things!) Yet I can’t spend all of my time on the defense of my opponents, no matter how much junk really needs to be cleared up. I can easily give off the impression that I don’t think our differences matter, or that we’re all perfectly okay as we are. That’s certainly not the right message.

But this all brings me around to the first word of my title: apology. I haven’t always been clear who and what I am disagreeing or agreeing with. I have confused people, and often haven’t given enough attention to who my audience is, and whether any given post will truly edify you or simply baffle you. Sometimes I’ve jumped the gun and posted something controversial before giving it serious thought. And honestly there have been a couple times I’ve just tried to get a reaction out of people. For all of this and more I am truly sorry, and ask that I can be forgiven on the basis of Jesus Christ, our common Savior, and His Spirit whom we all share. I have a change of direction in mind for this blog, one which I hope will contribute to edification, and reduce unnecessary confusion or controversy. Pray that God will keep me, and my blog, useful for the work of His kingdom.

In Christ’s love,

Caleb

P.S. I honestly encourage any of you who ever have a question, concern, or problem with what I’ve written to mention it to me. I’ll try to be humble and understanding, though I admit I won’t always succeed. But I have thick skin and want to learn, so by comment, email, or Facebook feel free to let me know anything you need to say.

Apology: Who I Am, What I’m Doing, and What I Should Change

Going out to Eat for Pure Religion

Ashley and I always feel compelled by the reality of the world and the grace of the Gospel to give.  We simply don’t see a way out. Scripture teaches generosity, and not only that. It also teaches care for those in need, justice for those oppressed, and mercy to those suffering. All of these causes can be advanced through giving as well, further prompting us to see generosity as an inescapable call.

Recently, we were looking for a place to give to, particularly one which helps orphans. After all, according to James, “What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world” (Jas. 1:27). If this is the case, how can we neglect to help them? But anyway, while searching for a good organization, we found the Global Orphan Project (or GO Project, for short). They do lots of orphan care around the world, both in the US and internationally. They connect with churches and do wonderful ministries. So we decided we should donate to them.

But then we saw an option to start a project. We had the option to start our own fundraising project to help orphans through their organization and website! How awesome! The project we started is called “Dine for Health.” Here’s the description from our project page:

In America, about 58% of families go out to eat at least once a week. In 2013, Americans spent over $700 billion at restaurants around the country. That’s a lot of money, averaging almost $7 per person per day. 

So what if we could redirect just a sliver of that massive flow of cash somewhere…better? What if that kind of money could give orphans fresh water, health care, and a clean place to sleep? Well, it actually can.

Through the Global Orphan Project, my wife Ashley and I want to help out with these basic needs. How? With a plea and a challenge. We ask this:

Would you consider matching every dollar you spend eating out for the next month with a donation to our project?

Every penny of the proceeds will go straight to work. The GO Project’s Health and Safety fund works to provide village orphans in several countries with clean water, medical care, sanitary living conditions, and pretty much everything else the kids need to stay healthy and safe.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. I hope you’ll consider helping this project. It is a way to follow Christ, after all. For whatever you don’t do to the least of these, you don’t do to Him. And then there’s this:

“What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.” James 1:27

Get the idea? Here’s what we’re asking. Every time you go out to eat from now until August 31, add up your totals. Then donate that amount to our project, which will go straight to the GO Project Health & Safety fund to provide for orphan care. Interested? I do hope so. Here’s the link:

Dine for Health GO Project

Going out to Eat for Pure Religion

Every Lucid Moment

Hazy. That’s  the best word I could think of to describe many of the hours in my average day. I’m not sure what all I did or how much I enjoyed it. During the day I tend to slip into a mode: doing what I do. And at the end of the day I find myself wondering: what have I even been doing?

See, when I think about it, there is quite a bit I’d like to change about my life. I’d like to spend less time on the computer doing mostly nothing and more time enjoying the family God has entrusted to me. I’d like to pray more, and spend more time reading Scripture. While I read lots of random articles and blog posts online, I know I would benefit from reading more real books. 

Beyond habits and time management, I have character issues and virtues to work on. I want to become less self-centered and more aware of others. In my relationships I want to be more genuinely interested in what other people say, do, and care about. I’m too arrogant in my knowledge and could use some humility. Perhaps my most practically difficult flaw is my grand introspection, where I inflate my every last mistake into a life-scale issue by tracing out all the flaws in my heart and worrying about my ability to fix them into the future.

All of this deserves my effort and careful attention as I live out my day. I can only make progress if I actually try to. But alas, I don’t usually think about these things until the hour that they become painful problems. After that’s over, I remember my lesson for a while and then forget as I get back into the groove of everyday life. Next thing I know I’m making the same mistakes again. And so the circle goes on.

What I have come to realize is how very necessary it is that I capitalize on the moments when I am thinking and genuinely concerned. During the times in which I am aware of my flaws, I have to make what progress I can before life sweeps away my focus. This is what I usually fear to do, sometimes out of the fear of what might happen if I do change, and sometimes out of the fear that I won’t be able to keep up whatever I wish to accomplish. I find myself too often paralyzed by the awareness of my impending forgetfulness. So then I lose the moment, and the pain which brought me clarify becomes vain.

Obviously, what I ought to do is very different. The lucidity which fills me with fear for my future ability to do right ought to take one more step. When I think even more clearly, I see that any progress I hope to make must start with the moments that I can see that I need it. This means taking the first act, doing whatever I can to grow, instead of doing like I normally will and waste the time fretting over my lack of willpower. I have to capitalize on the times God opens my eyes before they fall shut again.

The best way to do this is to pray. While other actions are also necessary, I must take every lucid moment to pray. After all, there is no way for me to grow apart from the Holy Spirit. My flesh can only do so much, and its fruits are always full of worms. So when I know I am nothing and in need, my immediate response must be to call on the Lord, who gives to all generously and without criticizing. He promises to be my healer, the one who sanctified me and will sanctify me. If I don’t do this, if I wait or let my apprehension keep me from moving, what hope will I have? If I don’t take the opportunity to ask, seek, and knock before I forget what I am looking for, I will only come away empty-handed.

Father, you are my only hope. In Jesus you have created the perfect human life that I so desperately need. So by your Spirit living inside me, uniting me with your holy Son, let me become the man you call me to be. Every time you open my eyes, let me make the move I must make, and pray so you can continue to move me. Then when I am back in the normal course of life, I can trust you to work behind the scenes. In the name of my only Lord Jesus, Amen.

So I find that this law is at work: when I want to do what is good, what is evil is the only choice I have. My inner being delights in the law of God. But I see a different law at work in my body—a law that fights against the law which my mind approves of. It makes me a prisoner to the law of sin which is at work in my body. What an unhappy man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is taking me to death? Thanks be to God, who does this through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Romans 7:21-25a

Every Lucid Moment