Martin Luther penned the following poem, inspired by Psalm 46. The hymnologist will note that Luther’s celebrated hymn, “Ein’ Feste Burg ist Unser Gott” / “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is also based the sacred text. Originally published in The German Psalmody.
God is our refuge in distress, Our shield of hope through every care, Our Shepherd watching us to bless, And therefore will we not despair; Although the mountains shake, And hills their place forsake, And billows o’er them break Yet still will we not fear, For Thou, O God, art ever near.
God is our hope and strength in woe; Through earth He maketh wars to cease; His power breaketh spear and bow; His mercy sendeth endless peace. Then though the earth remove, And storms rage high above, And seas tempestuous prove, Yet still will we not fear, The Lord of Hosts is ever near.
There’s no use denying it any longer: 2012 is here! As we enter into this “New Year,” all sorts of new experiences come with it: new hopes and new fears for what the new year may bring; new possibilities – as well as the feelings of regret and loss that can come as time marches on. With all of the unknowns in the future, feelings of anxiety, fear, curiosity, or hope can settle into all of our hearts. But no matter what 2012 brings with it for good or for bad, Christians have a rock-solid confidence in two important doctrines: God’s sovereignty over 2012, and God’s providence for 2012.
The Sovereignty of God over 2012
No matter what the new year brings, we can be sure of this: God is in control of 2012. All times are in His hand, and since He is the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last (Revelation 1:8), we know that He makes the ends known from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Every day that we live in 2012 has already been written in His book (Psalm 139:16), and nothing that happens to us can happen apart from His will. Life and death, health and sickness are in His hands (Deuteronomy 32:39). Neither a sparrow (Matthew 10:29 – 31) nor a hair from your head (Luke 21:16 – 18) can fall apart from God’s will. So for those who love God and are called according to His purpose, the future of the new year doesn’t need to be a scary thing, because He has promised that all things will work together for our good (Romans 8:28). As we make our plans for 2012, we should recognize God’s absolute power and control over all the decisions we make, and ultimately entrust ourselves and our plans to Him (James 4:13 – 17).
Spirituality is still a huge topic with evangelical Christians, and increasingly practices such as lectio divina are encouraged even for Reformed Christians. But is this practice helpful? And how can it be used by Christians in the Reformed tradition?
Lectio divina (or, divine reading) as described by Kenneth Boa in his book Conformed to His Image, (Zondervan, 2001), 96-97.
The ancient art of lectio divina, or sacred reading, was introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century.
It consists of four elements.
Lectio (reading). Select a very short text and ingest it by reading it several times. Normally, one chooses a verse or a brief passage from the chapters read from the Old and New Testaments in morning Bible reading.
Meditatio (meditation). Take a few minutes to reflect on the words and phrases in the text you have read. Ponder the passage by asking questions and using your imagination.
Oratio (prayer). Having internalized the passage, offer it back to God in the form of personalized prayer.
Contemplatio (contemplation). For the most of us, this will be the most difficult part, since it consists of silence and yieldedness in the presence of God. Contemplation is the fruit of the dialogue of the first three elements; it is the communion that is born out of our reception of divine truth in our hearts.
I think there is much to appreciate about lectio divina, especially its Agassiz-like focus on a text. Further, that Scripture ought to bid us pray and that our prayers ought to be filled with Scripture is an axiom of this discipline, so to the extent that the lectio divina encourages this is a boon. I would even go so far as to say – due to the importance of prayer in the Christian life – that anything that encourages prayer in the life of believers is a good thing. But having said all of this, let me turn to a few concerns. Continue reading →