Morning Prayer: 04 Sept – Revelation 2:8-11 ~ Smyrna: “faithful unto death”

Morning Prayer

+ In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

Opening sentences

God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.

One thing I have asked of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life; to behold the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.

Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

Revelation 2:8-11 (ESV) – to be read aloud

“And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write: ‘The words of the first and the last, who died and came to life.

“‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.’”

Reflection

THE FIRST VISION – THE SEVEN LETTERS

The Martyrdom of Polycarp, c. 155 AD Bishop of Smyrna (click here to read this amazing story)
The Martyrdom of Polycarp, c. 155 AD
Bishop of Smyrna
(click here to read this amazing story)

To the Church in Smyrna

“Smyrna was a wealthy, prosperous seaport located approximately 35 miles north of Ephesus. It was a seat of emporer worship and also contained a substantial Jewish colony who were aggressively hostile to Christianity. Some years later they actively assisted in the martyrdom of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna (c. 155 A.D.).”

“Apparently, the church was healthy and spiritually prosperous since the letter contains no word of criticism or condemnation.”

tribulation, poverty and slander

“The poverty of the Smyrneans was not due alone to their normal economic condition but to confiscation of property, looting by hostile mobs, and to the difficulty of earning a living in a hostile environment…. Spiritually, they are rich, even though they suffer economic poverty.”

The Martyrdom of Polycarp gives us a hint of the slander and tribulation the Smyrneans faced although at a slightly later time.”
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IRAQ UPDATE: Weakened and Impoverished (click here for more)

Refugees line up at a makeshift dispensary set up in Erbil. (photo: CNEWA)
Refugees line up at a makeshift dispensary set up in Erbil. (photo: CNEWA)

“People lost almost everything,” she continues. “They cannot even afford to buy milk or formula for their children. What saddens us most is that, only one month ago, these people were the most educated in the country and among those most likely to build a life for themselves and their family, and now they do not have enough money in their pockets to survive the day. Christians became accustomed to investing their money in businesses, shops, fields, buildings, etc., [in order] to build their communities. Leaving their towns meant leaving everything they had been working for all their lives.”
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Be faithful unto death

“Imprisonment and possible death were perceived as the work of the devil and involved a test of the validity of Christian profession. Everyone who professed discipleship to Jesus must be ready to go to prison and if need be to lay down his life for his Lord. Martyrdom would prove beyond doubt the reality of his faith.”

crown of life

“The crown of life is not a promise of special reward for the martyrs…. Rather, it is introduced in this context to remind the Smyrneans that although they suffered physical death, they were assured of the prize of eternal life. The crown itself is eternal life.”

(Ladd, p.42-45)

Prayer

Lord, almighty God, Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have come to the knowledge of yourself, God of angels, of powers, of all creation, of all the race of saints who live in your sight, I bless you for judging me worthy of this day, this hour, so that in the company of the martyrs I may share the cup of Christ, your anointed one, and so rise again to eternal life in soul and body, immortal through the power of the Holy Spirit. May I be received among the martyrs in your presence today as a rich and pleasing sacrifice. God of truth, stranger to falsehood, you have prepared this and revealed it to me and now you have fulfilled your promise.

I praise you for all things, I bless you, I glorify you through the eternal priest of heaven, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son. Through him be glory to you, together with him and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Prayer of Polycarp

God of all creation, You gave your bishop Polycarp the privilege of being counted among the saints who gave their lives in faithful witness to the gospel.

May his prayer give us the courage to share with him the cup of suffering and to rise to eternal glory. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
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Canticle

Christ, as a light – illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield – overshadow me.
Christ under me; Christ over me; Christ beside me – on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak; in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me, lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light; Christ as a shield; Christ beside me – on my left and my right.

Blessing

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you, wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness, protect you through the storm.
May He bring you home rejoicing at the wonders He has shown you.
May He bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

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Peanut Gallery: In September, we will begin reading through the Book of Revelation (ESV). Our purpose will be devotional, i.e. to discover the word of blessing that God has for us in these troubled times… to find hope and help for our daily lives.

This will not be a Bible Study per se: we will not attempt to unravel the “mysteries” of Revelation… that is far beyond our abilities and is not our interest here. However, so as not to get too far afield, we will rely on three study resources: primary – A Commentary on the Revelation of John (George Elton Ladd); supplemental Revelation (Leon Morris) and  The Book of Revelation (Robert H. Mounce).

The general format for Morning Prayer is adapted from the Northumbrian Community‘s Daily Office, as found in Celtic Daily Prayer (see online resources here.) On Sundays, we’ll return to the USCCB readings (see online resources here) and various liturgical resources in order to reflect the Church’s worship and concerns throughout the world. Photo illustrations and music videos, available online, are included as they illustrate or illuminate the readings. I will try to give credit and link to sources as best I can.

Married Fathers: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty – Reblog

Married Fathers: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty

By Robert Rector

AB54462The mainstream media, liberal politicians, activists, and academia bewail child poverty in the U.S. But in these ritual lamentations, one key fact remains hidden: The principal cause of child poverty in the U.S. is the absence of married fathers in the home.

According to the U.S Census, the poverty rate in 2008 for single parents with children was 35.6 percent. The rate for married couples with children was 6.4 percent. Being raised in a married family reduces a child’s probability of living in poverty by about 80 percent.

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Here are some of the highlights of this report:

+ Marriage is rapidly declining in American society… creating a two-caste system, with marriage and education as the dividing line…. Single parents now comprise 70 percent of all poor families with children.

+ Children from single-parent homes are:

  • More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime
  • Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems
  • Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school
  • A third more likely to drop out before completing high school.

+ The effects of being raised in a single-parent home continue into adulthood.

  • Children from broken and single-parent homes are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30.
  • Girls from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to have a child without being married.
  • Children living in single parent homes are 50 percent more likely to experience poverty as adults.

+ Government Complicity

In social service agencies, welfare offices, schools, and popular culture in low-income communities across America, one finds deafening silence on the topic of marriage. The welfare system actively penalizes low-income couples who do marry.

At the beginning of the War on Poverty, a young Daniel Patrick Moynihan, serving in the Administration of President Lyndon Johnson, wrote a seminal report on the negative effects of declining marriage among blacks. The Left exploded, excoriating Moynihan and insisting that the erosion of marriage was either unimportant or benign.

Four decades later, Moynihan’s predictions have been vindicated. The erosion of marriage has spread to whites and Hispanics with devastating results. But the taboo on discussing the link between poverty and the disappearance of husbands remains as firm as it was four decades ago.

+ Marriage: The Antidote to Poverty

To reduce poverty in America, policymakers should enact policies that encourage people to form and maintain healthy marriage and delay childbearing until they are married and economically stable. Marriage is highly beneficial to children, adults, and society. It needs to be encouraged and strengthened, not ignored and undermined.

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For the full report, click here.

Robert Rector is Senior Research Fellow in the Domestic Policy Studies Department at The Heritage Foundation.

9 Things You Should Know About Poverty in America ~ Reblog

Joe Carter
TGC Blog | January 16, 2014 | Original post here.

johnsonlyndonFifty years ago this month, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the ‘war on poverty’ an attempt to harness the power of government to help the poor. Here are nine things you should know about poverty in America.

1. The official method of measuring poverty in America has remained largely unchanged since the early 1960s. The poverty thresholds (or poverty line) were originally developed in 1963-1964 by Mollie Orshansky of the Social Security Administration. Orshansky based her poverty thresholds on the economy food plan — the cheapest of four food plans developed by the Department of Agriculture. The actual combinations of foods in the food plans, devised by Agriculture Department dietitians using complex procedures, constituted nutritionally adequate diets; the Agriculture Department described the economy food plan as being “designed for temporary or emergency use when funds are low.” The methodology for calculating the thresholds was established in the mid-1960s and has not changed in the intervening years.

2. The poverty threshold is based on the average amount of income spent on food in 1955. At the time families spent about 33% of their income on food, so Orshansky calculated poverty thresholds for families of three or more persons by taking the dollar costs of the economy food plan for families of those sizes and multiplying the costs by a factor of three — the “multiplier.” The methodology for calculating the thresholds was established in the mid-1960s and has not changed in the intervening years, though the thresholds are updated annually to account for inflation. Today, Americans spend an average of 6.8% of their income on food – the lowest percentage in the world.

3. The federal poverty guideline for a family of four in the 48 contiguous states and D.C. was $23,550 in 2013. (The median household income in 2012 was $51,017.)

4. Most antipoverty efforts by churches are not reflected in the official poverty calculations. Government and private programs aimed at relieving poverty do not lower the official poverty rate since that measure counts only monetary income. Antipoverty programs such as food stamps, housing assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Medicaid, school lunches, as well as all private food, clothing, and service donations are considered “in-kind benefits” —— and hence not income.

5. From the beginning on the war on poverty until 2012, local, state, and federal spending on welfare programs has totaled $15,000,000,000,000. Currently, the United States spends nearly $1 trillion every year to fight poverty. That amounts to $20,610 for every poor person in America, or $82,440 per poor family of four (3.5 times the amount necessary to bring them above the poverty line).

6. When the War on Poverty was announced in 1964, 33 million Americans were in poverty and the official poverty rate was 19%. Today, approximately 46.5 million Americans live in poverty and the official poverty rate is 15%. However, some estimates claim that if in-kind benefits are included in income, poverty rates would have declined to between 0% and 5%.

7. The poverty rate among married couples is only 6 percent. Among married couples who both have full-time jobs the poverty rate is practically zero (0.001%). The poverty rate among single-dads/moms is much higher: 25% for single dads / 31% for single moms.

8. According to the U.S. Census Bureau figures, the average household living in poverty in America has more amenities and a higher standard of living than in most other countries. The typical poor household, as defined by the government, has a car and air conditioning, two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there are children, especially boys, the family has a game system, such as an Xbox or PlayStation. In the kitchen, the household has a refrigerator, an oven and stove, and a microwave. Other household conveniences include a clothes washer, clothes dryer, ceiling fans, a cordless phone, and a coffee maker. The home of the typical poor family is in good repair and is not overcrowded. In fact, the typical average poor American has more living space in his home than the average (non-poor) European has. By its own report, the typical poor family was not hungry, was able to obtain medical care when needed, and had sufficient funds during the past year to meet all essential needs.

9. The most destitute Americans are often those classified as either temporary and chronic homeless. On a single night in 2012 there were 633,782 homeless people in the United States (0.2% of the total population), including 394,379 who were homeless as individuals and 239,403 people who were homeless in families. In 2012, 99,894 people were chronically homeless, representing just fewer than 16 percent of all homeless people. Chronic homelessness has declined by 19.3 percent since 2007.

Photo Essay Re-Blog: Easter Dinner With A Muslim Family In Dar el-Salam – Robert Johnson

Peanut Gallery: Egypt is in turmoil… it has been for a long time. But now, the world is watching. The news is filled with stories of political unrest, violence, persecution and international forces jockeying for position and influence. But what about ordinary Egyptian people (mostly muslim)… the poor people who do not make news headlines and are just trying to get a life – such as it is.

Robert Johnson, in this photo essay gives us a rare insight into the lives of these ordinary people. For more of Johnson’s photo-journal insights on Egypt – click here.
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My Extraordinary Easter Dinner With A Muslim Family From One Of The Poorest Cities In Egypt

Robert Johnson | Apr. 1, 2013, 7:20 AM

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/easter-dinner-in-dar-el-salam-2013-4#ixzz2PazWniwM

When a man I met on Friday invited me to his family’s home for Sunday dinner, it was an uncommon offer. When the invitation turned out to be in Dar el-Salam, one of Egypt’s most poverty stricken areas, Easter afternoon turned into a once-in-lifetime affair.

The road to Dar el-Salam is dirt and a crest of smoldering refuse lines the middle of it, picked over by cats, dogs, burros, kids, and collectors trying to bring home any money they can. It took four attempts to find a cab driver willing to take us. When we arrived, the man who invited me, Hani, sat with a group of 10 or so other men at an outdoor cafe. A small part of the local mafia family, he said he’d grown up beside them and they specialized in “whatever makes them money.”

From what I could tell their enterprise includes drugs and theft, but whatever it is offers them neighborhood wide-respect. They took me to a place I couldn’t have imagined and perhaps no one from the outside could have gone without a personal escort from them, definitely not an American with two big noisy cameras.

Back through the dusty, narrow alleys, past broken-down billiard tables shoved into mud brick rooms, haphazard grocery stores, and untold apartments, we came to a dead end.

A massive bed of gravel and rock led to a sheer cliff wall and the skeletal remains of apartments destroyed by the last rock slide.

dar-el-salam-2The families whose homes they took me into were unlike anything I’d ever seen, and far from hiding the situation they were in, the residents let me stomp into their home because they wanted to let the world know how they lived. They’d appreciate a bit of help from the new government, just picking up the trash would be a nice start, they said.

I’ve yet to meet someone happy with the results of the revolution and these people were no different. Their neighborhood started to slide about eight years ago, and has gotten dramatically worse in the past couple of years. Water bills have nearly doubled, rents have gone up and incomes way down.

One Muslim family of seven sleeping in a subterranean room invited us to stay for Easter dinner. An incredibly gracious offer we had to decline, as we made our way to Hani’s father’s apartment.

Dinner was on the table when we arrived. A big plate of French fries and a new bottle of Ketchup sat before the seat of honor, the middle of the couch where I was directed.
There’s just enough to get by on now, barely. When people like this can no longer feed their kids, they’ll have nothing to lose. Already they pine for the days of former president Mubarak.

Here are a few pictures from the visit. I’ll post a longer feature on the experience next week.

Robert Johnson/Business Insider

dar el-salam-17They did not have much, but they were all smiles and offering to share.

Robert Johnson/Business Insider

dar el-salam-20Washroom off the kitchen

Robert Johnson/Business Insider

dar el-salam-10Stairs

Robert Johnson/Business Insider

dar el-salam-13Without enough money, women are forced to share the same space as the men

Robert Johnson/Business Insider

dar el-salam-33Easter dinner, with French fries and Ketchup for the first American they’ve met

Robert Johnson/Business Insider

dar el-salam-35And then power went off, my host said it’s because president Morsi is selling electricity to Gaza. And charging 30 percent more than it cost under the former president.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/easter-dinner-in-dar-el-salam-2013-4#ixzz2PavhPaQ1

Hello: “My name is Art and I’ve got Compassion Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)”

Peanut Gallery: If you put me in charge of your church’s local benevolence budget for 2013, I’d finish the year with a surlpus. That’s how I know I’ve got “Compassion Fatigue Syndrome” (CFS)… a term I just made up.

ItaysWorld_Homeless_Signs_05For over 35 years, I pastored seven churches in various parts of the country… and the story was pretty much the same. Vagrants showed up on the church’s doorstep (frequently on Sunday am) with a well rehearsed story and their hands out. By my estimate, less than 10% were people legitimately needing help. The rest were semi-professional free-loaders. It got so bad that, when I thought I was being conned, I cut them off and said: “Don’t tell me your story. Just tell me what you want.” I hate being lied to.

In most of the communities I served, the churches worked together to coordinate their efforts and we had a list of specific goods and services that we could offer. On occasion, when we ran into folks with legitimate needs, one of our elders or deacons would work with them and monitor their progress… our goal was restoration and their eventual return to productive society. And we did have some real success stories… but, mostly, I thought we were being used.

Unfortunately, my attitude concerning America’s poor hasn’t changed much since retirement – hence, my confession: “I’ve got Compassion Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).” I want to be sensitive and responsive to the needs of the poor, but I don’t want to support other people’s bad behavior and perpetuate their irresponsibility – that would make me their enabler. And I’m not going there.

imageWorld-wide impoverishment is another story. Since retirement, I’ve been doing some travelling. You don’t have to go very far outside of America to witness real poverty… people who have absolutely nothing through no fault of their own. They are locked into a particular strata of their society for life… with no possibility of upward mobilty. Fresh water and mosquito nets are game changers… and two goats or a few chickens become a cottage industry. That’s why I can’t get excited about America’s able-bodied “poor” with flat screen TVs, cell phones, two cars, free lunches… free everything.

clean water SPSo… my personal approach to giving to the poor has been through donations to Samaritan’s Purse. They have a long history of financial integrity and I agree with their purposes and goals. They deal with genuinely needy people here and around the world all year long… and they do it through local churches in the name of Jesus. Click here for examples of what they do.

I wouldn’t give a dime to my denomination’s benevolence efforts because I don’t trust them… my giving would end up funding abortions, supporting gay pride and handing out condoms to high school students. Most public charities like United Way and the Red Cross are no better… it doesn’t take much digging to find Planned Parenthood among the agencies they support.

Nevertheless, I am not blind… I do live in coastal South Carolina not very far from historic pockets of the rural poor. And I don’t know what to do about it… how to change their lives for the good. I do know that pouring more money into existing welfare programs and electing the same politicians won’t help them. Nothing has changed for a couple of generations, so why would it now?

If doing the same thing we’ve been doing is not the answer, what is?

Public policy is not my forte, that’s why this email from the Heritage folks attracted my attention. Maybe some conservative adults can come up with some constructive ideas.

Our objective is to help more Americans escape poverty by promoting work, marriage, civil society, and welfare-spending restraints.

Sounds good, something’s got to give… but it won’t be me unless things change radically.
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Morning Bell: Are We Helping Poor Americans?
Jennifer Marshall

December 31, 2012 at 8:38 am

At the end of the year, many people take time to make charitable donations. But caring for those in need is a year-round responsibility—and when it comes to public policy, conservatives have an important opportunity to articulate an effective response to poverty and social breakdown in America.

A half-century into the War on Poverty, liberals can hardly declare victory.

Continue reading “Hello: “My name is Art and I’ve got Compassion Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)””