Category Archives: Church History

Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers

early-christian-writingsTranslated by Maxwell Staniforth, the book Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers is a collection of ancient manuscripts from the second century CE. It includes works by Clement of Rome (The First Epistle to the Corinthians), Ignatius of Antioch (Epistle to the Ephesians, Epistle to the Magnesians, Epistle to the Trallians, Epistle to the Romans, Epistle to the Philadelphians, Epistle to the Smyrnaeans, and Epistle to Polycarp), and Polycarp of Smyrna (Epistle to the Philippians) as well as four texts from unknown authors (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, Epistle to Diognetus, Epistle of Barnabas, and The Didache). Though it is not known for sure whether or not all the authors personally knew the Apostles, these texts represent the “first trickles” of Christianity beyond the time of the Apostles who walked with Jesus.[1]

Though each of the thirteen texts included this book were written in a different context (with the exception of the seven letters from Ignatius of Antioch), two common themes emerge when reading them. The first theme is the emphasis placed on the authority of the local bishop. As Ignatius puts it, the bishops “represent the mind of Jesus Christ” and, as such, believers are to unite in a “common act of submission” and acknowledge the “authority of [their] bishop and clergy.”[2] While this emphasis on the authority of the local bishop can be hard for a 21st century Protestant in the Western world, it is understandable as these authors were trying to protect the treasure given to them by the Apostles. The New Testament, while written, had not been canonized by the church at large, leaving open the possibility that heresies and falsehoods could creep into the life of the church. The bishops, accordingly, served as a living connection back to the Apostles and Jesus, keeping the church on mission and retaining the truth entrusted to it.

The second theme that emerges from these texts is the emphasis on right living. The “Way of Life” depicted in The Epistle of Barnabas and The Didache is a perfect example of this emphasis.[3] The way of life spelled out by these two texts encourages the reader “abhor anything that is displeasing to God” while practicing “singleness of heart and a richness of the spirit.”[4] It is an encouragement to those who have decided to follow Jesus to be like Jesus and to be different than those who are not following him. In this way, the writings of the Apostolic Fathers tend to have more in common with St. James and with St. Paul., as noted by Roger Olson in his book The Story of Christian Theology.[5]

Though there were parts with which I did not agree, being a 21st century believer in a highly individualist culture, I did enjoy reading through these thirteen texts. The Martyrdom of Polycarp was, by far, my favorite text in the book having read it years prior to this class. The words that St. Polycarp spoke while on trial for being a Christian has encouraged me countless times over the years since I first read them. As Polycarp once said, “How can I blaspheme my King and my Saviour” when he has done me no wrong?[6]

End-Notes

[1] Staniforth, Maxwell, trans., Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers (London: Penguin Books, 1968), 10.

[2] Staniforth, Early Christian Writings, 61-62.

[3] Staniforth, Early Christian Writings, 179-181, 191-193.

[4] Staniforth, Early Christian Writings, 179.

[5] Olson, Roger E. The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 41.

[6] Staniforth, Early Christian Writings, 128.

Bibliography

Olson, Roger E. The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Staniforth, Maxwell, trans., Early Christian Writings: The Apostolic Fathers, London: Penguin Books, 1968.

The Rule of St. Benedict

St. Benedict, Monastery of St. Gilles, Nimes, France, 1129 AD
St. Benedict, Monastery of St. Gilles, Nimes, France, 1129 AD

Though very little is known about the life of St. Benedict, his Rule was to have a lasting impact on the development of Christianity. Born into a “distinguished Italian family” in 480 C.E., St. Benedict would abandon his liberal education in Rome for a life of solitude.[1] However his solitude would soon be broken by groups of monks who sought out his wisdom and guidance. While at first St. Benedict refused to allow these visiting monks to live near him, he eventually took them on as disciples. At some point in his life, St. Benedict wrote his famous Rule to help guide these disciples as they banded together into communities. By the time of his death in 547 C.E., St. Benedict had founded twelve monasteries “with an abbot and twelve monks in each of them.” [2]

The Rule itself is fairly simple and straight forward, blending the best elements of the Eastern and Western monastic movements. The four primary guiding elements of the Rule are the opus Dei, communal work, intellectual activity, and vow of stability. Gluing these elements together was an “evident love and concern for the welfare” of the monks along with some basic common sense. [3]

In reading the Rule I could not help but be struck at the cult-like instructions of total obedience to the abbot. Not only were the monks to obey every command of the abbot, they were not allowed to disagree with him on threat of physical punishment. [4] Though I know the culture was different during the time of St. Benedict with family patriarchs regularly controlling the actions of their offspring, the content of the Rule is hard to digest with my modern Western mindset.

Endnotes

[1] Benedict. The Rule of St. Benedict. Trans. Anthony C. Meisel and M.L. del Mastro (Garden City, New York: Image Books, 1975), 25.
[2] Benedict. The Rule of St. Benedict, 27.
[3] Benedict. The Rule of St. Benedict, 28.
[4] Benedict. The Rule of St. Benedict, 54-55, 70.

“The Life of St. Anthony” by Athanasius

St. Anthony the Great
St. Anthony the Great

As the persecution of the early church stopped and Christianity gained favor in the halls of power, dedicated followers of Jesus turned from the red martyrdom of death to the white martyrdom of the desert. These white martyrs gave up fleshly comfort (e.g. soft beds, nice clothes, etc.) and embraced an “austere and rigorous discipline” of solitude, prayer, and fasting.[1] The most famous of these desert hermits was St. Anthony the Great (c. 251 CE–356 C.E) who lived in the remote areas of Thebaid (a Roman province in modern day Egypt).

The story of St. Anthony’s life was written down by Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria (c. 295-373 C.E.) between 356-362 C.E. With a few short years, The Life of St. Anthony had “won acclaim not only among Greek-speaking Christians in the eastern Mediterranean, but also among Latin Christians in Gaul and Italy.”[2] A Latin translation of the book was read by St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 C.E.) in Milan, Italy, and changed the course of his life, leading him to embrace the life of asceticism.[3] In the end, Athanasius’ The Life of St. Anthony became the “paradigm for the genre of Christian hagiography” adhered to by subsequent authors.[4]

The flow of the book itself is fairly simple. Starting with St. Anthony’s childhood, the book follows him into the desert and traces his battles with himself and with the forces of darkness. Armed with a regiment of prayer, fasting, physical work and solitude, St. Anthony “gained mastery over Satan and his agents.”[5] He also trained other monks in the “use of prayer and the sign of the cross” for fighting demons and advised all who journeyed to his place of solitude.[6]

On a personal level, I found St. Anthony’s demonology very valuable. The manner in which he describes the tactics of the evil one and how a child of God was to fight against them was very powerful. Rather than being afraid of the forces of evil, St. Anthony taught his followers not to “fear their apparitions, for they are nothing and they disappear quickly.”[7] The evil thoughts placed as stumbling blocks for those who follow Jesus will be “brought down immediately” by “prayers and fasting.”[8]

All too often believers in the modern minority world (i.e. Canada, United States and Europe) dismiss the forces of evil as myths created by uneducated people of the ancient world. However personal experience, trust in the Scriptures, and the testimony of people like St. Anthony leads me to embrace a worldview that includes supernatural forces of both good and bad. Demons, however, are not the equals of God, but rather created beings who fell from “heavenly wisdom.”[9] Having embraced this worldview, it helps me understand why bad things happen to good people and why evil thoughts plague those who desire to please God. All of creation is trapped in the midst of a cosmic battle that will be ended with the return of Jesus when he destroys “every ruler and authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24b). Until that day, we continue to fight along with the saints of old knowing that they surround us and cheer us onward towards the goal of being with Jesus (Hebrews 12:1).

 

Endnotes:
[1] Athanasius. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus. Trans.by Robert C. Gregg (Mahwah, New Jersey: Paulist Press, 1980), 6.
[2] Athanasius. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus, 3.
[3] Athanasius. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus, 15.
[4] Athanasius. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus, xiv.
[5] Athanasius. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus, 7.
[6] Athanasius. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus, 8.
[7] Athanasius. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus, 48.
[8] Athanasius. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus, 48.
[9] Athanasius. The Life of Antony and the Letter to Marcellinus, 47.

Abrahamic Denominations Active in the United States

handbook of denominationsThis Christmas I had the pleasure of reading through the Handbook of Denominations in the United States (13th edition). For those who are not familiar with this book, it’s an encyclopedia of sorts giving a brief history and overview of the theology/practice of the Abrahamic religious denominations active within the USA as of 2010. Granted, the Handbook only lists those groups with at least 100 congregations and/or five thousand members so there are some smaller denominations/groups that are not listed.

The Handbook itself is split into three major selections according to the three major Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As to be expected, the Christianity selection takes up the bulk of the book with the various denominations listed alphabetically according to the major traditions within Christianity (i.e. Lutheran tradition, Reformed, Congregationalist, and Presbyterian tradition, Holiness tradition, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches tradition, etc.).

Under the Judaism and Islam section, the Handbook lists out all the major traditions of those Abrahamic religions. This to me was one of the coolest parts about the Handbook as it was nice to understand a little more about the different sub-groups within Judaism and Islam.

For example, the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) was under the “Holiness Churches” tradition within “Christianity.”  The Union for Reform Judaism was placed under the “Judaism” selection just like Sunni Islam and Wahhabism was placed under Islam.

Interestingly enough, the Vineyard was listed under “Pentecostal Churches” tradition within “Christianity” section. This is odd to me as the Handbook includes a “Community and New Paradigm Church” sub-group that would have seemed a better fit for the Vineyard…  I guess the editors of the Handbook look more towards the Charismatic actions of the Vineyard rather than our theology (which my Pentecostal family members would quickly point out!) is not Pentecostal. This grouping may change in the 14th edition as Roger Olson, the new Handbook editor, is considering creating a “Third Wave” or “Renewalists” sub-group in which the Vineyard will fall. Time will tell.

Another cool thing about the Handbook was that it showed me that it wasn’t just Protestant churches who was dividing up over various issues. Under the Catholic tradition sub-group, the Handbook listed 11 different Catholic church denominations! Some of which split off from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1900’s while other were older splits from Europe. Each of these groups, however, followed the basic theology and practice that one would think about when referring to the Catholic church. They just don’t all agree with Rome.

All in all, I would recommend church leaders owning a copy of the Handbook of Denominations in the United States as it would allow one to quickly find out the basic history and theology/practice of the different groups within the USA. For example, if someone in your church asks you about a group – or you pick up a book and want to under the background of the author – or if someone new joins your church and you want to understand where they come from… in all cases the Handbook would give you a quick glimpse into the denomination in question.

Now to put the Handbook on my wish list as I borrowed the library’s copy for the holidays… 😕

Celtic Christianity and the Legend of the Wild Goose

IMG_0894A cool bonus about attending St. Stephen’s University is that they have a professor who loves Celtic Christianity. Sadly enough he was on a trip during the two weeks I attended class so I was unable to meet him. However I did take advance of the school’s library which had excellent collection of Celtic Christianity books thanks to this gentlemen’s influence. =D

Buried within this collection was a copy of Ian Bradley’s “Celtic Christianity: Making Myths and Chasing Dreams.” This was a book that I have been wanting to read since 2006 – yeah, nine years is a long time to wait…but wow, the book was worth it!

Ian Bradley is a British academic, author, and theologian who teaches at University of St Andrews in Scotland. With over 30 books in print, Bradley is one of the most well-known experts on Celtic Christianity and spirituality. His book “Celtic Christianity: Making Myths and Chasing Dreams” reflects the depth of his knowledge in this area as he traces the development of Celtic Christianity from the early days of the Celtic church to today.

History, while only lived once, is never really static with folks of the current time reading their own wishes and desires back into the actions and thoughts of their forefathers. The various quests for the historical Jesus is a prime example of this human tendency. Bradley, being a professor of church history, not only looks at what actually happened on the British Isle, but also at how folks interpreted the historical events.

In other words just like there has been three quests for the historical Jesus within modern times, there have been multiple movements in which the Celtic Christianity was used as a political pawn. Bradley looks at all these movements, from the time when Celtic Christianity was used as a standard against the Roman Catholic Church (i.e. the Celtic church developed independent of Rome in ancient times so its descendants need not look towards Rome) to the time when the Roman Catholic Church used it against the Protestants (i.e. the Celtic saints of old honored Rome, therefore its descendants need to do so). Etc., etc.

All in all, Bradley’s book Celtic Christianity: Making Myths and Chasing Dreams” is definitely worth reading if you are at all interested in Celtic Christianity and spirituality. It gives you a frame work to understand all the different players and political/religious motivations behind the books.

Wild Goose Chase PaintingOn a personal note, the primary reason I wanted to read this book was that I had heard that Bradley addressed the historical origins of the legend of the Wild Goose. And in reading the book, I found that he does in fact address the legend…only it is not an origin that I particularly like…granted, it was the origin that I figured I would find. =P In other words, the legend of the Wild Goose, according to Bradley, was most likely started in the early 20th century by George Macleod, the founder of the Iona Community which operates the Wild Goose Publications and Wild Goose Worship Group.

However even though the ancient historically of the legend isn’t quite there, I have to mention that I’m still going to promote the legend (just without the historical claim). The reason I’m going to do this is not just because I have a vested interest in the legend (even though having a painting, tattoo and blog site connected to the legend does mean I have a lot to lose if I give up on the story!). Rather, my decision to retain the legend is due to cultural and biblical reasons. Allow me to explain.

If one was to search the Scriptures, you would find that the only time the Hold Spirit is symbolized as a dove is at Jesus’ baptism (as recorded in all four Gospels). This is very telling at all other times within the Old and New Testaments, the symbols of the Spirit are oil, water or fire. So why do the four Gospel writers use the symbol of a dove?

R. Alan Streett answers this question in his book “Heaven on Earth: Experiencing the Kingdom of God in the Here and Now.” In this book, Streett talks about how the Romans practiced augury divination (i.e. interpreting omens from the observed flight of birds) with the eagle being especially important to them as eagles were the sacred animals of Jupiter (supreme god of the Romans). When a new emperor took over, they would seek to have an eagle land on their arms and/or body as a testimony of the good pleasure of Jupiter towards themselves.

In the baptism of Jesus, the Gospels tell us that God the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. This was, as the spoken words of God the Father confirmed, a testimony of the good pleasure of the Supreme Creator toward Jesus, the Son. In other words, the reason the Gospel writers use the symbol of the dove (or should I say, the reason God revealed himself as a dove) was that they were contracting the rule and kingdom of Jesus over and against the rule and kingdom of the Roman Emperor.

The kingdom of Rome was symbolized by the eagle (a meat-eating birds of prey)while the kingdom of God was symbolized by the dove (a gentle, nonviolence bird). Rome ruled through fear, violence and war; Jesus rules through love, peace and his self-sacrificing death on a cross. Two different views of kingdom; each symbolized by a bird.

So what does this have to do with the Wild Goose legend?

The point of this back story is that the Gospel writers used the dove as a symbol for the Holy Spirit because it fit the culture of the time. In today’s culture and time, I believe there is a need for a new symbol that will catch the imagination of a new generation of people.

For me, I love the picture of the Wild Goose and the wild mystery that it represents. The age of the symbol is not as important as whether or not the symbol captures the essence of God and pulls you into the radical nature of the rule of Jesus. Geese, after all, are prey animals like doves – highlighting the value of the Cross and the way of peace.

Thank you George Macleod for creating/promoting the symbol of the Wild Goose.

Happy Theophany/Epiphany!

The Baptism of Christ (Menologion of Basil II, 10th-11th c.)
The Baptism of Christ (Menologion of Basil II, 10th-11th c.)

The 12 Days of Christmas are over and a new season of liturgy has begun. To mark this shift, Eastern Orthodox brothers and sisters celebrate the feast of Theophany in remembrance of when Jesus as baptized by John the Forerunner.

The name Theophany means the “appearance of God” as it was at that baptism that the Trinity appeared clearly to humanity for the first time. God the Father spoke from the heavens while the incarnated God the Son physical stood in the Jordan river with the God the Spirit descending upon him.

Adoration of the Magi by El Greco, 1568
Adoration of the Magi by El Greco, 1568

Among our Roman Catholic and liturgical Protestant family, today is celebration of Epiphany. That is, the day when the magi visited Jesus in Bethlehem, most likely when he was one years of age.

The feast’s name, epiphany, means “manifestation” or “revelation” as the magi represented all the non-Jewish people of the world (i.e. the Gentiles) who received the revelation that God had taken on the likeness of humanity to rescue us from darkness.

Both feasts have been celebrated by Jesus followers since the fourth century, if not earlier. So, if you are able, lift up a cup and shout:

“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Revelation 19:6b-8a)

The Vineyard is God’s Idea

The following text was written by Phil and Jan Strout, Vineyard USA National Directors, for the recently released “What is the Vineyard?” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.
Phil and Jan Strout
Phil and Jan Strout

“There are a number of things that come to mind when we are asked ‘What is the Vineyard?’ We are going to attempt to express our thoughts in a very simple way, from our point of view.

“The Vineyard is God’s idea. We often refer to the Vineyard as a ‘movement of people’ that God initiated and invited, among many others, to join His mission. In other words, we are recipients of and participants in God’s great grace and mercy.

“We are a people who have responded to this invitation to join God’s mission, for His greater glory and the well being of people. In responding to the invitation of God, men and women like the Wimbers, the Fultons, and numerous others found themselves swept up in a Holy Spirit avalanche. These people who were at the beginning of this movement did not sit in a boardroom and draw up a five-part plan to form a movement that would spread around the world. This is very important for our present understanding of the Vineyard.

“We were called into being as worshippers and Jesus-followers, grateful and humbled by God’s inclusion of people like us. As we understood early on, we received much from God in relation to his presence – his power, his favor, his fruit. We all heard: “We get, to give.” What God had done in the people of the Vineyard, he wanted to do through these people. We have not moved very far from that simple understanding, nor should we.

“Church, church, church! John Wimber’s clear instruction to ‘Love the whole Church’ was a refreshing and liberating invitation. Worship songs with lyrics such as Help Me to Love The Things You Love by Danny Daniels reflected this emphasis. The Vineyard taught us all to not only appreciate, but also to embrace, the great historic traditions of the Church.

“God has always had a people. Despite our penchant for viewing ourselves as innovators in the 21st century, we must realize that we aren’t as vogue as we think. Instead of blazing trails with our faith, we have taken the torch that has been passed down to us from generation to generation. We are a family of torch-bearers.

what is the vineyard‘Find out what God is doing in your generation and fling yourself (recklessly) into it.’ That is a paraphrase of a Jonathan Edwards quote that caught our attention during the Jesus Movement in the ‘70s. It is not that God changes, or that his message changes. Rather, it is often that a vital truth has been lost or disregarded – and it needs to be rediscovered, revived, and made alive again.

“During the time of the birth of the Vineyard, the church was rediscovering the charismata, or gifts of the Spirit. Incorporating them into the life of the church, with all of us participating (‘everyone gets to play’), was one of the highlights of Vineyard understanding. Instead of the ‘one’ getting to play, ‘everyone’ was getting to play. There was no special person, no superstars. Even in our music, the simplicity of the chords and words took music that might have headed into performance back to intimacy, without hype.

“First generation Vineyard people came from an incredibly varied set of backgrounds. We ranged from burned-out church leaders from many denominations, to those who had never stepped foot in a church building. Some showed up in suits and ties, only to find out that the casual mode (in dress and attitude) of the Vineyard atmosphere was actually an intentional piece of our liturgy. In those days, the wide range of doctrinal statements was of little importance. We said, ‘Come as you are, you’ll be loved.’ God was gathering a people made up of ordinary people.

“The Vineyard Movement has a very unique opportunity to pass on a healthy template of what it means to be the Church to another generation. We will stay flexible and pliable in what is negotiable, as we stay the course in our main and plain, divine assignment to be worshippers of God and rescuers of people.”

– Phil & Jan Strout

What is the Vineyard? Our History – Booklet Excerpt #2

The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “What is the Vineyard?” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.
Kenn and Joanie Gulliksen
A Brief Snapshot

The first Vineyards were planted in 1975. By 1982, there were at least seven “Vineyards” in a loose-knit fellowship of churches. Kenn Gulliksen, a soft-spoken, unassuming leader with a passion to know and walk with God, started a church in Hollywood in 1974. In 1975, believing that God had instructed him to do so, he officially gave the name “Vineyard” to this association of churches and led them for about five years.

In the early 1980s, Kenn felt led to ask John Wimber to assume leadership for the growing movement. The official recognition of this transition took place in 1982: the emergence of what was to be called the “Association of Vineyard Churches.”

John Wimber

John Wimber’s influence profoundly shaped the theology and practice of Vineyard churches, from their earliest days until his death in November 1997. When John was conscripted by God, he was, in the words of Christianity Today, a “beer-guzzling, drugabusing pop musician, who was converted at the age of 29 while chain-smoking his way through a Quaker-led Bible study.”

john and carol wimberIn John’s first decade as a Christian, he led hundreds of people to Christ. By 1970 he was leading 11 Bible studies that included more than 500 people. John became so fruitful as an evangelical pastor he was asked to lead the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth. He also later became an adjunct instructor at Fuller Theological Seminary, where his classes set attendance records. In 1977, John re-entered pastoral ministry to plant Calvary Chapel of Yorba Linda.

During this time, John’s conservative evangelical paradigm for understanding the ministry of the church began to grow. George Eldon Ladd’s theological writings on the kingdom of God convinced John intellectually that all the biblical gifts of the Holy Spirit should be active in the Church.

Encounters with Fuller missiologists Donald McGavaran and C. Peter Wagner, along with seasoned missionaries and international students, gave John credible evidence for combining evangelism with healing and prophecy. As he became more convinced of God’s desire to be active in the world through all the biblical gifts of the Spirit, John began to teach and train his church to imitate Jesus’ full-orbed kingdom ministry. He began to “do the stuff” of the Bible, about which he had formerly only read.

Early Experiences With The Holy Spirit

As John and his congregation, mostly made up of former Quakers, sought God in intimate worship, they experienced empowerment by the Holy Spirit, significant renewal in the gifts, and conversion growth. Since it soon became clear that the church’s emphasis on the experience of the Holy Spirit was not shared by some leaders in the Calvary Chapel movement, John’s church left Calvary Chapel in 1982 and joined the Association of Vineyard Churches.

A Network Of Churches Worldwide

Over time, the Vineyard movement has grown to be a network of over 1,500 churches worldwide. We seek to blend the best of the evangelical traditions with their focus on Christ-like character and regard for the Scriptures, with the best of the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions of welcoming the empowering of the Holy Spirit for life, ministry, and acts of service.

Embracing The New Year

celtic-crossA new year is upon us, beckoning us to embrace life with all its changes and mysteries.  This day, as an old Scottish New Year prayer says, is a “new day that has never been before.” And as a new day, let us embrace the newness of it and set our eyes ahead towards the rising sun.

The Lord Jesus is in our midst, walking with us and beckoning forward on His mission. The old year along with the old junk of our lives – our failures, mistakes, pains, sorrows, bitterness, and tears – have been laid at the foot of the cross and we are now new beings, washed pure by His light (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Let us, therefore, stand tall as sons and daughter of the Most High (Romans 8:14-17) and march forward together as one body under the leadership of Jesus, the King of Kings and Prince of Peace.

Christ has many services to be done;

Some are easy, others are difficult;

Some bring honor, others bring reproach;

Some are suitable to our natural

Inclinations and temporal interest,

Others are contrary to both.

In some we may please Christ and please ourselves,

In others we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.

Yet the power to do all these things is assuredly given us in Christ, who strengthens us.

 

Therefore let us make the Covenant of God our own.

Let us engage our heart to the Lord,

And resolve in His strength never to go back!

 (Section of an old Celtic New Year covenant service)