Alpha – Omega; A Scripture Compilation for Kingdomtide

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the LORD,

“who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

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Chi-Ro Alpha Omega – Brompton Cemetery, London, England, UK.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, now the Word was with God, and the Word was God and all things were made through him. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light- the true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. But sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. For we all like sheep have gone astray; we have turned–every one–to his own way.

But when the fullness of time had come the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. So Mary gave birth to him, her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He taught, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Yet He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

He said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” So he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For as in Adam all die, so also in Him shall all be made alive. And when He had been crucified he said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. But three days later he was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.

After that he was taken up into heaven, and the LORD said to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Thereafter, He who is seated on the throne will say, “I am making everything new!” Then he will say these words that are trustworthy and true “It is finished. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” And behold, God has exalted him to the highest place and given him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Edited by Nathan Gilley using the English Standard Version (ESV)

Rev 1:8, Gen 1:1, Jn 1:1,3, Gen 1:3, Jn 1:9, Ro 5:12, Isaiah 53:6, Gal 4:4, Jn1:14, Phil 2:5-6, Luke 2:7, Isa 53:2, Luke 6:27,28,31, Isa 53:3, Jn 6:35, Is 53:5, Phil 2:8, 1Cor 15:22, John19:30, Ro 1:4, Mrk 16:19, Ps 110:1, Rev 21:4,5, Phil 2:9

The idea for compiling this reading was inspired by the two divine utterances of “It is finished.” Once on the cross and once at the end of all things.

Prayer for a Newborn Baby and Mother Immediately after Birth

[Lay hands on infant and mother]

Naked we come from our mothers’ womb
And naked we will depart;
Blessed be the name of the Lord,

The Lord, who with this mother, and through this labor,
has brought forth this miracle of life;
Blessed be the name of the Lord,

[Make the sign of the cross on the infant’s head with the blessing below]

The name that we now put upon this child and family:
The Lord bless her and keep her;
The Lord make his face to shine upon her and be gracious to her;
The Lord lift up his countenance upon her and give her peace.

Blessed be the name of the Lord,

[Prayed over the mother]

The Lord, who knitted this child together in your womb, who creates and sustains all things, uphold you and go with you in the good work of motherhood that you have begun. May He fill you with all faith, hope, and love; causing you to delight yourself in Him, forevermore.

Blessed be the name of the Lord,

The name by which we are saved- Jesus Christ,
Amen.

 

My newest daughter is now almost 3 months old, but in the weeks preceding her birth, I was motivated to finish working on a concise prayer to be prayed over newborns with their mothers. I completed my first draft a few days before my wife, Bethany, went into labor. After my wife gave birth to our baby girl, Ruth was immediately given to her mother- to snuggle on her chest. Then, as things calmed down, and the necessary nursing and physician tasks were completed, I placed my hands on the head of my newborn daughter and on my wife to recite this prayer.

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The idea for this prayer was born out a desire to have a practical and particularly Christian way to celebrate and mark the joyous occasion of a child’s birth. As a physician I often attend a mother during delivery and become so engrossed in the physical task of guiding, monitoring, and running anticipatory scenarios that before I even think about it, my job is done and I have left the room with a sigh of relief that nothing went off the rails. But I have neglected to acknowledge that God has worked a miracle and allowed me to bear witness. I have missed one of the great opportunities for which I became a physician. To be Christ – in word and deed, at the extremes of life – when our hearts are so naturally ready to receive the grace of God.

Hopefully, this prayer can become a part of my routine, and allow my patients and myself to celebrate, give glory to God, and start a pattern of prayer over each child. I plan to memorize this prayer and routinely ask expectant mothers if they would like for me to pray this blessing over their child after the birth.

Now I just need help translating this into Spanish (because that is the language that the majority of my obstetric patients speak – already (I am presently a resident family physician in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in my third and final year), and although my Spanish is adequate to communicate, it is not eloquent).  For anyone endeavoring to translate this, please note that three scriptures are being drawn from for the above prayer: Job 1:21, Psalm 113:2, and Numbers 6:24-26.

 

Vigil with a Crying Newborn

God Almighty,
Who longs to wipe away every tear, and bring this world to right.

Make me your hand of steadfast love to the distraught,
Make me your voice of peace to the suffering,
Make me your embrace of consolation to the helpless.
Make me Christ to my child and make my eyes see Christ in my child.

Hear our prayers, O LORD,
and give ear to our cries;
Do not be silent at these tears;
For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, who sojourned here with us,

Amen.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

(Revelation 21:4, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Hosea 11, Ephesians 4:2, Colossians 3:12, Psalm 39:12, Revelation 22:20)
Ruth Crying in Daddy's arms
Ruth is 10 days old, and a wonderful baby. She occasionally wants to nurse more frequently than is possible – and find’s her father’s lack of breasts to be very upsetting.

Prayer is a powerful form to reframe our thoughts and expectations into Christlikeness, as well as a call for God to transform this reality into kingdom reality. This prayer is a lot of the former and a little of the later.

Newborns were made to cry, and crying is a good, God-given, form of communication for them. And in the mature human is a complimentary God-given motivation to do something about a crying baby. But when all the actions have been taken and your baby still cries – it time to join with them, and cry out to God. This prayer is meant to be a prayer spoken over or with the urgent and inconsolable cries of a newborn who is fed, changed, swaddled, burped, held – and yet still crying (as Ruth was for 2 hours last night).

After writing this prayer I followed these directions to afix the prayer to battery powered wax candle that we use as our nightlight during these long first nights while Ruth sleeps in our room. I was able to present this to my wife for our use.

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Grace and Peace to us all,

Nathan Gilley, Murfreesboro, TN, USA; October 14th, The year of our Lord 2018

1. Childhood & Calling – Nathan Gilley

As a young child of two godly parents, I was blessed with a deep and early faith in God. My mother was raised in the church as a PK (Preacher’s Kid) and then served in the church I grew up in as a children’s teacher, choir member, and missions director. My mother’s faith was like whitewater – impressive, always moving, visible, and loud. My father’s faith was more aptly described by the Latin proverb, “Still waters run deep.” He rarely spoke to me about his relationship with God, but I watched him physically construct the church building, give sacrificially, honor God with high standards, and exemplify a walk of humble obedience while serving as the church groundskeeper, handyman, soundman, and board member. My parents complimented each other well, and impressed their shared faith upon me from the first moment that God gave me to them, onwards.

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Two things swirl forth in my earliest childhood memories: my home church and the outdoors. Thinking back, I catch glimpses of mission projects, Sunday school, VBS weeks, and church plays. I remember countless hours of Wednesday night lessons and their Bible verse songs taught to me by my mother and my mom’s best friend Miss Helen. I also remember exploring the foothills and hollows at the base of Lookout Mountain, catching frogs and crayfish in ponds with my friend Carter, climbing the poplar trees that towered around my home, and designing booby traps with my brother to spring on imaginary foes chasing us through the dry creek bed behind our house. I never doubted I was safe and loved by my family, and in that fertile ground a seed of faith was planted, and out of that seed blossomed a deep, faith filled love for a good God and His wonderful creation.

As full as my days were of joyful curiosity and freely given affection, my nights were filled with vivid dreams of wonder and terror. These dreams stemmed from a powerful and well cultivated imagination that was fueled by a rich tapestry of Biblical stories, my favorite of which were of Joseph’s interpretations of dreams, Daniel’s visions, and Revelation. One night stands out in my mind. I was falling asleep in my bed when I heard my name called. I dutifully arose and went to my parents’ room and ask them why they’d called. My mom explained to me that they had not called for me. But she quickly added that perhaps it was God who had called, so she admonished me as Eli had Samuel, “If you hear the voice calling again, say, ‘Speak Lord, I’m listening.’” I went back to bed unafraid and eagerly waiting for God to say, “Nathan,” one more time. When he remained silent I decided to go ahead and give him permission to speak, “Speak Lord, I’m listening,” I said quietly in my little boy voice, but I waited and waited until finally I fell asleep in the silence.

Not long after that during a dream I saw my church’s congregation gathered in the sanctuary on a typical Sunday morning. Now, I grew up in Chattanooga Valley Church of the Nazarene, and my family, the Gilleys, had been a part of that Church for four generations and our extended family made up about half of the congregation. In my dream, I saw the instant when the Lord of heaven called His saints to himself in the sky, but my perspective remained in the church building. Many in the congregation went to join their Lord, but to my dismay many people in the church who I knew and loved remained. God impressed that moment and those feelings into my mind, I felt a soul wrenching agony and empathetic torment for those bewildered and lost family and friends. From there the dream continued and I was shown locked books and keys. I no longer remember the details of the later, but I remember awakening with the utter conviction that I was called to ministry. When I enthusiastically explained this to my mother (a kindergarten teacher who knew how often the passionate career hopes of children vacillate) she gave me a non-comital reassurance. I immediately sensed her lack of faith and said with adorable but probably tearful eyes (I cried whenever I disagreed with an adult), “Whether you believe it or not, I am going do what God said, I’m going to be a pastor.” I was five years old.

Shortly after that, my dreams took a darker turn. I had a period in which every night was haunted with nightmares of hell and demons breaking into my ordinary dreams and creating fear, even developing towards periods of sleeplessness. With patience and care my parents, but especially my mother, taught me to pray for peace and protection. I remember us praying together for long periods of time, sometimes multiple times a night, and in those prayers, I learned to lean into the kingdom reality, and immerse myself by prayer in the peace, love, and power of an almighty God who has no rival. The trial passed, but the lessons I learned did not. (Writing this, I am contemplating anew the formative import of the sleepy prayers I pray over my 2-year-old who continues to struggle with sleep).

During that same time period I specifically remember a Kindergarten lesson on jobs (fireman, policeman, teacher, trash collector, doctor, etc.) and knowing with a sort of melancholy certainty that although being a trash collector (who was able to ride on the side of the garbage truck- jumping on and off) was doubtless the best job ever, it could not be my job, because I was called to be a pastor. My mother’s dad, whom we called Paw Paw was a Southern Baptist Preacher, and he was particularly excited to learn of my calling. He had been praying for years, since his own children were coming into the world, that God would call one of his children into the ministry. He told us God had given him the assurance that he would have a ‘preacher boy,’ but after all five of his children were girls, he waited in faith to see how God would answer his prayer.

In the scriptures, before Elijah passed his mantle to Elisha, they crossed through the waters together. In like manner, I remember wading through the baptismal waters to my Paw Paw, giving my confession of faith before the church, and then being put under the water and brought up again- dying to sin and resurrecting in Christ. Pawpaw loved to teach and encourage me, he never let me forget that I had testified to a call on my life, and he prayed regularly for my future (he made it his practice to pray daily for all his children and grandchildren). His advice, prayers, and legacy were carefully, gradually, and thoughtfully put over me like Elijah’s mantle was given to Elisha.

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As my parents discerned that God truly had a call on my life, they began to pray and discuss what steps they needed to take to be in obedience to God’s plan for our lives. So, after I completed Kindergarten at the local public school, my parents made the hard decision to move me from Chattanooga Valley Elementary School to a small Christian school called Chattanooga Christian School (CCS). My new school emphasized Christian formation and biblical education. This was a hard decision because my mother was a devoted servant of the public-school system, and had taught at Chattanooga Valley Elementary School for many years before having my brother and I. But they listened carefully to what God was leading them to do even though it had a cost – both financial and social.

In the years to come their decision proved to be truly providential, at CCS God further refined my call to include foreign missions and grounded my faith with a thorough working knowledge of the scriptures. Another formative time in my elementary school years were my family’s visits to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to be with my younger cousin Samantha. Sam was diagnosed with retinoblastoma cancer when she was six weeks old, she went on to have cancer nine times before she was eight years old. My stays at St. Jude brought me face-to-face with the hellish nature of disease and the hope filling power of doctors who treat their patients with love and compassion. It was then that I began to see that the future I had felt God calling me towards might not be a simple pastorate or even typical missionary work I had envisioned. I began to dream of being a type of missionary that could help all kinds of broken people feel better; like the doctors and nurses who joked and played games with my cousin and I when she was feeling well, but also comforted and gave us hope when she seemed to be slipping away.

This desire to tangibly minister to the brokenness of the world resonated with the call that God had placed on my life. And one day, on the long drive back from Memphis, Tennessee (St. Jude’s Children Hospital) to Flintstone, Georgia (Home), I asked my father about the feasibility of such a calling, “Dad, do you think I could be a missionary to help people know about God and a doctor to help the sick people there too?” And with unwavering support and affirmation that would characterize my parents’ attitude towards my calling my Dad answered, “Sure.” My brother, not to be left out, decided to combine his dream job with an altruistic twist to help the sick children, “Dad, I think that I’ll still be a dump truck driver, but between loads, I can also pick up all the sick children (in the spacious dump bed) and take them to the hospital.”

With the medical missions goal in mind and with an insatiable curiosity about the world, I worked hard to be the best student I could. Unfortunately, despite enjoying school, having great support at home, excellent teachers, and doing my best, I struggled to read and write, even into the second grade. My first academic obstacle was unveiled when my mother insisted I be tested for learning disabilities and found out I was in the first percentile for dyslexia. My parents did not allow this to become an excuse (in fact- I did not even learn I was dyslexic until much later) they only assured me that although I needed some extra help, if I worked hard and faithfully, I could be what I dreamed. After my testing, I was placed in special education classes and my mother worked with me one-on-one every day for 2-4 additional hours after school. This went on for several years. In time I could work around my reading and writing mix-ups and slowly I caught up with my peers. This trial taught me the power of persistence, determination, and hope.

Nathan Gilley, October 14th 2018, Murfreesboro TN.

Sojourner, Come In

At the beginning of our marriage, for our first Christmas gift as a married couple, my wife and I created a guest book for our home. I crafted a leather binding and my wife bound up the pages. Our first page contains this invitation:

Book intro

In these pages and dispatches, like our home, we hope to provide a glimpse of God’s inbreaking kingdom. We invite you to come in, and hope you will find our words to be life giving.