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The Prayers of the Phoenix

Another fantastic excerpt from Eerdmans’ forthcoming reprint of the 16th century Four Birds of Noah’s Ark. This is the introduction to the fourth and final bird, the Phoenix, a collection of prayers relating to death and resurrection. 

The fourth bird is now flying out toward you; spread, therefore, your arms wide open to welcome it, and this Phoenix will carry you up and on to a second life that shall be ever, everlasting.

Among all birds, the Phoenix lives the longest–so must our prayers fly up in bright flames all the days of our lives. We must be petitioners even to the last hour and last minute of our breath. The Phoenix has the most beautiful feathers in the world, and prayers are the most beautiful wings by which we may mount into heaven. There is but one Phoenix upon earth, and it has but one tune in which God delights, and that is the prayer of a sinner. 

When the Phoenix knows she must die, she builds a nest of all the sweetest spices, and there, looking steadfastly at the sun, she beats her wings in its hottest beams and between them kindles a fire among those sweet spices and so burns herself to death. So, when we desire to die in the vanities of the world, we must build up a nest and fill it with faithful sighs, groans, tears, fasting and prayer, sackcloth and ashes–all of which are sweet spices in the nostrils of the Lord–and then, fixing our eyes upon the cross where the glorious Son of God paid the ransom of our sins, we must not cease till, with the wings of faith and repentance, we have kindled his mercy and in that sweet flame have all our fleshly corruptions consumed and purified. Out of those dead ashes of the Phoenix does a new Phoenix rise. And even so, out of the ashes of that one repentance shall we be regenerate and born anew.

Out of the purest flames of love, Christ kindled a fire that drank up the wrath of his Father, a fire in which all people should have been drowned for their sins, and in that fire did he die to redeem us who were lost. Yet he did not leave it there. To have died for us would have been worth nothing if he hadn’t also, like a true Phoenix, been raised up again. As a grain of wheat is cast into the earth and there first rots and then comes to life again and after yields itself in a tenfold measure, so was our Savior cast into his sepulcher, where his dead body lay for a time and then came to life again and then was raised up. And in that rising did he multiply those benefits that before he sowed among us, when he was torn in pieces and scattered on the cross.

When he died, he died alone, but when he did rise, he did not rise alone, for in his resurrection do we all ascend…

Jesus Christ the Pelican Mother

Here at Mbird HQ, sometimes you get an advance copy of a book from a publisher and you’re not exactly thrilled about opening it. This one, though, is an exception. It is a prayer book from the days of Shakespeare, written by layman (and playwright) Thomas Dekker. The book is divided into four parts, each part a “bird,” or form of prayer, flying from Noah’s Ark. The notion of the Ark as the human body/experience is a powerful one. This is Dekker’s introduction to his third bird, The Pelican. You can pre-order the book here.

The third bird that I call out of Noah’s ark is the Pelican. The nature of the Pelican is to peck her own bosom and with the drops of her blood to feed her young ones. Christ, the Son of God, is the Pelican whose blood was shed to feed us. The physician made a medicine of his own body to cure us. Look upon him well, and behold his wounds bleeding, his head bowed down (as if to kiss us), his very sides opened (as if to show how his heart loved us), his arms stretched out to their length (as if to embrace us). And judge by all these if Christ be not our truest Pelican.

He who was King of Heaven and Earth suffered his brow to wear a crown of thorns. He received wounds that are our health. He tasted the bitterness of death that is our salvation—what Pelican can do more for her young ones?

Our souls were spotted: Sin had pawned them, sin had lost them, sin had made them foul. All the medicine in the world could not purge our corruption, all the fountains in the world could not wash our spots, all the gold and silver on earth could not redeem our forfeitures, all the kings under heaven could not pay our ransoms. Nothing could free us from captivity but to make Christ a prisoner. Nothing could give us life but the heavenly Pelican’s death.

The Struggle of Dying

The Struggle of Dying

This meditation on Lent and healing prayer comes to us from our friend Laurel Marr. 

In his book, The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane tells the story of Henry Fleming, a young soldier who enlists in the army in hopes of fulfilling his dream for glory. But, a long time goes by before his regiment is called forward to battle and the fear of dying begins to set in his mind. Henry wonders if he is really brave enough for battle. Then, upon seeing the enemy for the first time, Henry’s courage fails and he flees the battlefield.

Thank you, Stephen Crane…

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When God’s Will Is the Only Thing Left

Acclaimed writer Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart and the forthcoming Abandon Me, graced us as a guest on the most recent episode of The Mockingcast. During their fantastic interview — would have reposted the whole thing if I could have — Scott read this beautiful excerpt from Abandon Me:

Jonah, whose name means “dove,” is not brave. He simply exhausts all his other choices. The only thing left to choose is God’s will, and even then, after proclaiming his prophecy, Jonah shakes his fist at the Lord. His destiny does not give him peace; it enrages him. It’s not what he wants. He begs God to kill him. But God doesn’t kill Jonah. God’s mercy often doesn’t come in the form of erasure. And the story of Jonah seems a parable of what I have often suspected, that life is a great “choose your own adventure story.” Every choice leads the hero to the same princes, the same cliff. There are alternative routes, but there is only one ending, if you make it there…every love is a sea monster in whose belly we learn to pray.

Hopelessly Devoted: Romans Eight Verses Thirty-Eight Through Thirty-Nine

Hopelessly Devoted: Romans Eight Verses Thirty-Eight Through Thirty-Nine

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Luke Ferraguti.

These last few weeks have got me in a real slump. Not that there haven’t been any moments of relief (I love watching a good comeback story. Here’s to you, Tom Brady), but life’s just hard sometimes. Mix together a few disappointing moments, a load of work, and the flu, and you’ve got a recipe for the blues. I’m currently a graduate student studying music performance; and here, like most places on earth, there’s no shortage of disapproving glances and unmet expectations. In these moments, when the pressure really bears down, I…

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The Pastor in the Batter's Box

The Pastor in the Batter’s Box

Get your elbows up! Watch the ball! Bend your knees! Be a hitter! Keep your elbows down! Choke up on the bat! Jump on that fastball! Wait for your pitch!

I remember standing in that little league batter’s box, with coaches and random parents and teammates all yelling their well-meaning directives to me at the same time. And I wanted to please them all. I wanted with all my 9 year old body to actualize all their shouted instructions simultaneously — even when they contradicted one another. But most of the time, I felt practically paralyzed by their imperatives. The…

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On Failing French and Prayer

On Failing French and Prayer

 This one comes to us from our friend, Cort Gatliff.

When my wife, Abby, and I were dating, she told me not to bother trying to marry her unless I was willing to move to France, where she could perfect her near-fluent command of the French language. Assuming this ultimatum fell into the category of “things idealistic twentysomethings say after two glasses of wine,” I agreed. But just a year into our marriage, she called my bluff. We’re now living in an attic apartment above a pharmacy in a small, grey town in northern France.

Abby, who is teaching English at a…

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The Prayers of the Red Light District

The Prayers of the Red Light District

Another gem from Margaret Pope. 

I am very slowly working my way through Eric Metaxas’s biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who adamantly opposed Hitler’s Third Reich and helped plot Hitler’s assassination. As I read this weekend, one section of the book stood out to me. Bonhoeffer is recounting attending a church in Paris, wherein he is given a picture of grace:

On Sunday afternoon I attended an extremely festive high mass in Sacré Coeur. The people in church were almost exclusively from Montmartre; prostitutes and their men went to mass, submitted to all the ceremonies; it was an enormously impressive picture, and once again…

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Hopelessly Devoted: First Peter Chapter One Verses Three Through Seven

Hopelessly Devoted: First Peter Chapter One Verses Three Through Seven

This post comes to us from our friend, Jim McNeely.

My friend Mike Rehmet once told a story about his wife, Gina, who likes plants but apparently doesn’t have the greenest of thumbs. She brought home a new potted plant and set it on the front porch. As they were going out, he noticed the plant there, and said, “So–this is where you’re gonna do it?”

I was thinking about that story as I read this passage recently:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a…

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The Duty vs. the Desire to Punish

The Duty vs. the Desire to Punish

A brief review of the Persistent Widow parable from Luke 18, which many folks heard at church this past Sunday. It’s a short little parable of a widow with a just grievance. The local judge, however, is corrupt, and he refuses to hear the case. So the widow relentlessly pesters the judge until he finally agrees to hear her out to “see that she gets justice.”

The point of the parable is made clear at its telling: “Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” To quote our friend Derek Webb, there is…

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The Devil's Whore

The Devil’s Whore

This post comes to us from our friend Laurel Marr.

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

(The Church’s One Foundation, v. 3)

Can the right amount of faith remove the suffering and sickness that interferes with our daily lives and our ability to faithfully serve our neighbor?  Francis MacNutt, a pioneer and a well-respected expert in the revival of the “ministry of healing,” suggests in his book Healing that by exercising faith, we can work…

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Recovering the Cross in Healing Prayer Ministry: A Conference Breakout Preview

Here is another preview of a breakout session from our upcoming conference in NYC during which Laurel Marr and Ben DeHart will be discussing the cross and healing prayer. Join us April 14-16!

Healing prayer ministries in the church today are centered on theologies of glory – beliefs that faith, positive thinking, and works are needed for personal empowerment or to alleviate sickness or poverty. Where do we turn when this isn’t working?

8242bd9abefcc938d12a39d6f9f2cd1f“Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.” (Mark 9:32)

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered.  “Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mark 11:22-24)

Have we missed the real power of prayer because of insufficient faith? The promise of God’s healing power to be released if we just rally our faith never works. The good news is that we don’t have to count on our own offerings of faith to receive God’s blessings–even healing. God does not grant any favors for prosperity ministries that proclaim law-based methods will secure more blessings for those who can live within their rigidity.

What is faith anyways? How do we find healing? We don’t find it; it finds us.

The Gospel pronounces that we are already forgiven and our justification ends conditional thinking and the language of the law. God commands us to believe and He creates faith in our hearts as he covers us with the His own righteousness. It is a condition, not a choice; a gift, not an offer. This saving faith is a result of His choice and His commitment to us, not ours to Him.

“For by grace you have been saved by faith. And it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, no a result of works so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Perhaps offerings of faith for healing miracles should be considered works, and we don’t have anything God needs or wants. Faith flows from His will and work, not ours. It is time to bring healing prayer ministries to be centered on the Theology of the Cross – where the cross of Christ is the heartbeat of our faith.

Pre-register today!