Day 15: Introducing Some African Fathers and Mothers of the Early Church
1. Center Down
Before we begin today’s spiritual excursion, please take a few moments to breathe! Take three slow, deep breaths, expanding from your abdomen; try not to raise your shoulders. As you inhale, whisper, “Jesus, You are…” As you exhale, whisper, “…Lord of all.”
2. Slowly read aloud the following Scriptures
(Feel free to pause at any time during your reading to reflect on, thank, praise, or acknowledge God’s stirring in your thoughts and emotions.)
So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us. Now stay focused on Jesus, Who designed and perfected our faith. He endured the cross and ignored the shame of that death because He focused on the joy that was set before Him; and now He is seated beside God on the throne, a place of honor. Consider the life of the One who endured such personal attacks and hostility from sinners so that you will not grow weary or lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3, VOICE)
For further exploration:
African Saints, African Stories: 40 Holy Men and Women, by Camille Lewis Brown
How Africa Shaped the Christian Mind: Rediscovering the African Seedbed of Western Christianity, by Thomas C. Oden
Defending Black Faith: Answers to Tough Questions
About African-American Christianity, by Craig S.
Keener and Glenn Usry
3. Kingdom Prayer
Glorious Father, we thank You for Your unconditional love. Thank You for showing us just how great Your love is by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Lord God, we thank You for the precious gift of eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Your majestic Name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens! We will praise Your Name forever and ever, for You have all wisdom and power. We put our hope in You, Lord. You are our help and our shield. Our hearts rejoice in You, for we trust in Your Holy Name. Father, You have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal! If we tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, we would never come to the end of them.
Triumphant Father, we commit to sharing the Gospel with our unsaved family members, friends, co-workers and enemies. We will fulfill The Great Commission by going into all the world and preaching the Good News to everyone, without prejudice. We confess that as Your Word is preached throughout the world, it will convict the hearts of the unsaved. As the Body of Christ, we are not ashamed to tell the Good News about Jesus Christ, for we know that it is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes. We declare that as people confess with their mouths, the Lord Jesus, and believe in their hearts that You raised Him from the dead, they will be saved. When they receive Christ as their Lord and Savior, they will see themselves as Your masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus so that they can do the good things You predestined for them to do. They will learn to love You with all their heart and soul so that they may truly live. Lord, we decree that those who are set free by the Son of God will know that they are truly free indeed!
List the people that you know who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Ask the Holy Spirit for the wisdom to share your faith with them in loving ways:
Merciful Father, we cry out to You to clear the way so that Your Gospel may be preached in every city, state, nation, and continent. There is much to be done to gather a great harvest of souls in our generation. Please send laborers to proclaim the Good News to the unsaved in every nation and every tongue. Strengthen missionaries around the world to proclaim Christ and do good works. We ask You, Holy Spirit, to remove the scales from the eyes of those who are blind and cannot see the Father’s goodness and faithfulness toward them. Lord God, we ask You to circumcise the hearts of those who have backslidden. Lead them back to the path of righteousness. Remind them of the huge crowd of witnesses that surround them and strengthen them to strip off every weight that slows them down, especially the sin that so easily trips them up. Please give them the endurance to continue the race You have set before them. We ask that You help them to keep their eyes focused on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects their faith.
Precious Father, forgive the unsaved for not acknowledging You or Your Son. Forgive them for rejecting Your love and forgiveness. Forgive them for living in ruthless rebellion and ignorance of the Truth. Please have mercy on their souls and extend Your grace toward them.
Forgive us, the Body of Christ, for shrinking back and neglecting to share the Good News with more people. Forgive us for being constrained by fear instead of being motivated by faith. Forgive us for gossiping, backbiting, and slandering our backslidden brothers and sisters when we should have been helping them come back to Jesus. Lord, forgive me for (list the sins that you have committed).
Holy Spirit, remind us all of those we need to forgive and help us to be quick to forgive. As for me, Holy Spirit, bring to my remembrance those I need to forgive. (Take a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you names or faces of people that you may need to forgive. As He reveals them, say aloud, “I forgive name of person(s).” Now, trust the Lord to heal any wounds in your soul caused by unforgiveness.)
Holy Spirit, help us all not to yield to temptation but deliver us all from the evil one.
No one is Holy like the Lord! There is no one besides You. There is no Rock like You, our God. Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens. You are awesome in Your sanctuary. You are the God of Israel who gives power and strength to His people. Praise be to You, O God! May Your glory shine over all the earth. Holy, holy, holy are You, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with Your glory! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
4. Concepts to Consider
Christianity first came to the African continent in the middle of the first-century AD. We know from the Book of Acts that the treasurer to Queen Candace of Ethiopia was baptized by the Apostle Phillip and that this royal official brought his faith back home with him (Acts 8:26-40). Church tradition also says that the Gospel writer Mark took the Good News of Jesus into Egypt around 50 AD. Over the next few centuries, the Christian faith continued to spread across Northern and Eastern Africa. Some of the oldest churches and Christian practices in existence can still be found in these regions today (e.g., Coptic and Ethiopian Tewahedo Churches).
Throughout this week we will be reflecting on the lives and teachings of just a few of the earliest (before 450AD) African “Saints.” Yes, according to the New Testament (Romans 1:7; Romans 8:27; Colossians 1:26, etc.), all followers of Jesus are generally known as “saints” (ἅγιος [HA-gee-ahs], holy, set apart from common use to spread the Good News about Jesus and His Kingdom). The Church began, however, to recognize–fairly early on–that there were some persons who exhibited extraordinary humility or faith, or through whom God seemed to work in particularly powerful ways. These brothers and sisters in Christ were not necessarily perfect, but they were recognizably unique in some way and were given the title of “Saint” (usually after their deaths) by the Church to designate them as examples for the rest of us “saints” (everyday Christians) to follow.
The various branches of the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church list several hundred African saints. They arise from every corner of the continent and span the full 2000 years of Christian history. All are celebrated for their exemplary devotion to Jesus.
May we, by the Power and Grace of the Holy Spirit, learn to faithfully walk in the footsteps of these “faith giants” who have gone before us for the sake of the Kingdom of God!
5. Reflection Questions
(You are encouraged to record your responses to the following inquiries in some tangible, meaningful way, (i.e., write, draw, create, vlog/ blog, sing… etc.)
- Personal Reflection: If these saintly brothers and sisters could faithfully follow Jesus and lean into His Grace, so can we! We do not walk this Kingdom Road alone, but we do indeed ride on the shoulders of “faith giants” who have tread this path before us. How does knowing this make you feel? What kind of perspective does it give you regarding your own faith journey?
- Kingdom Reflection: Our world desperately needs to see the Church act like Jesus. Our Kingdom future is rooted in our Kingdom past (see: Hebrews 12). If we forget where we’ve come from we’ll never get a clear picture of our future Hope in Christ. What will you do to help the Church become more faithful to its Godly heritage? (Note: This does not mean hanging onto traditions that are not doctrinally and/or Biblically sound.)
Optional Time of Centering/Soaking:
If possible, take some time, perhaps 5 to 15 minutes, to get into a comfortable position and simply allow the Lord to minister to you at a deep level (Psalm 42:7). Turn off or put down all distractions. Close your eyes. Hold in your thoughts a meaningful word, phrase, or image from the Scripture passages you read today. Release all other thoughts and concerns into the Presence of the Lord. If your thoughts wander, that’s okay, just gently return to your Scriptural word, phrase, or image. You may want to set a timer.