Our Monday Morning Prayer, 9-10-18

Image result for valley of vision puritan prayersFrom time to time we use The Valley of Vision: Puritan Prayers & Devotions for corporate worship. It was compiled and put together for the church to use these prayers from the puritans who lived in the 17 and 18oo’s. This one is titled, “Love”. Join me this morning for prayer:

Lord Jesus,

Give me to love thee, to embrace thee,

though I once took lust and sin in my arms.

Thou didst love me before I loved thee,

an enemy, a sinner, a loathsome worm.

Thou didst own me when I disclaimed myself;

Thou dost love me as a son,

and weep over me as over Jerusalem.

Love brought thee from heaven to earth,

from earth to the cross,

from the cross to the grave.

Love caused thee to be weary, hungry, tempted, scorned, scourged, buffeted, spat upon, crucified, and pierced.

Love led thee to bow thy head in death.

My salvation is the point where perfect created love

and the most perfect uncreated love meet together;

for thou dost welcome me,

not like Joseph and his brothers, loving and sorrowing, but loving and rejoicing.

This love is not intermittent, cold, changeable;

it does not cease or abate for all my enmity.

Holiness is a spark from thy love

kindled to a flame in my heart by thy Spirit,

and so it ever turns to the place, from which it comes.

Let me see thy love everywhere, not only in the cross, but in the fellowship of believers and in the world around me. When I feel the warmth of the sun may I praise thee who art the Sun of righteousness with healing power. When I feel the tender rain may I think of the gospel showers that water my soul.

When I walk by the river side may I praise thee

for that stream that makes the eternal city glad,

and washes white my robes

that I may have the right to the tree of life.

Thy infinite love is a mystery of mysteries,

and my eternal rest lies in the eternal enjoyment of it.

Oh The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

One of our congregational songs for this Sunday, September 9, 2018. Are you weary dear saint? Are you fearful that your weariness is too much for Christ to bear? Doubt no longer on how much your Father in heaven loves you and grieves with you. Look to the Cross of Christ and see the deep deep love of Jesus.

 

How to Respond to the question, “How could God allow (evil description)”?

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I was recently asked this question by a lady in our church because this is the question that she received from someone that she cares about, and someone that she wants to share the gospel with. Below is in part my response to this question and how to share the gospel based on 1 Peter 3:15. 
Evil in the world has always been one of the top reasons that people object the gospel.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between the words, “good” and “humans made in the image of God”. It is true that the Jews and the Polish and the Russians were innocent of any wrong doing, but they were not “good” as you put it. I know what you mean by describing the millions that was murdered by Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler, but your “defense” should never include the word “good” – because there is no one who is good. I never allow my “opponent” of the gospel to describe people as good. Jesus said in Luke 18:19 – there is no one who is good except God.
That said, it will help your dialogue to frame arguments in this sense: bad things happen to sinful people, because that’s the only kind of people there are on the earth, even if they are innocent of personal wrongdoing.
So here are three ways that I respond, depending upon the nature of the discussion:
1. If God were to leave men alone in their sinful desires (Rom. 1), and they end up murdering innocent people, then that is not God’s fault. Cain murdered his brother Abel and Jesus says that murder is “of the devil” (John 8:31ff). The Holocaust and other horrible acts of genocide is the consequence of God leaving man alone in his sinful desires. What the world needs is the Lord’s restraining hand to hold men back from being so evil. But God does not have to mercifully hold men back from being so evil. In his judgement, he lets them go.
2. There is no greater act of horror ever committed against a human being than the murder of Jesus Christ. And that lawless, sinful act was also God’s plan from the foundation of the world to pay for my sins (Acts 2 and 4). I don’t have all the answers to why God allows such horrible evil to flourish, but I do see the Cross of Christ, both absolutely wretched and absolutely wonderful at the same time. When I have doubts and confusion over what God is up to in allowing and using evil to accomplish his purposes (Genesis 47, 50), I keep my eyes on the Cross. The Cross makes sense to me. And so if the Cross makes sense then I can accept the things that don’t make sense and wait for the END to come to clear up my mind.
But this is how I get to the gospel:
3. What is the Holocaust and other acts of violence against mankind? Is it not at it’s very beginning just one person who does not love his neighbor? Adolf Hitler was once a 10 year old boy working his abusive father’s farm and tending the bee hives for honey! And what if God were to take his restraining hand off of that person – what violence is capable 10 years down the road? Have you ever been unloving to someone? Have you ever mistreated anyone? Have you ever hated someone, cursed someone, taken advantage of someone, verbally or physically wounded someone? Then are you not also guilty of what you condemn in others? When it comes to Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” are you innocent and Hitler guilty?
With this last point, now I can share the gospel because the good news is for everyone, that’s because everyone is guilty before God, not just the really mean ones. Everyone sins. Everyone needs a Savior. Everyone needs Jesus.

Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Introducing this beautiful song to our church on September 16. Yes, a little over-due,  since it came out in 2013. But just in case you have not heard this, Enjoy!

VERSE 1
Come behold the wondrous mystery
In the dawning of the King
He the theme of heaven’s praises
Robed in frail humanity

In our longing, in our darkness
Now the light of life has come
Look to Christ, who condescended
Took on flesh to ransom us

VERSE 2
Come behold the wondrous mystery
He the perfect Son of Man
In His living, in His suffering
Never trace nor stain of sin

See the true and better Adam
Come to save the hell-bound man
Christ the great and sure fulfillment
Of the law; in Him we stand

VERSE 3
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Christ the Lord upon the tree
In the stead of ruined sinners
Hangs the Lamb in victory

See the price of our redemption
See the Father’s plan unfold
Bringing many sons to glory
Grace unmeasured, love untold

VERSE 4
Come behold the wondrous mystery
Slain by death the God of life
But no grave could e’er restrain Him
Praise the Lord; He is alive!

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

What a foretaste of deliverance
How unwavering our hope
Christ in power resurrected
As we will be when he comes

– Matt Boswell, Michael Bleecker, Matt Papa 2013

How a Willow Switch Protected a Blueberry Delight

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I was about 12 years old when spending more and more days and nights with my grandma Hall (my mom’s mom) became common: dad was very sick and mom sent me to grandma’s house so that she could be away at the hospital with dad or in the summertime, put in an 8 hour day at work.

One late summer day with grandma baby-sitting several of her grandchildren, she specifically said to me, “don’t go past the curve or I’ll give you a good switch’n. I don’t want you kids ran over – I want to be able to see you from the house.” She was wise enough to know that I was always the ring-leader of outlaw behavior. It seemed that whatever I did, the rest would follow, for good or bad. Grandma was not being fussy: the one-lane twisting road to her house was full of blind spots for cars to run over playing children. She wanted us to stay close to the house.

One day when several of my cousins and I were playing near the curve, I led the whole pack of us past the curve, down a straight-away past the “creepy house” and into the next curve so that we could slide down the embankment on our rears. We were muddy and having a blast. Then I looked up. There she comes down the road at us – at me, with a willow branch in her hands (one of the worst sounds in the world is your grandma stripping the leaves off a willow branch: phft, phft, phft, phft!!!). The next thing I remember is feeling the stinging, needling, expertise of a grandma’s switching method on my legs. Later on in life I came to love her for it. You know why?

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You see, across the creek in her back yard was that willow tree where those nasty discipline branches grow, but just behind the tree up the hillside were several blueberry bushes. And in late July, early August, she and I would pick blueberries together, all alone just the two us. Grandma was so fun to be around and she truly enjoyed my presence. We’d wash them off. She’d put them in a bowl of cold milk, sprinkle some sugar in the bowl, and we’d sit at her L – shaped counter across from each other talking and enjoying our favorite dessert. I believe she loved me so much that she was willing to bring some temporary pain to my legs in order to protect me from getting injured or killed, so that . . . we could spend wonderful afternoons together enjoying a blueberry delight. 

It’s part of what it means to be human: anything worth enjoying in this life will take a stern resolve to oppose whatever threatens your joy. This is why our Lord will discipline his children (Hebrews 12:7-11; 1 Peter 1:6-9), in order to protect our walk with him.

This life is painful. You can either suffer and never know the purpose or meaning behind your suffering. Or, you can follow the Lord and be sure that every sorrow that is permitted into your life is to protect your eternal joy. I had a grandma who taught me that, and I am grateful.

“We’re going on an Adventure”

 

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Children are notorious for calling it the way they see it, literally. Though they can role-play all kinds of imaginary figures, their imagination is grounded in concrete terms. I was startled recently by what one of my grandsons asked me. I’ll set it up for you.

Ever since Joseph (now 6) and Gabriel (now 5) were able to walk I would take them on “an adventure.” Using language of anticipation, awe, and excitement, I would take them on an adventure into the woods or some other place where I could fascinate their minds and senses. Over time they came to frequently ask with wide eyes, “grandpa take us on another adventure.”

A few weeks ago we were in West Virginia visiting my mom; Joey and Ashley were with us, and their three boys. It was time to go on an adventure on my dad’s four wheeler. I decided to show the boys my most favorite spot: directly behind my parents home through the woods, about a half mile, is what has come to be known as Pirates Cove on Summersville Lake. I first saw this sight when I was seven; my uncle Benny brought me to this cliff and I was mesmerized by the beauty, and the height. So, with excitement and anticipation in my voice, I began telling the boys as we headed out that I was going to give them a great adventure into the woods four-wheeling to “one of the most beautiful places that you’ll ever see.”

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We got as close as we could to the cliff, parked the four wheeler and began the final 100 yard walk through the woods to this majestic edge that overlooks the lake. Getting closer to where you could just barely see blue sky through the leaves, I stopped and got down on the boys eye level and asked with excitement, “What do you hear?” Gabriel and Joseph both said, “I hear people laughing.” I responded, “That is right.” This cove is famous for cliff diving, photo-ops, and hanging out on boats, anchors away! But then I asked, “What else do you hear?” Joseph spoke up like he discovered a secret treasure, “I hear water.” It’s a beautiful sound to hear in the thick of the woods as the water from the streams flow over one of the cliffs, splashing 60 feet down onto the blue water. About this time the boys were completely and fully alert for something spectacular. “Are you ready to see something wonderful?,” I asked. They both just stood there grinning from ear to ear shaking their heads up and down with approval. I stood up and we began the last 30 yards or so. Then, Gabriel grabbed my arm and stopped me and said . . .

Remember what I said about a child’s ability to concretely, literally, say it like they see it? What came out of his mouth made me speechless. With eyes now wider than ever and with the kind of joyful anticipation that only a person would express when you really believe that you’re about to come into something truly breath-taking, he said, “Are we going to see your dad?!?!?”

Joseph’s eyes and mouth opened even wider now. My eyes filled with water and I was stunned into silence and amazement that Gabriel thought I was taking them into heaven to see my dad. They knew something was strangely odd about the sounds and sights ahead, and for Gabriel, the only natural thing that could explain the echoing of water and laughter was heaven, and the sight of my dad, their great grandpa.

The only natural explanation for the desire of eternal life that you feel deep inside of you is that heaven is real because Jesus is real. I’ll never forget this time with my grandsons and I’ll never let them forget it. The greatest adventure is ahead of us . . . as Jesus said, where nothing can ever steal our joy again (Matthew 6:19-21).

What did I say to Gabriel’s question that was filled with excitement and hope?

Taking a deep breath as if now this rock cliff and lake will not measure up,

“Not yet – not today.”

Would the Queen have given consent if Prince Harry wanted to marry Prince George?

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The Instrument of Consent reads:

“NOW KNOW YE that We have consented and do by these Presents signify Our Consent to the contracting of Matrimony between Our Most Dearly Beloved Grandson Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, K.C.V.O., and Rachel Meghan Markle.”

And the Bishop Michael Bruce Curry of Chicago, IL, who will give the address, has said,

“The love that have brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God, and is the key to life and happiness . . . and so we celebrate and pray for them today.”

CBS News reports it like this:

“Buckingham Palace has released an image of the handwritten document in which Queen Elizabeth II gives her consent for Prince Harry to marry Meghan Markle. The Instrument of Consent image was released Saturday – a week before Harry is to marry the American actress at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor.

The document, illuminated on vellum, features a design to the left of the text that incorporates a red dragon, the symbol of Wales. The design to the right features a rose, the national flower of the United States.

Under British law, the first six people in the line of succession to the throne must obtain the queen’s permission to wed.

Harry was fifth in line when he and Markle got engaged. He was bumped to sixth with the birth of his brother’s son Prince Louis last month.”

I don’t know what the queen would or would not have done if Prince Harry wanted to marry a man. I do know that the progressive culture of the UK would have approved of a man wedding a man – but what about the royal family? It’s a fair question to ask since the world will be watching with joy and awe at such a majestic display of the union of a man and a woman. I just wonder if the world would have the same holy reverence and humbled awe if Harry were to marry George? Would the Buckingham Palace and St. George’s Chapel in Windsor have graced and blessed the union of Harry to George? Or would these halls and chambers require more? I don’t know . . . but it’s still a fair question to ask in this age of confusion of what a marriage is and who is the author of marriage and what is the purpose of marriage.

Since the Bishop Bruce Curry of Chicago, Il. is on record for stating that this marriage has its origin in God, will the Bishop actually read the Words of God that speak to what a marriage is: the complementarian union between Christ and the Church, a male and female wedded in both body and soul that displays the original? I don’t know if he will or not, but it’s a fair question to ask.

I do know this: come May 19, 2018 the world will celebrate a mystery:

“‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church'” (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31, 32).

That is, when Harry marries Meghan the world will witness with inner knowledge and consent that this is right. Why? Because Jesus married his wife, the church (all true lovers of Christ). What I don’t know is this, if the world would have witnessed a “profound mystery” had Harry wanted to marry George? Is it possible that since such dignity and royal majesty befits the crown of a male Prince wedded to a female Princess, then maybe this is why we know deep inside that not only the Queen, but we as the human race reserve marriage between a man and women, if it’s the Prince! And if the Prince, then why not all mankind? Or do we dethrone marriage for the progressive peasants?

It seems that we hold royalty to a high standard of dignity and propriety. As it should be. We want more character, not less. But why stop there – surely this auspicious occasion should at least in principle be duplicated? Marriage is a union between a man and a woman, contracted not by man, but by God who made man in his own image: “What therefore God has joined, let not man separate” (Mark 10:9), says King Jesus.

May God bless you Harry and Meghan with life-long joy and perseverance as you become one flesh.