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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Vespers - 10 December 2017


(For salvation): As you mentioned in Ezekiel, LORD God, you do not take any pleasure in the death of the wicked, but would rather that they should turn from their way and live (Ezekiel 18.23); and as Paul announces that you, O God our Savior, desire all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2.3-4). Therefore we pray for unbelievers and those who have left the fold and wondered as sheep lost in the wildness and the wilderness…Through conversations with us, or because of the season with all of the Christmas carols and posted reminders recounting your Son’s saving work, grant them to become confident that there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, and may they call on the name of the Lord and so find salvation (1 Timothy 2.5-6). O Lord, hear our prayer.

(For social plights): Great God, there are fires raging again in California, shootings in schools and throughout our States; many in our communities are angry, depressed, and uncivil; there are heaps of families that have broken relationships, missing parents or removed children; countless people are digging deep debt holes; several are enslaved to meth and opioids like heroine, fentanyl, and pain meds; others are confusing their sexuality and identity and then shoving it onto others demanding acceptance. Lord, the list can go on and on… Please rain down your mercy on us and our land; build up sense and sensibility; remediate our broken programs and procedures, like DHS, foster care, Judicial system, education establishments, neighborhoods, etc. Bring order to the disorder, that all may know you, and your name be lifted high.  O Lord, hear our prayer. 

(For the Christmas Season):God rest ye merry, gentlemen; Let nothing you dismay; Remember, Christ, our Savior; Was born on Christmas day; To save us all from Satan's power; When we were gone astray; O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy; O tidings of comfort and joy.” By way of all the Christmas Eve services in our land, Carols ricocheting around Mall walls, Cards filling up mailboxes, and family festivities: may this season, Lord, testify of your goodness and honor; and be used by you to bring joy to the world in ways that are beyond our human concoctions and creations! We long to hear hosts of people wholeheartedly bellowing and believing: “Hark the herald angels sing; "Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled" Joyful, all ye nations rise; Join the triumph of the skies; With the angelic host proclaim: "Christ is born in Bethlehem" Hark! The herald angels sing; "Glory to the newborn King!"  O Lord, hear our prayer.

"Be Merciful to Me, O God" - 10 December 2017


“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (Psalm 57.1-2). We look around our big world and see trouble on the right and turmoil on the left. We implore you, O God, for all the nations of the world, but especially the USA, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica and Cote d'Ivoire: to bring peace in our time, to preserve the downtrodden and demoralized; but also to raise up leaders who will seek good, and not evil, that life may flourish, who will hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; and who will let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream (from Amos 4.14-15, 24). And preserve, prosper, promote and pilot your Church, our brothers and sisters in all places, to include this congregation; both Emmanuel Baptist churches in OKC; Enterprise Baptist; and the Evangelistic Baptist Church of Christ. Raise up and rebuild the tent of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the nations who are called by your name (taken from Amos 9.11-12 and Acts 15.16-18).

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (Psalm 57.1-2). We look around our families, neighborhoods, friends and colleagues, especially those undergoing trials and tribulations. We implore you hear us as we prayer on their behalf…let them know that you are God who lifts up the humble; who restores the fainthearted; who heals the wounded. But also we pray that you will show yourself as the one who stands up for the weak and vulnerable and hunts down the abuser; condemns the violator; and resists the proud.

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me” (Psalm 57.1-2). We look at all of these children, and the ones baptized today, with warm hearts. Lord Jesus you said very pointedly “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And then you took them in your arms and blessed them, laying your hands on them (Mark 10.14-16). Take these children in your arms, and may we, the adults and parents, be purposefully bringing them to you, endeavoring to set before them a godly example, praying with and for them, teaching them the doctrines of our holy religion, and striving, by all of your appointed means, to bring them up in your nurture and admonition. 

We ask this all in your name, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

"A Political Companion to Flannery O'Connor" ed. Henry T. Edmondson III. A Review


A Political Companion to Flannery O’Connor
Ed. Henry T. Edmondson III
University Press of Kentucky
ISBN: 978-0-8131-6940-8; $60.00; June 2017

While one of my daughters was sitting in her college literature class in Mississippi, the professor assigned a short story by Flannery O’Connor. She plaintively raised her hand and asked him if she had to read it. Her instructor stated pointedly, “yes,” and then inquired as to why she asked. “My dad made me read Flannery O’Connor during High School, and she gives me a headache!”  Her response impressed him, to say the least. Beyond giving High School students headaches, there is a deep value to reading the novellas and short stories of Flannery O’Connor, which is thoughtfully played out in a new work, “A Political Companion to Flannery O’Connor” edited by Henry T. Edmondson III, the Carl Vinson Endowed Chair of Political Science and Public Administration at Georgia College. This 398 page clothbound edition is a goldmine of perceptive articles by a wide variety of authors on the life, formation, thought and work of this seminal Southern author. It is written for literati and O’Connor aficionados, but is easily comprehensible by all interested parties.

The title of the volume makes it sound like it could be a droll description of O’Connor’s leanings and activities. Yet it quickly becomes clear that the material between these hard covers is presenting something profounder and richer. As Edmondson remarks in his editorial introduction, “O’Connor’s paramount achievement is to reveal artistically the phenomenon of divine and natural grace, which, for her, is the manifestation of mercy in the life of the individual. Herein is the key to O’Connor’s political philosophy…” (5). The first ten pages of the editor’s introductory chapter gives a notable overarching analysis of O’Connor, and displays the tone of the remaining monographs.

“A Political Companion to Flannery O’Connor” opens up with four chapters on O’Connor’s politics. John D. Sykes discusses her involvement with the Southern Agrarians and her distinctive difference from them because, ultimately, “the politics of Flannery O’Connor is an eschatological politics” (42). Benjamin B. Alexander explains the relationship and aid O’Connor received in the Jesuit priest, Father James H. McCown.  Finally, Michael L. Schroeder and Margaret Earley Whitt, apologetically unpack the ways desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement quietly, but not forcefully, surface in a few of O’Connor’s tales. Some of the questions and perceptions that arise from these last two chapters appeared to me to be balanced out in later sections of the volume. This four-chapter division gave me a greater historical and social grasp on the environment in which O’Connor wrote, and several of the subtle ways they show up in her writings.

The second part of “A Political Companion to Flannery O’Connor” describes a number of of her friendships, as well as her friendly reception of certain thinkers. George Piggford gives details on O’Connor’s engagement with the works of Baron Friedrich von Hügel and the theological modernism that was on the rise in the Roman Catholic Church.  Then there was O’Connor’s appreciative interest in Simone Weil and Edith Stein, helpfully chronicled and deciphered in Sarah Gordon’s essay. Next, in Ralph C. Wood’s article is mapped out the candid but charitable bond between O’Connor and Elizabeth Hester. Lastly, Mark Bosco spends time showing how O’Connor’s attraction to the medieval (St. Thomas Aquinas) in the midst of her modern moment come forth in her “parabolic story lines” which “violently deconstruct preconceived notions of righteousness and social order, drawing her characters into the real struggles and costs that come with attempts to live a coherent and authentic life” (184-5). All told, these four chapters show a personal and perceptual side of O’Connor that fill in many of her stories and themes.

The third and fourth sections of the volume move into subjects that speak more openly about our own era. Farrell O’Gorman depicts the importance and humanizing significance of O’Connor’s misfits in the face of the rising eugenics push that even moved into the State Hospital in her hometown, an institution that was Georgia’s “primary facility for carrying out enforced sterilizations” (204). Further, Gary M. Ciuba illustrates how O’Connor replaces the politics of benevolence with the politics of fellowship, especially in her “The Violent Bear It Away”. Then the editor, Henry T. Edmondson III, contributes an essay on the reciprocal influence of O’Connor and Russell Kirk as they addressed the societal overreliance on statistics “to answer crucial moral and political questions” (258) and the resultant misguided and hazardous humanitarianism. John Roos shows how O’Connor undresses and challenges Lockean individualism in “The Displaced Person” with her artful answer to the questions of “who rules and to what ends” (279). With some disturbing insight, Christina Bieber Lake brings out the way O’Connor can offer an alternative to the personism of ethicists like Princeton’s Peter Singer, as in “The Violent Bear It Away” which “is a veritable hymn to Christian personalism” (312). John F. Desmond explains and illustrates how O’Connor undermines the prevalent nihilism and gnosticism with hopeful depictions of grace that catch us unawares. The final essay is drawn from a now deceased, but close friend of Flannery O’Connor, Marion Montgomery. This is the headiest composition in the whole work, explaining the parallel thoughts and focuses of O’Connor and Eric Voegelin. Instead of history as progress, it was history “as a process and history as a drama: that is the Voegelinean message Miss O’Connor reads as a welcome complement to those necessities she faces as a dramatist – as a narrative dramatists” (357). All in all, parts three and four add developed muscle and deeper meaning to O’Connor’s lines and leitmotifs, directing readers further into her stories and raising them up to see their world with new eyes.

As a fan of Flannery O’Connor, I found “A Political Companion to Flannery O’Connor” enlightening, refreshing and pleasing. This particular volume helped with details that explain the backstory, which enriches the front story. Though the volume is a bit pricey, it will make a great investment as a gift for your favorite O’Connor fanatic. And if you have only dabbled in O’Connor’s works, this is an important read that may turn you from a dabbler to a devotee. I highly recommend this book!

Thanks to University Press of Kentucky for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

The book may be purchased from this link: "A Political Companion to Flannery O'Connor"

Sunday, December 3, 2017

"Make Haste, O God!" - 3 December 2017


You who are the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, who has said: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57.15): we rejoice and give you our great thanks that, as we heard this morning, in Jesus Christ your only Son our Lord, heaven and earth have come together; the high and lifted One has come to dwell among us! Now hear our grateful prayers offered in concert with Psalm 70:

Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me! Hear the groans and grief of those hurting through sickness, weakening bodies, sad hearts and desperate conditions…speedily deliver them and swiftly help them. Hear the cries and despair of those who are down and out, done in and destitute in our congregation, in our city, under our bridges, and around our neighborhoods, and make haste to help them.

Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life! Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt! Let them turn back because of their shame who say, “Aha, Aha!” Take compassionate notice of our brothers and sisters who are being hunted down, hounded and harassed; to fortify their faith and deliver them from harm, just as you did for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Take compassionate notice of those being ground under the heel of jackbooted thuggery, racist violence, or judicial immorality. Take compassionate notice of those who are vulnerable and being viciously taken advantage of… Raise them up, free them, and bring justice to bear.

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” Your church all around this big globe, along with this congregation and East Robison Baptist Church; Eastern Ave Baptist; Eastwood Baptist; and Ebenezer Baptist Church, declare “God is great!” Build up and fill out your church in holiness and humility. May she be a shelter for those coming in out of the storm. May she be a sanctuary for those in need of refuge. May she be a light to a dark world. May her fellowship and unity be a means of grace to a fragmented and fractured planet.

But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay! Bring all nations and countries, to include the USA, along with Chad, Chile, China, and Colombia, to the humble recognition that we are all poor and needy before you. Bring all peoples to recognize the significance of all of us working toward the common good.  Bring all nations and countries to actually see the plight of the refugees in their precincts, and to respond with mercy and care. And finally, preserve all of our borders and boundaries from being breached by banditos, bombers, drug-runners and desperados. 

Our helper and deliverer, we ask all of this and more through Jesus Christ our sympathetic High Priest. Amen.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Vespers - 26 November 2017


(For thanksgiving): Through all the changing scenes of life, in trouble and in joy, the praises of my God shall still my heart and tongue employ. Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then have nothing else to fear; make you His service your delight; he’ll make your wants His care (Trinity Hymnal #624, v.1 and 6). As a congregation, we give thanks to you, O God, for all your care and sustaining mercies…. We ask you to awaken our hearts – hearts often numbed by the rush and rumble of our daily lives – awaken our hearts to be consistently thankful and grateful for the big and simple things we are given. Things like daily bread, children and grandchildren, friends, parents and grandparents, the ability to enjoy the taste of food and wine; and also a church family. Grant us the wisdom and will to promote peace with all people, as far as it depends on us. O Lord, hear our prayer. 

(For troubles): We remember those who are thrown around by the stormy seas of emotional and physical distress, as well as those clambering to get their heads above the overwhelming troubles of their lives….Please look kindly on them and supply them with every good and perfect gift that will restore them and encourage their hearts, so that they may rise up and give you thanks. And bring us to see clearly how we may be part of your remedy and resolution. O Lord, hear our prayer.

(For relationships): Help us, merciful and kind Father, to mercifully and kindly look on others who are in genuine need, who feel rocky and rickety under the weight of poverty, poor health, and privation. Help us to be merciful, even as you, our Father, are merciful. To judge not, and we will not be judged; to condemn not, and we will not be condemned; to forgive, and we will be forgiven; to give, and it will be given to us. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into our laps. For you have said that with the measure we use it will be measured back to us (Luke 6.36-38). Help us with our relationships in our families and neighborhoods… O Lord, hear our prayer.

"O God, O Father, O Almighty, O Maker of Heaven and Earth" - 26 November 2017


O God, before whom no god was formed, nor shall there be any after you; for you, you alone are the LORD, and besides you there is no savior (Isaiah 43.10-11): We implore you to show kindness and care to those who are facing critical times…, those who are hospitalized and weakening…, those who are recovering from sickness or surgery…, those swallowed up in sorrow and sadness… for exhausted caregivers...,  for those walking through darkness, depression, or disorder…; grant them relief,  replenishment, as well as faith and hope so as not to rely on themselves but on you, O God, who raises the dead. For you are he who delivers us from such deadly perils and will deliver us. And so, on you may we set our hope that you will deliver us again (2 Corinthians 1.9-10).

O Father, from whom all fatherhood is named in heaven and on earth: we who have come to know you as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1.3), you who are over all and through all and in all (Ephesians 4.6), we implore you to strengthen and aid our brothers and sisters world over, including this congregation and Downtown Baptist Church; Draper Lake Baptist; Dumas Ave Baptist; and Eagle Heights Baptist Church; bring us all to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4.1-3).

O Almighty, with the Psalmist we say, “For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps” (Psalm 135.5–6). Therefore direct all nations (to include the USA, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cabo Verde, and Central African Republic), and direct all tribes, communities, clans, ethnic groups and peoples toward honesty, fairness, and the common good. Detain and defeat all evil, immorality, anarchy, bloodletting, banditry, and bullying. Keep or restore domestic equilibrium where it has either disintegrated or is being threatened (especially in Zimbabwe and Kenya).

O Maker of heaven and earth, who upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down; to whom the eyes of all look, and who gives them their food in due season; who opens your hand, and satisfies the desire of every living thing (Psalm 145.14-16): we give you our deepest thanks for all you have supplied. We pray for those in prison and who minister in the prisons, that you would bring hope and life and salvation. We pray for those who didn’t have anything, or had very little, to eat this past week and to whom the coming week looks just as sparse, that you would take care of them and provide them plentifully. We pray for those who are helping at Project 66, RestoreOKC, Hope Center of Edmond, City Rescue Mission, the Salvation Army, and other ministries, that you would enable them to provide the kind of aid that will be genuinely charitable and beneficial. Finally, Creator God, we pray for those who need to know you as the one who brings new creation in Jesus Christ…, save them from their sins, and from themselves. 

We present our petitions to you in the name of, and by the authority of, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Books and Commentaries by Dr. Dale Ralph Davis


From 1996 to 2000 Dr. Dale Ralph Davis was one of my Old Testament professors at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. From 1998 to 2002 Dr. Davis became a dear friend as I served a small, rural Presbyterian church in Mississippi. He would always open the door of his study for me and allow me to "unload" my woes, and then he would spend time praying with me and for me. Even after we went to different parts of the country (he to Mississippi and South Carolina; and I to Texas and Oklahoma), we have remained in contact.

I have always found Dr. Davis's commentaries and books solid in their scholarship, warm in their application, Gospel-focused in their direction and demeanor, and devotional in their observations. As he works his readers through Scripture, he always seems to have one eye on how to preach the Old Testament, and the other eye on how to minister to the preacher, and the preacher's congregation. I simply cannot recommend his books enough!!!!

It's nearing Christmas time, and the perfect time to purchase your favorite seminarian, pastor or Bible teacher Dr. Davis's works. And it's the perfect time to take that Christmas money stuffed in your stocking and put it into snatching up as many of  these works as possible!

Let me give you a hand by setting up links to find and purchase these volumes:

The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts

Faith of Our Fathers: Expositions of Genesis 12-25

Joshua: No Falling Word

Judges: No Such Salvation

1 Samuel: Looking on the Heart

2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity

1 Kings: The Wisdom and the Folly

2 Kings: The Power and the Fury

The Way of Righteousness in the Muck of Life: Psalms 1-12

Slogging Along in the Path of Righteousness: Psalms 13-24

Stump Kingdom: Isaiah 6-12

The Message of Daniel

Micah

True Word in Tough Times

The House that Jesus Built: A Welcome to the Church

I hope you will invest in your heart by taking up and reading Dr. Davis's books. I am certain you will be enriched, and that you will not regret the purchase.

Mike

Followers