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Thursday, January 19, 2017

"Confessions of Sin and Assurances of Pardon: A Pocket Resource" by Bobby G. Griffith, Jr. A Review

Confessions of Sin and Assurances of Pardon: A Pocket ResourceConfessions of Sin and Assurances of Pardon: A Pocket Resource by Bobby G Griffith, Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When leading a congregation in worship, it's important to have thought through what you are about, where the Gospel of Jesus fits in, and what will be the liturgical tenor. Therefore it becomes helpful to have resources to draw from that can give you a hand. Recently Bobby G. Griffith, Jr., one of the pastors at City Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City, OK, has given ministers and worship leaders an easy-to-use, handy-sized 112 page pocket hardback for just this purpose, "Confessions of Sin and Assurances of Pardon: A Pocket Resource".

This teeny volume begins with a nice forward by Sean Michael Lucas on the importance of having confession of sin and assurance of pardon in Presbyterian and Reformed worship. Lucas, Church History professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS, explains how Calvin himself "knew that confession had to play a significant role in corporate worship if we will grasp and be grasped by the Gospel" (9). The forward is short, but very helpful in explaining the value of well thought-out liturgy, and the importance of a corporate confession of sin.

"Confessions of Sin and Assurances of Pardon" is 4.5 inches by 7.25 inches and easily slips into a pocket or purse. There are 79 confessions of sin from a wide range of sources that include the early church, the Reformation and present compositions. Some are responsive, but the vast majority are homothumadon ("one voice" Acts 4.24). Then there are 21 assurances of pardon, all simply appropriate Scripture citations that announce the Gospel of grace to repentant, confessing sinners.

This small booklet is ideal for worship leaders and ministers as they construct their weekly liturgies. Its handy size makes it easy for a minister to carry into the pulpit. Beyond this, it would also be fitting for bible study leaders who may find it appropriate at times to lead in confession of sin with a specific study. But even better, it would make a delightful addition to one's personal devotions in morning prayer. In whatever venue it is used, the goal is to draw worshipers to the throne of grace to find grace to help in time of need; that together they may entreat, "Jesus, Lamb of God, have mercy on us. Jesus, Bearer of our sins, have mercy on us. Jesus, Redeemer of the world, grant us peace. Amen" (11). I highly recommend this book for ministers, worship leaders, men, women, girls and boys.

Thanks to Christian Focus Publications for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “Confessions of Sin and Assurances of Pardon” used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

"Almighty and Everliving God" - 15 January 2017

Almighty and Everliving God, you who are more ready to hear than we are to pray, and are willing to give far more than either we desire or deserve, hear us and for Christ‘s sake answer us.

Most loving Father, who has called us into your family by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and by the working of your Holy Spirit, give us strength and desire to walk worthy of our calling, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity produced by the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4.1-3).

We ask you to aid and support Dan and Carol Iverson in Japan; the Pardigons; Mark and Lori Berry in Peru; Dan and Becky Young in North Mexico; Shane Hatfield RUF-OSU, Scott Morris RUF-OU, and Brent Corbin at RUF-TU. Grant to them goodwill, safety, reliable co-laborers and all the financial resources they need in their mission work; and may their labor produce more than they could humanly concoct.

Look upon your Church throughout the world, along with these congregations in the greater OKC area; Hillcrest Christian Church; Hillcrest Presbyterian; Holy Ascension Orthodox Church; Holy Temple Church of God in Christ; Holy Trinity Lutheran; Hope Adventists Fellowship and House of Prayer. Give your approval and aid to their endeavors at being honorable in your service, pouring out on them your unstoppable peace and provision; and grant them to stand firm as faithful witnesses whatever squalls and storms they may face.

O Sovereign, majestic Lord, who stands above all principalities, dominions, thrones, presidencies and powers; manifest your might and glory in our country by turning the citizens of this nation toward compassionate, fair-minded, industrious, virtuous, honorable living. Please take our governmental leaders in hand – Including our State Senators like Greg McCortney; Brett Marlatt; Kevin Matthews; Dan Newberry; and Joe Newhouse – to restrain what is vile, vicious and illegitimate, and raise up among them what is good, ethical, godly and legitimate.

We implore your kindest care and compassion on the nations of our world, especially where there is so much carnage and chaos. We pray for your direction, tranquility, stability and harmony for all nations, and specifically for the European Union; Israel; Palestine; Jordon; Lebanon; Kazakhstan; and Armenia.  We ask you to take all the world leaders, such as Taur Matan Ruak; Rafael Correa; Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; Salvador Sánchez Cerén; Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo; Isaias Afwerki; Kersti Kaljulaid; and Mulatu Teshome; Give the wisdom and ethical fiber to do what is morally sound, monetarily solid, and socially stabilizing for the good of all.

O God Most High, giver of all good gifts, who provides our daily sustenance and wellbeing, we ask you to give supporting and satisfying health and strength to the weak and wearied…But we also ask you to lift up those who are downhearted, depressed and disconsolate, troubled with dread and disquietude…grant your Spirit to freshly blow into their lives filling them up with hope and love that they may smile again; laughing and rejoicing with us once more.

All of these requests we have mentioned, and those that have remained silently on our hearts…we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son and our Saving Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"The Diary of a Country Priest" by Georges Bernanos. A Short Review.

The Diary of a Country PriestThe Diary of a Country Priest by Georges Bernanos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I get older, I am finding the value of re-reading books that are worth re-reading an enriching experience. "The Diary of a Country Priest" is one of those volumes. I had seen it quoted and referenced in other writings in the past, obtained a copy and worked through it ten years ago. So it was quite the pleasure to pick it up again at the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 to get reacquainted. Bernanos covers several significant subjects - politics, religion, humility, and social justice - through the venue of a young country priest's journal. There are early indications that all is not well with the young priest's health, and those indications grow in intensity until his final diagnosis and demise. And yet the unknown health issues lurk in the background, subtly shaping and governing the cleric's actions, insights, and epiphanies.

This is the tale of a young clergyman who grapples with his own insignificance in the world scheme, but whose contentment and humility makes him a beautiful instrument in the Redeemer's hands. Though he can never see the effects of his pastoral care on the lives of others, many grasp it and are truly affected. There are O'Connor-esque conversion scenes in various places in the story-line that beautifully display what C.S. Lewis might have called a severe mercy. Hope thrives in the most dismal places; life rises where death had long held sway; love sprouts up where it had only been winter and never Christmas.

"The Diary of a Country Priest" is a delightful, subtly inspiring story. The Protestant reader may find some of the pictures troublesome, but when read within their own milieu, they are brilliant. Catholic readers will be confronted with the reality that "Grace is everywhere" (298). And for those who are simply looking for a good read, they will not be disappointed. I highly recommend the book.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

"Our Help is in the Name of the LORD" - 8 January 2017 AM and PM

Sunday morning:

Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121.2). Hear us, O Lord our help, and for Christ‘s sake answer us.

O Lord of the Harvest, have regard to the prayers of your servants in this church; send us forth as laborers into your harvest; fit and prepare us by your grace for our vocation and ministry; increase in us the Spirit of power, love and a sound mind; strengthen us to endure hardships as good soldiers of Jesus Christ; and grant that your Holy Spirit may prosper our work, that by our life and doctrine we may show forth your glory and be instrumental in the salvation of many.

We ask you to encourage and aid Txxxxxxx in Australia, and Txxxxxxx as she prepares for Thailand. Grant to them peace, protection, trustworthy co-laborers and all the financial resources they need in their mission work.

Look upon your Church throughout the world, including these congregations in the greater OKC area; Harvest Baptist Church; Harvest Assembly; Heartland Church; Henderson Hills Baptist Church; High Pointe Church; and Highland Park Missionary Baptist Church. Give your church your comforting, courage-inspiring aid. Strengthen your people in their longing to serve you more faithfully, and cause them to succeed in genuine godliness.

O Lord God, the Almighty, the Most High, we plead with you to turn your face to look upon the U.S.A. Do not forsake us nor give us over to what we may deserve, but instead turn us toward you, and spur us on to chastity, sobriety, virtuous living, generosity and equanimity. Protect us from all enemies, foreign and domestic, and guide our governmental leaders – including our Oklahoma State Senators such as A.J. Griffin; David Holt; Darcy Jech; Chris Kidd; James Leewright; and Kyle Loveless – to remember and return to their vocation “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

We implore your kindest care and compassion on the nations of our world, especially where there is so much that terrifies and alarms, for instance Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, Sudan and Brazil. We pray that your guidance, peacefulness, law and order would overcome. We also pray that you would restore and refurnish the lives and livelihoods of those who have been trampled upon.
O God Most High, giver of all good gifts, who provides our daily sustenance and wellbeing, we ask you to lift up those who are dispirited in body or mind, who are grieved or terribly troubled with fear and anxiety. We especially ask your care for these….grant them recovery and restored health.

Finally, we call to mind family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, enemies, and acquaintances who have not confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and who continue to walk in darkness; as well as those who have turned away from the Christian Faith… them, O Lord.

All of these requests we have mentioned, and those that have remained silently on our hearts, we ask in the name of Jesus Christ, your Son and our Saving Lord. Amen.


Sunday evening:

LORD God, you told your people, “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places” (Leviticus 23.3). Your directive not only tells us how important sacred rest is, but it also points out how valuable our vocations are; that we have callings, jobs, careers that are good and worth investing into during the vast majority of our week. Thank you for acknowledging our work, and, O Lord, hear our prayer.

Almighty God, you worked six days, making, creating and calling all things into order. We ask your help, direction and focus in our jobs. Honestly, Father, work can grind down our hearts; bosses can grate against us making Monday a sheer drudgery; customers and clients can almost make us pull our hair out with frustration. Therefore help us to recapture and be recaptured by Paul’s valuable reminder, “whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3.17).  O Lord, hear our prayer.

We ask you, Lord, to be with those whose calling is to be home, or raise kids, or care for the homebound. Bless their hands and hearts. As they labor to maintain orderliness in the home; as they give their children safe places to grow up, learn, play, and develop as godly people; as they attend to their aging loved ones, some requiring more help than others; may they all know your pleasure, be filled with your presence, flourish in your provision, and see you profit their important work. O Lord, hear our prayer.

We also ask you to be with those whose occupation, for the present, is to study; whether it’s furthering their education; learning a trade; or preparing for Christian ministry. Thank you for the opportunities we have to learn and grow in learning. May our students gain the proper focus for their studies; retain what they’re learning; fathom the concepts and principles; and be able to effectively put them to good use. And may they come to rejoice in the gift of a good education, rather than grouse or grumble. O Lord, hear our prayer. 

Our Father, we pray for our denomination, this congregation, and these churches in our Presbytery, Christ Presbyterian Church; Redeemer Presbyterian Church; Christ Covenant Church; Providence Presbyterian Church-Midland; Faith Presbyterian Church; Trinity Presbyterian Church; New Hope Presbyterian Church and Town North Presbyterian Church; may we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. But rather, speaking the truth in love, may we grow up in every way into Christ who is the head (Ephesians 4.13-15). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

An Idea for Prayer in 2017

Every month I gather with some Oklahoma City area pastors from different denominations: other kinds of Presbyterians, Nazarenes, Calvary Chapel guys, Baptists, Methodists and Disciples of Christ. We talk about what's going on in our particular worlds - family, church and community - and then we spend time praying for each other. Today (4 January 2017) our congregation hosted the monthly prayer gathering. And so I thought I'd take our prayer time in a slightly different direction, and I wrote out what's in the photo at the top on a whiteboard. Our answers to these questions were encouraging, personal and very much about the progression of Christ's Gospel.

This got me to thinking about 2017, and how to pray forward into this year. Therefore, I've printed out a copy of this photo and have put my answers underneath it, and will use it as I pray all through 2017.

This got me thinking about you. Here are some suggestions that might be a help for you:

  • Print out the three part question in the top picture.
  • Write out your responses.
  • Put the question and your responses in your Bible or your prayer journal or whatever you use when it's time to pray.
  • Use all of this during 2017 as one part of your prayer time.
  • As the days, weeks and months unfold you may find that your responses to the question change due to some clarification or new insight. Write out your changes and put the date down next to them. Finally, as you see the Lord answer your requests (one way or the other), jot down a short sentence of how he did it, and the date; and then mention his answering your prayer occasionally during stated times of thanksgiving throughout the year.

Have a great 2017, and let me know how things unfold.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu 4-DVD Set
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming and Nicholas C. Yang
YMAA Publication Center, Inc.
PO Box 480
Wolfeboro, NH 03894
ISBN: 9780940871633; 9781594391071; 9781594393021; 9781594392313; $169.99
5 stars of 5
Historical and Instructional

Where does a particular martial art come from? How did it develop and why? Is there a genuine rationale beyond these sequences? How can a particular succession of steps and strikes be employed in real-life real-time situations? These are just a few of the questions an astute martial artist asks when pursuing their particular tradition so as to beef up and fortify the value of what they are being trained in. Since 2005 Dr. Yang, renowned author and teacher of Chinese martial arts and Qigong, and Nicholas Yang, award winning martial artist in bare-hand and weapons, have been composing and compiling a four volume DVD series that has been bundled together as the “Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu 4-DVD Set”. These instructional videos compile 27 hours of presentations, instructions, demonstrations, and rationalizations intended to take a self-motivated trainee from the most basic level to the advanced.

In the “Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu 4-DVD Set” eleven complete long fist sequences are covered. Before the sequence is taught, Dr. Yang gives a detailed historical background of how the sequences developed, from where, and from whom. There are several conditioning exercises for strength training and speed that are demonstrated and explained. Each specific long fist sequence is then demonstrated in slow speed and regular. After that, the martial applications for the steps, kicks, blocks and strikes are unpacked and played out. And lastly the particular instructor of that DVD spends time giving final words of encouragement, caution, and vision for the future. Dr. Yang is the primary instructor in the first DVD that covers Lian Bu Quan, Gong Li Quan and Tan Tui. Nicholas Yang takes the lead in presenting Yi Lu Mai Fu, Er Lu Mai Fu, Shi Zi Tang, Xiao Hu Yan, San Lu Pao, Taizu Changquan, Si Lu Quan, and Si Len Ben Za.

In all sincerity “Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu 4-DVD Set” is like having a personal Kung Fu instructor in your home taking you step-by-step through special lessons. This bundle of DVDs is perfect for the highly motivated learner who desires to gain some skill in Kung Fu. And it is an excellent instructional set of DVDs for the seasoned martial artist in another tradition who wants to expand, enrich and intensify their practice of martial arts. I highly, and happily, recommend this DVD set!

My deep appreciation goes to YMAA Publication Center, Inc. for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “Shaolin Long Fist Kung Fu 4-DVD Set” used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

Sunday, January 1, 2017

"The Epistles of 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter" By J.B. Lightfoot. Ed. Witherington and Still. A Review

The Epistles of 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter: Newly Discovered CommentariesThe Epistles of 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter: Newly Discovered Commentaries by J.B. Lightfoot
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you have ever picked up a J.B. Lightfoot commentary, you know the precision and thoughtfulness that is wrapped up in the material. You also quickly recognize that the writer was serious about the Scriptures and about understanding them. That's what makes the J.B. Lightfoot Legacy Series a joy. As many of his uncovered manuscripts become published and presented, it will help to re-establish a renewed sense of taking the biblical texts in their contexts, grammar, linguistics, chronology, etc. and build a revived earnestness. An example of this has just been published in the third volume of the Lightfoot Legacy series, "The Epistles of 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter: Newly Discovered Commentaries." This 362 page hardbound volume brings out the incomplete notes Lightfoot had been compiling on both 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter, and binds them to several articles published by the astute scribe that are germane to both biblical books. The editors, Ben Witherington III and Todd D. Still, assisted by Jeanette M. Hagen, have done pastors and professors a service in compiling this material.

The rudimentary commentaries are abrupt and abridged because they were in the note-taking stage when they were originally penned. Lightfoot made notations of textual issues and penned observations about specific Greek words in each chapter. Neither commentary is full; not every verse is covered, and not every chapter is addressed. 2 Corinthians ends at chapter eleven only mentioning textual issues. 1 Peter begins with a fairly in-depth introduction, but never makes it past chapter three. Even though both commentaries were incomplete, the reader can have the satisfaction of knowing that the annotations were likely used in his lectures and presentations.

This third volume includes several articles drafted and divulged by the author in various venues. Some have become public domain, others were used by permission. The subjects of the additional chapters and appendices cover the chronology of Paul and his preparation for ministry. Others look at Titus, history, and what "The Letter Killeth, but the Spirit Giveth Life" means. The longest appendix, some 90 pages in length, is Lightfoot's article on the Christian Ministry. Finally, there are two favorable pieces about the importance and impact of Lightfoot, composed by C.K. Barrett and J.D.G Dunn.

All in all, "The Epistles of 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter" is a valuable asset, especially for Lightfoot fans. Though the commentaries are undeveloped, nevertheless they will still be valuable to the preacher, Bible student or Seminary professor. Once the whole Legacy Series is completed, they will make a superior addition to any library. I recommend the book, and the series.

Thanks to IVP Academic for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “The Epistles of 2 Corinthians and 1 Peter” used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

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