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Sunday, September 16, 2018

"O God Most High" - 16 September 2018

O God Most High, we come to you at your Son Jesus Christ’s direction, when he promised: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15.7).

We pray for the Church of our Lord throughout the world, including Oakdale Baptist Church, Oklahoma City Chinese Baptist, Olivet Baptist, and Plainview Baptist Church; Lord, please raise your people from our fears and perplexities, turning our troubles into patient endurance. Supply our material lack and give us daily reminders of your special providence toward your Church.

We ask you to move upon, and mold this congregation. Grant us, O Lord, not to be so earthly minded that we’re no heavenly good; not to respond as the world responds, not to react as the world reacts, not to function, fume, fight or fear as the world does, but to grow in loving things heavenly. Work in us that we may be truly transformed by the renewing of our minds, no longer shackled to the world’s categories and definitions of worth and value, but now fixed upon, and formed by your categories of merit and meaning; your definition of us, of our callings and our significance in Christ.

We also ask your richest care, healing touch, and sustaining comfort for all who are ailing, alarmed, and anxious, and in this regard we remember……

Lord God, we intercede on behalf of those we know who are unbelievers or having once confessed their faith in Christ have stumbled and fallen away….we ask for your Spirit to convince them of their sin and misery, to enlighten their minds in the knowledge of Christ, to renew their wills, persuading and enabling them to embrace Jesus Christ freely offered to all in the Gospel.

We look around at a sick, sorrowful, stormy, scornful, scorched planet and cry out to you to please shower your mercy on us and our world, so that peace, health, and wellbeing might prevail throughout the nations – including Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela and our own country – so that your Gospel may go forward unhindered, your creation be beautifully restored and your Church in all places be prospered.

You who are merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and who relents of disaster (Joel 2.13), be with those who are being hit by Florence, who have lost much, stranded in unfamiliar surroundings, wondering what the future holds for them. O dear God, relent of this disaster! Also, be with the service organizations that offer support and supplies to those recovering. And be with the churches, especially those that have opened their doors and hearts to give aid.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

"Over the Earth I Come" by Duane Schultz. A Review

Over the Earth I Come: The Great Sioux Uprising of 1862Over the Earth I Come: The Great Sioux Uprising of 1862 by Duane P. Schultz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At one level, it was a seriously hard book to read! Not the style, though. Duane Schultz, courtesy professor of psychology at the University of South Florida, writer of three college textbooks, and prolific author, knows how to write and capture the reader's attention. What made this 324 page paperback, "Over the Earth I Come: The Great Sioux Uprising of 1862" so hard was the rottenness of many, and the profuse brutalities of multitudes! But Schultz doesn't give out gratuitous accounts of violence, rather he has crafted a well written dossier that chronicles those dark days, but also uncovers the glimmers of bright light that shone through in surprising places.

One of the aspects that impressed me was how Schultz shows not only the lead-up to the uprising, but fairly recounts the good, the bad and the ugly on all sides. The conflicted Little Crow; the foot-dragging Henry Sibley; the heroism of scores of Native Americans and settlers; the blood-lust, rapine and savagery of Sioux warriors; the dishonesty of White merchants, Indian agents and Government officials; as well as the hasty injustices of the trials and deportation at the end. I appreciated the author's honesty, while I cringed at the tale's horrors and hatefulness. And if a reader wonders is the manuscript historical and documented, there is a plethora of chapter notes with citations, and well-stocked bibliography at the end.

Even though the volume was first published in 1992, it is a must-read for Americans of all stripes and ethnicities! It is a dark piece of our history that gives thoughtful background to deep-seated presuppositions, prejudices and premises. And it is a sobering aspect of our heritage that can help to inform our present perceptions and encourage empathetic actions. I strongly recommend this book!

You can find the book here: Over the Earth I Come

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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Vespers - 9 September 2018

(Those in Prison): You who are Father of the fatherless and protector of widows, who settles the solitary in a home; leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but brings the rebellious to dwell in a parched land (Psalm 68.5-6): we pray for those now in prison. So many, though not all, have come from broken homes, fatherless homes, and violent homes. It is no excuse for their criminal activities, but it causes us great concern. We pray that you will visit them with your mercy and grace that they may come to truly know you as Father of the fatherless and help of the homeless. Bring them to genuine repentance and away from jailhouse religion. We pray this especially for those presently on death row, and specifically the 47 on the rolls in Oklahoma, some of whom have been on death row since 1994. Bless and enhance those who visit prisoners to show them better ways and The Better Way of Jesus. Those who have been jailed unjustly, we pray that their innocence will become clear as day, and they would be released and restored. O Lord, hear our prayer. 

(Crime Victims and Families): Just as you were conscious of your peoples’ affliction in Egypt as they suffered at the cruel hands of their task masters and said “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings” (Exodus 3.7); so you have heard the cries and weeping of those who have suffered from wrongdoing, and those whose loved ones have fallen at the hands of criminals…We pray for the living victims that evil may be crushed, and their lives and wellbeing restored. We pray for the families grieving the violent death of those they loved, that you would comfort them in their heartache, bring justice to bear, and give them hope, even in the hurt.  O Lord, hear our prayer. 

 (Those with Addictions): Lord Jesus, who at your ascension ascended on high, led a host of captive in your train and received gifts among men, even among the rebellious, (Psalm 68.18): we pray for those who are shackled and trapped in their addictions...your resurrection and ascension emancipates the enslaved and restores liberty to the caged. May they come to know you and find you redeeming and releasing them, and see you set their lives in order and equip them to aid others into liberation. O Lord, hear our prayer.

"O LORD, You are a Stronghold" - 9 September 2018

O LORD you are a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you (Psalm 9.9-10). It is to you we come to voice our praises, and focus our prayers.

That the needy shall not be forgotten and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever, we give you our praise (Psalm 9.18)!

That you have sent us bountiful rains; have provided for us copiously; and have heard our cry for help and sustained us, we give you praise!

That you have watched over our country in the good times and bad; have seen to the affairs of our State; and have looked after the needs and worries of our communities and families, we give you praise!

We implore you to maintain your church in all places, including this congregation, New Bethel Baptist Church, New Hope Baptist, Northpointe Baptist, and Northwest Baptist Church. Bring unity where there is division; order where there is disorder; faithfulness where there is infidelity; godliness where there is impiety; Gospel where there is legalism; and forgiveness where there are grudges. Hear our Prayer, O Lord!

We implore you for the nations of the world, including Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. Since national entities often think more highly of themselves than they ought, and seek to place themselves above you, and above justice, and above goodness, then we pray with the Psalmist: Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you! Put them in fear, O LORD! Let the nations know that they are but men (Psalm 9.19-20)! For you are the LORD who sits enthroned forever; you have established your throne for justice, and you judge the world with righteousness; you judge the peoples with uprightness (Psalm 9.7-8). Hear our Prayer, O Lord!

We implore you to oversee our nation, its prosperity and progress, its life and legalities. Preside over our courts, and over the appointments to judicial benches. Bring that which is genuinely good and right to dominate in our land, not Conservatism, or Liberalism, or Progressivism, or Socialism; that which is genuinely good and right for Asian, Black, Latino, White, poor, prosperous, immigrants, residents, urbanite and country folk. Hear our prayer, O Lord!

We implore you to step into the ailments and treatments of those who find their cells and cerebrum failing…to take up the recovery of those who are walking in deep darkness or despair…to give strength to those who are exhausted and exasperated…to aid the insight and direction of those who are deciding on their vocational course…to comfort and console those who are grieving over their loved ones…Hear our prayer, O Lord!

In Jesus’ name we praise you and pray. Amen

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

The Spirit of Counsel - A Prayer

As a pastor, I find myself regularly in counseling situations. There are times when I feel completely inept or incompetent. So I often come back to this passage in Isaiah 11, and praying something like the following:
You who are the shoot from the stump of Jesse, the branch from his roots that bears fruit, upon whom the Spirit of the LORD rests, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD, whose delight is in the fear of the LORD; and who does not judge by what your eyes see, or decide disputes by what your ears hear, but with righteousness you shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth (Isaiah 11.1-4). We call upon you for help! We are finite and thus fallible, we do judge by what our eyes see and decide disputes by what our ears hear. Therefore some of our decisions have failed, and some of our counsels have fallen through. Lord, have mercy on us and give us your aid. Guide us in our counsels and lead us in our decisions. May your Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of the LORD rest on us and lead us into all truth. Amen.
I hope you find this helpful.


Monday, September 3, 2018

"Ryken's Bible Handbook" by L. Ryken, P. Ryken, and J. Wilhoit. A Review.

Ryken's Bible HandbookRyken's Bible Handbook by Leland Ryken
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Someone gave me a copy as a "Thank You" for speaking to their group. I started to shove it into a nook in my library, but then thought I'd look it over instead. And I'm glad I did! This glossy 675 page handy hardback is ideal for Bible studies, preaching and personal enhancement. Leland Ryken, professor of literature at Wheaton College, Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, and James Wilhoit, professor of Christian Education at Wheaton College, have teamed up in "Ryken's Bible Handbook: A Guide to Reading and Studying the Bible". It is a work meant to "help Christian readers of the Bible to understand the Bible better, and teachers of the Bible to teach it more effectively" (x).

This handbook works through all sixty-six writings in the Sacred Scriptures. Much of the work is "attuned to the literary forms of writing that comprise the Bible" (ix). Therefore, the authors stay with the specific genre and style of each specific biblical book, guiding the readers to receive the biblical material in the way it is presented: poetry, prophecy, polemics, or prose. With judicious charts (not too much detail or too little detail), break out sections, fact sheets, and summations of main themes, each chapter lends itself to outfitting the reader with a better understanding of Scripture. And then to top it all off, each chapter includes a thoughtful analysis of how that particular biblical book fits into the flow of God's story that culminates and climaxes in Christ.

"Ryken's Bible Handbook" is truly a handy hardback. I've already been using it as I prepare to preach through Joel, and through Job! And my wife is using it as she gets ready for her Women's Bible Study. Here is an ideal gift for Christmas, birthdays, graduations, and "Thank Yous". Bible teachers should own a copy. Theology tutors for Christian Schools and Co-ops ought to have one as well. Anyone who is interested in the Sacred Scriptures needs to snatch up a copy and pour over it. And for my fellow ministers, this book is a must! If you can't tell, I highly recommend the book.

You can order a copy from here: Tyndale

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Sunday, September 2, 2018

"Biblical Counseling Basics" by Jeremy Lelek. A Review

Biblical Counseling Basics: Roots, Beliefs, and FutureBiblical Counseling Basics: Roots, Beliefs, and Future by Jeremy Lelek
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Counseling opportunities and situations hit us all. Neighbors, co-workers, fellow church members and family come seeking direction or help in a trying situation. Often times, whether as pastors or parishioners, we feel pretty helpless. To the rescue comes a new 288 page paperback "Biblical Counseling Basics: Roots, Beliefs, and Future". This resource is penned by Jeremy Lelek, PhD, president of the Association of Biblical Counselors and Metroplex Counseling, a licensed professional counselor in the state of Texas, and a lecturer. The volume primarily attempts to "unpack the single question, What is biblical counseling" (1)? It is written for moms, dads, ministers, and data processors, and meant to arouse the perception that to do biblical counseling is in your grasp.

As noted in the subtitle, Lelek goes into the roots and genealogy of biblical counseling. He moves briefly through the early church fathers, medieval era, the Reformers, then the Puritans and up into the present. In the first two chapters the author not only schools us on how biblical counseling rose out of concern for the growing milieu of secular psychology , but also the different perspectives and approaches in Christian counseling. The author ends the book close to where he began as he addresses the issue of epistemology and the future of biblical counseling in the present environment.

The weight of the book sits in it's middle descriptor, which is about beliefs and practices in biblical counseling. This section is something of a theology of biblical counseling, where the author runs through many categories in systematic theology and shows how they apply in a counseling situation: the role of God's revelation, who God is and how his attributes apply in a counseling scenario, what is humankind, where does the body fit into counseling, and what is the church's role in soul care. This middle section covers twelve chapters, and works out how Christian "counselors not only need a rich theology of motivation but also a vibrant theology of change" (153). As Lelek illustrates his points, using true-to-life counseling situations, it encourages the reader that they just might actually be able to help others!

Of the many items in "Biblical Counseling Basics" I could point out, I take note of two subjects that were of interest to me. First, when the author is describing deceptive desire, and that we are to put off these desires that produce corruption, he then lays out a table of four deceitful desires, their accompanying futile beliefs, and the way they corrupt. The four desires he mentions are: acceptance, security, control, and love (148). When I read this I stopped and read it again. I immediately scribbled in the margin, "How are these deceitful desires?!" None of those listed are evil or immoral in and of themselves. In fact, all of them are useful in promoting what is right and good and godly. Take acceptance as an example. Paul tells us in Romans 14 that God's kingdom is not a matter of eating and drinking but "of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (14.17). The Apostle then declares, "Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men"(14.18). And lastly he directs the readers, "So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding" (14.19). Acceptance is part of the godly motivation for caring about fellow Christians that Paul is promoting (and a case could be made that security, control and love are also). I was puzzled by Lelek's table. It was in the following paragraph that the explanation comes forth: "It is important to note that not all the desires listed under "deceptive desires" above are wrong or sinful. Rather, a particular form of sin's deception is that it influences people to desire these good things to the point that they become evil" (148). This is exactly what James aims at when describing desires that lure and entice us (desire seeks to gain dominance); once desire has gotten the upperhand (when it has conceived) then it gives birth to sin (James 1.14-15). I was glad that Lelek saw the difference between desires, and dominating desires that lead to sin.

Secondly, the author rightly critiques the church's reactions to people's struggles with sin. "Unfortunately, the community of faith has not always been a safe place to struggle. Just open up about wrestling with a porn addiction, homosexuality, severe depression, or manic delusions and watch the room clear...In many cases, this has unfortunately reduced the community of saints to a religious Gestapo, eager to punish or ostracize anyone unable or unwilling to offer immediate conformity to a set of rules. Paul's instruction to restore with a spirit of gentleness is too often lost" (166). Ouch! But, really, a good "ouch".

Though "Biblical Counseling Basics" will not make a person an expert counselor, it will, at the least, kindle a hopefulness that one can actually fulfill Galatians 6.1-2, "Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Pastors and parishioners alike should snatch up a copy, read it thoughtfully and prayerfully, and mark it up with highlights and notes for future reference. I highly recommend the work.

Thanks to New Growth Press for the copy they handed me used in this review. They made now demands of me and no requirements. Therefore this review is freely given, and all my opinion.

You can purchase the book here: New Growth Press

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