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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Vespers - 24 September 2017

Your righteousness is like the mountains, O God; your judgments are like the great deep; man and beast you save, O LORD (Psalm 36.6); therefore we implore you to give your much needed assistance, provision, direction, comfort, strength and restoration to our brotherhood throughout the world, and where they are in great need or distress. We intercede especially on behalf of those in Kenya, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and in the areas hit by Hurricanes and destructive storms. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Almighty God, you have taught us not to think of ourselves only, but also for the wants and needs of others. We pray for the many burdened and oppressed we know who have been crushed and had their purposes and dreams overthrown…; for the many who are afflicted by poverty, worn down and worn thin by disease, illness and ailment…; for the many who are weary and heavy laden, in gloom and misery, and those suffering for righteousness’ sake... Help them in the ways that are most fitting and suitable to their need that they all may rest in you. O Lord, hear our prayer.

LORD God, the Almighty, who gives power to the faint, and to the one who has no might you increase strength. Even though youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; yet those who wait for you, O LORD, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. O God, lift us up on eagle’s wings; renew our strength; rouse us with renewed hope and life to run and not be weary, to walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40.29-31). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord of all righteousness, whose ways are right, whose plan is for “human flourishing” – which can only come by flourishing in your wise ways instead of trailing off in the otherwise ways of our out-of-order world. Father, look on our country, the different generations who have different ways of decoding and deciphering our present society; the educational institutions that often see themselves as morally and intellectually superior; the social agenda-izers in our land that are wreaking havoc and are throwing around threats and name calling at those who withstand them. O God, not just for our sakes, but for future generations, for our children’s sakes, and our grandchildren and greatgrandchildren’s sakes, please turn this moral and social mayhem on its head. Help us to see our own fault in this mess (certainly our faults corporately, and maybe personally), to own up to it, confess our wrong, and seek to pursue right. But also bring many in our nation, before it’s too late, to see the train wreck they are producing; to recognize how they are about to leave behind themselves a reeking heap of destroyed human lives. Good God, have mercy on us. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Finally, Father, we would like to talk with you about those in our lives – our children, parents, siblings, close friends – who are making some very significant decisions. Some of those decisions have been bad decisions and have brought them into trouble. Put people in their lives to help them out of those troubles and learn from them. Some of those decisions will be life changing. Guide them and provide them with wiser voices to speak into their lives so that they will succeed. O Lord, hear our prayer. 

All of these prayers we ask in the name of our Lord Jesus….

"Our Father Who Art in Heaven" - 24 September 2017

Our Father who art in heaven: you rule over all creation, seen and unseen, visible and invisible. You are compassionate toward all, bringing rain, sun, and wellbeing to the just and the unjust. But you also are Judge of the whole earth who does what is just (Genesis 18.25). We lift up our hearts and hands in praise of you.

Hallowed by thy name: since we know and believe that you are the greatest good, then for you to be exalted in the imaginations, dispositions and considerations of humankind is to exalt that which is of greatest good for all. We pray you would come to be honored by all peoples, nations, tribes and language groups; and we pray that your name and person and authority would always be honored in your church throughout the world, this congregation and Southside Assembly of God; Spring Creek Assembly of God; Triumph Family Worship Center; Alameda Baptist Church; and Antioch Institutional Baptist Church.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: We long to see your world rescue operation filling out and filling our earth. To that end we pray that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be honored among us and all people; and that you would establish us and all of your people and guard us against the evil one, as you direct our hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 3.1-5). But also we pray for our world, with all of its teaming host of nations and tribes, as well as its leaders, to include the President of Vanuatu, Tallis Obed Moses; the President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro; and the President of Vietnam, Trần Đại Quang. Bring justice, compassion, equity and lawfulness to prevail in all places; fortify infrastructures, education, medical care, and Law Enforcement; secure clean drinking water, commerce and literacy; and raise up effective intermediaries and arbitrators to bring about genuine peacefulness where there have been severe conflicts. And where evil is deeply ensconced and established, break its power and replace it with good.

Give us this day our daily bread: Father, take in hand our lives; give aid to those in need financially and physically…; provide for those who lack jobs or income or means…; take care of the house parents, administrators and kids at the Boys Ranch Town here in Edmond.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors: Especially in our families and among our once close associates, but also in all of our relationships: help us to be a forgiving people, gracious, charitable, and as lenient toward others as we are to ourselves. And, Lord, where there have been estrangements and ruptures, heal those relations and bring reconciliation.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one: Let anyone who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. And since no temptation has overtaken us that is not common to man, we firmly believe that you are faithful, and will not let us be tempted beyond our ability, but with the temptation you will also provide the way of escape, that we may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10.12-13).  And so, please, show yourself strong on our account.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen!

Friday, September 22, 2017

"Africa Bible Commentary" by Gen. Ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo. A Review.

Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African ScholarsAfrica Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Tokunboh Adeyemo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For years I have read and contemplated Scripture from within a western framework with my readings reinforced by western scholars and commentators. Overall it has been healthy and wholesome. Yet I know, after experiencing two years in Turkey, that to always see with western eyes and hear with western ears can lead to, at the least, stilted views; and at the worst, self-congratulating groupthink and elevating Americanism. So I was delighted to pick up a copy of the 1632 page hardback "Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars." This volume's compilation was led by general editor Tokunboh Adeyemo, who was general secretary of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa, but has since died (may he rest in Christ's peace; and rise, body and soul, on Christ's Day!). It has a view toward instructing fellow Christians, aiding pastors, and giving significant substance to Bible teachers.

"Africa Bible Commentary" is a simply formatted compendium of systematically compiled exegesis on Scripture that takes the Holy Writ seriously. This seriousness is highlighted in the two forwards, one written by John Stott and the other by Dr. Aboagye-Mensah. It has a mild Baptist and dispensational flavor in places, but as Dr. Stott observed, its "foundation is biblical, its perspective African, and its approach to controversial questions is balanced" (vii). I have used it several times when mulling over various passages, and found its tone to be simultaneously gracious and genuine.

If you're interested in adding an important single-volume commentary to your library, or desire to hear from Bible scholars outside of your western and American context, "Africa Bible Commentary" would be a valuable asset. If you're wondering what to get for your favorite pastor, seminarian or Bible teacher as gift "that keeps on giving," then you will want to consider this commentary. I gladly and heartily recommend this book.

(This link will guide you to the publisher to purchase the book)

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 17, 2017

"Father, Because Of...." - 17 September 2017

Father, because of your Son, Jesus the Messiah; because of your Holy Spirit by whom your love is poured into our hearts; and because of your strongly guaranteed promise, we make bold to pray to you.

Bring the unruliness and agitation of all the nations of this world to a place of peace, orderliness, and the rule of just law so that peaceful and healthy prosperity might prevail, your church live quietly and safely, and your Gospel run swiftly and unhindered.

This brings us to pray for those who lead the various nations, to include the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan; For the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Theresa May; our own President, Donald Trump; and the President of Uruguay, Tabaré Vázquez. Surround them with those who will boldly and wisely counsel them to do right, defend the right, and lead their people to that which is right. Lead each to recognize that their office is not theirs but given by you and accountable to you. And may they govern and act in ways that are honorable, admirable and noble.

Direct in our country those who speak where many listen, and write what many read that they may do their part in making the heart of our people wise, our minds sound, and our desires virtuous.

Rain down health on the sick and ailing, fortify those receiving treatment for serious diseases, provide stability for those troubled in mind and heart, and consolation and hope for the grieving……

Consider the needs of this congregation. As you have called us to liberty, may we not use our liberty as an opportunity to serve the flesh, but through love to serve one another (Galatians 5.13). Also, we implore you to revive, enrich, guide, and empower your church throughout the world, to include Oaktree Assembly of God; Power House Church; The Rock Church; and South Pointe Church; that we all may confidently trust in your Son Jesus Christ for our hope and salvation, crucify the flesh with its passions and desires, and live and walk in the Spirit. Please be with our denomination’s MNA Disaster Relief team as they face multiple scenes of devastation and deprivation. Supply them with the manpower, monies and means they need to effectively aid others; and strengthen them with emotional and physical health.

Finally, look in mercy on these who who have yet to embrace Jesus Christ as he is freely offered in the Gospel, and on these who have strayed away from the Faith once for all delivered to your people…. 

O God, hear our prayer; give ear to the words of our mouth (Psalm 54.2), for Christ’s sake; Amen.

Friday, September 15, 2017

"Plain Theology for Plain People" by Charles Octavius Boothe. A Review

Charles Octavius Boothe
Lexham Press
1313 Commercial St.
Bellingham, WA 98225, USA
ISBN: 9781683590347; $14.99; (1890) 2017

G.K. Chesterton once penned, “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about” (“Orthodoxy”). Lexham Press has taken a good stab at this “democracy of the dead” by resuscitating “Plain Theology for Plain People” written in 1890 by an emancipated slave who became a Christian preacher, Charles Octavius Boothe. This small, 151 page re-typeset, reworked paperback was written by Boothe to help fellow emancipated slaves, who had little education and little time to obtain formal instruction, grow deeper in the depths of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is easily accessible for folks from every walk of life. As Boothe put it, “this little book’s only mission is to help plain people in the study of the first principles of divine truth” (3).

“Plain Theology for Plain People” is something of a Bible-saturated Systematic Theology, or Manual of Christian Doctrine. It runs through nine major loci from “The Being and Character of God” to “The Last Things.” Boothe walks his students through Scripture on each of these subjects, giving them hand-holds and waypoints in their trek. The author’s presentation is thoughtful and thorough, without getting lost in the side trails. His Baptist insignia shows forth clearly in regard to baptism as only immersion, and in his ecclesiology. And his “Calvinism” comes out in his very gracious and charitable handling of predestination, election, justification and sanctification. A relentless theme that refreshingly streams forth from Boothe’s pen in several places is that “the more we think of the sinfulness of sin, the more wonderful the love of God will appear” (33). It was an easy read that can quickly lend itself to a devotional book!

There is also an introduction written by Walter R. Strickland II, assistant professor of Theology and Associate Vice President for Kingdom Diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This short overview gives a brief biography of Charles Octavius Boothe, and how “Plain Theology for Plain People” came about.  It left me with a greater desire to learn more about Boothe and his other works.

“Plain Theology for Plain People” is a worthwhile voice from “the most obscure of all classes.” It is also a valuable work displaying sound, biblical theology from the pen of an emancipated American slave who became a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I strongly encourage you to snatch up a copy and give this brother your ear and your time.

My hearty thanks to Lexham Press 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).

Monday, September 11, 2017

"Deaconing and Deacons"

Deaconing and Deacons

What in the world is a deacon? What are deacons supposed to be doing? Who should be deacons? Where did the office of deacons arise from? How do deacons benefit our congregation? These are great questions and likely flutter and float in the backs of our minds whenever we have an officer election and installation. I will try to answer these questions and others as I discuss deaconing and deacons.

Deaconing: As we begin with our passage, Paul describes his Gospel work, as a diaconal service, using two nouns – one for the work, “We put no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry (ha diakonia 3) and one for his person engaged in the work, “but as servants of God (theou diakonoi ) we commend ourselves in every way” (4). Almost never is the word deacon used of an official office, but almost completely used of occupation, not about a label as much as the labor, not concerned with position as with practice. It is service, Gospel-centered-Jesus-shaped service offered to God and for God’s people. Paul will call himself and Apollos deacons, “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants (diakonoi) through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each” (1 Corinthians 3.5). He will describe Timothy, while pastor of the church in Ephesus, as being a good deacon, “If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant (diakonos) of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed” (1 Timothy 4.6). He will also describe a dear sister, Pheobe, as a faithful servant of Christ’s church in her rich assistance, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant (diakonon) of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well” (Romans 16.1-2). Similarly he will define the household of Stephanas as engaged in deaconing, “Now I urge you, brothers—you know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the service (diakonian) of the saints” (1 Corinthians 16.15). In fact, even false apostles and false ministers present themselves as deaconing, “So it is no surprise if his servants (diakonoi), also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness (diakonoi dikaisunas). Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11.15). The emphasis and focus is not necessarily, nor automatically on position but practice; not on label but labor, not about office but occupation. That’s why Paul can go on to say that all church members are deaconers, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry (ergon diakonias), for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4.12).

And our self-giving Lord Jesus, who became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross, is the enfleshment of deaconing, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served (diakonthanai) but to serve (diakonasai) , and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10.45). Whether the word is used of the work or the person it is almost never used of an official office, but almost completely used of occupation, not of position but practice; not a focus on label but labor. It is almost always and overwhelming used of service, Gospel-centered-Jesus-shaped service offered to God and for God’s people. Service offered by men, women, girls and boys, ministers, leaders, and members. We are all – because of Jesus – deaconers deaconing in God’s world rescue operation!

Deacons: Yet there are a few times when position, label and office are mentioned. It is normally because they are mentioned in conjunction with other leaders and officers. For example, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons” (Philippians 1.1). And only one other time (outside of Acts 6) that the position is specifically talk about is when Paul lays out to pastor Timothy the traits that qualify a man for the office: “Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3.8-13).

Since these folks are brought out and set up in front as deacons, they embody the deaconing of the congregation, they exemplify Gospel-centered-Jesus-shaped service offered to God and for God’s people, and help the deaconing congregation to deacon better. They serve by leading their fellow deaconers (ministers, elders, members, women, men, boys and girls) into deaconing in a Jesus-shaped way.

As we conclude keep in mind that all of us who have been redeemed by the deaconing Jesus, who have been rescued by our self-giving Lord, are involved in deaconing for God’s glory and one another’s good. And our deacons help lead us into better deaconing in God’s world rescue operation!

(I presented the above at the installation of two deacons in our congregation on 10 September 2017. If you find it beneficial, feel free to use it. Mike)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

"Mighty God, Who Is High and Lifted Up" - 10 September 2017

Mighty God, who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy, who says “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). O dwell with us and revive us!

O Lord, our Lord, we pray for Heritage Presbyterian Church, for these churches around Oklahoma City – Hilltop Assembly of God; Inner-City Church; Maranatha Assembly of God; New Life Assembly of God; and North Church; for your church in all places and your people being hammered and hounded and hunted down world over. We all profess our love and adoration for you and we all confess that we are saved by your invasive and merciful love. Now, Lord, cause us to become what you have made us: Children of the Living, Holy God, who are no longer wooed by the father of lies, who are no longer caught in the snares of our own lusts and pride, but those who are thoroughly loyal to you. Give us aid and strength to be intentionally healing, caring for, and defending the fatherless, widow, abused, beat-down and messed up.

For these, Lord, who are in need of your sustaining, healing, supporting help, we pray…

For the nations of the world, and the USA we pray. There are physical storms raging and ravaging cities, homes, farms and lives. There are droughts and wildfires devouring creation and livelihoods. There are floods and famines mowing down the frail and fragile. Lord God, have mercy on us and all peoples, and grant us relief.

Invigorate the leaders of the world – to include our own President, Mr. Trump; Governor-General of Tuvalu, Sir Iakoba Italeli; President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni; and President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko; that they would work for righteous peace; that they would make honorable the power and position entrusted to them; that they would uphold equity, morality, compassion, charitableness, and decency; and that they would defend and support activities, agencies and alliances that are genuinely good and upright. We ask all of this so that health, life and joy might prevail in all lands, and the Call of Christ might move unhindered through every region and be heard.

Lord, we have prayed for friends and family which we know, that they might be restored to the Faith of Christ, or come to faith in Christ; and still we pray for them…But also, Lord, we beg you to look upon us: give us a missionary heart to reach out and become like our great shepherd who seeks out the straying sheep. Make us more vocal and active in proclaiming your praises and announcing the way of Life in Jesus Christ.

Finally, gracious Father, look upon us in this new season and new semester. May all of our undertakings be enriching. Give the students new-found successes in their studies and the teachers renewed vigor and pleasures in their service. And may this coming Fall time of year be chock full of reasons to rejoice in your lovingkindnesses! Amen.