Total Pageviews

Sunday, March 18, 2018

"Father to the Fatherless, Helper to the Helpless" - 18 March 2018

Our Father, you who are a father to the fatherless, helper to the helpless, defender of those who are defenseless; you see that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves. Please keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, so that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to our bodies and from all evil that that may assault and hurt our souls!

We remember these who are tackling and being tackled by specific trials …May it please you to calm, compose, and clear them according to their particular needs. Give them enduring patience under their sufferings and a satisfactory ending to all their afflictions. 

Please safeguard our country, as well as all other nations in our world, including Kosovo, Kuwait, and Kyrgyzstan. Also, we implore you to direct the hearts and minds, deliberations and decisions of all the leaders in your ways of justice and truth on behalf of the favored and ill-favored, the mighty and meager, and the powerful and puny.

O Lord, we pray for your Church all over this round globe, this congregation, Sunnylane Freewill Baptist Church, Sunnylane Missionary Baptist, True Light Missionary Baptist, Valley View Baptist and Vietnamese First Baptist Church; as well as the Native American Methodist lay-ministers I’ll be talking with today. Give us help in time of need, and inspire our witness-bearing of Jesus your Son, that many may know the freshness of your forgiveness and the power of his resurrection.

We pray that by your mercies you would forgive our aggressors, intimidators and defamers and turn their hearts to you. May our conduct among the Gentiles always be honorable, so that when they speak against us as evildoers, they may see our good deeds and glorify you on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2.12).

We plead for the salvation, transformation and rescue of those who have never believed in your Son, and we pray for the restoration of those who have turned away from you...

Mighty Savior – mighty over death and the devil; mighty over addictions and obsessions; mighty over coercions and cruelties; mighty to save and mighty to sustain! We pray for the addicted and those abused…that you would surround them and fill them (body, heart, mind and soul – their whole being) with your liberating strength and your undefeatable love! Be with their families, so that they may be like the ruler of the synagogue who ran to you in desperation, crying out to you for his dying daughter, and his faith was not in vain. Therefore give them hope, steady their nerves, calm their fears, and grant them to see you mightily liberating their addicted and abused loved ones. And grant us the brains and the backbone to know when and how to step in to protect either.

Finally, Lord, we thank you for your generous goodness to us. Thank You for this country in which we live, our families, our health, food, clothing,… All this we thank you for and ask, we do so in union with Jesus Christ your Son, and our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

"Love Thy Body" by Nancy Pearcey. A Review

Nancy Pearcey’s 336 page stout hardback, “Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality,” came out in January 2018, and hit the ground running! It is a book focused on the human body, what it means to be made in the image of God, and how our culture has increasingly become anti-body and anti-human. And it is a book written in the utmost seriousness.

According to Pearcey, and my own experiences, we have moved into a Gnostic era, what Hans Jonas defined as an anti-cosmic dualism. In this Gnostic stage, the body is commodified, treated as a malleable substance that can be discarded or remade to suit the customer’s satisfaction, because it is treated as other than “me”. The statement usually runs something like this: “Why are you focusing on this outside stuff (body; genitalia; physique; etc.). The real me is on the inside!”

Unfortunately this kind of dualism is the offspring of Christians in North America over the last 200 years. I have heard and read numerous Christians talk about the body as the prison house of the soul. Even while attending Christian funerals, how often I have heard ministers point to the body in the casket and say with soothing, mournful words, “That’s not your Uncle Orval. That’s just the outside. He’s up in heaven!” It is rather regrettable that we have forgotten how God made humankind body and soul. And when God became human he became fully human – body and soul. He died to save us, body and soul; he arose from the dead, body and soul; and when he returns he will raise us from the dead with him, body and soul! And that’s where Pearcey’s book comes in and helps to correct some of our shoddy, slapdash thinking.

My only gripe with the book is the sense of alarm. Thankfully it doesn’t rise to a fever pitch, but it is noticeable. On the other hand, the volume is jam-packed with personal stories, quotations, studies,  and research. The endnotes will give the reader loads of places to go to find sources for further investigations. For example, while I was reading I started looking up some of the people the author quoted and ran across a website ( that is filled with several testimonies of people who are same-sex attracted, but have become Christians and have chosen to follow Jesus and Jesus’ way; and that site is stocked with solid articles on the subject.

“Love Thy Body” is a must read for all who claim to be followers of Jesus. Remember that Pearcey is focusing on the bigger picture, and not getting down into the personal struggles of your nephew or grandchild, though the stories she recounts do get there. Almost all of her material will help Christians clear their heads and hearts from the anti-body, anti-human, anti-cosmic dualism of our time. And it gives out a better picture than Gnosticism does on what it means to be human. Grab a copy and read it as soon as you can!

"A Warrior's Manifesto" by Daniel Modell. A Review

The Warriors Manifesto: Ideals for Those Who Protect and DefendThe Warriors Manifesto: Ideals for Those Who Protect and Defend by Daniel Modell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 Warriors show up in different sizes and classifications. Some are deployed to hot zones, surrounded by hostiles. Others are Law Enforcement Officers patrolling their areas. A few are Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) standing in, and up, for those who have no voice. They could be lawyers, doctors, teachers, parents, or concerned citizens. When the circumstance calls for action and determination, the warrior becomes manifest. Yet, according to Daniel Modell, 20 year NYPD veteran, CEO of Ares Tactical and Emergency Management Solutions and an adjunct professor at the State University of New York-FIT, in his brand-new 96 page softback, “The Warrior’s Manifesto: Ideals for Those Who Protect and Defend,” there is a clear line between the warrior and the brute. And it is this clear line that works its way through the whole manual.

Modell addresses the what, why and way of the warrior in the first three chapters; while the final section teases out the difference between leaders and bureaucrats. Most of the material interacts with Thomas Hobbes, concentrating on freedom and the “will to alliance”. The author similarly seeks to engage with right and wrong, and lead the reader away from relativism. The whole book is concerned with violence and its place in a world where force is misused and misapplied: “Defending the good necessitates violence so long as there are those who would initiate violence…so long as predators threaten life, protectors of life must answer with the only thing known to stop violence: violence…Violence is his tool; justice is his goal” (42-3). Illustrative tales are rehearsed throughout, as examples of the author’s point.

In many ways a Hobbesian sense of liberty as an absolute good, runs over most of the earlier pages (I also seemed to pick up Lock and Rand in the shadows, though they were never quoted). This brings the author to assert that the “life of the individual citizen is the fountainhead of political value…Liberty is the political expression of the value of each life” (21). And yet Modell’s idea affirms that there is absolute good and justice, rather than the utilitarian and pragmatic kind. On the philosophical side of things, the author pleasantly surprised me by not ending up where I thought he was headed.

“The Warrior’s Manifesto” is not for the faint of heart, those who think we can bring John Lennon’s “Imagine” world into existence in the here and now. It is for those who recognize that evil, despotism, tyranny, injustice, ruthlessness, and violence are in our broken world, and know that they are called defend the good. And to those men and women I highly recommend this book.

My thanks to YMAA who sent me this book at my request, no strings attached. The comments in this review are all my own, and the way I see it.

You can purchase a copy here: "A Warrior's Manifesto"

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Vespers - 11 March 2018

(Anxiety): LORD God of Sabaoth, you have recorded for us these words of deep comfort: “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you” (Isaiah 35.3-4). We pray for the anxious and the forlorn, especially those we know…break through the dark walls that have been set up around their assessments; pull back the thick curtains they have around the eyes of their hearts; and bring the light of your face to shine on their lives that their weak hands may be strengthened and their feeble knees made firm. O Lord, hear our prayer.

(Rest): With your servant, Augustine, we pray: “You awake us to delight in your praise; for you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you” (“Confessions,” 1.1). Lord, we’re not very good at resting. Honestly, we own up to you that it’s our fault. We have too often sought success and satisfaction in our careers, families, finances, feats and other venues. We run and run, go and blow, until we crack or implode. Turn our hearts homeward and bring us to settle down in your generous love, so that we may glorify you and enjoy you, and glorify you by enjoying you; now, forever, and always. O Lord, hear our prayer. 

(Society): LORD, your prophet, Isaiah, recorded the healthy instructions you once gave him: “For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isaiah 8.11-13). For ourselves, we pray that you would fortify us so that we would not call conspiracy what our compatriots call conspiracy; that we would not fear or dread what our society fears and dreads. Rather, may you always be our Rock and strong fortress. And we implore you to turn the hearts of our fellow citizens around that they would no longer call good evil, and evil good. O Lord, hear our prayer.

"Turns Darkness into the Brilliance of Day" - 11 March 2018

Our Father, who turns our darkness into the brilliance of day, and gives us garments of joy in place of the apparel of sorrow; we find ourselves in times of worry and deep concern for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, our nation and our world. In times of prosperity fill our hearts with thankfulness; and in the day of trouble suffer not our trust in you to fail. We remember those who are grappling with specific hardships…may it please you to console and relieve them, according to their specific needs; giving them enduring patience under their sufferings and a happy conclusion to all their afflictions.

With your watchful eye preserve those in our Military, especially…., and encourage their families.

Look kindly on those we know who are thinking of marriage. Help them, in all of the excitement of romance to listen to wise counsel, to see clearly what it means to be married, and to learn how to sensibly and graciously work together as they go through the sometimes testy period of wedding preparations.

We pray for those making career decisions: please guide them to places and circumstances that will be best for them and their families, personally, professionally, but also with regard to piety.

Please safeguard our country, and direct the hearts and minds of all our leaders in your ways of justice and truth for both the born and unborn.

We pray for this region that you would bestow on us the needful portions of rain so as to ease the pressure put on our water supply, and to nourish the earth.

Hear our concerns for the nations of this world, especially Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, and North and South Korea. Strengthen what is good, just and right, cast out all that is murderous, evil and diabolical.

We plead for the salvation, transformation and rescue of those who have never believed in your Son and turned from their sins…..and for the restoration of those who have strayed away from you...

O Lord, we pray for your Church in all places, for this congregation, St. Luke Baptist Church; St. Paul’s Baptist Church; Sara Road Baptist; Serenity Baptist; and Southside Missionary Baptist. Strengthen our loyalty to you and build up our work done in the name of Christ. 

Finally, we pray that by your mercies you would turn the hearts of our enemies, persecutors and slanderers. May we not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. All we ask in union with Jesus Christ your Son, and our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

"A Church You Can See" by Dennis E. Bills. A Review

A Church You Can See: Building a Case for Church MembershipA Church You Can See: Building a Case for Church Membership by Dennis E. Bills
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of my nagging frustrations as a minister is how many unconnected people I have run across through the years. They claim to be Christians but refuse to affiliate with a congregation for a host of reasons, some substantial and others superficial. Dennis Bill, an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, addresses church membership in his 122 page softback, “A Church You Can See: Building a Case for Church Membership.” This down-to-earth manual is ideal for disciples of Jesus wherever they are in their life’s journey.

The author uses a building metaphor as the backdrop and developmental structure of the book. He looks at the builder of the Church, Jesus Christ, and what our Lord said about the church and what makes someone a Christian. Then Bills unrolls the blueprint to set out the contours and framework of what the Church is and what churches are, echoing the Westminster Confession of Faith’s assertion that outside the visible church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. Next, the author sets himself to framing the structure and shows how the “church is a polymerized plurality of particular churches” (26). Further, he brings the reader to see that there are valuable and essential features of a church that is genuinely Christian. Additionally Bills works through the privileges and responsibilities of a church, and that the primary way a church and its leadership know who gets these privileges and deserves these responsibilities is by formal church membership. Subsequently the author challenges the reader if they are ready to join a local church, and if so, how it is normally done. He also takes on denominationalism in a surprising, but helpful, way, claiming that in “the end, then, denominationalism is what unity looks like when the Golden Rule is practiced in the visible church” (86). Finally the author cleans up the building site by showing how Presbyterians do not believe in baptismal regeneration and why they only baptize once.

“A Church You Can See” is truly straightforward and sensible. It’s written for new members classes, or interested Christians. In many ways it’s a working stiff’s study of ecclesiology. The simplicity of the style and substance may well by-pass most prejudices posed by those who are unconnected, and want to remain that way. But it will also communicate well to those who are already members helping them to understand better what their membership means, and how they can explain the value of membership to others themselves. I highly recommend the book!

Thanks to Dennis Bills for sending me a copy of this book at my request, with no strings attached The views are all my own.

If you're looking for a copy, you can purchase it here: "A Church You Can See"

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"Transgender" by Vaughan Roberts. A Review

What is gender dysphoria? How are we to think about someone who is transgender? Is there a way to respond that is both compassionate while being committed to the biblical ethos?  Vaughan Roberts, Rector of St Ebbe's Church - Oxford, Director of the Proclamation Trust, and one who grapples with same-sex attraction, has compiled a nifty little 80 page booklet that addresses these issues, and more, in “Transgender: Christian compassion, convictions and wisdom for today's big issues”. It is a quick and easy read that is the right size and right tempo for handing out to anyone asking questions.

Roberts defines “transgender” and other sexual/gender recognitions, bringing out the origins and rationale that lies behind these identifications. He further discusses the Scripture’s narrative on what it means to be a sexually differentiated human, how the Fall has contaminated every aspect of our being and existence, and what our hope is in the resurrection. Finally, the author addresses different situations we will likely face, either personally, as a congregation, and as members of society, and how we can respond to them.  From cover to cover there is a genuine gentleness walking hand-in-glove with commitment to God’s design as expressed in Scripture; “As Christians, we shouldn’t let our responses be governed by our gut reactions, whether positive or negative, but by God’s word” (20).

My favorite descriptive analogy Roberts uses is that our bodies are not machines with replaceable parts. Rather, humankind “is God’s masterpiece – the pinnacle of his work of creation”. Yet since the Fall we are flawed masterpieces; and so what is needed is not to respond to our bodies as disposable or having interchangeable parts, but art masterpieces in need of restoration, with the goal of restoring the master’s intention – not changing it (36-40).

“Transgender” is short, sweet and simple. This booklet is good for personal reflection and examination. But it is also ideal for distributing to parishioners and parties who need some stable legs under them to keep them standing in this shaken society that is reeling under the raging winds of rapid change! I warmly recommend the book!

Roberts' book can be purchased here: "Transgender"

You can hear Vaughan Roberts, his friends, and read several thoughtful articles at the Living Out website.