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Sunday, November 18, 2018

"Who Has Generously Given Yourself" - 2018

O Lord Jesus Christ, who has generously given yourself for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age, to deliver us from the dominance of the devil, and to deliver us from the fearful bondage of death; as our great High Priest you regard the humble prayers of all who call upon you, who call upon you in truth. Incline your ear and hear.

Regard your Holy, Universal Church which you are sanctifying, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word; including this church and West 10th Street Baptist Church, Western Hills Baptist, Westminster Road Baptist, and Wildewood Baptist Church. Rectify, O Lord, and have mercy upon all the ministers, pastors, elders, and overseers of your Church: aid us to shepherd the flock of God that is among us, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as you would have us do; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in our charge, but being examples to the flock (1 Peter 5.2-3). And keep your Church whole and harmonious: repair the rifts and rips in the churches and bring to nothing those unstable people who willingly twist the writings of Paul and the rest of Scriptures to their own destruction (2 Peter 3.16).

Reclaim, O Lord, and have mercy upon those who have evil intent toward us, who seek to entrap and ensnare us, and who rail and rant against us…; as well we pray for those who have pushed you away, all who are terribly mistaken and think they have no need of you, and those who are pioneering their own way...forgive them, change their minds and directions, and through Jesus Christ may we and they be drawn together to come, worship, bow down, and kneel before the LORD our Maker (Psalm 95.6)!

Refresh, O Lord, and have mercy upon all loaded down with a weight of care, bowed down under disease or dread, doubled over with pain or panic…; also reorient and have mercy upon all who are afflicted mentally and emotionally, with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, paranoia, dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression, PTSD, suicidal ideations, dissociative disorders, and other infirmities…; and replenish and have mercy upon all who find trouble brewing in their homes, or misfortunes in their families…Surround them with those who cherish them and can give them a hand to hold; provide them professionals and partners through whom you may bring help, healing and hope.

Rule over, O Lord, and have mercy upon all world leaders; upon all magistrates; and upon all the inhabitants of this land and all nations. Bring us to speak the truth to one another; to render in our gates judgments that are true and make for peace; and to avoid and eschew the things you hate like devising evil in our hearts against others, and loving false oaths (Zechariah 8.16).

And so, Lord Jesus, what we have here faithfully asked may we, please, effectively obtain for the honor of your name! Amen.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

"Leviticus Bible Study" by Scott Behm and Jay Sklar. A Review

Leviticus Bible StudyLeviticus Bible Study by Jay Sklar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Are you willing to give Leviticus a chance?" That is the question that drives this in-depth and intensive study guide on Leviticus. Scott Behm, California Lawyer and Covenant Seminary graduate, teamed up with Jay Sklar, Covenant Seminary professor and Commentary-on-Leviticus writer, to give Bible students a roomy, 236 page softback workbook through Leviticus. The book is set up for individual use as well as group study, and ideal for older teens, young adults, empty-nesters, and the hoary-haired. It's friendly on the eyes and fuel for the soul!

"Leviticus Bible Study" is a 29-week investigation that works through each chapter from two angles. The lion's share of the material is for individual preparation to be digested piecemeal through the week. There are reflection questions, a prayer, queries to be answered, applications and ways to respond. Did I mention that it's roomy, with loads of space to jot down answers and thoughts? The second part of each study is for when a group regathers. The authors give the leader a roughly three-page lesson plan, with suggested "times" for each segment. This Bible study is ready to hit the ground running! The only other things needed are Sklar's IVP commentary, a Bible, a little water, maybe some olive oil. Then shake it up good and pour it out on the cookie sheet and you've got everything necessary for a delicious fare!

But wait! Maybe you or your group don't have the time to invest for 29-weeks! Fear not, be not dismayed! The authors have mapped out seven options for shorter studies. They have charted, in detail, seven 12-week studies that a person or parish can pursue based on specific topics. There's the 12-week study on "Understanding Leviticus." Another on "The Gospel in Leviticus." Also "Jesus in Leviticus." Then "Sacrifice and Worship in Leviticus." Not so surprising, they also have "Holiness in Leviticus." A group could work through "Community and Ministry in Leviticus." Lastly, "Ethics and Mission in Leviticus." All of the coordinates are listed on pages 7-11 for safe sailing through each of this topical studies. Behm and Sklar have worked extra hard to make it possible for you to say "yes" to their question: "Are you willing to give Leviticus a chance?"

"Leviticus Bible Study" broke water and came up for air in May 2018. It's rip-roaring and ready to go. Are you looking for the next adventure in your women's Bible study? Wondering what to jump into for your High School class? Trying to figure out a way you could teach a college course on Leviticus? Wanting to know Jesus more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly, day by day? Give Leviticus a chance, and snatch up a copy of this study guide as quick as you can. You won't be disappointed!

My delighted gratitude goes to Jay Sklar for the free copy of this study guide. After he saw my review of his IVP commentary, he asked if I'd be interested in evaluating this workbook. I jumped at the chance and asked him to send me a copy. There were no strings attached, no diktats or directives. Sklar simply wanted an honest review, which is what I have given.

You can grab copy of the book here: "Leviticus Bible Study"

Here is my review of Sklar's commentary: Leviticus

View all my reviews

Friday, November 16, 2018

"Welcoming Justice" (Expanded Edition) by Charles Marsh and John M. Perkins. A Review

Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved CommunityWelcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community by Charles   Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

They always say chili tastes better the second time around, after it has sat in the refrigerator marinating in it's sauces and aged for a short spell. Maybe that's the case with the brand new, expanded edition of "Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved Community". This easy-to-read 144 page softback has soaked in it's juices for almost 10 years (first published in 2009). The authors, Charles Marsh, director of the Project on Lived Theology and professor of religious and theological studies at the University of Virginia, and John M. Perkins, a leader in the Civil Rights movement, and founder of Voice of Calvary Ministries in Mendenhall, Mississippi, Harambee Ministries in Pasadena, California, and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), have freshened up the manuscript, and added a few seasoned insights. Also, it is quite fitting that the expanded edition surfaces in 2018, the twentieth anniversary of the death of John's son, Spencer Perkins. I would imagine that the numerous reviews on the first edition still hold true, so I will leave the more detailed analysis to those appraisals. But I will address three items that stood out to me.

To begin with, I found the authors' recounting of the Civil Rights movement and where it went astray, very helpful. Marsh observes, "my research has shown me that only as long as the Civil Rights movement remained anchored in the church - in the energies, convictions and images of the biblical narrative and the worshiping community - did the movement have a vision...To the extent that the Civil Rights movement lost this vision, it lost its way" (30-1). Perkins agrees, and takes things a step further: "But the Civil Rights movement died on the brink of some real human development. We glimpsed the beloved community, but we also watched it slip away because the movement lost its foundation in God's greater movement" (94). There is a gentle, but serious warning in those words for any "movement" that seeks to redress wrongs, and push for equality.

Another plus came up as Marsh was unpacking Perkins' three "Rs" of community building: relocation, redistribution and reconciliation. Relocation is the thought that activists need to move into the neighborhood they're attempting to serve and speak for. Reconciliation is working toward pulling down the walls that divide. Redistribution is the "R" that may well receive the most guffaws and jeers. Nevertheless, even if a reader doesn't agree with every aspect, there are some simple, tangible thoughts. Redistribution, according to Marsh and Perkins, "means sharing talents and resources with the poor, but it also means observable changes in public policy and voting habits. Public policy would need to be accompanied by a Christ-shaped willingness to offer one's skills and knowledge as gifts to others" (37). I'm not sure I could go as far as the authors and embrace their notion that equality is expressed in terms of economics that breaks the cycle of wealth and poverty (Ibid.), but the idea that I can share talents, skills and knowledge as a way of "redistribution" sounds doable, sensible and hopeful.

One of the themes that returns at places in "Welcoming Justice" is that God is bringing about new movements and "a new Christianity" (58). I think I understand what the authors mean, but it deeply concerns me. For example, Perkins observes that revival movements "are always about connecting the gospel to a cause" (80). That seems to be the thrust of various portions of the book. The gospel needs help, and so it needs to be attached to some cause to give it a hand up? There are all kinds of insidious critters lurking in the dank shadows ready to jump on that thought to derail God's world rescue operation by co-opting Jesus for "our" party, that nouveau code civil, this immigration policy, those newly-found "wrongs" and "rights", and so forth.

The book has all sorts of perceptions that are useful: the recognition of how the homogeneous principle in church planting and church growth is harmful for racial reconciliation, the importance of place, the background for the baggy-pants in African-American culture, to name a few. In the end, I honestly and seriously think it is a book worth obtaining, reading and reasoning through.

"Welcoming Justice"

View all my reviews

Short Thoughts on Satan

(Someone I know sent me an email today asking about the devil/Satan. Here is my reply. I thought some would find it useful)


You're right about the popular notion (even among Christians) of a yin and yang view of Satan and God. In fact, the first sermon I preached on Job (Job 1-3) about 4 weeks ago I mention that. Here's the link to the audio file of that sermon. It might be good to listen when you have a little time: "Job: Woe, Whirlwind, and Wellbeing - Pt 1"

I've never run across anything worthwhile on the demonic and Satan. If we leave aside the fanciful conjectures and just look at Scripture, there's very, very little on Satan....not enough to really write a book on. We know Satan is a real entity that communicates and converses, thinks, is cunning, hates God's people, at times encourages nations to go after God's people and rebel against God, and is a tempter (I just listed everything the Scripture says on the subject from Genesis to Revelation in a nutshell). But we really know almost nothing else. Nothing about his origin, for example (the passages people refer to in Isaiah and Ezekiel about the devil's origins, are actually poetic and prophetic hyperbole about earthly kings who thought themselves divine in some way). 

I think God's design in not giving us too much information is; (1) so that we don't obsess on the devil (and if adherents of conspiracy theories are any example of how easily humans obsess on evil, then we get a sense of how prone we would be to obsess and treat Satan with greater fear than we do God); (2) and because he's not really that powerful or important (the same goes with the demonic). As I have said often in the Adult Class at church and in sermons, if the devil didn't exist, we would still go right on sinning and rebelling against God; we should see the devil as more of a cheerleader-to-sin rather than a dominating force that somehow makes us sin. 

So, God has revealed just enough to let us know that the evil one exists, is our accuser, a tempter, cunning (though not necessarily original in his cunning), and a dark force behind Governments and institutions that rebel against God. I think C.S. Lewis is correct when he says somewhere that the devil and demons win if we think about them all the time and see one behind every bush; and the devil and demons win if we deny their existence, and are oblivious to their ploys.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Vespers - 11 November 2018

O LORD, you are Father of the fatherless, protector of widows in your holy habitation, who also settles the solitary in a home (Psalm 68.5-6a). You promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that through them and their offspring all the families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 28.14). And through the death, resurrection and exaltation of your Son the day is coming when all the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you (Psalm 22.27). To you we present our prayers this evening, O Lord. O Lord, hear our prayer.

O great husband of your people (Hosea 2, Ezekiel 16), whose marriage has never been ideal or painless, but one day it will be beautiful, blissful and brilliant: work in our families that they may be fertile soil where together we would grow up and fill out in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Bring hope where right now there is only hurt; bring understanding where there has been a record of confusion and conflict; and bring balance where there is instability. O Lord, hear our prayer.

You, who like a mother comforts your people (Isaiah 66.12): give the mothers of our church courage and resilience to shower love, strength and gracefulness on their teeny kiddos, growing sons and daughters, and those gone from their homes. May their husbands and children always rise up and call them blessed. Thank you for the deep and durable ways they have cared, prodded, counseled and molded. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named (Ephesians 3.15), we implore your help for the fathers of this congregation. Whether we have little tikes, teens or adult children, give us wisdom, insight, and discretion to be the kinds of fathers who reflect your fatherly care and direction. And as you are a father to many ornery children, sons and daughters who grieve you at times, yet you are longsuffering, patient, slow to anger and plentiful in mercy; help us to be patient with our children – even the ones who break our hearts. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord God, whose only begotten Son served you as an unmarried and chaste man; build up those of our number who are single. May their relationship with you, O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be rich and robust, and their bond with Christian brothers and sisters would be deep and delightful. If it is your pleasure for them to go on in singleness, may they blossom in good order and undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7.35); and if it is best for them to marry, orchestrate those “chance” meetings and nurture fresh and wholesome relationships that will blossom in marriage. O Lord, hear our prayer.

"Our Great God and Savior" - 11 November 2018

O Lord Jesus Christ, our great God and Savior, your mercies and loving-kindnesses are new every morning. In your incarnation you united our humanity to divinity; you became the Son of Man that we might become sons of God; you brought us life and immortality to consume our death and mortality; and as our great High Priest you regard the humble prayers of all who call upon you, who call upon you in truth. Incline your ear and hear.

Thank you for the many men and women who took oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic; thank you for their willingness to stand in the gap if called upon, and for weathering many essential (and sometimes idiotic) storms, exercises, conflicts, inspections, deployments and separations. Yes, thank you for our veterans.

Remember your Holy Universal Church, which you have liberated and laundered with your precious blood, including this church and Unity Baptist Church, Valley View Baptist, Victory Baptist, and Waterloo Rd. Baptist Church. Strengthen, O Lord, and have mercy upon all the ministers, pastors, elders, and overseers of your Church: guide us to feed your flock with the true Gospel, the whole counsel of God, and sound doctrine; and to rightly administer the sacraments. May we pay careful attention to ourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made us overseers, to care for the church of God, which you obtained with your own blood (Acts 20.28). Approve and improve your Church, increase and expand her, and keep her in tranquility and harmony. Heal the splits of the churches, extinguish the furious fuming of the anti-Christians, promptly negate and eradicate all heterodoxy by the power of your Holy Spirit, and beat down Satan under our feet.

Save, O Lord, and have mercy upon those who resent and insult us, who seek to harm or harass us...; Forgive them, turn their hearts, and through Jesus Christ bring them and us into your gates with thanksgiving, and into your courts with praise. Rescue, O Lord, and have mercy upon those who have welcomed Barabbas rather than your Beloved Son; those who have drifted away from or dashed away from the true faith, and those who have become overwhelmed by sickening heresies…; Grant them repentance, to come to the knowledge of the truth and escape the snares of the devil.

Revive, O Lord, and have mercy upon all who are trekking through trouble or trial, strife or suffering…Remember them, draw near to them to hold their heads above water, and by your command and compassion speedily grant them relief, freedom, and deliverance.

Act, O Lord, and have mercy upon all world rulers, on our president, on all our civil authorities, and all the peoples in this, and all nations. Reign supreme, rule over and when necessary over rule our aims and ambitions. May all peoples in all places come to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly before you! 

And so, Lord Jesus, what we have here faithfully asked may we, please, effectively obtain for the honor of your name! Amen.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

"The LORD Is Gracious and Merciful" - 4 November 2018

Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful (Psalm 111.1-4). For these reasons we make bold to adore you and to call on you.

For your holy, apostolic church, with all of her elders, bishops, pastors, deacons, teachers and parishioners, including Surrey Hills Baptist Church, Trinity Baptist, True Love Baptist and Tulakes Baptist Church, we pray. May their faith be growing abundantly, and their love for one another increase. May their steadfastness and faith shine brightly, even in the face of persecutions and affliction (2 Thessalonians 1.3-4). We make bold to ask because the LORD is gracious and merciful.

For the seminaries in our land, especially Birmingham, Pittsburgh, Beeson, and Dallas Theological Seminaries, we pray. May they foster godliness and piety, shaping and forming good leaders for your church and missionaries for the harvest. We make bold to ask because the LORD is gracious and merciful.

For this congregation; our elders and deacons; our Sunday School teachers and WIC; our works of mercy and service through the needlework guild, ESL, and so forth; our generous aid to Project 66, Infant Crisis Services, Hope Center, Hope Pregnancy Center, and others; our teaming up with and supporting missionaries; and all you have called us to be and do, we pray. O God of peace, sanctify us completely, making us fully blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5.23). We make bold to ask because the LORD is gracious and merciful.

For the nations of the world, teaming with tribes and tongues, we pray. May they seek good, and not evil, that they may live. May they hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate (Amos 5.14-15). We make bold to ask because the LORD is gracious and merciful.

For these United States of America, those who govern, and for all the residents and citizens, we pray. May there be justice that rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream (Amos 5.24). May the tide turn for the better, especially with regard to addictions to opioids, marijuana, gambling, and instant gratification. May our mid-term elections result in greater common good. May our dispositions, dialogues and even dissensions be wholesome and heartening. We make bold to ask because the LORD is gracious and merciful.

For those in need, the poor, hungry, homeless, unemployed, sick, and lonely; for those whose marriages are rocky or already shattered on the rocks; and those finding that there’s more month than money, we pray…may they receive the right help at the right time in the right way. And show us how we might be part of the remedy. We make bold to ask because the LORD is gracious and merciful.

For those who do not believe in Christ, and those in deep spiritual need, we pray…kindle the fire of faith, hope and love in them. We make bold to ask because the LORD is gracious and merciful.

We present all of these petitions in Jesus’ name because the LORD is gracious and merciful. Amen.