The Appeal (Psalm 51:1-12)

I appeal to Your mercy, oh God, through Jesus Christ…

[1] Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.

I am a sinner, oh God, I am a sinner but I appeal to your mercy through Jesus Christ: Forgive me.

[2] Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! [3] For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. [4] Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

I deserve the full force of your wrath for I have sinned against Your holy law and commands but I appeal to Your mercy through Jesus Christ: Wash me clean.

[5] Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

I am a sinner through and through, even from my birth.

[6] Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Through You and You alone can I know the way of true Life. Teach me, oh God, that I may know true wisdom. Teach me that I may stay on the narrow path and not stray from You.

[7] Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. [8] Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice.

Restore me, cleanse me, wipe my slate clean. Oh God, grant me a second chance.

[9] Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

I appeal to Your mercy through Jesus Christ: Forgive me.

[10] Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. [11] Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. [12] Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Place a new heart in me, oh Sovereign God as I appeal to Your mercy through Jesus Christ: Forgive me and grant me a joyful heart once again.

This is my confession; this is my appeal; this is my plea to you, oh God. I echo these words from the psalmist and seek to be placed back into a right relationship with you. So I lay it before you and wait…

[10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10-11 ESV)

Through faith in Jesus Christ I am forgiven?

PRAISE BE TO GOD!
ALLELUIA!
AMEN!

The Pastor -|—

Covenant faithfulness ~ A Lenten Prayer

Tonight we join with our brothers and sisters in Christ, from First Presbyterian Church, for Lenten worship. My colleague and close friend are preaching through the Old Testament texts assigned, through the Revised Common Lectionary, for the previous Sunday.

Last week my friend preached about the covenant with Noah and all of creation following the great flood. Tonight I get the privilege of preaching on Genesis 17:1-16; the covenant with Abraham and Sarah and their descendants. These two texts are wonderful texts that set up the Gospel of grace through Jesus Christ. And I can hardly wait to proclaim this message.

Below is the prayer I wrote to pray before I preach and so I offer it to you tonight.

Let us pray…

Oh holy God, to gather around your Word is such an awesome privilege. To join with our brothers and sisters in Christ in worship is an awesome joy. And tonight, oh holy covenant-keeping God, we joyfully and expectantly and anxiously await the proclamation of your Word. And so I appeal to You to send Your Spirit to infuse these words with life and faith-filling purpose; for Your Word does not return to you empty. My words, on the other hand, are empty without Your Spirit. My words have no power or influence or life; only Your words do, Creator God. So may I be faithful to say what You have ordained me to say. And may I bring glory to Your holy name. Bless this time, oh God, and then send us forth to faithfully serve You in covenant faithfulness. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

Let us come before the Lord our God in worship.

The Pastor -|—

The Fighting God (Exodus 14:14)

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” [Exodus 14:14]

This short, little verse captured my heart this morning; as God spoke words of comfort after a very long and difficult day.

But first the context of this verse…

The Israelites are being lead out of Egypt by God through Moses and Aaron. God commands the group to head towards the Red Sea and set up camp. Once there, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart and he comes out with everything he has to capture those slaves again.

God did this to show God’s glory.

As they are beside the Red Sea the people see Pharaoh and his army and are scared silly (and a little angry that Moses lead them out here to die). Moses then speaks the word of the Lord to them:

Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:13-14)

Basically, no need to worry, God has this. You don’t even need to raise one finger. Trust God. God will fight this battle.

With that God parted the Red Sea, the people walked across on dry ground and the rest is history. Praise be to God!

And I needed that verse this morning. Without going into all the details, yesterday was a long and nerve fraying day. I had been up since 2:30 AM with a 4 month old who refused to be put down. My wife was out of town for work. I had two kids not feeling well; both demanding attention and it seemed like at the same time all the time. My toddler was being naughty because she wasn’t getting the attention she demanded. And my 4 month old was difficult to sooth. When I would try to put the younger one down for a nap, the older one would come in crying; waking up the younger.

My emotions and nerves were frayed and I found myself on the verge of tears a number of times. Lots of praying ensued and when Connie finally got home I just crashed.

And then I read this verse this morning:  The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.

[Cue the tears]

Amen!
Praise be to God!
Alleluia!
Thank you!

Have you ever felt defeated or nearly pushed over the edge?
Have you ever felt like the world was ganging up on you?
Have you ever felt like Satan’s onslaughts were going to destroy you?

Have you been there? That was me yesterday, but God fought for me even though I was trying to fight. And this morning God reminded me to give it up to him next time. Satan may try to destroy me in so many ways, and on my own I have no chance but God will fight for me. And God will fight for you.

What an awesome promise.
What a faithful God.

Through Jesus Christ God has defeated Satan but Satan is still trying do as much damage as possible until that day when God makes him a footstool for is Son. So when you see the forces of Satan baring down on you; do not be afraid. The salvation of the Lord has been won for you through faith in Jesus so therefore the Lord will fight for you and the Lord WILL win.

Praise be to God and Alleluia!!!

Thank you, powerful God, that you fight for me. When the forces of evil are marching against me, you are there to push them back. May I have the sight of Elisha to see the chariots of fire around me and may I rest in your promises, oh God. May you be praised, always and forever. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

The Facebook Experiment (part 2) ~ Observations

It’s Monday morning and I just checked my Facebook account for the first time since 3 PM, Friday, Feb 27. It’s been a good weekend being away and reflecting. No twitching being off Facebook. No falling off the wagon. No cheating and justifying my cheating. Just a good weekend where I learned a lot.

But first…

Why the experiment?
I read an article earlier on Friday called: Facebook Obsession and the Anguish of Boredom. And a line in that article caught my attention: “When life gets boring, we increasingly turn to the surprises (and diversions) of our newsfeeds, not to prayer.”

And so I began to think, “Does that happen to me? Do I turn to Facebook instead of God in prayer? When I get bored, do I seek other things to fulfill me other than God? Is Facebook my source of validation or is God”

This concerned me so hence the experiment to do some soul searching. So I logged off Facebook and turned off my mobile notifications on my phone and tablet; only posting faith related material from other platforms such as this blog and Bible verses from my YouVersion app. I did continue to maintain my church’s Facebook page; but only through my mobile app as to not be tempted to log on and check my newsfeed.

Then ~ whenever I would get the urge to check my Facebook account I would stop and pray instead. And so I did. All weekend this went on; as I jotted down some observations.

Observations:
(1) Early on, whenever I sat down on the couch I instinctively reached for my phone to check my newsfeed (but I never cheated).

(2) Early on, whenever I got on my computer I instinctively pulled up another tab in my Chrome browser for my Facebook account (once again, I never cheated).

(3) Early on, I prayed a lot because I was thinking about how many notifications I had waiting for me. I almost felt guilty for not checking in.

(4) Later on, I still prayed a lot, but not because I was bored or thinking about Facebook but because I wanted to. This experiment served as a reminder to “Pray without ceasing”. What a pleasant outcome.

(5) Later on, I realized that didn’t think about my newsfeed as much as I thought I would but I still prayed. I was pleasantly surprised.

(6) I missed the people I correspond with on Facebook but not Facebook itself.

So now what?

This experiment has prompted me to make some changes to my Facebook habits. My hope and prayer is that they are long term changes:
(1) Instead of going to Facebook to “waste time” I am going to peruse my newsfeed looking for prayer requests (ones explicitly stated or not).

(2) I am going to keep my notifications turned off on my phone and tablet (expect for messenger). I want to control when I check Facebook and not let a notification tell me when to check. Technology and social media have good qualities but who controls who?

(3) I am only going to check Facebook when I have an identifiable purpose; not checking to see how many people have “liked” something.

(4) No more mindless perusing of my newsfeed. Pray instead; continuing the “experiment”.

And so we’ll see how this goes; this continuation of “the experiment”. This has indeed opened my eyes to how social media can have a huge impact on your life. Like I said earlier, social media is not bad but like anything else, it’s how you use it. And if you’re using Facebook to receive validation from people you barely know; remember that God has already “validated” you through Jesus Christ.

So…

~ Seek God
~ Peruse God’s promises
~ Update your status with God through prayer
~ Know that God has already clicked your “like” button
~ And remember to “log in” and check you “Godbook” (Bible) often.

Thank you, God, for a great weekend and for opening my eyes to new habits. May you be glorified. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Entering God’s Holy Word ~ A Prayer

This is the prayer I wrote to be prayed before I preach on Sunday. This is not a text specific prayer but rather a plea that one be faithful in the awesome task of entering God’s holy Word.

When I think about what I do week in and week out, it is mind-boggling and a little scary. I have been charged with the task of opening God’s Word and proclaiming the very words of God. And therefore I don’t want to be lax in my preparation or timid in my proclamation. I don’t want to steal glory from God or water anything down. And so I prayed and will pray as such each and every time I enter the pulpit or stand before others to teach the Word of God. Let us all do the same, for God’s holy Word needs to be taken seriously.

Let’s pray…

Holy God, it is an awesome privilege to have in our hands the very words that you have spoken. It is mind blowing that you would grace us with Your words that we may come to know Your heart and your plan for salvation. For the Bible is not just an instruction book on how to live, but it’s Your holy Word on what You are up to for us through Jesus Christ and how we can bring You glory.

And therefore to enter Your word like this is an overwhelming thing because we don’t want to get it wrong.

And so I humbly ask that you may grant me insight to proclaim this Word.
And then I ask that you may grant to those listening, the ears to hear and the faith to receive.
And then if it is not too much to ask again of You, Holy God, may you grant us boldness as we leave this place to live for you no matter what.

Thank you for the privilege to listen to your Word. Now may the words of my mouth be heard as Your Words and not return to you empty, but accomplish that which you sent them to do. All glory and honor to you, oh God, through Jesus Christ our Lord,

Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Opening prayer ~ The Narrow Gate (Matthew 7:13-14)

As we prepare for worship this morning, let us first prepare our hearts to praise God and receive His Holy Word. Let us pray…

Father God,

scripture teaches us to “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14) May those who are here gathered enter by the narrow gate and deny themselves the easy way through the wide gate. May we enter through

Your Word
Your Promises
Your Grace and,
Your son, Jesus Christ

But we are not so foolish to think that the path through the narrow gate will be easy. It will be hard, so I humbly ask that you may send your Holy Spirit to make us lean; trimming away

the cares of this world
idols
false gods
false doctrine
hypocrisy
gossip
prosperity gospel faith and
anything else that weighs us down.

May we have the faith to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Jesus through the narrow gate.

So make your Word manifest among us as we lift up our prayers, praise and thanksgivings. You are worthy, oh God, You are worthy. So here we come, to worship Your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

May you bless God as you worship this morning and may you be blessed by the proclamation of God’s holy Word.

The Pastor -|—

Sighs, groaning and praying

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” [Acts 7:55-56]

Stephen knew he was in trouble. He knew his life was in danger. Stephen knew that he was not getting out of this crowd alive. But he was unfazed. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he sees the reason for his faith. And I can about imagine the peace he felt, even as the people dragged him out of the city to stone him.

The reason I was drawn to this text this morning was because of a prayer request I received yesterday from a friend. He sent a group text to a few of us; asking how we should be praying for those Christians that ISIS recently captured. This has been weighing on him and wanted to know how to pray. So I sent the above text and wondered if we should be praying that those Christians see what Stephen saw and thus be strengthened and encouraged. Someone else then chimed in and suggested that we pray that the faith of those persecuted Christians have an impact on their captors.

But is there more?

I’m not sure what those Christians truly need since I can’t begin to imagine what it is like for them. I can’t imagine what I would pray for if I were in that situation or how my faith would hold up. But I like that text from Acts so I am going to pray for those Christians using that text and then pray that their faith impacts their captors and then fall in Romans 8:26…

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

…and then turn it over to God.

I don’t and can’t know what they truly need, but God does. So let’s allow the Holy Spirit to take our groanings and sighs and cries and carry them to the Lord. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to intercede for us. Let’s give it up to God and say, “May your will be done

Let’s pray…

[Sigh]

Amen

The Pastor -|—