Merry Christmas

25 12 2008

On this glorious Christmas day, I hope these words of prayer and reflection resonate with your heart.
May you have a wonderful and worship time with family and friends, rejoicing in our Lord who stepped so low to rescue us and raise us up to him!

“My heart melts at the love of Jesus,
my brother, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh,
married to me, dead for me, risen for me;
He is mine and I am his,
given to me as well as for me;
I am never so much mine as when I am his,
or so much lost to myself until lost in him;
then I find my true manhood.

But my love is frost and cold, ice and snow;
Let his love warm me,
lighten my burden,
be my heaven;
May it be more revealed to me in all its influences
that my love to him may be more fervent and glowing;
Let the mighty tide of his everlasting love
cover the rocks of my sin and care;
Then let my spirit float above those things
which had else wrecked my life.

Make me fruitful by living to that love,
my character becoming more beautiful every day.
If traces of Christ’s love-artistry be upon me,
may he work on with his divine brush
until the complete image be obtained
and I be made a perfect copy of him,
my Master.”

from “The Love of Jesus” in The Valley of Vision

Thank you, Jesus.


Listening to My Older Brothers Pray

2 03 2008

Years ago I was given a copy of The Valley of Vision  by my Pastor.  He gives me a lot of books, so I didn’t get to it right away… actually, it sat on my book shelf for two years!  But it didn’t sit there forever.  I still remember the day I finally opened it up and began reading.  I was blown away.  I quickly went and apologized to my Pastor for my negligence and then began reading daily through this wonderful collection of Puritan prayers.  Since that day (several years ago now) this little book has become an integral part of my daily devotions.  It is how I begin my daily time of Bible reading, study, and prayer.  God has used the prayers in this book to help get my focus where it needs to be and quiet my heart for feeding from His Word. 

This week, the two prayers I have been reading and meditating on have been centered on the act of prayer itself and have really challenged me in my own thinking about this crucial part of our new life.  Here are a few quotes from what I’ve been reading (these are the ones I wrote in my journal) and pay specific attention to the way prayer is described:

“Let me know that the work of prayer is to bring my will to thine, and that without this it is folly to pray.”

“When I try to bring Thy will to mine it is to command Christ, to be above Him, and wiser than He: this is my sin and pride.”

“Teach me to live by prayer as well as by providence.”

“Urged by my need, invited by Thy promise, called by Thy Spirit, I enter Thy presence, worship Thee with godly fear, awed by Thy majesty, greatness, glory, but encouraged by Thy love.”

“I bring Jesus to Thee in the arms of faith, pleading His righteousness to offset my iniquities, rejoicing that He will weigh down the scales for me, and satisfy Thy justice.” 

Is that the way you look at prayer?  Is that what comes to your mind when you think of spending extended amounts of time in prayer?  Often, it is not what is coming into my mind.  These pictures of prayer (especially the last one) have convicted me that I often think too little of the greatness of prayer.  

Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself this week, as I brought my prayer life into comparison with the pictures of prayer given to me this week from the Puritans:

How often don’t I “live by prayer”?  How many moments and decisions pass by without a word to my Father or any confession of my weakness and need? 

How often do I see those moments in prayer as a time to have my will conformed to God’s?  How often do I allow it to become the exact opposite?

How often do I view those moments before the Throne of Grace as a time of worship, a time to rejoice in the sacrifice of so loving and gracious a Savior?  How often do I delight in His sacrifice and see it as the sole merit I bring?  How often do I, instead, try to manipulate God by focusing on my own merits? Click Here to Order a Copy!

These are just a sampling of what God has brought to mind as I have spent time this week listening to my Christian “older brothers” pray.  I praise God for these wonderful men whose words He is using to teach my what it truly means to be a man of prayer. 

The Gospel Way

9 02 2008

No human mind could conceive or invent the gospel.
Acting in eternal grace, thou art both its messenger and its message,
lived out on earth through infinite compassion,
applying thy life to insult, injury, death,
that I might be redeemed, ransomed, freed.

Blessed be thou, O Father, for contriving this way,
Eternal thanks to thee, O Lamb of God, for opening this way,
Praise everlasting to thee, O Holy Spirit, for applying this way to my heart.

Glorious Trinity, impress the gospel upon my soul,
until its virtue diffuses every faculty;
Let it be heard, acknowledged, professed, felt.

Teach me to secure this mighty blessing;
Help me to give up every darling lust,
to submit my heart and life to its command,
to have it in my will,
controlling my affections,
moulding my understanding;
to adhere strictly to the rules of true religion,
not departing from them in any instance,
nor for any advantage in order to escape evil, inconvenience or danger.

Take me to the cross to seek glory from its infamy;
Strip me of every pleasing pretence of righteousness by my own doings.   

O gracious redeemer,
I have neglected thee too long,
often crucified thee,
crucified thee afresh by my impenitence,
put thee to open shame.

I thank thee for the patience that has borne with me so long,
and for the grace that now makes me willing to be thine.
O unite me to thyself with inseparable bonds,
that nothing may ever draw me back from thee, my Lord,
my Savior.

The Valley of Vision

Praying for the Preacher

19 01 2008

This Sunday I have the blessing and the responsibility of opening the Word for our church family.  I take the call to preach very seriously and, although I enjoy preaching, I always go fearfully into the pulpit.  Because of the greatness of this responsibility, I thought I’d enlist some prayer support and ask you to join with me in praying for the services this Sunday, especially the preaching (and the preacher!).  The following is a prayer from the Valley of Vision.  Years ago I began the habit of praying through this prayer before I preached that day’s message.  It is such a powerful reminder of what is really going on in that ‘divine moment’ and it always helps put me in my place.  I post the prayer today because I’d love you to pray it for me.   I’d also encourage you to pray it for any man you know who has the responsibility of proclaiming the Word.  

My Master God,
I am desired to preach today, but go weak and needy to my task;
Yet I long that people might be edified with divine truth,
that an honest testimony might be borne for thee;
Give me assistance in preaching and prayer,
with heart uplifted for grace and unction.
Present to my view things pertinent to my subject,
with fullness of matter and clarity of thought,
proper expressions, fluency, fervency,
a feeling sense of the things I preach,
and grace to apply them to men’s consciences.
Keep me conscious all the while of my defects,
and let me not gloat in pride over my performance.
Help me to offer a testimony for thyself,
and to leave sinners inexcusable in neglecting thy mercy.
Give me freedom to open the sorrows of thy people,
and to set before them comforting considerations.
Attend with power the truth preached,
and awaken the attention of my slothful audience.
May thy people be refreshed, melted, convicted, comforted,
and help me to use the strongest arguments
drawn from Christ’s incarnation and sufferings,
that men might be made holy.
I myself need thy support, comfort, strength, holiness,
that I might be a pure channel of thy grace,
and be able to do something for thee;
Give me then refreshment among thy people,
and help me not to treat excellent matter in a defective way,
or bear a broken testimony to so worthy a Redeemer,
or be harsh in treating of Christ’s death, it design and end,
from lack of warmth or fervency.
And keep me in tune with thee as I do this work.

In Prayer

26 12 2007

O Lord,
In prayer I launch far out into the eternal world,
  and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs
  over all evils on the shores of mortality.
Time, with its gay amusements and cruel disappointments, 
  never appears so inconsiderate as then.
In prayer I see myself as nothing;
  I find my heart going after thee with intensity,
  and long with vehement thirst to live to thee.
Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit
  that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.
In prayer all things here below vanish,
  and nothing seems important
  but holiness of heart and the salvation of others.
In prayer all worldly cares, fears, anxieties
  and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.
In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts
  at what thou are doing for thy church,
  and I long that thou shouldest get thyself a great name
  from sinners returning to Zion.
In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life,
  and tast heavenly joys;
  entering into the world world
  I can give myself to thee with all my heart,
  to be thine for ever.
In prayer I can place all my concerns in thy hands,
  to be entirely at thy disposal,
  having no will or interest of my own.
In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers,
  sinners, the church, thy kingdom to come,
  with greatest freedom, ardent hopes
    as a son to his father,
    as a lover to the beloved.
Help me to be all prayer
  and never to cease praying.

The Valley of Vision: a Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions  

Delighting in the Gospel

4 12 2007

The CrossO God, Thou art very great,
  My lot is to approach Thee with godly fear
  and humble confidence,
  for Thy condescension equals Thy grandeur,
  and Thy goodness is Thy glory.
I am unworthy, but Thou dost welcome;
  guilty, but Thou are merciful;
  indigent, but Thy riches are unsearchable.
Thou hast shown boundless compassion
    towards me
  by not sparing Thy Son,
  and by giving me freely all things in Him;
This is the foundation of my hope,
  the refuge of my safety,
  the new and living way to Thee,
  the means of that conviction of sin,
       brokeness of heart, and self-despair,
       which will endear to me the gospel.
                (from “Confidence” in The Valley of Vision)

“Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation.  Up this way therefore did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the Load on his back.
He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a Sepulchre.  So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the Cross, his Burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the Sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.
Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, He hath given my Rest by His Sorrow, and Life by His Death. Then he stood still a while to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him that the sight of the Cross should thus ease him of his Burden.  He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head sent the waters down his cheeks.”
    (from Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan)

[I saved the best for last!]
“31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written, “For Your sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
    (from Romans 8)

I hope this has encouraged you as much as it has me- what a glorious gift is our salvation!