A view of death

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment… Hebrews 9:27 esv
  
Dr Al Mohler writes,

“We are all going to die. Christians understand death to be the result of human sin and the final enemy is defeated by Christ. But as long as this age continues, death comes to us all. The reality of death frames the urgency and importance of making the most of the time we are given.” (emphasis added)

From:  The Leader and Death, chapter 24 in The Conviction to Lead (Bethany House Pub., 2012), p. 199.

Piper Quote of the Day

“Until God is our treasure, we will not grieve over out falling short of being satisfied in Him and begin living in a way that shows that satisfaction.”

(Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, pg. 125)

Thomas Chalmers’ view of calling

The past day or so I’ve been reading about Thomas Chalmers and the St. Andrew’s seven — responsible for much of the modern missions movement. I’m fascinated by how one man, sold on the power of the gospel, can influence and affect others — other people, other churches, even a continent! More on Chalmers if time allows….

Today in his blog, Dr George Grant shares how one (rather famous) old Scottish pastor spoke of God’s call upon a life. I recommend the article….

http://kingsmeadow.com/blogger.html

Pastor David

Prayer, American Style


Most Americans delight to do things in their own way, especially taking the traditions of others and modifying them. American style pizza, for instance, is noticeably different than what is commonly served in Italian homes. Even our American language, English, although the common to England (the land whence it came, hence its name), differs significantly in its practice and content here — much to the disdain of its founders!

Did you know that the protestant way of praying (which also came over from England) has also been “Americanized”? The early American Puritans made some significant contributions to the practice of praying which still influence us today. A few reflections on their practices and designs for praying can be of real help to those of us (almost 400 years later), who desire to grow in godliness and prayerfulness.

In his book, The Worship of the American Puritans [Soli Deo Gloria publishers, 1999], Dr. Horton Davies reminds us how central prayer was to the early pilgrims, saying

“the Puritan’s life was filled throughout the week with individual
and family prayers, quite apart from Sabbath worship and special
days of thanksgiving or humiliation, not forgetting the weekly
lecture in a context of worship.”

For the American puritans, like most protestants, prayer was, as John Cotton then wrote, a “lifting up or pouring out of the desires of the heart for Divine blessings, according to his will in the name of Jesus Christ, by the help of the Spirit of Grace.” Or further defined as Thomas Shepherd wrote, “holy prayers are such desires of the soul left with God, with submission to his will, as may best please him.”

In their Sunday worship, puritan pastors were likely to pray aloud as long as they preached (regularly 60-90 minutes for each). A typical personal regimen was that of John Eliot (first missionary to the American Indians), whose diary recorded this sort of prayer-saturated lifestyle: private meetings on Sundays (where singing, repeating the sermon and praying took place); daily family devotions, (reading Scripture and prayer) morning and evening; daily personal devotions (“in our closets”), where further supplications and prayerful meditations took place — sometimes three times a day; numerous impromptu, brief prayers throughout the course of the day (“ejaculations” like that of Nehemiah); and, times of spiritual warfare, when pray was employed against the enemies of godly souls. Such a schedule of praying is mind-boggling to many modern evangelicals who pray at mealtimes, at daily devotions, and perhaps in between!

These same puritans had strongly objected to the constraints of the Common Book of Prayer that had been introduced throughout the Church of England. They also did not kneel in public services as did the Church of England, viewing it as a hold-over from Rome’s “noxious ceremonies” — signifying worship of the “host” [the communion bread] as the real presence of Christ in the service. Kneeling as a proper posture for prayer was encouraged in the homes and in personal devotions, though.

When they prayed, there were generally five components present,which we today readily recognize and use:
•thanksgiving / adoration,
•confession,
•petitions for self & family,
•intercession for the church and the kingdom of God, and,
•consecration / dedication of self to God.

Yet three further aspects of the American Puritans at prayer should be noted, for they have significantly impacted the practice of prayer down to our day.

FIRST, the American Puritans were strong advocates of “free prayer” in place of the use of the rote prayers of the Church of England Prayer Book. Can you guess what is meant by the term “free prayer”? It is simply extemporary prayer that flows freely from oneself, not read from a book, or repeated from memory. They viewed such free prayer as the most faithful way to obey Ephesians 6:18. This sort of praying is by far the norm today among protestants, but it was an innovation then. Dr Davies makes this point when he writes:

Now it is true that the Puritans were not the first to use extemporary prayers. …What was radical and revolutionary in New England was the provision of ONLY extemporary prayers in divine worship for an entire colony…. It was a bold and daring strategy in devotion and it was later followed by whole denominations of the Protestant stripe…. In this respect it was a historic and far-reaching contribution to worship, despite its potentials for misuse, including repetitiousness, prolixity, subjectivism, faddist topicality, occasional naivete and a rambling irrelevance. But the qualities outweighing its possible defects were simplicity, spontaneity, a moving directness and immediacy of approach, and the pastoral insights into the heartaches and temptations of the members of the congregation, expressed in warm particularities instead of in cold generalities. This innovative free prayer has become a vigorous tradition that is widely influential to this day… [p. 155]
Thank God for these spiritual forefathers — so often falsely decried for stiff or stuffy religion — who so widely opened a door for Christians of subsequent generations to enjoy greater freedom in prayer!

SECOND, the American Puritans made ground-breaking use of written prayer requests, then called “prayer bills.” When puritan ministers were about to ascend to the pulpit (and pray at length before the congregation), typically a few of the members would present him with little written notices, or prayer bills, giving him their requests for praise, confession or petition. Much news for prayer was transmitted in this fashion. Many diaries of the American puritans record what these prayer bills included. Dr Davies passes along these examples:

Several examples can be cited. Sewall [a judge from Salem, MA] reports on April 18, 1686, that “Capt. Ephr. Savage puts up a bill to have God’s hand sanctified in send the small pox into his family.” Then Samuel Sewall himself reports that at a gathering of the church ar Sherburne “I put up a Note to pray for the Indians that Light might be communicated to them by the Candlestick, but my Note was with the latest, and so not professedly prayed for at all.” [p. 162]
One [presented to Dr Cotton Mather] reads thus: “Benjamin Elton, bound to sea, desires prayers for him, that God would bless and prosper him and in safety return him.” Another goes: “Anne Williams would return thanks to God for his safe deliverance in child birth, and desires prayers for her absent husband, abroad at sea. Yet a third acknowledges: “Thomas Diamond, returned from sea, desires to return thanks to God for his mercies to him.”

What a tremendous contribution these personal notes made to the pastor’s public prayers on the Lord’s Day — and what further contrast to the liturgical offerings of the Anglican priest before his passive congregation! In American, as John Cotton wrote, “the prayer of the Minister is the prayer of them [all]; the matter of his prayer is the matter of all their prayers; the form of his prayer, is the form of theirs.” Just imagine that our modern practice of submitting a prayer request in writing is largely a by-product of prayer, American style! Let us make greater use of what is available to us — at CPCC and even through email on the internet — to share with one another the burdens and the blessings we receive from the Lord.

THIRD, the American Puritans made significant advances in fostering a mind-set of prayer. Growing out of the great depth of their personal godliness, these puritan men and women cultivated a mindset of reacting prayerfully to daily occurrences. Their diaries often recorded these prayerful “ejaculations” to God — “darted brief appeals to God” — and even noted their plans to become more habitual in them. Cotton Mather, a third-generation American Puritan minister and son of Increase Mather, listed no fewer than four pages of trigger-events and prayerful responses to them. The following are a sampling from his diary (event first, followed by prayer response) gleaned from Dr Davies’ book [pp. 168-169]:
• The Gentlewoman that carved meat for us… Lord, carve of thy graces and comforts a rich portion unto that person.
• A Gentlewoman very beautiful… Lord, beautify the soul of that person with thy comeliness.
• A Gentlewoman very gay in her apparel… Lord, give that person ah humble mind, and let her be most concerned for the ornaments that are of great price in thy sight.
• A Physician… Lord, let that person be successful in his practice; and let him carry all the distemper of his own soul unto thee, as the Lord his healer.
• Upon sight of a tall man… Lord give that man high attainments in Christianity; let him fear God above many.
• Upon sight of a man on horseback… Lord, thy creatures do serve that man; help him to serve his Maker.
• Upon sight of a man passing by, who took no notice of me… Lord, help that man to take a due notice of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray thee.
Such a mindset of intentional, responsive-prayer, I fear, is much lacking in our modern day. Perhaps it can yet be recovered? Perhaps we should study our own heritage a little more?!

Friends, let us consider what a great privilege it is to pray to the Lord God of all, and to have His ear so sympathetically attend to our cries, our confessions, and our requests. Let us resolve to make great use of times of prayer — both corporately and privately; both at length in our closets, and succinctly as we move throughout the course of our day. And may the God of all grace grant us all good things in accordance with His will, for the advancement of His glory! Amen!

Pastor David J. Bissett

Jonathan Edwards’ blog?

Hey, guess what I’ve recently discovered on the internet?

Old Jonathan Edwards has his own web log — see my links to the right.

Wonderful thing, this modern technology, eh?

pastor david

A Christian Paradox?


I’ve just found a fascinating article in HARPERS (link is below) about Christians not actually living out what they profess to believe — thus a paradox. It’s writing by a (self-professed) church-going believer of some sort. It raises some interesting points.

Philip Ryken has commented on it:
“This is a haunting analysis of the contemporary church and its captivity to the godless values of our selfish society. Rather than serving as a countercultural community for Christ, the church actually justifies the goals of self-centered individualism. I essentially agree with McKibben’s analysis and have presented it as a well-stated warning about the cultural captivity of the church — something that is sometimes hard for us to see because it is the very air that we breathe.”
(from http://www.reformation21.org/Reformation_21_Blog/57/)

Why not read it the original article? I’ll have more reaction on Monday.
Pastor David

BTW, this image is an old “paradox” — is it a beautiful young lady, or, is it a weathered old woman?

http://harpers.org/ExcerptTheChristianParadox.html

Floods…


flood (n.)
“a rising and overflowing of a body of water especially onto normally dry land; a condition of overflowing; an overwhelming quantity…”

This September images of flooding are everywhere to be seen, as New Orleans waits to recover from hurricane Katrina, and the severe local flooding that resulted from it. Many weeks ago, long before anyone even imagined this disaster, I read about a church in southern California called Flood. Although it appears to be just another odd, contemporary way to reinvent and market a local church (with a decidedly anti–traditional attitude), the name and the imagery of a flood became lodged in my mind. Its a powerful image that finds several uses to the Bible. In light of our current events, let’s look at five broad “flood” ideas from the Bible.

(1) The Flood. When the sin of fallen mankind was great, the Lord destroyed the people of the earth — save for Noah and his family inside the ark — with a global flood (Genesis 6). The great overflowing of water on the earth was a tremendous act of judgment by a righteousness Creator God. Instead of being the final demise of all creation, this flood was actually the means by which the earth and this remnant of people were given a fresh start at serving God’s purposes for them. In English when spelled with a capital – the Flood – it is a reference to this great act of God, the greatest flood in the history of the world. And, according to Genesis 9:11, God will never use a global flood in this way again (destruction by fire will be the final judgment).

(2) Fear of Floods. Floods have always been fear producing things, especially so in the pre-modern era, with far fewer resources with which to cope. In the Bible, the image of a flood is often evoked as representative of all sorts of trouble that might overtake and/or destroy a person. A flood can not readily be predicted, it is something beyond the control of men — much like various troubles that descend upon us. Job described such a fear (27:20) saying, “Terrors overtake him like a flood; A tempest steals him away in the night.” The approach of death is also like a flood to the ungodly man (II Samuel 22:5, “When the waves of death surrounded me, The floods of ungodliness made me afraid.”

Yet even the Christian, who is right with God by grace through faith, can experience a similar type of fear. King David admits this as he begins Psalm 69:

“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched.
My eyes fail, looking for my God.” NIV

When such fears fall upon a believer, they ought to drive us to petition our Lord through prayer. David does just that later in the Psalm (69:15), “May the flood of water not overflow me, And may the deep not swallow me up, And may the pit not shut its mouth on me.” Elsewhere, David further encourages believers to withstand the flood of such fears by prayer: “Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found; Surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him” (Ps. 32:6).

(3) Floods of Forewarning. To a world of men and women insensible of such fears, who fearlessly pursue self-centered lives, the onslaught of a physical flood (or a metaphorical flood of troubles) is a warning of the danger they are in. Jesus’ parable of the two builders (Luke 6) attempts to get us to rethink our lives. Could our ‘house’ withstand the trial and judgment which is surely to come? Every flood we see today — as with earthquakes and other (so-called) “natural disasters” — are well paced warning signs: life is fragile and short; be ready for its end, or the return of your judge, the Lord Jesus Christ! The New Testament points to the Flood of Noah’s day as a great, and lasting warning to us all —

“For as in those days which were before the flood
they were eating and drinking, they were marrying
and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered
the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came
and took them all away; so shall the coming of the Son
of Man be. Mt. 24:38-39

(4) Welcome Floods. The Bible occasionally uses flood-like language also to convey abundance of blessings. Many of our hymns and songs of praise have made use of this, just as the great psalmist of Israel once did:

“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff,
they comfort me. Thou dost prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies; Thou hast anointed my head
with oil; My cup overflows.” (Ps. 23:1-5)

The Hebrew term revayah – translated “overflows” – conveys much the same imagery as our word flood: to run over, to saturate, to fill, to soak, to be satiated, etc., but also meant “wealthy” or “rich” as if one’s possessions and blessings were full to overflowing! Revayah also appears in Psalm 66:12, where it is translated in its context of blessing: “Thou didst make men ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; Yet Thou didst bring us out into a place of abundance.” Who is eligible for such a welcome flood of blessing? Psalm 66 gives us plenty of clues: the one who has been preserved alive by the gracious workings of the Lord (66:5-9).

(5) Above all Floods. Thoughts about the Bible’s use of flood imagery would be incomplete without seeing the many, significant instances it is used as a backdrop for exalting the great power and sovereignty of God. David’s Psalm 28 does this (emphasis added)—

“Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD
glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the LORD
is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic.”

“The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King for ever.
The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.” (29:1–4, 10–11)

The whole of Psalm 93 seems dedicated to the One who is above all floods:

“The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty;
the LORD is robed in majesty and is armed with strength.
The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.
Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.
The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves. Mightier than the
thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea —
the LORD on high is mighty. Your statutes stand firm;
holiness adorns your house for endless days, O LORD. “

Our Creator God is to be worshipped and glorified for He, and He alone, is above the noise and power of all floods! When men and women tremble, or are awakened to the dangers of their house built on sand, because of a flood, there is One to whom we can flee, who can set our feet high and dry upon a rock.

Today, as dreadful images of a flooded New Orleans come into our homes, ponder why floods even exist, and seek to learn what the Bible teaches in reference to them.

Be not afraid, nor overwhelmed, nor hopeless — the Lord our God is greater than the mighty waters, and has power over them all. He lone can preserve your soul, and guard your lives — and cause blessings to overflow your cup!

Yours by divine mercy,
Pastor David Bissett