A Prayer for our Service Men & Women

May 4, 2017 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Politics, Prayer, Thankfulness

Today was the National Day of Prayer. Our local pastors gathered at McEuen Park for our annual lunch time prayer gathering. I was asked to pray on behalf of our service men and women. This was my prayer:

Psalm 105:4 – Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore!

Almighty and Everlasting God, unless You guard the city, the watchman stays awake in vain; so we come seeking Your guidance, Your protection, and Your blessing on our service men and women.

Guide them, O Lord. Give them wisdom to know the right and honorable thing to do in any and every circumstance. To the commanders: grant that they would submit the might of our armed forces to the principles of right and justice which You have revealed in Your eternal law; that we might never, as a people, permit the ends to justify the means and that we would declare war and wage war justly. To all our service men and women: grant that they would be brave, courageous, and conscientious amid conflict; that they would be a credit to this nation and to the principles for which we stand.

Protect them, O Lord. Some men trust in chariots, some trust in the horse, but we will depend upon the Name of Christ our Lord. Protect them from the hand of the enemy; protect their marriages from the stresses of military life; protect their children from the absence of a parent; and protect their minds and hearts from the terrors of war.

Bless them, O Lord. Bless their plans and their strategies. Grant our generals wisdom and insight. Grant our service men and women satisfaction in their labor, joy in their service, and excellence in their calling. Grant that they might never have cause to be ashamed of serving this nation – that we would reflect the honor and courage to which we call them.

Finally, we ask Your forgiveness for increasingly placing our women in combat roles and even considering drafting them for military service. Forgive us, and grant us men willing to sacrifice their own lives and reputations to protect the women and children of our society. All this we ask in the Name of Christ our Lord,

Amen.

Bodily Postures in Worship

February 10, 2017 in John Calvin, Liturgy, Prayer, Quotations, Worship

“The inward attitude certainly holds first place in prayer, but outward signs, kneeling, uncovering the head, lifting up the hands, have a twofold use. The first is that we may employ all our members for the glory and worship of God; secondly, that we are, so to speak, jolted out of our laziness by this help. There is also a third use in solemn and public prayer, because in this way the sons of God profess their piety, and they inflame each other with reverence of God. But just as the lifting up of the hands is a symbol of confidence and longing, so in order to show our humility, we fall down on our knees.” 

John Calvin, Commentary on Acts 20:36

Building a Cathedral

May 23, 2016 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Ecclesiology, King Jesus, Meditations, Prayer

The following exhortation was written for the installation of Kenton Spratt to serve as the lead pastor at Christ Church in Spokane, Washington. Kenton has been serving as a co-pastor in Spokane for the last couple years alongside Joost Nixon. Joost is now leaving to pursue mission work with Training Leaders International and Kenton will be staying to pastor the church by himself.

————-

Isaiah 61:4 (NKJV)
4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations.
Once upon a time there were two skilled stonecutters working diligently at their craft. A young man walked by admiring their skill and industry. The care they took with the stone, the intricacy of their work, and the nature of their tools enchanted him. But most he was struck by their intensity; they were absorbed in their task. The young man couldn’t resist the urge to learn more.
“Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the first stonecutter. “What are you doing there?”The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a quizzical look. “Well, lad, as you can see I’m cutting stone.” And with that, the man went back to his work, chisel and mallet in hand, focused and intent.
The young man moved on to the second stonecutter. He watched the stonecutter for a few minutes; noted the calluses on his hands; the dust and dirt on his apron; the blood trickling down the knuckle that he had just caught on a piece of stone. “Excuse me, Sir,” the young man said to the second stonecutter. “What are you doing there?” The stonecutter glanced up at the young man, wiped sweat from his brow, and gave the young man a smile. “Well, lad, I’m building a cathedral.” And with that, the man pointed behind him to the plot of ground that had been cleared for the new church.
Today is a momentous day. Today is a day of transition; a day of new beginnings; a day when the old things have passed away and, behold, new things have come! We are commissioning Kenton to serve as the lead pastor here at Christ Church and calling you, as the people of God, to support him and pray for him in this calling. For many years Joost has faithfully served this congregation; for the past couple years Kenton has been faithfully serving this congregation; now each is assuming a new role, embracing a new vocation.
As we inaugurate this transition, no doubt some young man is going to come up and ask us, “Excuse me, Sir, what are you doing?” So what are we doing? Are we merely cutting stone? Merely commissioning a new lead pastor? Merely making sure things run smoothly here at Christ Church? Or are we building a cathedral? Laying another stone in the construction of the Kingdom of God here in Spokane? Battering against the gates of hell?
Isaiah reminds us that the work to which God has called us is not merely cutting stone, not merely running organizations, not merely filling vacancies. The work to which God has called us is to rebuild the old ruins, and raise up the former desolations. Our task is glorious – it is to reverse the effects of the Fall by laboring for the expansion of God’s kingdom; to repair the ruined cities, the desolations of many generations. This is what we’re doing.
Do you see that? Do you see that today in what we are doing and do you see that daily in the work that you are doing? Have you remembered the end for which you are laboring? Or are you, like the first stonecutter, just cutting stone? When someone asks you – be you student, plumber, nurse, teacher, homemaker, soldier, administrator – when someone asks you, “Excuse me, Sir,” or, “Excuse me, Ma’am, what are you doing there,” how will you respond? Will you say, “Can’t you see I’m cutting stone?” or will you remember the end of your labor, the purpose of your labor, the goal of your labor, and declare with joy, “I’m building a cathedral? I’m laboring that God’s kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Reminded that we often fail to remember our true vocation, that we lose sight of God’s noble and glorious calling in our lives – to rebuild the ruins and raise up the former desolations – let us confess our lack of faith and vision. And as we confess, let us kneel together.
Our Father,
We confess that we often lose sight of our calling in this world. We become so focused upon our particular task that we lose sight of that for which we weekly pray – Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Forgive us for our short-sightedness and grant us grace to keep before our eyes the vision of Your kingdom, that we would be your instruments in the world rebuilding the ruins and restoring the devastation that our sin and others’ sin brings to the world. 
Amen.

Collect for the Day

May 4, 2016 in Prayer, Work

Almighty God and Father, you have so ordered our life that we are dependent on one another: prosper those engaged in commerce and industry and direct their minds and hands that they may rightly use your gifts in the service of others; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Church of England Collect for May 4, 2016

Salvation Accomplished and Anticipated

November 30, 2014 in Bible - OT - Psalms, Christmas, Church Calendar, King Jesus, Meditations, Prayer, Singing Psalms
Psalm 9:13–14 (NKJV)
13 Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death, 14 That I may tell of all Your praise In the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, a time of year when we look both backwards and forwards. We look backwards – recalling God’s fulfillment of the promise to our fathers that one day He would send a Child of Eve to rescue us from sin and death. Jesus has come to save us – hallelujah! But we also look forwards – anticpating the fulfillment of God’s promise that one day that same Son shall return in glory to vindicate all who trust Him. Jesus will come to save us – hallelujah!
This Advent our sermons focus once again on Jesus in the Psalms – and today we consider Psalm 9 a portion of which we have just read. In Psalm 9, David praises God for maintaining David’s right and cause in the world in the face of those who oppose Him. But he not only praises God for what He has done in the past, he prays that God would deliver him yet again – and it is this request that God vindicate him again which we just read. Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death – David recognizes that it is the Lord who has vindicated him and who must do so again. To the Lord our God belong escapes from death.
So why did David want God to rescue him from his troubles? Listen closely: Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me, You who lift me up from the gates of death, That I may tell of all Your praise In the gates of the daughter of Zion. I will rejoice in Your salvation. David petitioned God to rescue him so that he could sing further praises to God in the future. He wanted God to deliver him so that he could go to the Temple and declare: listen what God has done for me! He wanted to sing God’s praises in the company of His people.
So as we remember God’s act of kindness in sending His Son Jesus to rescue us from sin and death; and as we pray that God would yet again send Jesus to vindicate those who trust in Him – why do we do it? So that we might praise His Name in the company of His people! God saved you that you might proclaim His praises, that you might offer up spiritual sacrifices, that you might offer up the fruit of your lips in the gates of the daughter of Zion, in the Heavenly Jerusalem, in the Church. Singing praise to God is the goal of our salvation – it is the reason God delivered you from your sin. So sing; don’t be self-conscious. Sing; don’t make excuses. Sing; don’t deprive the assembly of your voice.

And as we gather in His presence to sing, let us acknowledge that we often are so consumed with our own selves or troubles or desires that we neglect to bring praise and petition to God. Reminded of this, let us kneel and seek the Lord’s forgiveness through Christ.

Prayer for the Churches of America

May 2, 2014 in Augustine, Church History, Coeur d'Alene Issues, Creeds, Education, John Calvin, Politics, Postmillennialism, Prayer, Word of God, Worship

May 1st was the National Day of Prayer. I joined a number of other pastors and Christians at the Coeur d’Alene City Hall to pray for our nation and our local community. I was charged to pray for the churches of America. Below is the prayer I wrote – it is patterned after Psalm 80. May the Lord have mercy on the church in America – we are compromised and corrupt and in need of God’s grace.

I was reminded as we were praying of an anecdote about Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer was asked by a young man who was zealous for the Lord, “Dr. Schaeffer, do you think we’ll witness a revival in our day?” Schaeffer responded, “I hope not.” When the young man expressed surprise at his answer, Schaeffer explained. “You young people are so shallow doctrinally and biblically, that were the fires of revival to fall on the church today it would be like lighting a pile of kindling. The fire would burn real hot and then die out in a short time. Start reading old books; start reading Calvin and Augustine and Luther and Athanasius. Develop some doctrinal and biblical substance so that were God to send revival the fires would have something to burn.” As much as I appreciated the zeal of the prayer event, Schaeffer’s comments ring true and express our deep need for more theological and biblical wisdom. May God make us like tamarack logs that will burn hot and long.

National Day of Prayer
May 1, 2014

Matthew 16:18 (NKJV)
Jesus said, “…I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

Almighty and Everlasting God
Hear our pleading and our cry for help
As we pray for your church,
The church for which Jesus died and rose again;
The church which Jesus is building even now;
The church which we believe shall triumph over her foes
In accordance with Jesus’ promise.

Hear our prayer, O Lord,
For you are our Shepherd,
And we are the sheep of your pasture;
You lead us forth like a flock.
Shine forth! You who dwell between the cherubim;
Rise up in strength and come to save us.
Restore us, O God;
Cause your face to shine upon us,
And we shall be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
Our churches often 
compromise your truth;
fail to proclaim your Name;
shrink back in fear from the taunts of your enemies;
fight one with another;
So we have become a reproach to our enemies;
We have become full of wickedness and deceit;
Our shepherds have failed to lead;
Our sheep have refused to follow
Wild goats have entered the sheepfold
And wolves have torn the flock.

Have mercy on us, O Lord;
Restore us once again;
Cause your face to shine upon us,
And we shall be saved.
For this is your Church, O Lord,
The vine that you have planted;
You are the One who prospered us here in this land.
Who caused us to take deep root
And fill the land.

So return, we beseech You, O God of hosts;
Look down from heaven and see,
And visit this your vine.
Grant us grace that we might
Fully embrace your truth;
Joyfully proclaim your Name;
Fearlessly stand against wickedness and deceit;
And love one another,
So that the nations might know
that you are the Lord and
that we are your people.

In the Name of Christ our Lord,
Amen.

Singing for the Kingdom

December 8, 2008 in Bible - OT - Isaiah, Meditations, Prayer, Singing Psalms

Isaiah 51:9-11 (NKJV)9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord! Awake as in the ancient days, In the generations of old. Are You not the arm that cut Rahab apart, And wounded the serpent? 10 Are You not the One who dried up the sea, The waters of the great deep; That made the depths of the sea a road For the redeemed to cross over? 11 So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

In our passage today Isaiah calls upon the Lord to fulfill the promises that He is making through Isaiah himself. The Lord has promised through the prophet Isaiah to rescue His people from exile; indeed, not only to rescue His people from exile but to rescue the entire earth. And so Isaiah, seeing the promise, longing for its fulfillment calls out to the Lord in the midst of writing these promises – Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!

Isaiah calls to the Lord’s mind His previous acts of deliverance and implores Him to act again. Was it not You, Lord, who acted to destroy Egypt, was it not You who dried up the Red Sea, who made the depths of the sea a road for Israel to cross upon? Yes it was You, Lord, who did this.

And so Isaiah calls upon this same Lord, the Lord who delivered Israel from Egypt and who was presently revealing His purposes to Isaiah – Awake! Awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord!

And this brothers is the heart of true prayer. The heart of true prayer is to consider the promises of God and then ask Him, plead with Him, urge Him to do the very things that He has promised to do. Lord, act! Lord, save!

Today is the second Sunday of Advent – the beginning of the Church calendar. In this time we have the immense privilege of recalling the cries of our fathers – Lord awake! Lord act! Do that which you have promised.

But we too find ourselves in this position. For the Lord has yet to fulfill all His promises. The Lord has yet to fill the earth with the knowledge of His name, yet to spread justice to all the ends of the earth. And so we are instructed by our Lord Jesus to cry out, Lord awake! Lord act! Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven! Vindicate your Name, O Lord! Rescue your people!

One of the chief ways that we as the people of God issue these cries is in our singing – we praise the Lord who has acted and beseech Him yet to act! And this is what Isaiah tells us. “So the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing.” For what was the response of Israel following the Exodus? Miriam and the daughters of Israel composed a song and praised the Lord for his deliverance. But now Isaiah is asking for more – deliver us yet again. Israel praised the Lord for His deliverance and looked forward to deliverances yet to come. And we, brothers and sisters, are in a similar position. Christ has come – Hallelujah! Christ has yet to extend His rule throughout the earth – Maranatha!

You’ll notice that the hymns and psalms we have chosen for Advent are endeavoring to give expression to this reality. We are endeavoring to be consistent with the thrust of the season. And so as you sing – consider. Why are we singing what we are singing? Is the song a song of praise for deliverance accomplished or is it one of deliverance desired or is it one of both? For we as the people of God have the immense privilege of celebrating the incarnation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and of praying that His Kingdom would reach its full fruition. We are praying as we sing, Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

And so how ought we to sing? Well, what is the tone of Isaiah’s call? Awake! Awake, put on strength O arm of the Lord! Is it not one of passion, conviction, entreaty, hunger, robustness?

Reminded that we are yet in need of the Lord’s mercy, that the Lord has exhorted us to sing and pray for the full arrival of His Kingdom, let us kneel and confess our complacency to the Lord.

Fervent Prayer

November 16, 2008 in Bible - NT - James, Meditations, Prayer

James 5:16-18 (NKJV)16 …The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.

We evangelicals are not, for whatever reason, particularly passionate about prayer. Those of us in the Reformed portion of evangelicalism are especially dispassionate. Hold a feast – folks will come; hold a bible study – still folks will come; hold a prayer meeting – get ready to pull teeth. Why is this?

Perhaps it is because we do not think prayer very significant. Perhaps we reason that since God has ordained all things whatsoever come to pass that our prayers are not important. Perhaps we have failed to consider the promises of God.

Whatever the cause, James draws us up short with his exhortation and promise today. He has already urged us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed. He follows that exhortation up with the promise that the effective, fervent prayer of the righteous man accomplishes much.

As proof of his assertion, James cites the life of Elijah. No doubt you have heard of Elijah. One of the greatest of the Old Testament saints, Elijah stands as the forerunner of the various other prophets. He is the prototype of the prophet. And God used Him marvelously. Healings attended his ministry; fire from heaven; visions of God; miraculous provision; raising from the dead. Elijah was a very unusual man.

But in our text today, it is not the unusualness of Elijah that James wishes to highlight but rather his usualness. Elijah, James reminds us, was a man with a nature like ours. He was a sinner; he was subject to discouragement; he was fearful at times; in himself, he was incapable of doing great things. Elijah was a very human figure, James wants us to remember.

So how then was Elijah able to accomplish so much? How did he manage to achieve victory over the followers of Baal? How did he manage to avert capture by Jezebel? How did he cause a drought in Israel? Elijah served the living God and prayed fervently that God would vindicate His Name through Elijah’s ministry. And this is what James wants us to understand – the same God who was active in Elijah’s day is active in our day also. God reigns, let Israel rejoice; the Lord reigns, let the Church praise His Name.

Precisely because the same God that Elijah served lives and works in the world today, James’ exhortation has force. Brothers, pray for one another. Pray that God would bless and strengthen; pray that God would open doors and solve problems; pray that God would heal sickness; pray that God would bring repentance; pray that God would restore joy. Pray.

Why? Because the effective, fervent prayer of the righteous man accomplishes much. Elijah controlled the weather for three years. And he had a nature just like ours. So just imagine what you could do?

So let us pray that God would forgive us for our unbelief and grant us fervency in our prayers. Let us kneel together.