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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Congregational Prayer - 23 November 2014 PM

Your steadfast love, LORD, never ceases; your mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Our souls say, “The LORD is my portion, therefore I will hope in him.” LORD you are good to those who wait for you, to the soul who seeks you. It is good that one should wait quietly for your salvation, LORD. (Lamentations 3.22-26).

We pray that all of the living may come to know that you, the Most High, rules the kingdoms of men; you give kingdoms to whomever you will, and you set over them even the lowliest of men (Daniel 4.17). Supervise and supervene the nations of our world to bring about what is the best and the most beneficial for all people, and especially for your Church. But also supersede and stifle those that brutalize and batter their people, and your people. O Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for your Church in all places, including Korean Baptist Church of Oklahoma; Lamd of the Living God Baptist; Light House Baptist; and Maranatha Baptist of Western Oaks: O Lord, we beseech you to keep your household the Church in continual godliness; that through your protection she may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given over to serving you in all good works to the glory of your Name (adapted from The Book of Common Prayer). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Father, be with this congregation; of your own will you brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of your creatures. Therefore, let every one of us be quick to hear your word of truth, slow to speak against it, slow to anger; knowing that the anger of man does not produce your righteousness.  By your aid and guidance, help us to put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and to receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save our souls; and to be doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1.18-22). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Finally, Lord God, we pray for our brothers, sisters, parents, co-workers and colleagues, as well as acquaintances and adversaries; who are succumbing to older age, sickness, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and dementia, and those recovering from various medical procedures,…help us to love them as we do ourselves, and to do what we can to assist and relieve them. Grant them to recover, and to know that you – O Great Physician – have given them the gift of restored health that they may praise and serve you all the remaining days of their lives. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Meditations on Violence" by Rory Miller, a Review

Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World ViolenceMeditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence by Rory Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Self-defense and martial arts schools are popping up all over the landscape promising to boost self-confidence, but more importantly, pledging to aid their attendees in self-protection. One will even find classes offered at the local “Y” or as part of a community college’s “Adult Continuing Education” program. The lessons feel right as instructors guide their learners through katas, sweaty times with kicking bags, repetitive maneuvers, and sparring. Sensei and karatekas train in ways of controlled violence that should assist the practitioners in viable personal defense. And yet one element is missing, thankfully for most of us. Just as in football training, all of the practice in blocking, running, strategy and tackling looks good, but it isn’t until being immersed in the mild bedlam of the games that one finds out if they have the mettle to hang tough, if there are flaws in their tactics,  and if the hours of practice have paid off.  It’s here that Rory Miller’s 202 page paperback, “Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training & Real World Violence,” comes to bear. This hard-hitting, shocking book is about the “psychology of violence, ( . . . ) the psychology before and after the attack ( . . . ) with the aftereffects of violence” (153). Miller, a correctional and law enforcement officer, martial artist, Use of Force trainer and accomplished, award winning author, has had hundreds of use of force encounters and writes from his experience.

In “Meditations on Violence” the author pilots the reader through the imaginary illusions about violence that have risen from our inner stories. He moves on into the dynamics of violent episodes, describing the close proximity an assailant will likely be when they strike, along with the how and why that makes even well-trained people freeze. Miller then confronts us with the various kinds of predators, how they think and act, as well as hostage situations. After laying out this important ground work, he then addresses ways to make training more fitting for the real realities of violence. Finally, the author broaches the after-effects of an assault or combat. Much of this ending chapter surfs along an autobiographical wave, and is both touching and troubling.

For “Meditations on Violence,” self-defense is more than how to survive a one-off brawl. The author includes ways to completely avoid being preyed on, and deciphering a given hostage situation and what actions need to be taken. There are first-person examples, as well as illustrations from officers the author has worked with. The material can be gritty at times, popping up with plenty of expletives. And there are places where the author’s philosophical angst and nihilism come through and can be off-putting.  Nevertheless the overall approach, existential insight and clever wittiness is brilliantly brash, like a reviving splash of cold water to the face.

“Meditations on Violence” will likely unsettle anyone who is content and satisfied with their particular flavor of martial arts. And it will undoubtedly disturb those who live in safe environments normally thinking “That stuff can only happen to the other guy”. But if a reader will stick with the book, they will have a better understanding of the why and how and what of violence. And the wise reader will take it to heart and become better prepared to defend themselves, recognizing that it is “better to avoid than to run; better to run than to de-escalate; better to de-escalate than to fight; better to fight than to die” (136). This is a book to get on your Christmas list; and it would be smart to put it at the top.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

Thanksgiving - Psalm 100

Thanksgiving Pt 1
Psalm 100

Lord God, through this reading and addressing of Psalm 100, come and ease the grief or worry or fretting or distractions that may be ransacking our hearts, and fill us with your joy by the Holy Spirit and through the presence and mediation of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Before the Turkey is cooked and eaten, before the family blows in and blows right back out, before the perspiration trickles down and stings your eyes, before the refrigerator gets stuffed with leftovers, it’s good to remember “Thanksgiving”. This is a good time to reflect on Thanksgiving, on real, genuine thanksgiving, not just as some annual time of panic and pressure. And it is a great time to ruminate over what we hopefully will do in the midst of all the hustle and mayhem. To guide us, we are going to delve into Psalm 100 – “A Psalm for Giving Thanks.”

A pattern: Before we jump into the Psalm, we should see that there is a pattern to it. First,  verses 1b-3 are paralleled in verses 4-5. They follow the same path, side-by-side. There is a second pattern that goes like this: verses1, 2 and 4 tell us what we’re to do, while verses 3 and 5 show us what we’re to know about God. This second pattern is the one we will loosely follow.

Who is to give thanks (1): “Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!kal ha Aretz-the whole earth, all creation, creatures and clans! This Psalm calls all creatures and all the cosmos to come in thankfulness to the Lord. But this universality of thanksgiving is looking forward. As some Jewish authors have noted:

“Our Sages instituted this Psalm in our daily prayers as an expression of thanks for the many unrecognized miracles God performs in our behalf every day. S.R. Hirsch sees it as a song of gratitude that will be sung to God in the Messianic era, when the world attains its ultimate perfection” (The Metsudah Interlinear Tehillim, 211).

The day is to come, and is already erupting, when the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, is the one who has been lifted up on the cross and is drawing all people to himself (John 12.32). When the One who humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross, is the very One whom the Father has highly exalted and given a name above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and every tongue should confess is Lord, to the glory of the Father. So that now, “the battle is not done;” yet “Jesus who died shall be satisfied, and earth and heaven be one” (Trinity Hymnal #111 verse 3).

How we are to give thanks (1-2 and 4b): Here we move to the “what we’re to do” sections, and we see that there are 7 directive-statements in this Psalm, all told. These are the “do this; do that” comments. It becomes quickly obvious that Psalm 100 is a very busy, boisterous, raucous, riotous Psalm. (1) “Make a joyful noise to the LORD….!” The idea in the Hebrew is loud and ear-splitting, “Shout joyfully to the LORD!” (2) “Serve the LORD with gladness.” The word serve is used both of the priests in the temple and those working in their vocations. Worship and work are pulled together as a joyful offering to God, much like Paul’s sentiment, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12.1-2). To “serve the LORD with gladness” (worship and work) comes forth in poetic fashion in George Herbert’s poem where he prays, “Teach me, my God and King, In all things thee to see, And what I do in any thing, To do it as for thee” (“The Temple,” Elixir). (3) “Come into his presence (to his face) with singing!” God desires us to draw close, and will be present as we do so. “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (Jas 4.8). (4) “Give thanks to him” tells us that there is a specific direction for our thanksgiving. Unlike a highly secularized age that coaches us to “just be thankful” with no one to be thankful to, this Psalm informs us to be specific – to give thanks TO him (4b). (5) “Bless his Name” (4b)! This is a synonymous phrase with the previous. To bless God’s name, is how Jews began their prayers, “Baruch atah Adonai elohaynu melech ha'olam” [Blessed are you Lord our God, King of eternity]. It’s how Paul began his prayer in Ephesians 1.3 and how Peter began his in 1 Peter 1.3 (“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”). As good Jews, they started off many of their thankful prayers this way. These are 5 of the seven direction statements that guide us in how we should give thanks to the Lord. There are 2 more that explain,

Where we are to go to give thanks (4a): (1) “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!” We are pointed in the direction of entering into his place of public worship. Both “his gates” and “his courts” are temple language, where the public worship of God climaxed. It’s right and fitting for us to give thanks in our homes, when the family has gathered around the dinner table. But we should make the high point of our season of Thanksgiving God’s public worship where we gather in the company of God’s people, openly declaring God’s praises and identifying ourselves as worshipers of this God. It would be very fitting, wherever you may be during this Thanksgiving season, to invite all of your guests to attend with you a public worship assembly, explaining to them that this is the climactic high point of your thankfulness. (2) And as Christians we can, and should desire, to do this knowing that we are being brought by Christ and made fit by Christ (Col. 1.15-23; Heb. 10.19-22). This point then moves us along to hear,

What we are to know to give thanks (3 and 5): (1) “Know that the LORD, he is God!” The LORD is God alone. That exclusivity is clearly laid out in this statement. It doesn’t say, “The LORD is God among a host of other gods” but that he IS God! We must know and remember that there are no competitors, he is God alone.  (2) We then should recall that “It is he who made us”. Yes, he made us by creation, but as Christians we ought to know that he has remade us through re-creation (2 Corinthians 5.17). And “we are his”. What a great truth to recall! Our identity is wrapped up tightly in him, not in our circumstance, not in the violence or shameful things done to us, not in our previous addictions or catastrophes. He has (re)made us and we are his! Surely this evokes gratefulness and thankfulness! (3) What else are we to know in order to give thanks? “We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” He daily cares for us. I hope that as you hear this last statement your mind went to another Psalm, because it goes here beautifully,

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23).

He daily cares for us, he is our Shepherd and we shall not want! Give thanks!

But there’s more we need to know, and it’s down in verse 5. (4) “For the LORD is good”. Sometimes we doubt this, especially when going through the dark and dreary times of life. Sometimes we slip into a pagan mindset with our ancestors, and think that the LORD is just like Jupiter, Zeus, Pluto or Poseidon, sitting around rubbing his hands gleefully, waiting to strike us down, to crush us. But no! “For the LORD is good” and we must know that to give thanks! (5) “His steadfast love [hesed] endures forever”. The LORD’s love is steadfast, unwavering, unswerving, staunch and sturdy. And as Christians we should know this, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5.8). (6) “And his faithfulness to all generations.” His trustworthy loyalty is undying and undecaying. He is loyal and faithful, first to himself. If he has promised, he will show his integrity by honoring his promise; and if he has promised us, he will keep his word to us: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1.20).

All of this is clearly paraphrased and described in the words of the Isaac Watts’ hymn we sang earlier: “Wide as the world is Thy command; Vast as eternity Thy love; Firm as a rock Thy truth shall stand, when rolling years shall cease to move” (Trinity Hymnal #65 verse 5).

So, as we wrap this up, keep in mind four things:
1st-If you find it hard to give thanks because the dump truck of life has back up to your house – career – body – or whatever, and piled it on; or on the other hand, prosperity has come and plundered your heart; do as the Sacred Songwriter directs us to do, look to God and recall who he is, recall what he is, and recall what he has done! Search out reasons to be thankful TO him, by searching him out.

2nd-When giving thanks, use every linguistic, creative and musical means and talent in your possession to assert your gratitude. “Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today” (Trinity Hymnal #98 verse 1).

3rd-[This is more for the Sunday after Thanksgiving] Even if you have to drag your limping, lame, lumbering soul along, bring your burdened, troubled, exhausted self into the public place of God’s worship and recount your reasons to be thankful.

4th-Finally, as you give thanks through the new the living way opened up by YeHoshua ha Mashiach (Hebrew for Jesus the Christ), know that you are exhibiting that the Messianic era has begun, that the new heavens and new earth are exploding into the present! Rejoice with a grateful heart!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Congregational Prayer: 16 November 2014 AM and PM

Sunday Morning:
O LORD God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who has adopted us into your covenant people and who calls us your own; we come in this confidence to pray for your World and Your Church. We pray that you would overrule the murderous mayhem, conspiracies and chaos that seem to be flooding many nations. Restore good order and legitimate peace in every land, and bring wellbeing and tranquility to all nations – for the good of all people, and the safety of your Church.

 Almighty God, thank you for this country. Keep our nation in the ways of your peace and righteous lawfulness for the good of the citizens of this land and the peace of your Church.

We ask for your care, protection and provision for all our U.S. Military personnel. And we especially pray for those who are Christian Chaplains in the military – Like Matt Oliver and Rich Boyd, chaplains from our Presbytery – give them strength, wisdom, and deep insight to make Christ known to their troops and to bring the healing power of Jesus to their people.

We intercede for those who feel beat up and beat down, those who are hurting, frustrated and depressed (esp. these) …. Turn their hearts and minds toward you and your loving care; give them the proper attention they need to be restored body and soul.

We pray for all those who have never confessed Christ Jesus as the Lord, those who have strayed away from the faith, and those who have renounced you…; graciously give them faith in Christ and repentance unto life. And please help us to take the initiative to tell them and others the Good News of Christ Jesus the Lord.

We pray for Your Church throughout the world: supply all their needs, encourage them in your way and prosper your work in their hands. We also ask your enriching power and presence to be poured out on all of the planning that will go on before for the Franklin Graham Festival, and for that Event in August 2015. Be honored by it, Lord, and may it bear great fruit that you may be glorified by your Son and through the Holy Spirit.

For this congregation we pray: may our worship, walk and worldview declare to all your righteousness. Enrich our fellowship that, more and more, we may be a strength to one another, effective in restraining one another from going astray and helpful in stirring up one another to love and good works.


Sunday Evening:
O LORD, you tell us to fear not, because you have redeemed us; and that you have called us by name, we are yours. You have promised that when we pass through the waters, you will be with us; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm us; when we walk through fire we shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume us (Isaiah 43.1-2). Thank you, O Lord our God, for you are good and your goodness stretches on to unending ages!

Almighty God, hasten the day when the oppressor will cease, when you will break the staff of the wicked and the scepters of tyrannical rulers who have struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, who have ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution. We long for the day when you will make the whole earth to rest and be quiet, and break forth in joyful singing to you (Isaiah 14.4-7). O Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for your Church in all places, including Iglesia Bautista El Qivor; Independence Ave Baptist; Jordan Baptist; Kelham Baptist; Kentucky Ave Baptist; Kingsview Freewill Baptist; and Knob Hill Baptist Church: O God, that our manner of life would be worthy of the gospel of Christ, and that we would stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by our opponents (Philippians 1.27-28). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Father, be with this congregation; since there is encouragement in Christ, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit, affection and sympathy, that we would be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. That we would do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility we would remember to count others more significant than ourselves. That each of us would look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. And that we would have this mind among ourselves, which is ours in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2.1-5). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Finally, Lord God, we pray for those of our number, and those from among our families, friends and foes, who are facing difficulties, dilemmas, dismissals, divorces, diseases, and disaster…help us to love them as ourselves and do what we can to assist and relieve them, and through these trials and troubles please bring them to be more and more conformed to the image of your Son that they may genuinely know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to your purpose (Romans 8.28). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Friday, November 14, 2014

"The One, The Three and The Many" by Colin Gunton (a non-review)

The One, the Three and the ManyThe One, the Three and the Many by Colin E. Gunton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an interesting plunge into a whole different way of thinking theologically. And it was quite an intellectual stretch. It seems to me that Gunton was addressing the valuable critiques from Modernity and later Modernity (post-modernity) as well as it's deep short-falls. But the author also worked slowly into the material, massaging into the this work bit by bit, what he sees as the remedy to the critiques and the short-falls: a renewed and reworked theology of creation through the lens and relationship of the Trinity. This will impact and change our anthropology: our human-to-human, human-to-creation, human-to-God relations; "All things are what they are by being particulars constituted by many and various forms of relation. Relationality is thus the transcendental which allows us to learn something of what it is to say that all created people and things are marked by their coming from and returning to God who is himself, in his essential and inmost being, a being in relation" (229).

This is my second time to read "The One, the Three and the Many." I was befuddled most of the time then (2006) and I was befuddled most of the time now (2014). Nevertheless, I sensed that there are profound things here, and I will likely be pondering this material for some time to come.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Congregational Prayer - 9 November 2014 PM

O LORD, you are our God; we will exalt you; we will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure (Isaiah 25.1).

Almighty God, hasten the day when nations will fear the name of the LORD, and all the kings of the earth will fear your glory (Psalm 102.15). For there is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. Yes, bring all the nations that you have made to come and worship before you, O Lord, and to glorify your name – whether Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Maoist, Secularist – all nations! For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God (Psalm 86.8-10). Protect your Church in all lands; and deliver those people who are being terrorized and brutalized. Convert the bloodthirsty and heartless, and if they will not repent, then break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till you find none (Psalm 10.15). O Lord, hear our prayer.

For those re-elected and those newly elected, govern their thinking and deliberating that they may always lean in the direction of what fosters the common good, what is truly fair and just for all. For those who were not elected, remove any bitterness or sour-grapes. For those who are disgusted or discouraged because the votes didn’t go the way the way they wanted, grant them to be patient and continue to be good citizens. For all – winners and losers alike – bring them to see that their ultimate allegiance and political passion ought to be to the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ your Son. O Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for your Church in all places, including Highland Park Baptist Church; Highland Park Missionary Baptist; Hilltop Baptist; Holy Divine Baptist; Holy Temple Baptist; Holy United Baptist and Howard Memorial Baptist Church: may brotherly love flourish amongst your people more and more, and may we all aspire to live quietly, minding our own affairs, working with our hands, walking properly before outsiders and dependent on no one (1 Thessalonians 4.9-12). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Father, be with this congregation; thank you for making us your deeply loved people, for choosing us as the firstfruits to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. Thank you that you have called us to this through the gospel, so that we may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 2.13). Thank you Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, that you loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace. Therefore be pleased to comfort our hearts and establish us in every good work and word (2 Thessalonians 2.16-17). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Finally, Lord God, we pray for those enduring brokenness – whether brokenness of body, heart, marriages and family life, bank-book, or career – bind up the brokenness and relieve the tears, and grant them the help they need. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Friday, November 7, 2014

"The Great War and Modern Memory" by Paul Fussell. A Short Review

The Great War and Modern MemoryThe Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fussell's book is not what at first one might expect or even desire. Though it is about "The Great War" (World War One), it is not a history, but something totally other; "After all, I was writing not a history, only an elegiac commentary" (365).

Nevertheless the work is exceptional. By walking through the literary world that swirled around the Great War - from before, during and since - Fussell has cleared away some of the mud and grime and exposed a portion of the raw soul of the trench soldiers.Yet the work is a one-ff autobiography, almost a cathartic exercise for the author as he tried hard to fathom his own war experience in World War Two.

"The Great War and Modern Memory" is a work that adds flesh and sinews to the skeletal labors of history-reciting books. As we are closing out the Centenary of the First World War, I would encourage you to read some of the important "Histories," but make sure you pick up this book to help humanize the abstract and factual retellings.

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