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Sunday, April 24, 2016

"For God Alone My Soul Waits" - 24 April 2016 Morning and Evening

Sunday morning:

From Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. We lift up our hearts thankful that the new and living way into your presence has been opened up through your Son, Jesus; and that we have the privilege to draw near with all holy reverence and confidence. Glory to you, Lord God!

How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Selah. Father, behold how your people are being bludgeoned, badgered and beleaguered in so many places! Grant us all to be faithful witnesses, and restore safety and sanity in those places where it is hot and hostile. Turn the hearts of the god-haters and shut down their ability to do harm. Liquidate and bankrupt those institutions, sanctuaries, movements and mobs that, in the name of God or in the name of Jesus, stand opposed to you and your good ways and want to inflict and enforce outrageous and atrocious lifestyles on civilization and your sacred society. Bring salvation where there is presently only scorning. Glory to you, Lord God!

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah. We implore your mercy, care, guidance, strength and help for your church in all places, including this congregation along with Hillcrest Pentecostal Church; Southwest Pentecostal Church; Christ Temple Community Church; Northwest Christian Center; Paradise Temple; and Calvin Presbyterian Church. Be our salvation, fortress, rock, refuge and glory. Guide your church to be reformed and always reforming into the sacred society you desire. Glory to you, Lord God!

Those of low estate are but a breath; those of high estate are a delusion; in the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath. Put no trust in extortion; set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart on them. Mighty Lord, God Most High, govern the nations of the world, as well as our own country; that neighborliness, respectfulness, wholesome morality, fairness, justice and equity would succeed. We long for the day when swords will beaten into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, and lions lie down with lambs; give peace, O Lord, in our time. Glory to you, Lord God!

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work. Compassionate Father, to whom belongs steadfast love, be with those we pray for now who need our prayers, especially….since your never failing providence orders all things in both heaven and earth, remove what is hurtful, and replenish with what is helpful in Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord. Glory to you, Lord God!


Sunday evening:

You are the God who will tend your flock like a shepherd; you will gather the lambs in your arms; you will carry them in your bosom, and gently lead those that are with young (Isaiah 40.11); so we gather in your presence glad for your goodness, and imploring your watchful care.

Mighty God our Father, as your eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth to show yourself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are loyal toward you (2 Chronicles 16.9); set your gaze on your Church worldwide, specifically in Cambodia; Cameroon; Canada; Cape Verde; Central African Republic; Chad; Chile; China; Colombia; and Comoros. Show yourself strong on her behalf. And as King Asa prayed, when his smaller army was outnumbered 2-to-1, “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude – the world, the flesh and the devil. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you” (2 Chronicles 14.11). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord Jesus, you promised that when you were lifted up from the earth, you would draw all people to yourself (John 12.32). Draw the wayward and willful; the wrecked and ruined; the prosperous and those in penury; Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Yazidis, Zoroastrians, Secularists, Agnostics, Atheists, the “Don’t Cares” and “Could Care Lesses,”and draw to yourself these we mention in silence…. O Lord, hear our prayer.

O Lord, who cares for the fatherless, the widowed, the immigrants – both legal and illegal – and the migrants; we pray for Anna’s House Foundation, Project 66, KAIROS, City Rescue Mission, Hope Center of Edmond, and Hope Pregnancy Center of OKC. Give them all the aid they need, so they may effectively and plentifully aid those they seek to serve in Christ’s name. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Holy God, we have many of our teens getting ready to graduate and head out into various vocations: some into the military, others into missions, and several into college. As they move on into new venues and experiences, help them to make sound, solid, suitable and sanctified decisions. There will be new friends who will seek to beckon them to take different tracks than they were raised with. There will be many wanting to get them to slip their standards, sacrifice their faith, sell out their chastity, and cease their sobriety. But Lord, we are confident in you that you will watch over them, and so we commend them to you, body, soul, mind and strength. Ever keep in the forefront of their minds who they are, whose they are and why they are. And fill their parents with your peace that passes all understanding, to guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Friday, April 22, 2016

"Simplified Tai Chi for Beginners - Learn the 48 Form" by Helen Liang. A Review.

Simplified Tai Chi for Beginners – Learn the 48 Form (DVD)
Helen Liang
YMAA Publication Center, Inc.
PO Box 480
Wolfeboro, NH 03894
ISBN: 978-1-59439-289-4; March 2016; $29.95

5 stars of 5

The graceful, flowing, effortless moves in tai chi are beginning to attract American attentions. Schools promising to teach tai chi are cropping up throughout the nation, showing up even in adult living centers. Helen Liang, eldest daughter of Grandmaster Liang, vice-president of the the Shou-Yu Liang Wushu Taiji Qigong Institute in Canada, and cancer survivor, has recently teamed up with Yang’s Martial Arts Association to produce a 180 minute DVD for level 1 students, “Simplified Tai Chi for Beginners: Learn the 48 Form.”

In this DVD, Liang introduces this tai chi form, describing how it is mainly drawn from the Yang style, while including steps from Chin, Wu, Hao and Sun. Most Americans are unfamiliar with the Taoist and Buddhist aspects of Kung Fu and Tai Chi, the place of yin, yang and the chi; but these are brought out in this introduction. Then she demonstrates the complete form with elegant ease and supple simplicity. Next she does a walk-through of the 48 positions and covers some basic guidelines. After this she delicately and descriptively takes the tai chi learner through six instructions that cover all 48 positions.  Afterwards she completes the form again showing how it looks from behind her back. Finally, she concludes the video with some words of encouragement.

Beyond the thoroughness of Liang’s presentation, there are two other items that stood out. First, as she walks the student through each section of the form, she regularly brings out their martial application; how this move is a punch, that one is a block, why this fist is hidden before it strikes, and so forth. Second, is the intensity of the form. It becomes quickly obvious to the astute viewer that this simplified tai chi – 48 form has so many moving parts that it will take weeks and months to learn it, and come to practice it well. And in the concluding remarks Liang makes sure to mention that it will likely take nine to 12 months to get this form down.

“Simplified Tai Chi for Beginners: Learn the 48 Form” is an easy-to-follow DVD. Liang’s patient teaching manner will make this video accessible to most pupils. The martial applications will thrill martial arts enthusiasts, while the discipline and fitness aspects will please those desiring its health benefits. If you’re ready to move up from the 24 position form of tai chi, this is the video to get.

Thanks to YMAA for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “Simplified Tai Chi for Beginners – Learn the 48 Form” used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

"Unchanging Witness" by Fortson and Grams. A Review.

Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition
S. Donald Fortson III and Rollin G. Grams
B&H Publishing Group
One LifeWay Plaza
Nashville, TN. 37234
ISBN:  9781433687921; February 2016; $34.99
Reviewed by Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber for Deus Misereatur

5 Stars out of 5

Based on reports from news broadcasts, tabloids, cultured journals, enlightened bureaucrats, sitcoms, singers and social media, it looks as if it’s an open and shut, clear cut case of social justice. It’s only the coarse troglodytes, communal cave-dwellers, and clich├ęd sticklers who linger around the sides and shadows of our brave new world, and make peevish and prejudiced protests. But fear not, we’re assured, for the moral high-ground has been claimed by throngs of the liberated and learned. Why, even the astute and approachable churches in the U.S.A. have “seen the light” and joined the prize-winning powers. So the tale is told. But S. Donald Fortson III, Professor of Church History and Practical Theology and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Reformed Theological Seminary, along with Rollin G. Grams, Associate Professor of New Testament and the Director of the Robert C. Cooley Center for the Study of Early Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, have nailed their strongly stated and robustly reasoned theses on the church’s door in their new 448 page paperback, “Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition.”

“Unchanging Witness” divides into twin sections taking on, first, the church’s ageless and historical position on homosexuality; and second, the scriptural attestations. The intended aim of the book is the authors’ call to the church to return to reality; “We issue that call by saying what God has said in his Word and by presenting what the church has affirmed throughout its history” (1-2).

In the first part of the volume, Fortson gives historical background to the present condition of the Christian Church on this matter. He then walks the reader through heavily quoted source documents from the Patristic era, the Middle Ages, into the Renaissance and Reformation, while examining the erroneous allegations made by John Boswell and others. Finally, the author extensively surveys the various official and stated proclamations from Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox sources, along with Evangelicals, and then Mainline denominations. Each chapter robustly draws from original documents cited in full context so that one walks away presented with a solid historical case. By the end of the first part, it is clearly obvious that Christianity has sturdily stood firm on the immorality of homosexuality in all of its varied manifestations. By the end of this portion of the book I was profoundly encouraged.

The second part of “Unchanging Witness” turns to the Bible, where Grams addresses and lays bare the claims of Luke Timothy Johnson, Walter Wink, Jack Rogers and a host of others. The author overwhelmingly shows that the Bible, from the Hebrew Scriptures through the New Testament, held an unflinchingly consistent sexual ethic of which homosexuality was one violation. Also, the Scripture’s moral position on this subject daringly stood in antithesis to the surrounding mores. This leads Grams to helpfully point out that though the totality of Scripture may only specifically mention homosexuality a handful of times, nevertheless, once the Christian recognizes and “understands that there is a biblical sexual ethic—sex is for a man and a woman in marriage—then one grasps that all general statements forbidding sexual sin cover every act between two people other than that which is allowed” (199). The good news is that since homosexuality, in its sundry and assorted expressions, is sin in God’s eyes, there is hope, and the hope is found in God’s antidote. In his eternal Son becoming fully human like us in every possible way, with the exception of sin; who humbled himself and was obedient to the Father, died for the sins of his people, was raised from the dead on the third day, ascended to the Father’s right hand, and has poured out on his people the heart-transforming, lifestyle-changing Holy Spirit! The remedy to this and any sin is found in Jesus Christ as we rely on him and submit to him.

In the end, “Unchanging Witness” is an engulfing book that leaves daring and diligent readers with important decisions. This is a book meant to help faithful Christians to stand face-forward in the raging storm. It is also meant to give those who have been uncertain a robust and resilient confidence. Finally, it confronts those Christians who are hardened in their pro-homosexual position; “the challenge of the pro-homosexual advocates in parts of Western Christianity extends beyond their view of homosexuality. These advocates not only challenge the orthodox teaching of the church through the centuries; they also challenge scriptural authority, the Bible’s teaching on human sinfulness, the work of Christ on the cross, and the transformative power at work in believers’ lives through Christ and the Holy Spirit. In a word, these advocates challenge the essence of the gospel” (376). This book is a must for every Christian pastor, seminary professor, theologian, academic library, and follower of Jesus.

Thanks to B&H Publishing Group for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “Unchanging Witness” used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

(You have my permission to repost and reprint this review. Simply give credit where credit is due. Mike)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"O God, You Are My God" - 17 April 2016

From Psalm 63
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. Father, all that we are about – in our family worship, personal devotions, Sunday School classes, Worship assemblies, Care Groups, our involvement in works of mercy, mission trips, VBS, and so forth – yes, all that we are about is flows from our craving to know you and be nearer to you, from our enraptured amazement at your gracious goodness to us. Draw us to you– this whole congregation, along with your Church worldwide and Pillar of Fire Church; Redeemed Christian Church of God; River of Life Church; Southern Oaks United Pentecostal Church; and Zion Christian Fellowship. Slake our thirst for you; refresh us that we may rise from our faintness; reform us that we may rightly live and love. Thank you that, as Paul put it in Romans 6, we who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which we were committed, and, having been set free from sin, we have become slaves of righteousness (Romans 6.17-18).

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. Uphold those who are fretting, tossing and turning on their beds because of their health, their hurts or their hauntedness….Take those who are about to plunge into perdition, and restrain them….fill to the full with your goodness those who are desperate and deprived….hear the silent and voiced worries of your people…, answer our prayers, so that “in the shadow of your wings we may “sing for joy.”

But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword; they shall be a portion for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped. O God, who does not desire the death of the wicked, but that they should turn and live; save those who hate us and turn those who seek our hurt. Stop the mouths of those who deliberately and devilishly pervert your truth. Arrest those who use their powers to undermine and obliterate your Christian people. Guide our country that we love so dearly, so that the people and powerbrokers; citizens and senators; juries and judges; masses and magistrates may all rejoice in you; and would work toward justice, racial fairness, national integrity, moral industry. May we promote and protect justice and liberty for all – free born, foreign born and unborn. We ask all of this in the name of, and for the honor of, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

"Shout for Joy In the LORD" 10 April 2016 AM and PM

Sunday morning:

From Psalm 33

Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts. O God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, our hearts are glad and we continue to lift our voices in thanksgiving and praise!

For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD. You, Mighty God, Lord Most High, are our hero, our savior. As your upright word goes forth from your preachers, evangelists, pastors and teachers, may it not return to you void, but accomplish what you please and prosper in the thing for which you sent it. May your church, including this congregation; Selecman UMC; House of Prayer Church; Linn Ave Pentecostal Holiness Church; Meeks Chapel; Paradise Temple; Hillcrest Pentecostal Church; and Southwest Pentecostal Church; display your righteousness, exhibit your justice and thrive in your steadfast love as we are reformed by your word and your way.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. O God who directs jet streams and weather patterns send us rain and make the earth bountiful with your plenty. Bestow abundance and success, but may we never be beaten and bound by our abundance and success!

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm. Empower your missionaries to boldly and compassionately bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ into all lands. Open doors that are closed; open homes that are locked; open universities, colleges, schools and medical institutions that are barred.

The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage! O Father, we implore you to bring our own nation around to its senses and to see the tomfoolery it is engaged in. May your counsels and your plans prevail in this land from the atriums of power to the alleyways of poverty!

The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. O Lord God, may the parties, factions, organizations, and societies that promote degeneracy or savagery be stopped in their tracks, brought to their knees, and submit themselves to you! And we implore your graciousness and generosity to flow into the lives of our friends and loved ones who don’t know you.

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Give your help and healing to those who are weak, worried or worn thin by sickness, sadness or sudden misadventure…protect those traveling…and provide for those without jobs…

Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you.


Sunday evening:

We thank you that your Son, Jesus Christ, is our faithful high priest, who has passed through the heavens, and that he can sympathize with us having been tempted like us in every way, yet he never sinned. And we thank you that we can come to the throne of grace in his name, and receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.

Mighty God our Father, we implore your care and help for your Church worldwide, specifically in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Botswana; Brazil; Brunei; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Burma; and Burundi. Strengthen that faithfulness in us that pleases you, remove all that which displeases you, and equip us with every good thing we need to fulfill what you have called us to do. Lavish on this congregation your loving smile, health, joy, fruitfulness, and continued unity. Thank you for adding to our numbers such as are being saved, and keep on doing this as you see fit. O Lord, hear our prayer.

We pray for those who have never been converted, or who have strayed away….Give them to your Son that he may save them and keep them. O Lord, hear our prayer.

O Lord our healer, we recall those who are aging, those who are healing, those who are hurting, those who are in great need…..restore them, body and soul, in Jesus Christ. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Watch over and preserve all those who are traveling….. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Holy God, who is Just and loves justice in the affairs of mankind; please give our leaders the good sense to further justice for all the inhabitants of our land, and not to sell out to the quick-fix mentality or the short-term successes. Cause the citizens and residents of these United States to take their citizenship seriously, and to not sell their souls for entertainment, personal peace, affluence, or utopianism. O Lord, hear our prayer.

We also ask you to work on the nations of our world, that they would deflect unjust wars, criminal violence, brute thuggery, and barbaric inhumanity…. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

"Fearless" by Eric Blehm. A Short Review.

Fearless: The Heroic Story of One Navy SEAL's Sacrifice in the Hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the Unwavering Devotion of the Woman Who Loved HimFearless: The Heroic Story of One Navy SEAL's Sacrifice in the Hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the Unwavering Devotion of the Woman Who Loved Him by Eric Blehm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm wiping the tears from my eyes right now. I've just finished "Fearless" by Eric Blehm, and cried through the last part. I cried for Adam, for Kelley and the kids, for his parents and family, for his teammates who died a few moths after his own death, and I cried for their families. I sorrow for them, but the book also brings me to give thanks for such who serve, and serve well; and I give thanks that I served my country for 20 years in the U.S. Air Force.

"Fearless" is a story of wasted potential, loss, fall, shame, and darkness. But it is also a story of reclamation, redemption, resilience, radiance, rightness and camaraderie. The author follows Adam's life from childhood, through the muck and misery of his meth addiction, to his messy conversion, and on into his Navy career as a SEAL and his eventual rise to SEAL Team SIX. It is readable for younger and older alike, in fact both of my teenage sons have read the book. I cannot recommend the book enough!

Adam Brown, I salute you!

View all my reviews

"One Nation Under God" by Ashford and Pappalardo. A Review.

One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics
Bruce E. Ashford and Chris Pappalardo
B&H Publishing Group
One LifeWay Plaza
Nashville, TN. 37234
ISBN: 9781433690693; December 2015; $14.99
Reviewed by Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber for Deus Misereatur

5 Stars out of 5

It’s that time! It happens every couple of years when the American blood pressure spikes, the nation grabs it’s communal chest, staggers and stumbles, all red-faced and in cold-sweats. It’s called election season, and by all reports on social media, news accounts, video feeds, journal articles, coffee shop chats and blog posts, it’s the end of America once again! The sun is about to turn black, the moon blood red, stars are on the verge of falling out of the sky to crash into the earth. Into this national apocalyptic and apoplectic ailment steps a new, 176 page hardback, “One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics” that seeks to bring sensibility and solidity. Bruce Riley Ashford, professor of Theology and Culture, provost and dean of faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Chris Pappalardo, lead researcher and writer at The Summit Church, have banded together to present this easy-to-read guide into the hands of Christians from all walks of life. Their aim is “to share a perspective on politics that tempers the expectations of those with inflated hopes, empowers those with deflated hopes, and equips every Christian to apply Christ’s love in the muddied arena of politics” (2).

The book unfolds into two sections. The first six chapters work out the biblical, and Christian, backstory of our world and politics, and then move forward to the sane, stable and sound reasons Christians can engage with politics. The authors recognize that there will be tensions in the political arena because of where we are in human and philosophical history; “The gospel story is deeply at odds with modern political narratives because each looks to a different place for history’s true meaning” (32). Therefore, wisely, they remind us that we “should not expect more from politics and public life than can be had in this time between times” because infusing “politics with majestic hopes will only lead to crushing disappointment” (56). This means that as Christians involve themselves in statecraft we exercise a public righteousness and civility where we “hold our convictions, but out of love for our neighbor and concern for our witness, we hold them in a gracious and kind manner” (58). Ashford and Pappalardo rightly see the importance of civility in our public discourse, and describe it as “not spinelessness but self-control; it is the capacity to show love and grace particularly when we disagree with others and even when we dislike them.” And this civility has two sides, civil speech and civil attitude (58-9).

The second segment of “One Nation Under God” attempts to address seven hot subjects, and how Christians might persuasively speak to their fellow citizens. The topics include life and death issues, sexuality, economics, the environment, race, immigration and war. The authors workout their thoughts from Scripture and Christian convictions (thick reasoning) and then imagine ways to bridge into the secular square to speak insightfully to those who reject both sources of authority (thin reasoning).Though some readers may find the directions and conclusions more conventional, or less rigid, than they like, nevertheless they will be helped by the mental exercise presented in these chapters. The concluding pages bring in Augustine and his approach in The City of God and how this can be an astute model for Christian participation in the civic arena, because we “Christians should be, without qualification, the heart and strength of every good social effort” (139).

 “One Nation Under God” is a perceptive and peaceable volume. Throughout the material the authors thoughtfully interact with several thinkers, to include Lesslie Newbigin, N.T. Wright, Martin Luther King Jr., Richard John Neuhaus, Abraham Kuyper, and Richard Mouw; and have crafted a handy, useable resource for Christians as we think sanely about our Nation, elections, and our public responsibilities. The book would be ideal for discussion groups, church leadership, and even Adult Christian Education classes (it doesn’t support or promote any candidate or party). It would also be worth passing a copy along to Christian friends and family. I salute Ashford and Pappalardo for their excellent work.

Thanks to B&H Publishing Group for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “One Nation Under God” used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).