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Sunday, February 7, 2016

"Remember, O Lord" - 7 February 2016

Remember, O Lord Jesus Christ, our God, your mercies and loving-kindnesses, which have been from everlasting to everlasting, and for the sake of which you did become man and stoop to endure crucifixion and death for the salvation of all who rightly believe in you. You rose from the dead for our justification and ascended into heaven, and sit at the right hand of God the Father, from whence you shall come to judge the living and the dead; and as our great High Priest you regard the humble prayers of all who call upon you with their whole heart. Incline your ear and hear our humble entreaties.

First of all remember your holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which you have purchased with your precious blood, including St. Mark’s UMC; St. Mary’s Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; St. Matthew’s UMC, Selecman UMC and South Lee UMC; and also your servants who are under persecution for your sake and for the sake of your holy gospel. Confirm and strengthen your Church, enlarge and multiply her, maintain her in peace, and preserve her unconquerable by the gates of hell forever. Heal the schisms of the churches, quench the ragings of the heathen, speedily undo and root out the growths of heresies and bring them to nothing by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Keep, O Lord, and have mercy upon the whole clergy of your Church whom you have established to feed your flock…; by their sound doctrine, right administration of the sacraments, godly lives and prayers build up and strengthen your people in all places.

Keep, O Lord, and have mercy upon those who envy and slight us and seek to do us harm; restrain their malicious acts and bring them around to your good. Grant us, as far as it depends on us, to be at peace with all, not being overcome by evil, but overcoming evil with good (Romans 12.18, 21).

Keep, O Lord, and have mercy upon all world rulers, on our president, on our Governor, and on all our civil authorities. Speak peace and blessing into their hearts for the sake of all your people that we may live a calm and peaceful life in all godliness and dignity.

Keep, O Lord, and have mercy upon our parents…, our spouses…., our brothers and sisters…, our children…, our relatives and our friends…, and grant them your blessings both here and hereafter.

Keep, O Lord, and have mercy upon the aged, young, needy, orphans, widows, single parents, on all that are in sickness and sorrow, in distress and affliction, in oppression and captivity, in prison and confinement….. Remember them, visit, strengthen, keep, and comfort them, and make haste to grant them, by your power, relief, freedom, and deliverance.

Keep, O Lord, and have mercy upon those who have never turned from their sins and believed in Christ, as well as those who have departed from the true faith, and those who have become dazzled by destroying heresies (……), enlighten them by the light of your Holy Spirit, renew them by your reviving, restoring grace, and bring them into the fold of your Church.

{Do you find these prayers beneficial? Feel free to use them in your devotions, with your Bible Study groups, Church, etc. Mike}

Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Almighty and Everliving God" - 31 January 2016

Almighty and Everliving God, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in your being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth (Westminster Shorter Catechism 4), we come and make our requests to you.

We, your servants and children of this congregation, request your help to put away falsehood, so as to speak truth with our neighbors, for we are members of one another. That no corrupting talk would proceed out of our mouths, but only such things as a good for building up, that our words may give grace to those who hear us. That we may not grieve the Holy Spirit, by whom we have been sealed unto the day of redemption. That all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and slander would be put away from us, along with all malice. And that we may be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another as you in Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4.25-32).

On behalf of Mark and Lori Berry in Peru we pray that you would grant to them peace, protection, trustworthy co-laborers and all the financial resources they need in their mission work.

Please look upon your Church throughout the world, to include Lambeth United Methodist Church; New Covenant UMC; Putnam City UMC; Ridgecrest UMC; and St. John’s and St. Luke’s UMC; may their hearts be courageous in the ways of the Lord (2 Chronicles 17.6); and may they sing and live in full faith the words of Charles Wesley, “Other refuge have I none; / hangs my helpless soul on thee; / leave, ah! leave me not alone, / still support and comfort me. / All my trust on thee is stayed, / all my help from thee I bring;  / cover my defenseless head / with the shadow of thy wing.”

Be pleased to guide these United States of America, leaders and led, to live rightly, to live with civility, to live out fair-mindedness, and live on in honorable integrity.

We implore your kindest care and compassion to rain down on the nations of our world, especially where there is so much turmoil, tumult and turbulence. We specifically pray for your supervision, serenity, and social harmony for Chad, Northern Sudan, Yemen, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, India and Bangladesh.

O God Most High, God of compassion, God of healing, smile upon and raise up, we beg you, those who are disheartened and dejected in body or mind….; those who are troubled or traumatized with dread and apprehension….; those who are ill and ailing physically or spiritually…; we especially ask your care for these….grant them  recuperation and restoration.

Finally, we call to mind those who have not confessed Jesus Christ as Lord, but continue to walk in darkness; as well as those who have begun to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin… them, O Lord; bring them to genuine, life-changing repentance, and to fully embrace Jesus Christ your Son, the way, the truth and the life.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

"Theology and the Mirror of Scripture" by Kevin Vanhoozer and Daniel Trier. A Review.

Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account
Kevin J. Vanhoozer and Daniel J. Trier
IVP Academic (InterVarsity Press)
PO Box 1400
Downers Grove, IL 60515
ISBN: 978-0-8308-4076-2; $26.00; November 2015
Reviewed by Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber for Deus Misereatur

4 Stars out of 5

Maybe the hinge is binding because there’s something wrong with the door altogether, or maybe there’s nothing more than a bit of rust and grime that have begun to encumber the door from opening and closing properly. Whatever it is, my truck door is giving me fits! It catches, groans and pops every time I open and close it. In many ways, evangelicalism is in a bind and catching. It doesn’t appear to be “working” correctly any longer. That’s why Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and Daniel J. Trier, Blanchard Professor of Theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, have penned their new 301 page paperback, “Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account”. This is the first volume in a new IVP Academic series titled, “Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture”.

“Theology and the Mirror of Scripture” seeks to outline and arrange a way to pursue a mere evangelical approach to theology, Christian practice, Scripture and church. By mere Vanhoozer and Trier do not mean a minimal or negligible evangelicalism. Instead, the authors are seeking “for the greatest common denominator, that which ought to unify (…),” to define those things that are of “first importance” (12). They desire evangelicals to be people of something bigger, to recognize that “no one denomination or theological system exhausts everything there is to be said (…),” and so we should “speak the truth, and perhaps nothing but the truth, but not the whole truth (…). To speak the whole truth, we need the whole (catholic) church” (119).

Nevertheless the authors recognize that they are up against a high wall that will be hard to mount. They identify four challenges that potentially block the way of building a mere evangelicalism. First there is now “more robust academic engagement” between evangelical scholars and other academic disciplines, which brings around “puzzling difficulties” for trying to discern if changing views are “theologically faithful or unfaithful, identity-altering or indifferent” (24). Next, evangelicals have become increasingly aware of the “Great Christian Tradition” as well as other sub-traditions and internal variety (24-5). Further, there is a growing interest in, and perception of, global Christianity, along with the various ways the Gospel is worked into, through and out of the countless cultural contexts (25). Finally, “interfaces with emergent Christianity and culture” all of which are pushing hard against any “traditional concept of evangelical identity” (25-6). These four challenging changes “exacerbate the dilemma of distinguishing uniquely “evangelical theology” from “theology done by evangelicals” (26). The wall to be scaled is high, and there are serious obstacles that will make even getting to the wall problematic.

With these adversities and vicissitudes clearly before them, the authors craft out a basic set of involved approaches. As they note, the “the purpose of evangelical theology is to help make communities of disciples, people who come to understand and correspond to the reality of the gospel – people who become “little Christs” and thus fulfill their vocation to live as images of God.” This means, for Vanhoozer and Trier, that the “ambition of evangelical theology is to retrieve what God’s people have heard in the past, to renew tired traditions and to respond with alacrity and obedience to God’s forward call in the present” (45). The rest of the book is their inaugural schematic on how to achieve and accomplish this “chief task”.

“Theology and the Mirror of Scripture” is a dense read. Honestly, I’m not sure I fully understand much of what is being projected. It will likely take a second reading and time to digest their proposals. That said each chapter holds riches and resources to be plundered. There is a solid case made for the theological interpretation of Scripture, of looking along, rather than at biblical texts (185). Also, some form of confessionalism and higher ecclesiology is hammered out. Included in the chapters are gentle warnings to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2.1), to be careful about sliding away from sola Scripture into sola cultura (257-260).

“Theology and the Mirror of Scripture” is not a definitive mountain-top statement, “Do this, and you shall live!” Rather, it is more of a suggestive, conversation-initiating book. It is meant to spray a little WD-40 on the gritty, rusty evangelical hinge. I encourage you to pick up a copy and begin thinking along with Vanhoozer and Trier: what would a mere evangelicalism look and feel like, and how do we get there.

Thanks to IVP Academic for providing, upon my request, the free copy of “Theology and the Mirror of Scripture” used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).

Friday, January 29, 2016

"The Relevance of Religion" by John Danforth. A Review.

The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change PoliticsThe Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics by John Danforth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Incivility, with all of its rudeness in personal and political discourse and discourtesy on social and audio-visual media, seem to have confiscated and impounded our shared psyche as a nation. Simultaneously, into this caustic environment is being poured a highly-flammable fuel that explodes and melts down discussion and disagreement, and dissolves any hope of reaching the common good. The Ninth Commandment clearly announces that we’re not to bear false witness against our neighbors. And yet people of strong Christian convictions violate the Ninth Commandment minute-by-minute on Facebook, via email and by means of other outlets. You see it when we post and publicize scathing, often half-truth fabrications against this or that Governmental office holder and others. To propose a remedy, John Danforth, Lawyer, Episcopal priest, one-time Republican Senator for Missouri and United States Representative to the United Nations, presents his 288 page hardback, “The Relevance of Religion: How People of Faith Can Change Politics.”

The main premise of “The Relevance of Religion” is that people of faith have an ability and a responsibility to promote reconciliation and restore sensibility to the country and the political process. This point is clearly displayed in the title of the longest, central chapter of the book, “The Making of Virtuous Citizens.” This 90 page section works through the formation of virtuous citizens, by religious people putting into practice what the author thinks is one of the central tenets of most religions: love God above all things, and your neighbors. This theme permeates the whole book through multiple examples and illustrations.

Danforth believes that our national problems, as well as why Government doesn’t work any longer, has to do with the elevation of politics as ultimate (breaking the First and Second Commandments); the shift from seeking the common good to self-interests (breach of the second greatest commandment); and the advancement of instant-offendedness and offensiveness and the loss of humor (violation of the Ninth Commandment). For example, the author notes that religion “pulls us toward virtue, but modern campaign techniques move us ever further away from the common good and ever closer to concern for self and little else” (207).

In “The Relevance of Religion” the author lays out several remedial observations and suggestions. These include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) the need for compromise, something that is doable if politics is returned to its secondary place and no longer allowed to usurp ultimacy (244), and love and respect, even for adversaries, is restored (246). (2) For religious people to change the tone of political discourse by stepping away from relentless personal attacks, and to hold our politicians to the same standard; for people to come to recognize that “there is a big difference between opposition and abuse” (211). (3) For religious people to help raise “our sights above the interests of self and group to concern for the common good” (244-5). (4) Restoration of the communal aspects of religion since isolation is becoming more pronounced in America, and we are turning more into a collection of peoples rather than a people, and so “religion binds us to each other and to the whole” (245-6). Danforth offers several proposals of how these could potentially all work out, some of which seemed to me to be tenable, and some a little more controversial.

“The Relevance of Religion” is an easy book to read. No matter what one’s political party or position, if the book is read with an open ear, it will be a profitable endeavor. And especially if Christians and other religious people will set to the side their particular interests and pay attention to the major themes of the book, on the one hand you will walk away chastened, but on the other hand you will walk forward with a better perspective on what our responsibilities are, because people of faith “have a responsibility to advocate the causes of those who do not hire lobbyists and to advance the common good (238). Though I didn’t agree with every recommendation or idea the author put forward, nonetheless I happily, and urgently, recommend the book.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"House" Luke 5.17-32

Luke 5.17-32

Home groups, care groups, small groups; what are they all about? Sometimes these groups can thin down into sanctioned times of gossip and gab; becoming ingrown and ill. Sometimes they can be nothing more than just another time-consuming, exhausting “program” meant to keep you busy. Nevertheless, there is valuableness for these groups if pursued with the right aim. I hope that when I am done today, we will all have a clearer sense of purposefulness for our home groups.

Brought in (17-26): Though Luke is not very clear where this is, we know that Jesus is in someplace, in some facility. It’s Mark that makes it clear and tells us, “it was reported that [Jesus] was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them” (Mark 2.1-2). This whole scene unfolds inside Jesus’ house. They bring a paralyzed man to him and seek to “bring him in” (2xs, 18, 19). The friends know that going into the house will put their friend close to Jesus; and it’s in the house, close to Jesus, that the man is forgiven and fixed.

Jesus did many things like this in houses, in someone’s home. In 4.38-41 he enters Simon’s home and not only heals Peter’s ailing Mother-in-law, but those who came to the house who “were sick with various diseases” and those oppressed by demonic powers (4.40-41). In 8.49-56 he enters Jairus’s home and restores his dead daughter. Troll your way through the Gospel accounts and you will find Jesus doing many mighty works in homes.

Also, just as Jesus is teaching in his home (Luke 5.17), our Lord taught many times in homes and houses. In Chapter 10.38-42 he is teaching at Martha’s and Mary’s place when there’s that little scene with Martha, who “was distracted with much serving” and Jesus says of Mary, who was listening to him teach, that she “has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (10.42). Also, in Luke 14 Jesus was in the home of a Pharisee when he taught them about the proper purpose of the Sabbath, pride of position, and the great wedding banquet. / So Jesus met with people in homes, teaching them and treating them. Yet Jesus also went out.

Went Out (27-28): Watch how Jesus goes out of the house, looking to bring more people in. He sees Levi, and beckons him to follow him. Levi’s response is the response we all are expected to give – at various levels. He left everything; he turned has back to his sinister past, his previous way of living, of cheating, scheming, and charging his fellow citizens. And then he got up and followed Jesus; he went where Jesus went, served in the ways Jesus wanted him to serve, and pursued the course Jesus laid out. “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26-33). “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Ate In (29-32): Levi’s first recorded action as a follower of Jesus is (1) to bring Jesus into his own home and (2) bring his fellow tax collectors and sinners to Jesus in his home (29, 30b). Here we are, back around to being in a house where amazing things are happening. And what is happening? “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (5.31-32). They gathered around Jesus in a home and they found wholeness and holiday! Feasting and fellowship! Restoration and rejoicing!

Though all of this is more descriptive than prescriptive (Jesus did these same thing – healing, calling, rescuing, teaching – out in the open air, out in the marketplace, over at the synagogue, etc.), nevertheless, it’s quite a pleasure to follow the path of homes and houses through the rest of the New Testament. If you search the word “house” you will find that the earlier church – probably for social and pragmatic reasons rather than as a mandatory mandate – met in homes for worship and instruction. The Apostles taught in the Temple, in public and from house-to-house (Acts 5.42 and 20.20). And four times we are told that homes housed congregations (Romans 16.5; 1 Corinthians 16.19; Colossians 4.15; and Philemon 2).

And so, maybe the aim for your groups could be:

1st – To nurture the communal aspects that every church of the Lord Jesus should experience and ache for. Belonging AND believing!

2nd – To cultivate a growing and thriving understanding of God’s Word, and the God of the Word!

3rd – So that it may produce more reverent worship from us.

4th – To help foster love and sanctification in your fellowship.

5th – That you may be better equipped to make disciples (go out to bring in). And these new disciples (belonging and believing) will then be acclimated to your congregation as together you pursue aim.

6th –Begin to look for Jesus in the homes – for Jesus to teach you, to do mighty works among you, to forgive and fix you, to feast with you, to bring you wholeness and holiday, to bring in to you tax collectors and sinners, that together you may joyfully encounter Jesus’ work, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”


This material was presented at Heritage Presbyterian Church on 10 January 2016, and at the Capitol Bible Study on 27 January 2016.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

"New Dictionary of Theology" ed. S. Ferguson, D.F. Wright and J.I Packer. A Review

New Dictionary of Theology: A Concise and Authoritative Resource
Editors Sinclair B. Ferguson, David F. Wright and J.I. Packer
IVP Academic (InterVarsity Press)
PO Box 1400
Downers Grove, IL 60515
ISBN: 978-0-8308-1400-0; $45.00; 1988
Reviewed by Rev. Dr. Michael Philliber for Deus Misereatur

Comprehensive Compendium; 5 Stars out of 5

To speak of a dictionary may conjure memories of dusty drudgeries and tiresome tomes. But dictionaries can be great assets, especially those that focus on special fields of study. The “New Dictionary of Theology: A Concise and Authoritative Resource” is such a work. Put together in 1988 by Editors Sinclair Ferguson, David F. Wright and J.I. Packer, this volume is a treasure trove of substantive exposés. Though it is not an exhaustive volume, and the articles are 28 years old, yet the hundreds of topics covered, by a wide range of scholars, makes this work a useable keeper for seminarians, pastors, Bible teachers, scholars and thinkers.

Above 200 contributors from Asia, Africa, the United Kingdom, North America, India, and other regions, have supplied installments of various lengths. Each addition to the dictionary begins with a clearly printed topic in oversized font, unfolds in two columns, and then ends with the author noted in abbreviated format and a short bibliography.  Articles vary in length from 160 words to over five single-spaced pages, and are evenly sourced. Some articles have multiple authors, as can be seen in the long piece on Russian Orthodox Theology that is penned by Harold O.J. Brown, and P.M. Walters.

Topics span the spectrum, covering ecclesiology, sacramentology, Christology, pneumatology, church history from the Apostolic Fathers to the late 20th Century, philosophy and philosophers, apologetics and apologists, theology and theologians. There are also some installments on African, Asian, and Indian theology. Though it is not exhaustive, it is informative, and attempts to maintain a balance of subjects.

The content contributed by each writer will leave the reader with at least enough information to have a workable sense of the subject. For example, I. Hamilton’s section on John McLeod Campbell gives an adequate amount of the clear facts so that a reader will have a general understanding of the peculiarity of Campbell’s theory on the atonement, why it got him removed from the 19th Century Church of Scotland, and which modern theologians have taken up Campbell’s position.

The New Dictionary of Theology is a single-volume resource that is usable and valuable. The owner of this work will return to it regularly, and will mark, read and digest its contents with profit. This is a solid gift for the seminarian, pastor, Bible teacher or thinker in your life. And it would be a sound investment for yourself. I am convinced you will appreciate its residence in your library!

Thanks to IVP Academic for the free copy of “New Dictionary of Theology” used for this review.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

"O Father, Our Father" - 24 January 2016 AM and PM

Sunday morning:

O Father, our Father, you desire us to draw near to you with all holy reverence and confidence, as children to a Father, able and ready to help us; and that we should pray with and for others. Therefore, we come.

Abba, Father, fulfill the meaning of your name toward us, your children; do govern, preserve, protect, prosper, guide, console, strengthen and sanctify us. Let us be so enkindled with love for you that we may never forsake you, O most merciful Lord, and most tender Father. And, like King Jehoshaphat, may our hearts be courageous in the ways of the LORD.

We ask you to aid and support Dan Young, his family, and the mission team in McAllen, Reynosa and beyond. Grant to them peace and protection, trustworthy co-laborers and tangible assets, help unlooked for and wholesale opportunities for their work to be successful.

We implore your kindest care and compassion on the nations of our world, especially where there is bloodshed, bombings, and grisly brutality. We specifically pray for your guidance, peacefulness, law and order for Haiti, France, Libya, Pakistan, ….

Look upon your Church throughout the world, and these congregations in the greater OKC area, First UMC of Edmond; Free Methodist Church of Edmond; Grace UMC; Hillcrest UMC; Korean First UMC; and Lakeside UMC; Grant to them your guidance, protection, and daily support. Give them courage and power to stand firm in the faith of Christ. And may the Christ-centered, Gospel-enlivened, and Bible-rich heritage of John and Charles Wesley reignite in them hearts strangely warmed and lives increasingly holy.

O Sovereign, majestic Lord, we commend the United States of America into your merciful care. In times of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness to you and gracious charitableness to one another, and in times of trouble do not allow our trust in you to fail. Guided by your providence may we dwell secure in your peace. For all who hold governmental office, grant them wisdom, strength and the willingness to know and do your good will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful that they too will give an account for all their actions on that great Day of Judgment when your Son returns to judge the living and the dead.

We pray for those in our church who are part of Federal, State or City Government; those working at the VA, for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, and the OKCPD; but also those who work in health care or higher education; guide them, strengthen, encourage and protect them, and grant their honorable, health-enhancing, hope-improving labor to bear beautiful fruit, and give them reasons to lift their voices to you in praise.

Please shield, steady and strengthen our military service members, especially those in our families who are deployed or are about to be.

Finally, we ask for wellbeing to ensue in our homes, within our families, and among our friends.


Sunday evening:

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground. (Psalm 147.5-6): it is to you we bring our entreaties and pleas and thanks.

Father, we call to mind in your presence various friends, family members and folks from our congregation who are dealing with diverse ailments, limitations and infirmities…we pray for their strength, resilience, and recovery. For those who are in the role of caregivers…, may they have the durability, flexibility, patience and stableness they will need to be able to give loving, helpful care. O Lord, hear our prayer.

We thank you, Lord God, for Xxxxx stepping up to be the president of WIC (Women in the Church). Lead her and the women in this church as they serve together and minister in multiple ways. Prosper their plans to make our building and congregation a more welcoming place for visitors and members alike. And be with the other ministries, like the Heritage Needlework Guild, as they make blankets for the YWCA Women’s Shelter. May they bring warmth – both inside and outside – to those who receive them.  O Lord, hear our prayer.

Thank you, Father, for the good things you’re doing in and through this congregation. Walk with us as we, like Enoch and Noah, seek to walk with you. Help us to hold fast to love and justice, waiting on you (Hosea 12.6). Since you take pleasure in your people; and you adorn the humble with salvation (Psalm 149:4), may we be known as the people of your pleasure, the humble adorned with salvation. Give us more opportunities for making disciples, and support us to follow through in disciple-making.  O Lord, hear our prayer.

We intercede on behalf of your church throughout the world, to include the Ruthenian Catholic Church; the Russian Greek Catholic Church; Samavesam of Telugu Baptist Churches in India; the United Evangelical Lutheran Churches in India; the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan; the Evangelical Reformed Church of Angola; and the New Apostolic Church. We ask that you make your people worthy of your calling and fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by your power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in your churches, and your people in him, according to your grace through the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1.11-12). O Lord, hear our prayer.