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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

All Saints Day

All Saints Day
Hebrews 11

I know it’s coming and it’s just around the corner. For some it will be exciting, all of that dressing up in costumes, going to parties, bobbing for apples, knocking on doors, candy surprises and all that. For others it is discomfiting – all of those ghouls and goblins, super heroes and sassy mummers, black cats and witches, not counting the tomfoolery that sometimes attends that night, as when your car gets “egged,” etc. Some Christians have no problem with the event; others think it is straight from the mind of the devil. But there is something really important that almost always gets lost on Halloween – All Hallows’ Evening. It’s the next day (1 November) which for many Christians (Catholics, Orthodox, Episcopalians, Lutherans) is All Saints Day, or All Hallows’ Day. Now, this may not be the experience of your particular Christian tradition – it’s not in my tradition either, nevertheless it’s worth the time to take a moment and reflect on the value of this old celebration and what it meant.

One aspect of All Saints Day is the idea of celebrating the testimony of faithfulness displayed throughout the centuries. It’s about rejoicing and remembering how Christians of the past served God in the midst of terrible situations, as well as in ordinary seasons. Part of its purpose is to give thanks for their testimony of faith and faithfulness. Two of the important benefits of this are (1) to encourage folks in the present to persevere in godliness, and (2) to bring about a communally experienced, joyful reminder that we are all connected to those who have gone before us; that each and every one of us stands on the shoulders of others.

Notice how the writer of the letter to the Hebrews brings out this shared experience. He is remembering all of those in sacred history who had faith and acted out on that faith. There was Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob all the way to Moses (v. 4-31). Next he bundles up an army of others in verses 32-38 – Gideon, Barak, Samson, etc along with a host of unnamed folk. The writer is drawing us into sacred history, giving us a shared story and showing us that we belong to a long line of believing women and men who faced odds and ends, ups and downs, high and lows, hots and colds. Then the writer declares, “And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect” (39-40). Ahhh, the writer has announced that the story isn’t over! In fact he is claiming that the finishing touches of the story, the final chapters, are being penned out in our lives! Hand-in-hand we can look back and see a “faith genealogy,” a long connection to the past that can and should inspire us in the present. We’re not alone in this “long obedience in the same direction” (Eugene Peterson). We’re here, at this point, in this faith at this time because of the faithfulness of hordes and hordes of others who came before us. Good stuff to remember; humbling stuff to recall! For better or for worse, by ways of utter faithfulness, and sometimes faithless faithfulness, our little, personal stories are being drawn into God’s story big, world-rescue-operation story! We have a heritage, which helps us to grasp the idea that we have a forward-moving aim.

In a similar and perceptive vein, comes the observation of a British writer from the early 1900s, as he dealt with a topic similar to what we’re thinking about; “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man’s opinion, even if he is our father” (G.K. Chesterton, “Orthodoxy,” Chapter 4).

The suddenly the writer of the letter to the Hebrews points us onward, in chapter 12, to look in the direction that all of our forbearers looked – as we think about our forebearers and how presently the story is being continued; “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12.1-3).
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Allow me, then, to draw from all of this and make some suggestions that might change the whole temperature of this time of year for you:

Take around a week and start thinking of those who were immediately instrumental to you coming to faith in Christ. Write out their names and maybe a one-line description of the role they played. Next, go further back to as far back as your mind and memory can reach, writing down the names of mothers, fathers, grandparents, great-grans, jotting down that one-line description. Don’t be ashamed of their warts and stains, don’t try to gloss them over – the Bible doesn’t! Instead, remember that they were just as big of hypocrites and sinners as you and I are; what made them memorable, at the end of the day, was where they were looking – the story they are in, looking unto Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith!

Secondly, go outside of your family lineage, and recall others who were significant in your life of faith in Christ, reaching as far back as you can recollect. Martin Luther King Jr.; Abraham Lincoln; Harriot Tubman; George Washington; Susanna Wesley; John and Charles Wesley; Thomas Cranmer; John Calvin; Martin Luther; Philip Melanchthon; Martin Bucer; St. Thomas Aquinas; Anselm; Athanasius; Clement of Alexandria; Julian of Norwich; Perpetua the martyr; back, back, back. Again, don’t be shocked by their warts and stains, remember that they were just as wrinkled and rotten as you and I are, and yet God still penned the continuation of his story through them.

Then on a specific date very soon, say on Saturday, November the 1st or Sunday the 2nd; spend some significant time – maybe even with your family gathered around – giving thanks to God for these forbearers in the faith. Give thanks that in spite of all their failures, episodes of faithlessness; moral disasters here and there; weaknesses and imperfections, that God was active in them and through them; that they ran the race looking to Jesus. Take delight that God is faithful to his promises. That he is "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands [of generations], forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34.6-7a). Rejoice that he takes pleasure in enlisting loads of broken people to bring about his goodness and righteousness and world rescue operation. And if he did this in the past – hallelujah! – he will do so now and on into the future. There is a place for us!!!!

Finally, allow your droopy hearts to be cheered. You have a destiny; you have a role to play; you have a purpose and direction; God’s world rescue operation story is being filled out in your life as it is drawn into his narrative. Therefore, fueled by the “democracy of the dead,” so to speak; and looking along with them in their gaze upward and onward, you can now begin to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and [can] run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Congregational Prayer: Morning and Evening 19 October 2014

Sunday Morning Prayer:
O Lord God, who saved us from the constraints of fear so that we may serve you in the freedom of love; we come in confidence to pray for your World and your Church.

We pray for the nations of this earth, which desire to through off any allegiance to you, and conspire together against your anointed One (Psalm 2). Put your reverence in them, cause them to discard all their bloodlust, greed and jingoistic pride; and turn them toward your righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14.17).

Almighty God, thank you for the heritage and legacy of this country. We are not ignorant of its many failings, but we are grateful for its initial recognition of God-ordained liberties. Lead our leaders and govern our governors that they may love mercy, do justly and walk humbly before you in the way of your truth.

We pray for our U.S. Military personnel as they serve this country, may they do so honorably and valiantly. Comfort them in their difficulties, preserve their families, and provide for them all things necessary for their well-being.

 Lord, until Your Son returns to right all wrongs, and completes what he began at the cross and empty tomb, there is still death, dying, disease and desperation. We pray for all who are suffering in any way (esp. these)….have mercy on one and all, clear away all clouds that blind them from seeing your goodness, and be pleased to prosper them in body, mind and heart.

Lord, we are grieved over those who have never confessed Christ Jesus as the Lord, those who have strayed away from the faith, and those who claim to be atheists and skeptics…;  Give them new hearts, draw them in and give them to your Son; and provide us with opportunities to tell them the Good News of Christ Jesus the Lord.

We pray for your Church throughout the world: For the faithful, we implore you to shower your lavish kindnesses on them and supply all their need according to your riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4.19). Those of our brothers and sisters who are straying into paths that dishonor you, restrain and restore them. For this congregation, we pray that You would continue to add to our number such as are being saved; keep us in continual godliness and fruitfulness, that through your protection we may be free from all adversities and devoutly given over to serving you in all good works.
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Sunday Evening Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we did not choose you, but you chose us and appointed us that we should go and bear fruit and that our fruit should abide, so that whatever we ask the Father in your name, he may give it to us (John 15.16). Thank you for promising such rich assurances! Lord, believing what you have promised, we pray now with confidence in your name:

For Your Church in all places, including Greater Hope Baptist Church; Greater Love Baptist; Greater Marshall Memorial Baptist; Greater Mt. Carmel Baptist; Greater Mt. Pilgrim Baptist; Greater New Zion Baptist and Greater Shiloh Baptist Church: O GOD the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that, as there is but one Body, and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all; so we may henceforth be all of one heart, and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and with one mind and one mouth glorify you through Jesus Christ our Lord (taken from The Book of Common Prayer). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Father, almighty and everlasting God, source of all wisdom and understanding, who desires us to bear good fruit that abides: be present with us, renew us, help us to stay focused on your world rescue mission, teach us in all things to seek first your honor and glory; guide us to perceive what is right, and then grant us the courage to pursue it and the grace to accomplish it (adapted from The Book of Common Prayer). O Lord, hear our prayer.

O God you are our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore supply us with such reliable resolution and confident conviction in you that we will not fear; even though the earth gives way, the mountains are moved into the heart of the sea, the earth’s waters roar and foam, the mountains tremble and swell (Psalm 46.1-3); whether economies crumble, or plague or pestilence rage; whether sickness strikes us personally or catastrophe smashes into our lives. For of all people, we should always walk in hope, confidence, and humble-boldness because Christ is risen and that makes these things only a light momentary affliction that is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the transient things that are seen, but the eternal things that are not seen. Good God, help us to be the people who walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 4.17-18; 5.7). O Lord, hear our prayer.


We implore your protection and care on Pastor John as he travels home today; keep him safe. And once he lands, grant him rest and a speedy rebound. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Congregational Prayer Morning and Evening: 12 October 2014

Sunday Morning:
We lift up our hearts to you, Lord God, for your bounteous gifts and plentiful favors: rain, food, health, life, taste, sight, family, friends and vocations. And most of all we revere you because you alone are God, who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfastness and faithfulness, who keeps steadfast love for thousands of generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.

O Lord, we pray for the besieged and beleaguered peoples in our world, suffering from floods and droughts, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, unemployment and underemployment, military threats, fears and pestilence. Please establish peace, justice, recovery and efficient economies in all lands, for the good of all, so that the Gospel of Jesus may spread unchecked, and that your Church may dwell securely in peace and quietness.

Guide our own leaders to throw off selfish programs, cut-throat tactics, dastardly devices and to put on what is truly legitimate and will promote evenhanded integrity.

Be with all of those in the U.S. Military, especially when deployed and in harm’s way; keep them safe, preserve their families, and bring them home whole in body and soul.

After this last week we are reminded that our police officers and deputies often find themselves in peril. Please be with our law enforcers and peace officers in the Oklahoma County area; preserve them from ambushes and traps; safeguard them from angry people, vicious criminals, and careless drivers.

Give ear to our concerns as we pray for those who are still in their unbelief and for those who have deserted the Christian Faith….may they turn around and believe in your Son Jesus Christ, and have everlasting life.

We pray for our enemies that you would lead them and us from prejudice to truth; and deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty and revenge to faith, hope and love; and in your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you through Jesus Christ Your Son.

Finally, we recall before you those of our friends, families and fellowship who are recovering from medical procedures…, dealing with cancer…, struggling with finances…, limping along in deeply damaged marriages…, hampered by depression…, troubled with brain issues…, and others… Show yourself mighty to save that they may rejoice in your rich kindnesses throughout the remainder of their lives.

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Sunday Evening:
Lord Jesus, you have graciously promised that if we abide in you, and your words abide in us, we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be done for us; for by this our Father is glorified, that we bear much fruit and so prove to be your disciples (John 15.7-8). Thank you for promising such rich assurances! Lord, believing what you have promised, we pray now with confidence in your name:

For Your Church in all places, including Grand Blvd Baptist Church; Greater Bethel Baptist; Greater Canon Baptist; Greater Concord Baptist, and Greater Fellowship Baptist Church: Our desire is to see all who claim to be your people to stand holy and whole and undivided in Jesus Christ. Therefore those who have stumbled into errors that dishonor you and create schism, restore them to your way of truth; those who have allowed their desires and ambitions to squeeze out brotherly love and create fights and wars, reinstate them in the cross-shaped ways of Christ; those who are towing the line and promoting wholesome doctrine and genuine godliness in modesty, encourage them by giving grace to the humble while you withstand the proud; and those who are standing firm against the pressures and persecutions of the world, strengthen them that in life and in death they may remain faithful witnesses. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Father, we want to be a church that glorifies you by bearing good fruit. Consider our lack and what our age thinks to be unimpressive. Be free with us, Lord. Make free us of our abilities and our facilities. Help us to have it as our Goal, Aim, Mission, Motivation and Ambition that we would compassionately and fearlessly make known the Gospel of Jesus Christ and your whole counsel; that we would thrive in the appointed means of your grace: the Word, sacraments and prayer; that we would actively make disciples of Jesus Christ, locally and out to the end of the earth; and that being an ordinary, simple church we would always know that we are serving the extraordinary God. O Lord, hear our prayer.

We implore you to strengthen our families and friendships in this church. We ask you to fill the parents and kids, along with the husbands and wives with graciousness and godliness, charity and character, for our progress and joy in the Faith (Philippians 1.25). Similarly we ask you to fortify and uphold those who are single – whether younger or older – that they may be free from anxieties, and give their singleness to caring for things of the Lord, how to please the Lord (1 Corinthians 7.32). And strengthen our friendships, especially inside this congregation, that in love and laughter, purpose and pleasure, care and comfort we may increasingly grow in solidarity with each other in Jesus Christ. O Lord, hear our prayer.

We implore your protection and care on Pastor John as he travels, preaches and teaches. Build up your people through his work, keep him resilient in body and soul, and bring him safely home when it’s time. Lord, hear our prayer.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

"The Word Became Fresh" by Dale Ralph Davis; a Review

The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts
Dale Ralph Davis
Mentor
(A Christian Focus Publications imprint)
Geanies House
Fearn, Tain
Ross-shire IV20 1TW
Scotland, UK
www.christianfocus.com
ISBN: 9781845501921; November 2006; $16.99

5 out of 5 stars: Fresh and Friendly

Many people seem to be intimidated and unsettled by the Old Testament. Even among Christians most plainly avoid reading it all the way through. They may glance at little snippets here and there; refer back to it when reading some text from the New Testament that mentions an Old Testament passage; or paste a heartwarming verse from Joshua, the Psalms or one of the prophets on their wall plaques. But truth be told, most Christians find the Old Testament, and especially the narratives, perplexing. And so do many preachers. Ask yourself two questions: (1) when was the last time you heard a sermon series or Sunday School series that walked the congregation through an Old Testament book? And (2) on balance, which portion of the Bible gets more press coverage in your congregation?  And yet, if the Apostle Paul could boldly claim, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15.4); and even our Lord Jesus, after his resurrection, could unashamedly begin “with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24.27; see also 24.44-47), then surely the Old Testament is the friend of Christ’s people and Christ’s preachers. That is where Dale Ralph Davis, Minister in Residence at First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina and one time Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, comes to our rescue with his 154 page paperback, “The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts.”

“The Word Became Fresh” has one central aim: helping the preacher to practice and preach properly the Old Testament, “These pages therefore focus on the proper interpretation of Old Testament narratives in preparation for preaching” (i). The author carefully, humorously, and engagingly walks the reader through various aspects necessary in rightly reading the Old Testament. Each chapter is chock full of samplings and demonstrations that can be easily grasped and quickly become highly devotional.

In the nine chapters of the book, Davis covers solid material. At the outset he looks into how we should approach our study of the Old Testament (or any of God’s Scriptures-texts) as “beggars for the Spirit’s help” (2). He then guides us along showing the reader how and why to be alert to the literary quirks of a narrative passage.  Next he slides us into seeing the theology of passages, the stuff that it says and means “about God, his ways and his works” (31). The way a story is packaged, how its organization “and packaging reveal care and thoughtfulness about the whole ordeal” (45) is addressed in the fourth chapter.  Davis then boldly goes where most preachers hate to go, diving into the “nasties” of the Old Testament; those passages that make readers, preachers and teachers cringe. The author, next, shows the value of looking at the “macroscope” of a narrative, where it fits within the flow of the Old Testament book in which it resides. Following this, Davis shows how passages are and aren’t to be applied in preaching (something he has actually been exhibiting all along in the book).  Then the author explains and expounds that the central focus of every Old Testament narrative is theocentric, which means that in “all our reading we should keep our eye on God – what he is revealing about himself and how he is working” (121). Finally, Davis wraps the book together by giving the reader an opportunity to walk with him through Exodus 1 and 2, applying all that they have learned. In the book Davis does take sides on a few of the debates simmering among the “Reformed,” but he does so charitably and without getting tangled up in the fishing net. And I must say that every piece of the hermeneutical pie Davis has baked is delectable and digestible.  

Now please don’t let the subtitle of the book fool you. Though Davis is trying to encourage and help preachers to take the bold plunge into the Old Testament and preach it, nevertheless the material between the covers of “The Word Became Fresh” is accessible to Bible class teachers, moms, dads, camp counselors, prisoners, school teachers, headmasters, professors, and street maintenance workers. As a matter of fact, I found the whole book devotional. If a reader didn’t have time to indulge in a specific chapter at one sitting, it would be easy to imbibe in one chapter section at a time. For example, Chapter Three, “Theology,” covers Genesis 12, Genesis 23, Genesis 26, and Genesis 29.31-30.24. The reader could easily take each of these passages and segments one day at a time: read the Bible passage being covered, then Davis’s comments on it in the book, and finally take a moment to praise God for what you have just learned, or pray that God might make what you have just studied alive in your heart and awash in your day. Then on the following morning pick up the next passage and book section, doing this all the way to the end of the book. It will be time well invested.

“The Word Became Fresh” is a clear, concise and accommodating manual for anyone wanting to come to the Old Testament and benefit from it. This would be a nice gift for your preacher and it would be a valuable addition to your own library. I even think it could be used in an adult Bible class, and covered in one quarter. I first read this work in 2007, and was delighted to be refreshed by a second read, now some seven years later. I eagerly recommend this book.


{Feel free to publish or repost this review: and as always, please give credit where credit is due. Mike}

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sunday Morning and Evening Prayer - 5 October 2014

Sunday morning:
O Lord God, who draws near to your people, that we may draw near to you; we come in confidence to pray for your World and your Church.

We pray for the nations of this earth, which rage and rush maddeningly against your healthy boundaries, trying to gain the upper hand over you and one another. In place of their fuming and fury, bestow and work into them peace, justice and civility.

Almighty God, grateful for the country where we have been born; we long to see our leaders and fellow-citizens walking in ways that tend toward peace, integrity and fairness. Guide the elections and the voters to select the right people for the good of our country and the peace of your Church.

We pray for our U.S. Military personnel as they serve this country, may they do so honorably. Comfort them when depressed and worried. Preserve their families from unnerving stress. And provide for them all things necessary for their well-being.

Lord, until your Son returns to right all wrongs, and complete what he began at the cross and empty tomb, there is still death, dying, disease and desperation. We pray for all who are suffering in any way (especially these)….restore, rejuvenate and heal.

Lord, we bring to your attention those who have never confessed Christ Jesus as the Lord, those who have strayed away from the faith, and those who claim to be atheists and skeptics…;  Give them new hearts, draw them in and give them to your Son; and provide us opportunities to tell them the Good News of Christ Jesus the Lord.

Watch over and strengthen Pastor John while he is away. Protect him in his travels, guide him as he teaches, prosper his preaching, and bring him home safely.

We pray for Your Church throughout the world. Supply all our financial, physical, communal and holy needs for our good and your glory. For this congregation, we pray that you would add to our number such as are being saved; and grant that as we are bathed in the light of your incarnate Word, that what shines by faith in our hearts and minds may also blaze out in our lives.

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Sunday evening:
Holy God, the almighty, invincible, immutable; we worship you and give thanks that you are the one true God, who forms light and creates darkness, who makes well-being and creates calamity; you created the heavens – you are God, you formed the earth and made it – not as an empty planet, but a place to be inhabited. You are the LORD and there is no other. You did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; you did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek me in vain.’ You, O LORD, speak the truth; you declare what is right. Glory to you, Lord God, most high (Isaiah 45.7, 18-19)!

Lord Jesus, while dining at the leading Pharisee’s house that one Sabbath, you freed and healed the man with dropsy giving him rest and restoration on your holy day (Luke 13.11-16); grant the same for those for whom we now pray – those recovering from surgery; those who are tussling with the formidable fear of cancer; those who are limping and lame from inflammations; those who are despondent, disheartened and drained; and others…. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord our God, thank you for the many who seek to make a wholesome difference in our country, state and communities; such as mayors, aldermen and those on city councils; senators and legislators; judges, police chiefs, sheriffs, State offices of various kinds; and all the other positions. They have a hard row to hoe, especially those who are conscientious and honorable. Strengthen them when they are weary; give them the fortitude to be men and women of genuine integrity; surround them with decent and upstanding staff. And through their work may our common life together become increasingly healthy so that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” For this is good, and it is pleasing in your sight, O God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2.2-4). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Again compassionate God we implore you for rain. Please adjust and attune the jet streams and weather patterns that our lands, crops, cattle, springs and aquifers may be replenished. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord God: death, disease, drought and dastardly deeds are afflicting many lands. Governments, bandits, gluttonous institutions, along with starving and desperate people are spreading these across borders, making things worse here and there. We pray for real remedies, and we ask you to bring about righteous restoration; for the good of all, and especially for the welfare of your Church.  O Lord, hear our prayer.


We beseech you on behalf of your church throughout the world, as well as Grace Baptist Church; Grace Community Baptist; Grace and Glory Baptist; Grace Missionary Baptist; Grace Place Baptist; Grace Pointe Baptist; and Graceway Baptist church: That you would KEEP your Church by your perpetual mercy: and, because the frailty of man without you cannot but fall, keep us ever by your help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation, and our glorifying and enjoying (from the “Book of Common Prayer”). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Friday, October 3, 2014

"Rulers: Gospel and Government" edited by Charles Garriott; a Review

Rulers: Gospel and GovernmentRulers: Gospel and Government by Charles M. Garriott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a highly politicized age like ours, it's rare to find Christian people who simply want to serve Christ by serving Government leaders. Most Jesus-followers I know have serious difficulty in separating their personal political views from their ultimate politics - the Kingdom of God. Over the centuries several pastor-scholars have sought to distinguish between the two realms, from St. Augustine's "The City of God" to Herman Dooyeweerd's Sphere Sovereignty. At times the Church has conflated one earthly reign or other with God's reign; and at other times, at least for a few portions of Christ's Church, the two reigns have been so divided that there has been almost no interface. All of this leaves Christians wondering how they can minister, as disciples of Jesus taking the Gospel of Jesus into the world for Jesus, to civil leaders. "Rulers: Gospel and Government" edited by Charles Garriott, one-time pastor of Heritage Presbyterian Church in Edmond Oklahoma and now Director of Ministry to State in Washington D.C., speaks just to this issue. Garriott has pulled together eight people to write a short, 143 page hardback that speaks to the "How-to" of bringing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to governmental leaders.

"Rulers" is not an intensely theological work, though there is good theology in it. It is not a deeply theoretical book, though there is clearly some sound and worked-out theory between the covers. Most of the chapters are personal stories that describe how different pastors took steps to minister to legislators, senators, governors, and staffers at the State, Federal and International levels. The writers include: Steve Bostrom, pastor-at-large in Helena Montana; Charles Garriott, mentioned above; Bobby Griffith Associate Pastor of City Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City; Dr. David Clyde Jones, Professor emeritus of Systematic Theology and Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary; Glenn Parkinson, Pastor of Severna Park Presbyterian Church in Severna Park Maryland; Steven Preston, one time administrator of the Small Business Administration and then Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, both under the Bush Administration; Dr. Harry Reeder, Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham Alabama; and Dr. Rodney Wood who has led the Louisiana Legislators' Bible Study/Prayer Breakfast since 2000.

"Rulers" is an easy-to-digest book that will bring the Christian reader to appreciate the difficulties that civil servants and elected officials bear, as well as the importance of ministering to them. This book will also give one a better appreciation for the mission, the aim and the goal that informs and direct's "Ministry to State". This would be a good book to find on a congregation's book table, and a valuable "must-read" for anyone wanting to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the compassion of Christ to or Governmental leaders. I recommend the book.

{For more on the "Ministry to State" and how you can get involved, you can go to this link: http://pcamna.org/ministry-to-state/}

[Feel free to publish or re-post this review; and as always, please give credit where credit is due. Mike]
View all my reviews

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Congregational Prayer: 28 September 2014 PM

[If you find this set of prayers useful, or a portion beneficial, please use them. You have my full permission. Mike]
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We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds. At the set time that you appoint you will judge with equity. Even when the earth totters, and all its inhabitants, it is you who keep steady its pillars. Truly it is not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness that there comes lifting up, but it is you, our God, who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another (Psalm 75.1-3, 6-7). Glory to you, O Lord God, the most high!

Lord Jesus, who took the woman that had the disabling spirit for 18 years, and set her free at your word, “Woman, you are freed from your disability;” who liberated that daughter of Abraham whom Satan had bound for eighteen years, loosening her from bondage on that Sabbath day (Luke 13.11-16); grant the same for those for whom we pray – those facing surgery; those dealing with the fearsome fright of cancer; those earnestly ailing and aching; those depressed and dark; those bound and debilitated. And please comfort and care for those who lost loved ones in Moore this past week. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Lord our God, when violence momentarily erupts in our businesses and schools it startles and frightens us; it angers and worries us. But it also reminds us how little violence there really is in this country. Thank you for the comparative safety and wellbeing we experience in this land. May this safety and well-being continue here for us, for our children and grandchildren for generations to come. And Lord God, reflecting on what you told your servant Isaiah, please forgive us for calling “conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy,” for fearing and dreading what they fear. It is you, O LORD of hosts that we are to honor as holy. It is you who are to be our fear, you who are to be your dread (Isaiah 8.12-13). O Lord, hear our prayer.

Caring Father, compassionate God, we still need more rain here in Oklahoma, in West Texas, and all the way out to California. Oh God, redirect jet streams and weather patterns that our lands, crops, cattle, springs and aquifers may be replenished. O Lord, hear our prayer.

Mighty God, look on the international landscape; we pray on behalf of weeping mothers, suddenly-orphaned children, grieving fathers, and swiftly widowed men and women in war-ravaged lands! Dear God, have mercy and grant peace in our time, and may justice and righteousness prevail in all places. Relieve the suffering and the hunger seething in drought-stricken and famine-afflicted regions, as well as those being ravaged by pestilence. And open the doors that we may somehow be part of your cure.  O Lord, hear our prayer.


We beseech you on behalf of your church throughout the world, as well as Fortieth Street Baptist Church; Friendship Baptist Church; Garden Addition Baptist; God’s Chosen People Baptist; Good Shepherd Missionary Baptist Church: along with our Reformed University Fellowships at OSU; RUF at OU; RUF at Univ. Tulsa; “Give us life, and we will call upon your name! Restore us, O LORD God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80.18b-19)! O Lord, hear our prayer.

Followers