Today, O LORD, we express our Thanksgiving.
We begin with the simple things of our days:
Fresh air to breathe, cool water to drink,
The taste of food, the comforts of home.
For all these we make an act of Thanksgiving this day!
We recall the warmth of humankind that we have known:
The caring of parents, the encouragement of friends;
Even the tears we have shed and seen;
The tightening of the grip in a simple handshake when we
Feared the road before us in darkness;
The whisper in the heart when temptation was fiercest
The crucial word said, the simple sentence from an open
Page when a decision hung in the balance.
Without You, O Lord, life would have no meaning;
The pilgrims saw this truth and set their sails for a new world.
For all this we make an act of Thanksgiving this day.
Our Father--in humbleness of mind, simplicity of heart,
And in our Savior’s Name--we pray, Amen.
By Rev Dr John Huffman, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (notes on his chapel lecture on 29 Oct 2013)
1) Seminary can be the best place in the world to lose your faith…by becoming professional, by a casual familiarity with religious work, and by a purely academic approach to Scripture that doesn’t touch the heart.
2) The necessity of maintaining a daily devotional time, apart from professional reading, sermon and Bible study preparation.
3) The highest calling in the world is not professional ministry. Clergy are not elite individuals, but player-coaches.
4) You will never be more in ministry than you are today. Don’t live for tomorrow. Be faithful right now.
5) Get involved in an accountability/covenant group where you can share and pray, and never be out of one.
6) Simple trust in God’s word is more important than a highly sophisticated answer to everything (plus-you don’t have all the answers). This is not to minimize academic excellence, but strive to be a trusting, loving person who is close to God.
7) Spend time knowing the news and culture so you can relate to the world of the people you’re ministering to, so you can speak to where they’re at. Go native.
8) Be faithful to biblical/moral standards now—not when you become a minister. Seeds are being sown right now, and some might well shipwreck your life.
1. Choose a specific place to pray, away from distractions so you can concentrate. Ringing phones and crying children will sabotage your "quiet time" before it gets started.
2. Pray at the same time every day, if at all possible. Make it part of your regular routine and it will become a habit. Write it into your schedule and then treat it just like a daily appointment.
3. Pray out loud. Many people can pray under their breath or in their minds for long periods and still maintain intensity, but for most of us it's a quick ticket to dreamland. When we pray out loud we have to form intelligent sentences. We have to concentrate more on what we're praying about.
4. Keep a note pad handy so you can jot down different things that come to mind while you're before the Lord. Sometimes you'll get great ideas totally unrelated to what you've been praying about. If you jot them down you can quickly get back to the topic at hand without being too distracted.
5. Make a list to keep track of your prayer needs. This can be done several ways. Prayer needs can be listed by category like "Church," "Family," or "Unsaved friends." Or they may be listed by the days of the week. Each day you pray for a different set of needs. You may want to include prayer everyday for a different area of society that has a tremendous influence on the direction of our nation. These seven categories include 1) the church and religion, 2) the family and the home, 3) friends, 4) government/world events, 5) education, 6) the media, business and commerce, and 7) the arts and entertainment.
6. Redeem time for praying out of unused corners of your schedule. Those who have to drive to work can use the time talking with the Lord instead of yelling at bad drivers and potholes (just don't close your eyes!). Busy homemakers can combine prayer with housework, especially if the task doesn't require a lot of concentration. Joggers, swimmers and cyclists can use their workout time for prayer.
7. Change the pace during your prayer time. Include praise, thanksgiving and singing as well as petition. Spend some of your time reflecting on the Scripture, meditating on it and digesting its meaning. Write down your prayers occasionally…which leads to:
8. Keep a prayer journal. Here are two variations of this idea. The first is to keep track of what you prayed for and when you prayed for it. Leave a space to jot down the answer when it comes. This will help you to keep alert to God's answer so you can thank Him promptly. Sometimes prayer answers come in the back door and you don't want them to slip by you. The second variation is to write the entire prayer in your journal. Make it a personal letter to the Lord on a daily basis. Just write "Dear Lord" instead of "Dear Diary."
9. Pray with someone else. Though some prayers can only be said in solitude, there will be times when you'll want to join hearts with another person in prayer. If you commit to meet on a regular basis, the accountability can really help build consistency. Such prayer trysts can become powerful, life-changing events. A partner gives you accountability and encouragement to pray faithfully.
10. Pray one-sentence prayers. If the thought of laboring over a topic wears you out, pray short, sincere prayers instead. A sentence or two may be all that's needed to exhaust the topic for you for the time being. If so, just move on to the next item without feeling guilty for your brevity.
This is an important thing, which I have told many people, and which my father told me, and which his father told him. When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstance would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it. (Gilead, HarperCollins 2004, p. 124)
Town Hall meeting invocation…
Lord God, before we get down to business, we want to pause a bit to honor You and to ask that You help us in our deliberations. These often involve conflict, so cause us to be open to discussion; help us to keep things calm and dialogical, and assist us in being tolerant—which means accepting others even though we’re convinced we’re right and they’re wrong. Perfect harmony we’re not going to achieve, Lord, but at least help us to be civil and to be good listeners. Bless our town. This is a good town to live in, and for that we’re grateful. Keep us close to You and in good relationships with one another. In Your most holy Name, Amen.
ESPN analyst and sportswriter Chris Broussard is under fire after calling homosexuality a sin during a televised discussion Monday, WORLD reports. Broussard, a well-known and committed Christian who has written about his beliefs before, was asked to comment on NBA player Jason Collins' announcement that he is gay. During the ESPN program "Outside the Lines," which also featured openly gay sportswriter LZ Granderson, the host asked Broussard to comment on Collins' claim to be a Christian. "Personally, I don't believe that you can live an openly homosexual lifestyle or an openly premarital sex between heterosexuals, if you're openly living that type of a lifestyle, then the Bible says you know them by their fruits, it says that's a sin," Broussard said. "If you're openly living in unrepentant sin, whatever it may be, not just homosexuality, adultery, fornication, premarital sex between heterosexuals, whatever it may be, I believe that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ. I would not characterize that person as a Christian because I do not think the Bible would characterize them as a Christian." In a statement released after the show, ESPN distanced itself from Broussard, saying: "We regret that a respectful discussion of personal viewpoints became a distraction from today's news. ESPN is fully committed to diversity and welcomes Jason Collins' announcement." Note that ESPN says they're committed to diversity, yet they are INTOLERANT of any view that deems homosexuality as sin. Christianity isn't included in their diverse universe, nor any other religion that has views which do not support various sexual behaviors. If a sports star said he/she was practicing incest or polygamy would their diversity also have been applauded? Tolerance is no longer a two-way street, and what makes this story so amazing is how blatantly ESPN applauds itself for diversity while demonizing those with alternative views. It is what D.A. Carson calls "The intolerance of tolerance."
One night a swimming instructor in a large university could not sleep, so he decided to slip into the gymnasium for a dip in the indoor pool. "I did not put on the lights," he said, "for I knew the place very well. As the roof was made of glass, the light of the moon shone through dimly, throwing my shadow on the wall. I noticed that my outstreached body made a perfect sign of the cross. That silhouette turned my mind to Calvary and its meaning. I was not a Christian, yet I found myself repeating the words of a hymn I had learned as a boy, 'He died that we might be forgiven; He died to make us good, that we might go at last to Heaven, saved by His precious blood.' I climbed down from the high dive and walked along the pool to ther steps leading to the pool, when I saw that there was no water; the pool must've been drained by the caretaker. Had I dove, I would've been killed. The shadow of the cross had saved me. I was so thankful to God for saving my life that I asked Christ to save my soul."
Representative Michael Capuano led Congress in a moment of silence for the victims of the Marathon bombing. He rightly said: “Clearly anyone who acts in such a manner is an evil person and deserves to be called as such." Sometimes (in wishful thinking) we hope that society will get better and learn to get along. Human nature and horrific events remind us regularly that things are not getting better. We may be more educated and technologically advanced, but we are still a violent race. Though formed in God’s image, we do not morally reflect our loving Creator.
When atrocities like what happened this week occur, we are appalled and dismayed, angered and disgusted…but not surprised. We recall Genesis 3 and the Fall of humankind. Adam left a heritage of dishonor, and that dishonor is still with us. Sin is treason against the One who made us; sin destroys what is good and true. We sadly understand that we live in a broken, fallen, sin-defiled world, desperately in need of redemption--a world for which our Lord Jesus gave His life. We know what people are capable of…and we know why. Eric Hoffer observed, “We are beasts masquerading as men.” When we are separated from God, that sin makes all sins possible.
Yet our hope and safety rests in Christ our Lord.
It's Maundy Thursday, and we're preparing to sit in the Upper Room and ponder the meaning of the Bread and Cup. Tomorrow we'll be walking the path of the cross at Breakheart Reservation, and on early Eastern morn is the Sunrise Service. In amid the activity we find ourselves thinking (I hope) of why Jesus came to die. I used to view Jesus as a martyr, hated for his teachings. I then came to understand the cross in terms of sacrifice...for sin...for me. The just (Jesus) for the unjust (me again). And this changed my life. Theologians call this the doctrine of substitutionary atonement. In simple terms, Jesus died in our behalf, taking our place, taking the punishment we deserved. God is just and does not overlook sin. It must be punished--and was--upon the cross. And the resurrection seals our salvation. The Father is merciful because the Son died for us...and that makes life worth living and death nothing to dread.
Romans 6:18 says, "Having been freed from sin, we have become slaves of righteousness." This brings to mind a reflection by Thomas Merton..."The mind is the prisoner of conventional ideas, and the will that is the captive of its own desire cannot accept the seeds of an unfamiliar truth and a supernatural desire. For how can I receive the seeds of freedom if I am in love with slavery, and how can I cherish the desire of God if I am filled with another and an opposite desire? God cannot plant His liberty in me because I am a prisoner and I do not even desire to be free. I love my captivity and I imprison myself in the desire for the things that I hate, and I have hardened my heart against true love. I must learn therefore to let go of the familiar and the usual and consent to what is new and unknown to me. I must learn to 'leave myself' in order to find myself by yielding to the love of God. If I were looking for God, every event and every moment would sow, in my will, grains of His life that would spring up one day in a tremendous harvest."
Alcoholics Anonymous is a kind of grass-roots church. People attend on a regular basis and seek help from Above; they confess their sins and find life-affirming fellowship. When an addict begins, he/she is encouraged to do "90 meetings in 90 days" and to get a "sponsor", i.e. a mentor who's "been there." This is all very good, and something the Church needs to model. I wish people who go to church would approach worship with the same sense of urgency as those who attend AA meetings. We are addicted to sin, and desperately need pardon and new direction, which is available. We have much to learn from AA and the 12 Steps, which apply to daily living, regardless of whether you're addicted to a substance or activity, or not. I did a sermon series on these steps, and my congregation "got it"; they realized that the principles of AA are life-building blocks for an effective/full life. Let's make sure we make a meeting this Sunday!
I like football, but I am frustrated at the hype over the Super Bowl. Some act like it ought to be a national holiday, and many church goers skip church to prepare for the game...even though their team isn't playing. This is an indication of misplaced priorities. Churches with evening worship either cancel or have a Super Bowl party. When I lived in Texas, I got the impression that football was the state religion. Well, that's my rant. Next time I'll keep it positive.
Seminarians facing ordination encounter the question of calling, which vicinage councils usually ask about. Being trained, gifted, and ready to do the work doesn't seem enough; yet how does one define and defend a "calling"? A few years ago I ready Gary Friesen's book Decision Making and the Will of God, which is the best study I've seen on the subject, and I'm in the process of reading The Call by Os Guiness. When Friesen came before his vicinage council they weren't pleased that he hadn't received an inner "impression," yet (and I mentioned this to him when he was at GCTS) what might they have said if he said "An angel came to me and told me to be a pastor"? There are two options: special revelation (the Scriptures) and direct revelation (God or an angel appearing to an individual), but nothing about "impressions" in Scripture, which is very subjective. Friesen's council even had trouble defining the "call to the ministry" when he asked for a definition. I decided to give it a try...
A calling is a vocation lived out as a willing, committed response to God's summons based on a godly desire to serve, prayerfully verified by others.
This may help somewhat, but ultimately we have the God-given wisdom, freedom, and responsibility to decide how to live for Him.
Was Spurgeon the Original Inspiration for the “Footprints” Poem?
The opening paragraph of a Spurgeon sermon from 1880:
Were you ever in a new trouble, one which was so strange that you felt that a similar trial had never happened to you and, moreover, you dreamt that such a temptation had never assailed anybody else? I should not wonder if that was the thought of your troubled heart. And did you ever walk out upon that lonely desert island upon which you were wrecked and say, “I am alone—alone—ALONE—nobody was ever here before me”? And did you suddenly pull up short as you noticed, in the sand, the footprints of a man? I remember right well passing through that experience—and when I looked, lo, it was not merely the footprints of a man that I saw, but I thought I knew whose feet had left those imprints. They were the marks of One who had been crucified, for there was the print of the nails. So I thought to myself, “If He has been here, it is no longer a desert island. As His blessed feet once trod this wilderness-way, it blossoms now like the rose and it becomes to my troubled spirit as a very garden of the Lord!”
—Charles Haddon Spurgeon, “The Education of the Sons of God” (Metropolitan Tabernacle: June 10, 1880).
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