Monday, January 23, 2017

Prayer to End Abortion on the 44th Anniversary of Roe v Wade

  Heavenly Father, rise up to protect every unborn child in our land.  We pray to you for them with confidence 
and firm trust knowing that it is your Holy Will to remove the scourge of abortion from off the face of Your 
earth. Thank you that, on this, the 44th anniversary of our Supreme Court’s infamous decision about these 
things, You have helped Your people and given many victories in defense of unborn life since then.  Continue 
these victories by Your mercy.  Change the minds and melt the hearts of all who promote this evil, or who 
seek abortion as a remedy for the troubles of their lives, which troubles are – for many – very great. Make 
us – in our lives – a testimony of sexual purity; those who cherish human life, love and help our neighbors,
 guard and adopt the fatherless and unwanted, honor Your holy image wherever it is found in mankind, and 
willingly sacrifice of ourselves, our comforts and possessions, so that we might truly be your servants and in practical ways, bring about Your Kingdom and Your righteousness. Heavenly Father, we ask you this in the 
name of Jesus, Your Son.  

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Givenness of Things

"There is no freedom except when what we are, and do, corresponds to what has been given to us to be and to do."

-Oliver O'Donovan, The Desire of Nations

Monday, November 7, 2016

Why NOT to pray and fast on Election Day

Yesterday I preached what was probably the hardest sermon of my ministry career.  I told my congregation that - while I am all for things like prayer and fasting - I think there are important reasons NOT to do so tomorrow, in attachment with election day.  That was a shocking comment, and not one I made lightly.  I attempted to explain it and would like to elaborate here.

The entire sermon was an attack on the ways we make an idol of politics.  My community is a military community and we, of all people, in our closeness to the activities of the state, are tempted in the direction of political idolatry.  I fear that I made too little of the anguish that my parishioners feel as they watch our country arrive at this new low point.  Many of them have given their lives in service to our nation, and the heartache that is their current portion is significant and warranted.  It was not my intention to make light of it.
But where that heartache means total despair, it reveals the presence of an idol.  This is what I find so alarming about the way American Christians are calling for prayers and fastings in association with the voting process.   On the very day when the impotence of our idol is being exposed, we still cling to it with our eyes tightly shut refusing to acknowledge the judgment and truth.  We can pray and fast and hope it ain't so.  But there it is.  Our politics cannot save us.  We are not going to vote ourselves out of this mess.

Politics is very limited institution, mostly negative in it's power of enforcement and authority.  Law brings guilt, as the Apostle says, not life.  To look for solutions or lifegiving power from a political swordbearer is to put our trust and hope in a prince, which Scripture famously warns against.  It is like giving a farmer a hundred plowed acres, but only allowing him to use pesticide and a machete while expecting a bumper crop.  These are tools of excision, not growth.

A call to fast and pray is usually regarded as a call to repent.  Yet, at the top of the list of the sins we need to repent of nationally, are our political idolatry and our childish hunt for quick fixes to profound problems.  Yet, paradoxically, connecting a call to pray and fast with a political election will mostly likely simply reinforce and perpetuate both of those sins!

Our nation is like a morbidly obese man who is seeking relief from a peddler of pills.  The problem is that his own living throughout the decades of his life is what is killing him, and no pill will cure him of his own behavior.
Furthermore, I fear that calling for prayer and fasting on the day of elections is like that obese man calling his family to pray and fast on the day of his doctor's examination.  But the damage has already been done.  He ought to call them to pray and fast as he is driving to the grocery store, or as he is looking to join the membership of a gym, or pulling into the parkinglot of a buffet.  On the morning of the doctor's exam, it is too late.  Abraham told Dives, your time is up.  You had your fun.  The season of prayer has come to an end.

And this gets at the point.  Civil Government is not intended to solve our problems.  So stop praying that God would use it in that way.  We need to repent of thinking that our social problems have political solutions.

If you want to pray and fast for our country on a level that matters and on the day that counts - pray and fast on the first day of Christian school year - and then on the first day of summer break.  Pray and fast when your children are baptized or when a church building is under construction or when a neighbor moves in next to you, or a nursing home closes.  Pray and fast during Advent, Lent, and Holy Week - and repent of your own sins with the same zeal that you bring to bear when discussing taxation policies, illegal immigration, or gun rights.

Further thoughts ...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Our Hitler; Our Holocaust

There has been a lot said from both sides about the importance of the current election cycle.  There has been a lot said from both sides about the similarities of Trump to Hitler.  To be honest, I don't believe these are unfounded.  He strikes me as an obviously ego-centric, unstable, and generally untrustworthy person.  He certainly does remind one of the Furor and make one shudder to wonder what sort of holocaust might follow his election as a worst-case scenario.

But what if we're getting the analogy wrong?  What if the holocaust has already long-since begun?  What if we are already living with it and our Goerings, and Goebbels, and Eichmanns are nothing more than mainstream politicians reasonably proposing to maintain the status quo?  What if - for over a full generation now - the incinerators have been quietly humming in our midst and we - like so many nice German people - have turned a blind eye to them, refusing to believe that atrocities like these could ever actually be taking place in a land such as ours?

How then should we vote?


Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Communion Hymn Meditation: How Sweet and Aweful is the Place

In a few moments we’re going to sing together a favorite Isaac Watts hymn “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place.  It’s a hymn about this great parable –
He opens the first verse by describing the great and admire-able feast of Christ’s Kingdom – It is a feast that is sweet and full of awe … and one that displays the choicest foods from His stores.
And when we join together for that great feast, from our hearts, we will cry out to the Lord – “Why am I a guest?  Why did I hear Your voice inviting me here when so many others choose to starve outside?”
Watts gives us the correct answer.  The Lord replies – “The same sweet love that spread this feast drew you here.  Without it, you also would have refused and perished.”
So Watts finishes the hymn with a prayer for us to sing together.
And it is the application of this Kingdom parable.
After confessing that the only reason we’ve been invited into the Kingdom feast was the sweetness of God’s love toward us, we pray and ask Him to have compassion on the nations and to extend the call of His sweet love to all the earth.  We ask Him to constrain or draw strangers to their true home and to make His Word victorious, that it would triumph in our world.
The fact that unworthies such as we have been invited to Christ’s great banquet-feast fills us with longing to see all of His churches filled with people to join us in singing from our hearts with one voice the hymn of His redeeming grace.
Why did Israel receive the immeasurable blessings of the Covenant?  Why have we received the priceless blessings of the Kingdom?
Not because we earned it.  Not because God knew He’d get a good return on His investment.  In fact, as we’ll see – God-willing – later this season when we get to Lk 17, when we have done all we can, we will still have failed to return God any profit for what He spent on us.

By inviting us to His feast, Christ has been gracious to those who can never repay Him, just as He has called us to do.  And so the Father has exalted Him and will yet still reward Him at the consummation of all things – the resurrection of the just and the wedding feast of the Lamb.