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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 28

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Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Psalm 103:2-5 ESV)

The Lord of Amazing Grace
“Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy” - Not merely satisfied with removing our sins from us (“as far as the east is from the west” v.12), not content to just obliterate our status as enemies of God, the Lord of all grace lavishes upon us the status of adoption as his very children (Romans 8:14-16)! No longer are we merely called servants, Jesus calls us his friends (John 15:15)! Surely this grace is amazing, because we most certainly do not even deserve to have our sins pardoned… much less brought into the tenderly close relationship of father and child! Scripture goes so far as to even call us fellow heirs with Christ, awaiting a day when we will be glorified together with Christ at the final resurrection (Romans 8:17-23)!

The term “crowns” is most likely referring to the wreaths and garlands that were commonly worn during festive occasions in ancient times, so for the psalmist to say that the Lord crowns us with steadfast love and mercy is a comforting picture of how the Lord not only forgives us but showers us with a celebration of restored fellowship to Him. This is portrayed to great effect in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son, where after the son has returned home seeking forgiveness and more than just forgiving him, his father throws a grand celebration (Luke 15:20-24)! We are the son, and the Lord is the forgiving and exultant father, celebrating our return to fellowship with Him!

Prayer Focus
My Father who is in heaven, when I stop and consider all the wonderful ways you have been merciful and gracious towards me, I cannot help but thank you and praise you with all my heart! Your arm of faithfulness and love reached down and brought me out of the miry pit of sin I was enslaved to, and brought me back in to your loving arms. Like a sheep that had gone astray, you the Great Shepherd of my soul carried me back into your fold. Lord, you are so precious to me! You don’t deal with me as my sins deserve, but instead you shower me with forgiveness and blessings, even going so far as to make me co-heir with your Beloved Son. Blessed be your wonderful Name!

Sermon by John Wesley “The Important Question”
"What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Matthew 16:26
But it has been proved, that the case is quite otherwise, that religion is happiness, that wickedness is misery; and that no man is assured of living threescore days: And if so, is there any fool, any madman under heaven, who can be compared to him that casts away his own soul, though it were to gain the whole world? For what is the real state of the case? What is the choice which God proposes to his creatures? It is not, "Will you be happy threescore years, and then miserable forever, or, will you be miserable threescore years, and then happy forever?" It is not, "Will you have first a temporary heaven, and then hell eternal; or, will you have first a temporary hell, and then heaven eternal?" But it is simply this: "Will you be miserable threescore years, and miserable ever after; or, will you be happy threescore years, and happy ever after? Will you have a foretaste of heaven now, and then heaven forever; or will you have a foretaste of hell now and then hell forever? Will you have two hells, or two heavens?" 15. One would think, there needed no great sagacity to answer this question. And this is the very question which I now propose to you in the name of God. Will you be happy here and hereafter; in the world that now is, and in that which is to come? Or will you be miserable here and hereafter, in time and in eternity? What is your choice? Let there be no delay: Now take one or the other! I take heaven and earth to record this day, that I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. O choose life! The life of peace and love now; the life of glory forever! By the grace of God, now choose that better part, which shall never be taken from you! And having once fixed your choice, never draw back; adhere to it at all events. Go on in the name of the Lord, whom ye have chosen, and in the power of his might! In spite of all opposition, from nature, from the world, from all the powers of darkness, still fight the good fight of faith, and lay hold on eternal life! And then there is laid up for you a crown, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give you at that day!

Posted by Chris Frazer with

Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 29

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(NLT) “9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word. 10I have tried hard to find you—don’t let me wander from your commands. 11I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12I praise you, O LORD; teach me your decrees. 13I have recited aloud all the regulations you have given us. 14I have rejoiced in your laws as much as in riches. 15I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. 16I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.” Psalm 119:9-16

Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, reflects a consistent message from the Bible about itself. The Bible calls its readers to read, study, memorize, delight in, and follow the words of God found in its pages. Psalm 119 presents the faithfulness and benefits of the Bible in glowing terms. This particular section contains two of the more familiar verses from this lengthy passage. Verses 9 and 11 are often quoted verses.

The Word of God and the Purity of Heart
Verse 9 opens with “How can a young person stay pure?” Now that is a good question. Apparently temptations were rampant for students even during the time of David. Is this an issue of freedom, too much time and not enough responsibility? Is the heightened battle with temptation greater because of raging hormones? Maybe it is the peer pressure which seems to come upon individuals migrating out of childhood and into adulthood. Whatever the cause, the pressure to fall into temptation while a youth is not a new phenomenon. The need for help in the fight is available. The hard work of learning and obeying God’s word is God’s protection for our purity. This young psalmist goes on to say that he has “hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Scripture memory provides heart protection from the temptations of life. We are tempted to sin in anger at our family member or co-worker and the verse, “the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1:20) comes to mind. We are tempted to long for our neighbor’s car or house and this verse enters our memory banks. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17) We are tired and decide we need a morning off from church, thinking the preacher will probably say the same thing he did last week (that part may be true) and the words from the book of Hebrews comes into our thinking. “not forsaking our own gathering together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another.” When we are prone to worry we remember and apply the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) In this way, the Bible protects us from the temptations that so quickly trap us.

Delighting in the Word of God
As a young person, rules are often treated as a necessary evil, at best. Many times children and students are weary of the boundaries provided by parents and teachers. Appealing to obedience as a vital tool in our daily struggles may cause some of us to recoil. It may seem that the loss of freedom could create drudgery in our obedience. Not so with this psalmist as he says, “I delight in your decrees.” Elsewhere in Psalm 119 he says, “O how I love Your law. It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97) A half-hearted submission to the Bible will never get us the purity of life promised in this Psalm. Memorization is not enough to bring corrective changes to our behavior. We must love God by loving His law. When we love God and His law our attitudes change and we seek to memorize and follow what He says in His Word.

Prayer Focus
O How we love Your Word! You have so graciously granted it to reveal Yourself to us. You have also granted Your Word to us to protect us from temptations. Please give me a pure heart. Help me to submit my heart to You and Your Word.

Sermon by John Wesley “Awake, You that Sleeps”
"Awake, you that sleeps, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." Eph. 5:14.

In discoursing on these words, I will, with the help of God, first describe the sleepers, to whom they are spoken. Secondly, enforce the exhortation, "Awake, you that sleeps, and arise from the dead." And thirdly, explain the promise made to those who do awake and arise: "Christ shall give you light." First, as to the sleepers here spoken to, sleep signified the natural state of man; that deep sleep of the soul, into which the sin of Adam has cast all who were born after. That passive indifference, indolence, and stupidity, that insensibility of his real condition, wherein every man comes into the world, and continues till the voice of God awakes him. Now, "they that sleep, sleep in the night." The state of nature is a state of utter darkness; a state wherein "darkness covers the earth, and gross darkness the people." The poor unawakened sinner, however much knowledge he may have as to other things, has no knowledge of himself. In this respect "he knows nothing yet as he ought to know." He knows not that he is a fallen spirit, whose only business in the present world is to recover from his fall, to regain that image of God wherein he was created. He sees no necessity for the one thing needed, even that inward universal change, that "birth from above," figured out by baptism, which is the beginning of that total renovation. That sanctification of spirit, soul, and body, "without which no man shall see the Lord." Full of all diseases (sin) as he is, he fancies himself in perfect health. Fast bound in misery and iron, he dreams that he is at liberty. He says, "Peace! Peace!" while the devil, as "a strong, man armed," is in full possession of his soul. He sleeps on still and takes his rest, though hell is moved from beneath to meet him. Though the pit from where there is no return has opened its mouth to swallow him up. A fire is kindled around him, yet he knows it not; yea, it burns him, yet he lays (takes) it not to heart.

Posted by Daniel Sweet with

Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 27

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Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Psalm 103:2-5 ESV)

The Lord Our Redeemer
“Who redeems your life from the pit” – Our God is a redeeming God. The concept of our redemption implies that there was something lost and that there is a cost involved in getting it back. What we lost in the Garden was a relationship with our Creator.  We lost the ability inability to remain in His presence because of our impurity, ultimately leading to our death (Romans 5:12). God is a perfectly holy and pure God who will not allow anything impure to live in His eternal presence (Revelation 21:27). To the praise of His glorious grace, He is also a God of boundless love and compassion and did not desire that we should remain in a state of eternal judgment and separation from Him. Though He will one day justly judge sin once and for all, He has a greater desire to forgive than to pronounce judgment and wrath (Ezekiel 33:11, 2 Peter 3:9).

The cost to buy us back from the effects of sin and death required a sacrifice. In the Old Testament, animals were sacrificed for sins according to the Mosaic Law as given by God at Mount Sinai. But as the writer of Hebrews says, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4), merely serving as a reminder of the catastrophe of our separation from God. Something far greater was required. How great was the cost of our redemption? It required the very sacrifice of God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ the Son! The life of the most valuable person in all the universe, the Creator Himself, was the only sufficient payment to fully eliminate the debt we owe to God because of our sin.

How great our sin, but how much greater His love and grace and mercy and righteousness!

Prayer Focus
Father, I praise you and worship You for the great redeeming work that you performed for me in the life, death, and resurrection of Your Son! Thank You for giving Him up for us all, that we might be brought back into a right relationship with You and sparing us our justly deserved eternal judgment. Thank You for cancelling the record of debt that was held against me.  Though my sins were as scarlet, you have washed them white as snow. Bless the Lord, O my soul, bless His holy name!  May we never forget His glorious benefits.

Sermon by John Wesley “The Important Question”
"What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Matthew 16:26
Consider how absurd are all the suppositions made by him who gains the world and loses his soul. But let us for a moment imagine, that wickedness is happiness; and that he shall certainly live 60 or more years; and still I would ask, what is he profited, if he gain the whole world for 60 years, and then lose his soul eternally? Can such a choice be made by any that considers what eternity is? How soon would he cry out, "O Eternity, Eternity! who can tell the length of Eternity?" In how striking a manner is this illustrated by one of the ancient Fathers! "Supposing there were a ball of sand as big as the whole earth. Suppose a grain of this to be annihilated in a thousand years: Which would be more eligible, -- to be happy while this ball was wasting away at the rate of one grain in a thousand years, and miserable ever after? -- or to be miserable, while it was wasting away at that proportion, and happy ever after?" A wise man, it is certain, could not pause one moment upon the choice; seeing all the time wherein this ball would be wasting away, bears infinitely less proportion to eternity, than a drop of water to the whole ocean, or a grain of sand to the whole mass. Allowing then that a life of Christian faith were a life of misery; that a life of wickedness were a life of happiness; and, that a man were assured of enjoying that happiness for the term of 60 years; yet what would he be profited if he were then to be miserable for all eternity?

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