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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.

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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?

Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 26

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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 Healer
Continuing from the remembrance of the Lord’s forgiveness, Scripture now turns our attention to the compassionate healing nature of our God. Throughout the Bible, we see the Lord’s willingness and power to heal all manner of diseases both physical and spiritual. In Exodus 15:26, the Lord revealed himself as “the LORD who heals you” to the Israelites, promising to “not bring [on them] any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians.” Hezekiah prayed to the Lord for healing after falling mortally ill, and the Lord granted his prayer by healing him and extending his life 15 years. During his time on earth, Jesus revealed the heart of God to heal as he repeatedly healed multitudes who came to him with all kinds of sicknesses (Matthew 15:30).

Many theologians point out in this verse that Hebrew poetry often employs the use of parallelism, rhyming with ideas instead of words. They therefore, propose that the parallel concept to forgiveness of sins is healing, which would certainly give the term a much more spiritual connotation than mere physical healing alone. The spiritual healing the Lord performs on us in the great exchange of our sins for His righteousness is the greatest and foremost way the Lord heals us. Certainly, this spiritual healing as a result of Christ’s atoning work is the main type of healing referred to in 1 Peter 2:24.

While there are many times the Lord may not choose to physically heal for purposes we may not immediately understand (but may become much clearer when we get to eternity), we must never forget that he has the power to heal all our diseases and the greatest healing he performs is the healing of our souls in forgiving our sins and conferring on us a state of right-standing with him through the faithful life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Prayer Focus
Lord, I praise you for your awesome healing power! I see in Your Word how compassionate You are to those who put their trust in You. Jesus, I think about all the ways You healed the people when You were on earth, showing us the love and tender compassion of God the Father towards His children. I thank You for the blessing of physical health, and even though I do not understand why You sometimes allow sickness to come into our lives, I trust that You have a greater purpose in all of it. Most of all, I thank You for healing my spiritual heart that was sick with sin by Your sinless life, purifying sacrifice, and hope-filling resurrection. You are the Lord my healer!

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 all of this pales compared to this reality, that he shall certainly live forty, or fifty years. Do you depend upon this? On living 60 more years? Who told you that you should? It is none other than the enemy of God and humanity: It is the murderer of souls. Believe him not; he was a liar from the beginning; from the beginning of his rebellion against God. He is eminently a liar in this: For he will not give you life, if he could. Would God permit him, he would make sure work, and just now hurry you to his own place of certain death. And he cannot give you life, even if he wished: The breath of humans is not in his hands. He is not the dispenser of life and death: That power belongs to the Most High. It is possible indeed, God may, on some occasions, permit him to inflict death. When an angel, by divine command, Hurls death and terror over a guilty land; He, pleased the Almighty's order to perform, rides in the whirlwind, and directs the storm. But though Satan may sometimes inflict death, I know not that he could ever give life. It was one of his most faithful servants that shrieked out some years ago, "A week's life! A week's life! Thirty thousand pounds for a week's life!" But he could not purchase a day's life. That night God required his soul of him! And how soon may he require it of you? Are you sure of living thirty more years? Are you sure of living even one year, one month, one week, one day? O make haste to live!

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