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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 25

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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)

Do Not Forget the Lord’s Mercies
After rousing all of his faculties to worship the Lord, David turns his focus to the many ways the Lord has been merciful and magnanimous towards him. “Forget not all his benefits” – in this statement, David acknowledges our human tendency to take things for granted, especially the Lord and all His goodness towards those who put their trust in Him.

“Who forgives all your iniquity” – the first and most important blessing the Lord bestows on those who believe in Him is the forgiveness of sins. Indeed without forgiveness of our sins against a holy God, no other good things can be conferred upon us because as Jesus said in John 3:36, “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” By making a way for our sins to be forgiven in the atoning death of His Son, the Lord opens the door to all the other ways in which He greatly desires to show His love and goodness toward us.

As theologian Albert Barnes so excellently stated in his commentary on this verse, “Properly considered, this is the first thing which calls for praise. That God is a merciful God - that he has declared his willingness to pardon sin - that he has devised and revealed a way by which this can be done, and that he has actually done it in our own case, is the most important matter for which we should praise him. When we understand all the things which most affect our welfare, and which enter most deeply into our happiness here and hereafter, we shall find that this is a blessing compared with which all other favors are comparative trifles.”

Prayer Focus
Holy God, I acknowledge my sinfulness towards you and put my faith in You. Jesus, I thank you for paying the penalty for my sins on the cross thereby providing the only way for me to be reconciled to You. Help me to never forget Your wonderful love and mercy towards me, that even while I was still a sinner You died for me (Romans 5:8)! How great is Your love for me!

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
"However, he has yet another resource: Applause, glory. And will not this make him happy?" It will not: For he cannot be applauded by all men: No man ever was. Some will praise; perhaps many; but not all. It is certain some will blame: And he that is fond of applause, will feel more pain from the censure of one, than pleasure from the praise of many. So that whoever seeks happiness in applause will infallibly be disappointed, and will find, upon the whole of the account, abundantly more pain than pleasure. But to bring the matter to a short issue. Let us take an instance of one who had gained more of this world than probably any man now alive, unless he be a sovereign prince. But did all he had gained make him happy? Answer for yourself! Then said Haman, yet "all this profits me nothing, while I see Mordecai sitting in the gate." Poor Human! One unholy temper, whether pride, envy, jealousy, or revenge, gave him more pain, more vexation of spirit, than all the world could give pleasure. And so it must be in the nature of things; for all unholy tempers are unhappy tempers. Ambition, covetousness, vanity, inordinate affection, malice, revengefulness, carry their own punishment with them, and avenge themselves on the soul wherein they dwell. Indeed, what are these, more especially when they are combined with an awakened conscience, but the dogs of hell, already gnawing the soul, forbidding happiness to approach? Lust, foolish desire, envy, malice, or anger, is now tearing at you: Love of money, or of praise, hatred or revenge, is now feeding on your poor spirit. Such happiness is in vice! So vain is the supposition that a life of wickedness is a life of happiness!

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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 24

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Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! (Psalm 103:1 ESV)

A Call To Worship
Psalm 103 begins with the psalmist David stirring himself to worship and praise the Lord our God. The way “bless” is used here is in the sense of praising and worshiping, as the Hebrew word has the connotation of kneeling (i.e. kneeling in worship). Indeed, God is infinitely perfect and has no need of anything (Acts 17:25), so bless here cannot mean there is anything we can confer onto God. This also shows us that even someone as devout as David felt the need to command himself to worship the Lord. How easily we can fail to do so in the busy-ness and troubles of this life!

“O my soul, and all that is within me” is David’s exhortation to his entire being to worship the Lord. This recalls the Hebrew Shema in which the Israelites daily recited Deuteronomy 6:4-9 in which is the command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Jesus reiterated the importance of this commandment in Matthew 22:35-40. Our worship should not be half-hearted or lukewarm. Do we find ourselves getting more excited about earthly things than about the Lord Himself who made everything and who gave Himself for us?

“His holy name” does not merely refer to the covenant name of God, YHWH, but is meant to encompass all of His attributes and perfections. When we praise God, we are worshiping Him for all of His glorious attributes such as His love, His mercy, His might, His omniscience, His holiness, and all the many other wonderful and unique aspects of our amazing God.

Prayer Focus
Lord, I praise You for all You are and command all of my heart, mind, and soul to worship You. I recognize my sinfulness and how often I fail to worship You wholeheartedly as I should. Forgive me for allowing anything to take Your place in my heart. Please give me a heart that desires You above all other things, and help me see the beauty of who You are so that I may praise You with the greatest depth of my being! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy 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
The man who chooses to gain the world by the loss of his soul, supposes that "a life of wickedness is a life of happiness!" That wickedness is happiness! Even an old heathen poet could have taught him better. Even Juvenal discovered, Nemo malus felix: "no wicked man is happy." And how expressly does God himself declare, "There is no peace for the wicked!" No peace of mind: And without this, there can be no happiness. I ask now, what can make a wicked man happy? You answer, "He has gained the whole world." What does this imply? He has gained all that gratifies the senses: In particular, all that can please the taste; all the delicacies of meat and drink. True; But can eating and drinking make a man happy? They never did yet: And certain it is, they never will. This is too coarse of food for the immortal spirit. But suppose it did give him a kind of happiness, during those moments wherein he was eating and swallowing; what will he do with the residue of his time? Will it not hang heavy upon his hands? Will he not groan under many a tedious hour, and think swift-winged time flies too slow? If he is not completely busy, will he not frequently complain of lowness of spirits? An unmeaning expression; which the miserable physician usually no more understands than his miserable patient. We know there are such things as nervous disorders. But we know likewise, that what is commonly called nervous lowness is a secret reproof from God; a kind of consciousness that we are not in our place; that we are not as God would have us to be: We are unhinged from our proper center. To remove, or at least soothe, this strange uneasiness, let him add the pleasures of imagination. Let him bath himself with silver and gold, and adorn himself with all the colors of the rainbow. Let him build splendid palaces, and furnish them in the most elegant as well as costly manner. Let him lay out walks and gardens, beautified with all that nature and art can afford. And how long will these give him pleasure? Only as long as they are new. As soon as ever the novelty is gone, the pleasure is gone also. After he has surveyed them a few months, or years, they give him no more satisfaction. The man who is saving his soul, has the advantage over him in this very respect. For he can say, in the pleasures of the rich man, I unenvied understand my place; While every fair object my eye can survey contributes to gladden my heart for it reminds me of my soul’s destined rest.

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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 23

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Psalm 90:10-12
10 As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
11 Who understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You?
12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

The Folly of Chasing After the Wind

Because of our father Adam’s sin, we are all born sinners. Because we are sinners, we sin against God. Because of our sin, we face God’s justice. Because of God’s justice we are all sentenced to death. Physical death is inevitable, one of the many consequences of Adam's fall.
When Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden, the joy of work was also corrupted. Genesis 3:19 tells us that
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.

We are given a finite span of seven or eight decades, filled with never-ending labor in the best of times, and there is always plenty of sorrow to go around. As our bodies wear out and as we absorb the losses that come our way in a steady stream, we learn to accept the brevity of our lives as a mercy. Yet in His lovingkindness, God also grants us brief flashes of great happiness. True, they are the exceptions but they remind us that something much better will appear one day. Not so for those who reject the Son. In their ignorant arrogance they deny Him the proper respect, and, yes, fear that is His due. He is the creator of the world and sustains all things by the word of His power. The lost cannot understand this nor any other spiritual truth because they are spiritually dead. They have never experienced the second birth and so the wrath of God abides on them.

In contrast, those who know the joy of God's grace will never know the full power of His righteous anger. We should, in gratitude, work hard to study and practice the things of God. We were created in Christ Jesus for such good works. How much better to spend our limited time and energy on the work God gives us than to strive after the winds the world chases. That is folly and inevitably results in loss. Our days are numbered as Job 14, Psalm 39, and Psalm 139 also tell us. With such limited resources we should be careful of how we spend each one. Do we pray each day, thanking the Father for His great blessings, asking for His forgiveness and help in conquering our besetting sins? Do we read His word each day, mindful of the great privilege of being able to do so? Do we live each day with humility toward others?

Christians are to be mindful of how we spend the days the Father graciously gives us. Brothers, redeem each one, redeem this one, for His glory.

Prayer Focus

Lord God, we confess to you the folly of striving for the things of this world, as if they could do anything for us. Teach us to number our days and make them count for the Kingdom of your Christ.

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 religion implies, according to the Christian account, not only doing, but suffering. And how can suffering be consistent with happiness?" Perfectly well. Many centuries ago, it was remarked by St. Chrysostom, "The Christian has his sorrows as well as his joys: But his sorrow is sweeter than joy." He may accidentally suffer loss, poverty, pain: But in all these things he is more than conqueror. He can testify, Labor is rest, and pain is sweet, while you, my God, are here. He can say, "The Lord gave; the Lord took away: Blessed be the name of the Lord!" He must suffer, more or less, reproach: For "the servant is not above his Master:" But so much the more does "the Spirit of glory and of God rest upon him." Yes, love itself will, on several occasions, be the source of suffering: The love of God will frequently produce The pleasing smart, The meltings of a broken heart. And the love of our neighbor will give rise to sympathizing sorrow: It will lead us to visit the fatherless and widow in their affliction; to be tenderly concerned for the distressed, and to "mix our pitying tear with those that weep." But may we not well say, these are "tears that delight, and sighs that travel up to heaven?" So far then are all these sufferings from either preventing or lessening our happiness, that they greatly contribute to, and, indeed, constitute no inconsiderable part of it. So that, upon the whole, there cannot be a more false supposition, than that a life of religion is a life of misery; seeing true religion, whether considered in its nature or its fruits, is true and abiding happiness.

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