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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 21

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Psalm 90:3-9

3 You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
4 For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
Or as a watch in the night.
5 You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
6 In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.
7 For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been dismayed.
8 You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
9 For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.

The Ephemeral Nature of Man, a Consequence of Sin

Methuselah, the man who lived longer than anyone else in history, only lived 969 years on this earth. Can you imagine seeing 969 years? Almost 4000 times watching summer turn to fall, or fall to winter, or winter to spring, or spring back to summer? A run-of-the-mill 80 year old will only see 320 season changes. And yet God considers all Methuselah's days, 353,685 of them, as less than a single watch in the night. Moses tells us that the passing of a thousand years for God is like yesterday when it is gone. In stark contrast to the eternal God, man's life is as nothing - a mere blink and its over. God designed our bodies to flourish for only a little while and then they wither and die. Hopefully this doesn't come as a shock to you. We see it all around us. We see it in the mirror. Yet Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that God puts eternity in the heart of man. Why would He do that when our bodies are designed to flourish and wither in what feels like the span of a single day?

It is not hard to find an article about the titans of Silicon Valley and Hollywood dumping massive energy and money on the “quest for immortality”. They want to live forever and they are willing to spend every last dime to make it happen. I expect they will continue to be sorely disappointed. God has placed eternity in the heart of man but not within his grasp. Instead of immortality, God calls every individual to return to the dust from which he was made – ashes to ashes, dust to dust. This is not an arbitrary judgment on us. We have sinned, we are sinning, we will sin. We are sinners and will continue on this way until He forces us to stop. Mankind is perfectly happy to keep on sinning forever, and if we can just crack the genetic code on aging, we'll do just that. But, hey, if God has a problem with our behavior, we can accommodate Him. We'll hide our iniquities, we'll spin them into necessities, we'll even brazen them into virtues if that's what it takes.

But God will not be fooled, nor mollified, nor bullied. Instead of the pride of life puffing us up to greater heights of ego and unending years of self-glorification, our few, pitiful years end in misery and regret under the blazing fury of a just God; ashes to ashes.

Prayer Focus

Lord God, forgive our insolence and pride. We so want to believe that we are the center of the universe while we hope against hope that our sins are hidden from your eyes. Our hubris compels us to this foolishness and yet we can't give it up. Be merciful, Lord. Correct us in your lovingkindness. Help us to number our days. Help us to understand that we have so few of them remaining. Help us to redeem the time for your glory.

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
Upon ever so cursory a view of these things, would not anyone be astonished, that a man, that a creature endued with reason, should voluntarily choose, I say choose; for God forces no man into inevitable damnation; he never yet Consigned one unborn soul to hell, Or damned him from his mother's womb, -- should choose thus to lose his own soul, though it were to gain the whole world! For what shall a man be profited thereby upon the whole of the account? But a little to abate our astonishment at this, let us observe the suppositions which a man generally makes before he can reconcile himself to this fatal choice. He supposes, First, that "a life of religion is a life of misery." That religion is misery! How is it possible that anyone should entertain so strange a thought? Do any of you imagine this? If you do, the reason is plain; you know not what religion is. "No! but I do, as well as you." -- What is it then? "Why, the doing no harm." Not so; many birds and beasts do no harm, yet they are not capable of religion. "Then it is going to church and sacrament." Indeed it is not. This may be an excellent help to religion; and everyone who desires to save his soul should attend them at all opportunities; yet it is possible you may attend them all your days, and still have no religion at all. Religion is a higher and deeper thing than any outward ordinance whatever. What is religion then? It is easy to answer, if we consult the oracles of God. According to these it lies in one single point; it is neither more nor less than love; it is love which "is the fulfilling of the law, the end of the commandment." Religion is the love of God and our neighbor; that is, every man under heaven. This love ruling the whole life, animating all our tempers and passions, directing all our thoughts, words, and actions, is "pure religion and undefiled." Now, will anyone be so hardy as to say, that love is misery? Is it misery to love God? to give Him my heart who alone is worthy of it? Nay, it is the truest happiness; indeed, the only true happiness which is to be found under the sun. So does all experience prove the justness of that reflection which was made long ago, "Thou hast made us for thyself; and our heart cannot rest, until it rests in thee." Or does anyone imagine, the love of our neighbor is misery; even the loving every man as our own soul? So far from it that, next to the love of God, this affords the greatest happiness of which we are capable. Therefore, Let not the Stoic boast his mind unmoved, the brute-philosopher, who never has proved The joy of loving, or of being loved. So much every reasonable man must allow. But he may object: "There is more than this implied in religion. It implies not only the love of God and man; (against which I have no objection;) but also a great deal of doing and suffering. And how can this be consistent with happiness?" There is certainly some truth in this objection. Religion does imply both doing and suffering. Let us then calmly consider, whether this impairs or heightens our happiness. Religion implies, First, the doing many things. For the love of God will naturally lead us, at all opportunities, to converse with Him we love; to speak to him in public or private prayer; and to hear the words of his mouth, which "are dearer to us than thousands of gold and silver." It will incline us to lose no opportunity of receiving the dear memorials of our dying Lord; to continue instant in thanksgiving; at morning, evening, and noon-day to praise him. But suppose we do all this, will it lessen our happiness? Just the reverse. It is plain, all these fruits of love are means of increasing the love from which they spring; and of consequence they increase our happiness in the same proportion. Who then would not join in that wish? Rising to sing my Savior's praise, Thee may I publish all day long, And let thy precious word of grace Flow from my heart, and fill my tongue; Fill all my life with purest love, And join me to your church above!

Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 19

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Psalm 42:7-8 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

The most comforting aspect of God is his sovereignty. He is in absolute control. He’s absolutely independent and does whatever he pleases. I know despite all the different trials I may run into God has ordained them and what he ordains is perfect. To have a God not in control is to have no God at all. It would be no relief at all to know that God does not rule the wind and waves. The Psalmist understands that his oppression, depression, loneliness, and crushed spirit are all part of the waves of God.

Spurgeon once said, “It would be a very sharp and trying experience for me to think that I have an affliction which God never sent me, that the bitter cup was never filled by his hand, that my trials were never measured out by him, nor sent to me by his arrangement of their weight and quantity” It’s ok to feel bitter sorrow in the Christian life. Men like Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and Martin Luther were greatly afflicted at times.

There are times when the Lord will strip us from the addicting power of the present moment and all of our self reliant resources, so that we may be fully reliant on him. We can be feeble minded and easily forget of the glory that awaits us. It is times like that the Lord shows his steadfast love for his believers and begins to initiate an emotional bond between him and us. We need ice cold splashes of rain some days to awaken us in our spiritual slumber. How sweet and refreshing it is to find Christ through your hell and the reality of heaven in your heart.

God’s steadfast love is a central theme in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word is "hesed." It speaks of Gods loyal love to the believer. It’s why we can trust in the promise of Romans 8:28 without any doubt. The Lord’s "hesed" will never let us go. In the midst of life’s trials and tragedies, we may cry out to our gracious Lord with boldness and confidence that nothing can separate us from the loyal love that saved us, is sanctifying us in the present, and will faithfully bring us to our eternal home.

There’s a saying I once heard that I repeat to my family often: “We stick with the stuck.” No matter what terrible circumstance we might go through whatever it is we will go through, it will be together. Family is binding and family is a commitment. It is because of the loyal love Christ had for the Father and his Church that he was able to take upon himself the worst of us, so we may have the best of him. It is why at night you can lay your head on your pillow in peace despite the downpour of emotion that might overwhelm you singing:

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Prayer Focus:
Lord, may the downpour of your grace exceed the waves of my trials. Help me to understand that nothing can separate me from your loyal love. May the pain of this life lead to a healthy obsession of the next. Speak to me, teach me, counsel me through your word. May I consider the sufferings of this world to be nothing compared to the glory that awaits.

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 in what circumstance finds the spirit of a good man, at his entrance into eternity? See, the convoy attends, the ministering host of friends. They receive the new-born spirit, and conduct him safe into Abraham's presence, into the delights of Paradise; the garden of God, where the light of his countenance perpetually shines. It is but one of a thousand commendations of this antechamber of heaven that "there the wicked cease from troubling, there the weary are at rest." For there they have numberless sources of happiness which they could not have upon earth. There they meet with "the glorious dead of ancient days." They converse with Adam, first of men; with Noah, first of the new world; with Abraham, the friend of God; with Moses and the Prophets; with the Apostles of the Lamb; with the saints of all ages; and, above all, they are with Christ. How different, alas, is the case with him who loses his own soul! The moment he steps into eternity, he meets with the devil and his angels. Sad convoy into the world of spirits! Sad earnest of what is to come! And either he is bound with chains of darkness, and reserved unto the judgment of the great day; or, at best, he wanders up and down, seeking rest, but finding none. Perhaps he may seek it (like the unclean spirit cast out of the man) in dry, dreary, desolate places; perhaps where nature all in ruins lies, and owns her sovereign, death! And little comfort can he find here, seeing everything contributes to increase, not remove, the fearful expectation of fiery indignation, which will devour the ungodly.

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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 18

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Psalm 42:5-6 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

Today I start with a quote from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.  Somebody is talking. Who is talking? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.’…

Here we continue to see the turmoil within the psalmist and his fight with sorrow. He knows God, he's aware of the Lord's promises that’s why he's preaching to himself, ''how can you be cast down my soul?' Preaching is not just for Sunday, or for the Pastor, but we must all learn to preach to ourselves. We must exhort and remind ourselves of who God is and to remember his promises for us through Jesus Christ. We must continue to feed on the abundance of his house and drink from the river of his delights. That’s why a steady diet of scripture is vital to our delicate souls.

Analyze your situation and compare it to the hope that is laid up or for you. Remember faith is the assurance of things hoped for. Biblical hope is not like the hope of your favorite football team winning the game. It's not hope that desires something good for the future but with no assurance. Biblical hope expects it to happen. If you have no words to preach just preach to yourself these 3 words: Hope in God! The reality of your hope is strengthened through your trust in the faithfulness of God. Sometimes it's not as hard to believe in God. Sometimes it's hard to believe God, to believe what he says about you. He will hold you Fast! When you fear that your faith may fail just sing to yourself; He will hold me fast.

Remember that Christ endured the cross for the joy set before him. What a tremendous spiritual battle our Lord and Savior went through. The blood, sweat, and tears he endured as he prepared to drink from the cup laid before him. How thankful we are that he was able to persevere. His soul may have been greatly troubled, but he knew his Father. He knew his Father’s plans. He believed what the Father said about him and his mission. He knew the joy set before him would come to pass because of the trustworthiness of the Father. Let us remember who God is and hope in him because what he has said about our past, our present and our future. If he is for us, nothing can be against us.

Prayer Focus
God you are my rock, my soul's refuge. My hope is secured by your divine power and almighty strength. When I look at Christ I see my salvation. When you look at Christ you see my security. Please devour my soul with your light and make your wonders known through the darkness.

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 next point we have to consider is what is implied in a man's losing his own soul. But here we draw a deeper scene, and have need of a more steady attention. For it is easy to sum up all that is implied in a man's "gaining the whole world." but it is not easy to understand all that is implied in his "losing his own soul." Indeed none can fully conceive this, until he has passed through time into eternity. The first thing which it undeniably implies is, the losing all the present pleasures of religion; all those which it affords to truly religious men, even in the present life. "If there be any consolation Christ; if any comfort of love," -- in the love of God, and of all mankind; if any "joy in the Holy Spirit;" if there be a peace of God, -- a peace that passes all understanding; if there is any rejoicing in the testimony of a good conscience toward God; all this is totally lost by the man that loses his own soul. But the present life will soon be at an end: We know it passes away like a shadow. The hour is at hand, when the spirit will be summoned to return to God that gave it. In that awful moment, Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view, Who stand upon the threshold of the new. And whether he looks backward or forward, how pleasing is the prospect to him that saves his soul! If he looks back, he has "the calm remembrance of the life well spent." If he looks forward, there is an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that does not fade away; and he sees the convoy of angels ready to carry him into the presence of Abraham. But how is it in that solemn hour, with the man that loses his soul? Does he look back? What comfort is there in this? He sees nothing but scenes of horror, matter of shame, remorse, and self-condemnation; a foretaste of "the worm that never dies." If he looks forward, what does he see? No joy, no peace! No gleam of hope from any point of heaven! Some years since, one who turned back as a dog to his vomit was struck in his mid-career of sin. A friend visiting him, prayed, "Lord, have mercy upon those who are just now leaving the body in this life, and do not know which will meet them at their entrance into the next world, an angel or a fiend!" The sick man shrieked out with a piercing cry, "A fiend! a fiend!" and died. Just such an end, unless he die to himself, may any man expect who loses his own soul.

Posted by Richard Taylor with

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