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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.

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Fall 2018, 40 Days of Prayer, Day 17

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Psalm 42:3-4 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

When I became renewed in my faith a little over 4 years ago I had no idea the emotional weight it would carry. I have probably cried more tears the last 4 years than the previous 28 years of my life. A part of being transformed by the Spirit is the softening of the heart. Ezekiel 36:26 says: And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. When God transforms your heart it becomes more vulnerable, softer, and pure. You feel the evil and injustice around you. The unifying of the Spirit within believers weeps with those who weep. The weight of all the unbelievers crushes your soul at times especially those closest to you. You see, grow, and experience the glory of God day by day pleading with others to follow. Not wanting them to be crushed by that same glory that brings you exceedingly great joy.

Tears come with being a believer and the psalmist here is having a steady appetite of tears day and night. His sorrow is eating away at his hunger for any food. He is also not sleeping because of those tears. If you do not sleep or eat, then depression can only get worse. He is suffering spiritually and physically. To make matters worse feels separated from the consolation and encouragement from his brothers and sisters in the faith.

Never take corporate worship for granted. These times together, singing to the Lord and hearing him through preaching, are a supernatural work of God. This is not just sentimentalism for the psalmist, but turmoil and discouragement. He failed to experience the presence of God through a corporate gathering. Our walk with Christ can never be a solo act. We need encouragement and affirmation from those who have experienced what we have experienced. Others will mock us and insult our faith especially when we are down. Without counsel, friendship, music, or preaching we would fall quickly.

Notice though how the psalmist is fighting through his pain. He's remembering and pouring out his soul. If I were to be granted a wish right now I would wish for a photographic memory. What a gift it is from God that he has created us with a memory. Think about the birth of your children or your last vacation. There is a 3-fold experience of joy in those moments. There was the anticipation of the moment. The experience of the moment and the memory of the moment. Through what we remember the moment becomes encapsulated in our minds so that we may be experience those moments over and over again. Our memory also reminds us of the promises and faithfulness of God that carries us in the most troublesome times. Though our memories can sometimes break us they also make us.

Through the gospel, the great news for us is that what we know, memorize, and meditate upon God’s Word. The Gospel does not stay in the past, but supports us in the present and points us to the future. Our faith is an assurance of the hope laid up for us in heaven. Who Christ was for us in the past he is for us now. And who he is for us now he will be that much more in the future.

Prayer Focus
God, help me trust in your faithfulness day and night. When a blanket of clouds engulfs my soul help me remember Christ and him crucified. May my sorrow be a pathway for joy. Though I may have good reason to be discouraged help me to remember that there are better encouragements in your word.

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
We may conceive a little of these deep things, if we consider, what is implied in that expression, "A man's gaining the whole world:" and, what is implied in losing his own soul: We shall then, see, in the strongest light, what he is profited, who gains the whole world, and loses his own soul. So first, what is implied in a man's “gaining the whole world.” Perhaps, at the first hearing, this may seem to some equivalent with conquering the whole world. But it has no relation to that at all: And indeed that expression involves a plain absurdity. For it is impossible any that is born of a woman should ever conquer the whole world; were it only because the short life of man could not suffice for so wild an undertaking. Accordingly, no man ever did conquer the half, no, nor the tenth part of the world. But whatever others might do, there was no danger that any of our Lord's hearers should have any thought of this. Among all the sins of the Jewish nation the desire of universal empire was not found. Even in their most flourishing times, they never sought to extend their conquests beyond the river Euphrates. And in our Lord's time, all their ambition was at an end: "The scepter was departed from Judah;" and Judea was governed by a Roman Procurator, as a branch of the Roman Empire. Leaving this, we may find a far more easy and natural sense of the expression. To gain the whole world, may properly enough imply, to gain all the pleasures which the world can give. The man we speak of may, therefore, be supposed to have gained all that will gratify his senses. In particular, all that can increase his pleasure of tasting; all the elegancies of meat and drink: Likewise, whatever can gratify his smell, or touch; all that he can enjoy in common with his fellow-brutes. He may have all the plenty and all the variety of these objects which the world can afford. We may farther suppose him to have gained all that gratifies "the desire of the eyes;" whatever (by means of the eye chiefly) conveys any pleasure to the imagination. The pleasures of imagination arise from three sources: Grandeur, beauty, and novelty. Accordingly, we find by experience, our own imagination is gratified by surveying either grand, or beautiful, or uncommon objects. Let him be encompassed then with the most grand, the most beautiful, and the newest things that can anywhere be found. For all this is manifestly implied in a man's gaining the whole world. But there is also another thing implied herein, which men of the most elevated spirits have preferred before all the pleasures of sense and of imagination put together; that is, honor, glory and renown. It seems, that hardly any principle in the human mind is of greater force than this. It triumphs over the strongest propensities of nature, over all our appetites and affections. If Brutus sheds the blood of his own children; if we see another Brutus, in spite of every possible obligation, in defiance of all justice and gratitude, Cringing while he stabs his friend; if a far greater man than either of these, Paschal Paoli, gave up ease, pleasure, everything, for a life of constant toil, pain, and alarms; what principle could support them? They might talk of amor patriae, the love of their country; but this would never have carried them through, had there not been also the Laudum immensa cupido; "the immense thirst of praise." Now, the man we speak of has gained abundance of this: He is praised, if not admired, by all that are round about him. Nay, his name is gone forth into distant lands, as it were, to the ends of the earth. Add to this, that he has gained abundance of wealth; that there is no end of his treasures; that he has laid up silver as the dust, and gold as the sand of the sea. Now, when a man has obtained all these pleasures, all that will gratify either the senses or the imagination; when he has gained an honorable name, and also laid up much treasure for many years; then he may be said, in an easy, natural sense of the word, to have "gained the whole world."

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