Confessing Our Sin to the One who Restores Bruised Reeds (Matthew 12:20)

Father in heaven,
we are those who have been bruised
and broken by sin and the fall.
We confess that we have bruised others
by our harsh and critical words,
our anger tempers, our betrayal,
and our failed attempts at loving others well.

The devil bruises us with his lies.
We also bruise ourselves and are bruised by others.
Thank you for dealing tenderly with “bruised reeds”
and “smoldering wicks” like us.
We confess to you that our grasp of your grace is weak,
our repentance is feeble, and our faith is small.
Thank you Jesus that you were wounded
for our transgressions
and you were bruised
for our iniquities.
Pour out the healing balm of your graceinto our lives.
For we pray for Jesus’ sake. Amen

Prayer of Confession – Re. Physical Beauty

Beautiful Savior,
You died to make me beautiful.
For I was marred and made beastly by sin.
Late it was that I loved you,
beauty so ancient and so new, late I loved you!
I vacillate between a monkish contempt of physical beauty
and a worldly addiction to physical beauty.
Forgive me where I have not made a covenant with my eyes
and I gaze lustfully at others.
Forgive me O LORD!
Pardon me for comparing myself to others
that leads to me feeling insecure, ashamed, and envious.
Have mercy upon me O LORD!
Rescue me from viewing my body with disdain
For You knit me together and fashioned my body,
which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Liberate me from the lies of the Evil One, O LORD!
Free me to know in my soul
that precious sense that I am beautiful
in the eyes of the ultimate loving beholder.
Grant me a renewed sense of Your delight, acceptance, and favor
through Jesus Christ our LORD. AMEN.

A Simple Prayer through Psalm 23

shepherd-sheep-10Gracious Father,
at birth we are all launched into a world
that is ringed with terror –
conflicts, accidents, assaults, disease, violence and death.

How easy it is to allow fear to dominate our lives:
The fear of rejection, failure, condemnation, pain and death.
Thank You that Your sword was awakened
against our Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us
so that we might experience
the certainty of your care.

Your lamb was slain to save wayward, stubborn sheep like us.
Grant us grace to trust
that everything is necessary that You send into our lives
and nothing is needful that You withhold.
May all our days be full of praise and delight in You
our Shepherd, King and God.
For we make our prayer in Jesus’ name, AMEN.

The Death of Billy Graham – A Few Reflections

The death of Billy Graham today has caused me to reflect on how this man impacted me and the moments where our lives intersected. One of the special privileges that the Lord gave me was to serve personally with Billy Graham on two occasions:

  • During my undergrad years at UNC Chapel Hill, Billy Graham came to speak at a lecture series in 1982 that a number of campus ministries had planned. One event that served as an impetus for this lecture series was the death of his nephew, Sandy Ford, Leighton Ford’s son. Sandy was a contagious Christian who impacted many lives in his short 21 years, including mine.
  • I was asked to lead the worship for a gathering of Christian students and faculty who were preparing and praying for this series. This initial gathering of believers took place at Memorial Hall in 1982.

carolina-performing-arts

  • On another occasion, I will never forget watching a feeble man struggling with Parkinson’s Disease ascend the stairs to a podium and listening to him energetically and boldly proclaim the gospel to a packed house at River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1991. His messages were broadcast all over the Spanish speaking world at the time. What struck me that week was how evidently the Spirit of God had anointed this country boy from North Carolina to powerfully proclaim the gospel.

river-plate-stadium

  • On both occasions, I was deeply impacted by how unashamed he was of the simple gospel of grace and how committed he was to living a life of integrity.

O Lord, be pleased to raise up a new generation of men and women like Billy and Ruth Bell Graham and revive us again that your people might rejoice in you (Psalm 85:6)!

After the Lord Jesus greeted Billy, I wonder how many others greeted him in heaven with hearts full of gratitude for leading them to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I bet there is a lot of rejoicing in heaven today, but that is true every day because in the Lord’s presence “there is fullness of joy; at his right hand are pleasures forevermore!” (Psalm 16:11)

The below link is a tribute by FoxNews to the life, legacy, and ministry of Billy Graham.

The Life and Ministry of Billy Graham

For Preachers and Their Listeners

JCRyle

In Mark 1:38, Jesus states succinctly the reason why He came from the Father:

“Let us go on to the neighboring towns,
so I may preach there also;
that is why I came
.”

J.C. Ryle comments in the late 1800s on this verse from Mark’s Gospel:

Let us never be moved by those who cry down the preacher’s office,
and tell us that sacraments and other ordinances
are of more importance than sermons.
Let us give to every part of God’s public worship
its proper place and honor,
but let us beware of placing any part of it above preaching.
By preaching, the Church of Christ
was first gathered together and founded,
and by preaching, it has ever been maintained in health and prosperity.
By preaching, sinners are awakened.
By preaching, inquirers are led on.
By preaching, saints are built up.
By preaching, Christianity is being carried to a lost world.

There are many now who sneer at missionaries,
and mock at those who go out into the highways of our own land,
to preach to crowds in the open air.
But such persons would do well to pause,
and consider calmly what they are doing.
The very work which they ridicule
is the work which turned the world upside down.

Above all, it is the very work which Christ Himself undertook.
The King of kings and Lord of lords Himself was once a preacher.
For three long years He went to and fro proclaiming the Gospel.
Sometimes we see Him in a house, sometimes on the mountain side,
sometimes in a Jewish synagogue, sometimes in a boat on the sea.
But the great work He took up was always one and the same.
He came always preaching and teaching.
He says, “That is why I have come.”

Let us leave the passage with a solemn resolution
never to “despise prophesying.” (1 Thess. 5:20.)
The minister we hear may not be highly gifted.
The sermons that we listen to may be weak and poor.
But after all, preaching is God’s grand ordinance
for converting and saving souls.
The faithful preacher of the Gospel is handling the very weapon
which the Son of God was not ashamed to employ.
This is the work of which Christ has said, “That is why I have come.”

The Sweet Exchange of the Gospel of Jesus Christ

There is not a better prayer that beautifully speaks of the mysterious, sweet exchange that takes place when we repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Love Lustres at Calvary

519bbajnjglMy Father,

Enlarge my heart, warm my affections, open my lips,

Supply words that proclaim ‘Love lustres at Calvary.’

There grace removes my burdens and heaps them on your Son,

Made a transgressor, a curse, and sin for me;

There the sword of Your justice smote the man, Your fellow;

There Your infinite attributes were magnified,

And infinite atonement was made;

There infinite punishment was due,

And infinite punishment was endured.

Christ was all anguish that I might be all joy,

Cast off that I might be brought in,

Trodden down as an enemy

That I might be welcomed as a friend,

Surrendered to hell’s worst

That I might attain heaven’s best,

Stripped that I might be clothed

Wounded that I might be healed,

Athirst that I might drink,

Tormented that I might be comforted,

Made a shame that I might inherit glory.

Entered darkness that I might have eternal light,

My Savior wept so that all tears might be wiped from my eyes,

Groaned that I might have endless song,

Endured all pain that I might have unfading health,

Bore a thorned crown that I might have a glory-diadem,

Bowed his head that I might uplift mine,

Experienced reproach that I might receive welcome,

Closed his eyes in death that I might gaze on unclouded brightness,

Expired that I might forever live.

O Father, who spared not Your only Son that You might spare me,

All this transfer Your love designed and accomplished;

Help me to adore You by lips and life.

O that my every breath might be ecstatic praise,

My every step buoyant with delight, as I see…

My enemies crushed,

Satan baffled, defeated, destroyed,

Sin buried in the ocean of reconciling blood,

Hell’s gates closed, heaven’s portal open.

Go forth, O Conquering God, and show me the cross,

Mighty to subdue, comfort, and save.

Taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 1975, pp.42-43.

 

Success & The Dictatorial Demands of Incessant Expansion

thielicke-3
Success exposes a man to the pressure of people
     and thus tempts him to hold on to his gains
     by means of “fleshly” methods and practices,
     and to let himself be ruled wholly
          by the dictatorial demands of incessant expansion.
Success can go to my head, and will
unless I remember
     that it is God who accomplishes his work,
     that he can continue to do so without my help,
     and that he will be able to make out with other means
          whenever he cuts me down to size.
– Helmut Thielicke, Encounter with Spurgeon