Posted by: davidlarkin | January 13, 2022

Encounters with the Demonic in Los Angeles, Perhaps?

Please note: This post and the second post are pinned to the top of this blog. If you have read the first two posts already, for newer posts, scroll past the first two.

Jesus Casting out a Demon - Paul Kreutzberger_Illustration for a Bible_German, c. 1620-1660_London, British MuseumPaul Kreutzberger, Jesus Casting Out a Demon, From Illustrations for a Bible, German, c. 1620-1660
London, British Museum

And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath,  and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

Luke 4:31-37 (English Standard Version)

With over 100 posts on this blog since I started it in 2008, this is the first post I have written about the reality of the demonic, commonly dismissed in this age of science and unbelief in the truth of Scripture. Nevertheless, exorcising demonic spirits was a significant part of the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels.

In the early 90s, my wife Susan and I went to an Assembly of God Church (Pentecostal) in Scottsdale, Arizona (We attend a church near us now, a theologically conservative non-political Reformed PCA church “Presbyterian Church in America“).  At the Scottsdale Assembly of God church, there was a woman who sat in the front row on the far right every Sunday, who clearly was very devout and serious. We met her. She was Kathy Lutz, who was the mother in the family that lived in the Amityville house in Amityville, NY, that became the book and film, The Amityville Horror. She became a Christian after that experience, which she said happened though not as exaggerated as the film, but flies on the windows, doors opening by themselves, furniture levitating, etc. Here is the video of an interview with Kathy Lutz wherein she describes the experience. It begins with a rendition of the Amityville story, and then the interview with her:

Video of Kathy Lutz interview:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5fH2TpazA4

Her husband George did not become a believer and looked at it as “paranormal” in general. He exploited the experience with the film and other things.

I read an account by Ed and Lorraine Warren, who investigated possible demonic activity for the Catholic Church and Protestant churches and people who needed help. His first book written by Gerald Brittle, The Demonologist, had incredible accounts of places he investigated including the Amityville House, and the events that became the Conjuring film series, so far 3 films which I thought were very good, knowing what they were about before hand. In Conjuring 2, during the credits, they compared the cast to the actual people involved in England, including a TV broadcaster who covered the haunting depicted in that film, which came out of the Warren’s book, The Demonologist (I have an original 1980 first edition of the hardback book and the original 1981 paperback which I read when it was published).  The Conjuring films starred Patrick Wilson as Ed Warren and Vera Farmiga as Lorraine Warren. Because it is about the supernatural, great efforts are made by those who don’t believe to debunk them, easy to find on Google, but if you know the story Ed and Lorraine Warren and Kathy Lutz herself, tell you can see that the debunking is dependent upon opinions formed by those who were not there. The satanic spirits do not want us to believe that they did these things, and the Devil is happy that people don’t believe in him because it makes his life easier. God preserves all of us from the demonic manifestations generally, and typically it is those who are involved with the occult, e.g., Ouija Boards, witchcraft, etc. who are susceptible to the “poltergiests” or manifestations of the demonic. The Roman Catholic Church reports continuing need for its exorcists. See American Exorcism from the December 2018 Atlantic. See also, “Demonic Foes” by Richard Gallgher, MD, a psychiatrist educated at Princeton and Yale Medical School who practices psychiatry in Westchester County, NY and is a professor at Columbia University Medical School. He was introduced to a patient by a priest who believed the patient, a Satanist, was possess by demons. Gallagher examined her, and did not see any significant psychiatric disorder. But she had some psychic gifts, and Gallagher began to have more experiences with the demonically possessed, and developed a subspecialty in demonic possession cases. He emphasizes how rare this phenomenon is in his book, “Demonic Foes: My Twenty-Five Years as a Psychiatrist Investigating Possessions, Diabolic Attacks, and the Paranormal” published in 2020.

And Ed Warren included photos in his book of a chair levitating in the Amityville House among other things, and a transcript of a recording of him talking with a demon in one of the episodes that became a filmed scene in one of the Conjuring films. The events at the Amityville House, and other “poltergeist” type events are more technically and accurately referred to as a demonic “infestation”, where demonic beings infest a house or other place rather than a person, different from “oppression” where a person is being oppressed spiritual by demonic beings, or “possession,” where demonic beings take possession or control over the person, the most severe activity of demons.

Having met Kathy Lutz, and knowing what I know about the demonic, I believe that these things happened close to what Ed and Lorraine Warren tell in their accounts. Lorraine Warren has the “gift of discernment of spirits” (King James Version) or gift of “the ability to distinguish between spirits” (English Standard Version) of spirits which the Apostle Paul includes as one of the supernatural gifts of the spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (English Standard Version).

Here are some of the encounters in my life with the demonic when I was living in LA in the 80s, and was renewing my relationship with the Lord after 12 years as a spiritual lone ranger after being saved in 1971. I had lost everything in a computer hardware business in Phoenix, Arizona around 1982, was drinking too much and moved to LA in 1983, where I straightened myself out, quitting alcohol, 35 years old then, and reading the Bible, going to church, praying, asking God to show me spiritual things, and generally reforming my life.

Around 1983-84, I was without a car in Los Angeles for about 11 months (Court ordered). I got a bus pass. I had quit drinking May 24, 1983. I was at a large meeting of AA on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, probably three hundred people. I was standing in the back with some friends and we heard someone outside making strange loud noises. The guy next to me said, “sounds like someone speaking in tongues.” and laughed. I went outside and there was a homeless Asian woman sitting on the ground, probably in her thirties, and making the sounds. I went up to her, along with another guy I did not know. Some people gathered away from us watching. I spoke to her, and asked her if she needed help. She muttered incoherently. I said to the guy with me, “I am a Christian and wondering if she is possessed.” The other guy said, “me too.” I asked her if she could say the name of Jesus, because the demonically possessed have a hard time with that, because they hate him. She hissed “Jesus” with a look of hatred. I could not be sure of course. I got the name and address of a Catholic ministry to homeless women nearby in West LA, and gave it to her on a piece of paper with the address and phone number. She took it. She got up and left.

I prayed that night for God to show me the difference between mental illness and demonic possession and I believe He did over the next couple of months where I had two encounters with women, one in downtown LA near the Post Office, and one on the bus in the Melrose area.

After the incident with the Asian woman in Beverly Hills and praying for discernment, I was riding the bus in the Melrose, Beverly Blvd area east of Beverly Hills, and a woman got on the bus, who was unwashed, thin, wearing a thin dirty white cotton shift and possibly Hispanic or Middle Eastern, not unattractive but with a disturbed look on her face. She walked down the bus aisle, looked at me, and sat down in the seat next to me, probably the only vacant seat, I don’t recall. She looked at my Bible, looked at me and said something repeatedly like, “Rabayuga, Rabayuga, the door is open,” with a vacant look on her face. I began asking the Lord if this woman was possessed by a demon? As I silently prayed that God would let me know if I should speak out words to the demon, and demand it leave her in Jesus’s name, as the Jesus and New Testament saints, she stood up in the aisle and backing away, looked at me. I silently asked God, “should I now speak to the demon?” wondering how that would impact the other riders on the bus nearby to hear and see that. Before I could sense a response from God, suddenly, the bus driver slammed on the brakes, and stood up, calling to the woman, “You, get off the bus. Now.” And she obediently walked down the aisle got off the bus, and the driver sat down without a word, and the bus moved on. I believe she was possessed and that my prayer to see the difference between someone mentally ill and possessed by demonic forces was answered because of the correspondence between my inner dialogue with God, and what happened as I did have that dialogue. I believed the demonic spirit did not want to be made his existence public, nor did it want to be cast out of her. Of course, there are other possibilities, like coincidence only, but after my prayer to be shown the difference between mental illness and possession, and what happened, that is what I believe occurred.

Soon thereafter, I was walking on a sunny Sunday afternoon in downtown LA near the post office, dressed in a very nice bright yellow Palm Springs sports jacket and white slacks, looking sharp, and praying in my mind as I walked. Suddenly from behind me I heard in a very angry and gravelly voice, a woman shouting, “It’s all in your head. You know who I’m talking to. It’s all in your head.” It sounded like someone telling me that my prayers were not real and were all in my head. It did not seem like something I had broadcast to the folks on the sidewalk. I turned as saw a short stout black lady holding a shopping bag and pointing at me, with a twisted angry look on her face, yelling, “Yes, I’m talking to you. It’s all in your head.” I started talking to God, “Is this lady possessed? Do you want to call out to the demon, tell it to leave her?” As I prayed these words, I spoke to her, “Ma’am, did I do something to disturb you?” as calm and nice as I could, and slowly walked towards her. All of a sudden, she covered her eyes with her arm, and ran away down the street. I asked a Hispanic lady standing nearby if she thought I had done something to disturb the woman, and she said, “No, that woman was crazy!”

So, I believe those two incidents were examples God gave me in answer to my prayer to see the difference between mental illness and demonic possession, in the way that my inner dialogue with the Lord, and questions and prayer, corresponded to the sudden act of the bus driver, and the lady covering her eyes, and running away, which seemed like something a person with a demon would do, the covering of the eyes especially to avoid the light of the Holy Spirit in me. I have not asked God for any more of these experiences. God graciously spared me the danger of an actual encounter of speaking to the demonic as I was ready to do with my Biblical faith.

Some accounts I have read from pastors and theologians who believe in the activity of demonic spirits and angels, have said that most people who are possessed by demons are not obtrusive and go about their business, sort of like psychotics who don’t murder or commit crimes, doing the bidding of the evil one. I think that is likely true. Here where most people are not Christian believers, the devil doesn’t have to do much special activity to keep the lost in his fold.

I haven’t had any close encounters with spiritual evil like that since. I believe God protects me, my family,  and most people from the extreme evil of demonic possession, though not from the influence of spiritual evil, through his common grace. Most of the recorded accounts of possession begin with someone dabbling with the occult, and opening the door, so to speak.

I will close this post with one other interesting event from my time in Los Angeles in the 1980s. Like an demonic infestation, possibly.

I lived in a “haunted apartment” in LA, up in the High Tower residences in Hollywood. My neighbors included Magician David Copperfield, actor/director Bill Duke (he was in Predator with Arnold), and others. I lived in a downstairs apartment owned by a gay couple, both of whom worked in upscale retail men’s clothing in Beverly Hills and who lived upstairs. Once I ran into David Copperfield and his assistant coming off the elevator carrying life-like nude female mannequins which was a real surprise. Once I had this feeling that there were bad spirits in my apartment, partially due to an unusual smell, which could be demonic in accounts I had read, and simply by the feelings of my own discernment. I looked around for a physical solution for my sensations, and found nothing.

I was at a large AA meeting a few months later in Beverly Hills, and was talking with a woman Film Editor I knew, and I told her about the apartment at the High Tower, and that I thought I had experienced some poltergiest or demonic activity in my basement apartment. She gave me this expression of recognition and said, I lived in an apartment up there. We talked and it was clear she had lived in the upstairs quarters of the same house where I lived in the basement apartment (the basement was mostly above ground). She said it had been owned by an older lady who occupied the basement apartment and leased my film editor friend the upstairs apartment where my gay landlords now lived. She said that the demonic activity I reported might have something to do with the lady that used to own the building and lived in the basement where I did. My friend told me that the lady was “eccentric” and that one day an ambulance came to get her and took her away. She had basically lost her mind. My friend saw her when the paramedics took her out of the apartment. She had very long hair, uncut very long fingernails and a wild look in her eyes. Reminded me of Howard Hughes later in life and Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. Here is the account of the Prophet Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual madness:

All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, and you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. And you shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the word was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven from among men and ate grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven till his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers, and his nails were like birds’ claws.

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever,

Daniel 4:28-34 (ESV)

Here is the Wikipedia description of the High Tower area and also some photos of the High Tower residences where I lived (in the second photo you can see the roof of my house behind the multilevel white house to the right of the tower which was the location of filming in the Long Goodbye and Dead Again, and other films. the 3rd photo gives a good view of the circular shape of that home on the right of the tower where all the filming was done over the years:

The High Tower (2178 High Tower Drive) is a five-story, over 100-foot-high tower housing a private elevator. It was built circa 1920 in the style of a Bolognese campanile. The tower provides access to a Streamline Moderne fourplex known as High Tower Court, built between 1935 and 1936. Architect Carl Kay designed both. The High Tower was featured in The Long Goodbye, The High Window, Dead Again, Michael Connelly’s novels Echo Park and The Closers, and a 1961 episode of Naked City. It also leads to the Alta Loma Terrace neighborhood, which includes the Otto Bollman House – one of Lloyd Wright’s first projects – and the B.A.G. Fuller House (6887 W. Alta Loma Terrace), which is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Residents of the hillside enclave around the tower have included David Copperfield, Michael Connelly, Tim Burton, Timothy Hutton, Kurt Cobain, and Courtney Love.

High Tower description in Wikipedia “Hollywood Heights” entry.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_Heights,_Los_Angeles

Here are some photos of the High Tower area;

High Tower 2high Tower 3High tower 4High Tower 5high tower 6

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To learn about how I got to Los Angeles and had these experiences, to those who have not read it, and would like to read it, here is the link to David Larkin’s Spiritual Memoir. It is about 23 pages long:

https://betweentwocities.com/spiritual-memoir/

Here is a shorter version, Supernatural Answers to Prayers in my Life, which has a brief account of my conversion and the second half of my Spiritual Memoir with the record of the more remarkable supernatural answers to prayer and the providential events that were God’s revelation and confirmation to me of his existence and his hand in my life.

https://betweentwocities.com/2015/08/29/supernatural-answers-to-prayers-in-my-life/

Here is a recent post about Spiritual Warfare and prayer for opposing and protection from spiritual forces of evil, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 (English Standard Version)

“The Flaming Darts of the Evil One:

https://betweentwocities.com/2021/02/02/the-flaming-darts-of-the-evil-one/

Posted by: davidlarkin | December 11, 2021

Using Prayer for Research before the Internet

daniel answer to prayer half size - Briton Revere

How God Answered Daniel’s prayers in the Lion’s den: Painting above “Daniel’s Answer to the King” (1890) painting by Briton Rivière (1840 – 1920) a British artist of Huguenot descent. He exhibited a variety of paintings at the Royal Academy, but devoted much of his life to animal paintings.

Using Prayer for Research before the Internet.

When I was living in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s, I was without a car and rode the bus for about 11 months. I was spending much of my time studying the Bible again because I had reached a low point in my life, “backslidden” as Christians refer to the situation. I needed to get right with God. I had forsaken alcohol addiction and was attending AA meetings as I reassembled my life. I was interested in talking with people about God and the Bible at the time. The bus provided many opportunities to share my faith, as I often carried a Bible on the bus. As it says in Ecclesiastes, “To everything, there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven.” This was a season for me for learning about fellowship with other Christians, which I had avoided for years, about sanctification, about holiness, about prayer and significantly, about the presence and power of God. [I had spent 12 years since my conversion reading the Bible while studying philosophy at Yale in 1971, as a solo Lone Ranger Christian. But as I repented, God redeemed those years for me. “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, . . . Joel 2:25 English Standard Version]

During this time, I read in the papers about a cult of Buddhism that was making a mark in Hollywood – Nicheren Shōshū Buddhism. Hollywood people were chanting in order to receive material reward: money, a new car, whatever they desired. It was like the prosperity “name it and claim it” gospel that televangelists touted – “Gaaawd-ah whants yew to be rich!” I was concerned that friends of mine might be tempted by the Buddhist chanting. I was told that one of my friends, a successful screenwriter, was investigating Buddhism. So, I said a little off-the-cuff prayer that God would teach me something about this cult so that I would be equipped to talk about it if the subject came up in conversations with others, and be able to witness the truth of the Gospel. A substitute for research at UCLA Library, perhaps. The prayer was perfunctory but sincere. I forgot about it.

A week or so later I was waiting at a bus stop in Downtown L.A. The stop was crowded with about 25 people waiting. I was standing behind the crowd. As I stood there, I noticed a red compact car come up to the curb to my right and park about twenty yards past the stop. A small Asian woman in business clothes got out of the car, walked through the crowd and right up to me. She looked up into my eyes, said, “I have something for you.” She reached into the pocket of her jacket and handed me a brochure for Nicheren Shōshū Buddhism. I thanked her and she turned and walked back to her car and drove away. I got goose bumps and chills. I still do. I closed my eyes and thanked God for answering my prayer in such a spectacular way. Why would God use such a supernatural means to provide me with a brochure, other than to give my faith strength? When something like that happens, it diminishes any natural tendency for me to doubt that God is real and alive.
— excerpted from “David Larkin’s Spiritual Memoir


To learn about how I got to Los Angeles and had these experiences, to those who have not read it, and would like to read it, here is the link to David Larkin’s Spiritual Memoir. It is about 23 pages long:

https://betweentwocities.com/spiritual-memoir/

Here is a shorter version, Supernatural Answers to Prayers in my Life, which has a brief account of my conversion and the second half of my Spiritual Memoir with the record of the more remarkable supernatural answers to prayer and the providential events that were God’s revelation and confirmation to me of his existence and his Sovereign hand in my life.

https://betweentwocities.com/2015/08/29/supernatural-answers-to-prayers-in-my-life/

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 14, 2022

Prayer for a Noisy World

Noisy World

For those of us who do not have the luxury of living in a forest or country lane or even isolated in the desert, we can still have silent prayer. Here is a poetic prayer for a noisy world:

“Prayer for a Noisy World.”

We live in a restless noisy world.
The crash of waves on a small boat.
The noise of gunfire and the explosion of bombs. The shouts of the market place
and the wail of a hungry child.
The dumb pleading of the addict’s needle and the protests of the oppressed.
The frustrated anger of the unemployed and the scream of the tortured.
The restless noise of machines.
The clamant knocking of the prisoner and the noisy silence of unforgiveness. Out of the depths of our noise
we cry to you, 0 Lord
the never ceasing prayer of your people, with your people, for your people,
that the discordant clamor
of your world
may be turned into symphonies of peace, love and joy.
May the voice of prayer be never silent . . . God is not deafened by our noise,
he opens his ears wider when we cry.

— Author unknown, from The Lion Prayer Collection – 1300 Prayers for All Occasions” compiled by Mary Batchelor
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Our silent private prayers are important to God, and for our spirit. Sincere prayers are effective, though true sincerity is a difficult attitude to embrace for a Christian, in our fleshly weakness. God remembers our prayers. 

Jesus said, “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:5-6 (English Standard Version)

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16b English Standard Version

And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne,

Revelation 8:3 (English Standard Version)

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 7, 2022

A Morning Affirmation – Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899 – 1981)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. For almost 30 years, he was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London. His preaching and writing have been a great inspiration to me over the years. I read his daily devotional, Walking with God Day by Day: 365 Daily Devotional Selections each day on my Amazon Kindle.  On March 29, I read his devotional about our position in Christ. He wrote this:

When you wake up, the first thing you should do (and I need to do the same) is to say to yourself, “I am a child of God. Christ is in me. That old self is gone: I died with Christ. ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ Everything I do today must be in the light of this knowledge.”

Walking with God Day by Day: 365 Daily Devotional Selections, March 29, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Robert Backhouse, published by Crossway

The Apostle Paul reminds us we are the children of God in his Epistles, for example:

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Romans 8:16 (English Standard Version)

Paul makes it clear that our old self is gone, and Christ lives in us.

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.

Romans 6:6 (English Standard Version)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 (English Standard Version)

I decided to make this affirmation each morning when I awake. 

I am a child of God. Christ is in me. That old self is gone: I died with Christ. ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ Everything I do today must be in the light of this knowledge.

I added it to my Morning Prayers on this blog.

I highly recommend Dr. Lloyd-Jones sermons on the Martyn Lloyd-Jones Trust website:

https://www.mljtrust.org/sermons/

I listened to his over 200 sermons on the Ephesians on my exercise walks. He goes through the book verse by verse. Very rich messages and teaching.  There is an MLJ app on the Apple iPhone and Google Play. I listened to his sermons with my iPhone MLJ Trust App.

I also have read some of his books. My favorite is The Assurance of Our Salvation (Studies in John 17): Exploring the Depth of Jesus’ Prayer for His Own. He has 48 chapters, his sermons on John 17, and the higher Lord’s Prayer, his prayer for the people who the Father has given him, not a prayer for his people but solely for Jesus. This book was life-changing for me. 

Another very good book of his I have read is Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure, which Amazon summarizes as follows:

This enduring collection of twenty-one sermons by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, each originally delivered at Westminster Chapel in London, carefully and compassionately analyzes an undeniable feature of modern society from which Christians have not escaped — spiritual depression.

“Christian people,” writes Lloyd-Jones, “too often seem to be perpetually in the doldrums and too often give this appearance of unhappiness and of lack of freedom and absence of joy. There is no question at all but that this is the main reason why large numbers of people have ceased to be interested in Christianity.”

Believing the Christian joy was one of the most potent factors in the spread of Christianity in the early centuries, Lloyd-Jones not only lays bare the causes that have robbed many Christians of spiritual vitality but also points the way to the cure that is found through the mind and spirit of Christ.

https://www.amazon.com/Spiritual-Depression-Its-Causes-Cure/dp/0802813879/

Posted by: davidlarkin | March 12, 2022

Short Prayer to the Trinity

Masaccio,_trinità

Painting above: The Holy Trinity, with the Virgin and Saint John and donors (Italian: Santa Trinità) is a fresco by the Early Italian Renaissance painter Masaccio. It is located in the Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella, in Florence. In the painting, the Son is on the Cross, the Father is behind him, and the Holy Spirit is above the Son’s head, in the form of a small white dove. Massacio (1401-1428) was a Florentine artist who is regarded as the first great Italian painter of the Quattrocento period of the Italian Renaissance. According to Vasari, Masaccio was the best painter of his generation because of his skill at imitating nature, recreating lifelike figures and movements as well as a convincing sense of three-dimensionality.

This short prayer to the Trinity which I composed for inclusion in my daily prayers is the tenth prayer of the 10 morning prayers I have shared in my Morning Prayers page in the Morning Prayers tab above.

PRAYER TO THE TRINITY

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you. Luke 9:23 (English Standard Version)

Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22 (English Standard Version).

Click here for my Morning Prayer page with my Morning Prayers.

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 1, 2022

Prayer of a Soviet Prisoner

Soviet Gulag Prison Camp

Photo: Solovki Prison Camp, Soviet Union

Location: Solovetsky Islands (1,400 km north of Moscow)

Period of existence: 1923-1933

Max. number of prisoners: 71,800

The “grandfather” of all Soviet camps, strictly speaking, Solovki existed long before the Gulag. It was essentially a testing ground for the use of mass prison labor. “The use of prison labor arose from there,” Leonid Borodkin, head of the Center for Economic History at Moscow State University, told radio station Echo of Moscow.

On the icy islands in the White Sea, tens of thousands of prisoners felled trees, built roads, and drained swamps. At first, the regime was relatively “soft” — but by the late 1920s it had become a genuine hellhole. Uncooperative prisoners were beaten with sticks, drowned, and tortured. Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his exposé work The Gulag Archipelago described Solovki as a “polar Auschwitz.”

In the early 1930s, Solovki was disbanded, and the prisoners were moved to other camps. The test had proven successful — and the time had come to expand the system across the entire gigantic country.

from “8 of the Most Evil Gulag Camps of the Soviet Union”

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Here is a prayer I read today from a Soviet Prisoner. It is inspiring and clearly shows how the Holy Spirit comforted him a gave him a gift of true prayer.

Prayer in a Soviet Prison

The greatest miracle of all is prayer. I have only to turn my thoughts to God and I suddenly feel a force bursting into me; there is new strength in my soul, in my entire being . . . The basis of my whole spiritual life is the Orthodox liturgy, so while I was I was in prison I attended it every day in my imagination . . . At the central point of the liturgy . . . I felt myself standing before the face of the Lord, sensing almost physically his wounded, bleeding body. I would begin praying in my own words, remembering all those near to me, those in prison and those who were free, those still alive and those who had died. More and more names welled up from my memory . . . the prison walls moved apart and the whole universe became my residence, visible and invisible, the universe for which that wounded, pierced body offered itself as a sacrifice . . . After this, I experienced an exaltation of spirit all day — I felt purified within. Not only my own prayer helped me, but even more the prayer of many other faithful Christians. I felt it continually, working from a distance, lifting me up as though on wings, giving me living water and the bread of life, peace of soul, rest and love.

Anatoli Levitin, USSR

—- from The Lion Prayer Collection edited by Mary Batchelor, at p. 191

Posted by: davidlarkin | January 20, 2022

Fifty Years with God through Jesus

50 years of God's Strength

This past March 2021, I celebrated 50 years of my faith in God, thankful for Jesus and his atoning work on the cross, through which I have forgiveness and eternal life, and for his resurrection. I was saved 50+ years ago in 1971 while studying philosophy at Yale. I had diverted into reading various religious writings, beginning with the Eastern religions, and when I ran out of religions, I said to myself, ‘I guess I better read the Bible to be fair.’ I had never read through the Bible. I started at Genesis 1 in the hotel King James Bible I found in my cottage in Woodmont, Connecticut. I read through the Old Testament which was very difficult. When I started reading the New Testament and the Gospels, it was much easier to read. Then in the middle of the Gospel of Luke, I suddenly believed what I was reading was true. I was truly surprised. There was no decision, one moment I did not believe and the next moment I did. I know know it was a sovereign work of God regenerating my spirit. I was suddenly sorry for all my sinful behavior and confessed the best I could. Now fifty years later, I marvel how God has kept me both alive, and believing his Word in the Bible.  

I must give God the glory for keeping me in the faith all these years, for the gift of perseverance. As a Bible-believing Christian, I have confidence that I will never fall away, that perseverance accompanies true faith and salvation in God, through His son Jesus, and his atoning death on the cross and resurrection, with the work of the Holy Spirit day by day strengthening me and keeping me. Thus, a simple statement of the Gospel that is the foundation of my faith.

This is a passage from the Gospel of John that contains the promise of perseverance to those who are truly chosen by God, who necessarily humble themselves, and recognize their sins, and repent, though repentance is continuous until we die.

Jesus said: “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

John 10:14-15, 27-30 (English Standard Version)

I have often shared my account of my spiritual life with others which I posted on this blog in 2008. My Spiritual Memoir, which I wrote in 2005, accounts for my spiritual life from childhood and high school in Omaha, Nebraska, my unbelief until my conversion in 1971 reading the Bible while at Yale, and the more remarkable supernatural and providential events over my life since then which have made my faith unshakeable.

To those who have not read it, and would like to read it, here is the link to David Larkin’s Spiritual Memoir. It is about 23 pages long:

https://betweentwocities.com/spiritual-memoir/

Here is a shorter version, Supernatural Answers to Prayers in my Life, which has a brief account of my conversion and the second half of my Spiritual Memoir with the record of the more remarkable supernatural answers to prayer and the providential events that were God’s revelation and confirmation to me of his existence and his hand in my life.

https://betweentwocities.com/2015/08/29/supernatural-answers-to-prayers-in-my-life/

Here is my wife Susan’s testimony. When we met 33 years ago both her parents had committed suicide, her mother when Susan was 3 and her father when she was 28. She was in therapy. She tells how God delivered her in this testimony. She had an interesting life like me before we met. She has been a Christian for 33 years now. Click below:

https://betweentwocities.com/susan-larkins-testimony/

Posted by: davidlarkin | January 7, 2022

Exuberant Personification in Psalm 114

skipping lamb

“The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.”

Psalm 114, my Psalm for today, January 7, 2022. Eight verses celebrating God’s omnipotence and love for his people, with “Exuberant Personification!”

When Israel went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled;
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
What ails you, O sea, that you flee?
O Jordan, that you turn back?
O mountains, that you skip like rams?
O hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turns the rock into a pool of water,
the flint into a spring of water.

Psalm 114 (English Standard Version)

“A hymn of praise which celebrates the special status of God’s people, the house of Jacob that went out from Egypt [with Moses]. The Lord is the one whom all nature obeys, and even trembles before, and yet He has chosen little Israel to be his own, and He exerts his power on their behalf. The psalm mentions the exodus from Egypt, the covenant at Sinai that made Israel to be God’s “dominion,” the crossing of the Jordan River under Joshua’s leadership, and God’s provision for his people as they traveled through the wilderness. When the believing congregation sings this, they are better able to accept their current circumstances under God’s governance as well. The psalm uses exuberant personification, describing the Red Sea and the Jordan River as if they fled from God, the mountains skipping like lambs, and the earth trembling at God’s presence. The imagery conveys how powerful the Lord is: even the strongest natural forces would not dream of resisting him. However, the events of the Psalm are not simply displays of his raw power: God used his power for the sake of his people.
—  Explanatory Note to Psalm 114 in the English Standard Version Study Bible. For the past 13 years, I have used the Large Print version, in Leather, which costs about $100, though there is a less expensive hardbound version.

Posted by: davidlarkin | November 15, 2021

Fruit of the Spirit – Favorite Scripture Memory Verses

Fruit of the Spirit half size

Fruit of the Spirit.

In the New Testament, in his letter to the Galatians, Chapter 5, verses 23-23, (English Standard Version) the Apostle Paul writes:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Galatians, 5:22-23 (English Standard Version)

I love this list of virtues of character which Paul says are gifts from the Holy Spirit of God. I include these verses among my Scripture memory verses. A memory trick I use to remember the list is that in the English Standard Version translation, the fruits are divided into three groups of three, the first three have one syllable, the second three have two syllables and the third three have three syllables. It helped in memorizing this verse and provides a clue when my memory is uncooperative.

Another of my memory verses, which I have held in my memory since the mid-eighties, is like an old friend who I call upon frequently over the years. In his letter to the Philippians, Chapter 4, verses 6-8, the Apostle Paul provides a practical means to overcome anxiety and to think good and helpful thoughts. The mind often seems to dwell on the unpleasant matters and worries of life and the world. I can remember a moment of anxiety among a crowd waiting for a bus in Los Angeles in the mid-80s where these verses popped into my mind, my memory prompted by the Holy Spirit I am sure. It was a comfort then, and remains a comfort today:

. . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Philippians 4:6-8 (English Standard Version)

Posted by: davidlarkin | November 5, 2021

Ruth and Boaz – A Chance Meeting?

Ruth and Boaz 1876-7 by Thomas Matthews Rooke 1842-1942

“Ruth and Boaz” (1876-77) painting by Thomas Matthews Rooke (1842 – 1942, London) from the Tate Museum in London, UK. Rooke was a British watercolourist. He worked as a designer, as an assistant to other artists, and was commissioned by John Ruskin to make architectural drawings.

“Chance is banished from the faith of Christians, for they see the hand of God in everything.”  — Charles Haddon Spurgeon

While it seemed like a chance meeting, it was the providence of God. Ruth and Boaz produced a son from whom Jesus, the Messiah descended. The story of Ruth in the book of Ruth in the Hebrew Old Testament is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. You can read the book of Ruth by here at the ESV website.

Here is what prominent 19th Century preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote about the chance meeting of Ruth and Boaz in his “Morning and Evening Devotional” (as modernized by Alistair Begg):

SO SHE SET OUT AND WENT AND GLEANED IN THE FIELD AFTER THE REAPERS,AND SHE HAPPENED TO COME TO THE PART OF THE FIELD BELONGING TO BOAZ, WHO WAS OF THE CLAN OF ELIMELECH.

— RUTH 2:3

She happened to come. Yes, it seemed nothing but an accident, but it was divinely ruled over! Ruth had gone out with her mother-in-law’s blessing, under the care of her mother-in-law’s God, to humble but honorable work, and the providence of God was guiding her every step. Little did she know that among the sheaves she would find a husband, that he would make her the joint owner of all those broad acres, and that she, a poor foreigner, would become one of the ancestors of the great Messiah.

God is very good to those who trust in Him and often surprises them with unexpected blessings. Little do we know what may happen to us tomorrow, but this sweet fact may cheer us—that no good thing will be withheld. Chance is banished from the faith of Christians, for they see the hand of God in everything. The trivial events of today or tomorrow may involve consequences of the highest importance. O Lord, deal as graciously with Your servants now as You did with Ruth.

How blessed would it be if, in wandering in the field of meditation tonight, we should happen to find ourselves in the place where the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to us! O Spirit of God, guide us to Him. We would rather glean in His field than carry home the whole harvest from any other place. We would follow the footsteps of His flock, which would guide us to the green pastures where He dwells! This is a weary world when Jesus is away—we would survive easier without sun and moon than without Him—but how divinely fair all things become in the glory of His presence! Our souls know the virtue that lives in Jesus and can never be content without Him. We will wait in prayer tonight until we “happen” to come to a part of the field belonging to Jesus in which He will reveal Himself to us.

 

Posted by: davidlarkin | October 21, 2021

Prayer for the Lonely People

Sunday by Edward Hopper

“Sunday” by Edward Hopper, 1926, oil on canvas, National Art Gallery, The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

A Prayer for the Lonely People

Lord, we pray for all the lonely people, especially those who coming home to an empty house stand at the door hesitant and afraid to enter. May all who stand on any doorway with fear in their hearts, like the two on the Emmaus road, ask the living one in. Then, by his grace, may they find that in loneliness they are never alone and that he peoples empty rooms with his presence. Amen.

— E. M. Farr from the Lion Prayer Collection compiled by Mary Batchelor.
——————
The author of the prayer refers to the ‘two on Emmaus” from the Bible.

On the Road to Emmaus – Gospel of Luke, Chapter 24, verses 13-49.

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”

They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

john-calvin

John Calvin (1509-1564), portrait above, who along with Martin Luther are considered the leaders of the Christian Reformation in the 16th Century. I think he is the most inspirational of the Reformers. I am reading his 1500+ page, four book, “Institutes of the Christian Religion” for the fourth time over the past 30 years. I have read the hardbound 2 volume set, but now I read a little each night on my kindle.

For several centuries, Calvin has long been mistakenly identified with the Christian doctrines of predestination and election. As German Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck wrote in 1909:

Still another injustice, however, must be laid to the charge of the average conception of Calvin. Men sometimes speak as if Calvin knew of nothing else to preach but the decree of predestination with its two parts of election and reprobation. The truth is that no preacher of the Gospel has ever surpassed Calvin in the free, generous proclamation of the grace and love of God. He was so far from putting predestination to the front, that in the Institutio the subject does not receive treatment until the third book, after the completion of the discussion of the life of faith.

Bavinck, “Calvin and Common Grace,” The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 7 No. 3 (1909), pp 437-465.

While John Calvin expressed the doctrine of predestination well, it is not his doctrine but the doctrine of Jesus and the Apostles, as defended by Augustine, the Bishop of Hippo (354 – 430) in his extensive defense of God’s grace against the heretical writings of Pelagian, “Anti-Pelagian Writings.” Calvin relied on the Scripture and Augustine in his defense and exposition of the doctrine of election in the Institutes.

As Jesus said:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:44 (English Standard Version)

The Apostle Paul was more theologically explicit in expressing how those who truly believe are chosen by God and believe by his grace alone:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known[c] to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Ephesians, 1:3-10 (English Standard Version)

and further:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Thus, we who believe can take no personal credit for our Christian faith, but must humbly thank god for his unmerited favor.

Much unnecessary thought and angst is expended trying to understand how election and free will can co-exist. It is an “antinomy,” not to be confused with the chemical element Sb “antimony“, a gray metallic substance. Contemporary theologian J. I. Packer, called this seemingly impossible co-existence an antinomy in his profound little book, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, explaining that it is a contradiction that cannot be understood and must be accepted as a matter of faith in reliance on the Word of God expressed in the New Testament. John Calvin warned against trying to rationally understand predestination:

“Human curiosity renders the discussion of predestination, already somewhat difficult of itself, very confusing and even dangerous. No restraints can hold it back from wandering in forbidden bypaths and thrusting upward to the heights. If allowed, it will leave no secret to God that it will not search out and unravel. . . let them remember that when they inquire into predestination, they are penetrating the sacred precincts of divine wisdom. . . He has set forth by his Word the secrets of his will that he has decided to reveal to us. These he decided to reveal in so far as he foresaw that they would concern us and benefit us. . . . For we shall know that the moment we exceed the bounds of the Word, our course is outside the pathway and in darkness, and that there we must repeatedly wander, slip, and stumble. Let this, therefore, first of all be before our eyes: to seek any other knowledge of predestination than what the Word of God discloses is not less insane than if one should purpose to walk in a pathless waste [cf. Job 12:24], or to see in darkness. . . . And let us not be ashamed to be ignorant of something in this matter, wherein there is a certain learned ignorance.”

Calvin, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” Book 3, Chapter XXI, Sections 1-2.

It makes the duty of personally sharing the Gospel a work of God’s grace and love, rather than my own work. It is the means by which God spreads his grace to his chosen people.

Jesus said,

For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Matthew 22:14 (English Standard Version)

and many who claim to be Christians are not. This may have consequences today for those who call themselves “evangelicals,” and do not act in accordance with Jesus’s Gospel, for example, those who build empires of wealth through televised prosperity gospel preaching. As Jesus warned us:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Matthew 7:21-23 (English Standard Version)

For us who God has given the gift of faith, we have assurance of salvation, which is “guaranteed” by the God, the Holy Spirit

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,  so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee[d] of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Ephesians 1:11-14 (English Standard Version)

Calvin reverenced Scripture as the revelation of God, and relied on Scripture for the source of truth. Here is a prayer of John Calvin before reading God’s word:

O Lord, Heavenly Father, in whom  is the fullness of light and of wisdom, enlighten our minds by the Holy Spirit, and give us grace to receive thy Word with reverence and humility, without which no one can understand thy truth. For Christ’s sake, Amen.

We have cause for lifting up praise to God at all times!

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”

Psalm 150:6 (English Standard Version). The last verse of the last Psalm, a fitting closing to the Psalms.

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 27, 2021

First Job, a short story

Berkeley in 70s

1970s photo of street vendors and customers on Telegraph Avenue, down the avenue from University of California, Berkeley

In late summer 1974, I came to Berkeley, California on a bus from somewhere East. I had been traveling from place to place for three years at that time. I got off the bus at Telegraph Avenue with my duffel bag, guitar, and $40. Upon arrival, I started at the bottom of the hill on Telegraph Avenue a few blocks from Sproul Plaza at the University of California at Berkeley. I went door to door up the street applying for a job. At the top of the hill, across the street from Sproul Plaza, on Bancroft Way, I was hired to be the shipping and receiving clerk at Campus Textbook exchange. The guy doing the job, a Berkeley dropout, was leaving and he trained me. Immediately after being hired, I went across the street to the Berkeley Student Union and went to the bulletin board where students and others posted rooms for rent and jobs. I found a room in an apartment. Job and place to live in about two hours. God took care of me. At night I played guitar on the street under an overhang for the entrance to a bank so I was always out of the rain. The street vendors and musicians always honored each one’s customary spot on Telegraph.

In 2013, I wrote this following brief short story, First Job, based loosely on the time I lived in Berkeley in 1974, worked at the bookstore, and played guitar and sang for change on the street, Telegraph Avenue. I am the guitar guy in the story. The main character is a teenage runaway living on the street in Berkeley.

The short story is posted at this page:  https://betweentwocities.com/first-job-a-short-story/

Posted by: davidlarkin | March 29, 2021

Pray without Ceasing – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Shopping Carts in Rack

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, the Apostle Paul encourages us to “pray without ceasing.” While this is not a literal instruction to do nothing but pray 24/7, it is an encouragement to be aware of God’s presence, and talk with him throughout the day in your inner man with petition and supplication, with thanksgiving.

This little prayer of thanksgiving, the March 26, 2021 Daily Prayer in the Phoenix, Arizona newspaper, the Arizona Republic, is a good one, thanking God for hearing our off-the-cuff prayers, if we have the presence of the immanent God in mind:

“Lord, in the midst of our day’s business, we thank you for receiving our inwardly uttered prayers. Amen.”

Here is a familiar comforting Scripture, words of the Apostle Paul, that connects thanksgiving with prayers of petition and resulting peace. This is a memory verse of mine that I frequently turn to if I am feeling a spot of bother.

. . . do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (English Standard Version)

Then there is this verse from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, Chapter 3, verse 17, that is also a helpful verse for me, a reminder prayer:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17 (English Standard Version)

I continue to repeat this scripture to myself and give thanks to God, when I go about my business each day, like when I am pushing the grocery shopping cart to the racks in the parking lot after shopping, something that seems like a chore, though less so after so many times.

Years ago I did not put the grocery carts back in the racks in the lot. My rationale was that I was too busy, or this would make jobs for young people. But I realize now I was not too busy and was just being lazy. As this Scientific American article points out, the grocery store cart gathering employees prefer that you return the carts to the racks.

Click here The Reasons People Don’t Return their Shopping Carts – Scientific American

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 2, 2021

The Flaming Darts of the Evil One

Painting above is the Christian using the “Shield of Faith” to “extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.”

Why are the “flaming darts” coming down? In sobering words for those who receive them, the Apostle Paul refers to the enemy, Satan or the devil, as the god of this earthly fallen world:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (English Standard Version)

Especially, in similarly sobering words, Paul refers to “Prince of the Power of the Air,” in his Epistle (or Letter) to the Ephesians, Chapter 2 verses 1-10 (English Standard Version), where he describes the state of fallen humankind before God’s grace takes hold and saves us (God’s mercy and redemptive act highlighted below in red):

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (English Standard Version)

In other words, this fallen world is under the control of the evil one, and to the extent we are preserved from his goal, suffering and death, it is by God’s grace, special saving grace for the believer, and common grace for all. Further, Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, Chapter 6, verses 10-18, he describes the symbolic “armor of God” in terms of the armor of the Roman soldier. Though Paul was a former Jewish Pharisee who persecuted the first Christians on behalf of the Jerusalem Temple council, the Sanhedrin, after meeting the Risen Jesus in a vision on the road to Damascus where he was intending to persecute Christians, he became the great Apostle of the risen Messiah to the Gentiles. Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 9. Moreover, born in Tarsus, he was a Roman citizen by birth, hence his familiarity with the armor of the Roman soldier. Here is how Paul describes the armor of God as well as his mission as “ambassador in chains” of the Gospel in Ephesians 6:10-20 (ESV). Tradition puts Paul in prison in Rome when he wrote this letter to Ephesus:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:10-20 (English Standard Version)

After saying to myself the above passage on the armor of God from Ephesians, I follow that passage with this “Prayer of Thanksgiving for Spiritual Protection” in my daily morning prayers and devotionals:

Prayer Of Thanks For Spiritual Protection

Father God, I praise and thank You for the Word of God and the truths it contains. Thank You for the many instructions, guidelines and boundaries that we are given for our spiritual protection and preservation. Help me to put on the whole armour of God and to remain covered in Christ moment by moment, knowing that it is our only protection and defense against the principalities and powers of darkness, that would seek to undermine our trust in God.

Help me to stand fast in this evil day, and to willingly submit to the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit in my life, so that in His power I may resist the devil and all his evil activities in my life and the lives of those I love.

Keep me from presumptuously thinking that I have strength in and of myself against the wiles of the evil one, knowing that all the instructions, guidelines and boundaries in Scripture are given for my learning and for my spiritual protection. Help me to keep my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, and my heart securely anchored to the Rock of my salvation. May I never lose sight of my access to the Throne of grace, my glorious position in Christ, my heavenly citizenship and my day by day responsibility to trust Your Word of truth. In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.

This prayer can be found with several others at this webpage of “Prayers for Spiritual Warfare”:

https://prayer.knowing-jesus.com/Prayers-for-Spiritual-Warfare

I posted my own personal encounters with what I believe was the demonic, in Los Angeles in the mid-80s here:

Encounters with the Demonic, Perhaps

Posted by: davidlarkin | January 23, 2021

In Prayer in America Today

“Old Man Praying” drawing by Vincent van Gogh on the left and painting by Rembrandt on the right.

No matter how old you are, how devout your are, or what faith you might have, if you desire to pray, prayer is not an easy thing to do with the mind and body we have to use, with all the distractions of daily life, undisciplined minds and itches, aches and pains. Prayer seems easier when you are older and time is coming to an end in this life. Prayer also seems easier right now for me as an American when a new Presidential administration has been installed to hopefully right the wrongs of the past, and gives us hope. All those in new leadership need our prayers, if you believe prayers of intercession for leaders are spiritually and materially advantageous for the nation, as I do and as the Scripture and the Apostle Paul urges us to do.

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4 (English Standard Version)

The ideal attitude of prayer is to be in an eternal dimension of communication with our spiritual immaterial God, and it is an ideal with all the interference from the aforementioned distractions.

The first paragraph of the following Puritan Prayer about Prayer, describes that ideal attitude of prayer.

In Prayer O Lord, in prayer I launch far out into the eternal world, and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs over all evils on the shores of mortality. Time, with its glad amusements and cruel disappointments never appears so inconsiderate as then.

The remaining paragraphs of this Puritan prayer describe further attitudes, attributes and goals of Godly Christian prayer:
——–

IN PRAYER

In Prayer O Lord, in prayer I launch far out into the eternal world, and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs over all evils on the shores of mortality. Time, with its glad amusements and cruel disappointments never appears so inconsiderate as then.

In prayer I see myself as nothing; I find my heart going after You with intensity, and long with vehement thirst to live to You. Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.

In prayer all things here below vanish, and nothing seems important but holiness of heart and the salvation of others. In prayer all my worldly cares, fears, anxieties disappear, and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.

In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts at what You are doing for Your church, and I long that You should get a great name from sinners returning to Zion.

In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life, and taste heavenly joys; entering into the eternal world I can give myself to You with all my heart, to be Yours forever.
In prayer I can place all my concerns in Your hands, to be entirely at Your disposal, having no will or interest of my own.

In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers, sinners, the church, Your kingdom to come, with greatest freedom, ardent hopes, as a son to his father, as a lover to the beloved. Help me to be all prayer and never to cease praying.

—- from Puritan Prayers. Click here for the online source of this Prayer

——

In the midst of the past four years I composed the following prayer for wisdom in resolving the moral and political issues that emerged hour by hour, day by day, and even on weekends.

Prayer for Wisdom in Resolving Moral and Political Issues

Father in Heaven, give me guidance and discernment by your Holy Spirit in my efforts to resolve the moral conflicts and conflicting political issues in these difficult times in light of Scripture and in my role as a Christian in the world and a follower of your son Jesus Messiah.

Help me to be a light among my fellow Christians and my friends in the world and give me wisdom to rightly form my opinions in these matters and express them graciously and with humility. Let me be always ready to admit when I am wrong, and stand firm when I am convinced by your Word and your Spirit that I am right.
In Jesus name, Amen.
——-

I have not posted for quite a few months. I had open heart double bypass and aortic valve replacement surgery in June 2020, with an atrial flutter from the surgery, I had cardioversion to shock my pulse from 125-135 bpm to my normal between 55 and 65 bpm. Then after the heart surgery wounds healed, I had a cardiac catheter ablation to eliminate the atrial flutter permanently, followed by Mohs surgery for a spot of squamous cell carcinoma, “skin cancer”, on my forehead near the temple. God is good and now at age 72, He has apparently preserved my life for a few more years, I hope. I am now all healed from all of it, walking an hour a day, and back to normal, and was inspired to post something on this blog today. 

[I believe I have posted the photos and the prayers here at one time or another, but with the new dawn of hope in the nation and the world, I decided to post them again for those who might be interested or value them.]

The Return of the Prodigal Son is a painting by Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. 1606-1669, Holland, circa 1668

This painting of the Grace of a father to his wayward, prodigal son is from the Parable of the Prodigal Son, a parable of Jesus found in the Gospel of Luke 15:11-32. The painting is found at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Entered the Hermitage in 1766; formerly in the collection of Catherine the Great. Here is the catalog description at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg:

At one moment in his youth Rembrandt depicted himself in one of his many self-portraits as a reveller and spoilt child of fortune at the height of his fame and his powers, with a goblet in his hand and his beloved woman in his lap. His turning to the subject of the return of the prodigal son (Lk 15:11-32) is a sort of finale to that story. The artist painted the work just months before his death. It is hard to recognize the pale, emaciated, shattered man returning to the father whom he left in his youth as that same reckless pleasure-seeker, gambler and spendthrift, who asked his parent for his share of the inheritance and squandered it away down to the last coin. What has become of his self-confidence and fine clothing? Everything impermanent has slipped from him like an empty husk. At the cost of suffering and losses he has gained insight. Entering his father’s house, miserable, sick and exhausted, he falls on his knees before his parent, who bends over him, full of love and forgiveness. In the smoky twilight of the space the old man’s face shines like a star in the night sky: the light of consolation descends on the son. The red wrap over the old man’s shoulders forms a sort of canopy above the unhappy wanderer. The astonished witnesses look on in silence. In Holland, a Protestant country where there were no painted altarpieces in the churches and large pictures on religious subjects were rarely painted, Rembrandt produced without any commission a huge painting in which the peculiarities of the artist’s mature manner, colour and light themselves, acquired a spiritual character. It is as if he was drawing the balance of his life and his artistic career, placing himself before the judgement of Higher Mercy and of the world.

The parable of Jesus, the Prodigal Son, is only found in the Gospel of Luke:

And [Jesus] said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Luke 15:11-24 (ESV).

In Christian theology, Grace is defined as “unmerited favor.” The word “grace” is used over 170 times in the New Testament alone. In this parable, Jesus gives us a portrait of the grace of God, as the Father in the Parable takes his repentant son back after he has wasted all he was given by the Father. He was lost in a life of sin, but as soon as he repented and returned to the Father, he was received by the Father with open arms, for as the Father explains, “‘For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.”

As the Apostle Paul wrote:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23 (ESV)

We are all sinners in need of a savior, separated from God, dead in our sins, with hope in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus. As Paul writes:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 

Romans 3:23-24 (ESV).

Those who are Christian believers like me believe we were chosen to a new birth in the spirit, to salvation, as a gift, not by any thing we have done, or by any inherent good quality of birth.

In John, Chapter 3, Verse 3, Jesus said,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Here, the Greek word translated “again” is ánōthen (ἄνωθεν.)

The word derives from ánō (ἄνω), meaning “above.” It literally and most usually means “from above,” as in describing the view from a mountain. But it can also mean “again.” translated “again” is purposely ambiguous and can mean both “again” and “from above.” Some translations of the Bible translate the phrase “unless one is born again from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” So, “born again” Christian is a somewhat misleading label, though it is not incorrect.

As the Apostle Paul succinctly stated:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

Paul further explained the means of salvation

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV)

And once the heart is broken by grief for sin and separation from God, as Paul further explains, calling on God brings grace and salvation:

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:9-13 (ESV).

Thus, after salvation or regeneration, our good works are given to us by God, prepared in advance for us to do, although we are not able to see the preordained character of our good works, the intricacy of the divine plan in the everyday occurrences of our lives, without special revelation or understanding given on the occasion.

Thus, Grace is a gift of God.  Truly Amazing Grace!  Further, any virtue of good character is a gift of God.

“Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us,”

Romans 12:6 (ESV).

James, the half-brother of Jesus, son of Mary and Joseph writes poetically:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

James 1:17 (ESV)

Each morning and evening, I read the entry morning and evening entry in my daily devotional, A Diary of Private Prayer,” by John Baillie, (1886-1960), a Scottish theologian, and Church of Scotland minister (Published in 1949 this updated 2014 editions was edited and updated by theologian and writer Susanna Wright, chosen by John Baillie’s son, Ian, to do the update). There are 31 morning and evening entries, plus a separate Sunday morning and evening entry. The evening entry for the 12th day of the month, has this prayer, and petition for an abundance of gifts of grace representing a wonderful and desirable set of virtuous character traits and disciplines, which if given at once would certainly overwhelm. We can only hope to gradually receive them and with diligence and discipline, both by regularly examining our conscience and taking care to limit our rash and thoughtless acts.

O LORD, all treasures of wisdom and truth and holiness are stored up in your boundless being.

Grant that through our constant fellowship with you, those graces of Christian character may more and more take shape within me:

The grace of a thankful and uncomplaining heart;

The grace to await your timing patiently and to answer your call promptly;

The grace of courage whether in suffering or in danger;

The grace to endure any hardship in the fight against evil;

The grace of boldness to stand up for what is right;

The grace of being adequately prepared for any temptation;

The grace of physical discipline;

The grace of truthfulness;

The grace to treat others as I would like them to treat me;

The grace of sensitivity, that I may refrain from hasty judgment;

The grace of silence, that I may refrain from thoughtless speech;

The grace of forgiveness toward all who have wronged me;

The grace of tenderness toward all who are weaker than myself;

The grace of faithfulness in continuing to desire that you will answer these prayers.

Amen

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Note:  I used the Rembrandt painting in a slide show in a YouTube Video I made in August 2019 with a recording I made in 1988.  It is posted here:

https://betweentwocities.com/2018/09/13/dont-it-make-you-wanna-go-home/

Posted by: davidlarkin | November 7, 2019

The Prophet Elisha and Leper Logic

The Prophet Elisha, c. 1470-1480, engraving by the Italian Francesco Rosselli about 1470-1480 (Boston Museum of Fine Art). Rosselli also made maps, and made one of the first printed maps of the world to depict the Americas after Christopher Columbus’ voyages.

Today’s quick Bible Study: Leper Logic – God uses Lepers and their logic to fulfill Elisha’s prophesy.

In 2 Kings, Chapter 2 of the Old Testament, the prophet Elisha was the assistant to the Hebrew prophet Elijah. When Elijah was about to end his earthly ministry and be taken into the next world, into the whirlwind by chariots of fire, Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” Elisha was blessed with this double portion and was also a powerful prophet in Elijah’s place.

Here is a story from Elisha’s subsequent ministry:

In Chapter 7 of the book of 2 Kings in the Old Testament. Elisha is at the gate of “Samaria” headquarters of the Kingdom of Israel (split off from the Kingdom of Judah after Solomon’s reign, as punishment for Solomon’s sin). Samaria is under seige from the Syrians, suffering famine and food is scarce. Elisha gives the King a cryptic prophesy, seemingly simple in its words, that the next day, the King of Samaria will see business as usual, food plentiful and for sale again.  The Kings captain was skeptical and expressed his skepticism to Elisha, who made another cryptic and fateful prophesy to the Captain, that he would not eat the food that would be plentiful tomorrow. The King and his unfortunate skeptical captain could not foresee the subsequent improbable and intricate chain of events, including the logic of Lepers, whose actions lead to the fulfillment of the prophesy as only God can do.

2 Kings 7 (ESV) [3 footnotes a.-c. at the end of the passage]:

But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord: thus says the Lord, Tomorrow about this time a seah[a] of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel,[b] and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” 2 Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”

3 Now there were four men who were lepers[c] at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die.” 5 So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. But when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.” 7 So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives. 8 And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them.

9 Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” 10 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them, “We came to the camp of the Syrians, and behold, there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied and the donkeys tied and the tents as they were.” 11 Then the gatekeepers called out, and it was told within the king’s household. 12 And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’” 13 And one of his servants said, “Let some men take five of the remaining horses, seeing that those who are left here will fare like the whole multitude of Israel who have already perished. Let us send and see.” 14 So they took two horsemen, and the king sent them after the army of the Syrians, saying, “Go and see.” 15 So they went after them as far as the Jordan, and behold, all the way was littered with garments and equipment that the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. And the messengers returned and told the king.

16 Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord. 17 Now the king had appointed the captain on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate. And the people trampled him in the gate, so that he died, as the man of God had said when the king came down to him. 18 For when the man of God had said to the king, “Two seahs of barley shall be sold for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, about this time tomorrow in the gate of Samaria,” 19 the captain had answered the man of God, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?” And he had said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” 20 And so it happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gate and he died.

Footnotes:
a. 2 Kings 7:1 A seah was about 7 quarts or 7.3 liters
b. 2 Kings 7:1 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams
c. 2 Kings 7:3 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 15, 2019

St. Francis and the Animals – Prayer for the Animals

quote-if-you-have-men-who-will-exclude-any-of-god-s-creatures-from-the-shelter-of-compassion-francis-of-assisi-1-18-83

Francis Of Assisi – Patron Saint of Animals – painting below by Giotto di Bondone (c.1266-1337)

St Francis and the Birds

Francis of Assisi, “born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, informally named as Francesco (1181/1182 – 3 October 1226),[2] was an Italian Catholic friar, deacon and preacher. He founded the men’s Order of Friars Minor, the women’s Order of Saint Clare, the Third Order of Saint Francis and the Custody of the Holy Land. Francis is one of the most venerated religious figures in history. Pope Gregory IX canonized Francis on 16 July 1228. Along with Saint Catherine of Siena, he was designated Patron saint of Italy. He later became associated with patronage of animals and the natural environment, and it became customary for Catholic and Anglican churches to hold ceremonies blessing animals on his feast day of 4 October. “ Francis of Assisi – Wikipedia

Stories are told of Francis preaching to animals. Who can say the stories are false? When I talk to birds, and I do, they usually fly away. Occasionally stare at me if I am far enough away. But I have never preached to birds.

Stories of Francis and animals were recorded by Thomas of Celano during the 12th-13th century. Here is an example of a Thomas of Celano story:

Francis was no stranger to walking great distances to share the Good news. One story tells us that Father Francis and his companions were making a trip through the Spoleto Valley near the town of Bevagna. Suddenly, Francis spotted a great number of birds of all varieties. There were doves, crows and all sorts of birds. Swept up in the moment, Francis left his friends in the road and ran after the birds, who patiently waited for him.

He greeted them in his usual way, expecting them to scurry off into the air as he spoke. But they moved not.

Filled with awe, he asked them if they would stay awhile and listen to the Word of God. He said to them: “My brother and sister birds, you should praise your Creator and always love him: He gave you feathers for clothes, wings to fly and all other things that you need. It is God who made you noble among all creatures, making your home in thin, pure air. Without sowing or reaping, you receive God’s guidance and protection.”

At this, the birds began to spread their wings, stretch their necks and gaze at Francis, rejoicing and praising God in a wonderful way according to their nature. Francis then walked right through the middle of them, turned around and came back, touching their heads and bodies with his tunic.

It has been said that the brothers who journeyed with him stood in amazement.

Then he gave them his blessing, making the sign of the cross over them. At that they flew off and Francis, rejoicing and giving thanks to God, went on his way.

Later, Francis wondered aloud to his companions why he had never preached to birds before. And from that day on, Francis made it his habit to solicitously invoke all birds, all animals and reptiles to praise and love their Creator. And many times during Francis’ life there were remarkable events of Francis speaking to the animals.

From the Franciscan Spirit with a few more stories of Francis and the animals

Albert Schweitzer, OM (French Order of Merit) (1875 – 1965) was an Alsatian theologian, organist, writer, humanitarian, philosopher, and physician. It is difficult to chose highlights from his life with so many interests and achievements. He worked as a doctor in Africa. An accomplished organist, he had an organ specially made to use in the African bush country where he treated the poor as a medical doctor. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952. I read his book, “The Quest for the Historical Jesus,” in the 70s. He was a lover of animals as the photo below reveals.

The following “Prayer for the Animals” is attributed to Albert Schweitzer. I read this to myself each evening.

Prayer for the Animals

Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals,
especially for animals who are suffering;
for animals that are overworked, underfed and cruelly treated;
for all wistful creatures in captivity that beat their wings against bars;
for any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry;
for all that must be put death.
We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,
and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion
and gentle hands and kindly words.
Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals,
and so to share the blessings of the merciful.

Here is a photo of Dr. Albert Schweitzer in the African jungle and animals with whom he lived.

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 15, 2019

Doing Good and John Donne

Painting of British poet and cleric John Donne from the British National Portrait Gallery, London, by an Unknown Artist, circa 1595

We have a nature that does not necessarily have our best interests at heart which manifests as vices in need of control, e.g., appetite, temper, desire for instant results (impatience), etc. Desires can overwhelm reason. We need to impose by will second order desires to overcome the strong instinctive and bodily desires manifested in our options for choice. I have a second order desire to curb my appetite, to avoid alcohol, to avoid sugar (with Diabetes Type 2), to exercise, etc. But it is a battle with the first order desires which are often self-destructive, for example, what I desire to eat.

The Desires of the Flesh.  Jesus said,

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Matthew 26:41 (ESV)

The Apostle Paul wrote of this problem:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Paul’s letter to the Romans 7:15-17 (ESV)

The solution to strengthen the will to overcome the destructive desires of the flesh is prayer. First, it is easier if we avoid the occasion where The simplest prayer for this is found in the Lord’s Prayer: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver is from evil.”

Second, in our own words, we can sincerely pray for deliverance from specific harmful desires and for strength to overcome them when the arise.

John Donne (1572–1631), the English poet and cleric in the Church of England, considered the preeminent “Metaphysical Poet” of his time, attributed this battle of the soul between his savior Jesus and the enemy, the devil in his Holy Sonnet, Batter My Heart, three-person’d God”

Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labor to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy;
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
—–

From PoetryFoundation.org: The English writer and Anglican cleric John Donne is considered now to be the preeminent metaphysical poet of his time. He was born in 1572 to Roman Catholic parents, when practicing that religion was illegal in England. His work is distinguished by its emotional and sonic intensity and its capacity to plumb the paradoxes of faith, human and divine love, and the possibility of salvation. Donne often employs conceits, or extended metaphors, to yoke together “heterogenous ideas,” in the words of Samuel Johnson, thus generating the powerful ambiguity for which his work is famous. After a resurgence in his popularity in the early 20th century, Donne’s standing as a great English poet, and one of the greatest writers of English prose, is now assured.

The history of Donne’s reputation is the most remarkable of any major writer in English; no other body of great poetry has fallen so far from favor for so long. In Donne’s own day his poetry was highly prized among the small circle of his admirers, who read it as it was circulated in manuscript, and in his later years he gained wide fame as a preacher. For some 30 years after his death successive editions of his verse stamped his powerful influence upon English poets. During the Restoration his writing went out of fashion and remained so for several centuries. Throughout the 18th century, and for much of the 19th century, he was little read and scarcely appreciated. It was not until the end of the 1800s that Donne’s poetry was eagerly taken up by a growing band of avant-garde readers and writers. His prose remained largely unnoticed until 1919.

In the first two decades of the 20th century Donne’s poetry was decisively rehabilitated. Its extraordinary appeal to modern readers throws light on the Modernist movement, as well as on our intuitive response to our own times. Donne may no longer be the cult figure he became in the 1920s and 1930s, when T.S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats, among others, discovered in his poetry the peculiar fusion of intellect and passion and the alert contemporariness which they aspired to in their own art. He is not a poet for all tastes and times; yet for many readers Donne remains what Ben Jonson judged him: “the first poet in the world in some things.” His poems continue to engage the attention and challenge the experience of readers who come to him afresh. His high place in the pantheon of the English poets now seems secure.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/john-donne

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 6, 2019

A Blessed Collection of Christian Prayers

A Blessed Collection of Christian Prayers

I have been collecting prayers for many years. Quite a few I have posted on this blog over the years. Some are part of my Morning Prayers.

I recently found The Lion Prayer Collection, a collection of over 1300 prayers organized in topical sections, was compiled by Mary Batchelor.  Mary Batchelor, a British Christian author, has 68 books listed on Goodreads. Many of them are Christian children’s books.

In my amazon.com review, I wrote:

“This prayer book collects prayers from the entire history of the Christian Church to today, with post-Reformation Anglican and other modern prayers. I thought the editor did a good job selecting and collecting these prayers by subject. Highly recommend this to those who pray, and who, like me, are not satisfied with their own extemporaneous prayers.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
—- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 English Standard Version (ESV).”

Click Here for the Amazon.com link.

Here is a sample prayer from the collection, a prayer of confession, to which I added one word, “mercy,” to the last sentence. I admire it for its comprehensiveness in simple but poetic language:

PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS OF SINS

Forgive me my sins, O Lord;

forgive me the sins of my youth and the sins of my age,

the sins of my soul and the sins of my body,

my secret and my whispering sins,

my presumptuous and my crying sins,

the sins that I have done to please myself

and the sins that I have done to please others.

Forgive me those sins that I know and those sins which I know not;

Forgive them, O Lord, forgive them all by your great goodness and mercy.

Amen.

— adapted from Private Devotions (1560) included in The Lion Prayer Collection

This Lion Prayer Collection, compiled by Mary Batchelor, has one recommendation to date on Amazon.com, my 5-Star recommendation.  As quoted above, here is the entire brief review I posted on Amazon.com.

D. Larkin

* * * * * 5.0 out of 5 stars

A Blessed Collection
September 4, 2019
Format: Hardcover

This prayer book collects prayers from the entire history of the Christian Church to today, with post-Reformation Anglican and other modern prayers. I thought the editor did a good job selecting and collecting these prayers by subject. Highly recommend this to those who pray, and who, like me, are not satisfied with their own extemporaneous prayers.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
—- 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 English Standard Version (ESV).

Click Here for the Amazon.com link.

 

Posted by: davidlarkin | July 20, 2019

The Bible and the Hydrologic Cycle

Usgs_water_cycle 2X

Graphic Illustration above is the United States Geologic Survey (“USGS”) graphic representation of the Hydrologic Cycle, also referred to as the Water Cycle.

“The Bible and the Hydrologic Cycle”

King Solomon, son of David, prayed to God for wisdom:

At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you. And you have kept for him this great and steadfast love and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days. And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”

And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. Then he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

1 Kings 3:5-15 (ESV)
——————
The next passage below is from Ecclesiastes in the wisdom books of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Christian Old Testament, King Solomon, referred to as the “Preacher”, reflects on the cyclical nature of this life of vanity:

. . . “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (ESV)

“The basic theme of Ecclesiastes is the necessity of fearing God in a fallen, and therefore frequently confusing and frustrating world. The unique character of the book, however has let to its being interpreted in widely diverse ways: as a statement of pessimism, optimism, religious and philosophical skepticism (either the Preacher’s own or a skepticism assumed for the purpose of of demonstrating the futility of an irreligious point of view), faithful belief, heterodoxy, to name only a few.

—- English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, p. 1193.
—————–

As many know, the rock group, the Byrds, third hit song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” was written by Pete Seeger, who adapted the first 9 verses of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3 from the King James Version of the Bible:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (KJV)

In the introductory verses 1 through 9 below from Chapter 1 of Ecclesiastes, the Preacher introduces the vanity of life on earth, and the cyclical nature of life. “There is nothing new under the sun.”

And in verse 7 below, Solomon recognizes the mystery of the hydrologic cycle without knowledge of the underlying science, as the USGS reveals in the Graphic Illustration above.

The words of the King Solomon, the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher,
vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil
at which he toils under the sun?
4 A generation goes, and a generation comes,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises, and the sun goes down,
and hastens to the place where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and goes around to the north;
around and around goes the wind,
and on its circuits the wind returns.
7 All streams run to the sea,
but the sea is not full;
to the place where the streams flow,
there they flow again.
8 All things are full of weariness;
a man cannot utter it;
the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
nor the ear filled with hearing.
9 What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 1:1-9 (ESV)
——
Ecclesiastes ends with an epilogue of comments by the Preacher, and an apparent editor in verses 9-10:

9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth.

11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd. 12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man

Ecclesiastes 12:9-13 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 17, 2019

Sodom and Gomorrah Explained by Albrecht Dürer

“Lot and his Daughters” by Albrecht Dürer

Pastor Joseph Parker ministered for years at City Temple in London, England. One morning, an elderly woman walked up to him after a service and thanked him for shedding some much-needed light on a particular Bible story.

“Dr. Parker,” the woman began, “you do such a wonderful job explaining the Bible. Did you know until this morning, I had always thought Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife?”

————-

Painting is “Lot and his Daughters” by Albrecht Dürer – dated (1496-99). From the National Gallery, Washington DC. Here is the National Gallery Overview of the painting:

This scene is painted on the reverse side of Dürer’s Madonna and Child. The story of Lot and his daughters comes from the nineteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis. In the foreground, Lot and his two children are portrayed fleeing from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, which erupt in blinding explosions of fire in the background. Lot’s wife is visible on the path at the upper left in the middle distance. She has been turned into a pillar of salt for disobeying the divine command by looking back on the scene of retribution.

This scene was important for the moral lesson it taught. Like the story of Noah and the flood, that of Lot and the desolation of Sodom and Gomorrah was an allegory demonstrating the power of God to save the righteous.

Since the combination of the story of Lot with the depiction of the Virgin and Child is extremely unusual, the exact relation of the two images remains unclear. However, they could be understood as two examples of the value of a just life and of the pervasive grace of God, especially if the Madonna and Child on the obverse was intended as a private devotional image.

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 24, 2019

A Prayer about Prayer, and a Prayer about Creation

235E327B-F311-44D8-A022-8D0563B6FFF5.jpeg

“Old Man Praying” by Vincent van Gogh, drawn in The Hague, April 1882 in pencil, brush, black chalk and Indian ink on paper.

These prayers are from my daily devotions this week.  First, here is a short prayer about prayer I read today in the The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers.

A Prayer about Prayer

I leave aside my shoes — my ambition,
undo my watch — my timetable,
take off my glasses — my views,
unclip my pen — my work,
put down my keys — my security,
to be alone with you, the only true God.

After being with you,
I take up my shoes — to walk in your ways,
strap on my watch — to live in your time,
put on my glasses — to look at your world,
clip on my pen — to write up your thoughts,
pick up my keys — to open your doors.
— Anonymous

Second, a short poem of praise for God’s creation, including praise for fog, the “gentle mists”, seen in the right spirit which was written in Canterbury, Connecticut by a pastor, Philip Jerome Cleveland (1903-1995), it was a blessing to me.

For thoughts that curve like winging birds
Out of the summer dusk each time
I drink the splendor of the sky
And touch the the wood-winds swinging by —
I yield Thee praise.

For waves that life from autumn seas
To spill strange music on the land,
The broken nocturne of a lark
Flung out upon the lonely dark —
I yield Thee praise.

The gentle mists that wander in
to hide the tired world outside
That in our hearts old lips may smile
Their blessing through life afterwhile —
I yield Thee praise.

For hopes that fight like stubborn grass
Up through the clinging snows of fear
To find the rich earth richer still
With kindness and honest will —
I yield Thee praise.

— Philip Jerome Cleveland

Philip Jerome Cleveland was the pastor of “The Church of the Broken Bell”, Westminster Congregational Church in Canterbury, Connecticut from 1945 to 1958. The Westminster Church was established in 1770 and continues to provide a place of worship in Cantebury. The history of this church is here. This poem of Praise is also from the prayer collection, “The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers,” edited by Dorothy M. Stewart, prayer no. 132.4.

Posted by: davidlarkin | November 23, 2018

Prayers for Humility

Prayers for Humility

The Scripture makes it clear that the virtues of humility and modesty are not natural features of the flesh and our sinful nature, but are gifts of God by grace.  For example,

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6 (ESV), 1 Peter 5:5 (ESV), Proverb 3:34 (ESV)

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”

James 4:10 (ESV)

“Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.”

Proverbs 21:4 (ESV)

Andrew Murray, in his fine devotional Humility, The Beauty of Holiness, wrote:

Humility, the place of entire dependence on God, is, from the very nature of things, the first duty and the highest virtue of the creature, and the root of every virtue. And so pride, or the loss of this humility, is the root of every sin and evil. 

Humility is the only soil in which the graces root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all. God has so constituted us as reasonable beings, that the truer the insight into the real nature or the absolute need of a command, the readier and fuller will be our obedience to it. The call to humility has been too little regarded in the Church because its true nature and importance has been too little apprehended. It is not a something which we bring to God, or He bestows; it is simply the sense of entire nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is all, and in which we make way for God to be all. When the creature realizes that this is the true nobility, and consents to be with his will, his mind, and his affections, the form, the vessel in which the life and glory of God are to work and manifest themselves, he sees that humility is simply acknowledging the truth of his position as creature, and yielding to God His place. In the life of earnest Christians, of those who pursue and profess holiness, humility ought to be the chief mark of their uprightness. It is often said that it is not so.

Humility, Chapter 1: Humility: The Glory of the Creature”.

It is easy to see why we need prayer for humility and modesty, a word for outward expression of humility.

Here are four prayers for humility I have found over the years, and also a prayer for modesty:

The first is a prayer from Andrew Murray (1828 – 1917), who was a South African writer, teacher and Christian pastor. Murray considered missions to be “the chief end of the church”. Wikipedia.

From Your great goodness, Lord, make known to me and take from my heart, every kind and form and degree of Pride, whether it be from evil spirits, or my own corrupt nature; and awaken in me the deepest depth and truth of that Humility, which can make me capable of Your light and Holy Spirit.

Adapted from Andrew Murray’s book, Humility, Chapter 12 “Humility and Exaltation”.

The second prayer is from Walter Russell Bowie (1882 – 1969), was an American priest, author, editor, educator, hymn writer, and lecturer in the Episcopal Church.  He was born in Richmond, Virginia, actually the fourth of his family to have the same name, and with family relationships among the First Families of Virginia. Nonetheless, he traveled north for his college education, receiving a B.A. (1904) and M.A. (1905) from Harvard University. As a Harvard undergraduate Bowie was co-editor of The Harvard Crimson, with Franklin D. Roosevelt. Wikipedia.  He then returned to Virginia and entered the Protestant Episcopal Theological Seminary, now known as Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia, where he earned a B.D. in 1908 (shortly after which he was ordained a deacon) and later earned a D.D. (1919). Wikipedia.

O God, our Father, since he who stands must take heed lest he fall, deliver me this day from the foolishness of pride. Grant that neither outwardly nor inwardly may I boast of my imagined powers. Give me such reverence for the real tasks of life that I may know that they are above my own unaided strength; that so with a clean mind and a pure heart I may turn to You for the help by which alone I may stand unashamed when the day is done. And to You be the praise both now and ever. Amen.

Adapted from Walter Russell Bowie, Lift Up Your Hearts, p. 21.

The third prayer for humility is from William Barclay (1907 – 1978), who was a Scottish author, radio and television presenter, Church of Scotland minister and Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific writer, and is best known for his 17 volume Daily Bible Study, a commentary on 17 books of the New Testament.  A list of the over 120 books published by William Barclay can be found here.

William Barclay Prayer for Humility

O Father, give us the humility which
Realizes its ignorance,
Admits its mistakes,
Recognizes its need,
Welcomes advice,
Accepts rebuke.
Help us always
To praise rather than to criticize,
To sympathize rather than to condemn,
To encourage rather than to discourage,
To build rather than to destroy,
And to think of people at their best rather than at their worst.
This we ask for thy name’s sake.
Amen

– From Dorothy M. Stewart (editor), Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, #78 p. 162

This fourth prayer is from St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582):

Whoever loves you, good Lord,
Walks in safety down a royal road, far from the dangerous abyss;
and if he so much as stumbles, you, O Lord, stretch out your hand.
Not one fall, or many, will cause you to abandon him
        if he loves you
and does not love the things of this world,
because he walks in the vail of humility.

– from the Lion Prayer Collection, compiled by Mary Batchelor, p. 19

This last prayer for modesty, is from Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, (1928 – 1996), who was an American Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Cincinnati from 1972 until 1982, and as Archbishop of Chicago from 1982 until his death in 1996 from pancreatic cancer. Bernardin was elevated to the cardinalate in 1983 by Pope John Paul II. former Archbishop of Cincinnati and Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago:

Prayer for Modesty

Grant us, Oh Lord, the gift of modesty. When we speak, teach us to give our opinion quietly and sincerely. When we do well in work or in play, give us a sense of proportion, that we be neither unduly elated nor foolishly self-deprecatory. Help us in success to realize what we owe to you and to the efforts of others: in failure, to avoid dejection; and in all ways to be simple and natural, quiet in manner, and lowly in thought: through Jesus Christ, Amen.

— adapted from Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin, Oxford Book of Prayers, #406 at p. 122, George Appleton (editor).


What’s the difference between Humility and Modesty:

While “humility” and “modesty” are often used interchangeably, they are different in usage.  A modest person generally is humble, and a humble person is generally modest.  Here is a discussion of the difference in usage.

‘Modesty’ and ‘humility’ are often used interchangeably, but they are actually very different concepts.

‘Modesty’ derives from the Latin modus, ‘measure’ or ‘manner’. It means restraint in appearance and behavior: the reluctance to flaunt oneself, to put oneself on display, or to attract attention.

Modesty often implies a certain artfulness and artificiality, perhaps even inauthenticity or hypocrisy. The fictional character of Uriah Heep in David Copperfield by Charles Dickens is notable for his obsequiousness and insincerity, often emphasizing his own “umbleness” to cover up the true scale of his ambition. Modesty often poses as humility, but, unlike true humility, is skin-deep and external rather than deep and internal. At best, modesty is no more than good manners.

‘Humility’, like ‘humiliation’, derives from the Latin humus, ‘earth’ or ‘dirt’. Unlike mere modesty, true humility derives from a proper perspective of our human condition: one among billions on a small planet among billions, like a fungus on a tiny fragment of cheese. Of course, it is nearly impossible for human beings to remain this objective for very long, but truly humble people are nonetheless far more conscious of the insignificance of their true relations, an insignificance that verges on non-existence. A speck of dust does not think itself more superior or inferior than another, nor does it concern itself for what other specks of dust might or might not think. Enthralled by the miracle of existence, the truly humble person lives not for herself or her image, but for life itself, in a condition of pure peace and pleasure.

Neil Burton, M.D., Psychology Today, June 30, 2018.

It is a lifelong struggle for me to be humble and modest, and prayer is essential for me.

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 13, 2018

Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home?

Return of the Prodigal Son – Rembrandt (1669)

“Going home” is a repeated theme throughout history, from Jesus parable of the Prodigal Son in the New Testament Scripture, Homer’s Odyssey and the story of Odysseus’ journey home after the fall of Troy, to Thomas Wolfe’s modern novel, You Can’t Go Home Again published posthumously in 1940.

Jesus promised us a home in heaven.  He said:

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

John 14:2 (NASB)

A week or so ago, I made a YouTube slide show for a song I recorded 30 years ago. In 1988, when I was a lawyer living in Carmel, California, I recorded this song, “Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home.” I found that recording on a cassette tape in a box in the garage about 15 years ago. I had forgotten it. It was originally a country/pop hit by Joe South in 1969. My arrangement is unlike Joe’s. I recorded the song on a Portostudio 4-track, hence the recording quality. I made my own arrangement, sang and overdubbed all the vocal parts, played all the instruments: a Gibson J-50 acoustic guitar, a Gibson SG Bass Guitar, an Alesis drum machine I programmed for the song, and the electric guitar is a 1971 Gibson Les Paul Custom Deluxe which I still have. The guitar solo at about 2:10 is one of my best. I recorded the solo in one take, playing the guitar on my bed in my Carmel bedroom. In the slideshow, I used a picture of Jimmy Page playing a black Gibson Les Paul guitar similar to mine.  I used Shotcut open source software to make the video. My first full coordinated slide show video with Shotcut. It was fun to make. Took me back to my youth. Fortunately, God has forgiven the sins of my youth.  It is probably 70s music. Here is the YouTube link. The title painting is Rembrandt’s “Return of the Prodigal Son.”

Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!

Psalm 25:7 (ESV)

Here is my YouTube video link:

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 10, 2018

“What a Dream I Had” — Paul Simon

 

“Jacob’s Ladder – painting by William Blake (1800) from the British Museum

What a dream I had,” Paul Simon, from For Emily Wherever I May Find Her.

A few nights ago I had one of my best dreams ever. I was sitting on a porch somewhere, an older home, and it was evening, dark. Most of my dreams I remember seem to be at night, which may be because it is night when I am dreaming. I have had daylight dreams which seem to be in morning after sunrise.

Anyway, I was sitting on the porch, no one was around and I started to sing at the top of my lungs, one of my favorite Christian contemporary songs, “Let It Rise,” by Paul Baloche from 1999, which is a good Gospel song even if you are not Christian. See the YouTube video linked below. As I sang, people started coming by in an informal parade, and they started singing acapella in great harmony along with me, like a flash mob of great singers going somewhere, so I got in the line with them and we kept singing, except, it was like a great choir, better than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir even, and I looked around and nobody acknowledged me or anyone as we all sang to the Lord in a great choir. It was really quite astounding, as I felt in my dream. I awoke when I couldn’t remember any more lyrics. 

Posted by: davidlarkin | August 2, 2018

There is More to the Mind than Neurons in a Brain

Nerdy Brain” – Grafacil by Paul and Boong of Bangkok, Thailand

There is more to the mind than neurons in a brain. God works through our minds to draw us to him, as He must, if we are to call upon the Lord and be saved. Through His Holy Spirit working in our minds with his Word, He uses his Word, and especially the words of the Gospels, and the New Testament, to draw us to Him.  And as here, in today’s Our Daily Bread for July 31, 2018, he uses Edith’s mind playing tricks on her, to draw her to thoughts of Him and to Him. This happened to me and to my wife Susan, each in our own unique way. After Edith’s story, I share Susan’s testimony again which quite a few of my friends have read. I think it is an inspiring testimony. So is Edith’s brief story here:
————————-

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.

Luke 15:2 (ESV)

I have a friend—her name is Edith—who told me about the day she decided to follow Jesus.

Edith cared nothing for religion. But one Sunday morning she walked into a church near her apartment looking for something to satisfy her discontented soul. The text that day was Luke 15:1–2, which the pastor read from the King James Version: “Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”

That’s what it said, but this is what Edith heard: “This man receives sinners and Edith with them.” She sat straight up in her pew! Eventually she realized her mistake, but the thought that Jesus welcomed sinners—and that included Edith—stayed with her. That afternoon she decided to “draw near” to Jesus and listen to Him. She began to read the Gospels, and soon she decided to put her faith in Him and follow Him.

The religious folks of Jesus’s day were scandalized by the fact that He ate and drank with sinful, awful people. Their rules prohibited them from associating with such folk. Jesus paid no attention to their made-up rules. He welcomed the down-and-out and gathered them to Him, no matter how far gone they were.

It’s still true, you know: Jesus receives sinners and (your name).


The photo below is my wife Susan Larkin. Her testimony, which I have shared here before, and is one of the “Testimony” tab links above, and is very inspiring.  Both of her parents committed suicide, her mother when she was 3 and her father when she was 28.  When I met her in the late 80s, she was in therapy.  In her testimony, Susan describes how God delivered her.  Click Here for Susan’s Testimony.

Posted by: davidlarkin | June 15, 2018

Upon Edom I Cast My Shoe

I follow a daily Bible reading schedule I put together from several different reading plans.  In my Bible readings today (June 14), I read again a Psalm of David, Psalm 60. I like Verses 6-8; the metaphoric images always catch my interest and thought:

God has spoken in his holiness:
“With exultation I will divide up Shechem
and portion out the Vale of Succoth.
Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine;
Ephraim is my helmet;
Judah is my scepter.
Moab is my washbasin;
upon Edom I cast my shoe;
over Philistia I shout in triumph.”

Psalm 60:6-8 (ESV)

These words and symbols came through the mind of David, who was a warrior King, and the geography was also part of his Kingdom, hence the coverage of tribal territories by King David in his poetic reflections on his God. I like the geographical image presented of named regions, mostly named after Israel’s tribes or non-Israelite people groups, who have settled in the region at the time of David’s Kingdom. You can see most of the places named in these verses on the map of Israel after Moses returned the children of Israel to the promised land. In these verses, the tribes of the map are symbolic accessories, e.g., helmet and scepter, of the God of the Israelites, at the time of King David.

Looking at the map above, the tribe of Ephraim is settled north of Judah, where David was headquartered. Moab, not a tribe of Israel, is southeast and below it, Edom, not a tribe of Israel, but descendants of Esau, is below Moab. The twelve tribes are descendants of the sons of Esau’s twin brother, Jacob, renamed “Israel” by God.

And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel [“the face of God”], saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.”

Genesis 32:27-30 (ESV)

Much more could be written about these verses and have been over the many years since the Psalm was written. Historians of the Ancient Near East agree that David probably existed around 1000 BCE.

Believe it or not, for the past 10 years at least, I have read through all 150 Psalms every 7 weeks on my Bible reading program, and each day, I generally find something new to think or wonder about, or something old to re-ponder and appreciate.  My Daily Bible Reading plan is posted on this blog in the “Bible Reading” tab above.   Of course, I have my days of spiritual dullness and distraction, but on those days, the Psalms and other Bible verses I read are uplifting and help me stay the course of my now senior days, so to speak. Were I not thinking about the verses as I am reading, it would otherwise be a 150 part mantra for meditation since I am at peace when I read these.

Some of the Psalms are difficult and jarring. Most of the various emotions, desires and acts of man are represented in the Psalms and not always appealing, but these are contemplations, prayers, praises and petitions to God by imperfect and sinful mankind, a portion who recognise God’s existence and sovereignty.

Over my 47 years a Christian, I have read books and commentaries about the Psalms. My favorite is C.S. Lewis’s book, “Reflections on the Psalms” which I have read at least 3 times I can recall over the past 25 years since I first bought the book. It helps to have a knowledge of the Old Testament and the history of the times for a deeper experience in reading, but that took many years of study and reading as a layman, and not as a Biblical scholar or minister of the Word.

I read the Old Testament and the Psalms through my Christian lens, but appreciate the Psalms as they gave meaning to the Jews of the Old Testament times as well, to the best of my ability as a 21st Century man now.

A study Bible is very helpful. In the past, I have used a New King James Study Bible, an NIV Study Bible, and for the past five years I have used an English Standard Version (ESV) Large Print Study Bible which I love. The pages are covered with my handwritten notes and yellow highlighting covers a multitude of verses. However, that education and experience of mine is not necessary for experiencing the joy and comfort of the Psalms. Most any committed Christian and observant Jew who reads them regularly can tell you that. Even for those who do not believe, there is poetic and intellectual pleasure in reading the Psalms.

Note: The ESV Large Print Study Bible is expensive.  There is a less expensive paperback ESV Study Bible here.

Posted by: davidlarkin | April 21, 2018

God Give Me Work

Winifred Gravestone epitaph

God give me work

Till my life shall end

And life

Till my work is done.

 ————————————————
 ———————————————–
She died young, age 37.  In 1967, the Royal Society of Literature instituted the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize for the best regional novel of the year. In 2003 it was incorporated into the Ondaatje Prize.
Posted by: davidlarkin | March 16, 2018

Truck Driving in Ghana with the Lord

In the photo above, the truck driver in Ghana chooses “God is My Protector” for his truck.

Like a modern Psalm, in the following prayer, a young Ghanaian Christian truck driver, choosing “Jesus is Mine” for his truck, prays for his trip through Kumasi to Accra, and he and his passengers and cargo make it safely with the help of Jesus:
———–

Truck Driver’s Prayer by a young Ghanaian Christian

Lord,
the motor running under me is running hot.
Lord,
there are twenty-eight people
and lots of luggage in the truck.
Underneath are my bad tyres.
The brakes are unreliable.
Unfortunately I have no money,
and parts are difficult to get.

Lord,
I did not overload the truck.
Lord,
‘Jesus is mine’
is written on the vehicle
for without him I would not drive
a single mile.
The people in the back are relying on me.
They trust me because they see the words:
‘Jesus is mine’.
Lord,
I trust you!

First comes the straight road
With little danger,
I can keep my eyes on the women,
children and chickens in the village.
But soon the road begins to turn,
it goes up and down,
it jumps and dances,
the death-road to Kumasi.
Tractors carrying mahogany trunks drive
as if there were no right or left.
Lord,
Kumasi is the temptation
to take more people than we should.
Let’s overcome it!

The road to Accra is another problem.
Truck drivers try to beat the record,
although the road is poor
and has many holes
and there are many curves
before we come to the hills.

And finally to Akwasim.
Passing large churches in every village,
I am reminded of you and in reverence
I take off my hat.
Now downhill in second gear.

One more temptation;
The straight road to Accra.
Lord, keep my feet steady on the pedals
Even on the straight road to Accra.

Lord,
I sing hallelujah
when the ride is ended
for you brought the truck and the people
in safety
through the hustle and bustle of Accra.

Lord, all is mercy,
Because
‘Jesus is mine’.
Hallelujah. Amen.
—————
from the Oxford Book of Prayer, #432

Here is a road map of the Accra area in Ghana.  You can see Kumasi in the Ashanti district in the upper center.  One of the roads going to Kumasi on the map is the “death road to Kumasi.”  Accra is on the southeast coast.

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 24, 2018

A Concentration Camp Prayer for Enemies

The Prophet Ezekiel by Michaelangelo, Painting in Fresco c. 1508-1512, The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City, Europe

Here is a supernaturally inspired prayer I found today in the Oxford Book of Prayer. No man or woman in such circumstances could show such love of enemies without the Spirit of God:

“Oh Lord, remember not only the men and women of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all the sufferings they have inflicted on us; Remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to this suffering — our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this, and when they come to judgement let all the fruits which we have borne be their forgiveness.”

Prayer written by an unknown prisoner of Ravensbruck concentration camp and left by the body of a dead child, from the Oxford Book of Prayer, #367

Ravensbruck was a dismal evil concentration camp.

ravensbruck

Ravensbrück (pronounced [ʁaːvənsˈbʁʏk]) was a German concentration camp exclusively for women from 1939-1945, located in northern Germany, 90 km (56 mi) north of Berlin at a site near the village of Ravensbrück (part of Fürstenberg/Havel). The largest single national group consisted of 40,000 Polish women. Others included 26,000 Jewish from all countries, 18,800 Russian, 8,000 French, and 1,000 Dutch. More than 80% were political prisoners. Many slave labor prisoners were employed by Siemens & Halske. From 1942-1945, medical experiments to test the effectiveness of sulfonamides were undertaken.

In the spring of 1941, the SS established a small adjacent camp for male inmates, who built and managed the camp’s gas chambers in 1944. Of some 130,000 female prisoners who passed through the Ravensbrück camp, about 50,000 of them perished, some 2,200 were killed in the gas chambers and 15,000 survived until liberation.

From Wikipedia.

I cannot imagine the moment when this suffering prisoner penned this prayer, with a dead child at his feet.

This prayer is reminiscent of Jesus words in Luke 23:34 (ESV),

“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The prophet Ezekiel reminds Israel that God does love all men, even the wicked, but Divine Justice requires penalty for wicked ways:

Say to them, As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel 33:11 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 12, 2018

A Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson

Robert Louis Stevenson on his veranda in Vailima, Samoa, c.1893 from an Old postcard.  Robert Louis Stevenson’s most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Last weekend, the AT&T Open PGA golf tournament was played at Pebble Beach next to Carmel, California where I lived in the 80s. Robert Louis Stevenson lived in Pebble Beach in the 1870s, and there is a private prep school there named after him, Stevenson School, formerly Robert Louis Stevenson School. Clint Eastwood, who lives nearby, sent his daughter Alison there.  My brother-in-law Peter graduated from the Stevenson School.

Here is a Prayer by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94) in the Oxford Book of Prayer:

The day returns and brings us the petty round of irritating concerns and duties. Help us to play the man, help us to perform them with laughter and kind faces. Let cheerfulness abound with industry. Give us to go blithely on our business all this day, bring us to our resting beds weary and content and undishonored, and grant us in the end the gift of sleep.

Googling, I found a book of his prayers written at Vailima, Samoa which I ordered for $4.99 from Amazon.

Here is some information about Vailima, Samoa and Robert Louis Stevenson’s final days there from Wikipedia https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vailima,_Samoa :

Vailima is the name of a village about four kilometres south of Apia, the capital of Samoa. The population is 1,462. Vailima is part of the electoral political district Tuamasaga.

The village is most known as the location of the last residence of Robert Louis Stevenson, named “Villa Vailima”. Vailima Letters: Being Correspondence addressed by Robert Louis Stevenson to Sidney Colvin were first published by Methuen, London, 1895. The estate has had a varied past with it functioning further as the residence for the governor of German Samoa, the administrator of the New Zealand mandatory authority and the Samoan head of state. It is now a museum in honour of Stevenson and has been substantially restored.

The name Vailima means “water in the hand”, according to an old Samoan tale. A woman gave some water (vai) in her hand (lima) to help her thirsty companion. A widely quoted misinterpretation states that the name means “five waters”, as the word “lima” means both “hand” and “five” in Samoan.

Stevenson is buried in a tomb on Mount Vaea overlooking Vailima. He had two wishes for his burial, to be buried on the top of Mt Vaea and to be buried with his boots on as he used those boots to walk on the Samoan lands.

 

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 11, 2018

On Growing Old

When Growing Old. A print of this painting by Rembrandt, Philosopher in Meditation (1632), hangs on the wall of our family room.

The old philosopher may be meditating on getting old, as expressed in this prayer below by William Barclay (1907-1972 from his collection, “Prayers for Help and Healing.” Barclay was a Scottish author, radio and television presenter, Church of Scotland minister and Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow and prolific author.  He wrote a 19 volume commentary series on the books of the New Testament.  They are very good, with one limitation — Barclay did not believe the miracles in the gospels and acts of the Apostles.  He made natural explanations.  For example, when Jesus fed the 5000, Barclay does not accept the plain language that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes miraculously.  Instead, he writes that all the people had private stashes of loaves and fishes, and felt guilty when Jesus’s began to feed the 5000 with a few loaves and fishes, and brought out their stashes and fed the people around them.  That is harder to believe than that Jesus miraculously multiplied the loaves and fishes.  Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and founding pastor of the Calvary Chapel movement of more that 1,500 churches world-wide, believed the miracles of Jesus.  However, he said he liked to use Barclay’s commentaries, remarking charitably, that “Barclay had a problem with miracles,” but that his commentaries on the historical background and theological insights were good and helpful in Bible study and sermon preparation.

Here is Barclay’s prayer, “When Growing Old.”

When Growing Old

O God,
I know now what it is like to be growing old.
Everything is a bigger effort than it used to be.
I get more easily tired,
and each job takes longer to do.

My memory is not so good;
My mind is not so quick;
My body is not so strong.
And yet I’ve got a lot to be thankful for.

I have learned
what is important
and what is not important.

I know now
that there are a great many things
not worth worrying about

I have learned
to take the rough with the smooth
and not to get upset.

I have learned
who my real friends are, and how much I owe
to those who love me, and to those whom I love.
Above all, when I look back

I can see your hand in everything,
and when I remember all that you have done for me in the past its easy to trust you for the days to come.

Isaiah heard God saying:

“Even to your old age I am He,
and to gray hairs I will carry you,
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”

—– Isaiah 46:4

Under the shadow of they throne, thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone, and our defense is sure.

Prayers for Help and Healing at p. 51.

When I turned 60 on July 14, 2008, that morning I wrote a short blog post “On Turning 60,” my first PAT (paroxysmal atrial tachycardia), running in Pebble Beach, running the first Los Angeles Marathon, and God’s blessed removal of the fear of death.

You can click here to read “On Turning 60.” 

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 8, 2018

Did Jesus Have a Home?

The engraving above of Jesus healing the paralytic below is by Jan Luyken (1649 – 1712), a Dutch poet, illustrator and engraver.

Self-Consciously Observing Conscious Discursive Thought.

Today, reading the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 2, it begins with:

“And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.”

Apparently Jesus was living at “home” in Capernaum at the commencement of his ministry. He had a home. The ESV Note for Verse 1 confirms that reading. Reading that this morning, I then consciously remembered that Jesus also said:

And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.

Matthew 8:20, Luke 9:58 (ESV)

Then, I remembered that I read a prayer every morning for the homeless that begins:

“God of compassion, You love the poor and the homeless so much that you came to earth as a poor child and lived as a homeless man.”

See my previous blog post, “Consider the Poor and the Needy”

As I read about Jesus home and remembered these seemingly contradictory Scripture verse and prayer, without conscious effort, I observed my mind automatically attempting to reconcile them while I read on in Mark, Chapter 2.

I noticed that as I read further in Mark 2 that some men “removed the roof above” Jesus in his home and lowered a paralytic through the roof. Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

And as I read that, I noticed my mind thinking discursively, ‘well, maybe he had to leave that home because the roof had a hole in it.’ I almost laughed as I thought that, and that is when I realized I had been self-consciously observing the automatic reconciliation process of my mind, even stretching to reconcile as it did here. I expect that my mind is always trying to reconcile observations of the world which appear to my mind to be contradictory. I know I do that, but this is the first time in 69 years, that I remember, where I self-consciously observed, almost as a third party, the automatic operation of my mind in the background as I read the Scripture.

I still do not know whether after leaving Capernaum on his itinerant ministry throughout Israel, whether Jesus had a home. He must have stayed at the homes of his Apostles from time to time. I will have to study that. I remember he healed Peter’s mother’s fever, and she got up and started making meal.

Note:  Later the day I posted this, I looked at three Commentaries on the Gospel of Mark: William Barclay’s, the New International commentary and the Tyndale commentary. One suggested it could have been his mother, Mary’s, home or a relatives. The translation in ESV is “home,” but other translations say “house.” Another commentary suggested the house was likely the home of Peter or Andrew. The third commentary did not discuss the house or home. So, whose house it was is unclear. However, surely, as a carpenter, Jesus, along with his brothers would have provided a house for their mother and sisters to live in. My best guess is the house was his family home where his mother, brothers and sisters lived, as implied here:

Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

Mark 3:20-21 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | January 25, 2018

The Ineffable God

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)

How Can We Talk to God, if He is?

There has been theological controversy forever whether we can know God, who, if he exists, must be beyond our ken, and therefore, how can we find his language to speak to him.

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Paul, Romans 11:33 (ESV)

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.”

Psalm 145:3 (ESV)

“Because God is infinite and we are finite or limited, we can never fully understand God. In this sense God is said to be incomprehensible where the term incomprehensible is used with an older and less common sense, “unable to be fully understood.” This sense must be clearly distinguished from the more common meaning, “unable to be understood.” It is not true to say that God is unable to be understood, but it is true to say that he cannot be understood fully or exhaustively.”

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (1994), Ch. 10. The Knowability of God
———–
Religious language has been a philosophical problem arising from the difficulty of accurately describing God. Because God is generally conceived as incorporeal, infinite, and timeless, ordinary language cannot always apply to that entity.  As Jesus said:

God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

John 4:24 (ESV)

This makes speaking about or attributing properties to God difficult: a religious believer might simultaneously wish to describe God as good, yet also hold that God’s goodness is unique and cannot be articulated by human language of goodness. Arguably so, and if we cannot use language to describe God, and his attributes, how then can we use human language to communicate with such a God?

Christians believe that the language we have is God given, so of course, we can speak to God, who in effect, lowers himself to our level for communication. Nevertheless, it is conceptually difficult to understand how we could speak God’s language.  God is an ineffable God.

This poetic prayer by C.S. Lewis looks at our prayers as metaphor, and is quite good regardless of spiritual beliefs. In this prayer/poem, “Pheidian” refers to the Greek sculptor Pheidias who was famous for his sculpture of the Greek god Zeus, who he sculpted as he imagined him, though we know of the sculpture only through historical ancient Greek writings because the statue did not survive to modernity:
———-

Prayer to the Ineffable God

He whom I bow to only knows to whom I bow
When I attempt the ineffable Name, murmuring Thou,
And dream of Pheidian fancies and embrace in heart
Symbols (I know) which cannot be the thing thou art.
Thus always, taken at their word, all prayers blaspheme
Worshipping with frail images a folk-lore dream,
And all men in their praying, self-deceived, address
The coinage of their own unquiet thoughts, unless
Thou in magnetic mercy to Thyself divert
Our arrows, aim unskillfully, beyond desert;
And all men are idolaters, crying unheard
To a deaf idol, if thou take them at their word.

Take not, oh Lord, our literal sense. Lord, in thy great,
Unbroken speech our limping metaphor translate.

C. S. Lewis, 1898-1963 from The Oxford Book of Prayer, Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford (1985).

 

Posted by: davidlarkin | January 23, 2018

Prayer before a Meal

Prayer before Meal. Painting by Vincente Manansala (1910 –1981) Manansala was a Filipino cubist painter and illustrator.

The Christian practice of grace before meals follows Jesus practice of looking up to Heaven and giving thanks for food prior to meals, for example, in Matthew 14:15-21:

‘Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

And again in Matthew 15:32–38:

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?” And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up seven baskets full of the broken pieces left over. Those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

From the beginning, the Church practiced giving thanks before meals from the beginning, even on a ship in danger, as the Apostle Paul did in Acts 27:33-37:

When the fourteenth night had come, as we were being driven across the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors suspected that they were nearing land. So they took a sounding and found twenty fathoms. A little farther on they took a sounding again and found fifteen fathoms. And fearing that we might run on the rocks, they let down four anchors from the stern and prayed for day to come. And as the sailors were seeking to escape from the ship, and had lowered the ship’s boat into the sea under pretense of laying out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it go.

As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength,for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you.” And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.

The English Puritan, Thomas Gouge, made the underlying seriousness of our dependence on God plain in his devotional discussion of the need for prayer for blessing on a meal, before partaking God’s creatures. The thought of food as God’s creatures is generally far from our consciousness in this secular world of commercially mass-produced, processed and packaged food today:

What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? Psalm 116:12

Forget not to pray unto God for a blessing on the things you are to partake. For as the apostle says, “Every creature of God is good, being sanctified by the Word of God, and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5). By the Word, as it does show, and warrant our right thereunto: and by prayer, as it is a means appointed by God for obtaining His blessing upon our food, without which it will do us little good. “For man liveth not by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). that is, bread does not nourish by its own power, but by the appointment and blessing of God. And therefore it was the usual practice of our Savior to lift up his eyes and crave a blessing upon the creatures, before he did partake of them, which has been the usual practice of the saints and people of God, before and since Christ’s time (1 Sam. 9:13; Acts 27:35-36). Having therefore such worthy patterns and precedents, follow them, not daring to partake of any of God’s good creatures, until you have lifted up your heart to God and craved his blessing upon them, for otherwise how justly might you expect from God a curse rather than a blessing? The things on the table are God’s things, and therefore you must need be more bold than welcome, if you make use of them without asking His blessing.”

Thomas Gouge, The Works of the Late Reverent and Pious Ms. Thomas Gouge (London: Printed by Thomas Braddyll, 1706), 218-19 quoted in Day by Day with the English Puritans, edited by Randall J. Pederson (Hendrickson, Publishers 2007), entry for January 23.

Gouge cites 1 Samuel 9:13 as example of the practice of prayer before the blood sacrifice and sacrificial meal that followed, which the Jews practiced before Jesus was born.  In this passage from Samuel, Saul is on his way to meet with Samuel, who is referred to as the “Seer” or prophet.  Samuel, as a priest and prophet would bless the animal sacrifice, which would then be eaten, thus prayer before the sacrificial meal:

When they came to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant[a] who was with him, “Come, let us go back, lest my father cease to care about the donkeys and become anxious about us.”  But he said to him, “Behold, there is a man of God in this city, and he is a man who is held in honor; all that he says comes true. So now let us go there. Perhaps he can tell us the way we should go.”  Then Saul said to his servant, “But if we go, what can we bring the man? For the bread in our sacks is gone, and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?” The servant answered Saul again, “Here, I have with me a quarter of a shekel of silver, and I will give it to the man of God to tell us our way.”  (Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today’s “prophet” was formerly called a seer.)  And Saul said to his servant, “Well said; come, let us go.” So they went to the city where the man of God was.

As they went up the hill to the city, they met young women coming out to draw water and said to them, “Is the seer here?”  They answered, “He is; behold, he is just ahead of you. Hurry. He has come just now to the city, because the people have a sacrifice today on the high place.  As soon as you enter the city you will find him, before he goes up to the high place to eat. For the people will not eat till he comes, since he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat. Now go up, for you will meet him immediately.”  So they went up to the city. As they were entering the city, they saw Samuel coming out toward them on his way up to the high place.

1 Samuel 9:5-14 (ESV)

But Christians pray before every meal as Jesus and Paul did because there is no more sacrifice for sin.  Jesus was sacrificed once for all on the cross, then resurrected from the dead to make intercession for us.

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 7:23-27 (ESV)

A final thought, this from Our Daily Bread for June 25, 2018, the author of the entry writes:

For many years, I’ve enjoyed the writings of British author G. K. Chesterton. His humor and insight often cause me to chuckle and then pause for more serious contemplation. For example, he wrote, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the play and the opera, and grace before the concert and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing; and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

As the Apostle Paul wrote:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17 (ESV)

 

Interior Painting of Old Woman Reading by Candlelight and Man with Lantern by Michiel Versteegh (1756-1843), a Dutch painter best known for his obscure light scenes lit by candlelight like this one.

“Thy Word is a Lamp Unto My Feet,” is a familiar verse, verse 105, from the King James Version of Psalm 119.  Psalm 119 is the longest Psalm and one of about a dozen Hebrew acrostic poems. “Its 176 verses are divided into twenty-two stanzas, one stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet; within each stanza, each of the eight verses begins (in Hebrew) with that letter.” from wikipedia.

Psalm 119 is a loving tribute of a devout Jewish poet to the law of God, His statutes, His precepts and rules to follow in the Mosaic tradition.   But how should Christians read this Psalm with devotion, if we are no longer under the law, but under grace?  This post is intended to provide an answer to that question.

In the early 90s, we attended a large Calvary Chapel church in Phoenix, Calvary Community Church.  Pastor Mark Martin started with a 11 people in a Bible Study, and it has grown to over 12,000 believers with two Northwest Phoenix campuses today.  Its well-attended Sunday Evening service began every week with Amy Grant’s recording of “Thy Word,” from verse 105 of Psalm 119, and then Pastor Mark Martin would come and sit in a chair on the stage to teach verse by verse from a book of the Bible.

The first eight verses are a good example how the poet praises God’s law and his obedience to the law of God.

1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies,
who seek him with their whole heart,

3 who also do no wrong,
but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your precepts
to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast
in keeping your statutes!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame,
having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart,
when I learn your righteous rules.
8 I will keep your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me!

And in verse 97, he expresses his love of the Law of God:

Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119 (ESV)

The New Testament teaches that the Christian is no longer under the law but is under grace.

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:14 (ESV)

The substitution of grace for the law is a fulfilment of the prophesy of Jeremiah to the Jews exiled from the land of Israel to Babylon of God’s promise of a new covenant in the last days.  Jeremiah 31:33:

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Jeremiah 31:33 (ESV)

Instead, Christians have the promised new covenant and are now under grace, no longer under law.  We are not saved by obedience to the law and works of the law, as the Apostle Paul wrote clearly and convincingly:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

And faith in Jesus and His resurrection and life comes to the chosen ones through the Word of God, and not through the law.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Romans 10:17 (New King James Version)

As Jesus said when He was being tempted by the Devil in the desert:

“It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:4 (ESV)

Now we have the living Word of God, the resurrected Messiah, Jesus, creator of all things, present in our hearts through the Holy Spirit to guide us to salvation, justified and glorified:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 

John 1:1-5 (ESV)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)

Those good works, as Paul says in Ephesians 2:10 above, that God has prepared in advance for us to do after we are born again in the Spirit, will not violate the law of God, but instead, the moral leadings of the Spirit will be be more expansive than simply following the Ten Commandments, which we will not violate if we are walking with and following Jesus through the Holy Spirit, in faith.

In Acts, Chapter 15, Paul and Barnabas came to Jerusalem to meet with the church there, led by James, the brother of Jesus.  Some Christians who were from the Pharisees, argued that Gentile Christians must be circumcised, and must follow the Mosaic law as Christians.  Paul and Peter both made strong arguments that Christians were no longer under the law, and Gentile Christians were not required to follow the Mosaic law anymore.  The first council of the Church, the Jerusalem Council is described in Acts as follows:

But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”  And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

And all the assembly fell silent, and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. After they finished speaking, James replied, “Brothers, listen to me. Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

“‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.’

Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”

Acts 15:1-21 (ESV)

If Christians are are no longer under the law, how are we to read Psalm 119 and its tribute to the laws and statutes of God under the Old Covenant?  Back in the early 90s, Pastor Mark Martin at Calvary Community Church told us when he read Psalm 119 in his devotions, he substituted in his mind, the word, “word,” for “law”, as the Psalm sometimes does, as in “Thy Word is a Lamp unto my Feet.”  The “Word” and the grace of God, and His revealed Word to us in Scripture, has replaced “the Law.”

I have done that expressly for my own devotionals.  Here below in Psalm 119 which I have modified for New Testament Christians, I have replaced all words of “law”, e.g., law, statute, rules, etc. with “Word.”  It is a blessing to me and I hope it is to you who read this as well.  After the Psalm, there is a link to the pdf for downloading, saving and printing or you can click on the “Print” button at the end of the post, for use in your personal devotions.

Psalm 119 (ESV)

Aleph

119 1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Word of the Lord!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
4 You have commanded your Word to be kept diligently.
5 Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your Word!
6 Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your Word.
7 I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous Word.
8 I will keep your Word; do not utterly forsake me!

Beth

9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your Word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your Word!
11 I have stored up your Word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your Word!
13 With my lips I declare all the Word of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your Word and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your Word; I will not forget your Word.

Gimel

17 Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your Word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your Word.
19 I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your Word from me!
20 My soul is consumed with longing for your Word at all times.
21 You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your Word.
22 Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies.
23 Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your Word.
24 Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.

Daleth

25 My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your Word!
26 When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your Word!
27 Make me understand the way of your Word, and I will meditate on your wondrous works.
28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your Word!
29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your Word!
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your Word before me.
31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame!
32 I will run in the way of your Word when you enlarge my heart!

He

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your Word; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your Word and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of your Word, for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.
38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your Word is good.
40 Behold, I long for your Word; in your righteousness give me life!

Waw

41 Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise;
42 then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your Word.
43 And take not the Word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your Word.
44 I will keep your Word continually, forever and ever,
45 and I shall walk in a wide place, for I have sought your Word.
46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,
47 for I find my delight in your Word, which I love.
48 I will lift up my hands toward your Word, which I love, and I will meditate on your Word.

Zayin

49 Remember your Word to your servant,in which you have made me hope.
50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.
51 The insolent utterly deride me,but I do not turn away from your Word.
52 When I think of your Word from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.
53 Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your Word.
54 Your Word has been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
55 I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your Word.
56 This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your Word.

Heth

57 The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your Words.
58 I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies;
60 I hasten and do not delay to keep your Word.
61 Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your Word.
62 At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous Word.
63 I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your Word.
64 The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your Word!

Teth

65 You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your Word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your Word.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your Word.
68 You are good and do good; teach me your Word.
69 The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your Word;
70 their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your Word.
71 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your Word.
72 The Word of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Yodh

73 Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your Word.
74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your Word.
75 I know, O Lord, that your Word is righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your Word is my delight.
78 Let the insolent be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your Word.
79 Let those who fear you turn to you, that they may know your testimonies.
80 May my heart be blameless in your Word, that I may not be put to shame!

Kaph

81 My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your Word.
82 My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?”
83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your Word.
84 How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?
85 The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your Word.
86 All your Word is sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
87 They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your Word.
88 In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.

Lamedh

89 Forever, O Lord, your Word is firmly fixed in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.
91 By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants.
92 If your Word had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your Word, for by it you have given me life.
94 I am yours; save me, for I have sought your Word.
95 The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.
96 I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your Word is exceedingly broad.

Mem

97 Oh how I love your Word! It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your Word makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.
100 I understand more than the aged, for I keep your Word.
101 I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your Word.
102 I do not turn aside from your Word, for you have taught me.
103 How sweet are your Words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your Word I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.

Nun

105 Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous Word.
107 I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your Word!
108 Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your Word.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your Word.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your Word.
111 Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your Word forever, to the end.

Samekh

113 I hate the double-minded, but I love your Word.
114 You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your Word.
115 Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the Word of my God.
116 Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
117 Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your Word continually!
118 You spurn all who go astray from your Word, for their cunning is in vain.
119 All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.
120 My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.

Ayin

121 I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me.
123 My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise.
124 Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your Word.
125 I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!
126 It is time for the Lord to act, for your Word has been broken.
127 Therefore I love your Word above gold, above fine gold.
128 Therefore I consider all your Word to be right; I hate every false way.

Pe

129 Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.
130 The unfolding of your Words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.
131 I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your Word.
132 Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name.
133 Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
134 Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your Word.
135 Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your Word.
136 My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your Word.

Tsadhe

137 Righteous are you, O Lord, and right is your Word.
138 You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness.
139 My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your Words.
140 Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it.
141 I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your Word.
142 Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your Word is true.
143 Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your Word is my delight.
144 Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

Qoph

145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your Word.
146 I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies.
147 I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your Words.
148 My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.
149 Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your justice give me life.
150 They draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; they are far from your Word.
151 But you are near, O Lord, and all your Word is true.
152 Long have I known from your testimonies that you have founded them forever.

Resh

153 Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your Word.
154 Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise!
155 Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek your Word.
156 Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your Word.
157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your testimonies.
158 I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.
159 Consider how I love your Word! Give me life according to your steadfast love.
160 The sum of your Word is truth, and every one of your righteous Words endures forever.

Sin and Shin

161 Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your Words.
162 I rejoice at your Word like one who finds great spoil.
163 I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your Word.
164 Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous Word.
165 Great peace have those who love your Word; nothing can make them stumble.
166 I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I do your Word.
167 My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly.
168 I keep your Word and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.

Taw

169 Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your Word!
170 Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your Word.
171 My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your Word.
172 My tongue will sing of your Word, for all your Word is right.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your Word.
174 I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your Word is my delight.
175 Let my soul live and praise you, and let your Word help me.
176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your Word.

English Standard Version (ESV) as modified.

Click Here for PDF of Psalm 119 for New Testament Christians

Posted by: davidlarkin | October 20, 2017

In Prayer

Painting by George Elgar Hicks (1824 – 1914). He was an English painter during the Victorian era.

I have a prayer by a nameless Puritan about prayer itself, 8 paragraphs of “In prayer, I . . .” The first paragraph, my favorite of the eight, is the introduction to the experience of the eternal in prayer itself:

In Prayer, O Lord, I launch far out into the eternal world, and on that broad ocean my soul triumphs over all evils on the shores of mortality. Time, with its glad amusements and cruel disappointments, never appears so inconsiderate as then.

This is a wonderful image of the soul touching eternity and contacting the eternal God.

The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.

Deuteronomy 33:27 (ESV)

The Bible says we have eternity in our hearts. It is hard to find it there sometimes.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

Ecclesiastes 3:3 (ESV)

Here is the remainder of the Puritan prayer, “In Prayer”:

In prayer I see myself as nothing; I find my heart going after You with intensity, and long with vehement thirst to live to You. Blessed be the strong gales of the Spirit that speed me on my way to the New Jerusalem.

In prayer all things here below vanish, and nothing seems important but holiness of heart and the salvation of others.

In prayer all my worldly cares, fears, anxieties disappear, and are of as little significance as a puff of wind.

In prayer my soul inwardly exults with lively thoughts at what You are doing for Your church, and I long that You should get a great name from sinners returning to Zion.

In prayer I am lifted above the frowns and flatteries of life, and taste heavenly joys; entering into the eternal world I can give myself to You with all my heart, to be Yours forever.

In prayer I can place all my concerns in Your hands, to be entirely at Your disposal, having no will or interest of my own.

In prayer I can intercede for my friends, ministers, sinners, the church, Your kingdom to come, with greatest freedom, ardent hopes, as a son to his father, as a lover to the beloved.

Help me to be all prayer and never to cease praying.

Posted by: davidlarkin | August 26, 2017

Resurrection – Daniel 12:2

The Resurrection, Cookham 1924-7 by Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959

The Resurrection, Cookham – 1924-27 painting by Sir Stanley Spencer

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

Daniel 12:2 (ESV)

In the painting above, the artist Sir Stanley Spencer depicts the resurrection in Cookham, the British village of his birth. Sir Stanley Spencer CBE RA (1891–1959) was an English painter. “Spencer became well known for his paintings depicting Biblical scenes occurring as if in Cookham, the small village beside the River Thames where he was born and spent much of his life. Spencer referred to Cookham as “a village in Heaven” and in his biblical scenes, fellow-villagers are shown as their Gospel counterparts.” (Wikipedia) “Sir Stanley Spencer believed that the divine rested in all creation. He saw his home village of Cookham as a paradise in which everything was invested with mystical significance. The local churchyard here becomes the setting for the resurrection of the dead. Christ is enthroned in the church porch, cradling three babies, with God the Father standing behind. Spencer himself appears near the centre, naked, leaning against a grave stone; his fiancée Hilda lies sleeping in a bed of ivy. At the top left, risen souls are transported to Heaven in the pleasure steamers that then ploughed the Thames.” (Tate museum Gallery label, September 2016)

This passage above is from the Old Testament prophet Daniel. Jesus used Exodus 3:6 as prophetic evidence for the afterlife and the resurrection in arguing with the Sadduccees, the Jewish sect that did not believe in the resurrection of the dead:

And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.

(Mark 12:24-27 (ESV)) But he could have used this passage from Daniel. Jesus expressed the final judgment in the words of Daniel in the last verse of the story of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25:31-46 (ESV).

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

This passage is also a warning about the peril of ignoring needy people in our midst.  This is a sobering passage.  We pray that those who have not yet been born again, may heed the warnings of Scripture and come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, our Messiah and Lord.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:8-12 (ESV)

And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

Joel 2:32 (ESV)

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim);  because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:8-17 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | August 10, 2017

The Power of the High Priest’s Vestments

Priestly Vestments

This illustration of the vestments of the High Priest of Israel as God dictated to Moses in Exodus 28:2-4 (ESV) :

And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful, whom I have filled with a spirit of skill, that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him for my priesthood. These are the garments that they shall make: a breastpiece, an ephod, a robe, a coat of checker work, a turban, and a sash. They shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother and his sons to serve me as priests.

Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first High Priest of the children of Israel. The High Priest was the leading position of the Jews because of his “lifelong sanctity” of one authorized by God to annually make atonement for the sins of the whole community.

Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the Lord.

Exodus 30:10 (ESV)

In Exodus 28:5-39 (ESV), God instructed Moses specifically how the vestments of the High Priest were to be created, as illustrated above:

The Priests’ Garments

They shall receive gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen.

“And they shall make the ephod of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and of fine twined linen, skillfully worked. It shall have two shoulder pieces attached to its two edges, so that it may be joined together. And the skillfully woven band on it shall be made like it and be of one piece with it, of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen. You shall take two onyx stones, and engrave on them the names of the sons of Israel, six of their names on the one stone, and the names of the remaining six on the other stone, in the order of their birth. As a jeweler engraves signets, so shall you engrave the two stones with the names of the sons of Israel. You shall enclose them in settings of gold filigree.  And you shall set the two stones on the shoulder pieces of the ephod, as stones of remembrance for the sons of Israel. And Aaron shall bear their names before the Lord on his two shoulders for remembrance.  You shall make settings of gold filigree, and two chains of pure gold, twisted like cords; and you shall attach the corded chains to the settings.

“You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, in skilled work. In the style of the ephod you shall make it—of gold, blue and purple and scarlet yarns, and fine twined linen shall you make it.  It shall be square and doubled, a span its length and a span its breadth.  You shall set in it four rows of stones. A row of sardius, topaz, and carbuncle shall be the first row;  and the second row an emerald, a sapphire, and a diamond;  and the third row a jacinth, an agate, and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl, an onyx, and a jasper. They shall be set in gold filigree.  There shall be twelve stones with their names according to the names of the sons of Israel. They shall be like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes.  You shall make for the breastpiece twisted chains like cords, of pure gold.  And you shall make for the breastpiece two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece.  And you shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece.  The two ends of the two cords you shall attach to the two settings of filigree, and so attach it in front to the shoulder pieces of the ephod. You shall make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastpiece, on its inside edge next to the ephod.  And you shall make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, at its seam above the skillfully woven band of the ephod.  And they shall bind the breastpiece by its rings to the rings of the ephod with a lace of blue, so that it may lie on the skillfully woven band of the ephod, so that the breastpiece shall not come loose from the ephod.  So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the Lord.  And in the breastpiece of judgment you shall put the Urim and the Thummim, and they shall be on Aaron’s heart, when he goes in before the Lord. Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people of Israel on his heart before the Lord regularly.

 “You shall make the robe of the ephod all of blue.  It shall have an opening for the head in the middle of it, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, so that it may not tear.  On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them,  a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe. And it shall be on Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the Holy Place before the Lord, and when he comes out, so that he does not die.

“You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the Lord.’  And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban.  It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.

“You shall weave the coat in checker work of fine linen, and you shall make a turban of fine linen, and you shall make a sash embroidered with needlework.

The Vestments were considered to be necessary for the High Priest to make annual atonement, and for this reason were treated as precious, and were safeguarded by the authorities at the time of Jesus, to avoid rebellion.

This character of office was transmitted to the [High Priest] by the investiture with the eight-parts of the splendid high-priestly vesture. This vesture possessed atoning power and each of the eight parts atoned for specific sins. Consequently, for Jewry it was the very symbol of their religion. Only thus can it be understood that neither Herod the Great, Archelaus, nor the Romans later could find a more effective safeguard against rebellion than to keep the high-priestly robes in custody in the temple fortress of Antonia, handing them over to the High Priest only on feast days. It also explains why the Jews struggled so tenaciously to have the vestments released, a struggle that ended only when the Emperor Claudius ordered their release by a decree in his own hand, on 28 June AD 45; for the campaign over the High Priest’s vesture was for Jewry a religious campaign.

Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the times of Jesus, Fortress Press, Philadelphia (1969) pp.148-49.

Proper care for the High Priest vestments would keep them safe and ceremonially clean and pure, as the Lord required them to be:

A Vision of Joshua the High Priest

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”  And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.

Zechariah 3:1-5 (ESV)

But now, we have one High Priest forever, Jesus Messiah!

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Hebrews 4:14-15 (ESV)

Jesus our High Priest has made the atoning sacrifice once for all.

He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.

Hebrews 7:27 (ESV)

And therefore, our great High Priest is no longer clothed in the in the former vestments of atonement.

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,

Psalm 104:1 (ESV)

 

 

Posted by: davidlarkin | June 16, 2017

God Knows Everything – Psalm 139

Old Man Praying” Rembrandt 1661.

In Psalm 139, a psalm of David, David speaks to God in prayer, acknowledging God’s omniscience.  “Omniscience” is an attribute of God which means He has complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things, both in the past and in the future.  Here in Psalm 139, David marvels that God knows David’s own thoughts, and every part of his physical being, which was made by God as God determined:

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
     you discern my thoughts from afar. v. 1-2

For you formed my inward parts;
     you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;  v. 13-14

And God’s foreknowledge of David’s days on earth:

Even before a word is on my tongue,
     behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. v. 4

And in verses 17-18, David’s realization that the “thoughts of God” are “more than the sand,” a Biblical image for the infinite.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
     How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
     I awake, and I am still with you.

Here are the words of David, the King of Israel, and warlord, the former shepherd and King Saul’s court musician, from Psalm 139, verses 1 through 18. I picture David as Rembrandt’s old man above praying his Psalm in seclusion.

Psalm 139:1-18 (ESV)

Search Me, O God, and Know My Heart
To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
     you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
     and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
     behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
     and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
     it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
     Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
     If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
     and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
     and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
     and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
     the night is bright as the day,
     for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
     you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
     my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
     intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
     the days that were formed for me,
     when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
     How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
     I awake, and I am still with you.

Posted by: davidlarkin | May 28, 2017

Consider the Poor and the Needy

The drawing here is by Rembrandt (1606-1669). It is considered to be the one of the first portrayals of beggars as humble and decent people in need. That is the proper charitable attitude to have for the poor, even knowing that there are those among the poor who are mentally ill lacking social skills, or who are sadly brought up with poor character so difficult to correct.

With President Trump’s proposed budget seeking to take from the poor and give to the rich, i.e. cuts to food stamps (SNAP program providing food to 43 million poor Americans, 2/3 of which are children, elderly or disabled) and other social safety net programs to pay for tax cuts for the rich, it is fitting to consider, especially for the Christian Right, the duty to take care of the poor set forth in Scripture.

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

Proverbs 14:31 (ESV)

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.

Luke 6:30 (ESV) 

Scripture also supports the duty of government to care for the poor and needy, The “king” is government. Here from Psalm 72:1-4, 12-14:

Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to the royal son!
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice!
Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness!
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the children of the needy,
and crush the oppressor!
. . .

For he delivers the needy when he calls,
the poor and him who has no helper.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life,
and precious is their blood in his sight.
————-

Here is a prayer for the needy composed Miles Lowell Yates, 1890-1956, followed by a prayer for the poor and homeless my wife and I have added to our daily devotionals:

For the Needy

Oh God, look upon those who are in need but cannot work, or who lack employment and search for it in vain; on those who struggle to meet exacting claims with inadequate resources; on all who move in insecurity, attended by worry or despair.

Stand by them, O God, in their deprivations, their dilemmas, and guide them as they try to solve their problems; let them come to open doors of opportunity or refuge; and so quicken and extend the world’s concern for all its people that every man may be ensured a livelihood and safety from the bitterness of want; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Miles Lowell Yates

And this is the prayer my wife and I have added to our morning devotions:

Prayer for the Poor and Homeless

God of compassion, You love the poor and the homeless so much that you came to earth as a poor child and lived as a homeless man. We pray for all the poor and homeless in our community; open our eyes to ways we can serve. We ask you to draw near to the needy and comfort them, and bless them with work, shelter, food, health care and friendship. Most of all, we pray that they would come to know you by Your grace, as Lord and Savior, and see You as the source of everything. Amen.

Posted by: davidlarkin | May 20, 2017

The Apostle John, Eyewitness to the Majesty of Jesus

Transfiguration of Christ is the subject of two paintings by the Italian Renaissance master Giovanni Bellini, who finished them, respectively, in 1454-1460 and 1480. The earlier version here is on display in the Museo Correr of Venice;  the later one below is now housed in the Capodimonte Gallery of Naples, Italy.

When I was saved reading the Bible for the first time in 1971, in the middle of the Gospel of Luke, I suddenly believed the words I was reading were true.  That belief in the truth of the Bible, was also a belief that the facts were transmitted to the pages by eyewitness accounts.  I cannot take any credit for this conclusion because my belief was sudden, unanticipated, and without choice, and by the sovereign work of God alone.  I was saved by the grace of God.  My personal account is here in my Spiritual Memoir I wrote in 2005.

The authors of the New Testament disclosed in their work that either they were eyewitnesses, or received the testimony of eyewitnesses.  As the evangelist Luke wrote at the beginning of his gospel:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us,  it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

Luke 1:1-4 (ESV)

The Apostle Peter, one of the three at the Mount of Transfiguration in the Bellini paintings above, wrote of the eyewitness status of Jesus’ Apostles, chosen to transmit the gospel, in his second epistle or letter:

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

2 Peter 1:16 (ESV)

The Apostle John, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus, was one of Jesus’ three closest companions, along with Peter and James.  He refers to himself in his Gospel, as the “disciple who Jesus loved,” avoiding reference to himself by name, although Jesus loved all the disciples.  See John 13:23, 19:26, 20:2, 21:7, 21:20.

John, Peter and James were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration where they heard the voice of God,

And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”

Luke 9:28-35.

John wrote five of the books of the New Testament. He wrote the Gospel of John, three epistles or letters: 1 John, 2 John, and 3 John, and is considered by most Christian scholars to be the author of the Book of Revelation, his written record of the vision he received from the Lord on the island of Patmos, to which he had been exiled. In the epistle 1 John, he begins with an introduction to the divine sonship of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah of God, and a statement of his authority to testify as an eyewitness to Messiah in the flesh, and the promise of eternal life.

This version below of Chapter 1 of 1 John is from David H. Stern’s Jewish New Testament. David Stern received a Ph.D in economics from Princeton University. While pursuing an economics professional life, he became a believer in the Messiah, and a Messianic Jewish Christian. He then received a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, a prominent Evangelical seminary in Pasadena. He taught the first course in “Judaism and Christianity” at Fuller.  See Wikipedia entry for David H. Stern.

Stern has translated the Old and New Testament from the Hebrew and Greek, with Jewish or Hebrew words translated to English to create a Jewish Bible. For example, “Jesus Christ” is translated “Yesuah Messiah” because the Greek word translated “Jesus” is the Greek translation of “Yeshua” which becomes “Jesus” in English, and the Greek word “Cristos” attached to Jesus, is the Greek translation for the Hebrew word “Messhiach” or Messiah, as translated into English. Stern has therefore put the New Testament in a Jewish context which is fitting because Jesus was a Jewish rabbi, and his twelve disciples were Jewish, and the writers of the New Testament were Jews, [although some scholars argue that Luke was a gentile]. And as Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek [Gentiles].”

—————————————————————————-

ROMANS 1:16.
1 Yochanan [John], Jewish New Testament and comment David H. Stern

Chapter 1

1. The Word, which gives life!
He existed from the beginning.
We have heard him,
we have seen him with our eyes,
we have contemplated him,
we have touched him with our hands!
2. The life appeared,
and we have seen it.
We are testifying to it
and announcing it to you —
eternal life!
He was with the Father,
and he appeared to us.
3. What we have seen and heard,
we are proclaiming to you;
so that you too
may have fellowship with us.
Our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son, Yeshua the Messiah.
4. We are writing these things
so that our joy may be complete.

[David Stern’s Commentary] This prologue, like the one the same author wrote for his Gospel, seems to be composed as poetry; see Yn [Gospel of John] 1:1—18&N. The Word, who existed from the beginning, is Yeshua the Messiah (Yn [Gospel of John] 1:1-18. Believers (you… us) have fellowship (Greek koinonia,, “commonness, communion, community”) with God (the Father… his Son; compare Yochanan [Gospel of John] 17).

5. And this is the message which we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him — none!
6. If we claim to have fellowship with him while we are walking in the darkness, we are lying and not living out the truth.
7. But if we are walking in the light, as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of his Son Yeshua purifies us from all sin.
8. If we claim not to have sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9. If we acknowledge our sins, then, since he is trustworthy and just, he will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.
10. If we claim we have not been sinning, we are making him out to be a liar, and his Word is not in us.

[David Stern’s Commentary] Because there is no darkness in God. if we claim to have fellowship (v. 3) with him but are walking in darkness, then we are lying with our words and also with our actions (not living out the truth). Only when we let the light of God shine into our whole life, permitting even its secrets to be judged by him, can we be purified from our sinful habits and be made more holy.

As a rule, people do not want to let in God’s light (Yn 3:19-21), but instead of saying so, they claim they don’t need it. Yochanan gives two examples: If we claim not to have sin, not to have a nature which tends to sin, not to have a yelzer ru’ (“evil inclination”; see Ro 5:12-2IN) ever rearing its ugly head, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Likewise, If we claim we have not been sinning, that our acts have been above reproach, and we have not committed actual sins, we are making him out to be a liar, and his Word is not in us. Either of these claims, if true, would provide an excuse for not letting God judge our inmost heart, in accordance with the prayers of Psalms 19:13-15(12-14), 139:23-24.

In Yochanan’s day it was especially the Gnostics who, misusing Romans 6 and 8, said that since the Messianic believer has the Spirit of the Messiah in him, he cannot sin any more. Yochanan agrees that the Spirit of the Messiah cleanses us and gives us strength to overcome sin, in keeping with Ezekiel 36:27,

“I will put my Spirit in you and cause you to follow my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them.”

Nevertheless, we still commit sin, as v. 10 reminds us; this follows along with what is said about the days of the Messiah in Jeremiah 31:29(30), “Everyone will die for his own iniquity.” Isaiah 65:20 too speaks of sinners in the Messianic Era, and in the Lord’s Prayer believers are told to pray, “Forgive us what we have done wrong” (Mt 6:12).
This is also the answer to the objection raised in the sixteenth century by Rabbi Yitzchak of Troki’s Chizzuk-Emunah, which says — citing Deuteronomy 30:6, Zephaniah 3:13, Jeremiah 3:17, Ezekiel 36:25-27 — that Yeshua cannot be the Messiah because in the days of the Messiah there will be everlasting righteousness, and iniquity will cease. Eventually this will be the (Revelation 21-22); but in the present segment of the days of the Messiah there are sinners. Nevertheless, the Messiah “will justify many” (Isaiah 53:12), and by his death he atones for sin (v. 7, 2:2).

The objection that here Yochanan contradicts what he writes at 3:6. 9 (“…no one who remains united with him continues sinning…. No one who has God as his Father keeps on sinning….“) is answered in the notes to those verses.

Believers commit sins. They are not to be confronted by self-righteous fellow sinners passing judgment (Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:1-4) but by God’s own Word, which sets the standard for holiness. Then they will not make the mistake of the rich young ruler who asserted that he had kepi the Ten Commandments from his youth (Matthew 19:20). Instead of deceiving ourselves with excuses we should be walking in the light (v. 7), trying to do what pleases God. And we should acknowledge our sins as we commit them, even (though we do not intend to commit them (v. 9). The Greek word “omologeo” (“acknowledge, confess”) is, literally, “say the same thing.” If we say the same thing about our sins as God does, namely, that our sins are truly sinful; and if we have the kind of godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10-11); then the blood, by which is meant the bloody sacrificial death (Romans 3:21-26), of Yeshua continually purifies us from all sin. Our identification with his atoning death (Ro 6:3, Ga 2:20) empowers that death to go on helping us put to death our yetzer ra’ (Romans 6:16-23, 8:12-13, and Section D of Romans 5:12-21), which is what we must do if we are to conduct our life the way Yeshua did (2:6). Also, since he is trustworthy and just (Romans 3:25-26), he will forgive our sins and purify us from all wrongdoing. Compare John 13:1-17.
Acknowledging of sin, then, as Yochanan uses the term, is not merely a verbal tnins action but in every respect the full equivalent of repentance, t’shuvah (see Matthew 3:1-12). The relationship between repentance and blood sacrifice is correctly set forth in these verses. Repentance is the sine qua mm of forgiveness; with this non-Messianic Judaism agrees, as is clear from the Mishna:

“A sin-offering and a trespass-offering atone for sins committed wittingly. Death or Yom-Kippur atones, provided a person repents. Repentance atones for minor transgressions against the Torah’s positive commands and for any transgression against its negative commands; for more serious transgressions repentance suspends punishment until Yom-Kippur arrives and atones. “If a person says, ‘I will sin and repent, I will sin and repent,’ God will not give him an opportunity to repent! If he says, ‘I will sin, and Yom-Kippur will atone,’ then Yom-Kippur will not atone! Yom-Kippur atones for transgressions from man towards God; but for transgressions between a man and his fellowman, Yom-Kippur does not atone until he has conciliated his fellowman…. Rabbi Akiva said,’.. .Who cleanses you [from your transgressions]? Your Father in heaven, as it is said, “1 will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean” (Ezekiel 36:25). And it also says, “Mikveh-Israel” [which can be translated either “the hope of Israel,” referring to God, or “the ritual-bath of Israel”] (Jeremiah 17:13). Just as the ritual bath cleanses the unclean, so does the Holy One, blessed be he, cleanse Israel.”‘

Yoma 8:8-9

But at the same time that repentance is proclaimed as essential before God can grant forgiveness, the justice of and necessity for a blood sacrifice is clear both from the Torah (see Leviticus especially; but also Isaiah 1:16-17, Malachi 3:2-4) and the New Testament (see the book of Messianic Jews especially).

vv. 1:5-2:2  [Here are verses 2:1-2 from Stern’s Jewish New Testament:

Chapter 2:

1. My children, I am writing you these things so that you won’t sin. But if anyone does sin, we have Yeshua the Messiah, the Tzaddik, who pleads our cause with the Father.

2. Also, he is the kapparah for our sins — and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world.]

This section deals with the relationship of a believer both to sin in general (what theologians call the “sinful nature of man”) and also to particular sins. These verses give a threefold message:

(1) There is an absolute call to put away sin.
(2) It is impossible to live without sinning.
(3) Nevertheless, one has no right to give up the battle against sin.

The following famous quotation from the Mishna is appropriately cited in connection with many New Testament passages, but I have saved it for this one:

“He [Rabbi Tarfon, 2nd century C.E.] used to say, ‘You are not obligated to complete the task, but you are still not free from working at it.'”

Avot 2:16

——————————————————————

For the Christian who is not Jewish, there is much to be gained from reading David H. Stern’s works, the Jewish New and Old Testament and his commentaries.  In conclusion, 1 John concludes with this message of hope:

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:20 (ESV)

Posted by: davidlarkin | March 19, 2017

Giotto’s Two Views of the Massacre of the Innocents

Massacre of the Innocents, Cathedral at Scrivegni, Italy,  Giotto 1305-1306

Giotto de Bondone (1266/67-1337), or Giotto, as he is generally known, was a late Medieval Italian painter and architect from Florence. I am reading a book, Storytelling in Christian Art from Giotto to Donatello, by Jules Lubbock.  As the title reveals, Lubbock describes how early Renaissance Christian artists visually told stories from the Bible, which the Roman Catholic Church approved and financed, distinguishing this religious art from forbidden graven images. The Church decided that these story-telling paintings and frescoes educated the illiterate peasants about the Bible which the Church prohibited them from having, even if they could read.

Pope Gregory I, or Gregory the Great (540-604), wrote in his second letter AD 600:

For it is one thing to adore a picture, another to through the story [historiam] of a picture to learn what must be adored.  For what the writing offers to readers, a picture offers to the ignorant who look at it, since in it the ignorant see what they ought to follow, in it they read who do not know letters; whence for gentiles a picture is a substitute for reading.

In an earlier letter, Gregory explained why paintings, as pictures, were displayed in churches:

. . . in order that those who do not know letters may at least read by seeing on the walls what they are unable to read in books.

(emphasis added in the two quotes) Lubbock, Storytelling in Christian Art at 6-7.

Lubbock spends Chapter II looking at a series of Giotto’s frescoes in the Cathedral in Scrivegni, Italy which tell the story of Jesus life, death and resurrection. He writes about the fresco above where Giotto is picturing the story of the Massacre of the Innocents, the slaughter of infant boys under two years old in Israel. Herod was told by the Three Wise Men that the Messiah had been born in Bethlehem without revealing exactly when it happened.  Herod then ordered the slaughter of infants born there within the past two years, estimating the time window when the birth must have occurred, in an attempt to murder the Messiah Jesus as set forth in Scripture in Matthew 2:16-18 (ESV):

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

“A voice was heard in Ramah,
weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

In the Scrivegni fresco, the faces of the mothers are somewhat impassive and subdued, as if they were numbed by the earlier loss of their children, lying in a lifeless pile below them, “resembles the dead on a battlefield. A soldier engages in a tug of war with a mother to take another child to add to the pile, while a second soldier to the right of that mother is taking another child, whose head is half hidden behind his body. Even with the massacre still in process, the other mothers are apparently defeated with numb expressionless faces.

Several years later, around 1311, Giotto painted a second fresco in the Lower Church in Assisi, Italy depicting the same scene of the slaughter nearly identical in organization. Here, though, the mothers who have lost their children are portrayed differently, clearly expressing their emotions in their anguished faces.

Massacre of the Innocents, Lower Church, Assisi, Italy, Giotto 1311

We can only speculate why Giotto chose to express the anguish in the mothers whose babies were massacred. He may have been criticized by priests or patrons of the Church, or by his assistants or other artists that the first portrayal was unrealistic or false.  Or he simply wanted to paint the scene differently, having chosen purposely to paint the scene the first time with impassive numbed suffering mothers, and the second time with the mothers still in anguish, clearly distraught. Unfortunately, there are no records from the 14th Century which explain why Giotto did this.

Posted by: davidlarkin | February 17, 2017

Sir Robert Peel’s Hidden Prayer

sir-robert-peel-portrait-by-henry-william-pickersgill

Sir Robert Peel, portrait by Henry William Pickersgill

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) was twice Prime Minister of England (1834–1835 and 1841–1846) and twice Home Secretary (1822–1827 and 1828–1830). He is one of the founders of the modern British Conservative Party.  He was the son of a wealthy textile manufacturer, and was educated at Harrow and Oxford. He was elected to Parliament in 1809, at the age of 21 and served as member of Parliament for 40 years.  He became Home Secretary in 1822.  According to Wikipedia:

As Home Secretary, he introduced a number of important reforms of British criminal law: most memorably establishing the Metropolitan Police Force (Metropolitan Police Act 1829) for London. It was the enabling legislation for the first English police force, the “bobbies” (in England) or “peelers” (in Ireland), which served as the model for modern urban police departments throughout England. He also reformed the criminal law, reducing the number of crimes punishable by death, and simplified it by repealing a large number of criminal statutes and consolidating their provisions into what are known as Peel’s Acts. He reformed the gaol system, introducing payment for gaolers and education for the inmates.

He served as Prime Minister from 1834 to 1846. As Prime Minister he was instrumental in repealing protectionist trade laws and in establishing free trade as a 19th Century British policy as the industrial revolution progressed.  On June 29, 1850, he was thrown from his horse while riding on Constitution Hill in London, and the horse stumbled on top of him.  He died three days later on 2 July at the age of 62 due to a clavicular fracture which ruptured an artery.

He was an Anglican, a member of the Church of England.  Apparently, he was a privately devout Christian because the following prayer was found in the private drawer of his dressing case after his death.  In this prayer, designed by him, he communicates to God his personal needs as Prime Minister, petitions God for help in governing with wisdom and prudence, and requests God’s favor on the King and country, and for himself, that he would remain faithful in his walk with God:

Great and Merciful God, ruler of all nations, help me daily to repair to Thee for wisdom and grace suitable to the high office whereto Thy providence has called me. Strengthen, 0 Lord, my natural powers and faculties, that the weighty and solemn interests with which Thy servant is charged may not greatly suffer through weakness of body and confusion of mind. Deign, I beseech Thee, to obviate or correct the ill-effects of such omissions or mistakes in my proceedings as may result from partial knowledge, infirmity of judgment, or unfaithfulness in any with whom I may have to do.

Let Thy blessing rest upon my Sovereign and my country. Dispose the hearts of all in high stations to adopt such measures as will preserve public order, foster industry, and alleviate distress. May true religion flourish, and peace be universal. Grant that, so far as may consist with human weakness, whatever is proposed by myself or others for the general good may be viewed with candour, and that all new and useful measures may be conducted to a prosperous issue.

As for me, Thy servant, grant, 0 Merciful God, that I may not be so engrossed with public anxieties as that Thy word should become unfruitful in me, or be so moved by difficulty or opposition as not to pursue the narrow way which leadeth me to life. And, 0 most gracious Father, if, notwithstanding my present desires and purposes, I should forget Thee, do not Thou forget me, seeing that I entreat Thy constant remembrance and favour only for the sake of our most blessed Advocate and Redeemer Jesus Christ, to whom with Thee and the Holy Spirit be glory for ever. Amen.

“Great and Merciful God,” Book of Uncommon Prayers (UK)

from the collection, Give Us Grace, An Anthology of Anglican Prayers, compiled by Christopher L. Webber

Posted by: davidlarkin | January 10, 2017

Absalom Jones – Prayer for the Abolition of the Slave Trade

absalom-jones

Absalom Jones was born in slavery in Delaware in 1746.  He was the founder of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia in 1792, the first Black Episcopal Church in America as it describes itself today.  The Church is celebrating its 225th anniversary this year.

In his younger years in Delaware, Absalom sought help to learn to read. When he was 16, his owner Benjamin Wynkoop brought him to Philadelphia where he served as a clerk and handyman in a retail store. He was able to work for himself in the evenings and keep his earnings. He also briefly attended a school run by the Quakers where he learned mathematics and handwriting. In 1770, he married Mary Thomas and purchased her freedom. It was until 1784 that he obtained his own freedom through manumission. He also owned several properties.

“About Absalom Jones” African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas website

In 1802, Jones was ordained as the first African American Episcopal Priest.  Absalom Jones died on February 13, 1818 at his residence.  “The February 13th Absalom Jones Feast Day was added to the Episcopal Church Calendar in 1973. His ashes are enshrined in the altar of the Reverend Absalom Jones Chapel of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, and a memorial stained glass window commemorates his life and work.” [“About Absalom Jones”]

“His piety, pastoral faithfulness, and moral integrity were legendary.”

Here is a prayer he composed for the abolition of slavery and the slave trade, in an understated humble plea, “Give peace in our day we beseech thee, O thou God of peace! and grant, that this highly favoured country may continue to afford a safe and peaceful retreat from the calamities of war and slavery, for ages yet to come.”

A THANKSGIVING PRAYER FOR THE ABOLITION OF THE SLAVE TRADE

Oh thou God of all nations upon the earth!  We thank thee, that thou art no respecter of persons, and that thou hast made of one blood all nations of men.  We thank thee, that thou hast appeared, in the fullness of time, in behalf of the nation from which most of the worshiping people, now before thee, are descended.  We thank thee, that the sun of righteousness has at last shed morning beams upon them.  

Rend thy heavens, O Lord, and come down upon the earth; and grant that the mountains, which now obstruct the perfect day of thy goodness and mercy towards them, may flow down at thy presence.  Send thy gospel we beseech thee, among them.  May the nations, which now sit in darkness, behold and rejoice in its light.  

May Ethiopia soon stretch out her hands unto thee, and lay hold of the gracious promise of thy everlasting covenant. Destroy, we beseech thee, all the false religions which now prevail among them; and grant, that they may soon cast their idols, to the moles and the bats of the wilderness.  

O, hasten that glorious time, when the knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ, shall cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea, when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them and when, instead of the thorn, shall come up the fir tree, and, instead of the brier, shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name and for an everlasting sign that shall not he cut off.

We pray, 0 God, for all our friends and benefactors in Great Britain, as well as in the United States: reward them, we beseech thee, with blessings upon earth, and prepare them to enjoy the fruits of their kindness to us, in thy everlasting kingdom in heaven; and dispose us, who are assembled in thy presence, to be always thankful for thy mercies, and to act as becomes a people who owe so much to thy goodness.

We implore thy blessing, O God, upon the President, and all who are in authority in the United State’s [sic]. Direct them by thy wisdom, in all their deliberations, and O save thy people from the calamities of war.

Give peace in our day we beseech thee, O thou God of peace! and grant, that this highly favoured country may continue to afford a safe and peaceful retreat from the calamities of war and slavery, for ages yet to come.

We implore all these blessings and mercies, only in the name of thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. And now, O Lord, we desire, with angels and archangels, and all the company of heaven, ever more to praise thee, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty: the whole earth is full of thy glory.

“A Thanksgiving Prayer,” Thanksgiving Sermon; the italicized portions are references to Scripture.  From Give Us Grace, An Anthology of Anglican Prayers, compiled by Christopher L. Webber.

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 19, 2016

Susan Larkin’s Message – Go To Prayer

Susan Larkin

Here is a message my wife Susan gave several years ago to her Wednesday Night Women’s Bible Study group at our Church, Arizona Community Church in Tempe, Arizona:

Go to Prayer

Everyone loves some kind of music. I happen to live with two musicians. They sing, play guitar, keyboards, drums, saxophone – you name it. I can’t even clap on beat, but I always enjoy hearing them.

When I was a little girl, my family sent me to Catholic boarding school, we weren’t Catholics, but they thought I belonged there. (Just curious – anyone else have the special blessing of CBS?) No? I’m so happy for you! When I was eight years old, in 4th grade, it was time to get ready for the Christmas pageant. The nun (I think it was Sister Dominic, not sure) took the whole class into the auditorium, sat at the piano and played a few notes of some carol and each child sang along. She sorted us into groups that I found out later were soprano, alto and bass or tenor. After it was my time to sing, she said, “Suzie, stand over there.” I kept waiting for other children to join my group and no one ever did. It turned out I sang so badly I wasn’t allowed to sing at all. And all little children love to sing, it never occurs to them that they “can’t sing.”

I was to play the triangle. Some of you remember them. Our song was The Little Drummer Boy and it went like this (you can laugh-I think I have gotten over it) . . .  “Come, they told me, parumpumpumpum.” Ding Ding. That was me, the triangle. “The newborn King to see, parumpumpumpum.” Ding Ding. You can imagine what that did for my self-esteem. I was already the shyest person in the class. I was the one who got ‘demerits’ for group participation. Children could get merits on their Deportment Card (like a Report Card only regarding your behavior) or demerits for acting up. When all the children were playing kickball or jump rope, I would be by myself reading a book – and that got me demerits, seriously frowned upon.

Anyway, years later (I was about 16) I was with my dad, stepmother, a high school friend coming back from a trip and I told that story. I didn’t realize it, but afterward I was singing along with a song on the radio like you do. At the end of the song, my dad says, really droll, “You know, Sue, the nun was right.” Embarrassed all over again. My own father!

By the way, my husband who can sing very well, told me when I became a Christian over 25 years ago and shared that story, that the Lord gave us our voices to praise Him and whatever it sounds like to us, it is beautiful to Him, so we should sing. That was really encouraging, because I was hyper-sensitive by then and afraid to sing at all.

So that’s my music history. But I love to listen and you might be surprised that the kind of music I like best is bluegrass, especially bluegrass gospel. It got started with the movie O Brother Where Art Thou. If you haven’t seen it, rent it, or watch it again anyway if you have. Fabulous music, very soulful, and George Clooney is funny besides just easy to look at.

And the reason I like bluegrass music is it is the history of our country. You hear about railroads, miners, farmers, hard-working regular folks, Bible-believing grandparents, things like that. The musicians are excellent, the instruments are clear-sounding. The songs are typically happy and upbeat. But the best thing is, almost exclusively, the singers are Christians. They sing about the Lord and heaven and prayer just as naturally as they speak.  A couple times a week in fact on my channel, Wednesday night and Sunday morning, they have 6 hours straight of just gospel music. You would like it.

So, I listen on the way to work, I live about 5 mins south of here and work about 5 mins north. But at the beginning of this year, I decided to instead of listening to the music in the car in the morning to turn it off, pray and listen to the Lord. And I did pray, not expecting  to hear an answer immediately, but as the Scripture says, Be still and know He is God.

We have a small family business, just my husband and myself, and like all of the economy, expenses had risen and business had been off in the 2008-2009 recession. So I was considering our finances one day, and I was praying in my car when I wasn’t listening to music. The Lord was prompting me to do something crazy. I got to work and made some calls to see if anyone we paid monthly would be willing to adjust their charges. Which sounds kind of impossible – no one lowers their rates, they raise them. I actually made 3 calls and each one I talked to agreed to reduce our expenses – our rent by 1/3 – back to what we paid 14 yrs earlier, storage by 50% – we have to keep records for 7 years so we have loads of document to store – we even got an indoor place with air conditioning, and our messenger service reduced us by 75% – a company we have done business with for 20 years dropped us back to our rate from 25 years ago!  In fact, the man who answered the phone had owned the company, sold it and was back working there. He remembered us from 20 years earlier. I was stunned – I was rejoicing all day! I’m still rejoicing!

And here is the really amazing part, as it turned out, the next month we had 2 new, large expenses that equaled to the dollar, what we had saved – exactly $900, so that proves also that God is perfect at math, He is perfect at everything, of course. I knew those expenses were coming, but I wasn’t thinking about it at the time.

With the Lord and prayer – impossible things can be possible! So I encourage you to bring that insurmountable thing in your life to the Lord. Our pastor had been teaching us just a few weeks earlier that when you have an obstacle in your life, one of the things you do is listen to God and then let Him lead. He was talking about when the Israelites needed to cross the Jordan with the Ark of the Covenant, the most holy Presence of God on earth. It was at flood stage, but in faith, they listened to the Lord, followed His command and stepped in. As soon as they took that step, the waters parted and they walked through on dry land. Impossible? . . . not with our God.

Jesus said with faith the size of a mustard seed, we can move mountains. And if you don’t have that mountain-moving faith right now, take it straight to the Lord, He would love to hear you pray for that impossible thing. We can stop to pray together right now, okay?

Father in heaven, thank You for your incredible provision and unlimited creativity. Thank You that You do the unthinkable when we least expect it. Why are we so surprised at Your amazing grace? Help us to listen for Your voice and to follow when You speak. Help us to be faithful in prayer as You are faithful in mercy and grace. We give You the glory for Your mighty answers to prayer, In Jesus Name, Amen


Other posts by Susan Larkin:

Susan Larkin’s Testimony

Susan Larkin’s Message about Giving to Those in Need who Ask

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 17, 2016

The King’s Prayer

charles-i-by-van-dyck

Charles I of England painted by Dutch painter Van Dyck.  Charles I brought both Van Dyck and Peter Paul Rubens to England

Charles I of England (1600 -1649) was crowned king of England in 1625 and shortly thereafter married Henrietta Maria, sister of the French king, Louis XIII.  Charles I was a devout Christian preferring the high church services of the Church of England to the plain services of the Puritan reformers who were growing in number and power.  With a Roman Catholic wife, the Puritans never trusted him and suspected him of Popish sympathies.  In his private devotions, he prayed for wisdom to rule righteously, and prayed for his subjects’ well-being.  He considered himself a King of the people. He died claiming to be a martyr of the people.  As he prayed,

“And if thy anger be not to be yet turned away, but thy hand of justice must be stretched out still; let it I beseech thee be against Me, and My father’s house; as for these sheep, what have they done?”

Unable to cope with the dissatisfaction either of a rising middle class or of those Puritans seeking more radical reforms in the church of England, Charles I pursued policies that conflicted with Parliament that led finally to civil war. Defeated by the Puritan dominated Parliamentarians, arrested, and beheaded, Charles was seen as a saintly martyr by royalists and a day in the Church of England Prayer Book calendar was dedicated to his memory when the monarchy was restored.  The prayer below attributed to Charles I and from his private devotions, reflects with great skill the vision of the godly king held by those who supported him.

PENITENTIAL MEDITATIONS AND VOWS IN THE KING’S SOLITUDE AT HOLDENBY

Give ear to My words 0 Lord, consider My meditation, and hearken to the voice of My cry, My King and My God for unto thee will I pray. I said in My haste I am cast out of the sight of thine eyes; nevertheless thou hears the voice of My supplication, when I cry unto thee.

If thou Lord should be extreme to mark what is done amiss, who can abide it? But there is mercy with thee, that thou may be feared; therefore shall sinners fly unto thee.

I acknowledge My sin before thee, which have the aggravation of My condition; the eminence of My place adding weight to My offences.

Forgive, I beseech thee, My personal, and My peoples sins; which are so far Mine, as I have not improved the power thou gave Me, to thy glory, and My subjects good: thou hast now brought Me from the glory and freedom of a King, to be a prisoner to My own subjects: justly, 0 Lord, as to thy over-ruling hand, because in many things I have rebelled against thee.

Thou hast restrained My person, yet enlarged My heart to thee, and thy grace towards Me. I come far short of David’s piety; yet since I may equal David’s afflictions, give Me also the comforts and the sure mercies of David. Let the penitent sense I have of My sins, be an evidence to Me, that thou hast pardoned them. Let not the evils, which I and My kingdoms have suffered, seem little unto thee; though thou hast not punished us according to our sins. Turn thee (0 Lord) unto Me; have mercy Upon Me, for I am desolate and afflicted. The sorrows of My heart are enlarged; 0 bring thou Me out of My troubles.

Hast thou forgotten to be gracious, and shut up thy loving kindness in displeasure?

O remember thy compassions of old, and thy loving kindnesses, which have been for many generations. I had utterly fainted, if I had not believed to see thy goodness in the land of the living. Let not the sins of our prosperity deprive us of the benefit of thy afflictions. Let this fiery trial consume the dross, which in long peace and plenty we had contracted. Though thou continue miseries, yet withdraw not thy grace; what is wanting of prosperity, make up in patience and repentance.

And if thy anger be not to be yet turned away, but thy hand of justice must be stretched out still; let it I beseech thee be against Me, and My father’s house; as for these sheep, what have they done?

Let My sufferings satiate the malice of Mine, and thy Churches enemies;
But let their cruelty never exceed the measure of My charity.

Banish from Me all thoughts of revenge, that I may not lose the reward, nor thou the glory of My patience. As thou give Me a heart to forgive them, so I beseech thee doe thou forgive what they have done against thee and Me. And now, O Lord, as thou hast given Me an heart to pray unto thee; so hear and accept this vow, which I make before thee. If thou wilt in mercy remember Me, and My kingdoms; in continuing the light of thy Gospel, and settling thy true religion among us;

In restoring to us the benefit of the laws, and the due execution of justice;

In suppressing the many schisms in Church, and factions in State:

If thou wilt restore Me and Mine to the ancient rights and glory of My predecessors;

If thou wilt turn the hearts of My people to thy self in piety, to Me in loyalty, and to one another in charity;

If thou wilt quench the flames, and withdraw the fuel of these civil wars;

If thou wilt bless us with the freedoms of public counsels, and deliver the honor of Parliaments from the insolence of the vulgar;

If thou wilt keep Me from the great offence of enacting anything against My conscience; and especially from consenting to sacrilegious rapines, and spoilings of thy Church:

If thou wilt restore Me to a capacity to glorify thee in doing good, both to the Church and State;

Then shall My soul praise thee, and magnify thy name before My people.

Then shall thy glory be dearer to Me then My crowns; and the advancement of true religion both in purity and power be My chiefest care. Then will I rule My people with justice, and My kingdoms with equity. To thy more immediate hand shall I ever own as the rightful succession, so the merciful restoration of My kingdoms, and the glory of them. If thou wilt bring Me again with peace, safety, and honor to My chiefest city, and My Parliament. If thou wilt again put the sword of justice into My hand to punish and protect.

Then will I make all the world to see and My very enemies to enjoy the benefit of this vow and resolution of Christian charity, which I now make unto thee O Lord.

As I do freely pardon for Christ’s sake those that have offended Me in any kind; so My hand shall never be against any man to revenge what is past, in regard of any particular injury done to Me.

We have been mutually punished in our unnatural divisions; for thy sake O Lord, and for the love of My Redeemer, have I purposed this in My heart, that I will use all means in the ways of amnesty and indemnity, which may most fully remove all fears, and bury all jealousies in forgetfulness.

Let thy mercies be toward Me and Mine, as My resolutions of truth and peace are toward My people.

Hear My prayer O Lord, which goes not out of feigned lips.

Blessed be God, who hath not turned away My prayer; nor taken his mercy from Me.

O My soul, commit thy way to the Lord, trust in him, and he shall bring it to pass. But if thou wilt not restore Me and Mine, what am I that I should charge thee foolishly? Thou O Lord hast given, and thou hast taken, blessed be thy name. May My people and thy Church be happy, if not by Me, yet without Me.

from Give Us Grace, An Anthology of Anglican Prayerscompiled by Christopher L. Webber for Moorehouse Publishing,  Harrisburg, London and New York (2004)


More Anglican Prayer – The Ability to Love God is a Gift of God – The Collect of Thomas Cranmer for the Sixth Sunday after Trinity Sunday

Posted by: davidlarkin | September 6, 2016

The Son of Man

son-of-man-magritte-19641

Painting “Son of Man” by Magritte (1964).

Why Did Jesus often refer to himself as the “Son of Man?”

From the Complete Jewish Bible, Mark 14:61-62:

But he remained silent and made no reply. Again the cohen hagadol questioned him: “Are you the Mashiach, Ben-HaM’vorakh?” “I AM,” answered Yeshua. “Moreover, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of HaG’vurah and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Here the Jewish/Hebrew words are translated as follows:

cohen hagadol” is the high priest
Mashiach” is Messiah in the Hebrew, Christ in the Greek
BenHaM’vorakh” is “Son of the Blessed
Yeshuah” is Jesus in the Hebrew.
HaG’vurah” is Hebrew word for “Power” as that word is translated from the Greek, likely used by the Scribes as a euphemism for the sacred name of God.

Here is the same passage from the more familiar gentile English translation, though less authentic:

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Mark 14:61-62 (ESV)

Thus, Jesus announces he is the fulfillment of scripture, using the term the “Son of Man” which the prophet Daniel used in his prophesy of Messiah:

“I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14 (ESV)

In the Gospels, Jesus refers to himself as Son of Man more than any other title.

 


 

For a discussion of the use of Christian symbols in modern art, as Magritte did in the painting above, and blasphemy, Click here for my 2008 post, The Twenty-Million Dollar Golden Calf.

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