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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Confession and Absolution

(Journaled April 6, 2016)

I think "confession" is something that way too many churches skip over during their gatherings. I think it is really helpful to include prayers of general confession (especially during communion services, but even generally), so people understand the necessity of repentance, and have an example or pattern of how to confess individually. And it does serve as an extra warning, too. It also reminds us of the awesomeness of God's forgiveness and mercy, when we contemplate the truth of our wickedness. I wonder if it gets skipped because it takes too much time, or is considered too "liturgical" or too "ritualistic" ... or perhaps there is a concern that such a confession is too "in your face" and might offend some people. If Communion is really so serious as scripture shows it to be, I think prayers of confession are really helpful, as in this prayer from a past edition of an Anglican prayer book:

"We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we from time to time most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ's sake, Forgive us all that is past; and grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

And then there is "absolution." Now maybe some people might think this is too "liturgical," but I think it is very comforting and assuring, especially for those who fear that they are too unworthy of God's forgiveness and love and acceptance.

"Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all them that with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Monday, 17 October 2016

Launch into the Deep

(journaled April 5, 2016)

Every day for the last few weeks I have been praying the "Launch out into the deep" prayer from Streams in the Desert for Feb 29.  And it is building a longing to dive, launch, access the "deep waters" of the Holy Spirit, the deep things of God, the deep of God's Word, of Jesus and His Atonement, of Father's will, of the Holy Spirit, of God's purposes and coming kingdom, of joy with Jesus and his glory.

"Into all these things, Jesus bids us launch. He made us and He made the deep, and to its fathomless depths He has fitted our longing and capabilities."

Yes, dear God, I do "this day claim afresh to be immersed and drenched in these waters of life." Please take me, meet me, fill me, overflow me. Please efface my self, till my eyes are turned and fixed only on my Lord and Savior God--Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. Please. Amen. Thank You.

Please help me fully give up the shore.

Please clearly show me my own weakness and my need for You completely (and please help me overcome my fear of mankind's disapproval, and my fear of losing my control, and my fear of the pain through which I may well have to pass on this journey with You).

Please help me apprehend the possibilities of my life lived in the deeps with You: please give me your heavenly vision

Please show me what my needs really are. I can be--I am--so blind to my own weaknesses and shortcomings. Please show them to me--and give me Your vision of how all of them, each of them, can be, will be met in Your deeps.

Please, Holy Spirit, open up Your Word to its "crystal fathomless ... ocean meaning."

Please, Holy Spirit, illuminate "Christ's precious blood [so] it becomes an omnipotent balm, and food and medicine for the soul and body."

Please, Father, take me into the depths of Your will, until I "apprehend its infinite minuteness and goodness, and its far-sweeping provision and care for us."

Please take me "into the deep of the Holy Spirit, until be becomes a ... fathomless summer sea, in which ... we lose ourselves and our sorrows in the calmness and peace of his everlasting presence."

Please take me "into the deep of the Holy Spirit, until He becomes a bright, marvelous answer to prayer, the most careful and tender guidance, the most thoughtful anticipation of our need, the most accurate and supernatural shaping of our events."

Please take me "into the deep of God's purposes and coming kingdom, until the Lord's coming and His millennial reign are opened up to us," until my heart is overwhelmed "with inexpressible anticipation of its joy with Jesus and the glory to be revealed."

Oh dear God, dear Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit--into all these things You bid me launch--and today, now, this moment, I am climbing into Your boat and looking forward, asking You to cast off and take me with You into the deeps--no matter what it costs in worldly terms. Please calm my fears and help me place all my trust in You. In Jesus' name, Amen. Thank You, Lord.

Friday, 14 October 2016

God's plans prevail

"Cease meddling with God's plan and will. You touch anything of His, and you mar the work .... you may hurry the unfolding of God's will, but you harm and do not help the work.... Leave all to Him. Hands down. Thy will, not mine." --Stephen Merritt

Good advice as I work on my new business schedule and direction. "Many are the plans of a man, but God's purpose prevails!"

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

We need Your Hope

(journaled March 19, 2016)

March 19, 2016

Sometimes I feel so depressed. The world seems to get worse day by day, minute by minute. What is the matter with people? Why don't they think? Why don't they care about anything beyond their own happiness in the moment? Where is community? Where are lofty goals and ideals? Where is love--for God and for humanity?

And what is the point, I wonder, of all the stuff I've been studying? I want to help people succeed in their education, and in their writing and publishing. But what is "success"? I don't want to be one of those teachers who is just adding to the "self-affirmation" illness of our society. And illness it surely is; rot from deep inside; and encouraged by those in power who see the truth: that "entertaining the mob" is the way to keep them happy and in control--and empty, vacuous, stupid. Like the Roman mob in the Gladiator film, the fall of the Roman empire, and modern nations and global empires. Trouble is, too, that "dark ages" and chaos come after such falls; and sadly, the rediscovery, the renaissance that then follows seems only to lead to another round of the cycle.

I'm tired. My brain hurts. What, I wonder, will be the positive effect of any of my efforts, of my thinking, my encouragement of others, and my own enthusiasm for learning, exploring, wondering, challenging?

Is there any point, Lord? Are we doomed to endless cycles of hope--and failure? How long does this need to go on? Your mercy and grace is amazing ... but sometimes I wonder if allowing this world to carry on and on is really merciful? I know You see the big picture and I don't. I know scripture warns of things getting worse and worse. I know that the end will come when we're not expecting it, not looking for it.

Yes, we need Your Hope. There IS light at the end of the tunnel! :-)

Monday, 10 October 2016

More thoughts on prayers about war

(journaled March 2016)

Last night on CBC radio I heard bits and pieces of a discussion on war, and whether it can be avoided in all situations. It seemed that all agreed that, no matter how abhorrent the killing may be, there are times--mainly in self-defense against an evil, violent, warring adversary (Nazism was given as an example) who will not back down or change their ways--when wars must be fought. I really wish there were better strategies, but I'm afraid that short of "pure pacifism" (which one of the panelists said was, in reality, "indefensible") war is going to be here because of man's nature. Any yet...

I think far too many wars are wrong on every level: wars for territorial expansion, for greed, for power, for imperialism and colonialism, to attain control over oil or other goods, for prestige, for patriotism, to force changes in forms of government or changes in government leaders (especially when done by one nation to another for the reasons just mentioned), religious fanaticism, powerful nations messing around with less powerful nations for personal gain, and so on. Syria has been at it for five years and Assad is still firmly entrenched while the country is ruined and the world is in upheaval with refugee crises, while more and more nations are drawn into the battle and major world powers take sides. Is it worth it? Of course, there are those who would say diplomacy would not unseat Assad. But really, who knows if it isn't tried?

Well, I wrote all the above, because I just read a prayer called "Thanksgiving for Victory" which includes, among other statements, "We bless and magnify thy great and glorious Name for this happy Victory, the whole glory whereof we do ascribe to thee, who are the only giver of Victory ... to thy glory, the advancement of thy Gospel, the honour of our Sovereign, and, as much as in us lieth, to the good of all mankind..." (and more such expressions which make me shudder).

And if "we" don't get "the Victory" and "the other side" does, what then? Did God give them the victory, for His glory and the advancement of the gospel and the good of all mankind? Was our side wrong? If we get the victory, is the other side wrong?

Here's another prayer that is maybe a bit easier to swallow: "O Almighty God, who art a strong tower of defense unto thy servants against the face of their enemies: We yield thee praise and thanksgiving for our deliverance from those great and apparent dangers wherewith we were compassed: We acknowledge it thy goodness that we were not delivered over as a prey to them...."

So it seems like this refers to one of those wars of self-defense against an evil enemy seeking to overtake us (assuming we accept that as a reasonable cause to respond in warfare). But even so, are we ourselves convinced of our own purity and innocence in the whole matter? And if not, if there is a chance that we, too, are in some degree evil, and/or in some degree "to blame"--did we, before going into war, seek God's face in repentance, and determine that after the war is over we will not return to our own evil ways?

Oh, by the way, the prayer ends, "that all the world may know that thou art our Saviour and mighty Deliverer; through Jesus Christ our Lord." Are we really following You, to start with? Were our reasons for joining in the war effort really pure? If our reasons were tainted (and there are many underlying reasons and motivations we go into apparently "just wars" beyond truly altruistic, just reasons), what message does that send to non-believers when we claim that You are our deliverer? Is it even possible that war points people to Christ?

Is winning or losing war even always about "good vs evil"? Is it? Does God jump into every situation? Does God "weigh the balances" in every war? Does He? Really? I believe that, in the end, every knee will bow before Him; but I don't see that in the present world every victory is from God. I do believe, however, that relationship with God can and does grow out of pain and loss. Spiritual victory in physical loss?

Monday, 26 September 2016

Prayers about war

(journaled March 2016)

Today I was reading some prayers from the Anglican Common Prayer book (1950s Canadian version) which are related to war. I have become more and more ambivalent about war, and really find myself getting quite deep into the pacifist camp. At the same time, I am realizing that war is pretty much "human nature" and also beloved by the ruling elites because of the power it offers (and who rarely send their own sons and daughters to fight). I just am having a really hard time wrapping my head around Christians who seem to love and support wars (well, they love and support the war-loving political parties, too...)

One of the prayers reads: "...strengthen and protect ... shelter ... keep them safe from all evil ... and grant that in all things they may serve as seeing Thee who are invisible, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."  But should we not pray for those caught up in the fighting on both sides, those "conscripted" or convinced by their respective sides that their side is right? Not to mention the civilians caught up in the middle of it.

On the other hand, I sure don't feel like praying for those who create and support the wars, due to their desire for power and wealth.

I kind of understand about praying for those who stand up against tyranny and evil ... if only wars were that simple. But this prayer invokes Jesus' name, he who taught "turning the other cheek."

And oh my goodness: what would happen if all militaries actually "served as seeing Thee who art invisible"? If they looked up from the battle and all saw You looking down on them, what would they do? Keep killing each other, thinking You're approving them (and that You're opposing the "other side"?)(as Constantine apparently did, and the Crusaders, and, yes, lots of military leaders today). Or fall with their faces to the ground and throw away their weapons in shame? or?

I think a lot of the "just war theory" appeals to the Old Testament militaristic record. (And what's with all that Old Testament war and mayhem anyway? And how, oh how, does it line up with the New Testament record ... and then back to the final battles of Armageddon and so on?)

I think that under the power of evil, war is inevitable ... and if no one fought, would the evil power just get stronger? Could "turning the other cheek" really stop it, in a world under so much of the rule of the enemy (yet which, thankfully, is still itself under the rule of God ... how that must gall the evil powers).

But even if war is inevitable in this world, does that mean believers should agree to take up arms?

What about all those gun-lovers, including so many civilian ones? They LOVE their guns! What is with that? (And so many of them claim to love Jesus, too...)

Well, the next prayer has some good points ... but I wonder: if God judged the "other side" to be more in the right, what then? If God is asked to judge--rescue--in OUR wars--would He even be willing? And if so, would we accept that judgment, really?

I suppose, as long as the enemy chooses to war against righteousness, war is inevitable ... even for the "Lord of Hosts" -- and His angels --- and His people?  I don't know. I wonder how God sees war? I'm sure for Him it's about righteousness vs evil--but what does that really mean?

"Lord of hosts, that rulest and commandest all things: Thou sittest in the throne judging right, and therefore we [ask] ... that thou wouldst take the cause into thine own hand, and judge between us and our enemies .... O let not our sins not cry against us for vengeance, but ... be a defence unto us against the face of the enemy. Make it appear that thou art our ... mighty Deliverer."

What if God judges against our side?

I think this prayer means that we want to win--and when we do, we want people to be able to say, "See? It's obvious--God gave the victory to us. He really is on our side! We are God's favoured people!" (Kind of like when football players kneel on the field after a victory to give thanks--or throw down their helmets and yell in anger when they lose).

What if it is our own sins that have brought us to this point of war? Of course, it always is to some degree. And what if both sides are crying out to God for mercy (so they can win, presumably--though I doubt there is any true victory in man's wars ...). What is the righteous Judge to do?

"God ... to whom it belongeth justly to punish sinners, and to be merciful to them that truly repent: Save us and deliver us ... from the hands of our enemies...." BUT: Do we truly repent and turn to God when war arrives on our doorstep? Do we? And if we did, would not our response to it be different? Would we still march proudly, patriotically, enthusiastically, "righteously" into battle?

"....abate their pride, assuage their malice, and confound their devices...." But what about our own pride, malice and devices?

" glorify thee, who art the only giver of all victory ..." Do You really want to be glorified for stepping into our wars? Unless we are truly your people--but in that case, would we be warring in the first place? Spending huge amounts on our military capabilities, etc.?

If "conscientious objectors" offered to "pray for God's will" during battles (instead of fighting in those battles)--I wonder if the military leaders would even want them to do that? I suspect God's will is not man's will--and the military would be wise to fear His will.

Do You honour those who really are pacifists on account of following and believing in You? I think so. But I am also pretty sure they will face dishonor from the world, just as Jesus did. Even torture and death. But oh, to be in relationship with You through it all, forever. That makes it all worthwhile, right?

Monday, 19 September 2016

What is Your Truth?

(journaled Feb 24, 2016)

Lord God--what is your Truth? Many writers/preachers/etc. nowadays seem to have their own "take" on Truth, and seem sure that they are right and others are wrong. There seems to be a pride in "being right" . . . and not much love, care, concern toward others . . . except being concerned to show, in minutest detail, how others are wrong. We can see others' shortcomings--or outright wrongs--but not our own, it seems.

And yet, lately, I have become concerned that I have been wandering off the path, becoming too "liberal" (or neo-liberal?) in my ways of thinking, wandering from the basic teachings of scripture. So I find myself retreating to  a "back to the faith of our fathers" ... and I find I am linked to the "Protestant" tradition. Is it because of the way I was brought up?  I am also becoming more wary of the kind of Christianity that is strongly mixed up with metaphysical approaches.

I don't want to get caught up again in a fundamentalism that is cold and "doctrine/law" based, and pushes relationship with You--love of You--away. But I also don't want wishy-washy-ness. I feel scared right now, because I don't know where to turn--other than to You. I feel like I don't trust anyone other than You.

And then I worry very much that my perception of You may be just that--my perception--and I might be all wrong. O dear God, please guide me to Yourself--to You, the Way, the Truth, the Life.  I don't expect to find "pat answers" exactly, because You're far more than the "pat answers" of human understanding. I believe that. But I also believe (because You said it, Jesus) that there is a simple faith, a child-like faith, that is available to us--and that we are to use and follow as we follow You.

I really, really would like to find that core of faith in You that is clear, and straight, the narrow path that provides a clear road to You, so I'm not so easily led down other paths--or intrigued by them. I absolutely need to keep my eyes fixed on You, Jesus ... and not distracted by the approval of others (so that I listen to and absorb their ideas that are not centered on You, the Truth).

I find myself in an awkward position where I've said so many angry--and arrogant--things against "traditional church" and people who are "shallow" or "easily led" ("sheeple") and so on ... and I've prided myself on getting out, getting free ... and now I find myself wanting to pull back, to find that which is  good and true and stable in "traditional church." And fear that my whining and my questioning and my arrogance may well be responsible for leading others astray.

Oh dear God, please guide me to see where I've been wrong (but also where I'm okay), and encourage others to follow You faithfully.  Not to get so caught up in "side topics" that they lose sight of You the way I have done.