Like A Good Neighbor

I have had several influential preachers in my life. I’ve benefited from the opportunity to sit under men from different denominations since my childhood. I have been convicted and comforted by the Word since my conversion in Jr. High.

But the preaching of a handful of men over the last six years has been tremendously helpful. God’s Word has been opened up to me with great power through the preaching of my pastors Brian PetersonLigon Duncan, and Derek Thomas. In addition to these men, I have enjoyed listening to many sermons online. John PiperTim KellerBryan ChapellStuart Olyott, and Sinclair Ferguson have been particularly insightful.

However, one of the latest men to have a great impact upon my own theology and practice is my good friend Nate Shurden, pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, TN. I got to know Nate through the privilege of being his intern at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS for a few years.

I recently listened to Nate’s exposition of Luke 10:25-42. They were especially helpful because of the way Nate related two well known stories. The Good Samaritan and the episode of Mary and Martha that follows are connected in an important way. I won’t tell you how in hopes that you will listen to the sermons for yourself.

Take some extra time this week to “sit under” Nate’s preaching on “Like a Good Neighbor Parts 1 & 2″ and “The One Thing Necessary.” I hope you are able to hear these familiar stories in a fresh way so that you are rightly moved to “go and do likewise.”

Praying the Imprecatory Psalms (Psalm 83)

The Psalms have always been considered a great source for encouraging us how to pray. But what happens when we come to a psalm where the author makes a plea for God to judge others? Should we skip over those psalms assuming, as did C.S. Lewis, that they are beneath the ethics of Jesus Christ? I don’t think so.

The following prayer is based on Psalm 83, one of the imprecatory Psalms with the recognition that we are now under the new covenant. There is not much to add to clarify how it relates to us today. Both justice and mercy are found within its verses and they are just as applicable to those of us in the new covenant as they were for those under the old covenant.

The imprecatory Psalms carry with them a weight of emotion that pastors must express from their pulpits today. The church shies away from this language all too often, as if it no longer fits God’s character in the new covenant. But to have a problem with the imprecatory Psalms is to have a problem with God’s justice. Removing the language of justice from our pulpits does irreparable damage to the mercy of God. And in the end, it makes light of the cross of our Savior.

“O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God!” (1). We long to see your will carried out; both in mercy and in justice. We pray that you will carry out your righteous judgment upon your enemies. “For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads” (2). They shout their ignorance from the safety of the homes you have provided for them. They have tasted of your grace yet refused to acknowledge its source in you.

“They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones,” (3). Father, you know how the wicked plot against your people. They long to expand their influence by silencing those who would proclaim your Word. When they are unable to shut up your people, they malign our motives and call us hypocrites!

“They say, ‘Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!’” (4). And they would succeed in their mission were we left to defend ourselves. “For they conspire with one accord; against you they make a covenant” (5). Today’s enemies stand opposed to your people just like “the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites, Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Asshur also has joined them; they are the strong arm of the children of Lot,” (6-8). Their names have changed, but their goals have always been the same, because their captain is the same.

Satan has deceived humans from the beginning. Since the Garden of Eden he has led people to disobey your commands. He strives against your will and longs to drag as many down to his destruction with him. Your enemies have multiplied in number and fortified their positions. They have increased the size of their armies and they have adjusted their strategies. They use all the latest weaponry that they might strike fear into the hearts of all who hope in you.

But you have made an everlasting covenant with us! You have promised to be our shield, our exceedingly great reward (Gen 15:1)! You have promised to rescue us from destruction. And you have ensured that promise by sending your Son to endure the blows of our enemies in our place. As a shield takes the blows in place of the warrior, so your Son extinguished the fiery darts of the evil one as he hung upon the cross defeating death for all who place their faith in him (Eph 6:16). Our safety and protection is in “the rock that is higher than I,” (Ps 61:2).

In your mercy to us, you have bound Satan for his appointed destruction. Those who fight for him will be thrown into ruin along with him. Not even kings can thwart the plans you have for us. They are pawns in your hand Lord. “Do to them as you did to Midian, as to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon, who were destroyed at En-dor, who became dung for the ground. Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, who said, ‘Let us take possession for ourselves of the pastures of God,’” (9-12). The land of Canaan was yours to give and you were faithful to keep every one of your promises to give that land to your people (Josh 23:14). The mission of their enemies was impossible because they had set their plans against yours.

Those who despise you today and make a mockery of your people await the same fate. “O my God, make them like whirling dust, like chaff before the wind,” (13). May we recognize their weakness and insignificance in light of having the Commander of the Lord’s Army fighting for us. “As fire consumes the forest, as the flame sets the mountains ablaze, so may you pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your hurricane!” (14-15). We do not dare take vengeance into our own hands, we do not carry out our personal vendettas, but we wait with patience for your just judgment.

“Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O Lord,” (16). That is our hope Lord! That in your judgment, your enemies would feel their shame and turn from their sin in true repentance! We pray that they would realize the filthiness of their wickedness in the sight of your righteousness. May their shame lead them to you God. But ultimately, our Heavenly Father, we pray that you would magnify your glory. “Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, that they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth,” (18). Amen.

The Prayer of Confession and Assurance of Pardon

Most Gracious Heavenly Father, hear us this morning as we come to you out of desperation. We feel the heavy weight of our sin and we need the relief that only you can offer us. So we come to you in the only way that we know how, the only way that we are able to. We come as sinners in need of your grace. We come crippled in need of your healing. We come wounded in need of your repairing touch.

We have reached the depths of misery and we cry out for your uplifting mercy. We have wandered away from the fold and we need your guiding hand to draw us back. We have yielded to the temptations of this world, our flesh, and the devil more times than we can count.

We confess that the dangers of this world strike more fear into our hearts than the righteous fear that should result from standing before a holy God. We fear the consequences of the direction our government is leading us more than we fear the consequences of our own sinful corruption.

Our lips have spoken lies. Our minds have delighted in evil. Our hearts have boasted in our own achievements. Yet we have stubbornly deflected our guilt to others just like our earthly father Adam. We have been quick to blame our sinfulness on our circumstances, as if it were unavoidable.

We are too proud to admit our iniquities to others because we crave their praise. In our arrogance we contend for the glory that is due to you alone. Just like the Pharisee who prayed in the temple, we compare ourselves to others and think that we should be honored. We think that we deserve your grace because of our superiority. Yet, you despise the proud and give grace to the humble.

So we come to you now with contrite hearts. We bow before your throne of grace and cry out for mercy. Hear the sound of our mourning and accept our repentance. You have promised not to break a bruised reed, and a smoldering wick you will not quench. We cling to that promise this morning.

You have promised to hear us when we come in the name of your Son. So we come into your presence with boldness, not because we are worthy, but because of the infinite worthiness of Jesus Christ. It is through his active and passive obedience that we our found acceptable in your sight. He lived a life that we could not live, and he died a death that we could not die. We come to you not with our own merit, but based of the merits of Christ. We repent of our wickedness and rest in His righteousness.

“Nothing in our hands we bring, simply to Thy cross we cling.”

Because of Christ our despair becomes hope. Because of Christ our mourning is turned to gladness. Because of Christ the righteous demands of the law have been satisfied. “He has hushed the law’s loud thunder, He has quenched Mt. Sinai’s flame.”

Now, out of sheer gratitude, we present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to you, which is our spiritual worship. Keep us from conforming to this world; rather transform us by the renewal of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2).

Almighty Father, Son and …

Almighty Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
Eternal, ever-blessed, gracious God,
To me, the least of saints, to me allow
That I may keep a door in paradise;
That I may keep even the smallest door;
The furthest door, the darkest, the stiffest door,
If so it be but in thine house, O God!
If so it be that I can see thy glory,
Even afar and hear they voice, O God!
And know that I am with thee, O God. Amen.

Saint Columba, a sixth-century Irish missionary to the west of Scotland.

Please Continue to Pray for Our Friend Anna Peterson

The Peterson Family: Brian, Anna, Samuel, Kiah, Kate, TJ, Nathan, Meagan, and Micah (not pictured)

Thank you for keeping Anna in your prayers. This is a continuation of the timeline. You can read the updates from the beginning here.

Friday, Jan. 20:

5:14pm – From Randi: Anna just heard from the coumadin clinic and everything is in the normal range! PTL She will be weaned off the shots during the next two days. Then on Tuesday another lab date. The multiple incisions are healing and she should be able to take a shower tomorrow! She just finished physical therapy so she is exhausted but was able to walk unaided for 6 minutes. Please continue to pray for her to have no infections, her strength to return, and for her physical therapy to continue to go well. Oh, and don’t forget to thank and praise God for all He has done in and through this journey. We are so grateful.

Saturday, Jan. 21:

1:07pm – From Randi: Please pray for Anna. Brian is taking her to the ER because she has blood in her urine. She doesn’t have any pain so that is good. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors and nurses. Please pray that Anna can see a doctor who knows her. Also, pray for her emotionally – she is shaking and is really scared. Thanks again, prayer warriors

8:07pm – From Randi: Just heard from Brian. Anna is back in the hospital. Her white blood cell count is elevated and the CT scan of her kidneys and bladder showed two pockets of clear fluid. As I shared earlier there was blood in her urine and they are trying to find out why. Please pray for her. She needs peace and the doctors and nurses need wisdom. We certainly know that God can provide both so once again we are asking you to intercede on her behalf.

Sunday, Jan. 22:

4:56am – From Randi: Please pray. Hemoglobin is dropping, heart rate is up. They are discussing another transfusion.

9:20am – From Anna: “Be to me a rock of refuge, to which I may continually come; you have given the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.” Psalm71:3 This is the verse I have clung to since “waking up.”

11:06am – From Randi: Blood issue seems resolved. Thankful. Hemoglobin needs to stabilize. Please pray for this. Also the catheter needs to come out so her bladder can work on its own. Pray they do it soon. Thanks for your continued involvement with us.

8:25pm – From Randi: Anna is home from the hospital! The doctor thought the blood in her urine was a result of an infection, so she is on antibiotics for 12 days. They flushed her bladder for about 15 hours and several clots came out which was good. The ct scan showed that the large clot in her abdomen area is dissolving, which is good. Her hemoglobin seems to have stabilized which is good. And did I mention that she is home from the hospital so she should sleep well tonight, which is good. The baby continues to do well, which is good. Thanks for praying and remembering with us that God is good.

I will continue to update this post every couple of days with the latest information. If you would like more frequent updates join the Facebook prayer group. Thank you for praying!