Preparing for Lent

ash-wednesday

This Wednesday I will receive the imposition of ashes.

I will start the day with prayer and fasting, eating after the service and Holy Communion has been received. The plan so far is to abstain from meat Wednesdays and Fridays throughout Lent, setting specific time aside for prayer and limiting my claroic intake so I remain a little hungry throughout the Lenten season.

My motive for taking part in Lent this year is simple, to discipline my self and focus on Christ and His glory. My motive in blogging about it is to stay on task and encourage others.

I am a great sinner and ask for your prayers as I begin this journey.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

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Lent

calendar

I know, I know I’ve posted,“I’m giving up Romish/Popish holidays for Lent!” but lately I’ve been attending an Anglican Church and will be taking part this year. The Liturgy has become soul soothing especially the Evening Prayer services. God willing I’ll post some reflections as the season unfolds. As always please leave your comments and or scoldings below.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

 

Book of Common Prayer

Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may pe

I’ve been using the BCP for devotions off and on for a few years now. At one time I believe it was nothing more than popish doctrine made more palatable to Protestants (see Gill here and here) but I have since changed my mind and recommend it as a source guide for devotion and prayer. I’ll include some information for your perusal:

How to use the Book of Common Prayer

About the Canadian Prayer Book

App – I found mine using Play Store

daily prayer app

Ecstasy

LYRICS: John Leland (1754-1841)leland

“Rev. John Leland was born in Grafton, Mass., May 14, 1754. At the age of eighteen he passed through an experience not unlike that of John Bunyan, coming out gradually into the liberty of the gospel. Within a month after his conversion, in June, 1774, he made his first attempt at public speaking. Having connected himself with the church in Mount Poney, Culpeper Co., Va., he was ordained by the choice of the church. He preached from place to place, everywhere proclaiming “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Wonderful revivals everywhere followed the labors of Mr. Leland in Virginia. Hundreds came under the power of converting grace, and professed their faith in Christ. The summary of his labors during the fifteen years of his ministry in Virginia is thus recorded, — 3009 sermons preached, 700 persons baptized, and two large churches formed, one of 300 members, and another of 200.

Having finished the work which he thought his Master had given him to do in Virginia, Mr. Leland returned to his native State, and made his home for the most of the remainder of his life in Chesire, Mass. Here, and in the region about, the same power and the same success followed his ministry. He reports the whole number of persons whom he had baptized down to 1821 as 1352. “Some of them,” he says, “have been men of wealth and rank, and ladies of quality, but the chief part have been in the middle and lower grades of life. Ten or twelve of them have engaged to preach.” Missionary tours were made in almost every direction, and multitudes crowded to hear him. The story of the “mammoth cheese” sent by the people of Cheshire to President Jefferson belongs to this period. He was the bearer of the gift to Washington. “Mr. Jefferson,” remarks Rev. J. T. Smith, “Treated taking him with much deference, among other things taking him into the Senate chamber.” Year after year he went on doing that special work to which he believed the Lord had called him. “From seventy to beyond eighty years of age he probably averaged more sermons a week than most settled pastors.” And it is interesting to have the following recorded of him by one who could speak intelligently about him, “The large attendance on his preaching was as creditable to the hearers as to the preacher. A sensational preacher he was not, nor a mere bundle of eccentricities. The discriminating and thoughtful listened to him with the most interest and attention.” He was evidently “a born preacher.” The life of a settled pastor would have been irksome to him. He wanted freedom from all restraint, and to do his own work at his own time and in his own way.

In politics he was a Democrat of the Jeffersonian school, a hater of all oppression, whether civil or ecclesiastical. His warmest sympathies went out to his Baptist brethren in their efforts to secure a complete divorce of the Church from the State. Everywhere he pleaded with all the energy of his soul for civil and religious liberty, and he had the satisfaction of seeing it at last come out of the conflict victorious over all foes. Among the class of ministers whom God raised up during the last century to do the special work with it was given the Baptist denomination to perform, John Leland occupies a conspicuous place. We doubt if his equal will ever be seen again. Mr. Leland died Jan. 14, 1841.”

Source: The Baptist Encyclopedia, William Cathcart, editor, 1881; reprint, 1988, pp. 682-683

Oh, when shall I see Jesus,
And reign with Him above?
And from the flowing fountain
Drink everlasting love?

Chorus:

Oh had I wings,
I would fly away and be at rest,
And I’d praise God in His bright abode.

Whene’er you meet with troubles
And trials on your way,
Then cast your care on Jesus
And don’t forget to pray.

(Chorus)

Gird on the gospel armor
Of faith and hope and love,
And when the combat’s ended,
He’ll carry you above.

(Chorus)

Oh, do not be discouraged,
For Jesus is your friend;
And if you lack for knowledge,
He’ll not refuse to lend.

(Chorus)

Neither will He upbraid you,
Though often you request;
He’ll give you grace to conquer,
And take you home to rest.

(Chorus)
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Enjoy your Friday,

jm

Simply Let Them Go

-Beloved, have unity of spirit in prayer...- 1 Peter 3.8

How should one pray? John Tauler answers the question:

Every good person, when he intends to pray, should gather together to himself his external senses and look into his heart and mind to see that they are well focused on God. A person can do this in the highest, lowest, or intermediate manner. and to this end it is good for a person to examine very carefully what is most suitable and what most moves him to proper, true devotion; and let him then make use of his manner of work. But you should realize that whatever good person wants to engage in true, proper prayer, so that his prayer will truly be heard, must have already turned his back on all temporal and external things and on whatever is not divine, whether it be friend or foe, and on all vanity, whether it be clothes or jewels or anything of which God is not the true source. And he must separate his words and actions from all disorder, internal or external.

Often we are caught up in temporal matters and forget to set temporal things aside and focus on God. That has been happening to me over the last year. My study of the scriptures and historic theology became an idol and obscured my view of Jesus Christ and with Christ obscured my prayer life suffered. Pride in my own ability to hash out the deeper meaning of a text or passage left my soul barren and lifeless. Being focused on temporal things, like dispelling doubt or proving to others the truthfulness of the Reformed Confessions, was causing me to doubt and lack faith. The last few months I’ve focused my time on prayer instead of polemics, devotion instead of study, and just as He promised I was graciously brought back to prayer. 

This is how a person should prepare himself for true prayer. This is what St. Peter calls being one of spirit – that the heart and mind are attached completely to God alone, and that a person have the focus of his ground and spirit completely turned to God as present, and have a tender, benevolent attachment to God.

Children, everything we have, after all, we have from God. And how could it ever be otherwise than that we offer back completely everything that we have ever received from him with our interior focus and spirit, undivided and simple, turned toward him. And then one should engage all one’s facilities, interior and exterior, and should carry them up entirely into God.

A warning against ritualism and lack of zeal in prayer:

This is the proper manner of true prayer. And do not imagine that true prayer is when one babbles away outwardly with the mouth, reads the Psalter a lot, keeps vigils often, and fingers a rosary while one’s heart is running hither and yon. You should realize truly: all prayers or actions that hinder your spirit from praying should simply be let go, whatever they might be or be called, or however great or good they might seem, with the sole exception of prayers prescribed for those obliged by order or holy church.  Except for that, simply let go whatever else keeps you from true, essential prayer.

Yours in the Lord,

jm

“A 14th century Dominican, John Tauler was a renowned preacher of the middle ages. Although not as speculative or poetic as some of his contemporaries, Tauler’s sermons are among the noblest, showing his gift for clearly expressing spiritual truths. Inner Way is a collection of his festival sermons. Often called a Christian mystic, Tauler emphasized the “blessed contemplation” of God. However, his emphasis on divine contemplation was always tempered with practical advice for daily Christian living. Inner Way is consequently a true gem. It is historically valuable, spiritually enriching, and ideal for the liturgical season. Many believers–including Martin Luther–have found these sermons engaging and instructive. They are well worth the read.” Tim Perrine CCEL Staff Writer

Praying the Scriptures

First posted in 2013

When I’m not sure what to pray for, when I know what to pray for but can’t seem to find the words or when I find a tornbiblepassage of scripture that stick in my mind I pray it. I found the following prayer in one of my old journals from last year. I’ll post it here on my blog to encourage others to pray the scriptures. Praying the scriptures has lead me to better and more frequent ruminations on the word and I personally found this manner of praying to be a perfect preperation for those sweet moments of reflection and meditation upon God’s word. It has been a helpful practice an essential practice for me personally to pray in this manner.

(Eph1:1) Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Father, I thank you for the Holy Spirit, who brings life giving power, who made this unworthy sinner alive!

(1:2) Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is because of your dear son Jesus Christ I can approach you, by His blood I can enter into this Holy Place of prayer and receive forgiveness.

(1:3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

With my soul renewed, communion with you revived, I now see the sinfulness of my sin. Let me love you dear Jesus with my whole heart and life.

(1:4-5) According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

You are truly a merciful God who remembers my sin no more. I beg you for continued mercy, that I may glorify you with my life, even when I know I do not deserve it.

(1:6) To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

In Christ I was raised from the ruination of my past sins where I now abide above positionally in Christ in heaven and I thank you Lord.

(1:7) In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Lord God I thank you for Jesus! Oh how I love my Saviour…who bled and died, displaying love and purchasing grace that’s so amazing.

(1:8) Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;

And that gift of faith Dear Father, the salvation you wrought in my life, will always be before my eyes. Jesus will always be in my heart. Holy Spirit enable me to live as you have called me to live, as salt and light. In Jesus name I pray. Amen

Yours in the Lord,

jm

“Mystical” Experience

This is a difficult subject to discuss considering my Reformed leanings, I mean, really…mystical experiences? These experiences started more than 15 years ago when I was young in the faith. I would spend every spare minute pouring over the scriptures, following scripture chains, reading tracts, short Bible studies, etc. always attended with repentance and prayer, sometimes even tears of sorrow over sin, or joy for the forgiveness I have in Christ. Over the years these experiences would happen after intense periods of prayer or intense studying of the sacred scriptures and theological works, but not always, that’s enough of an introduction.

hand sun

Here goes…

I’ll jump right in by explaining the very first experience I had over 15 years ago. At the time I had a job which allowed me to read throughout the day so I brought my Bible to work every shift and spent the majority of the day reading it. At the end of each day, after family time and everyone settled in, I would set time aside for prayer. Nothing crazy, just 30 minutes to pray and meditate. The first “mystical” experience I had took place after a time of fervent prayer. I wouldn’t say I did anything different, it was just time aside, a pattern I had been using for a few months at this point. I finished praying, and took the dog for her last walk of the day, this was my usual routine. As we walked our accustomed path I noticed a warmth or radiance to my surroundings. It was a pleasant fall evening, the sky was full of stars and I felt as if I was touching or apart of all that surrounded me including the stars above. It wasn’t trace like – just an experience.

When I looked up into the night sky it was as if I was united with all of creation and I lost my sense of time or space, just a deep connected-ness to God and creation. It’s difficult to describe or place into words, but it was similar to what you experience when you swim to the bottom of a pool and feel the water surrounding you, the water touching every part of your body. That night I felt as if I was rooted to the world with God and creation touching every part of my being. Throughout the experience I was overwhelmed with thankfulness to Jesus Christ. It was as if I was standing before my Lord, that I had entered the Holy of Holies and found myself complete in Him, in union with Jesus. The unity I felt with my Lord Jesus was humbling and overpowering. It’s difficult to say with any certainty how long this experience lasted, but it was a very happy, pleasing experience that really encouraged me fall deeper in love with Christ. After a time the experience faded somewhat. I wasn’t let down or disappointed when the experience was over, but I was further convinced of my need for Jesus Christ.

The experience I had that night stayed with me for a few days, the feeling of connected-ness, unity with God and creation through Jesus Christ, it all remained with me. Being somewhat of a bookworm I started to read up on mystical experience and found some confirmation of what had taken place in the writings of the Saints, especially the strangely beautiful experiences of God’s presence revealed to us in scripture. This mystical communion with Christ happened early in my Christian walk, I didn’t try to recreate the experience or avoid them. At the time I believed it was best to just let things happen, trusting in God. My reading and prayer routine continued and the experiences would continue to take place – often taking me by surprise. It could be during my walk home from work or while performing a daily task like getting the kids ready for bed. The feeling of thankfulness to Christ and unity with my surroundings would flood in and fill my soul with a sense of love that both lifted me up spiritually and humbled me at the same time.

A few years passed by and, as any good theology nerd, I read B.B. Warfield’s work “Mysticism and Christianity.” I was already leaning in the Reformed direction due to a plain reading of Romans 9 (among other passages), so I decided to shun all things mystical, convinced by Warfield’s good logical sense. Warfield wrote that a mystic was mute because they have feelings and not concepts. Fair enough. But I can’t help believing I understand better what it means to, “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling” or to, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way…” The concept of, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” is more real to me because of the experiential knowledge of these concepts Jesus Christ has granted me. I am convinced He supplies both head knowledge and heart knowledge!

For the past 15 or more years these mystical experiences have continue to take place and I am now thankful for them. After all, experiencing the risen Christ has deepen my love for Him, the scriptures and frequent participation in the Lord’s Supper. It sets me on my knees in a state of deeper repentance and prayer. If this makes me heterodox and I’m not convinced it does, or even that I am unique, may God have mercy upon me. May He guide me back to the narrow way. I’m not convinced I’m my experiences place me outside of the pale of Christian orthodoxy and so I’m ready to explore these experiences further. This confession may lead to more posts that many may consider heterodox, but please know that I still consider myself Reformed just not one that can walk in tight unanimity on the issue of my experiences of God.  May God forgive me where I error.

Yours in the Lord Jesus Christ who saves to the uttermost,

jm

PS: If you have any comments or thoughts on my post please leave them below.

PPS: No I have never done acid or any other illegal drugs. lol

PPPS: I’m hold on to some details – I’m not ready to share them yet.