A Birthday Prayer

birthday prayer
Among the gifts I enjoy as a now 63 year old man is friendship with an extraordinary pastor from Jacksonville. He specializes in praying for folks using the content of the Psalms. For my birthday last week he sent me this adaptation from Psalm 16.

Preserve Curt for another year, O God. On this birthday remind Curt of your faithful preserving his days this past year and cause him to take refuge in your careful shepherding in the year to come. You are indeed his Lord and he has no good apart from you. You, O LORD are his chosen portion and his cup; you hold his every moment and every day. Convince Curt that the lines of his life have fallen for him in pleasant places, indeed, he has been given a beautiful inheritance, in Christ. Thank you, Lord, for blessing and giving Curt counsel this past year. Even in the darkness of night you have been faithful to instruct him and comfort him. Grant your grace this coming year, O Lord, that he might set you often before his face and cause your right hand to so sustain him that he will surely not be shaken. Gladden his heart. Cause his whole being to rejoice as his flesh dwells secure. Make known to him your path of life this coming year for in your presence there is fullness of joy and at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. I ask, Lord, show Curt your paths, your fullness of joy and your pleasures this year ahead. And cause him to rest in Christ as one in whom the Father takes great delight. Amen & Amen.

Few gifts mean more than being prayed for. Thanks, pastor. You make me want to be a better pastor.

May we all follow his example in praying for others using the Psalms as an inspired template.

59 and ???

It started in ’05 with my 53rd birthday. I attached to September 15 that year and every year since a little rhyming ditty to capture the spirit of another year in my life post-cancer.

Allow me to review:

  • 53 and cancer free
  • 54 and ready for more
  • 55 and staying alive (with apologies to the US government)
  • 56 and up to the same old tricks
  • 57 and not ready for heaven
  • 58 and feeling great

Normally I know well in advance what the next year’s slogan will be, but not so for my 59th. That one didn’t gel until the day before on September 14 at 6 AM in the pantry. Why then and there I have no idea. But it hit me like an all-pro linebacker tackle on a 4th and one.

59 and gospel primed.

Let me explain. Not too long ago someone came to me after I embarrassed myself in one of our services with a tirade in our announcements. This brother confessed that he walked away from that Sunday suffering from an ecclesiastical identity crisis. It took a lot of guts for this person to confront me. To be honest I reacted at first rather defensively. The more I thought about it the more the Lord convicted me that he was right! I determined then and there that I would never let that happen again if I had any say in it. Since that time I have enjoyed something of a gospel renaissance in my personal and pastoral life that I never want to lose a grip on.

Ergo this year’s saying. At every turn I want to be primed for gospel-action, preaching, counseling, obedience and to commend the same to everyone with which I come into contact.

My prayer is very much that of Scotty Smith’s:

Lord Jesus, one of the many things I cherish about the Bible is the way it robs me of my penchant for hero worship. Who but God would write a book documenting the foibles and failures of so many of his sons and daughters? Who but God would chronicle the ways his chosen leaders, like Peter, limp along and prove themselves to be in constant need of mercy and grace?

This gives me great encouragement and hope. It also gives me freedom to acknowledge that I need the gospel today just as much as the first day I believed it. This will be just as true tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. Keep me convinced, Jesus, because I’m much like Peter.

It’s one thing for me to get irritated and angry about the ways this generation is downplaying your work on the cross. But it’s quite another to see the subtle ways I try to keep you from the cross. Deal with me as you dealt with Peter.

When I mute my heart to the insult of grace, I deny your cross. When I think, even for one moment, that my obedience merits anything, I deny your cross. When I put others under the microscope and measure of performance-based living, I deny your cross. When I wallow in self-contempt and shame, I deny your cross. When I’d rather do penance than repent, I deny your cross.

When I gossip juicy tidbits more than I gossip the gospel, I deny your cross. When I pout more than I praise; when I show more fear than faith; when I want to be right more than I want to be righteous, I deny your cross. When I talk about people more than I pray for the same people, I deny your cross. When my grip on grudges is tighter than my grasp of the gospel, I deny your cross.

By the gospel, help me to mind the things of God more than the things of men. May your cross get bigger, and may my boast in it grow louder. Jesus, you’re the main hero in the Bible. The rest of us are totally dependent on you. That’s never going to change. I need fresh grace today. So very Amen I pray, in your patient and persistent name.

What he prayed.

Only 361 days until I turn sixty. For every day God gives me may they know fresh grace and gospel power for God’s glory, my joy, and the joy of those who attach themselves to my so often flesh-compromised ministry.

Birthday Reflections

How did September 15 come around so fast again? I turned 58 today.

Ever since my battle with cancer in 2005, I have marked each birthday with a little phrase or ditty to commemorate God’s mercy to me in giving length of days.

  • 53 and cancer free
  • 54 and ready for more
  • 55 and staying alive (with apologies to the US government)
  • 56 and up to the same ole tricks
  • 57 and not ready for heaven

And now, drum roll please, though my wife already gave it away on Facebook . . .

  • 58 and feeling great!

Oh the mercy of God after even odds in ’05 of survival of head and neck cancer that I would turn 58 and feel better than I can ever remember in my adult life. I am extremely grateful.

This morning I met as always on alternate Wednesdays with three young men that I treasure and seek to invest in for their spiritual well-being. We are reading through J. C. Ryle’s classic, Holiness.

Our chapter discussion closed this way – Ryle’s summary applications from his treatment of Revelation 2 & 3and the letters to the churches. It reflects my aspirations for another year and however long the Lord allows me to live and serve Him:

Let us rather covet the best gifts. Let us aim at eminent holiness Let us endeavor to be like Smyrna and Philadelphia. Let us hold fast what we have already, and continually seek to have more. Let us labor to be unmistakable Christians. Let it not be our distinctive character, that we are men of science, or men of literary attainments, or men of the world, or men of pleasure, or men of business, but ‘men of God’. Let us so live that all may see that to us the things of God are the first things, and the glory of God the first aim in our lives, to follow Christ our grand object in time present, to be with Christ our grand desire in time to come. Let us live in this way, and we shall be happy. Let us live in this way, and we shall do good to the world. Let us live in this way, and we shall leave good evidence behind us when we are buried. Let us live in this way, and the Spirit’s word to the churches will not have been spoken to us in vain.

O to leave good evidence behind when I am buried.

To live is Christ, to die is gain (Phil. 1:21).