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.

What Can Miserable Christians Sing?

Got your attention with that one, didn’t I?

I first heard this provocative question while listening to Mark Dever’s latest audio offering entitled, False Conversions: The Suicide of the Church on the 9Marks website . Good stuff as always from him. You can listen to the audio here.

Honestly, I don’t remember the context in which he brought up the question, the title of an article by Carl Trueman. But it caught my attention because some voices have chirped in my ear lately (more than usual and all well meant) about some aspects of our worship music at OGC. Now we certainly want to be open to feedback about our choices in corporate worship so as do the best we can in coming before the Lord in singing and praise, but I find this an excellent occasion to toot my colleague’s horn in one very important respect.

I appreciate A LOT of things about our chief musician. Among them is the range of emotional identification in the songs he selects that includes lament. I suspect he takes his cue from a number of things in that regard (if you know the man, you know exactly what I mean), but especially the fact that the psalms in Scripture, the Bible’s own hymnbook, consist much of lament, longing, grief, even downright agony. Life is like that. For many, loss and the pain that accompanies it, make up a good bit of their life experience at any given time. What do suffering saints sing then when they come to church? Not that there isn’t room for them to hope in the triumph of the resurrection and the truth of the gospel. But shouldn’t they/we be able to embrace and engage the minor key songs of worship life along with the major, especially when trials assault and afflict?

Trueman argues we should, we must, make room for such as these, especially given psalmody and the nature of its content as well as the consequences of limiting our selections to only the upbeat and happy kind of tunes. He writes:

A diet of unremittingly jolly choruses and hymns inevitably creates an unrealistic horizon of expectation which sees the normative Christian life as one long triumphalist street party — a theologically incorrect and a pastorally disastrous scenario in a world of broken individuals. Has an unconscious belief that Christianity is — or at least should be — all about health, wealth, and happiness silently corrupted the content of our worship? Few Christians in areas where the church has been strongest over recent decades — China, Africa, Eastern Europe – would regard uninterrupted emotional highs as normal Christian experience.

You can read the rest of his article here.

Believers mired in misery must grow to be sorrowful yet always rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10) to be sure. Jesus promises us His brand of joy independent of circumstances as we abide in Him (John 15:11).

But the Man of Sorrows who wept in the face of great grief (John 11:35) must have sung from the Psalter and entered into lament when the seasons of life warranted it.

And so must we.

A Needed Lesson from the Weaned Child

Lately I’ve heard about numerous difficult providences in a variety of believers’ lives. They include things related to marriage, parenting, singleness, childlessness, joblessness, just to name a few. Far too often for my comfort level I grope for explanations to bring encouragement in the face of such gargantuan hurts.

Frequently I find myself pointing folks to a pertinent text in the psalms when all else fails – Psalm 131.

[A SONG OF ASCENTS. OF DAVID.]
[131:1] O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
[2] But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
[3] O Israel, hope in the LORD
from this time forth and forevermore.

Not everything, but more than we might like to think in life, qualifies for the categories of too great and marvelous. So many things belong to the secret things of God and not for us (Deut. 29:29). What are we to do in such instances? Calm and quiet ourselves. Don’t miss the word picture. Calm and quiet like a weaned child who no longer clamors for milk from its mother’s breast.

How do we do that? Verse 3 – Hope in the Lord, always. Matthew Henry said it well: Thus does a gracious soul quiet itself under the loss of that which it loved and disappointment in that which it hoped for, and is easy whatever happens, lives, and lives comfortably, upon God and the covenant-grace, when creatures prove dry breasts.

Creatures prove dry breasts more than not, especially in the hard providences of life. Let us live comfortably, calm and quiet upon God and the covenant grace of His Son, Jesus, in the gospel.