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Friday, June 15, 2018

A prayer for the nations from an old song!

americanplains.jpgDear Friends and Prayers:

For some reason yesterday morning the old patriotic song "America the Beautiful" came to mind. When I started singing, it I realized I didn't know all the words and so looked it up online. It was first written as a poem by Katherine Lee Bates in 1893 and subsequently published with music by klbates.jpgSamuel A. Ward in 1910.

You may be familiar with the first stanza as I was, but I couldn't recall having ever heard the others, and I found them very moving. Here is the well-known first verse.

 America the Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies
For amber waves of grain
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I won't include all of the seven stanzas here, but want to just share some of the last lines of them. You can see the complete words at this link. They reflect the values that we would be delighted to see in our country, and also make a wonderful prayer for any nation. So I am going to take the liberty of substituting "My Homeland, My Homeland" for "America, America."

My Homeland! My Homeland!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

My Homeland! My Homeland!
God mend thine every flaw
Confirm thy soul in self-control
Thy liberty in law!

My Homeland! My Homeland!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
My Homeland! My Homeland!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!

My Homeland! My Homeland!
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!

My Homeland! My Homeland!
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!

Congress-Prayer.jpgWhen we pray for revival, we are praying for the working of the Holy Spirit to change individual hearts and lives. And that means we are also praying for changes in the nations. Psalm 9:20 says, "Put them in fear, O Lord, that the nations may know themselves to be but men." As we pray for our nations and our leaders, here is a good goal to hold in our hearts in Proverbs 14:34, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."

And we would like to leave you with Paul's prayer in Ephesians 1:16-17, "I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God."

Dick & Gladys

Friday, June 08, 2018

How quickly we can lose sight... staying immersed in Him!

disappearinghedge.jpgDear Praying Friends and Saints:
The cemetery at the chapel is surrounded by a stone wall with a hedge planted on top, but it requires regular and dedicated looking after. Since our long-time friend and resident caretaker retired seven years ago, things have changed a lot. Without his constant care, the hedges quickly were overgrown by ivy, briars and many other types of tenacious wild plants.
And that drew my attention to our morning readings a few days ago in Deuteronomy 11:18-21.
  "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead.
   You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.
   You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth."
God's words are like the stone wall, the underlying foundation of all that grows out from there. But as the scripture vividly points out, there is a very basic and important need to be constantly reminded in many ways. And this was thousands of years ago when life was far less complicated than in our modern age.
disappearingact.jpgI am always blown away by the fact that after hearing God's voice on Mt. Sinai and seeing the fire and cloud and feeling the trembling of the earth, just days later they made the golden calf. Or worse than that, how Cain, after hearing directly from his parents about how they walked in the garden and talked with God, could then blithely turn away from love and reason and murder his own brother!
But sadly there is a natural tendency that draws our hearts and thoughts away from the things of Lord. As sure as unchecked growth can make the stone walls disappear in a relatively short time, so too can our time and energy be redirected and we lose our most important focus.
If in ancient times God's people needed constant reminding of His words, His love, and His care for them, how much more is it imperative for us in today's busy and complicated world? Jesus us reminded us in Mark 4:19 how easily, "...the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."
The antidote for us today is much the same. It is impressing these words of His, binding them, seeing the world through them, talking about them and writing them in obvious places. But it is much better than that too.  In Jeremiah 31:33 God said, "...I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." And because Jesus is the Word, and he dwells inside us by his spirit, it is far more than reading and talking about His words, lupines2018.jpgbut talking with Him. It's all about a relationship. And like any important relationship, it means spending time together. Similar to keeping a hedge-topped stone hedge or cultivating a garden, it is a matter of constant maintenance and input. The major difference is that there is joy in our fellowship! Psalm 16:11 says, "You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore."
And as we learn to enjoy and seek out His presence, look what kinds of good things begin to happen. Isaiah 29:24 says, "These also who erred in spirit will come to understanding, and those who complained will learn doctrine." And so as we are exhorted in Hebrews12:2, let us continue to keep on "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
abraveswimmer.jpgIt is sort of like learning a language by an experience of "total immersion". There can be nothing better for us than living immersed in God's presence, and His word abiding abundantly in us. And even greater that this is the fact that He actually enjoys our time spent with Him!
On a brief final note, it seems that summer has really started now. The proof is that Gladys has actually gotten into the still very cold water here at nearby Mwnt. "It's great", she said, "come on in!" I was gently coerced into it on Thursday, and it was freezing. Thankfully, God's presence is an infinitely better immersion experience!
May you be deeply strengthened and refreshed as you "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." James 4:8

Dick & Gladys


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