1388) What are You Carrying Around?

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By Fred Craddock (1928-2015), Craddock Stories, ed. by Mike Graves and Richard F. Ward, 2001, Chalice Press, pages 101-102.

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     I remember the first time I went to a minister to talk about something personal; it was tough as toenails.  It was hard to go and talk to a minister.

     I had been baptized about two years.  Some fellows that I worked with in a box factory went uptown to get a hot dog or a hamburger for lunch. We had an hour for lunch.  I still had on my nail apron, and they had on their nail aprons; we drove nails to make these boxes.  We passed a blind man on the sidewalk with his guitar, a sign that said “I’m blind.  Please help me,” and a tin cup taped to the neck of his guitar.  It suddenly occurred to the three of us to play a trick.  Each of us took some nails from our nail aprons and dropped them in his tin cup, noisily, and he said, “Thank you, thank you very much.  May God bless you.  Thank you very much.”

     That began to eat at me; of all of the ugly, terrible things to do.  Well, I couldn’t get rid of it, so finally I did what some people do only in desperation; I talked to the minister.  I went to the minister and told him what I had done, and he sat up at his desk and said, “Are you aware that this country is in the biggest war of our history?”  It was World War II, the last year of it.  “People are dying by the hundreds every day; soldiers have been away from their families for years.  We don’t know how this whole thing is going to turn out, and people are dying and starving.  And you are worried about nails in a blind man’s cup?”  He let me go.

     My little problem was swallowed up in the problems of the world.  But it wouldn’t go away for me.  Finally, I went to the youth minister, Mignonne.  We didn’t pay her, but she was a minister.  I told her what I had done, and she told me that was a terrible, terrible thing to do.  She felt bad, like I felt bad, and she said, “God forgives you for that, but why don’t you next week when you have your lunch hour, why don’t you go to that same blind man and tell hint what you did and ask him to forgive you, and then if you have a nickel or a dime or a quarter, give it to him.”  

     I did, and that poor man forgave me, and he smiled and said, “I know how it is.  Lot of boys are full of mischief, aren’t they?”  He forgave me.  I had been baptized already, and I was carrying that around.

     Now that may not seem big to you, but think about what you’re carrying around right now.  Would you like to get rid of it?

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Psalm 38:18b  —  …I am troubled by my sin.

Psalm 30:10  —  Hear, Lord, and be merciful to me; Lord, be my help.

Luke 18:37-38  —  They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”  He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Psalm 32:1-5  —  Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.  When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.  Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”  And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

I John 1:8-9  —  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Hebrews 10:22  —  Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

John 8:11b  —  Jesus said unto her, “…Go and sin no more.”

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Merciful God, I confess to you now that I have sinned.
I confess the sins that no one knows and the sins that everyone knows.
I confess the sins that are a burden to me and the sins that do not bother me because I have grown used to them.
Father, forgive me, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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1284) Morning and Evening Prayer (jb8)

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From A Diary of Private Prayer, 1949, by John Baillie, Church of Scotland pastor and theologian, (1886-1960); containing a morning and evening prayer for thirty-one days (adapted).

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MORNING PRAYER  (Twenty-ninth day)

Almighty and most merciful Father, whose power and love eternally work together for the protection of your children, give me grace this day to put my trust in you.

O Father, I pray—
for faith to believe that you rule the world in truth and righteousness;
for faith to believe that if I seek first your Kingdom and righteousness, you will provide for all my lesser needs;
for faith to take no anxious thought for the morrow, but to believe in the continuance of your past mercies;
for faith to see your loving purposes unfolding in the happenings of this time;
for faith to be calm and brave in the face of such dangers as may meet me in the doing of my duty;
for faith to believe in the power of your love to melt my hard heart and forgive my sins;
for faith to put my trust in love rather than in force, even when others harden their hearts against me;
for faith to believe in your ultimate victory over disease and death and all the powers of darkness;
for faith to profit by such sufferings as you call upon me to endure;
for faith to leave in your hands the welfare of all my dear ones, especially ____, ____, and ____.
O Lord, in whom all my fathers trusted, rid my heart now of all confusion and vain anxieties and paralyzing fears.  Give me a cheerful and buoyant spirit, and peace in doing your will for Christ’s sake.  Amen.

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Psalm 25:1  —  In you, Lord my God, I put my trust.

Psalm 13:5  —   I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

Psalm 84:12  —  Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3  —  You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

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EVENING PRAYER  (Twenty-third day)

O Everlasting God, let the light of eternity now fall upon my passing days; let
the light of your righteousness fall upon my sinful ways; and let the light of your love pierce to the most secret corners of my heart and overcome the darkness of sin within me.

Am I living as my conscience approves?
Am I demanding of others a higher standard of conduct than I demand of myself?
Am I taking a less charitable view of the failings of my neighbors than I am of my own?
Am I standing in public for principles which I do not practice in private?
Let my answer before Thee be truthful, O God.

Do I ever allow bodily appetites to take precedence over spiritual interests?
To which do I give the benefit of the doubt, when my course is not clear?
Do I ever allow the thought of my own gain to take precedence over the interests of the community?
To which do I give the benefit of the doubt, when my course is not clear?
Let my answer before Thee be truthful, O God.

Am I, in my daily life, facing the stress of circumstance with faith and courage?
Am I grateful for my many blessings?
Am I allowing my happiness to be too much dependent on money?  On business success?  Or on the good opinion of others?
Is the help I give to others who are in trouble equal to the help I would hope for, if the same things happened to me?

Let my answer be truthful, O God.  Through Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Psalm 51:10  —  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Amen.

960) Open Your Heart (c)

     (…continued)  In his book Radical Son, David Horowitz confesses his sins to the whole world; but how about to God?  Has Horowitz prayed that prayer of the tax collector, “God be merciful to me a sinner?”

     Unfortunately, he has not; not yet, anyway.  Horowitz is an agnostic, and so he has no belief in any God from whom to ask forgiveness, nor does he have a hope for any life beyond this one.  He is not an angry and mean unbeliever, like we see so much of these days.  He appreciates the faith and witness of those who do believe, but it just has not been for him.  

     Friends have talked to him about faith in God, and he always has an answer for them, he says.  But the one he cannot answer, he says, is the voice of his wife, April.

     April is his third wife, and she is a Christian.  In a more recent book, The End of Time, Horowitz tells about a brush he had with cancer a few years ago.  He survived, and is doing well, and in the book he records a conversation he had with his wife about the whole ordeal.

     April said to him: “You are so arrogant.  Think of all what God has done for you.  Look at the times he has looked after you, and how He saved you from cancer.  You need to show some gratitude.”  Then she said:  “I need you to do this for me.  If you don’t believe, then you won’t be there for me (in the life to come) and I will be alone.  And I don’t want to be without you.”

     David tried to soothe her, saying, “Don’t fret.  If there is a God I am sure he is merciful and will not condemn me for my lack of faith.”

     That is what he said.  But then he thought differently about it and said to himself:  “I thought this was a good answer, but the pain in her eyes would not quit.  She was already missing me.  And her distress caused me to reconsider what I said, and really, it was not a good answer.  In fact, I had no answer.  I was arrogant.  If there is a God, how could I pretend to know his plan and how and to whom he is merciful?  How should I know?  Maybe God’s whole idea was for me to see through the chaos of my life, and by an act of faith, discover God in it all.  Once again I was forced to question what I believed and ask, ‘Is it I who is blind?’”

     So after reconsidering, Horowitz said to his wife, “I’ll think about it.”

     And she said to him, “David, I don’t want you to think about it. I want you to open your heart.”

     That is a wonderful reply.  I want you to open your heart, she said.  That is what Christians do.  We open our hearts to God– deep, dark, shameful secrets and all– and we say, “Lord, Jesus Christ, be merciful to me, a poor sinner”  And Jesus then does indeed have mercy and forgives us all our sins.  Then we no longer have to depend on our own lame excuses and justifications, but can, like the tax collector in the parable, know we are “justified before God” by his grace.

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I John 1:9  —   If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

II Corinthians 6:13  —  In return—I speak as to children—open wide your hearts also.

Acts 16:29-31  —  The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas… and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

Paul and the Jailer, unknown 17th century artist

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PSALM 51:1-4a…

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

959) Open Your Heart (b)

     (…continued)  There is still another factor to add, and that is the influence of God and the devil.  “I can’t help it,” said a popular comedian many years ago, “the devil made me do it.”  The Bible does indeed talk about how the devil tempts us, while at the same time, the Bible does not let us off the hook for failing to resist the temptations of the devil.  Christians do believe that it is indeed God who has a lot to do with the hand we have been dealt.  It is, after all, God who has given us life, and the gifts and abilities we were born with.  Here too, what we do with those gifts and abilities is up to us, but any credit we take for our accomplishments must certainly be shared with our Creator.

     What I like about how David Horowitz tells his story is his openness and honesty about his own “most grievous sins,” as in the words of an old prayer of confession.  He could have easily spent the whole book blaming his parents, or the times ‘that were a-changing,’ or the Vietnam war, or a whole host of other influences.  He does talk in a matter-of-fact way about these forces outside of himself, but never does he seek to excuse his own willful wickedness and deceit and guilt.

     In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells a brief parable that touches on this very issue.  Jesus told the parable to some folks who “were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else.”  The parable was about two men who went to the temple to pray.  One was a Pharisee, who everyone knew was a good man.  The Pharisees were a snobby bunch, but were good people.  They were honest and you would not have to worry about a Pharisee not paying his bills.  They would make good neighbors and you would see them in the temple or synagogue on every Sabbath Day.  The other man was a lying, cheating, traitor to his own people, who sold-out to the Romans so he could collect their taxes and become rich by doing so.  Everyone knew he was not a good man.  Most of Jesus listeners had probably been swindled by a tax-collector somewhere along the line.  That is what all tax collectors did.

     Each says a brief prayer.  The Pharisee thanks God that he is not like other men, and then reminds God of a few of the qualities that make him the wonderful man that he is.  The tax collector says just seven words, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  But it was the second man, says Jesus, who went home justified before God.

     Three things about the parable.  First, did you notice both men got what they asked for?  The Pharisee asked for nothing, and that is just what he received– nothing.  He just told God what a fine fellow he was, and that was it.  He asked for nothing and got nothing.  But the second man, in a sincere prayer of confession, prayed for God to have mercy on him, poor sinner that he was, and his prayer for forgiveness was answered.

     Second, this is not a parable about how to live.  Rather, it is a parable about how to confess our sins.  The Pharisee did indeed do a better job of obeying God’s Law.  But even he was not perfect, and in coming before God in prayer, there should have been more on his mind than what a good guy he was.  And the publican certainly did need to make some changes in his way of life, but the first step in making such changes is to admit that you are in the wrong; which is what he was willing to do, coming to God with a true heart in an honest and humble spirit of confession.

     Third, there is the matter of who should take the credit and where one should place the blame.  The proud Pharisee takes too much credit for his goodness, and does not even look at his failures.  The publican takes full responsibility for his failures, but does not leave it there.  He lays those failures before God, and prays for his mercy.  Jesus, as always, is more than willing to extend that mercy to one who is repentant.  In the end, Jesus would die on the cross in order to extend the offer of that mercy and grace and forgiveness to all who would believe it and receive it.

     I began with a brief summary of one man’s moral self-examination of the decisions and actions of a lifetime.  The Bible speaks a great deal about confession and forgiveness, and the first step toward confession is such an examination of one’s self.  It is important that we do that.

     Everyone of us could, like David Horowitz, write a 450 page book about our life, and if we were to be honest, (like he is) it would contain much we are ashamed of, much we would need to confess.  This is never easy for us.  We would rather take the credit for our successes and explain away our faults.  But as we see in this parable, one of the very best prayers we can utter before God is to simply say, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  And when we pray that, we can be assured that God hears and forgives.  (continued…)

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The Pharisee and the Publican, James Tissot, 1894

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Luke 18:9-14  —  To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people— robbers, evildoers, adulterers— or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’  But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’  I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

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God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

–Luke 18:13b

958) Open Your Heart (a)

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     In the book Radical Son David Horowitz tells his story.  Horowitz is now 76 years old.  Fifty years ago he was a central figure in the revolutionary student movement in the United States.  He was the brilliant son of two deeply committed members of the American Communist Party.  During the years of the Great Depression in this country, his parents were convinced that the Soviet Union’s form of government was the hope for the future of our nation.  They even visited Russia to learn all they could about communism so they would be prepared to lead the revolution when it came to the United States, as they were sure it would.  They hated the American way of life and Joseph Stalin was their hero.  A few years later, they were devastated to learn that while they were visiting the Soviet Union, their hero Stalin was killing off tens of millions of his own citizens.  But they remained convinced communists, blaming the reign of terror on Stalin alone, and not the communist system.  

     David Horowitz inherited this belief and went to college at Berkeley in California, determined to continue his parent’s work.  He supported Castro in the Cuban revolution and the communists in North Vietnam, and he blamed the United States for the Cuban missile crisis.  A colleague wrote that President Kennedy was worse than Adolph Hitler, Horowitz was friends with and helped the radical and violent Black Panthers, and he himself was a member of the violent SDS organization of student radicals.  The world was a mess, and it was all America’s fault, said Horowitz and his comrades, and the only answer was revolution.  They openly despised America, and he describes how he and his friends sought to manipulate the natural mischievousness of American college students to create all kinds of racket and chaos in support of a movement that the students barely understood.

     Then, over a several year period, David Horowitz changed his mind.  His eyes were opened to the evils of communism wherever it was practiced, not just by Stalin; and he grew to an appreciation of this nation and our own political and religious heritage.  He is now a proud defender of democracy and a vocal critic of many of his old friends, several of whom became professors in colleges where they continue to proclaim their anti-American message.

     The political message of the book is interesting; but I tell this story only as background for what I found to be an even more interesting part of the story.  In the book Radical Son, David Horowitz not only describes the events of his life, but he also reflects on his incredible journey.  He tries to understand why he believed what he believed and why he did what he did.  He seeks to understand how he could at the same time rebel against his parents, and yet become just like them.  He matter-of-factly describes how he so often foolishly conformed to the thinking of the group, even when he knew it was wrong.  He tells of how he chose to remain blind the evils of communism; and, how he chose not to see the strength of the American system, the system that gave him the freedom to work and to speak even as he opposed it.  He now wonders why he changed his mind and others did not, and he wonders why he did not change his mind sooner.

     It is a harshly critical book, and he names many people I remember from the news in my high school and college days, leaders of a movement that was to transform America.  He tells of their arrogance, their hypocrisy, their deceit, and most of all, their foolishness.  He is as hard on himself as he is on everyone else.  The book reads almost like a confession of sins and it is filled with regret.  Along with all their foolishness and all their sins, there was in many of these young radicals a sincere belief that they could make the world a better place and there was, in at least some of them, a strong desire to do that.  Horowitz himself put a lot of energy into that effort.  He was a brilliant and hard working young man, he made many sacrifices to the cause, and he was very influential.  But he now sees it all as wasted work in misguided movement that did far more harm than good.  This is not to suggest that there were not things that needed changing in the 1960’s.  There are changes needed in every age.  I am simply summarizing the story he tells of the mistakes he made, or as we might say, the sins he committed. 

   The book raises the question for anyone who reads it: “Why do we do the things that we do?”  As I read it, I had to ask myself, “What wrong turns have I made and what has influenced me to do the right things sometimes and the wrong things other times?”  Horowitz can’t help but describe the influence his parents had on him, the influence of his group of peers, and the influence of important or strong-minded people that he met.  But he is most of all very open and honest about the mistakes he made all on his own, those things he can blame on no one but himself.

     So how do you think about your own shortcomings and/or successes?  How would you describe them to another?  One might say, “I know I have a violent temper, but I inherited that from my father.”  Another might say, “I know I am a worrier, but I can’t help it.  My mother was the same way and I’m sure I got it from her.”  And still another says, “I know I am too stubborn for my own good, but what do you expect?  I’m German.”  You see what is going on there?  Sins are admitted, but there is no need to confess them, because it is not their fault that they are too hot-tempered, worry too much, or are unbearably stubborn.  That’s the way they were born or the way they were raised, so don‘t expect them to apologize or to change.  They can’t help it, so you can’t blame them.  Or perhaps, you can’t blame yourself– just in case you are seeing yourself in any of this.

     At the same time, those same people, (including you and me), might say things like, “I worked hard to get where I am today,” or, “I tried to bring my kids up right, and I guess it paid off,” or, “One thing I can say about myself, I am always on time,” or even, “I’ve done the best I could with the cards I was dealt.”  Do you see how different the second set of statements is from the first?  In the first statements faults are excused because they come from somewhere outside of the person, but in the second set of statements, good qualities and achievements are sources of pride, because the person has done it or accomplished it on their own.  This is what we oftentimes do– excusing our faults, saying they can’t be helped, but taking credit for our good points, saying that is what we have done.  (continued…)

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Proverbs 14:12  —  There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Romans 3:10  —  As it is written:  “There is no one righteous, not even one.”

I John 1:8  —  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

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Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths…

Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.

–Psalm 25:4…143:8b

941) A Father’s Biggest Impression

Randy and Angela Alcorn

By Randy Alcorn, November 6, 2015 blog at:  www.epm.org

     Some years ago, I sat with my daughters at a father/daughter banquet at our church.  Someone at the table asked my youngest daughter, Angela, what I’d done that made the biggest impression on her.  I had no idea what she would say, but of course I hoped for something spectacular.

     I’ll never forget what she shared because it was so powerful to me.  She said, “I remember one time when dad was harsh with me. Then a few minutes later he came back into my room, and he cried and asked my forgiveness.  I’ve never forgotten that.”

     That’s what Angie remembered as having the most impact on her— something I had actually done wrong, and then asked her forgiveness for.  I thought, Isn’t that interesting?  It shows how being a good example isn’t limited to doing great and magnificent things.  Sometimes it’s when we admit we did wrong things.

     This is God’s grace— He can redeem even our failures!  (Provided we recognize and confess them.)  Saying “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” may teach your children more than you would have by never failing, and far more than pretending you never fail.

     How humbling and also encouraging to know that parents who admit their shortcomings don’t lose their children’s trust.  They gain it.

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I John 1:8-9  —  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Colossians 3:12-14  —  Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:20  —  Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Ephesians 6:4  —  Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

James 5:16  —   Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

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PRAYER OF CONFESSION TO GOD (source unknown):

Forgive me, Lord, my sins:  the sins of my youth, the sins of the present; the sins I laid upon myself in an ill pleasure, the sins I cast upon others in an ill example; the sins which are manifest to all the world, the sins which I have labored to hide from my acquaintances, from my own conscience, and even from my memory; my crying sins and my whispering sins, my ignorant sins and my willful sins; sins against my superiors, equals, servants, and loved ones; sins against myself, my own body, and my own soul; sins against thee, O heavenly Father, O merciful Son, O blessed Spirit of God.  Amen.

772) Prayers of Confession

Psalm 32:1-5: 

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

I John 1:8-9

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Prayers of Confession from several worship books, old and new:

Merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been, help us amend what we are, and direct what we shall be,
so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

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Holy and merciful God, we confess our sinfulness, our shortcomings, and our offenses against you.
You alone know how often we have sinned in wandering from your ways,
in wasting your gifts, in forgetting your love.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we are ashamed and sorry for all we have done to displease you.
Forgive our sins, and help us to live in your light, and walk in your ways. Amen.

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Gracious God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and too deep to undo.
Forgive what our lips tremble to name, what our hearts can no longer bear.
Set us free from a past that we cannot change; open to us a future in which we can be changed;
and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image;
through Jesus Christ, the light of the world. Amen.

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Almighty and merciful God, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against your holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done;
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.
O Lord, have mercy upon us.
Restore us according to your promises in Christ Jesus our Lord.
And grant, O merciful God, for his sake,
that we may live a holy, just, and humble life to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

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Merciful God, we confess to you now that we have sinned.
We confess the sins that no one knows and the sins that everyone knows.
We confess the sins that are a burden to us and the sins that do not bother us because we have grown used to them.
Father, forgive us, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

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Lord, please forgive our sins, and set us free from them.

We confess to the sin of pride:
We have been sure of our own goodness and importance
and have looked down on others.
Help us to appreciate the true worth of other people.

We confess to the sin of envy:
We have been displeased when others have been more successful
or more sought after than we have been.
Help us to be glad when others prosper.

We confess to the sin of self-indulgence:
We have had enough and more.
Yet we have neglected the needs of others.
Help us to deny ourselves so that others may not be in want.

We confess to the sin of unchastity:
In one way or another we have used sex wrongly.
Help us to create and uphold right relations between men and women,
both in and out of marriage.

We confess to the sin of anxiety:
We have worried about many things.
Help us to trust you to see us through.

We confess to the sin of laziness:
We have been lukewarm Christians.
Make us eager to do your will.

We confess to you our sins and we ask for your forgiveness.
In the name of Jesus we pray.  Amen.

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Psalm 51:1-2, 10-12:

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin…

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

251) Confessions of a Gossiper

rob-ford

“Rob Ford and Me:  What Toronto’s Scandal-Ridden Mayor Taught Me about My Own Sin”

By Rachel McMillan, December 9, 2013

     I have a confession to make.  I, a longtime Christian, am guilty of gossip and of slander.  Moreover, having recognized my sin, I have nevertheless continued to revel in gossip and slander.

     It’s been so easy to do:  My whole city has been party to it, and I have been an easily swayed sheep.  Over the past several weeks, Toronto has been waiting on tenterhooks for the next stage in Mayor Rob Ford’s ongoing epic scandal to be uncovered.  Not unlike a reality TV show, the media obsession with the mayor has proven an endless form of entertainment.  It has banded strangers together in the coffee line, on the subway, while roaming the grocery aisles; and it’s earned thousands of likes and shares on social media.  It’s cool to mock Rob Ford.  Like kids bullying other kids on the playground, a jab or a quip easily cements camaraderie.

     As appalling as Ford’s actions, actual and alleged, have been, nothing quite equals the jokes and jabs, the speculation and snickers, the fodder for late night television and the eager anticipation that more legal documents, outbursts before the cameras, and quotable, “gif”-able motions will be forthcoming.  For once, I have thought in distorted pride, Canadian politics are interesting and featured on a grand stage…  Our news outlets minimalized coverage of the tragedy in the Philippines in order to devote pages to recaps of the world’s Ford Scandal coverage; copying and pasting celebrity tweets and linking to videos featuring satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert…

     Like seemingly every other Torontonian, I have been glued to the coverage of a person now known only as the “crack-smoking mayor of Toronto,” rather than as a man with a name, a family, and an unfortunate substance-abuse problem.  I have caught myself time and again reveling in Ford’s tragic downfall, disappointed at the 6 p.m. news if it doesn’t feature a breaking headline showing another of Ford’s foot-in-mouth statements or shots of his exaggerated movements.  As he sinks lower and lower, the jokes become funnier, the reactions of reporters more baffled, and the frenzied media a source of ironic addiction.

     I have derived laughter, puns, and guffaws from another person’s drug problem and become part of a social media lynch mob that would see this man’s destruction to the very end.  My enthusiasm and eagerness to follow every thread of this sad trail is an all-too-true reflection of my belief that humans have a powerful propensity to make entertainment out of the misfortunes and humiliation of others.  Further still, it allows us to feel that we are on a pedestal– that no matter what bad things we may have done in the past, how embarrassed or mortified we feel at our actions, at least we are not Rob Ford.

     We even make a virtue out of our public gossip– at least it’s out in the open and not behind his back, right?  More than once I, an educated 32-year-old female, have wondered if my participation in Ford’s public shaming can really be considered gossip if everyone else around me is also participating.  Citywide.  Loud and proud.

     This has long since stopped being about Ford’s politics and his abilities or inabilities to govern Canada’s greatest city and represent us on the world stage.  It has become, instead, a race to see who can do the best and funniest job of portraying this man as a buffoon.

     I have participated in every one of these unfortunate actions and contributed to the collective mockery.  As a Christian I have substituted the time I should pursue in prayer for a man obviously troubled, humbled, and mocked by the world at large with my own brand of mockery, jokes, and eye-rolls.  Rob Ford, like me, is far from God’s perfection.  He is human.  We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God:  that includes Rob Ford, the throng of citizens willing to haul him over the coals, and me.  I will not condone what he has admitted to doing; but I know that it is not my place to sit in judgment on him, and yet I continue to do so.  I may not support his actions or his politics, but that has become a moot point.  He doesn’t deserve my treatment of him.  No man or woman does.  I am a Christian and I should know better.

     A few weeks ago, I had the choice between watching coverage of the Philippines or another recap of the city hall action from a momentous day’s event.  The Philippines:  a story far more globally important and severe, literally a matter of life and death, but not a good subject for David Letterman’s Top Ten list; a story that is haunting, harrowing, and sad, featuring wonderful and inspiring acts of rescue and heroism.  But what is that compared with the quips and laughs and mayhem generated by our mayor saying something unfortunate on television?  I chose to indulge once more in the repetition of Ford’s appalling and perverse statement.

     What does that say about me?

   Rob Ford’s scandal has been many things to my city and country in the past several weeks; but for me, ultimately, he has acted as a sobering reminder of how easily even Christians can fall.  Rob Ford has reminded me how human I am and how greatly I need the grace of God.

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Romans 3:22-24  —  This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.  There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Matthew 7:1-4  —  (Jesus said), “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

James 3:9-10  —  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.

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Help us, this day and every day, to live more nearly as we pray.

 –John Keble

O Lord, forgive what I have been, sanctify what I am, and order what I shall be.  

–author unknown

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Rachel McMillan is a writer in Toronto.

She blogs at “A Fair Substitute for Heaven”

198) A Prayer for Self-examination and Confession

     Today’s meditation is brief, but it requires a slow and prayerful reading.  It is taken from the book A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie (1949).  This book contains 62 prayers, one for every morning and evening of the month.  It is one of the resources I use every day in my own personal prayer time.

     I John 1:8 says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  Praying this prayer makes us very aware of our sin, and makes such self-deception impossible.  The next verse says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins…”  By the end of the fourteen items for self-examination in the prayer, we are more than ready for the confession at the end, and having confessed our sins, we can be assured of God’s forgiveness.

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     Holy God, to whose service I long ago dedicated my soul and life, I grieve and lament before Thee that I am still so prone to sin and so little inclined to obedience:

So much attached to the pleasures of sense, so negligent of things spiritual:

So prompt to gratify my body, so slow to nourish my soul:

So greedy for present delight, so indifferent to lasting blessedness:

So fond of idleness, so indisposed for labor:

So soon at play, so late at prayer:

So brisk in the service of self, so slack in the service of others:

So eager to get, so reluctant to give:

So lofty in my profession, so low in my practice:

So full of good intentions, so backward to fulfill them:

So severe with my neighbors, so good at justifying myself:

So eager to find fault, so resentful at being found fault with:

So little able for great tasks, so discontented with small ones:

So weak in adversity, so swollen and self-satisfied in prosperity:

So helpless apart from Thee, and yet so unwilling to be bound to Thee.

     O merciful heart of God, grant me yet again Thy forgiveness.  Hear my sorrowful tale and in Thy great mercy blot it out from the book of Thy remembrance.  Give me faith so to lay hold of Thine own holiness and so to rejoice in the righteousness of Christ my Savior that, resting on His merits rather than on my own, I may more and more become conformed to His likeness, my will becoming one with His in obedience to Thine.  All this I ask for His holy name’s sake.  Amen.

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I John 1:8-10  —  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Luke 18:13  —  The tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

Psalm 130:1-4a  —  Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice.  Let your ears be attentive  to my cry for mercy.  If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness…

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John Stott’s morning prayer:

Good morning, heavenly Father; good morning, Lord Jesus; good morning Holy Spirit.  Heavenly Father, I worship you as the creator and sustainer of the universe.  Lord Jesus, I worship you, Savior and Lord of the world.  Holy Spirit, I worship you, Sanctifier of the people of God.  Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.

Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.  Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.  Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three person in One God, have mercy upon me.  Amen.