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Prince Philip’s funeral took place at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on Saturday afternoon, April 17, 2021.

Exactly two months earlier, he had been admitted to the King Edward VII Hospital in London, a private health care establishment where he went for minor ailments:

He then was transferred to St Bartholomew’s, a specialist NHS hospital in London, for heart surgery. Afterwards, he was sent back to the King Edward VII to recuperate. He spent a month in hospital before being discharged:

Because of coronavirus restrictions, the Queen did not visit her husband. However, Prince Charles visited once. On March 18, The Express reported:

Prince Philip’s 28-day hospital stay is the longest ever, and he was only visited by Prince Charles, likely due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

The Prince of Wales visited his father during his first week in hospital, having made the 200-mile round trip to London from his Gloucestershire home, Highgrove.

Prince Philip has been treated for heart problems in the past, and this time, his stay isn’t understood to be Covid related at all.

On April 11, after the Prince died, The Sun reported on the significance of that visit. Royal insider Andrew Morton wrote (emphases mine):

It was a meeting of vital importance, especially as visitors to the private King Edward VII’s hospital were permitted to see patients only under “exceptional circumstances”.

This private exchange clearly came under that heading as the future king emerged from their 30-minute conversation clearly upset and preoccupied.

It had been an emotional encounter — one where, it could be assumed, Philip outlined his final wishes to his eldest son.

The Duke, who had been the head of the family for as long as anyone could remember, was finally stepping down and bowing out.

Now it was Charles’s time to step up to the plate and finally take over control of the first family.

Doubtless his father, who had the reputation for writing thoughtful letters to family members, set down his thoughts on paper beforehand …

Though Philip is remembered with enormous affection by the family — William and Harry call him The Stud in reference to a picture of their grandfather with his hair slicked back and wearing sunglasses — his relationship with his eldest son was never easy.

Princess Diana told me it was “very tricky, very tricky”.

She recalled: “Prince Charles longs to be patted on his head by his father.”

Once at home, the Prince appeared to be recovering, until he took a turn for the worse. On his better days, he took advantage of the occasional mild weather we enjoyed in southern England. On April 10, The Sun reported on his final weeks:

The Queen was by Prince Philip’s bedside when her husband of 73 years passed away, with the Duke having spent his final days in “good form” reading in the sun, it was reported today.

The Duke of Edinburgh is believed to have spent his last few days reading and writing letters and sleeping in the sun weeks before his 100th birthday.

Despite officials at the Palace declined to “go into any specifics” about the Duke’s passing, it is understood that his condition worsened overnight on Thursday with insiders warning that he had become “gravely ill”.

However, any talk of whisking Prince Philip back to the hospital was reportedly dismissed by the Queen.

One well-placed source told the Telegraph: “He spent most of the four weeks he was in hospital trying to get home.

“They operated on his heart in a bid to give him a little longer, maybe with the 100th birthday in mind.

“But he didn’t really care about that.

“He just wanted to be back in his own bed. There is no way he would have wanted to die in hospital.”

According to reports, there had been no dramatic decline in Philip’s health but it was gradual.

Staff said that the Duke was “on good form”, still writing and reading letters earlier this week.

On warm days over the last few weeks, Philip would reportedly ask to sit in the sunshine with a rug over his legs and nod off.

The Prince wanted to be self sufficient to the end. He was livid when he first saw a wheelchair in his room:

One aide told the Daily Mail he insisted on bending to the floor and picking up his dropped reading glasses, saying “I’ll do it” when a footman sprung forward.

And the Queen was said to be overheard saying he wouldn’t use his hearing aid, which “means we have to shout”, she noted.

Prince Philip was still reportedly dressing himself until recently and heading out of his room in a smart shirt and jumper on good days.

He would use a stick to walk around his rooms, and rarely allowed himself to be pushed in a wheelchair.

A royal source revealed when it was first put in his rooms he shouted: “Get that bl***y thing out of my sight”.

In his last few weeks, the prince was well enough to still speak to family and close friends on the telephone but unlike the Queen, the Duke was not a fan of Zoom calls.

Days before the funeral, the Queen made a decision about attire for her sons and grandsons:

Meanwhile, hours of military rehearsal took place:

On Saturday, I watched the funeral coverage on Sky News. Alastair Bruce OBE, a senior British Army reservist, did an excellent job of commentary from start to finish. That video is now private, although a podcast exists, but the Royal Family channel has the funeral in full:

Sky News posted three minutes of highlights:

The Prince had been closely involved in ‘every detail of planning’ the ceremony, including the music and the readings.

Within the grounds of Windsor Castle, a procession took place with the Prince’s casket placed on a Land Rover Defender he helped to design. The casket was draped in his own standard, or colours. In the video shot above, you can see the flag of Greece in one quadrant.

On the casket were a few items personal to him, such as his Royal Navy covering, and a naval sword that his father-in-law George VI gave him.

A carriage was also part of the procession, as the Prince enjoyed carriage racing. On the seat were his riding gloves and, it was said, sugar cubes for the horses.

Sky News reported:

A naval sword, gi[ven] to Philip by King George VI when he married Princess Elizabeth in 1947, was placed on top of the duke’s coffin as it was carried into the chapel.

The coffin was also covered with a wreath, naval cap and the duke’s personal standard.

It was one of several details which reflected the royal’s naval career and lifelong association with the armed forces.

Philip designed his own custom-built Land Rover to carry the coffin at his funeral.

The modified Land Rover Defender TD5 130 chassis cab vehicle was unveiled two days before the service.

The duke first began the long-lasting venture to create the bespoke hearse in collaboration with Land Rover in 2003, the year he turned 82.

He made the final adjustments to the vehicle in 2019, the year he turned 98.

The Defender was made at Land Rover’s factory in Solihull in 2003 and Philip oversaw the modifications, in collaboration with the company, throughout the intervening years.

The duke requested that the original Belize Green bodywork be switched to Dark Bronze Green, a colour used for many military Land Rovers.

Along the route, the men of the Royal Family and Princess Anne walked behind the Land Rover. The women, except for the Queen who was in the ceremonial Bentley, stood along the route, awaiting the procession.

The Queen rode with her lady-in-waiting Lady Susan Hussey, who did not attend the funeral, in order to keep the numbers to the state-required 30 persons during coronavirus restrictions:

Once at St George’s Chapel, eight Royal Marines carried the Prince’s casket up the steps. On the second landing, they stopped for the one-minute national silence at 3 p.m. Featured in this video is a clip of students from his alma mater Gordonstoun in Elgin, Moray (Scotland):

Although a lot of this video is about Prince Harry, Alan Jones of Sky News Australia said that Prince Philip’s coffin was designed to be biodegradable:

Inside the chapel, various medals had been placed on velvet cushions on the altar. Sky’s article says:

Military medals handpicked by the duke featured inside the chapel at his funeral.

Philip’s chosen insignia, the medals and decorations conferred on him by the UK and Commonwealth countries – together with his Royal Air Force wings and Field Marshal’s baton, were pre-positioned on nine cushions on the altar.

The duke also included insignia from Denmark and Greece – Order of the Elephant and Order of the Redeemer respectively – in a nod to his birth heritage as a prince of Greece and Denmark.

Insignia on display from across the Commonwealth included the Zanzibar Brilliant Star of Zanzibar, the Brunei Esteemed Family Order and the Singapore Order of Darjah Utama Temasek.

Insignia, orders, decorations and medals are a way of a country saying thank you and recognising someone’s achievements.

The insignia were sewn in place at St James’s Palace by two seamstresses using transparent fishing wire.

The Queen was met by the Dean of Windsor before the minute’s silence. This is a photo of her before the rest of the Royal Family took their places. The Queen placed her handbag on the seat next to her, where her beloved husband sat on so many other occasions. Her brooch was a gift from the Prince:

Our hearts went out to the monarch, especially during this time of coronavirus restrictions:

Barrister Francis Hoar was livid:

The Duchess of Cambridge attracted much attention at the weekend for this filmic, yet unsettling, photograph. Note that a ‘Karen’ posted it! You could not make this up:

Members of the Royal Family were spaced apart in the chapel, sitting in their respective familial bubbles. Princes Harry and Andrew sat alone.

Three members of Prince Philip’s family were also in attendance. They flew in from Germany and stayed with a mutual friend in Ascot, near Windsor. They left immediately after the funeral.

The Sun reported (photos at the link):

THREE of Prince Philip’s German relatives will attend his funeral and are in isolation ahead of the service, it is claimed.

Two great-nephews and a cousin are said to be staying with a mutual friend in Ascot, Berkshire, so they can safely be there on Saturday.

Bernhard, Hereditary Prince of Baden, Prince Donatus, Landgrave of Hesse, and Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg are locked in a Covid-compliant bubble, the Daily Mail reports.

The Duke of Edinburgh allegedly made it clear he wanted his “blood” family to be included in his funeral arrangements.

Prince Philipp, 51, said in a statement from the house where he and his relatives remain isolated until the weekend: “It really is an incredible honour and we are all extremely touched and privileged to be included on behalf of the wider family.”

Contrast the social distancing and self-isolation with the scene in London that afternoon. It doesn’t make sense:

The ceremony had a lot of music, which the Prince himself chose:

You can read the Order of Service in its entirety here. The liturgy was in traditional language.

A choir of four, socially distanced in another part of the chapel, sang the hymns.

The service began with ‘sentences’, Bible verses:

I AM the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

John 11. 25-26

I KNOW that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.

Job 19. 25-27

WE brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

1 Timothy 6. 7, Job 1. 21

Among others, the Prince chose the hymn I refer to as ‘For Those in Peril on the Sea’:

ETERNAL Father, strong to save,

Whose arm doth bind the restless wave,

Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep

Its own appointed limits keep;

O hear us when we cry to thee

For those in peril on the sea.

O Saviour, whose almighty word

The winds and waves submissive heard,

Who walkedst on the foaming deep,

And calm amid its rage didst sleep:

O hear us when we cry to thee

For those in peril on the sea.

The first reading was one that only Prince Philip would have chosen:

Ecclesiasticus 43. 11-26 read by the Dean of Windsor

LOOK at the rainbow and praise its Maker; it shines with a supreme beauty, rounding the sky with its gleaming arc, a bow bent by the hands of the Most High.

His command speeds the snow storm and sends the swift lightning to execute his sentence. To that end the storehouses are opened, and the clouds fly out like birds.

By his mighty power the clouds are piled up and the hailstones broken small. The crash of his thunder makes the earth writhe, and, when he appears, an earthquake shakes the hills.

At his will the south wind blows, the squall from the north and the hurricane. He scatters the snow-flakes like birds alighting; they settle like a swarm of locusts. The eye is dazzled by their beautiful whiteness, and as they fall the mind is entranced.

He spreads frost on the earth like salt, and icicles form like pointed stakes. A cold blast from the north, and ice grows hard on the water, settling on every pool, as though the water were putting on a breastplate.

He consumes the hills, scorches the wilderness, and withers the grass like fire. Cloudy weather quickly puts all to rights, and dew brings welcome relief after heat.

By the power of his thought he tamed the deep and planted it with islands.

Those who sail the sea tell stories of its dangers, which astonish all who hear them; in it are strange and wonderful creatures, all kinds of living things and huge sea-monsters.

By his own action he achieves his end, and by his word all things are held together.

The second lesson was the story of Jesus and Martha discussing her brother Lazarus. This exchange took place before Jesus raised him from the dead:

John 11. 21-27 read by the Archbishop of Canterbury

MARTHA said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”

The choir sang the Lord’s Prayer, a beautiful rendition.

A series of prayers read by the Dean of Windsor and the Archbishop of Canterbury followed, beginning with these:

The Archbishop of Canterbury shall say

O ETERNAL God, before whose face the generations rise and pass away, thyself unchanged, abiding, we bless thy holy name for all who have completed their earthly course in thy faith and following, and are now at rest; we remember before thee this day Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, rendering thanks unto thee-for his resolute faith and loyalty, for his high sense of duty and integrity, for his life of service to the Nation and Commonwealth, and for the courage and inspiration of his leadership. To him, with all the faithful departed, grant thy peace; Let light perpetual shine upon them; and in thy loving wisdom and almighty power work in them the good purpose of thy perfect will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Dean of Windsor, Register of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, shall say

O LORD, who didst give to thy servant Saint George grace to lay aside the fear of man, and to be faithful even unto death: Grant that we, unmindful of worldly honour, may fight the wrong, uphold thy rule, and serve thee to our lives’ end; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

GOD save our gracious Sovereign and all the Companions, living and departed, of the Most Honourable and Noble Order of The Garter. Amen.

O GOD of the spirits of all flesh, we praise thy holy name for thy servant Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who has left us a fair pattern of valiant and true knighthood; grant unto him the assurance of thine ancient promise that thou wilt ever be with those who go down to the sea in ships and occupy their business in great waters. And we beseech thee that, following his good example and strengthened by his fellowship, we may at the last, together with him, be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Then came the military music, which included Pipe Major of The Royal Regiment of Scotland playing A Lament, followed by the Buglers of the Royal Marines, who sounded The Last Post, Reveille and, perhaps the most meaningful of all as a final message from the Prince to his family: Action Stations.

At the end, the choir sang the National Anthem:

Afterwards, the Queen returned to her private apartments in the Bentley.

Cars awaited the other royals, but Prince Charles gestured for them to drive on. The Mirror reported that this was perhaps a move to give younger members of the family time to spend chatting with Prince Harry.

The Queen’s 95th birthday is Wednesday, April 21. The Mirror reported:

The widowed Queen went for a solo drive and stopped at one of her favourite spots for a moment of quiet reflection the day after Prince Philip’s funeral, it is claimed …

She will celebrate the first birthday of her reign without her husband when she turns 95 on Wednesday, just four days after the funeral and 12 days after the Duke of Edinburgh’s death.

Events will be shelved or toned down, as the Royal Family remains in mourning, and the Queen is likely to do the same things she did 24 hours after Philip’s funeral at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

On Sunday, the 94-year-old drove herself alone from the castle, where she has been shielding during the coronavirus pandemic, to her nearby Frogmore estate for some quiet reflection, the Daily Mail reported.

There, the monarch, who isn’t required to have a driving licence, took in the cherry trees that are still in bloom and the spring flowers lining the banks of the ornamental lakes.

Sources told the newspaper that she is likely to spend her birthday in similar fashion – making the short drive alone to Frogmore to walk her new puppies, a dorgi named Fergus and a corgi named Muick.

Fergus is named after her uncle Fergus Bowes-Lyon, who was killed as he led an attack on the Germans during the First World War, while Muick (pronounced “Mick)” is named after Loch Muick on the Queen’s Balmoral estate in Scotland.

My prayers go to the Queen for many more years of sentient life and for the Lord’s peace and comfort upon her at this most difficult time.

praying handsAs my far better half and I read the Christmas round robin and handwritten letters we have received, it has been apparent that, for all our friends, this year has been unlike any other that we could have predicted.

My regular readers will know that I have been reading and writing much about COVID-19 as well as some of the people involved in studying it, making policy decisions or, to a lesser extent, have been affected by it in a familial or financial way.

I owe a debt of gratitude to British parliamentarians on both sides of the aisle for the following intentions. I should also thank BBC Parliament, because, without that channel, I never would have surmised the depth and breadth of the coronavirus crisis on our lives.

I have devoted much time to thinking about other people’s family members (ours have gone to their rest) as well as business owners during the past nine months.

These special prayer intentions are dedicated to them. I am using the first person plural for anyone who would like to pray along.

Thank you, Lord, for watching over us and our world this year, a time when so much was unexpected and unknown. We know that things could have been better but we also acknowledge that things could have been much, much worse than they were. Thank you for our everyday blessings. Please help us to appreciate what we have, even on our darkest days.

With that in mind, many are in pain and need moral or material support.

O Lord, we humbly ask You to please bless the following at Christmas and in the New Year ahead:

Those who are lonely and had expected to be reunited with loved ones after a long and difficult year. Please help them to find comfort during a time when they had expected to be with family and friends;

Those who have lost a family member to coronavirus or to a medical condition that went untreated because of hospital or clinical capacity restrictions. We ask that You continue to comfort those in their loss, especially at this most family-oriented time of year;

Those who are still awaiting urgent medical treatment and testing for conditions known and unknown. May they receive prompt scheduling for inpatient and outpatient procedures promptly in 2021;

Those who were unable to visit loved ones in care homes during the year because of coronavirus restrictions. Please comfort those family members and help bring them relief in the New Year with clinical protocols — such as ample lateral flow tests and requisite PPE — allowing them that long-awaited reunion in person;

Those women who had to be without their husband, partner or another loved one whilst giving birth or losing a newborn child earlier in the year. While policies have since changed for the better, their anxiety or grief will have been heightened by successive months of ongoing uncertainty in the world;

Those who have suffered unbearable living conditions in tiny or overcrowded accommodation whose year has been marred by family conflict or domestic abuse. Please bring comfort or a means of refuge to those who have had to endure this acute pain, be it physical or emotional;

Children whose education has been interrupted for much of this year because of the virus and whose final grades and examinations might have been adversely affected. Please give them hope for the future and the intellectual wherewithal to pursue their studies, whatever their vocation and aspiration in life;

Men and women who have lost their jobs this year, sometimes permanently. Please help them to maintain the hope they need to persevere in life. Grant them a speedy return to work in the New Year;

Men and women who have lost their businesses or who are unsure if they can reopen when circumstances permit. Please grant them a way forward — perhaps involving a new business partner in the same situation — so that they may continue doing what they love to do most. We ask this particularly for those in the hospitality industry, upon which so much of our conviviality depends;

Our physicians, nurses, paramedics, staff and other frontline workers in their care for us in hospitals, testing centres and clinics. Please help them to maintain their stamina — both physical and mental — so that they may continue to care for all those requiring urgent medical attention;

Those who deliver food, medicines and other orders to depots and to our doorsteps. Help to keep them alert, punctual and cheerful as they go about their work, especially lorry drivers who have long and time-sensitive journeys to make for our well-being, health and delight.

O Lord, we ask that You and the Holy Spirit enlighten:

The scientists and doctors who are working to develop vaccines as well as make medical recommendations to public health bodies. Please guide them in making the correct decisions that work for the health of everyone. Please help more prophylaxes become available as part of a public health initiative so that not all of us have to depend on a vaccine;

Our politicians — whether local, regional or national — in making the correct public policy in future. If they have made mistakes, help them to make amends. Please keep them away from harmful outside influences. Guide them towards viewing the citizens — upon whom their positions depend — as equals rather than subjects and lesser beings. Most importantly, help remind them of our freedom and civil liberties which must be restored soon;

Our clergy, most of whom have been doing whatever they can for their respective congregations. Please help to keep them spiritually strong and physically resilient as they meet the needs of the faithful and share the Good News with others;

Every one of us, so that, as individuals, we may continue to care for each other in this ongoing drama. Help us along this continuing journey and please provide us all with a better way forward, rather than subject us to those who have only their self-interest in mind. Help us to remember the great light and hope that the Christ Child brought to our world. Help us to remember your Son, Jesus Christ, in times of trouble and tribulation. Please continue to send us Your infinite grace and mercy as we face another year of uncertainty.

Dear Lord, graciously hear our prayers on behalf of all affected by coronavirus as we pray for your blessings upon them — and us — through Jesus Christ our Lord, our only Mediator and Advocate. May the Holy Spirit also help to strengthen all of us in 2021. Amen.

I saw the following on Friday, October 30, 2020 and had to share.

The online world can be wonderful with so many fine contributors on website posts and in comment sections.

A tip of the hat goes to Duchess01 for this splendid prayer for all of those wonderful people:

A PRAYER FOR YOU

I said a little prayer for you
Tho’ we have never met
I only know you slightly
From the Internet

I see you everyday
While I am on my way
Traveling thru cyberspace
Your love I can embrace

I hear you reaching out
To give your piece of news
Sometimes you give a shout
Provide your special views

I thank God you stopped by
With what He gave to share
Right from your own mind’s eye
I am grateful that you care

Just so you know why I came
To this special place today
I am here to send you Angels
To help you on your way

I pray for you all the best
God can give to you
I said a little prayer for you
Gave thanks for all you do!

AMEN!

Bible evangewomanblogspotcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Romans 15:30-33

30 I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

——————————————————————————————————

Last week’s post discussed Paul’s magnificent ministry, to which he referred in Romans 15:22-29.

These verses conclude Romans 15 and the theology of the letter. Romans 16 details the teachers among the people he has converted in his wide-ranging trips from Asia Minor to Macedonia and Greece.

Paul was a big believer in the power of prayer. He prayed continually. He prayed fervently. He prayed for himself as well as for new Christians.

Here he asks that the Roman Christians ‘strive together’ in their prayers for him (verse 30).

John MacArthur discusses those words:

Notice verse 30, “I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake” as we saw “and the love of the Spirit,” then this word on prayer, “that you sunagōnizomai.” Agōnizomai would be enough. That means to agonize together in a struggle. To add sun to the front of it intensifies it. “That you intensely struggle together with me in your prayers to God for me.”

Now he realizes that ministry in the will of God is dependent on prayer. That is an essential element. The word agōnizomai or sunagōnizomai is a word taken from gymnastics. It’s taken from athletics. It is a gymnastic term meaning “to agonize.” It could be translated “to fight.” It takes tremen­dous exertion and energy and maximum effort to fulfill the significance of this word, a very strong term. In fact it’s translated in John 18:36 “fight.” Jesus said, “My servants would fight if My kingdom was of this world.” It is a word of great intensity.

Prayer, beloved, is a battle. And I say this from time to time as we come to passages like this but I want to remind you of it. Prayer is a battle. I think sometimes we don’t understand that because the battle isn’t where we can see it. We’ve been talking, haven’t we, in 1 Timothy, about the spiritual battle. And I hope we’ve learned some things. Prayer is a war waged against the forces of evil. In fact, Isaiah 64:7 speaks of, quote: “Arousing oneself to take hold of God in prayer.” That’s the idea of the Hebrew terminology in Isaiah 64:7, arousing one’s self to take hold of God. And you remember, no doubt, reading Genesis 32:24 to 30 where it says that Jacob wrestled with the Lord and he wouldn’t let go of the Lord until he was what? He was blessed. In Colossians 2:1 Paul calls prayer great conflict. He sees it as great conflict. It is not an easy thing, it is a conflict. He says, “I would that you knew what great conflict I have for you.” What is he talking about in writing to the Colossians? I’m engaged in a battle, a prayer battle over your spiritual situation. And in 4:12 of Colossians, as I mentioned earlier, Epaphras, that wonderful man of prayer, is said to be always laboring fervently for you in prayer that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God. Prayer is a battle, an agonizing experience.

Now I realize there is a certain paradox between the sover­eignty of God and fervent prayer, but the Bible teaches us to pray fervently. We go back to Luke 11 and remember the story of the man for his much knocking who was heard, because he gave much effort he finally received what he sought, and it’s an illustra­tion of what we call importunity, or intensity in prayer. We remember James who said in 5:16 of his epistle, “The effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” Even our Lord fasted and prayed for 40 days. It wasn’t easy for Him.

Matthew Henry’s commentary says that as Paul prayed for them, he desires their prayers for himself. This was not out of selfishness but as a sign of mutual love (emphases mine below):

He had prayed much for them, and this he desires as the return of his kindness. Interchanging prayers is an excellent token of the interchanging of loves. Paul speaks like one that knew himself, and would hereby teach us how to value the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous.

He asked for the Romans’ prayers for his deliverance from the unbelievers in Judea and for the success of his ministry in Jerusalem, his next destination (verse 31).

MacArthur elaborates on the Greek word for ‘deliverance’:

The word “delivered” is a very interesting word. Rhuomai means to be rescued, to be rescued out of a dangerous life-threatening situation. I want you to pray for my rescue. I want you to pray that I will be delivered from a very dangerous situation.

It was not uncommon for Paul to face danger. In fact, it was a way of life. He was in danger most of the time. He continually asked for prayer because of that

So what he is saying in verse 31 indicates to us that it marks a person in the will of God really moving ahead for the glory of God that they’re going to be persecuted because they’re invading the kingdom of the enemy. Now he had no idea at the time of the writing of Romans what was to come from those who do not believe in Judea, Jews who resented him, he had no idea at this particular time what they would do to him. But it was very predictable that they would be hostile toward his message.

Henry says:

The unbelieving Jews were the most violent enemies Paul had and most enraged against him, and some prospect he had of trouble from them in this journey; and therefore they must pray that God would deliver him. We may, and must, pray against persecution. This prayer was answered in several remarkable deliverances of Paul, recorded Acts 21:1-24:27.

I wrote about Acts at length in 2018 and 2019. The passages from the chapters of Acts that Henry mentions are posted below. This was a highly charged and dramatic time in Paul’s ministry over the course of two years:

Acts 21:1-6 – Paul, Luke, Cos, Rhodes, Patara, Tyre, kneeling in prayer

Acts 21:7-14 – Paul, Luke, Caesarea, Philip the Evangelist, Philip the Evangelist’s daughters, Agabus

Acts 21:15-16 -Paul, Luke, Caesarea, disciples of Caesarea, Jerusalem, Mnason of Cyprus

Acts 21:17-18 – Paul, Luke, James, elders, Jerusalem

Acts 21:19-26 – leaders of the church in Jerusalem, Paul, Judaisers, Nazirite vow

Acts 21:27-36 – Paul, completion of Nazirite vow, riot, Ephesian Jews, Asia Minor Jews, Trophimus the Ephesian

Acts 21:37-40 and 22:1 – Paul, Roman tribune, Jerusalem

Acts 22:2-21 – Paul, Jerusalem mob, conversion story

Acts 22:22-30 — Paul, Jerusalem, Roman justice, Roman citizenship, Roman tribune (Claudius Lysias)

Acts 23:1-5 – Paul, Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin, Ananias the high priest

Acts 23:6-11 – Paul, Sanhedrin, Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees, Jerusalem, Roman tribune (Claudius Lysias), Jesus Christ, ‘take courage’

Acts 23:12-15 – Paul, Sanhedrin, oath, murder plot, Jerusalem

Acts 23:16-22 – Paul’s nephew, Paul, centurion, Roman tribune, Claudius Lysias, Jerusalem, murder plot

Acts 23:23-30 – Paul, divine intervention, Claudius Lysias, two centurions, 200 troops, Caesarea

Acts 23:31-35 — Paul, military escort, Antipatris, Caesarea, Felix

Acts 24:1-9 — Tertullus, the Sanhedrin, Felix, Paul, Caesarea, Claudius Lysias

Acts 24:10-21 — Paul, Felix, Sadducees, Caesarea

Acts 24:22-27 – Paul, Felix, Drusilla, Caesarea, Porcius Festus

As our commentators have said, Paul had no idea about any of those events, although he certainly would have anticipated danger. At that point, he expressed his longing to finally meet the Romans, if it be God’s will, and be ‘refreshed’ in their company (verse 32).

For good or bad, the Lord and the Holy Spirit guided Paul’s ministry from the beginning, as evidenced by the accounts in Acts. Therefore, Paul was a great believer in the will of God.

MacArthur summarises a few instances from Acts and Galatians for us:

The reason I believe Paul is obedient is multiple. One, he lived in sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. And I believe since he was committed to doing the will of God and obeying the will of the Spirit, he would have not flagrantly denied the Spirit’s will in this case. When in chapter 16 he started to go into one area, Bithynia, the Spirit stopped him, he turned around. When he started to go into another area, the Spirit stopped him; he went the other way and finally went in to the Macedonian region because the Spirit stopped him in all the other areas. I believe he lived in sensitivity to the Spirit. And I believe also in chapter 20 when he says, “I am bound in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem,” he is saying, “I have a strong leading from the Spirit of God within me.” Furthermore, he had the right reasons for going. His reasons for going were to accomplish the ministry of collecting this offering which he knew was from the Lord. From the very beginning of his commission as recorded in Galatians 2:7 to 10 he was told to remember the poor, he was doing what he was told, he was doing what the Spirit of God had put in his heart to do. And I believe the Spirit actually sent him. I believe he was dispatched by the Spirit of God to carry out this ministry.

And, after two years of imprisonment in Judea, the authorities sent Paul to Rome:

The Romans themselves sent him there so that he could have a trial before Caesar. After two years of being kept a prisoner for his own sake in Caesarea, they then sent him to Rome and even on the way to Rome I believe the devil tried to drown him. There was a terrible shipwreck. But not only did Paul escape but so did everybody else on board, Acts 27. He made it to Rome. Well that’s the testimony to the power of prayer.

In Rome, Paul was martyred for his faith, but not before he was able to meet the Roman Christians and convert more to the faith over a period of two years:

Acts 28:30-31 – Paul, Rome, ministry

The final verse (33) of Romans 15 is the benediction, the blessing Paul sends to the Romans, asking that ‘the God of peace’ be with them all.

Henry gives us the scriptural history of the benediction and the application for us today:

The Lord of hosts, the God of battle, is the God of peace, the author and lover of peace. He describes God under this title here, because of the divisions among them, to recommend peace to them; if God be the God of peace, let us be men of peace. The Old-Testament blessing was, Peace be with you; now, The god of peace be with you. Those who have the fountain cannot want any of the streams. With you all; both weak and strong. To dispose them to a nearer union, he puts them altogether in this prayer. Those who are united in the blessing of God should be united in affection one to another.

MacArthur has this:

The God of peace, what does that mean? That’s a com­mon term for God, the God of peace. It is to say that God is the source of peace. What do you mean by that? He is the source of peace in two ways. He provides peace with Him. Before you came to Christ you were at war with God. In Christ you are saved, you make peace with God. We call that peace with God. He also provides the peace of God which is the settled heart confidence that all is well that removes anxiety and brings tranquility to the soul. He is the God of peace, that is to say He reconciles men to Himself. He is the God of peace, that is to say He brings tranquil­ity to the reconciled soul, the God of peace.

Our God is identified in this chapter in verse 5 as the God of patience and the God of comfort. In verse 13 He is the God of hope. And here He is the God of peace; the God of patience, the God of comfort, the God of hope, the God of peace.

Those of us who attend churches with established liturgies hear and/or say ‘Peace be with you’ in every service, often more than once. Sometimes I think we hear it so often that we forget or take for granted what it means. I do.

I will be reflecting silently on this in the week ahead.

Next time — Romans 16:1-2

Bible boy_reading_bibleThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Hebrews 13:17-19

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

———————————————————————————————

The verses in last week’s post were a final warning against falling into apostasy by following teaching that goes against Scripture and the Good News.

The first verse in today’s selection is a rather substantial one relating to the clergy or, as they were called at the time, overseers (verse 17).

The author of Hebrews, inspired by the Holy Spirit, counsels his Jewish converts to obey their overseers and submit to them spiritually, because being an overseer is all-consuming work as, at the end of it, he has to give an account to the Lord. Therefore, we should respect their position, the onerous responsibility of that position and allow them to get on with their work without putting obstacles in their way. If a good clergyman leaves as a result of petty obstacles, ultimately, the congregation loses.

Matthew Henry explains the issue impartially — and well (emphases mine):

It is not an implicit obedience, or absolute submission, that is here required, but only so far as is agreeable to the mind and will of God revealed in his word; and yet it is truly obedience and submission, and that not only to God, but to the authority of the ministerial office, which is of God as certainly, in all things belonging to that office, as the authority of parents or of civil magistrates in the things within their sphere. Christians must submit to be instructed by their ministers, and not think themselves too wise, too good, or too great, to learn from them; and, when they find that ministerial instructions are agreeable to the written word, they must obey them.

It is sometimes difficult in our era to submit, especially to clergy who are quasi-agnostics (I have known a few). To them, I have kept my distance beyond civil pleasantries of a greeting and a kind word on Sundays.

As far as clergy are concerned, Henry — who was an Anglican clergyman himself — says that they are not to lord their position over the congregation:

They have the rule over the people; their office, though not magisterial, yet is truly authoritative. They have no authority to lord it over the people, but to lead them in the ways of God, by informing and instructing them, explaining the word of God to them, and applying it to their several cases.

Henry explains the heavy responsibility of a clergyman:

They watch for the souls of the people, not to ensnare them, but to save them; to gain them, not to themselves, but to Christ; to build them up in knowledge, faith, and holiness. They are to watch against every thing that may be hurtful to the souls of men, and to give them warning of dangerous errors, of the devices of Satan, of approaching judgments; they are to watch for all opportunities of helping the souls of men forward in the way to heaven.

After they have exercised their solemn duties on Earth, they will have to give an account to the Lord:

[3.] They must give an account how they have discharged their duty, and what has become of the souls committed to their trust, whether any have been lost through their neglect, and whether any of them have been brought in and built up under their ministry. [4.] They would be glad to give a good account of themselves and their hearers. If they can then give in an account of their own fidelity and success, it will be a joyful day to them; those souls that have been converted and confirmed under their ministry will be their joy, and their crown, in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Therefore, we should think of our clergy as we would a shepherd busy with his flock or, as John MacArthur says, a triage nurse:

I’ll tell you something, that’s a joy. The sweetest joy that comes into the life of a pastor who’s committed to the things of God is when he sees somebody walking in truth and bearing fruit. Believe me, that’s sweet. And the tragedy of all tragedies in the life of the man of God is when he sees those in whom he invests his life who do not bear fruit, who do not walk in the truth, who stray away. That grieves – worse than anything else. We’re like nurses, you know, with critical care patients. We care for your souls …

It’s a serious thing to be a critical care nurse in the church. It’s a serious thing to be a wakeful shepherd of a flock that has sheep that are forever going astray. And we have to labor as those – and I say this even with a sense of reluctance in my own heart to – to even admit that this is true, that I must give an account to God for the way that I minister to the care of the souls that He entrusts to me. And as I’ve said before, that’s why I’m not real anxious to have more people. I’m not too sure I’m doing the right job with the ones I’ve got.

What humility. He preached this in 1973, and, since then, his team’s ministry has gone international. That said, I bet he still has the same concerns — and rightly so.

MacArthur points out that St Paul had his share of faithful and rebellious congregations. The faithful ones made him joyful and the rebellious ones grieved him:

I think sometimes the saddest group of people, the most grieved group of men, are very often ministers, pastors. And I think sometimes the reason is because of the fact that they are dealing with a stubborn and rebellious people who, because they will not submit, rob them of the joy of their ministry.

The idea of the word “grief” here is groaning, over a thankless task, and there are many men whose ministry is a very thankless thing. And he says you ought to submit, just for the joy of the one who labors with you. You know, the Apostle Paul knew about that joy, apparently especially the Philippians were a submissive bunch. He didn’t express a whole lot of joy over the Corinthians. In fact, they were a pain in the neck as well as the heart. But in Philippians 1:4, he says, “Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.” He said to the Philippians, “You make me happy.” And the reason was because they were submissive.

The author of Hebrews then issued a personal message, requesting the converts’ prayers for him and Timothy (verse 18). (I’ll have more on Timothy next week.) The author is sure both have clear consciences as they attempt to act honourably in all their undertakings.

Henry says this request came because the Jews hated Paul, wrongly so, but the author and Timothy were taking great pains to not offend anyone unnecessarily:

Many of the Jews had a bad opinion of Paul, because he, being a Hebrew of the Hebrews, had cast off the Levitical law and preached up Christ: now he here modestly asserts his own integrity: We trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly. We trust! he might have said, We know; but he chose to speak in a humble style, to teach us all not to be too confident of ourselves, but to maintain a godly jealousy over our own hearts.

The author asked for their prayers so that he might be with them again that much sooner (verse 19). MacArthur explains:

And so he says, pray for me, I deserve it. Secondly he says, pray for me, I need it. I need it. Verse 19, “I beseech you the rather to do this, that I may be restored to you the sooner.” I want to get there. You say that guy actually believed that prayer works? Does he believe that if he was going 30 miles an hour and they started praying, he’d go 90 miles an hour to get there? He believed that. Doesn’t sound too much like fatalism to me. Not at all. He knew God heard and answered prayer. There’s no blind fatalism.

Sadly, next week’s verses conclude the Book of Hebrews. However, I will follow up with posts on the first eight verses of Hebrews 13, which explain how to live the Christian life. Fortunately, those verses are in the Lectionary.

Next time — Hebrews 13:20-25

Ash Wednesday is February 26, 2020.

These are the readings for the first day in Lent:

Readings for Ash Wednesday

In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us how to practice piety and self denial through fasting: keep it quiet and never boast about it. Verses 19 through 21 will also be familiar to many.

Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

6:1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.

6:2 “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

6:4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,

6:18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

6:19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;

6:20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Our Lord addressed these verses to the scribes and the Pharisees, who made much public display of their notional devotion to God.

Yet, they were so hard-hearted that they rejected Jesus to the end, with all their hearts and all their minds.

Of these verses, Matthew Henry’s commentary counsels (emphases mine):

As we must do better than the scribes and Pharisees in avoiding heart-sins, heart-adultery, and heart-murder, so likewise in maintaining and keeping up heart-religion, doing what we do from an inward, vital principle, that we may be approved of God, not that we may be applauded of men; that is, we must watch against hypocrisy, which was the leaven of the Pharisees, as well as against their doctrine, Luke 12:1. Almsgiving, prayer, and fasting, are three great Christian duties–the three foundations of the law, say the Arabians: by them we do homage and service to God with our three principal interests; by prayer with our souls, by fasting with our bodies, by alms-giving with our estates. Thus we must not only depart from evil, but do good, and do it well, and so dwell for evermore …

Take heed of hypocrisy, for if it reign in you, it will ruin you. It is the dead fly that spoils the whole box of precious ointment.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving done openly, with ostentation and/or public announcement, has its own reward on Earth, in front of other sinful people. Those who do such things are not pleasing God. God will not honour such actions.

Henry explains, referring to the Greek in the original text:

they have their reward here, and have none to hope for hereafter. Apechousi ton misthon. It signifies a receipt in full. What rewards the godly have in this life are but in part of payment; there is more behind, much more; but hypocrites have their all in this world, so shall their doom be; themselves have decided it. The world is but for provision to the saints, it is their spending-money; but it is pay to hypocrites, it is their portion.

The reason for doing these things in very public places is to impress others. God, on the other hand, remains distinctly unimpressed with such open expressions. Henry gives us the reasons for the Jewish hierarchy’s seeking out the most public places for their most ostentatious prayer displays and why God disapproves. It is not entirely wrong to do these things in the open, but when we become prideful and seek out more of the same, it becomes sinful:

Their pride in choosing these public places, which is expressed in two things: [1.] They love to pray there. They did not love prayer for its own sake, but they loved it when it gave them an opportunity of making themselves noticed. Circumstances may be such, that our good deeds must needs be done openly, so as to fall under the observation of others, and be commended by them; but the sin and danger is when we love it, and are pleased with it, because it feeds the proud humour.

With regard to the scribes and Pharisees:

[2.] It is that they may be seen of men; not that God might accept them, but that men might admire and applaud them; and that they might easily get the estates of widows and orphans into their hands (who would not trust such devout, praying men?) and that, when they had them, they might devour them without being suspected (Matthew 23:14); and effectually carry on their public designs to enslave the people.

Henry says that the public forum is not the place for ostentatious devotion. Therefore, in church, we must be circumspect and not stand out. Furthermore, we make a mistake if the only time we pray is in church:

we must avoid every thing that tends to make our personal devotion remarkable, as they that caused their voice to be heard on high, Isaiah 58:4. Public places are not proper for private solemn prayer.

Furthermore:

Personal prayer is here supposed to be the duty and practice of all Christ’s disciples.

Henry has more on personal prayer:

Note, Secret prayer is to be performed in retirement, that we may be unobserved, and so may avoid ostentation; undisturbed, and so may avoid distraction; unheard, and so may use greater freedom; yet if the circumstances be such that we cannot possibly avoid being taken notice of, we must not therefore neglect the duty, lest the omission be a greater scandal than the observation of it …

Note, In secret prayer we must have an eye to God, as present in all places; he is there in thy closet when no one else is there; there especially nigh to thee in what thou callest upon him for. By secret prayer we give God the glory of his universal presence (Acts 17:24), and may take to ourselves the comfort of it.

Scripture cautions against repetition in prayer, yet, Henry explains that this is only when our minds wander as we repeat the same words over and over. Repetition, when done with reverence and thought, is acceptable:

It is not all repetition in prayer that is here condemned, but vain repetitions. Christ himself prayed, saying the same words (Matthew 26:44), out of more than ordinary fervour and zeal, Luke 22:44. So Daniel, Daniel 9:18,19. And there is a very elegant repetition of the same words, Psalms 136:1-26. It may be of use both to express our own affections, and to excite the affections of othersthe barren and dry going over of the same things again and again, merely to drill out the prayer to such a length, and to make a show of affection when really there is none; these are the vain repetitions here condemned. When we would fain say much, but cannot say much to the purpose; this is displeasing to God and all wise men.

As for fasting, it should be accompanied by prayer. Otherwise, it has no spiritual value. It’s just a diet.

Fasting does not mean gorging at night, either.

Henry, very much an Anglican clergyman whose theology aligned with Calvinism, lamented the loss of the centuries-old godly practice of fasting. This would have been in the late 17th and early 18th century. Fasting, accompanied by prayer, curbs the urges of the flesh for more food and focusses our minds on higher things:

We are here cautioned against hypocrisy in fasting, as before in almsgiving, and in prayer.

I. It is here supposed that religious fasting is a duty required of the disciples of Christ, when God, in his providence, calls to it, and when the case of their own souls upon any account requires it; when the bridegroom is taken away, then shall they fast, Matthew 9:15. Fasting is here put last, because it is not so much a duty for its own sake, as a means to dispose us for other duties. Prayer comes in between almsgiving and fasting, as being the life and soul of both. Christ here speaks especially of private fasts, such as particular persons prescribe to themselves, as free-will offerings, commonly used among the pious Jews; some fasted one day, some two, every week; others seldomer, as they saw cause. On those days they did not eat till sun-set, and then very sparingly. It was not the Pharisee’s fasting twice in the week, but his boasting of it, that Christ condemned, Luke 18:12. It is a laudable practice, and we have reason to lament it, that is so generally neglected among Christians. Anna was much in fasting, Luke 2:37. Cornelius fasted and prayed, Acts 10:30. The primitive Christians were much in it, see Acts 13:3,14:23. Private fasting is supposed, 1 Corinthians 7:5. It is an act of self-denial, and mortification of the flesh, a holy revenge upon ourselves, and humiliation under the hand of God. The most grown Christians must hereby own, they are so far from having any thing to be proud of, that they are unworthy of their daily bread. It is a means to curb the flesh and the desires of it, and to make us more lively in religious exercises, as fulness of bread is apt to make us drowsy. Paul was in fastings often, and so he kept under this body, and brought it into subjection.

Henry summarises the biblical way to fast:

We are directed how to manage a private fast; we must keep it in private, Matthew 6:17,18. He does not tell us how often we must fast; circumstances vary, and wisdom is profitable therein to direct; the Spirit in the word has left that to the Spirit in the heart; but take this for a rule, whenever you undertake this duty, study therein to approve yourselves to God, and not to recommend yourselves to the good opinion of men; humility must evermore attend upon our humiliation. Christ does not direct to abate any thing of the reality of the fast; he does not say,”take a little meat, or a little drink, or a little cordial;” no, “let the body suffer, but lay aside the show and appearance of it; appear with thy ordinary countenance, guise, and dress; and while thou deniest thyself thy bodily refreshments, do it so as that it may not be taken notice of, no, not by those that are nearest to thee; look pleasant, anoint thine head and wash thy face, as thou dost on ordinary days, on purpose to conceal thy devotion; and thou shalt be no loser in the praise of it at last; for though it be not of men, it shall be of God. Fasting is the humbling of the soul (Psalms 35:13), that is the inside of the duty; let that therefore be thy principal care, and as to the outside of it, covet not to let it be seen. If we be sincere in our solemn fasts, and humble, and trust God’s omniscience for our witness, and his goodness for our reward, we shall find, both that he did see in secret, and will reward openly. Religious fasts, if rightly kept, will shortly be recompensed with an everlasting feast. Our acceptance with God in our private fasts should make us dead, both to the applause of men (we must not do the duty in hopes of this), and to the censures of men too (we must not decline the duty for fear of them). David’s fasting was turned to his reproach, Psalms 69:10; and yet, Matthew 6:13, As for me, let them say what they will of me, my prayer is unto thee in an acceptable time.

Certainly, some people have problems gaining weight. Therefore, fasting would not be recommended for them.

However, for the rest of us, some physical self-denial, accompanied by prayer, would not go amiss.

It is hard to think of a better Gospel to lead us into Lent. For anyone observing this season, I pray that you be abundantly blessed in all your undertakings, especially those further enabling the Christian journey.

President Trump had a busy schedule at the end of May 2019, which included a return trip to Japan.

This time it was a State Visit.

As he and First Lady Melania would be out of the country on Memorial Day weekend, they visited Arlington Cemetery before their departure:

On May 25, the first day of the State Visit to Japan, Trump met with that nation’s business leaders, too many to list here:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife Akie hosted the Trumps for dinner that night. Abe had not forgotten his guest’s favourite dessert:

Abe was delighted to welcome back his friend:

The next day, the two world leaders played golf:

Their wives toured the Mori Building Digital Art Museum:

The QTree explained the significance of the following day’s welcome by the new Emperor and Empress of Japan — a first for both couples:

… our President and FLOTUS become the first guests of Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako at the Imperial Palace.

There are three components to the state visit: (1) The guest arrival and formal greeting by the Emperor and Empress. (2) The ceremonial anthems of both nations and the presentation of the imperial guard.  (3) A “state call” or discussion of diplomatic matters between the Emperor, Empress and their honored guests.

During the official state call component there is an exchange of gifts.

1) Formal greeting by the Emperor and Empress …

2) The ceremonial anthems of both nations and the presentation of the imperial guard.

The ‘inside palace’ greeting and introduction was not covered by international media. However, due to the significance of the visit (first of imperial era of Reiwa) it was broadcast on local Japanese media (below).

Body language and facial expressions can’t be faked. They are all VERY PLEASED AND HONORED to meet one another. Such a proud moment for both nations.

(3) A “state call” or discussion of diplomatic matters between the Emperor, Empress and their honored guests in video below.

Then, there was the customary exchange of gifts. The Japanese emperor is an accomplished violin and viola player, as evidenced below in this video from 2007:

The accompanying press pool report states (emphases mine):

The President presented the Emperor an American-made viola in a custom case and a signed photo of American composer Aaron Copland. This vintage 1938 viola was handmade in Charleston, West Virginia. The President also presented the Emperor with a signed and framed photo of the President.

The First Lady presented the Empress with a custom White House desk set featuring a pen made of Harvard tree wood. The Empress herself studied Economics at Harvard. This fountain pen was handcrafted from a red oak tree that still stands in Old Harvard Yard. The First Lady also presented the Empress with a signed and framed photo of the First Lady.

The Emperor presented the President with a traditional Japanese pottery and porcelain bowl as well as a signed and framed photo of His Majesty the Emperor.

The Empress presented the First Lady with an ornamental Japanese lacquer box with traditional design as well as a framed and signed photo of Her Majesty the Empress.

Note: It is long-standing custom of the Imperial Palace that their Majesties the Emperor and Empress exchange signed, framed photographs with their guests on the occasion of a State Visit.

Afterwards, Trump and Abe held discussions on trade and security:

Their wives attended a cultural presentation:

Upon his return, Trump tweeted:

While the Trumps were in Japan, on May 25, actor Jon Voight tweeted:

The president faces the same threats as Lincoln did. He is in danger every day from people who desperately want to remove him from office, either by death or by impeachment. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says Trump belongs in prison.

The Mueller Report left the door open to more scheming by Democrats.

The coup is not yet over.

Therefore, on May 30, the Revd Franklin Graham issued a national appeal for prayer for the president on Sunday, June 2:

That day, another friend of the president’s explained to Fox News that this appeal had nothing to do with politics but the real fight of good versus evil:

Other pastors on social media had to remind their detractors that they had prayed for past presidents, too:

On Friday, May 31, a mass shooting took place in Virginia Beach. After golfing on Sunday, June 2, the president visited the Revd David Platt’s McLean Bible Church in Virginia, where he joined congregants in praying silently for the victims of the shooting.

The New York Post reported:

While he did not talk during the service, Trump stood behind pastor David Platt as he offered a prayer for the 12 killed in Friday’s mass shooting.

The president was there to “visit with the Pastor and pray for the victims and community of Virginia Beach,” said Judd Deere, the White House’s deputy press secretary.

Trump arrived at about 2:20 p.m. and his motorcade left a little over 15 minutes later.

DeWayne Craddock, 40, slaughtered 12 at Virginia Beach’s municipal building Friday — just hours after quitting his job as a civil engineer.

In turn, Platt prayed for the president:

I do not know where Platt stands on his stance of private redistribution of wealth he was promoting back in 2012, but I am grateful that he prayed for President Trump.

Considering the prayers, the threats that the president endures daily and Jon Voight’s comparison of him with Lincoln, it was amazing that he and the first lady went to Ford’s Theatre that night for an awards presentation. Ford’s Theatre was the site of Lincoln’s assassination:

I am very glad I was out of the country at the time. Otherwise I would have been worried about his safety.

Yet, thankfully, God continues to watch over President Trump, who flew to London that night with the first lady and his family (apart from Barron).

More on that trip tomorrow.

How many people know about the Battle of Lepanto?

In the 1970s, when Western education was still decent, I took a year of World History in high school. If we covered it, it must have been a footnote.

I read about it in depth only six years ago, when someone from the West Indies had a WordPress blog, since deleted. The writer was Catholic and explained the religious, historical and cultural significance of October 7, 1571, the date of the victory over the Ottoman Empire.

The victory was important to Mediterranean Europe. Inland, the Battle of Vienna took place just over a century later, on September 12, 1683, led by the indomitable King Jan (John) III Sobieski of Poland. Lepanto was to the Mediterranean what Vienna was to the rest of Europe.

On to the Battle of Lepanto and October 7, which Catholics venerate as the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. In 2017, Polish Catholics assembled nationwide to pray the Rosary on that day. The Daily Mail has more (emphases mine):

Hundreds of thousands of Polish Catholics are expected to descend Saturday on the country’s borders to recite the rosary “to save Poland and the world” from the dangers facing them, organisers say, but others claim the event is aimed at protecting Europe from what they term a Muslim onslaught.

The episcopate insists that the “Rosary to the Borders” is a purely religious initiative, but some Catholics view it as a weapon against “Islamisation.”

The date was not chosen at random. October 7 is when Catholics celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, marking the 1571 victory of Christianity over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto.

A victory attributed to the recital of the rosary “that saved Europe from Islamisation”, the Solo Dios Basta foundation said on the website of the event it is organising.

Many Poles see Islam as a threat. The conservative government, which enjoys the backing of a sizeable portion of the population, refuses to welcome migrants to Poland, which has very few Muslims of its own.

Twenty-two border dioceses will take part in the event, whose faithful will congregate in some 200 churches for a lecture and mass before travelling to the border to say the rosary.

The goal is to have as many prayer points as possible along the 3,511 kilometres (about 2,200 miles) that make up Poland’s borders with Belarus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine and the Baltic Sea.

Fishing boats will join in at sea, while kayaks and sailboats will form a chain along rivers and lakes. Prayers will also be said at the chapels of a few international airports …

The goal is to pray for world peace, according to Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference.

“The initiative obviously received the approval of Poland’s bishops,” he told AFP, emphasising that it would be wrong to view the event as a prayer against the arrival of Muslim refugees.

“It is not a matter of closing ourselves off to others. On the contrary, the point of bringing the rosary to the borders is to break down walls and open ourselves up to Russians, Belarussians, Slovaks, Ukrainians and Germans,” he said

In 2018, on October 7, Italy’s interior minister, Matteo Salvini, appeared on a talk show saying that the influx of immigrants arriving by boat are not true refugees. He estimates that only 10 per cent are. He recommends taking in only women and young children. He objects to turning Italy’s public housing over to immigrants arriving by boat and says that local and regional governments should continue to reserve these flats and houses for Italians. Currently, Angela Merkel is trying to transfer immigrants who had arrived in Germany via Italy back to Italy:

RMC (French talk radio) had a lengthy segment on immigration from Africa on the morning of Monday, October 8. Opinion was strongly divided as to whether and how many more immigrants France — especially Paris — should accommodate. It was a lively discussion with no conclusion. One point that did stand out was that French people were being pushed down the queue for social housing for recently-arrived immigrants. So, the French housing situation is like Italy’s, which is like Germany’s and Sweden’s.

Besides the religious and 21st century significance of the Battle of Lepanto, there is a historic one. It took place at a time when the invasion of hordes of groups of people — not just those from the Ottoman Empire — were invading not only Europe but also Asia.

I had always wondered how these groups had been stopped. A considered essay, ‘The Significance of Lepanto’, explains what happened from that point through to the 18th century.

First, we need to consider the main group of players in Europe’s Holy League. These nation-states also controlled various parts of the Mediterranean, including islands such as Corsica, Cyprus and Crete. Trade and strategic ports were important to the Spanish, the Venetians and to the Vatican, which also controlled territory in this part of the world:

The Battle of Lepanto has a major place in the symbolism of the Western-Islamic relationship, and Niccolò Capponi’s recently published Victory of the West: The Story of the Battle of Lepanto treats the battle as a major encounter between the Islamic Ottoman empire and the forces of Western Christendom.

Lepanto was the last great battle that could be described as a simple clash between Christendom and Islam. Fought on October 7, 1571, it saw the fleet of the Ottoman empire pitted against an alliance of Spain, Venice and various other minor players to form a Holy League under the leadership of Don Juan of Austria, the illegitimate half-brother of Philip II of Spain.

The battle was the response of the Christian powers to the invasion of the Venetian possession of Cyprus. At stake was control of the Mediterranean. If the Ottomans had won then there was a real possibility that an invasion of Italy could have followed so that the Ottoman sultan, already claiming to be emperor of the Romans, would have been in possession of both New and Old Rome. The Pope could have become as much a tool of the Ottoman sultan as his Orthodox counterpart the Patriarch of Constantinople already was.

Yet, as Capponi points out, the Holy League was hardly a model of Christian solidarity. The Spanish and the Venetians had different strategic objectives—the Spanish were concerned primarily with Italy, North Africa and the Western Mediterranean, while Venice was anxious to recover Cyprus and protect its interests in the eastern Mediterranean. The Spanish were not keen for a battle that might lose them precious resources, particularly as Philip II, with interests as well in northern Europe, was usually on the verge of bankruptcy. The Spanish were also concerned that the Venetians were in the process of cutting a deal with the Ottomans. Just a few days before the battle there was a conflict between the Spanish and Venetians that almost tore the fleet apart. Nevertheless the alliance held and the League fleet scored a stunning success.

Lepanto reshaped the religious bent of the Mediterranean:

The cultural shape of the lands around the Mediterranean was confirmed with a largely Islamic East and South staring across the waters at a Christian North and West.

The Ottoman Empire gradually lost territory and influence from that point until it collapsed with the Great War (1914-1918). That said, we are still dealing with the aftermath a century later:

The Ottoman empire, like the ancient Roman empire and the Byzantine empire before it, was left with the task of defending its ever diminishing borders over the next three centuries. When it did finally “fall” after the First World War the ramifications were enormous, and we are still attempting to cope with them from Bosnia to Iraq.

The Europeans defeated the Ottomans because of advanced naval battle tactics and weaponry. They also had more advanced trade and inventions, such as the printing press, which the Ottomans were slow to adopt:

The League won because it used innovative tactics. The usual form that galley warfare took was to ram the enemy ships and then take them by storm. The Venetian ships attempted a new and different tactic. Using a larger and modified form of galley known as galleasses, they filled these ships with cannons and attempted to blow as many of the Ottoman galleys as possible out of the water. League ships carried many more cannon and its troops made much greater use of firearms. Many of the Ottoman troops preferred to use bows, although these were not necessarily inferior to the clumsy arquebus of that time …

In the longer term, however, the future belonged to the new commercial instruments of the West rather than to the bureaucratic machinery of the Ottomans. In her study of seventeenth-century Crete, A Shared World, Molly Green demonstrates that the commercial techniques and practices used by the Venetians were much more sophisticated and developed than those of the Ottoman regime that replaced them in mid-century. It was also the case that the Ottomans were slow to take to make use of printing, with the “printing revolution” that swept the West in the sixteenth century not really taking off in the Islamic world until the nineteenth century.

Europe and Asia had been beset by invaders for centuries, especially during the perilous Dark Ages.

In Europe, during the latter days of the Roman Empire:

Rome, and the Roman empire, had to face an almost continuous set of threats, beginning with the Celts, then moving through to the Germans, Huns, Avars, Arabs and Turks. The Ottoman Turks simply delivered the coup de grâce to what had become little more than a living corpse.

In Asia:

China built its “great wall” to protect itself from nomadic predators, while the damage inflicted by the Mongols on the settled Islamic world, including the sack of Baghdad, was staggering.

These invasions happened because invading tribes of people envied the civilisation of settled societies:

A settled civilisation, by creating a measure of comfort and a settled way of life, makes itself a target for those living outside their boundaries who are drawn by what it has to offer.

Large-scale invasions ended in the 18th century, probably thanks to the Chinese:

the Qing Chinese empire in the eighteenth century successfully conquered and subdued the last of the great nomadic empires of Eurasia. For the first time in millennia no barbarian horsemen, no Huns, no Avars, no Mongols, surged across the great plains of Eurasia to sack and pillage Europe, China and the great civilisations of the Islamic world and India.

When a new barbarian empire emerged powerful enough to threaten the Ottomans, and by this I mean the Russian empire, it was successfully checked by the jealousy of the other European powers. It was also into this world … of empires that were not revitalised by new sets of barbarians, in the Middle East, in India and in China, that the European empires were able to make such inroads from the eighteenth century onwards.

Lepanto, as with so many other advances of that era, helped to usher in modernity to Europe with an emphasis on trade rather than war:

Lepanto can be seen as symbolic of that transition, described by the nineteenth-century French liberal philosopher Benjamin Constant, from the age of war to the age of commerce. Or as others might say, it can be considered as the birth of modernity. Even the overwhelming use of firepower can be found in the pages of Constant as a feature of the utilitarian approach to warfare favoured by commercial nations. The irony was that the somewhat ramshackle empires of sixteenth-century Europe, with their disorganised finances and administrative apparatuses much inferior to those of the Ottomans, would within 300 years come to dominate the world not because of their superior asabiya or virtue but because of their capacity to create modern efficient institutions far superior to the slave bureaucracy of the Ottomans, and because of their ability to deliver superior firepower.

This new European and commercial form of empire supplanted an older, more traditional imperial form. What this meant was that the old rules of empire, of an imperial expansion dictated by the need to conquer to attain booty and slaves and a decline governed by the need to protect its settled possessions from new predators, would give way to a new set of rules. These are the rules of the export and import of capital, as described by Niall Ferguson in his recent studies of the English and American empires.

Looking at present day developments in Europe, there does seem to be an envy of others to have what we Europeans have without contributing to our respective nations. When well-intended private and state generosity is met with Marxist-driven violence and disregard for the host citizenry, it is no wonder that many think of Lepanto.

As most of the world knows, Judge Brett Kavanaugh has been going through Hades during his nomination process to the American Supreme Court.

His wife, Ashley, and their two daughters have also been put through much unnecessary harassment and abuse.

Ashley Kavanaugh has asked people to pray for them and for the nation, specifically by praying Psalm 40. Some of my readers prefer the King James Version below:

Others might prefer the English Standard Version (ESV):

My Help and My Deliverer

To the choirmaster. A psalm of David.

40 I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.

Blessed is the man who makes
    the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.

6 In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
    but you have given me an open ear.[a]
Burnt offering and sin offering
    you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
    in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
8 I delight to do your will, O my God;
    your law is within my heart.”

I have told the glad news of deliverance[b]
    in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
    as you know, O Lord.
10 I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
    I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
    from the great congregation.

11 As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
    your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
    ever preserve me!
12 For evils have encompassed me
    beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
    and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
    my heart fails me.

13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
    O Lord, make haste to help me!
14 Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
    who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
    who delight in my hurt!
15 Let those be appalled because of their shame
    who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”

16 But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
    say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
17 As for me, I am poor and needy,
    but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
    do not delay, O my God!

O Lord, please thwart the attempts of the Kavanaugh family’s foes. May their pernicious deeds be brought to light and to justice, whether in the Senate chamber, at home or at school.

Please also preserve the Great Republic, the United States of America, today and always.

We ask this humbly through Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

——————————————————–

Forbidden Bible Verses, all being well, is planned for tomorrow.

bible-wornThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy have omitted — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 20:36-38

36 And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38 being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.

—————————————————————————————————————–

Last week’s entry discussed the preceding verses, which contained Paul’s instructions to the elders of Ephesus about their ministry. Wisely, he gave them that guidance after he recounted his own ministry in Ephesus.

Now it was time for Paul to leave Miletus, which is near Ephesus, and sail from Asia Minor to eventually reach his final destination, Jerusalem, to commemorate Pentecost.

The elders and Paul knelt for a final prayer together (verse 36). Matthew Henry’s commentary has an excellent analysis about prayer, not only in this situation but also for us as churchgoers (emphases mine):

no doubt, it was a prayer every way suited to the present mournful occasion. He committed them to God in this prayer, prayed that he would not leave them, but continue his presence with them. 1. It was a joint prayer. He not only prayed for them, but prayed with them, prayed with them all; that they might put up the same petitions for themselves and one another that he put up to God for them all, and that they might learn what to ask of God for themselves when he was gone. Public prayers are so far from being intended to supersede our own secret prayers, and make them needless, that they are designed to quicken and encourage them, and to direct us in them. When we are alone we should pray over the prayers that our ministers have put up with us.

Henry tells us about the humility of kneeling in prayer:

2. It was a humble reverent prayer. This was expressed by the posture they used: He kneeled down, and prayed with them, which is the most proper gesture in prayer, and significant both of adoration and of petition, especially petition for the forgiveness of sin. Paul used it much: I bow my knees, Ephesians 3:14.

This was likely to have been a prayer about Paul’s discourse on ministering to the church in Ephesus:

3. It was a prayer after sermon; and, we may suppose, he prayed over what he had preached. He had committed the care of the church at Ephesus to those elders, and now he prays that God would enable them faithfully to discharge this great trust reposed in them, and would give them those measures of wisdom and grace which it required; he prayed for the flock, and all that belonged to it, that the great Shepherd of the sheep would take care of them all, and keep them from being a prey to the grievous wolves. Thus he taught these ministers to pray for those they preached to, that they might not labour in vain.

It was also a parting prayer, one of farewell. Paul copied our Lord’s example:

4. It was a parting prayer, which might be likely to leave lasting impressions, as the farewell sermon did. It is good for friends, when they part, to part with prayer, that by praying together just at parting they may be enabled to pray the more feelingly one for another when they are separated, which is one part of our Christian duty, and an improvement of the communion of saints. The Lord watch between us, and watch over us both, when we are absent one from the other, is a good parting prayer (Genesis 31:49), as also that our next meeting may be either nearer heaven or in heaven. Paul here followed the example of Christ, who, when he took leave of his disciples, after he had preached to them, prayed with them all, John 17:1.

They all wept — including Paul. The elders embraced their spiritual leader and kissed him (verse 37). Henry lays out the scene:

He that was so often in tears while he was with them (Acts 20:19,31), no doubt shed many at parting, so watering what he had sown among them. But the notice is taken of their tears: They all wept sorely; there was not a dry eye among them, and it is probable the affectionate expressions Paul used in prayer set them a-weepingNote, Those that are most loving are commonly best beloved. Paul, who was a most affectionate friend himself, had friends that were very affectionate to him. These tears at parting with Paul were a grateful return for all the tears he had shed in preaching to them and praying with them.

St Luke, the author of Acts, points out that they were saddest because Paul told them he would not see them again (verse 38). Henry lists their other reasons for weeping. They feared the responsibility they now had in leading the church in Ephesus:

There were other things for which they sorrowed–that they should lose the benefit of his public performances, and see him no longer presiding in their assemblies, should have none of his personal counsels and comforts; and, we hope, they sorrowed for their own sin, in not profiting more by his labours while they had him among them, and which had provoked God to order his remove.

They then accompanied him to the ship (verse 38):

partly to show their respect for him (they would bring him on his way as far as they could), and partly that they might have a little more of his company and conversation; if it must be the last interview, they will have as much of him as they can, and see the last of him. And we have reason to think that when they came to the water-side, and he was about to go on board, their tears and embraces were repeated; for loth to part bids oft farewell. But this was a comfort to both sides, and soon turned this tide of passion, that the presence of Christ both went with him and staid with them.

John MacArthur’s closing prayer in his sermon is striking. He reminds us of what happened to the church in Ephesus:

Father, thank You for our time. We rejoice in the truth that we’ve learned. And our hearts are somewhat saddened, at least mine, as I think about the fact that by the time the letter of the Lord Jesus to Ephesus was written in Revelation, You had to say that they had left their first love. And that if didn’t something happen, You’d remove them as a church. And Father, we know historically that You did that, and there is no church at Ephesus.

We can’t understand it. We can’t understand how under the leadership of Paul and Timothy, so fast it could happen. But we know Satan works. Father help us to teach, to lead, to feed, to watch, to warn, to pray, to study. Protect the flock, that this may be a pure people till the day that Jesus comes, in whose name we pray, amen.

There are many churches today that are falling by the wayside because of the lack of doctrine and the influx of false teaching, i.e. social justice and sexual identity.

Social justice, politics and sexual variants are not in the New Testament as doctrine. In fact, quite the opposite. Yet, our seminaries and churches are full of clergy who continually preach about these things instead of the Gospel story.

It is no wonder that our houses of worship are so empty on Sundays. All the more reason for us to pray unceasingly in our own time and to study the Word of God privately.

Next time — Acts 21:1-6

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