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Archive for the ‘Prayer’ Category


Jerram Barrs strikes again!  His book The Heart of Evangelism is a fantastic look at evangelism that truly gets to the heart of the matter.  He brings the same humble, gracious style to the subject of prayer with The Heart of Prayer: What Jesus Teaches Us.  He addresses topics that often seem to be guilt-inducing.  But he recognizes the internal and external obstacles to both evangelism and prayer.  He writes as a fellow struggler sitting at the feet of Jesus instead of as an expert practicioner.

Jerram focuses on Jesus’ teaching on prayer, so this book serves as a nice counterpart of D.A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformation, which focuses on Paul’s prayers.  These 2 men are very different, and both books are excellent though different.  This book is very accessible to lay people.  He tackles issues like public and private prayer, fasting, persevering in prayer, and Jesus’ prayers for His people.  He includes an appendix on mysticism.

This is an encouraging book.  It is also a humbling book.  That is a great combination.

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I first read Eugene Peterson’s book Working the Angles: the Shape of Pastoral Integrity in the mid-90’s.  I read all of his books on pastoral ministry, finding them helpful.  A decade in to pastoral ministry, and preparing for my next call, I decided to read it again.

I found that while the book hadn’t changed, I had.  I fully agree with Peterson’s main point that pastors have largely abandoned their calling for a substitute, a counterfeit that undermines the work of God.  I also fully agree with the tasks of pastoral ministry being largely prayer, Scripture and spiritual direction.

Where I am not so on board is how he gets there.  He draws from sources  that I am at time uncomfortable with.  I’m not a TR.  I read books, and benefit from them, that are outside of the Reformed heritage.  I read Nouwen, a Kempis and other devotional writers.  I’m interested in reading de Sales as well.  But the bulk of my significant reading is within one stream of thought.

Peterson pulls from Greek mythology, neo-orthodox authors and devotional writers.  He does not often ground his thoughts in Scripture, which is odd since that is one of his 3 angles.  I think I only found one reference to a Puritan, who have written numerous volumes on prayer, Scripture and the need for soul friends (aka spiritual directors).  This I find to be a glaring weakness.

So, while Peterson’s book is helpful, it is less helpful than perhaps it could have been.  This is sad, because we do need more books that focus on shepherding people, not treating pastors as CEOs.

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With a slight let up in work, I can get to work on the new box of books that just arrived from the Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore.  Here’s what I got:

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David Wayne, aka the Jolly Blogger,  is my friend.  We spent some time together at RTS Orlando.  But we got to know each other much better when we both served different churches in Winter Haven.  I was often a beneficiary of he and Lynnette’s hospitality.  They even put up with my dog, except for when he peed on their Christmas gift.  Actually, they handled that in their typically gracious manner.  I was very disappointed to learn they would be moving to MD.

Their move to Baltimore paid off when I was stranded in Baltimore one Christmas Day when the Albany airport was closed due to snow.  David came to the hotel to bring me home to enjoy fellowship and a hot meal (and I had not had anything to eat all day).  Again, graciousness and hospitality.

David was the one who encouraged me to blog.  He understood how isolated you can feel in Winter Haven.  He may regret that encouragment.  I did tell him to let me know if I said anything really stupid or crossed any lines.

Ever the good guy with a hearty laugh, David recommended me for a position recently. 

Why am I going on about the JollyBlogger?  My friend learned he has colon cancer.  He’s going to spend Christmas Eve on the operating table.  Not quite what he and the family were thinking Christmas would be like last week.  So, I’m asking those of you who share our faith in Jesus as our Prophet, Priest and King, to pray for David, Lynette and their 3 kids.  Ask for mercy and grace.  He’s no superstar pastor, but he’s the kind of guy you’d want for a pastor- a heart open to Jesus and His people.  (here is more after the video)

I love that movie.  And that scene…. how can you not be moved.

Update: The surgery went well, and David is recovering.  But, they found 2 large tumors on his liver (which is NOT good), nodules in his lungs and his lymph nodes  have been infected.  Bekah is making updates on his blog.  Please continue to pray.

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Steve McCoy did a Big 5 on Prayer

Here are some of my favorite books on prayer:

Here are some of the books on prayer that I am interested in reading:

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I’m not sure if enjoying is the right word.  I guess the right word would be benefitting.  I am greatly benefitting from my reading of The Prodigal God by Tim Keller.  He is able to expand on some ideas found in his sermons on the Parable of the Lost Sons.  He develops a better understanding of both sin and lostness.

We tend to tie sin in with rebellion- which it is.  But sin is craftier than that.  It can look like obedience!

It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it’s the pride he has in his moral record; it’s not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father.

His obedience produces a pride that keeps him apart from his father and younger brother.  Sin can work thru “obedience” to keeps us from Christ and His people.  We seek to save ourselves.  This is the work of the religious fanatic Martin Luther said lives in each of us, the default of our hearts, trying to earn merit before God.

You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws.  If you do that, then you have “rights.”  God owes you answered prayer, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die.  You don’t need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior.

Because sin is not just breaking the rules, it is putting yourself in the place of God as Savior, Lord, and Judge just as each son sought to displace the authority of the father in his own life.

Keller continues to say that these 2 conditions are not equal.  It is easier for the licentious to see his sin and seek to return home.  The legalist thinks he already is home!  He is more blind to his sin because he looks so good.

What are the signs of an elder brother (legalist, self-righteous, Pharisee)?

The first sign you have an elder-brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter.

Keller notes this can function in 2 ways.  If I perceive I have been obedient- I am angry with God and rage against him.  If I perceive I have not been obedient- I am angry with myself and become filled with self-loathing.  Hey, been there, done that- and still take trips there.

(more…)

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I’m currently working my way thru Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd & Margy Tripp in my free time.

So far it has been a good book to read: clear & convicting.  That’s why I wanted to read it- to become a more godly parent and learn to build what I never had as a child, a heart schooled in God’s ways.

They use Deuteronomy 6 as their foundational point, which is an important thing.  We must experience it if we are to truly pass it on to our kids.  But they bring other Scriptures into the discussion.

Essential to good, godly parenting is the recognition that the problem is not “out there”, but that our kids have sinful hearts that produce inordinate desires.  They are hardwired to respond to the temptations of the world and the devil.  They are hardwired for selfishness and lovelessness. I am to offer them the gospel, pray with and for them, instruct them in those opportune moments- addressing their hearts, not just their behavior.

“Scores of opportunities evaporate without notice as we hurry through our days thinking that devotional time with our children is enough.  Our responses to the circumstances and crises of everyday life make our theology real.”

What we do have to realize is that devotional times are good, but insufficient.  Our kids must also see us live our faith the rest of the day.  I try to do that- and sometimes I don’t and therefore instruct them with lies instead of truth.  They also remind me that during correction is not the time for formative instruction.  It just won’t sink in- they are too mad or sad to hear what you are saying.  Formative instruction occurs in the more regular moments, not the moments of heightened tension.  Sadly, like many people, I can prefer to relax and miss some of those great opportunities.

“Don’t talk to your children about that which you have spoken little with God.”

My wife is a great example of this.  Me?  Not so much.  It was convicting.  I can forget to pray about their stubbornness, self-centeredness, temper etc.  I really should be spending more time praying for the heart work to go along with the hard work of instruction.  It is the same for ministry- we must pray for the people, not just instruct the people.  So I find some crossover as I think about shepherding God’s people as well (just as I did with Shepherding a Child’s Heart).

So far it is great stuff to help you be a more godly parent in the hopes that God will use those means to change your kids’ hearts through the gospel.

I should say that I don’t agree with everything they write in either book. For instance, allowing a young child to choose clothes for the day does not necessarily teach them autonomy. There is a family context that allows children to grow in decision making in safe ways which can begin early. But these areas of disagreement do not undermine the main points they make.

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