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Kindle deals for Christian readers

The Profiles of Reformed Spirituality series is on sale for $1.99 each:

Also on sale:

Why Peter’s Idiocy Is So Helpful

Jeff Medders:

But here’s what I love about Peter, he always came back around. He never let shame rest on him. He always turned, repented, rethought his thoughts, and came back to following Jesus. What patience Jesus has for his sheep!

How to pray for and support persecuted Christians

Good thoughts here from Dave Jenkins.

I Want A “Do-Over”

Tullian Tchividjian:

In many ways, all of our striving under this performance idol is a grown-up re-creation of the adolescent playground cry: “I want a do-over!” Have you ever heard that? Watch children playing a game at a park like football or basketball. Maybe somebody messed up the opening kick. Maybe they weren’t sure the ball stayed in bounds or not. So somebody proclaims, “Do-over!” And they start over. They have to get it right. They want the bad play erased and replaced by the good play.

We’re still doing this into our adult years, trying to manage our lives in some bizarre system of spiritual checks and balances, trying to outweigh our bad plays with our “do-overs.”

“All the Law and the Prophets…” in a piece of fruit

Jared Totten:

We’re all familiar with the story. In fact, if you grew up in the church, you’re probably so familiar with the story that there’s no surprise, no suspense left in it. But Genesis 3 is an epic drama. The fate of the entire human race hanging in the balance as good and evil are paraded across this cosmic stage. It was Shakespearean before Shakespearean was cool.

And at the center of it all: fruit. Yep, skin and pulp and juice. A plum, a pear, maybe a pomegranate. We don’t know. There are some (quite serious) people out there who are certain it was a grape because wine comes from grapes and wine is the devil’s drink. I’ll leave that discussion for another time (perhaps after we share in the Communion table?).

But almost every person who has read that fateful chapter has at one time or another expressed the same frustration and confusion at the account of the fall:

“What’s the big deal with the fruit?!!”

Loyal To My Faults

Aaron Earls:

Often times, I will stick with something or someone long after they have proven they should not longer have my loyalty. The pain of giving up and changing is harder for me than dealing with the disappointment that comes from being loyal when you shouldn’t.

Maybe I fit the phrase “loyal to a fault,” but I know that I, along with many others, absolutely fit the phrase “loyal to my faults.”

Three Questions to Help Diagnose Possible Football Idolatry

I don’t know hardly anything about football, but this article from Kevin DeYoung is still helpful.

God doesn’t have time to worry about such little things, right?

If God provides

The other day we were on our way home from Port Huron, MI, when our car started making some shady sounds. A grinding/vibrating sound that sounded like maybe one of the brakes had seized. (Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be something catastrophic, to my savings if nothing else.)

Sunday night, as we prepared dinner, Emily and I talked about how much we were willing to spend on repairs. It’s important to have a “do not pass go” line because, at some point, it’s just not worth fixing a vehicle. Of course, when that happens, it’s also helpful to have a fair bit saved up in order to actually pay for a new one. Which we don’t (yet).

One of the things we don’t do all that well is pray over “little” issues. Years ago, as new believers, we were exposed to a lot of damnably stupid teaching on prayer. One video we watched, featuring an ultra-hip (now ex-) pastor, openly mocked a person who would pray for such seemingly insignificant things as a parking space, as though doing so would be a waste of God’s time and yours.

After all, God doesn’t have time to worry about such little things, right?

And yet, we see something very different in Psalm 8:3-4: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Setting aside the christological elements of these verses for a moment, we see something pretty incredible: David is in awe of the mystery of God’s care. What shocks David here is that the God who created all the universe is not distant. He is near to us and intimately involved with every detail of our lives. That he has numbered every hair on our heads. He has determined all the days of our lives. There is not a single event that happens, whether a hair falling from our heads or a piece of dust floating down onto your shoulder, that the Lord is not aware of.

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! … Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:24; 27-28)

This is the mystery of God’s care: that he holds all of creation together, and yet is actively involved in the minutest details of our lives. Do you believe this? Do you believe that right now, God is working all things together for your good—that there is nothing that happens in your life that escapes his sight? Or do you believe, as the song goes, God is watching us from a distance?

Events like our car problems are an opportunity for me to shake off the “little faith” attitude of the man who mocks those who pray for “little things.” If God provides for sparrows and clothes the grass in splendor, will He not provide what His people need? I’m not saying this in some sort of goofy “name it and claim it” sort of way. Instead, it’s a reminder to me that God truly is involved in the most mundane aspects of my life.

We had another car problem about a week ago. The repairs cost $100, though they could have been significantly more had the problem not been easily resolved. It is right to see this as evidence of God’s care. I had $100. I did not have significantly more. We have this latest problem. We have no idea what it will cost to repair or if we have to say “when” on this car. We can only trust that the Lord will provide what we need, when we need it in the way we need it.

And that’s the thing that should give us great hope and encouragement: God is not disconnectedly watching the events of our lives play out. He is actively engaged. He really does care for us and provide for us, no matter how insignificant it might seem.


Photo credit: mohammadali via photopin cc. Designed with Canva.

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How to speak Christianese

HT: Jeff Medders

Are We Passionate for People?

Jonathan Parnell:

It is an amazing thing that God comforts the downcast, and that he tells us this so clearly. The idea of God’s comfort isn’t religious folklore, nor is it some spiritual platitude to pull out when we can’t think of something more specific to say. This is a truth read explicitly in the words of Scripture, and pervasively narrated throughout.

But how exactly does he comfort us? This is an important question. Comfort, in order for it to be real comfort, must be as palpable as our pain. Theoretical comfort won’t do. The idea of comfort won’t satisfy. Therefore, in what ways might the “God who comforts” actually comfort his people?

7 Ways We Pray Without Praying

Aaron Earls shares how we might be praying without praying at all.

Who’s Self-Controlled Now?

Lore Ferguson:

People are prone to affirmation when it comes to commentary on one’s goodness or their kindness, but rarely do I hear someone say, “Wow, your self-control is really stellar. You’ve got it going on in that department.”

Why?

Because you can’t see my self-control unless I give you opportunity and opportunities like that are few. Before you can see me exercise my will power you have to know that there’s a struggle of my wills.

And I don’t let people see those things.

Don’t You Worry Child

Tullian Tchividjian:

One night about 18 months ago when I was putting Genna to bed, I asked her, “Honey, how do you think God feels about you?” Her immediate response was, “Disappointed.” After some probing, I realized that she wasn’t feeling convicted about any particular sin, she simply sees God as someone whose feelings toward her are basically unhappy ones. She knows that God is perfect and that she is imperfect—she understands that God is holy and that she is sinful—and so it only makes sense to her that God is perpetually displeased with her.

Lloyd-Jones on Scandalous Grace that Isn’t Cheap

Kevin DeYoung shares wisdom from Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

Only new ones that I’m aware of are Am I Called? by Dave Harvey (99¢) and Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch (FREE).

Help us plant a church in Rutland, Vermont

Jared Wilson:

Since my family’s arrival here in 2009, our church has seen a steady increase in mission-minded believers with a heart to plant a gospel-centered church in the downtown area of Rutland, Vermont, the largest town nearest us and the second largest town in the state.

Our church has more than doubled in the last 4 years, and we have already established a solid, mature, multi-generational core team in the city of Rutland that has already begun the work of community groups and evangelism. Our plan now, Lord willing, is to move from twice-monthly prayer gatherings to weekly “simple church” gatherings with the goal of launching public worship services for Redemption Church on Easter Sunday, 2015.

David Platt elected new IMB president

Yesterday, David Platt was elected as the new president of the International Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Here’s a word from Platt on the news:

Russell Moore offers his thoughts on why he’s glad Platt is in this new role. Tim Brister also gives some thoughts on why Platt’s the right man for the job.

Labor Day: Your Need for Both Work and Rest

Nick Batzig:

As we come to celebrate another Labor Day, it may be beneficial for us to step back for a moment and consider what Scripture has to say about the rhythm of work and rest—i.e. the cyclical configuration by which all the events of our lives occur. Learning the theology of work and rest is one of the greatest challenges of our own day. Many of us have adopted faulty views of work, and therefore have faulty views of rest. We are commanded to do all the work that needs to be accomplished every week in the six days that follow, and lead up to, the glorious day of rest. Then we are commanded to rest. This rhythm of work and rest is both a creational and a new-creational (i.e.redemptive) ordinance. The suffix to the 4th commandment in Exodus 20:11 and Deuteronomy 5:15 teaches us this. God commanded His people to rest one day in seven because He rested from the work of creation and because He redeemed them from the hand of their enemies. In short, we need to learn to work hard at learning to work as unto the Lord and we need to learn to work hard at learning to cease from our labors, by resting in the finish work of Christ.

Kindle + Evernote = ♥

Tim Challies:

As time goes on, I find myself doing more and more of my reading on my Kindle, and taking advantage of its super-simple ability to make notes and highlights. At the same time, I find myself relying on Evernote to help me retain and organize information. Books hold the information I want to know while Evernote holds the information I want to retain. When I put the two of them together, I get a powerful system to record and remember what I have read. Let me share a simple technique to quickly and easily get every one of your Kindle notes and highlights into Evernote.

5 Steps To Creating A Culture of Evangelism In Your Church

Brandon Hilgemann offers good advice.

What Is the Prayer of Faith?

Sinclair Ferguson:

Years ago, the editor of a publishing company asked me to write a book on prayer. The theme is a vitally important one. The publishing house was well known. To be honest, I felt flattered. But in a moment of heaven-sent honesty, I told him that the author of such a book would need to be an older and more seasoned author (not to mention, alas, more prayerful) than I was. I mentioned one name and then another. My reaction seemed to encourage him to a moment of honesty, as well. He smiled. He had already asked the well-seasoned Christian leaders whose names I had just mentioned! They, too, had declined in similar terms. Wise men, I thought. Who can write or speak at any length easily on the mystery of prayer? Yet in the past century and a half, much has been written and said particularly about “the prayer of faith.” The focus has been on mountain-moving prayer by which we simply “claim” things from God with confidence that we will receive them because we believe that He will give them. But what exactly is the prayer of faith?

Five books every Christian should read on prayer

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Prayer is a discipline many of us need help with. Okay, maybe you’re doing great in your prayer life. I need a lot of help in mine. Thankfully, there are a lot of really great books out there on the subject. Here are five I’ve found particularly helpful and you might, too:


The Mighty Weakness of John Knox

True, I recommended this one when talking about biographies you and I should read, but Douglas Bond’s book on John Knox offers us an example to look to when we want to know what a life submitted to the Lord in prayer looks like. “Because of his candid acknowledgment of his great need, he sought the aid of the God of the universe, and one way he sought it was through the prayers of fellow believers.”

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

Don Carson’s book on his father, Tom, is another powerful “pray by example” book (even if not technically a book on prayer). As I wrote elsewhere, Carson shows his father as a man who prayed as though the Lord really is sovereign—that He must intervene for the lives of his hearers to be transformed.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


A Simple Way to Pray: The Wisdom of Martin Luther on Prayer

Archie Parrish offers an examination of Luther’s prayer life, as well as the advice he wrote in his little booklet, The Way to Pray. As far as “instruction” books on prayer, there are few better than this because of it. (More thoughts related to this book can be found here. And for a related book, read R.C. Sproul’s The Barber Who Wanted to Pray, a child-appropriate retelling of Luther’s The Way to Pray.)

Buy it at: Amazon


A Call to Prayer

This little book is one of the most challenging, if for no other reason than J.C. Ryle’s willingness to call out the complacency of Christians in his day (a complacency that looks familiar in ours, as well). He writes:

Can we really believe that people are praying against sin — when we see them plunging into it? Can we suppose they pray against the world — when they are entirely absorbed and taken up with its pursuits? Can we think they really ask God for grace to serve him — when they do not show the slightest interest to serve him at all?

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Valley of Vision

As mentioned above, often the best way to learn to pray is by example rather than by instruction. Sometimes the best way to pray in a given moment is to pray with someone else’s prayer. That’s where the Valley of Vision, with its powerful, gospel-rich prayers, is so helpful.

Buy it at: Westminster Books | Amazon


Reader’s choice: A Praying Life by Paul Miller. I’ve not read this (yet), but I keep hearing I should and that you should, too! (You can get it at Westminster Books or Amazon.)

What books have you found helpful for cultivating your prayer life?

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Kindle deals for Christian readers

And in print book deals, Westminster Bookstore has Alex Chediak’s terrific Preparing Your Teens for College on sale for $2. They’re also offering a Questions Christians Ask four-pack for $18. This set includes Can I Really Trust the Bible? by Barry Cooper, How Will the World End? by Jeramie Rinne, How Can I Be Sure? by John Stevens, and Is Forgiveness Really Free? by Michael Jensen.

Does the Bible Ever Get it Wrong? Facing Scripture’s Difficult Passages

Michael Kruger on his new blog series, for which he has invited “evangelical scholars to respond to some of the critical issues raised in Pete Enns’ “Aha moments” series. Scholars who have agreed to participate include Craig Blomberg, Greg Beale, Darrell Bock, Andreas Köstenberger, and Don Carson.” This will be a good series to read.

Christ Did Not Die for You to Do Keg Stands

Kevin DeYoung:

With most major college getting whipped into a full frenzy, I thought it would be worthwhile to dust off a few thoughts about binge drinking on our nation’s campuses. Most students won’t have to look hard for opportunities to drink over the next days and weeks (and months and semesters). They may have to go somewhere off campus to party, but the party scene comes recruiting right to them. Some students arrive at college looking to make their Party U dreams come true. Others just find themselves all alone and eager to fit in and make friends. The sad reality is that choices made in the first weeks (or even days) of college can set a trajectory that’s hard to break.

Which means churches and Christian groups must bend over backward to meet, greet, invite, and include. It also means churches must be ready to winsomely and courageously confront the university lifestyle when it is inconsistent with Christian commitment. Many professing Christians will live duplicitous lives–getting smashed on the weekends while still trying to be the good Christian boy or girl their parents and ministry friends imagine them to be. The problem is huge and anyone wishing to minister to college students needs to think about a biblical approach.

Here are a few suggestions on how to begin formulating a Christian response to drinking on our college campuses.

The One Thing My Mother Would Not Let Me Become

Thabiti Anyabwile:

I must have been about the age of my son, around seven, when my parents started what felt like a campaign of encouragement. They’d repeatedly tell me, “You can be anything you want to be in life, even President of the United States.” Then they’d follow with a question, “So, what do you want to be when you grow up?” I was trying on answers during that period of time. Professional football player. And a professional basketball players. Lawyer. Doctor. Perhaps something exotic like a marine biologist. They encouraged every ambition. Except one.

One evening my mom asked me the question and with beaming eye I answered, “A police officer.” I don’t know where the idea came from. Maybe we’d had an elementary civics lesson on “Officer Friendly” or perhaps a visit to our class from an officer. Perhaps it was watching “Kojak” or “Starsky and Hutch” (I know; I’m dating myself!). But whatever was the source of inspiration, it all got dashed in a moment. My mother’s face grew solid, the soft flesh of her cheeks stone. She snapped back, “You cannot be a police officer.” I asked why. She said, “I will not have you arresting our people all the time.” I think she also said something about worrying and sleepless nights, but her main point had to do with this adversarial relationship between the police and African Americans. I mentally crossed the police off my list of aspirations and got on about the business of being a little boy.

Never Resist the Urge to Pray.

Erik Raymond:

As people we know that it is often wise to resist various urges that we have. We can keep ourselves out of trouble by resisting the urge to say something when we are offended. We can prevent various health issues by resisting urges to overeat or (routinely) eat unhealthy foods. We can steer clear from financial debt by resisting the urge to buy something on impulse. We can almost develop a reflex of resistance in this fallen world. This can be good for us (and others).

However, there is one urge that you should never resist. This area is prayer. I believe it was Martyn Lloyd-Jones whom I first read who said, “Never resist any urge to pray.” That is great advice without much need for explanation. But let me point out a couple of reasons why.

Chosen is Better Than Worthy

Aaron Earls asks, “What if we have problems with feeling worthy because we weren’t made to be worthy, necessarily? What if we were made for something more?”

 

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Are Christian Missionaries Narcissistic Idiots?

Albert Mohler:

…Ebola has been recognized as a disease only since the first outbreak was identified 40 years ago. One third of the total fatalities caused by Ebola have occurred in the most recent outbreak—and the toll is rising. Health authorities in Nigeria have said that five other Nigerian health workers, who also had treated AIDS patients, have been diagnosed with the disease. One American, Patrick Sawyer, a financial expert of Liberian descent, died on July 25 arriving in Lagos on a flight from Liberia. Meanwhile, according to USA Today, a Saudi man being tested for the disease has died in Jeddah. If indeed it turns out that he died of the disease, it will be the first fatality outside West Africa during the latest outbreak. Every medical authority on the planet is on the alert.

And yet from a Christian concern we cannot leave the issue of the Ebola outbreak without turning to another kind of atrocity. In this case the atrocity was an opinion piece published just yesterday by conservative commentator Ann Coulter.

Kindle deals for Christian readers (updated!)

There have been some pretty phenomenal Kindle deals this week. Be sure to take advantage of these while they last!

Amazon’s Big Deal sale is back and includes some pretty fantastic books:

Be sure to check out the complete list of deals here.

Also on sale:

This Demon Only Comes Out By Prayer and Prozac

Matthew Loftus:

The impetus behind the use of the words “chemical imbalance” is good. After all, confining mental illness solely to the untouchable realm of feelings and thoughts is not only ignorant of biology, but also of orthodox anthropology. Furthermore, such a harsh dichotomy happens to be extraordinarily ineffective in the lives of most sufferers of mental illness. You may or may not have heard of an excellent book that sought to make clear the theological importance of our physical bodies; affirming that deficiencies or excesses of certain chemicals in our brains play a role in mental illness is an important step in the process of rightly treating our bodies as part of the created order. In turn, the judicious use of other chemicals to rein in the torment and harm caused by mental illness is as much a part of using our God-given power to exercise dominion over the earth as is carefully using pesticides on our crops so that more people can eat.

However, saying “you’ve got a chemical imbalance” does not go far enough and, paradoxically, can often take us too far in the wrong direction.

Get Living for God’s Glory in today’s $5 Friday at Ligonier.org

Today you can get Living for God’s Glory by Joel Beeke (ePub for only $5 in today’s $5 Friday sale at Ligonier.org. Other items on sale:

  • Think Like a Christian teaching series by R.C. Sproul (audio download)
  • Standing Firm: 2012 West Coast Conference messages (audio and video download)
  • The Heroic Boldness of Martin Luther by Steven Lawson (hardcover)

$5 Friday ends tonight at 11:59:59 PM Eastern.

The changing face of the homosexuality debate

Sarah Pulliam Bailey:

For years, those who were gay or struggled with homosexuality felt like they had few good options: leave their faith, ignore their sexuality or try to change. But as groups like Exodus have become increasingly unpopular, Rodgers is among those who embrace a different model: celibate gay Christians, who seek to be true to both their sexuality and their faith.

Time for a Spirit Check

Nick Batzig:

It’s interesting that in the account of Luke 9:51-56, James and John have not actually said or done anything to hurt someone. It is what they say to Jesus that reveals what spirit was in them. As the old saying goes, “the matter of the heart is the heart of the matter;” or, as the Proverbs remind us, “Above all things keep the heart, for out of it flows the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).

There are so many applications of this principle that even the world itself is not big enough to contain all the volumes that would have to be written. Here are a few basic categories of application that I believe will help all believers.

Our happy God

David Murray:
What makes God so happy? Three times we are told that our God is “blessed forever” (Rom. 1:25; 9:5; 2 Cor. 11:31). But what makes Him so happy? Well, I’m sure there are many contributing factors. For example, being perfectly holy must be a great source of happiness. The absence of uncertainty, through knowing the end from the beginning, must also engender huge happiness.

But maybe we can also learn about divine happiness from human happiness. In Where does happiness come? Oscar del Ben reflects on this question, and gives four possible answers. I couldn’t help but think of how his “human” answers may give theological insight into some sources of God’s happiness.

A prayer for contentment

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Oh Lord, You are my shepherd and I should not be in want,
but so often I struggle to be content and do want;
forgetting that you have graciously provided me with every spiritual blessing in Christ
and everything I need for life and godliness.

Thank you for often not giving me what I want
because my desires would draw my heart from being satisfied in You.
Help me to be content in You with what You have given me
and to not be focused on what my flesh wants or the world tells me I should have.

Protect me from coveting possessions or people,
talent or influence, relationships or prestige.
Keep my heart from being anxious for what I don’t have
and make me thankful for the numerous gifts that You have already given.

According to Your Word and steadfast love,
fill me with the joy and satisfaction of contentment in Christ.
Help me learn to be content in any situation like Paul
and to quickly reject the idolatry that dwells beneath the surface of my coveting.

I ask you to continually bring to mind your faithful provision for all of my needs,
that Christ died for the sin of coveting,
that in Christ I am free to be content and live righteously,
and that godliness with contentment is greater gain than pleasing my flesh.

And may I be humbled and changed by the ultimate example of contentment;
of Christ becoming poor in order that I could become rich,
and being content to go to the cross to fulfill the Father’s will
to rescue a people for Himself who can be free from discontent and zealous for good works.


Kevin Halloran is a lover of Christ, drinker of coffee, and reader of books who has no real reason to continue being a Chicago Cubs fan (but is anyway). He serves with Leadership Resources International training pastors to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. Follow Kevin on Twitter or visit his blog.

Photo credit: Lel4nd via photopin cc

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Encourage your church to pray

The ERLC has just put together an insert about the continued persecution of Christians around the world. I hope you’ll print this out for your congregation and include with this week’s bulletin.

Two Questions that May Greatly Improve Your Church’s Ministry

Kevin DeYoung:

I’m no management consultant, leadership expert, or church growth guru. But if you love your church and want to see it as effective as possible–for the sake of evangelism, education, exaltation, and whatever other E’s you may have in your mission statement–try asking these two questions. One is from the pastor for his leaders, and the other is from the leaders for his pastor.

Coffee Shops and Productivity

This is a very helpful article discussing just how productive we really are at coffee shops.

The Use and Abuse of Video Church

Richard Phillips:

For all the blessings of this kind of technology, there are some important limitations to video worship of which Christians should be aware and which call for us to make a wise use of this resource. In short, our live webcast is designed for those who are not able to come to church, not as a substitute for those who would otherwise come to church. With this in mind, let me point out some reasons why we should greatly prefer attending church in person, along with some suggestions for our practice.

 Should My Middle Schooler Date?

The short answer is no. But for a more nuanced answer, read this.

Justice Needs a Face

Bethany Jenkins:

I studied law under some of the top legal minds in the world. I learned about foreign affairs and the Constitution from an adviser to the State Department, corporations law from a former SEC commissioner, and criminal investigations from a United States circuit judge.

Throughout my three years in law school, though, there was one word that my professors never uttered and my classmates and I never mentioned. In fact, I don’t think I ever saw it referenced in any of the hundreds of Supreme Court cases that I read. Yet this one word—hospitality—is integral to the biblical idea of justice, order, and flourishing.

Few pretensions and disciplined performance

praying

My life has been blessed by some influential models. I must begin by mentioning my own parents. I remember how, even when we children were quite young, each morning my mother would withdraw from the hurly-burly of life to read her Bible and pray. In the years that I was growing up, my father, a Baptist minister, had his study in our home. Every morning we could hear him praying in that study. My father vocalized when he prayed—loudly enough that we knew he was praying, but not loudly enough that we could hear what he was saying. Every day he prayed, usually for about forty-five minutes. Perhaps there were times when he failed to do so, but I cannot think of one.

My father was a church planter in Québec, in the difficult years when there was strong opposition, some of it brutal.… In the ranks of ecclesiastical hierarchies, my father is not a great man. He has never served a large church, never written a book, never discharged the duties of high denominational office. Doubtless his praying, too, embraces idioms and stylistic idiosyncrasies that should not be copied. But with great gratitude to God, I testify that my parents were not hypocrites. That is the worst possible heritage to leave with children: high spiritual pretensions and low performance. My parents were the opposite: few pretensions, and disciplined performance. What they prayed for were the important things, the things that congregate around the prayers of Scripture. And sometimes when I look at my own children, I wonder if, should the Lord give us another thirty years, they will remember their father as a man of prayer, or think of him as someone distant who was away from home rather a lot and who wrote a number of obscure books. That quiet reflection often helps me to order my days.

D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 25–26.

Today is Father’s Day—although in my case, it’s the culmination of a weekend long celebration of Daddy. It started on Friday as soon as I got home, with cards and drawings, continued on through Saturday with a daddy-daughters date to the movies and a cake, and concluding today with, Lord willing, a nap.

One of the most touching moments of this weekend came from Abigail, with her hand-crafted Father’s Day card. Her message was simple: “I like it when you play with me. I am shure glad you are my Dad. You are true and I love you.”1 It’s her words “you are true” that got me. Whatever else Abigail thinks about me, she evidently doesn’t think of me as someone putting up some sort of pretense. And apparently it’s a good thing.

So many dads like me are flying blind. Either we didn’t have a dad in our lives growing up, or we did, but he doesn’t hold the same values we do today. So we’re kind of making the Christian father thing up as we go along. That’s where stories and examples like Don Carson’s father are so beneficial to us, and show us what we should be striving for: to be known as people of “few pretensions, and disciplined performance.” For our children to know us as men of the Word and of prayer, and who will gladly get down on the floor and play rather than run away to our books. If my children know me for these things, I think I will have accomplished far more than what could come from writing scores of books.

What do we do when “crazy” wins?

word-balloons

Yesterday’s provincial election was cause for celebration for the political left, with the Ontario Liberals winning a majority government in the midst of unbelievable scandals, crushing debt and deficit spending, and skyrocketing unemployment.

And so, here we are. Now the question is, what are those unsatisfied with the decision to do?

The way I see it, we have two choices:

The first is, we can grumble. We can lament what we perceive of as the insanity of the decision and rant about it. Honestly, this is where I was even as I wrote this—I was legitimately shocked (and more than a little annoyed) to see the results. That a scandalized party could achieve such success utterly confounds me.

There’s so much I could say on this, and am tempted to… but in the end, what would I be doing?

Grumbling.

And what good does that do?

None.

It doesn’t help me live joyfully—if anything, it robs me of joy as it encourages bitterness and taints my ability to love those with whom I disagree ideologically and politically (including some members of my local church).

Which brings me to the second choice. Instead of grumbling, I can pray. And truth be told, this is really hard for me, because, well, grumbling is easier (and in the moment, it’s sometimes much more fun). But it’s not what I need, nor what my family needs, nor what our province needs.

So, I can pray remembering that there is no government—even a thoroughly anti-Christian one—established except by the hand of God (Romans 13:1). I can pray for the wisdom of these leaders and welfare of this land, remembering that this pleases God (1 Timothy 2:1-4), and benefits the unbelieving world in which we live as sojourners and exiles (Jeremiah 29:7; 1 Peter 2:11). I can pray remembering that the actions of the government and the people—not simply in an election, but in all of life—are the result of Romans 1 at work, and that God is sovereign over all these things as well.

The secret of the Christian’s power

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The ministry of prayer has been the peculiar distinction of all of God’s saints. This has been the secret of their power. The energy and the soul of their work has been the closet. The need of help outside of man being so great, man’s natural inability to always judge kindly, justly, and truly, and to act the Golden Rule, so prayer is enjoined by Christ to enable man to act in all these things according to the Divine will. By prayer, the ability is secured to feel the law of love, to speak according to the law of love, and to do everything in harmony with the law of love.

God can help us. God is a Father. We need God’s good things to help us to “do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before God.” We need Divine aid to act brotherly, wisely, and nobly, and to judge truly, and charitably. God’s help to do all these things in God’s way is secured by prayer. “Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Edward M. Bounds, The Possibilities of Prayer, 4

One of the books that most deeply affected my faith

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The last little while I’ve been talking a lot about the relationship between books and the Christian faith. A little while ago, I shared five books I believe new Christians should read as well as five four and a half that I shouldn’t have read as a new Christian. Clearly, I believe books and reading are really important to our growth as Christians. (And I think God does too, since He reveals Himself in a book and all…)

So a few days ago, I asked friends and followers on Twitter about what book, outside the Bible, had the most profound impact on their faith. There were some pretty terrific answers—The Pilgrim’s Progress, Valley of Vision, Christianity and Liberalism… Even a couple of newer books like Note to Self got a mention!

I’ve been thinking about this question since I asked it—partly because it’s one of those questions that you don’t really think about until you have a reason to. What, of the tens, hundreds, or thousands of books you’ve read in your lifetime, are the ones that made the biggest impact. Of all the books I’ve had the opportunity to read, only one really jumps out at me as being a true game-changer.

What’s interesting is it’s not a book about a theological concept or anything like that. It’s a book about a person, Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor by D.A. Carson. I read this book shortly after it was released (though I don’t recall why I wanted to read it in the first place!). It’s the story of Tom Carson, a pastor and church planter whose mission field was la belle province—Quebec. He wrote no books. He received few accolades. He was just an “ordinary” pastor, with the same insecurities and doubts about his own ministry that so many of us have.

But the image that still sticks in my head is his deep dependence upon the Lord:

I went looking for Dad after the morning service to entice him to come and play the piano while the rest of us sang or played instruments. He was not where he usually was. I found him in his study, the door not quite closed. He was on his knees in front of his big chair, tears streaming down his face, as he interceded with God for the handful of people to whom he had just preached. I remember some of their names to this day. (Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor, 80)

You get this sense that when Carson prayed, he prayed as though the Lord really is sovereign—that He must intervene for the lives of Carson’s hearers to be transformed. Because He must. That’s something that keeps coming back to me, again and again, particularly as one who often struggles in my own prayer life, feeble and half-hearted as it sometimes is. God is bigger than my weaknesses, but He is pleased to use me in my weakness.

Your turn: what’s a book that most profoundly impacted your faith?


photo credit: gioiadeantoniis via photopin cc

When the h-word slipped

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My wife let the h-word slip in conversation with Abigail a few days ago.

No, not “hell”—homeschooling. Which in our family, is far more scary.

Not too long ago, I asked if you’d mind praying for our family as we make some decisions about our children’s education going forward. We had always intended on having our kids in the public education system, but over the last couple years, our feelings on that have changed. Not because of any particular conviction that we must do this lest we disobey the Lord—we just want our kids to get the best education possible, and our schools aren’t doing that.

With teachers that hold Abigail back (“We don’t want her to get too far ahead in her reading,” her senior kindergarten teacher told me) or hypnotize them with TV during lunch (yeah, that’s been happening at a LOT), the impression that we’ve gotten has been they’re more concerned with doing what’s easy than what’s best. (And yes, I know not all teachers are this way, there are problems with the system, etc.…)

We’d always said we’d evaluate every year and every semester to determine the next step. Up until recently, we’d had concerns, but not anything that would have made us say “when.” Until we did. So over the last few weeks, we’ve been talking to friends, doing research, even having practice homeschool days when Abigail’s been home sick.

Through it all, Emily’s been approaching it from the “if we do this” perspective, something I appreciate. She’s been trying to be careful to not make a rash decision, or do something as a knee-jerk reaction to issues that have come up.

And then she let the h-word slip. And once that Genie’s out of the bottle, it’s really hard to put it back in.

Thankfully, our kids have been gradually getting comfortable with the idea. Abigail’s the only one with traditional school experience, but she’s been increasingly looking forward to the change. And honestly, so are we—if we 100 per cent decide to go forward, that is. But there’s a lot of work to do, yet. We have to find the right curriculum for the kids, find out if we’ve been accepted into the homeschool co-op… and then, figure out how to tell our parents.

That’s probably going to be the hardest part. My family tends to poke fun at the notion of homeschooling (which is funny since we didn’t know anyone who was homeschooled growing up). My in-laws place a very high value on education, but we’re not sure how they’ll react. Lord willing, everyone is going to be accepting of the direction we’re going (or at least polite enough to keep their disapproval to themselves). But if you’d mind continuing to pray with us about this, I’d sure appreciate it.


photo credit: Mohammed Alnaser via photopin cc