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About three and a half years ago, I posted the following sample prayer plan to serve as a guide for those who were looking to add some structure to their times of personal worship. Over the past few weeks, a number of people have happened to mention that this was helpful to them. I’ve also had occasion recently to refer to it in some pastoral counseling contexts. With it on my mind, I figured I’d re-post it for those who missed it the first time. As always, I pray it’s a benefit to you.

In his classic, Desiring God, John Piper diagnoses that a main hindrance to prayer is our lack of planning. He tells us,

Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to. If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!” You won’t have anything ready. You won’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned.

But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure.

And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don’t plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer, you must plan to see it.

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storm trooper grievingIf you were to line up all 15 billion or so people who have ever lived in order of most godly to most vile, whereabouts would you place Jonathan Edwards? I’m not asking for exactitude, just a rough estimate, rounded off to the nearest billion.

Factors you might want to consider include: Edwards (1703-58) repented and embraced the grace of Christ as a young man, worked as a faithful and exemplary pastor for decades, preached arguably the most influential English sermon ever (one credited with starting the Great Awakening), raised a dozen godly children, was a devoted husband, wrote countless helpful theological works, volunteered to be a frontier missionary to a tribe of Native Americans, and all the while recognized his utter dependence on God and modeled humility and purity.

My guess as to where Edwards features in the godliness line-up would be somewhere in the top—I don’t know— two billion, to be safe? I’m certain we would all agree that he should be at least in the upper half of the virtue queue. (The list includes all the Amalakites, Nazis, serial killers, bohemian hippies, and all the lukewarm Christians in history).

The reason I ask is because I was quite taken aback when I read where Edwards ranked himself…

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I can picture it already.

It’s July 2038. The world’s greatest sporting event is upon us. It’s the World Cup final. Italy and Brazil are playing to win the cup. The two best teams are locked in a dead end tie.

spiderman

With thirty seconds left Brazil has the ball, and with the referee eyeing his watch they desperately make one final attempt to break the tie and avoid penalty kicks. After a great play the Brazilian striker receives the ball and takes an incredible shot from outside the box. He’s scored several goals already during the tournament. This shot is just as good as the rest and it is sailing in the top right corner. But just as he lifts his hands in celebration Italian Goalkeeper Matteo Standridge, with a Spiderman-like dive, grabs the ball and doesn’t just punch it away but miraculously catches it and holds on. With only seconds left he quickly punts the ball to his teammate, Nico Standridge whose quickness with the ball allows him to dribble several Brazilian players down the right side of the field; all of a sudden he lets off an incredibly precise cross right to the middle of the goal area. In the goalie box, Italian striker Davide Standridge rises above the three defenders around him and heads the ball in for the win. Continue Reading…

One of the key passages that comes up when talking about apologetics is 1 Peter 3:15-16.  Every apologist out there cites it at some point, and everyone has a pretty similar take on it (seeing that many use the text to justify their very existence).  It’s apparently a divine command for every Christian to be continuously ready to let rip when someone challenges some aspect of Christian belief.  Seeing that most Christians aren’t prepared to defend the Christian faith against the wide variety of attacks that come against it, the apologists are the big guns that are necessary to help defend the faith (and train others to do so).

Tank

Now I don’t doubt or question the value of apologists, but rather I do question the generally accepted interpretation of 1 Peter 3:15-16.  Most apologists are decent enough theologians, but almost none of them are properly trained biblical exegetes.  In other words, I can only think of a handful who know their biblical languages and have seminary training that’s relevant to exegesis.  That’s not to condemn them but rather to recognize that there is an area of apologetic thinking that I can help with.  I’m not a trained philosopher, historian or theologian (well, that last one is partially untrue) but I am a trained exegete and I’d like to walk through 1 Peter 2:13-3:16 an offer a little exegetical insight into a commonly cited text. Continue Reading…

February 26, 2015

Worry & Happiness

by Wyatt Graham

It’s pretty easy to worry when choices confront us. Worry can cripple, wound, or otherwise prevent us from experiencing the joy of our salvation. And sometimes there are no clear answers in the murky world in which we all live.

In 1931, Montagu Norman, the head of the Bank of England, had to decide how to save the economy: would he drop the gold standard and adopt bill economy or keep the gold standard and risk running out of it? Both options were possible, but the stress got to him and Montagu had a nervous breakdown. While vacation, his office made the decision and killed the gold standard. While none of us will have the same responsibility, we can easily fall into the sways of anxiety and depression due to stress, to the crippling effect choices have on us.   Continue Reading…

At the name of Jesus every knee will bow, . . . and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
– Philippians 2:10–11 –

Name Above All NamesThe wonderful hymn of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation reaches its climax in these verses. Paul has said that the Father exalted Jesus and bestowed on Him the name. He’s said it was the name which is above every name. And here he says that at that name—which is better rendered: in honor of that name—every knee is going to bow.

So what’s the name? Jesus has a lot of names. Is it: Son of Man? Son of God? The Alpha and Omega? The First and the Last? The Faithful and True? The Beloved Son in whom the Father is well-pleased? Is it Christ? The Messiah? Is it the long-awaited prophet? Is it our Great High Priest? Is it the King of kings?

Finally, the almost unbearable suspense is broken, and the Apostle Paul tells us that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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integrity or ethics conceptIn 2 Corinthians 1, Paul is defending himself against the accusations of the false apostles, who were taking every possible opportunity to bring reproach upon Paul and his ministry in the eyes of the Corinthians. In what was actually a desire to be loving and considerate toward the Corinthians (cf. 2 Cor 1:23–2:4), Paul made a change in his travel plans in regards to his visits to Corinth. And like unscrupulous politicians running a smear campaign against their opponent, the false apostles seized upon this change of plans and blew it entirely out of proportion.

“The man talks out of both sides of his mouth! He’s undependable! Untrustworthy! He’s a fleshly man who goes back on his word because he’s guided by no higher principle than his own fallen nature! He doesn’t depend on the Spirit’s guidance, otherwise how do you explain the fickleness? And if you can’t trust him to get travel plans right, how are you going to trust his apostleship? How are you going to trust his gospel?”

Paul responds to these charges in 2 Corinthians 1:15–22. But as you read that passage, it doesn’t quite sound like a conventional defense of changing itinerary. Before he defends his conduct, Paul defends his integrity. And he does so by appealing to his theology. The reality of who God is, and what He has accomplished in Christ and in the Gospel, is the basis for all of his behavior. Paul’s conduct is rooted in his message. And for those of us who would claim to be ministers of that same Gospel (which is all of us!), the same must be true of us. I hope we’ll be instructed as we look into three of those arguments that appear in 2 Corinthians 1:18–20.

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January 29, 2015

Killing the King

by Jesse Johnson

crownGod made people for the purpose of delighting in his glory. We delight in his glory by rejoicing in his character, and believing by faith his promises. The nature of this faith results in both a hatred of sin, as well as an eager joy at learning more and more about God.

But because of sin, faith doesn’t come naturally. In fact, people rebel against God, and often reject him along with his promises. When that happens, sinful people are not content with a vacuum—instead they seek to replace the joy that can be found only in God with a quest for joy somewhere else.  Continue Reading…

I’m just finishing preaching the first half of 1 Samuel (1-15), and I’ve been struck by this paradoxical truth: often it is God’s greatest gifts that become our greatest trials.

Why does this happen? There are a number of reasons, but perhaps one of the most common is that people are quick to confuse the means with the end.

God is a giver because he is a lover. He gives gifts because he loves the people to whom he gives them. The gifts are the means of expressing his love to his creation, but they are not the end. The appropriate response to a gift is to thank the giver, and when this thanks is rightly directed to God, it becomes worship. In other words, God gives gifts as the means to the end of worship.   Continue Reading…

Voltaire on free speechMy American friends who were born into a bastion of free speech sometimes take their First Amendment privilege for granted. But I was raised in South Africa under the Apartheid regime. We were taught brainwashed that freedom of speech was a destabilizing ideology held by Liberals, Communists (ironic!), and terrorists (more ironic in the shadow of the attacks on a French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo). Banned books, censorship, and a regulated media were commonplace and seemed normal and necessary in order to provide order in our society.

“Yikes,” you say, “Orwell much?” But this was all we knew. We lived in the nescient pre-Internet world where information came from regulated news stations and government libraries.

Thankfully, under our new and improved constitution (est. 1996) freedom of expression and a free press are rights that have been granted and protected in perpetuity. But this newfound freedom ushered in a fresh set of ethical conundrums.

Should I, as a Christian, be politically in favor of the right Muslims have to denounce my faith? Am I to joyfully accept that public schools present teaching on various world religions to my children? May I justifiably be upset when a satirical cartoonist or movie maker ridicules Jesus?

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