Friday, March 30, 2007

Are Thinking and Prayer Opposed to Each Other?

Here's the scenario:

You're sitting in your small group or a Bible study and you've come to a difficult verse or passage. One person says they've studied the passage using commentaries, lexicons, and the like and have thought a lot about (comparing Scripture with Scripture). They then offer their understanding of the verse or passage. After that, someone else says, "Well, I prayed about it and I think this is what it means. I didn't need to read all those books."

What you've come to in your group is an unnecessary collision between thinking/reasoning/rationality and prayer/faith. One side we have those who seem to believe that the truth of Scripture can be mined without prayer (or at least very much of it). On the other side we have those who operate under the assumption that thinking and reasoning aren't even needed to understand God's Word. In the evangelical church today, the second group is by far the largest. For many, the study of Scripture comes down to asking the Lord to "whisper the answer in your ear," so to speak. Study, therefore, and the use of your mind, has very little place in our Christian life and may even be dangerous. (I'm confident that I'm not overstating the last statement because I've heard it personally a number of times.)

This kind of dichotomy is wrong! Thinking and prayer are not enemies to us as Christians. We can find proof of that in the Scriptures themselves. "Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." The apostle Paul made that statement to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7. Paul is telling his young mentee Timothy to consider (or as the ESV puts it, "think over") what he says and writes, for (or "because") the Lord would give him understanding and insight in everything. Notice that both thinking and prayer are emphasized by Paul - not one or the other!

Should we think - and think hard - about what we find in the Bible? Of course we do! Especially whne we come to hard passages. Should we pray and ask God to give us understanding in everything? Of course we should!

Are thinking and prayer opposed to each other? No, not according to the Bible!

How about this: study the Word of God with all the faculties of your mind while on your knees - hard and good thinking that is soaked in prayer.

You think about that (to use a phrase from Steve Brown).

Monday, March 26, 2007

How to be Humble

C.J. Mahaney gives seven daily practices that will develop our humility:

1. Starting every day by acknowledging your complete dependence upon God.

2. Express gratefulness to God throughout the day.

3. Begin your day practicing the disciplines of prayer, study, and worship.

4. Use your commute as a means for meditation and memorization of God's Word.

5. Cast your cares and anxieties upon Him continually throughout the day.

6. Transfer all glory to God at the end of every day.

7. Receive and acknowledge the purpose of sleep.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Schaeffer's Influence

John Fischer writes on the influence Francis Schaeffer has had on him (not to mention a generation of evangelicals). It's worth a read.

Scaheffer's The God Who Is There and He Is There And He Is Not Silent were two of the first Christian books I read after God saved me (at almost 19 years old).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St. Patrick's Day and Basketball

Have a great St. Patrick's Day! Raise a pint, but don't get carried away!

I'll be watching Washington State University play basketball today (Go Cougs!) and am still bummed that Gonzaga lost. One of my favorite times of the year, in terms of sports, is the first two weekends of March Madness.


Introducing the Interperometer!

This device gives us the "real meaning" of a word or a phrase (sarcasm mode is on here). The Apostle John used an earlier version of the Interperometer when he would ention something in his Gospel and then say, "which interpreted means..."

In light of that, here goes!

"Community" as in "I'm looking for a community in which to live out my faith in Christ," or "Community is very important to me."

According to the Interperometer, "community" means "I want to be around people who are just like me - my age, my socioeconomic background, my family status (or lack thereof), and agree with me on just about everything."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Operation World

I've added Operation World to the list of links on the right side of the blog.

I first encountered a great big book called Operation World in a class on missions in seminary. Fantastic! Absolutely fantastic! I can't recommend it highly enough. It gives fact, figures, and statistics on every country in the world. What makes it so helpful for us as Christians is that it also contains a lot of information about the religious condition of the people in that country. Incredible information all in one place.

Operation World's website features on country every day, complete with prayer requests. Check it out - you'll be glad you did.

St. Patrick

Who was St. Patrick? William Federer gives a quick biography. Be informed when you have a pint, eat corned beef, or wear green on Saturday!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Next Big Thing

Angie Ward writes about why pastors seem to flock after every new thing that comes down the pike. The latest is Simple Church.

I've got some ideas about why that happens.

~ Rightly or wrongly, pastors are often judged by the "success" of their ministry (which being interpreted, means numbers and size). If the church is large, then they must be "successful" is the way the thinking goes. If we think this book or that conference will help us be "successful," then we're tempted to go for it.

~ We want to be "up to date" and "with it," just like most everyone else. In junior high and high school, we had to have the latest styles and fashions. In ministry, it doesn't seem to be any different.

~ Quick fixes look really good sometimes. If we can read a book or go to a conference, and then come back to our church and implement what we've just learned, we just know we'd see change right away and the kingdom of God would advance greatly! At least, that's what we think.

~ The evangelical church, as a whole, is very shallow. Pastors are not immune to it (and may be one of the biggest causes of it). We run from fad to fad - the latest, greatest, next big thing - like there's no tomorrow. Instead, we should do the hard work of deepening ourselves and our congregations spiritually (primarily through God's ordained means, the Word of God and the sacraments).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The "Forgotten" Testament?

The Old Testament has always been somewhat of a bugaboo for preachers. How should we preach it? What should we preach? How much time should we give to it? I love the Old Testament (remember, it is part of God's inspired and authoritative Word!). It's always been my contention that congregations need a balanced diet of both testaments. How it breaks down (50-50, 60-40, 75-25) I'm not really sure.

Ray Pritchard has some thoughts and a question here on why preachers don't do much with the Old Testament.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

That's It - In A Nutshell

John Newton, a slave trader who was converted to faith in Jesus Christ, made this statement: "I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior."

Folks, that's the gospel in a nutshell! I am a great sinner. My sin has separated and alienated me from God. I rightly deserve His wrath, judgment, and condemnation. Because of my sin and sinfulness I've earned Hell, but because of His grace and mercy, God offers me Heaven. He offers me reconciliation with Him, adoption into His family, new and eternal life, forgiveness of my sin, the gift of His Holy Spirit, and to be declared righteous in His sight. He does all of this because of Jesus Christ, who is a great Savior. Jesus lived, died, and rose again in our place. through faith in Him we can experience all of the benefits God offers us. That's good news! That's the best news ever proclaimed or heard!

The writer of the hymn Amazing Grace obviously understood the gospel. Would that we all had such a good grasp.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Why Should We Care About Wilberforce?

Russ Pulliam, of World, asked Eric Metaxas, author of Amazing Grace (an biography of William Wilberforce), why Americans should care about Wilberforce?

Here's what Metaxas said: "He is one of the greatest Christian heroes of all time. He dedicated himself to doing what was ultimately unthinkable in his day, abolishing the slave trade in the British Empire. He also knew how to be thoroughly in the world while being utterly not of the world. He could serve as a new model of what it is to be devoutly Christian while powerfully and effectively engaging the culture around us."

Fantastic answer! I haven't seen the movie Amazing Grace, but hope to fairly soon.