Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "A Simple Way to Pray" Part 3 (Martin Luther)

Last week, we started on Martin Luther's teaching on prayer, based on his letter to his good friend and barber, Peter Beskendorf. We will continue with a series of meditations on the Lord's Prayer on the second petition.


The Second Petition - "Thy kingdom come." 

Say: "O dear Lord, God and Father, thou seest how worldly wisdom and reason not only profane thy name and ascribe the honor due to thee to lies and to the devil, but how they also take the power, might, wealth and glory which thou hast given them on earth for ruling the world and thus serving thee, and use it in their own ambition to oppose thy kingdom. 

They are many and mighty; they plague and hinder the tiny flock of thy kingdom who are weak, despised, and few. They will not tolerate thy flock on earth and think that by plaguing them they render a great and godly service to thee. 

Dear Lord, God and Father, convert them and defend us. Convert those who are still to become children and members of thy kingdom so that they with us and we with them may serve thee in thy kingdom in true faith and unfeigned love and that from thy kingdom which has begun, we may enter into thy eternal kingdom. 

Defend us against those who will not turn away their might and power from the destruction of thy kingdom so that when they are east down from their thrones and humbled, they will have to cease from their efforts. Amen."

Monday, November 28, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Heart of Revelation" (J. Scott Duvall)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 13th, 2016.


TITLE: The Heart of Revelation: Understanding the 10 Essential Themes of the Bible's Final Book
AUTHOR: J. Scott Duvall
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016, (224 pages).

The book of Revelation is the last book of the New Testament. Filled with metaphors, images, and symbols, it is also one of the most challenging books of the Bible to interpret. What is Revelation all about? Why is it in the Bible? Who are the original audiences? What are the circumstances surrounding its writing? These questions continue to be asked through the centuries, even today. In fact, interest in this last book of the Bible remains very high. Many scholars and theologians have written on it. Many pastors and preachers have preached it over the pulpit. Many teachers have debated and shared the various perspectives for eager students. Still, the fascination remains.
  • What are the seals of the scrolls?
  • How do we understand the 144000 saved?
  • The horses, the wars, and the dragons, what do they all mean?
Author and professor, J. Scott Duvall is Professor of New Testament at Ouachita Baptist University. He shows us that there are three ways to reading Revelation. The first way is to read it once and then leave Revelation alone. The second way is to be obsessed by it to the point that one becomes paranoid about all things last days. He recommends the third way, which is to read in context, the understand the themes, and to practice the present with care to avoid the extremes of the two earlier ways. He points out ten themes to understand Revelation.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "A Simple Way to Pray" Part 2 (Martin Luther)

Last week, we started on Martin Luther's teaching on prayer, based on his letter to his good friend and barber, Peter Beskendorf. We will continue with a series of meditations on the Lord's Prayer on the first petition.


The First Petition:
O Heavenly Father, dear God, I am a poor unworthy sinner. I do not deserve to raise my eyes or hands toward thee or to pray. But because thou hast commanded us all to pray and hast promised to hear us and through thy dear Son Jesus Christ hast taught us both how and what to pray, I come to thee in obedience to thy word, trusting in thy gracious promise. I pray in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ together with all thy saints and Christians on earth as he has taught us: Our Father who art, etc., through the whole prayer, word for word.  
Then repeat one part or as much as you wish, perhaps the first petition: "Hallowed be thy name," and say: "Yes, Lord God, dear Father, hallowed be thy name, both in us and throughout the whole world. Destroy and root out the abominations, idolatry, and heresy of the Turk, the pope, and all false teachers and fanatics who wrongly use thy name and in scandalous ways take it in vain and horribly blaspheme it. They insistently boast that they teach thy word and the laws of the church, though they really use the devil's deceit and trickery in thy name to wretchedly seduce many poor souls throughout the world, even killing and shedding much innocent blood, and in such persecution they believe that they render thee a divine service.

Dear Lord God, convert and restrain. Convert those who are still to be converted that they with us and we with them may hallow and praise thy name, both with true and pure doctrine and with a good and holy life. Restrain those who are unwilling to be converted so that they be forced to cease from misusing, defiling, and dishonoring thy holy name and from misleading the poor people. Amen."

Monday, November 21, 2016

BookPastor >> "Rare Leadership" (Marcus Warner and E. James Wilder)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 5th, 2016.


TITLE: Rare Leadership: 4 Uncommon Habits For Increasing Trust, Joy, and Engagement in the People You Lead
AUTHOR: Marcus Warner and E. James Wilder
PUBLISHER: Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2016, (240 pages).

Another book on leadership? How rare is "rare?" Is there some new thing that we do not know? These questions may be on the minds of some readers who find the words, "leadership" more and more jaded these days. It has been said that most 'new' ideas are not really new, just a new rehash of some old idea. While the idea is not new, the book reminds us of the important traits of leadership. Yet, it is important enough to merit a reminder because of three reasons. Leadership is lacking in many areas; Leadership is always needed in all areas. Leadership is also constantly renewed. What may have piqued some readers is the use of the word 'rare.' The word "RARE" here is used more as an acronym rather than an adjective. It is the conviction of the authors that four "uncommon habits" are related to emotional intelligence, which in turn will draw out the best in people through a "dramatic increase in trust, joy, and engagement."
  • R - Return to Joy (gladness of togetherness)
  • A - Act like yourself (identity)
  • R - Remain Relational (belonging)
  • E - Endure Hardship (let hard times unite the people)

Friday, November 18, 2016

An Old Classic: "This Guy's In Love" (Herb Alpert)

This is an old classic. Still so pleasurable listening after all these years.

Other links here and here.


You see this guy, this guy's in love with you
Yes I'm in love who looks at you the way I do
When you smile I can tell we know each other very

How can I show you I'm glad I got to know you 'cause
I've heard some talk they say you think I'm fine
This guy's in love and what I'd do to make you mine
Tell me now is it so don't let me be the last to

My hands are shakin' don't let my heart keep
Breaking 'cause
I need your love, I want your love
Say you're in love, and you'll be my girl, if not
I'll just die

Tell me now is it so don't let me be the last to
My hands are shakin' don't let my heart keep
Breaking 'cause
I need your love, I want your love
Say you're in love, and you'll be my girl, if not
I'll just die


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "A Simple Way to Pray" Part 1 (Martin Luther)

One of Martin Luther's most memorable writings was his letter to his barber and good friend, Peter Beskendorf who asked him this question: "How do I pray?" So in Spring of 1535, he wrote this classic entitled, "A Simple Way to Pray." I will share excerpts from it for the next few weeks.


I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray. May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen.

First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. Guard yourself carefully against those false, deluding ideas which tell you, "Wait a little while. I will pray in an hour; first I must attend to this or that." Such thoughts get you away from prayer into other affairs which so hold your attention and involve you that nothing comes of prayer for that day. 

It may well be that you may have some tasks which are as good or better than prayer, especially in an emergency. There is a saying ascribed to St. Jerome that everything a believer does is prayer and a proverb, "He who works faithfully prays twice." This can be said because a believer fears and honors God in his work and remembers the commandment not to wrong anyone, or to try to steal, defraud, or cheat. Such thoughts and such faith undoubtedly transform his work into prayer and a sacrifice of praise. 
On the other hand it is also true that the work of an unbeliever is outright cursing and so he who works faithlessly curses twice. While he does his work his thoughts are occupied with a neglect of God and violation of his law, how to take advantage of his neighbor, how to steal from him and defraud him. What else can such thoughts be but out and out curses against God and man, which makes one's work and effort a double curse by which a man curses himself. In the end they are beggars and bunglers. It is of such continual prayer that Christ says in Luke 11, "Pray without ceasing," because one must unceasingly guard against sin and wrong-doing, something one cannot do unless one fears God and keeps his commandment in mind, as Psalm 1 says, "Blessed is he who meditates upon his law day and night." 
Yet we must be careful not to break the habit of true prayer and imagine other works to be necessary which, after all, are nothing of the kind. Thus at the end we become lax and lazy, cool and list-less toward prayer. The devil who besets us is not lazy or careless, and our flesh is too ready and eager to sin and is disinclined to the spirit of prayer.

Monday, November 14, 2016

BookPastor >> "The Listening Life" (Adam S. McHugh)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 8th, 2016.


TITLE: The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction
AUTHOR: Adam S. McHugh
PUBLISHER: Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2016, (224 pages).

Attentiveness is a much needed quality these days. In a culture where distracted driving is occurring more often than drunk driving, people tend to be talking more and listening less. Welcome to an age of distraction and self-seeking endeavors. According to Adam McHugh, "listening comes first" even before we were born. McHugh, an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church USA is also spiritual director, speaker, and retreat leader. His first book, "Introverts in the Church" talks about the plight of introverts trying to find their place in churches that tend to appeal more to extroverts. This second book of his attempts to contrast the need for listening in a highly talkative world. Why listen? That is because listening is the foundational discipline for what it means to be human. It is the first step of discipleship. It helps us avoid grabbing too much sound space from others. It prepares us with a disposition to receive instructions from God rather than to tell God what God already knew. For preachers, listening comes before preaching. In this very perceptive book, McHugh provides some challenging questions:
  • If we learn to listen first, how will that impact our relationships?
  • If we discipline ourselves to listen to God first, how will our relationship with God become?
  • What if our default position in anything is listening?
  • What will happen if we learn to listen first with our ears rather than to move our lips?
  • What about listening to our inner selves?

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "Prophetic Prayer" (Mark Batterson)

In our fifth part of the Circle Maker prayer series, we arrive at prophetic praying.

"In 1960, an evangelist named R.W.Shamback preached a revival in Washington, DC for church planters Fred and Charlotte Hall. Without them even knowing, Shambach laid hands on the Academy Theatre and prayed that God would give it to them. That prayer was answered in 1962 when the People's Church purchased that old theater and turned it into a place of worship. They faithfully served God and the community there for forty-nine years.

Shambach also prayed what I believe was a prophetic prayer over that theater. As he laid hands on that building, he bound it for God's glory: 'May this place always be used for God's glory.'

That prophetic prayer resurfaced one day over lunch. Michael said he knew that prayer was the reason that the nightclub deal fell through. He also knew that we were the fulfillment of that prayer. I knew it too.

It's hard to describe the feeling when you know that a fifty-year-old prayer is being answered and you're right in the middle of the miracle. Shambach's prayer was a binding prayer that sealed the theater for God's glory forever. Like a time-capsule, it was opened and answered fifty years later.

Every prayer is a time capsule. You never know when or where or how God is going to answer it, but He will answer it. There is no expiration date, and there are no exceptions. God answers prayer. Period. We don't always see it or understand it, but God always answers."

(Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, Zondervan, 2011, p202)

Monday, November 07, 2016

BookPastor >> "Core Christianity" (Michael Horton)

This review was first published at Panorama of a Book Saint on April 2nd, 2016.


TITLE: Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God's Story
AUTHOR: Michael Horton
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2016, (192 pages).

The story that we believe will determine our responses to events in life. This is the core message of the book. Also known as worldview, author and professor Michael Horton puts it simply as the story we believe in our hearts. For Christians, Horton believes that the story is the Christian story. We understand it by proper doctrine; by living in Jesus; by having reason informed by faith; and the fundamental Christian living determined by the 4Ds.
  1. Drama: The biblical narrative
  2. Doctrine: What the drama means
  3. Doxology: Praising God with grateful hearts
  4. Discipleship: Fruit of love and good works
Michael Horton is J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California. He has also authored several theology textbooks, one of which is Pilgrim Theology. Comparatively speaking, this book is a distilled version for lay readers. It is written with the ordinary church goer in mind. Selecting ten core doctrines, Horton writes in a more direct, conversational, and popular style. Where there is a need to describe in theological terms, the author makes it a point to separately define and explain it, which is useful for those of us unfamiliar with the more demanding words used in theology. The ten doctrines are:
  1. The Deity of Jesus
  2. The Trinity
  3. God
  4. Sin
  5. Old Testament Promise
  6. Salvation
  7. The Gospel
  8. Jesus Christ
  9. The End Times
  10. Witnessing for God

Friday, November 04, 2016

Video: "What's Your Worldview?"

This is an interesting video clip that asks: "What's Your Worldview?"


If you are unsure of your worldview, why not take a quiz here?

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Midweek Meditation: "The Third Circle-Think Long" (Mark Batterson)

We move to the third circle of Batterson's exhortation: Think Long. We live in a world of technology that boasts of speed, efficiency, and quick results. This is one reason why praying is particularly challenging in this day and age. Like planting a tree, we need to remember that faith and spirituality is not a sprint but a marathon. Praying is planting seeds of faith.

"Even when we die, our prayers don't. Each prayer takes on a life, an eternal life, of its own. I know this because of the moments in my life when the Holy Spirit has reminded me that the prayers of my grandparents are being answered in my life right now. Their prayers outlive them.

Prayer is the inheritance we receive and the legacy we leave. Honi the circle maker didn't just pray the prayer that saved a feneration; his perennial prayers were answered in the next generation too. His grandson, Abba Hilkiah, inherited the prayer legacy his grandfather left. During droughts, Israel came to his doorstep, and Hilkiah would go up to his rooftop to pray for rain, just as his grandfather had done.

When we pray, our prayers exit our own reality of space and time. They have no time or space restrictions because the God who answers them exist outside of the space and time He created. You never know when His timeless answer will reenter the atmosphere of our lives, and that should fill us with holy anticipation. Never underestimate His ability to show up anytime, anyplace, anyhow. He has infinite answers to our finite prayers. He answers them more than once. He answers them forever. The problem, of course, is that we want immediate results. Forever is fine, but we want answers instantly.


On the Swedish island Visingsö, there is a mysterious forest of oak trees; mysterious because oak trees aren’t indigenous to the island, and its origin was unknown for more than a century. Then in 1980, the Swedish Navy received a letter from the Forestry Department reporting that their requested ship lumber was ready. The Navy didn’t even know it had ordered any lumber. After a little historical research, it was discovered that in 1829, the Swedish Parliament, recognizing that it takes oak trees 150 years to mature and anticipating a shortage of lumber at the turn of the twenty-first century, ordered that 20,000 oak trees be planted on Visingsö and protected for the Navy.

That is thinking long.

For the record, the lone objector was the Bishop of Strängnäs. He didn’t doubt that there would still be wars to fight at the end of the twentieth century, but he was the only one who anticipated that ships might be built of other materials by then."

(Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker, Zondervan, 2011, p134-5)

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