March 2008


One of the most helpful ways that God keeps me from being distracted in my prayer life is by simply praying to Him aloud.  I find it to be more intimate.  I find it to be more real.  I find it to be more personal, in the sense that I’m really communicating with the God who loves me and calls me his child.

David Powlison says,

I’ve known many people whose relationship with God was significantly transformed as they started to speak up with their Father. Previously, “prayer” fizzled out in the internal buzz of self-talk and distractions, worries and responsibilities. Previously, what they thought of as prayer involved certain religious feelings, or a set of seemingly spiritual thoughts, or a vague sense of comfort, awe, and dependency on a higher power. Prayer meandered, and was virtually indistinguishable from thoughts, sometimes indistinguishable from anxieties and obsessions. But as they began to talk aloud to the God who is there, who is not silent, who listens, and who acts, they began to deal with him person-to-person.

So, while our Christian subculture continues to encourage us to have a “quiet time,” maybe we shouldn’t be so quiet.  If you’re struggling with your prayer life like me, make one simple change–pray aloud to your God who is real and right there with you. 

  • Read Powlison’s entire article, “Should We Really Call it a Quiet Time?”

I think all of us want God to revive our churches.  But instead of crying out to him, “O Lord, revive thy work,” we’re prone to grumble instead.  We’re prone to grumble about different parts of the church.  We’re prone to grumble about different people in the church.  We find ourselves saying, “If only we had a different worship style … if only we had a different structure, if only we had another minister.”  We want whatever is fresh, whatever is working elsewhere, whatever sounds culturally relevant, as long as it’s new and different.

This longing for “the new” is an old problem.  Charles Spurgeon once said,

You do not want fresh ways or fresh machinery; you want the life in what you have.  There is an engine on a railway; a train has to be moved.  “Bring another engine,” says one, “and another, and another.”  The engines are brought, but the train does not move at all.  Light the fire, and get the steam up, that is what you want; not fresh engines.

We do not want fresh ministers, or fresh plans, or fresh ways, though many might be invented, to make the church better; we only want life in what we have got.  Do not be crying out for something new; it will no more succeed, of itself, than what you have.  Cry, “O Lord, revive thy work!”

These words by Spurgeon remind me of my personal need of revival before I concern myself with the church’s need for it.  And they also remind me that instead of crying out for something new, I need to cry out to God to light the old engines within me and within my church.  The old engines of Bible reading, praying, fellowship, and evangelism.  O Lord revive us and revive thy work in our churches.

images73.jpgYes indeed … it’s time again (a bit early this week, I know) for The Weekly Thingy–the place where I make note of the different things that caught my attention during the week.  Feel free to peruse the list and make any comments you wish.  Oh, and just because I link to it, doesn’t mean I always endorse it.  So get a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and enjoy the Weekly Thingy before the weekend begins.

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Read Jonathan’s post how Horton Helps us Hear Jesus

Read about the upcoming ESV Study Bible I plan on getting

Read Mark’s encouraging thoughts on Leading Like the King of Kings

Read about Hannah Montana’s claim that she “does everything for Jesus”

Check out some helpful Sunday School Lesson Planning tips

Check out this site that seems quite interesting called Coffee Cup Apologetics

Read this intriguing post, “Are you a misfit in the church?  What is wrong with you?”

Read this article, “The Importance of Adoption within the Story of Redemption”

Since spring has officially arrived, I was reminded of something I wrote last year:

Yesterday it was so nice outside that I went outside to play with my girls.  After running around with them for awhile and watching them ride on their bikes and trikes, I saw something that caught my attention.  One of the small trees in our front yard was beginning to grow little buds on its branches.  I called over to my oldest girl Emie and hoisted her up so she could see what had caught my eye.  I told her that it was almost spring because the branches were beginning to grow little buds that would soon grow into leaves.  Emie looked at the little buds and touched one.  I explained to her that these little buds grew as the sun shone down and the rain came down and the roots soaked up the water and then spread it all the way up to the highest branches.  I told her that God is the one who causes all this to happen. 

Then, all of a sudden, she decided to grab one of the buds in her hand and then throw it down on the ground.  She told me, “Daddy, now the bud is on the ground so it can grow better.”  I said to her, “Emie, now that bud won’t grow.  Do you know why?”  She looked at me with confusion on her face and I said, “It won’t grow because it’s not connected to the tree.  The only way these buds will grow is if they stay connected to the tree because that’s where they can live and grow.  On their own, they will die.”

(Read the rest here …

8027bookbig1.gifHave you ever wondered why some ideas survive while others die?  Have you ever thought about why some ideas seem to stick while others slip away?  Recently, I’ve been reading the book, Made to Stick, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.  In it the authors teach six key qualities of an idea that is made to stick.  I’ve found them to be very helpful as a teacher and communicator.  Interestingly enough, many of these principles can be traced back to the Master Teacher Himself as Jesus was able to communicate simply and concretely using stories and illustrations.
  • Simplicity — stripping an idea down to its core
  • Unexpectedness — capturing people’s attention and holding it
  • Concreteness — getting people to understand your idea and remember it
  • Credibility — getting people to believe your idea
  • Emotional — getting people to care about your idea
  • Stories — getting people to act on your idea

Though we cannot copy the business world and all its gimics, we can, however, learn from the Heath brothers and strive to make our ideas stick!

232420001.jpgHave you noticed that the more kids you have the more you get the feeling that others think you’re nuts?  You kind of get the sense that people are thinking, “Why in the world would you want another child?  Wouldn’t that just interrupt your life?  Wouldn’t that just take more of your time and more of your money?  Wouldn’t that just be another mouth for you to fill?” 

Elizabeth Prentiss, in her book, Stepping Heavenward, (one of my wife’s favorites!) tells of a time when she celebrated the gift of another child and was met with these words from a friend:

You shall now have one more mouth to fill and two more feet the more to shoe, more disturbed nights, more laborious days, and less leisure or visiting, reading, music, and drawing.

No doubt Elizabeth understood this to be true.  But look at her response.

Well!  That is one side of the story, to be sure, but I look at the other.  Here is a sweet, fragrant mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery.  Here is a soul to train for God; and the body in which it dwells is worthy all it will cost, since it is the abode of a kingly servant.  I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all, to whom, while I minister in Christ’s name, I make a willing sacrifice of what little leisure for my own recreation my other darlings had left me.  Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother’s heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, her tenderest cares, to her lifelong prayers!  Oh, how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!

Wow.  That challenges me.  But let’s be realistic, having more children is hard work, right?  Let’s be honest.  It does mean that we must sacrifice our time and our money and our leisure.  It does mean that we’ll have more sleepless nights and more clothes to buy.  And it does mean that we’ll have less time to ourselves and less money for vacations.  But does that mean our children are an interruption?  Does that mean our children are keeping us from really experiencing the life we want someday?  The Bible says no.

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate (Psalm 127:3-5).

As our culture continues to view children as an interruption in our lives, the Bible views our children as a blessing.  May we see from the Scriptures, and from the lives of people like Elizabeth Prentiss, that another child is not just another mouth to fill, it’s another mouth to kiss to the glory of God.

  • Read my post, He Must Manage His Own Household Well
  • Read Brent’s post, Psalm 127, Children and Spiritual Warfare
  • Buy Stepping Heavenward for your wife
  • Read Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
  • Read Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

About three years ago, my wife and I bought our first house.  Let me tell you, it was quite the learning process for me.  In fact, it was a frustrating process.  Reason why?  I didn’t know any of the lingo when it came to getting a loan and talking with the agents.  They used terminology I had never heard of, and many times I had to stop them to clarify what they were saying.  It reminded me of something very important as a pastor, namely, I need to make sure that I’m communicating in such a way that my listeners can understand what I’m saying.  Of course, working with children helps in this regard.  If I try teaching the doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary atonement and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness without using other terms and visuals they can understand, I’ve lost them.  I haven’t communicated to them because they haven’t understood.  You see, communication is much more than transferring information; it’s building bridges with your listeners in order to impart the truth effectively.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the fourth law–The Law of Communication–from our book, Teaching to Change Lives, by Howard Hendricks.  Instead of giving a summary of the chapter, today I want to make some brief comments on a few of the quotes that stood out from this section.  Let’s begin with the law itself.

  • To truly impart information requires the building of bridges

Hendricks says that before we can communicate effectively, we must establish common ground with our listeners.  In fact, the greater the commonality, the greater the potential for communication.  When we look at Jesus’ life and teaching, we see that he intentionally built bridges into people’s lives in order to effectively communicate to them.  We must do the same with those we teach.  For example, if we’re teaching a class of young married couples, we must be willing to know them and spend time with them if we expect to speak into their lives effectively.

  • God’s method is always incarnational.  He loves to take his truth and wrap it up in a person

I love this quote.  It reminds me that true communication comes out of the overflow of my life.  If I am passionate about what I know, and feel it deep inside my bones, and if I’m seeking to live it out (not perfectly but authentically), than by God’s grace I can change lives through my teaching.  I want to say with the Apostle Paul, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard, or seen in me, put it into practice” (Phil. 4:9).

  • Your lesson needs structure.  It needs to be packaged.

This is so true.  Good communicators are able to organize their information in such a way that their listeners can follow them.  That means that as teachers, we’ve got to know where we’re going or we’ll end up somewhere else.  We need to have a plan, a target we’re aiming at, or else we’ll miss the target we intended to hit. 

(Here’s my PROPOSED PLAN to help in your teaching for a target)

  • Get feedback.

If we really want to grow as teachers and communicators we must get feedback from those we teach.  After all, true teaching happens when there is true learning.  So we need to find out if our students have learned what we’ve taught them.  Sometimes this is best done by simply asking questions like, “Does that make sense?” or “How then would you apply this to your life?” or “Do you have any questions at this point?”  Getting feedback requires humility.  It requires every teacher to have a learner’s heart.  But it’s all worth it when we see our students grasp what we’ve taught them and are just as passionate as we are to live out these truths.

  • Questions for Reflection
  1. What will you apply from this chapter?
  2. How do you seek to build bridges with those you teach?
  3. Do you walk into each teaching setting with a plan and a target?
  4. Are you getting feedback from others about your teaching?
  5. How can you improve as a communicator?

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