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September 21, 2015

Prayer has always been a struggle for me, and I know I am not the only one. There’s a reason that books on prayer continue to flood our bookshelves. Very few of us pray as often and as earnestly as we would like. Very few of us are confident that we pray well. Fewer still feel like we really get prayer.

I have read the books and sat in the seminars and heard the sermons and even preached a few of my own. Along the way I have learned many truths and picked up many practical tips. Little by little, bit by bit, they have helped me grow in my knowledge and understanding of prayer. And, I trust, they have helped me to actually pray.

There is one practice I find myself working on these days more than any other, and I think it may be the most important of them all. It is a simple one: Never resist the least urge to pray.

I cannot remember where I first heard that. Was it Joel Beeke? Was it Martyn Lloyd-Jones? Was it a Puritan writer? It may well have been all of them. The truth behind it is simple: It’s never the wrong time to pray. Those impulses are invariably good. After all, it’s not like Satan or the old man will be the ones directing me to call out to God rather than resting in selfishness or self-reliance, is it?

Like me, you probably feel that urge to pray throughout your day. You feel it after church when you are speaking to a struggling friend. Something in your mind says, “I should pause right here and right now and pray with her.” And you fight a momentary battle over whether or not you will actually say, “Let me pray for you.”

You feel it when you are lying in bed beside your wife, you are about to go to sleep, and you think, “I should pray with her.” But even something so simple can feel like the hardest thing in the world.

You feel it when you are sharing the gospel. He has been at least a little bit receptive and you think, “I should offer to pray for him.” And right there, a whole cosmic battle rages within your heart and mind.

It happens just as often when you are alone and you are struck with the desire to pray or the impulse that you ought to pray. You see that you have the opportunity to pray. You believe that this is the time to pray. But will you pray?

Never resist the least urge to pray. What if you lived that way? What if we all lived that way? Our lives and our churches would be bathed in prayer. I believe we would be living in much greater faithfulness to God’s command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

So why don’t you try it? See what difference it makes in your life, in your family, in your church, when you stop resisting those urges to pray, and when you joyfully respond to every impulse.

It turns out, by the way, that it was probably Martyn Lloyd-Jones I was reading. He gives the instruction in the context of sermon preparation, but it applies equally to all of life:

Always respond to every impulse to pray. I would make an absolute law of this – always obey such an impulse.

Where does it come from? It is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is a part of the meaning of ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Phil 2:12-13).

This often leads to some of the most remarkable experiences in the life of the minister. So never resist it, never postpone it, never push it aside because you are busy. Give yourself to it, yield to it; and you will find not only that you have not been wasting time with respect to the matter with which you are dealing but that actually it has helped you greatly in that respect…

Such a call to prayer must never be regarded as a distraction; always respond to it immediately, and thank God if it happens to you frequently.

September 21, 2015

Here are today’s Kindle deals: Crossway has 2 excellent Jon Bloom titles on sale: Things Not Seen and Not By Sight ($5.99 each). Also consider Uneclipsing the Son by Rick Holland ($2.99); His Mission: Jesus in the Gospel of Luke by The Gospel Coalition ($2.99); On Guard For Students by William Lane Craig ($2.99); Onward by Russell Moore ($7.99). New from GLH Publishing is Keeping the Heart by John Flavel ($0.99).

Private Sin, Public Fallout

It is so important that we face this fact: “An inescapable characteristic of the sin of believers is that it always affects other people. Since all believers are part of a community—the Body—even the most personal of sins always spawns devastating public fallout.”

They All Look Alike to Me

Fascinating: “It is not bias or bigotry, the researchers say, that makes it difficult for people to distinguish between people of another race. It is the lack of early and meaningful exposure to other groups that often makes it easier for us to quickly identify and remember people of our own ethnicity or race while we often struggle to do the same for others.”

When You Have to End Support

“One reality of the missionary life is that missionaries will lose supporters. According to Ask A Missionary, most missionaries lose 5-15% of their support during their first two years on the field.” Here’s guidance on ending that support.

3 Objections to the Doctrine of Election

Tim Keller answers 3 common objections to the doctrine of election.

This Day in 1953. C.J. Mahaney was born. Happy birthday to C.J., who turns 62 today!

4 Fake Grammar Rules You Don’t Need to Worry About

Just like the title says, because not all grammatical rules are created equal.

Your Child Is Your Neighbor

On the one hand it’s obvious, but on the other it’s profound: Your child is your neighbor. And the Bible says a lot about how you treat your neighbor.


Jesus isn’t an escape from life’s trials, but he’s our closest friend through them. —Burk Parsons

How to Lose Your Zeal for Christ
September 20, 2015

Are you zealous for Christ? Do you have a genuine zeal to live for him and to advance his cause in the world? Or have you lost the zeal that once marked you? Here, courtesy of Joel Beeke and James La Belle are 9 ways you may lose your zeal.

Major in speculative religion. Speculative religion is religion whose primary concern is that which is theoretical or conjectural. Look to the pastoral epistles and you will often find Paul warning Timothy and Titus that they must avoid anything like this—anything vain and unprofitable, anything obsessed with fables and genealogies (see 1 Timothy 4:2, 2 Timothy 2:14, Titus 3:9, etc). Christianity is meant to be an experiential religion, one that is meant to reach the heart and the will and to work itself out in action. “Christian faith begins with an experiential renovation of the heart and progresses by an experiential relationship that impacts all of life.”

Love the world. “How can we be zealous for heaven when our hearts are wrapped up in earthly things? How can we lift our spirits heavenward when our minds are weighed down with the cares of this life? How can we be zealous for God when our love is divided between Him and this world? Worldly mindedness will starve our zeal.” Jesus promised us that we can serve only one master; our zeal will diminish when our loyalties are torn between God and mammon, God and this world.

Be spiritually presumptuous. Some people start out in the Christian faith, but then assume that they have nothing more to do. They presume upon the riches and grace of Christ, but invest little effort in battling sin and putting sin to death. Some take an opposite view and claim that they are no longer sinful, that they have attained perfection. In either case, these people are dangerously presumptuous and will necessarily see their zeal decline and disappear.

Neglect the means of grace. “When we presume that we no longer need to gird up our loins (1 Peter 1:13), lay aside every weight and every besetting sin, and run the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2), we will naturally neglect those means that God has appointed to keep our zeal burning. Zeal will grow so cold that it will inevitably die out. To neglect the means of grace is to neglect the fuel that feeds this spiritual fire. We must be aware of neglecting anything that God has given us to help us grow in Christ-likeness.”

Remain impenitent. We know that we ought to confess and repent of the most significant sins, but can grow lax in confessing and repenting of the smaller sins. But be warned: “Impenitence with regard to any known sin will surely quench all zeal for God.”

Indulge in any known sin. “When we indulge ourselves in any known sin, or absolve ourselves of any known duty, how can we avoid the charge of hypocrisy in condemning the sins and failings of others? Do we think God is pleased with our crying down the sins of others while we commit the same sins? Do we imagine that God is pleased when we accuse others of failure, while we excuse ourselves from the very same duties? Sacred zeal reaches to all of God’s commandments and all of Christian duty. If we would keep a fire in our heart for God, we must take caution not to indulge in any known sin, or neglect any known duty.”

Be indifferent or unbelieving. “It is not enough to have an interest in religious questions, an understanding of basic religious doctrine, or even a small stock of memorized Scripture verses, if all this fails to touch the heart, because out of the heart, as Solomon says, flow the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). An unmoved, indifferent heart will not give rise to zeal. Light in the head must be matched by warmth in the heart.”

Remain ignorant. “How can we be zealous for the things of God if we dwell in the darkness of ignorance about divine truth? If we persist in ignorance of ‘the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord’ (2 Peter 1:2), our comfort must speedily diminish, and our zeal will soon give way to indifference of heart and langour of spirit.”

Be a coward. “We cannot advance God’s cause in the world if we fail to be bold for Him. Sin will comfortably abide in our churches unless it is put out by great boldness. Hypocritical professors will continue to bring shame to the name of Christ unless exposed by great boldness.”

September 19, 2015

I haven’t been able to track down any Kindle deals that are particularly exciting or noteworthy, so I suppose I will wish you a good weekend, and get straight to some interesting links.

An Earth More Beautiful than Beautiful

Jared Wilson reflects on beauty, and beauty to come.

How to End a Conversation

Because we’ve all been there a few times. Another option is to feign death until the person awkwardly walks away.

What’s Really in the Planned Parenthood Videos?

Amy Hall on the Planned Parenthood videos: “We need to be careful about how we talk about these videos. If you give people even the smallest thing to quibble with (even if it’s not ultimately relevant), that is what they will focus on, and they’ll use it to justify dismissing everything in the videos. This is what I’m seeing happen now.”

The Communist Roots of No-Fault Divorce

“Before the marriage revolution came to America, it came to Russia. And it came as a result of another revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution.” This is a really interesting article from Joe Carter.

Cultivating the Kingdom

I was recently able to be a guest on Cultivating the Kingdom podcast with Allison Burr. You can listen in if you like.

This Day in 1853. At age 21, “James Hudson Taylor sets sail from England for China where he will found the China Inland Mission” (now known as Overseas Missionary Fellowship). *

Consumerism Keeps Us Fed and Starving

“With each visit to the United States, we can never quite predict what will stand out to us. It’s been different things over the last seven years. I remember one time when I was intrigued by the mysterious new section in all of the grocery stores: Organic. On other trips, my children have had their curiosity piqued by women bus drivers, by vending machines, by the presence of church buildings, by people walking dogs in their neighborhoods, and by the dizzying varieties of Oreos.”

The Benefits of Good Posture

This will probably make you feel bad about yourself. But if posture is really that important, it’s probably worth watching.

A Large Need for Small Congregations

Thanks to MereChurch for sponsoring the blog this week.


Unbelief seizes truth, grasps it roughly, silences its voice and twists it away from God’s intended purpose. —Os Guinness

September 18, 2015

This week's Free Stuff Fridays is sponsored by CBD Reformed. They've got some great prizes lined up this week. There will be 5 winners and each of those winners will receive the following books:

  • ESV Study BibleESV Study Bible (hardcover) - Retail price $49.99. "The ESV Study Bible features more than 2,750 pages of extensive, accessible Bible resources, including completely new notes, full-color maps, illustrations, charts, timelines, and articles created by an outstanding team of 93 evangelical Christian scholars and teachers. In addition to the 757,000 words of the ESV Bible itself, the notes and resources of the ESV Study Bible comprise an additional 1.1 million words of insightful explanation and teaching-equivalent to a 20-volume Bible resource library all contained in one volume."
  • Tough Topics 2: Biblical Answers to 25 Challenging Questions by Sam Storms - Retail Price $15.99. "Countless people are worried, angry, fearful and just plain confused when it comes to some of the more perplexing issues that life poses and the Bible provokes. Tough Topics 2 provides solid and scriptural answers to 25 such questions. Sam Storms seeks to tackle frustration by looking deeply, not superficially, at what Scripture says, deriving clear and persuasive explanations for these thorny matters."
  • Adoption: What Joseph of Nazareth Can Teach Us about This Countercultural Choice by Russell Moore - Retail Price $7.99. "Joseph of Nazareth was a good and honorable man. The adoptive father of Jesus, he stood by his wife and raised her son—even when it appeared that she had betrayed him. Such is the love of adoption. But this love stands in stark contrast to what we see in our world today: on-demand abortion, unreported abuse, and widespread neglect."

In addition, CBD Reformed is offering a 4-day sale (September 18 - 21) on the following three products:

Enter Here

Giveaway Rules: You may enter one time. As soon as the winners have been chosen, all names and addresses will be immediately and permanently erased. Winners will be notified by email. The giveaway closes Saturday at noon. If you are viewing this through email, click to visit my site and enter there.

3 Reasons We Need to Pray
September 18, 2015

As a Christian, as a pastor, and as a church member, I find myself at a lot of meetings. And more often than not, these meetings begin with prayer. I don’t often think about why we do this—we just do it. We pray before we do business, and we pray before we do ministry.

As I drove home from a meeting yesterday, I thought about these little prayers and how much I enjoy them. I thought about their sheer significance.

Praying declares that we do not have the wisdom we need. My guess is that when the executives at Amazon or Google gather in their corporate settings to make major decisions, they believe that they have the wisdom, experience, and expertise they need right there in the room. As Christians, we know that we do not. We know that we are entirely dependent upon wisdom that comes from outside ourselves. These little prayers, prayed by even the best and brightest Christian minds, are a simple plea for help, a child’s plea to his father to give the gifts of knowledge and wisdom.

Praying declares that we do not have the time we need. There is something so deliciously counter-cultural about saying, “We have a very full agenda and only a couple of hours to make some major decisions. So let’s start by investing a few minutes asking for help from an invisible but all-powerful God.” And if your experience is at all like mine, you have probably found that the meetings that begin with heartfelt prayer often end up being unusually productive and generating unusually wise decisions—almost as if God really does hear and answer those prayers.

Praying declares that we do not have the motives we need. Prayer is a cry to God not only for wisdom and appropriate use of time, but also a plea that we will make decisions for the best of motives. We understand that without God’s help we will make decisions out of fear of man instead of fear of God; we will make decisions that are good for us even if they are bad for others; we will decide to do what preserves our comfort and security even if it skirts morality. So we begin our time together by asking God to elevate our motives so that every word, every thought, and every decision will bring glory to him.

It’s a simple habit, this. But it’s both beautiful and meaningful.

September 18, 2015

Let’s talk Kindle deals. First off, Amazon has a new Kindle Fire tablet that will do just fine for reading books while setting you back only $49.99. As for books, consider The Immigration Crisis by James Hoffmeier ($4.79) and The End of Christianity by William Dembski ($0.99). (To review the rest of these week’s deals, just click here.)

The Solar System

This took a lot of effort and ingenuity: “On a dry lakebed in Nevada, a group of friends build the first scale model of the solar system with complete planetary orbits: a true illustration of our place in the universe.”

The Desire to Be Desired

This is good stuff from Ed Welch. “At the heart of the romance novel is the thrill of being desired—irresistibly, intoxicatingly desired. And since that genre is the most frequently visited Internet category among women, there is a lot of ‘desiring to be desired’ out there. A lot. Since men’s idolatries get most of the attention, this is a short meditation aimed at bringing fairness to this imbalance.”

The Rise of Victimhood Culture

I appreciated this article’s description of the culture of victimhood we see around us today. “A recent scholarly paper on ‘microaggressions’ uses them to chart the ascendance of a new moral code in American life.”

The Most Misread Poem in America

This is an entertaining interpretation of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” and an explanation as to why most people get it wrong.

This Day in 1905. Scottish clergyman and novelist, George MacDonald, who would influence many through his writings, including C.S. Lewis, dies in England. *

Is Baptism Required for Church Membership?

Whether or not you agree with the major premise of this article about baptism and church membership, I think you’ll benefit from reading it. (For what it’s worth, I need to think more about it, but am generally inclined to agree with most of what he says.)

Ambition and a Future Target

I have been thinking about ambition a lot, and appreciate what Dave Harvey calls for here. “God wants to rescue ambition. But not to build future monuments to our own glory. I’m talking about an instinct that looks for new ways to glorify God through our dreams.”


I didn’t invite Jesus into my heart; he gave me a new heart. —Scotty Smith