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June 28, 2012

In last week’s reading in David McIntyre’s The Hidden Life of Prayer we looked at praising God in prayer. This week we were to read two chapters, one that looked at supplication and one that looked at confession—two other integral components of prayer.

I found the chapter on supplication—making requests of God in prayer—particularly helpful. Though I shared a few elements of that chapter in a blog post yesterday, I want to share them again today. They have already proven very helpful and practical in my own life and ministry; they have helped sharpen my understanding of why God does not just grant us the things we believe we need, but instead tells us to pray to him. They have helped me see the goodness of God in having us labor in prayer.

McIntyre tells us of four things the Lord accomplishes in us as we labor in prayer:

  • Dependence. “By prayer our continued and humble dependence on the grace of God is secured. If the bestowments of the covenant came to us without solicitation, as the gifts of nature do, we might be tempted to hold ourselves in independence of God, to say, ‘My power, and the might of mine hand, hath gotten me this wealth’ (Deut. 8:17).”
  • Communion. “The Lord desires to have us much in communion with Himself. The reluctance of the carnal heart to dwell in God’s presence is terrible. We will rather speak of Him than to Him. How often He finds occasion to reprove us, saying, ‘The companions hearken to thy voice; cause Me to hear it.’ A father will prize an ill-spelled, blotted-scrawl from his little child, because it is a pledge and seal of love. And precious in the sight of the Lord are the prayers of His saints.”
  • Preparation. “Much, very much, has often to be accomplished in us before we are fitted to employ worthily the gifts we covet. And God effects this preparation of heart largely by delaying to grant our request at once, and so holding us in the truth of His presence until we are brought into a spiritual understanding of the will of Christ for us in this respect. If a friend, out of his way (Luke 11:6), comes to us, hungry, and seeking from us the bread of life, and we have nothing to set before him, we must go to Him who has all store of blessing. And if He should seem to deny our prayer, and say, ‘Trouble Me not,’ it is only that we may understand the nature of the blessing we seek, and be fitted to dispense aright the bounty of God.”
  • Cooperation. “Once more, we are called to be fellow-laborers together with God, in prayer, as in all other ministries. The exalted Saviour ever lives to make intercession; and to His redeemed people He says, ‘Tarry ye here, and watch with Me’ (Matt. 26:38). There is a great work to be done in the hearts of men, there is a fierce battle to be waged with spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. Demons are to be cast out, the power of hell to be restrained, the works of the devil to be destroyed. And in these things it is by prayer above all other means that we shall be able to co-operate with the Captain of the Lord’s host.”

June 28, 2012

Take Care How You Listen - Desiring God has released a free ebook from John Piper “on listening well. It is comprised of five unedited sermon manuscripts from the preaching ministry of Pastor John. We pray this resource will serve your personal reflection as you heed Jesus’ command to ‘take care how you listen’ (Luke 8:18).” 

Able to Teach - Nathan Finn looks at one of the biblical qualifications for an elder—that he be able to teach. He offers some useful correctives to the way many people understand it.

Chris Fabry Live - I spent an hour with Chris Fabry yesterday, as a guest on his radio program. If you’ve got time and inclination, you can listen in at the link.

The SBC Family - The Southern Baptist Convention has been in the news a lot lately and much is being said about what appears to be a growing rift within it. Tom Ascol gives his take on it.

Sexual by Design - Douglas Wilson was invited to Indiana University by Clearnote Church to talk about sexuality from a Biblical perspective. Bloomington Indiana is home to the Kinsey Institute, started by Alfred Kinsey who is famous for his experiments in sexuality. They recorded videos of the full lectures, as well as the very long Q&A that followed. A large crowd of “dissenters” gathered to demonstrate their disapproval of Wilson’s message in word in action.

Praise God for those Baptisms - Erik Raymond rebukes Ed Young for mocking a Reformed that baptized “only” 26 people last year.

The doctrines of grace humble man without degrading him and exalt him without inflating him. —Charles Hodge

June 27, 2012

A few days ago I received an email from a reader of this site and I found that much of it has universal application. Each one of us struggles with these questions at times. For that reason, and with his permission, I will make my response public. Here is a part of what he sent me:

Personal situation with universal question: My wife and I are adopting 2 kiddos from Africa that have HIV. That’s all planned, no surprise, grace given to us to do so, praise be to God. Throughout this, I continuously pray for my kiddos over there. Yelling, crying, heart wrenching (I’m tearing up right now thinking about it) kind of prayers. They are very sick, and I want my babies home with me. They’re dying of starvation and little medication over there. I don’t feel like I keep praying the same prayers because I don’t believe God cares or can take care of it, I pray because it’s breaking my heart, I badly want by children home, and I want it to stay as a “top-shelf issue” in front of God. Am I wrong in my theology and practice by continuing to pray for the same thing? I sometimes feel that it’s blasphemous to re-pray something, as if I’m insinuating that God is not listening, doesn’t care, doesn’t remember, or needs to re-prioritize His to-do list.

And now my answer.

Over the past few weeks I have been reading a book by David McIntyre called The Hidden Life of Prayer and just yesterday I read a section that looks at petitioning God in prayer. McIntyre offers up some thoughts that are directly applicable to your situation. He says that the foundational reason we ought to ask God for the things that are important to us is that God commands us to. It is as simple as that. All through the Bible we are told things like “make your requests known to God” (Philippians 4:6). And so we pray to God in obedience to God.

But a question remains: why? Why would the Lord choose to do things in this way, to have us ask him and even repeatedly plead with him for his blessings. McIntyre offers four reasons and I think these reasons come into sharper focus the longer and the more fervently we pray.

June 27, 2012

Visual Theology
I trust you are enjoying this Visual Theology series of infographics as much as I am. The series has now visited the ordo salutis, the attributes of Godthe books of the BiblePhilippians 4:8the genealogy of Jesus Christthe TrinityPhilippians 2:5-11, the Old Testament tabernacle, the fruit of the SpiritReformed Theology and the One Anothers of the New Testament. Today it continues with a look at the atonement.

The atonement is the work Jesus Christ accomplished in his life and death to earn salvation for others. This atonement is penal and substitutionary, paying the penalty due to sinners and substituting one person in place of others. Today’s infographic explains that work of atonement.

(Click on the thumbnail image below to see the complete infographic)

The Atonement

Visual Theology Store

If you are after a high-res version, you can have it here in JPG format (7 MB). Please feel free to download, copy, email, share, or print the graphic; I just ask that you don’t sell it.

If you have other ideas for theological infographics, please feel free to leave a comment. Several more are already in development.

June 27, 2012

Problems with Unconditional Forgiveness - “While automatic forgiveness sounds like an antidote to bitterness, this is not the case. Those who try and simply dismiss grave offenses, apart from resting in the justice of God, often encounter emotional and theological problems. Here is an incomplete list of problems that sometimes arise from unconditional forgiveness.”

Nourish and Cherish - Rick Thomas takes a look at Ephesians 5 and what it means for a husband to nourish and cherish his wife.

Don’t Waste Your Vacation - Trevin Wax on a book I enjoyed a lot: “Last week, I interviewed Steve Dewitt about his book Eyes Wide Open: Enjoying God in Everything. With his permission, I am posting a section of his book titled ‘Meeting God at the Edge of Infinity and Why I Like Walking Ocean Beaches.’ Since summer is here and vacation season is upon us, I thought it would be a good reminder for us to see through the beauty of nature to our beautiful Creator.”

Guard Your Purity - I love this: “A key and often overlooked aspect of God’s goodness is that He doesn’t give us commands we cannot fulfill. He doesn’t taunt us with impossible directions or challenge us with tasks beyond our ability. Part of the assumption in each of God’s commands to us is that, through the assistance of His Spirit, we’re able to accomplish what He has commanded us to do.”

Ed Young on Reformed Theology - I presume lots of people will be writing about Ed Young’s ridiculous anti-Calvinistic rant. Denny Burk has a few of the details.

How We Die - This is an interesting chart that compares causes of death today versus causes of death in 1900.

The increase of the kingdom is more to be desired than the growth of a clan. —C.H. Spurgeon

June 26, 2012

I am in the unique and enjoyable position of receiving copies of most of the latest and greatest Christian books and I like to provide regular roundups of some of the best and brightest of the bunch. Here are some of the notable books that I’ve received in the past week or two.

Letters from the Front: J. Gresham Machen’s Correspondence from World War 1 transcribed and edited by Barry Waugh – “Never before published, here is a glimpse into the formative years of a great campaigner for the faith … and a stirring example of how the faith of a seminary professor was refined and strengthened through the trials of war.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon or Westminster Books)

Did God Really Say? edited by David Garner – “The church’s historical belief in the truthfulness and trustworthiness of Scripture as God’s written Word is being assaulted from without and from within. In this book, seven scholars from Covenant Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary confront and repel many of these attacks. Reasoning clearly, cogently, and carefully, they show that the historical doctrine of Scripture is what Scripture teaches about itself, and that this teaching can meet and defeat the ungodly intellectual schemes brought against it.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon or Westminster Books)

1 Samuel (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Richard Phillips – “As are all the books in the Reformed Expository Commentary series, this exposition of 1 Samuel is accessible to both pastors and lay readers. Each volume in the series provides exposition that gives careful attention to the biblical text, is doctrinally Reformed, focuses on Christ thorugh the lens of redemptive history, and apples the Bible to our contemporary setting.” I love this series of commentaries! (Learn more and shop at Amazon or Westminster Books)

8:28: Unlocking God’s Promise by Bryan Hughes – “With practical applications from other passages of Scripture, Bryan shows readers that Romans 8:28 gives answers to the biggest and most perplexing questions in life.” (Learn more and shop at Amazon)

The Big Fight edited by Tim Thornborough and Richard Perkins – “Christian men are in a battle where the stakes are high and the enemy is strong. There is a trinity of evil at work in the world that will knock us out of the fight if it can. This short, punchy and practical book will help believing blokes of all ages and from all walks of life to contend for the faith against these aggressive opponents.” (Learn more and shop at The Good Book Company)

June 26, 2012

Date Your WifeThere is always a hot market for books on marriage, even among men. Every husband is aware of his inadequacies and every husband is genuinely eager to find solutions, especially if the solutions are simple and step-by-step (just like laying laminate flooring or changing oil). Writing a good and biblical book on marriage—now there is a challenge. Few have done it with excellence. Stepping into the fray is Justin Buzzard with his new book Date Your Wife. It’s a great title, a good idea, and a helpful imperative that is, unfortunately, substantially flawed.

The book’s greatest strength is drawn straight from its title: Buzzard wants men to build dating into their marriage; he wants men to continue to romance their wives throughout marriage. Any man who reads this book will come away with a greater desire to pursue his wife and greater conviction of the inherent goodness of doing so. The book’s foremost application is valid and good, but there is quite a lot of weakness along the way.

The book is fueled by one core conviction: If you want to change a marriage, change the man. Looking first at the sexual relationship and then widening the scope to all of marriage Buzzard says this: “Your wife isn’t the problem. You’re the problem. I’m the problem. Men are the problem. If you want to change a marriage, change the man. If you want to change your marriage, you must first see that you are the main problem in your marriage.” He goes on: “You are the husband. You are the man. And God has given the man the ability to be the best thing or the worst thing that ever happened to a marriage. Before you can be the best thing that ever happened to your marriage, you need to see that you have always been the worst thing that happened to your marriage.”

These are strong and near-universal statements for which he allows no meaningful exceptions. To prove them he goes in an unexpected direction: Genesis 2:15. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” He says this:

Fundamental to his manhood, God gave Adam this double calling: work and keep. These Hebrew verbs can be better translated: cultivate and guard. God commissioned the first man to cultivate the garden and guard the garden. God gave the first man immense responsibility, immense power, to cause the garden to flourish or to fade. … God gave Adam a job before he gave him a wife. So, when God presented Adam with his bride, what did Adam know he was called to do as a husband? If you had to summarize it in a sentence, what was Adam called to do for his marriage and for his wife? Cultivate and guard it. … After giving Adam a calling, God gave Adam a wife—the crown jewel of his calling. “Cultivate and protect this woman I’ve given you; cause life to flourish. Take the raw materials of this marriage and develop them—build, invent, create—so that your wife will flourish and thrive in this environment. Develop and protect what I’m entrusting to you,” God said to Adam.

This is an unusual interpretation and application of Genesis 2:15. Certainly this is a text that gives man his job description in this world, but it is quite a stretch to take that same description verbatim into the marriage relationship. It would have been far more helpful, I think, to look to Ephesians 5 where a husband is told to nourish and cherish his wife and where he is told to wash her in the water of God’s word. What Buzzard wants the husband to see is that if your wife is not flourishing, it must be because you, the husband, are not cultivating and guarding her. The key to fulfilling your mandate as a husband is an ongoing dating relationship that continues well past the wedding day.

June 26, 2012

An Eye for an Eye - This is an interesting take on the “viral youtube video of grandmother and bus monitor Karen Klein being harassed and bullied to tears by small gang of seventh graders.” (Note: I don’t recommend watching the YouTube video at the end of the post)

Reliance - My friend Elisha describes an all-too-typical scene at family devotions and shows that the Lord worked even through chaos.

Darwinism at the End of Its Rope - Here’s a headline I like: Peer-Reviewed Paper Concludes that Darwinism ‘Has Pretty Much Reached the End of Its Rope.’ I am seeing more and more Darwinian infighting, something that can only be helpful in the end.

Answers - I recently wrote an article for Answers magazine from Answers in Genesis. They’ve made it freely available online if you’d like to give it a read. I deal with the question, “How can you believe in a God who would condemn people to suffer the torments of hell eternally? I reply with a question of my own: How can you believe in a God who would not?”

Marriage Defined - I don’t know that I’ve ever tried to define marriage before. Mike Leake takes a shot at it here and does quite a good job.

Our prayers run along one road and God’s answers by another, and by and by they meet. —Adoniram Judson