Praying the Promises: Romans 15:13


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Next up for Praying the Promises: Romans 15:13!

In the ESV, Romans 15:13 says:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Why I pray this verse: In this case I was looking for a verse to pray specifically for my wife, Lauren. Many godly men set the example in my life of having specific verses that they regularly prayed for their wives and for their family. Finding myself young and without wife, I also did not have verses I was praying for my wife. I mean, I didn’t even know who she was yet! But the more I saw these men pray for their wives the more the conviction grew that this was something I wanted to imitate and put into practice. (Sidenote: married folks, if this is something that you aren’t already doing, I could not encourage you enough to start it! It’s been an incredible blessing to have a growing list of verses that I have specifically to pray for Lauren.)

I pray this verse for my wife because it has so much in it that I already see in Lauren both in the present and in our future together: she is hopeful, joyous, a woman full of peace and full of the Spirit. But even the most hopeful of us could stand to have some more hope and we all need the Holy Spirit to be the continual fount of that hope! If we look to anything else for hope, it will (eventually) disappoint. Only God will always be faithful and true. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

How I pray this verse: An example of praying this verse would look something like this. “God, you are the source of all our hope. Would you fill Lauren and would you fill me with all joy and peace in believing, so that by your power we would ABOUND in hope and others would see it, experience our hope in you, and be blessed by it. Would those with no hope see the hope we have and ask how we can be as hopeful as we are and would those whose hope is also in you be encouraged.”

Those of you without spouses can use this to pray for anyone-family, friends, neighbors, yourself, etc. I’ve simply mainly used this in praying for my wife up to this point. But those of you with spouses: feel free to steal this one! Or to start your own list!

What verses do you pray for your spouse or those closest to you?

Praying the Promises: Isaiah 33:2


I have shared before on one method of praying through Scripture as a way to focus your attention during prayer and ground prayer in the soil of the Word. This has been a deeply fruitful and rewarding practice for me and I thought I would share a few verses that are personally meaningful that I use specifically in this way.

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Hence I am beginning a Praying the Promises mini-series here on the blog. I have no idea how many of these I might do (though it will probably be at least three or four more…and maybe more depending on how they go!) but I am excited to share these verses. I pray they will either be directly helpful or at least provide a model to use other Scriptures in this way!

The verse I have chosen to begin with is a more recent addition to the verses I pray through like this: Isaiah 33:2. In the ESV, it reads:

O LORD, be gracious to us; we wait for you.
Be our arm every morning,
our salvation in the time of trouble.

 Why I pray this verse: I was reading through Isaiah for my Old Testament Introduction class last year when I stumbled across this verse. It stood out to me because of some difficulties my family was going through at that time. Without even knowing it, I was looking for a way to express the helplessness and lack of ability I was feeling in my circumstances.

What I love about this verse is that it is an excellent way to begin a specific prayer for help. Praying this verse at the beginning of a request for provision, strength, wisdom, or myriad other topics begins the prayer on a solid foot and helps segue into that next thought. Now, especially when I’m praying for my family, this is one of my go-to verses to begin a prayer with.

How I pray this verse: An example of what this might look like is: “O LORD, please be gracious to me. I wait for you. Please be my strength (in Hebrew, being someone’s “arm” is a metaphor for being their strength or deliverance) every morning, not just when I think that I need you, and be my salvation in the time of trouble. Lord, I’m struggling with…

And that’s it! Now here’s where I put in my plug for Scripture memory. Can you pray this by looking it up in the Bible and praying after you find it? Of course! But how much better to know this or a verse like it intimately and be able to pray it wherever you go? And immediately in response to whatever circumstance comes your way!

I once heard someone define Scripture memory as “a way to give the Holy Spirit a vocabulary to speak to our heart.” While that’s true, I also believe Scripture memory is a way to give us a vocabulary to speak back to God.

So there you have it: the first verse in Praying the Promises.

What verse(s) do you use regularly in your times of prayer?

Jonathan Edwards on Scripture and Psalm 119:18


Psalm 119:18 says “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law” (NASB).

This is a verse that a former mentor and discipler of mine would pray every time we sat down to read the Bible together and it’s stuck with me. I still pray it often, whether I’m reading just for myself or reading with someone else. Because it’s a verse that I like and use often, I was happy when I came across Jonathan Edwards’s thoughts on the verse in his sermon “A Divine and Supernatural Light.”

Commenting on the verse, Edwards says:

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What could the Psalmist mean, when he begged of God to open his eyes? was he ever blind? might he not have resort to the law and see every word and sentence in it when he pleased? And what could he mean by those “wondrous things”? was it the wonderful stories of the creation, and deluge, and Israel’s passing through the Red Sea, and the like? were not his eyes open to read these strange things when he would?

Edwards then answers his own questions, supporting his overall argument that while anyone can open the Bible and read the words printed on the page, it is only those whose vision the Spirit illuminates that hear the voice of God and see the person of Christ in them.

Doubtless by “wondrous things” in God’s law, he had respect to those distinguishing perfections, and glory, that there was in the commands and doctrines of the Word, and those works and counsels of God that were there revealed. So the Scripture speaks of a knowledge of God’s dispensation, and covenant of mercy, and way of grace towards his people, as peculiar to the saints, and given only by God, Ps. 25:4, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.” (emphasis added)

Let us be encouraged to continually entreat the Lord to open our eyes as we read the Word.

Pray for the Drought (Or What Jonathan Edwards Might Say to Current Californians)


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If you have not heard, California is in the midst of a terrible drought. This is the fourth year of the current drought and all signs point to it getting worse before it gets better. The snowpack is at an all-time low, reservoirs and rivers are steadily dropping, and water rationing seems to be on the horizon.

As Christians, what should our response to this kind of situation be? I think that we are right to pray about this and ask God to miraculously intervene. After all, “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17-18, ESV). It is a good thing to pray about our physical world and for our physical needs.

But I think that we should additionally let the physical conditions of the world prompt us to remember the spiritual conditions too. The people who are physically thirsty here in California are spiritually thirsty as well. When we pray for God to pour out rain on our land, will we pray for God to also pour out his Spirit on our people?

In a sermon titled “Praying for the Spirit,” Jonathan Edwards says much the same thing (but better than I could ever phrase it!):

If rain be withheld and there be a drought, everybody is concerned. It is spoken of and lamented how the grass withers, and how the corn dies, and what a poor crop there is like to be; and there is, it may be, a great deal of praying for rain. But there may be a spiritual drought year after year, and not only in their crop, but no harvest at all in spiritual respects. Souls may be generally withering and drying up. And God is not very earnestly sought to, not because God is not as ready to bestow these blessings as the other–for he is, as has been shown, more ready to bestow them…[we must] seek them with vastly greater earnestness and diligence than we do temporal things, they being infinitely more necessary for us and will be so much more profitable to us.”

To clarify, I do not mean to take away from the seriousness of the current physical drought in California. It is a worsening situation that has an incredible direct and indirect impact on millions of people’s lives. But what I do mean to do is bring to our attention how concerned we are for the spiritual climate here in California (and elsewhere). May the lack of rain remind us to pray for the Spirit to be poured out and may the lack of the Spirit remind us to pray for the rains to come and be poured out too. And ultimately, may we simply be reminded to pray.

To Delay to Pray is to Fail to Pray


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“Guard yourselves 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.'”

-Martin Luther

I’ve been too guilty of this sort of thinking lately. “I’ll pray in a bit…just one more news article or funny video.” But the sad reality is that if I delay to pray, 99% of the time I fail to pray! May we guard ourselves vigilantly and dedicate ourselves to worthwhile endeavors instead of distractions that have little value in the grand scheme of things. Yes, it’s good to be informed or entertained…but consider praying first and then doing whatever else is on your plate. Will you regret watching fewer youtube videos today or failing to communicate with your Father?

There Can Only Be One (Or, Jonathan Edwards and Highlander Theology)


Hypothetically, if there was only ONE person at any one time on the face of planet Earth who qualified as “Christian”…how sure are you that it would be YOU and not one of the billion(s) also claiming that distinction?

That’s a pretty intense question, right? But it’s exactly the type of question that Jonathan Edwards, still widely considered the most influential theologian, pastor, and thinker America has ever produced, asked himself daily.

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At the age of eighteen, Edwards began working on a series of resolutions that would serve as a series of checks and balances for his life and help him evaluate how his daily walk with Christ was or wasn’t progressing. Eventually he compiled a list of 70 Resolutions and decided to review them each evening, each week, each month, etc.

This was far from a legalistic set of rules through which he was attempting to earn salvation or righteousness-at the very beginning he notes that he is “unable to do anything without God’s help.” But his Calvinistic theology was not opposed to effort on his part! Rather it freed him to pursue holiness with all his might and ability, confident that any “good” he achieved was by God’s power and to God’s glory.

I recently read through his list of resolutions and one in particular stood out: his determination to act as if he was “that one” Christian.

63. On the supposition, that there never was to be but one individual in the world, at any one time, who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true luster, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part and under whatever character viewed: resolved, to act just as I would do, if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time. Jan. 14 and July 13, 1723.

So how about it? Supposing that there was just one “complete Christian” today, could it (through God’s enabling power) be you?

Prayer as Defined by Tim Keller


The following chart is from Tim Keller's book "Prayer"-I thought I'd share it as a helpful guide in defining specific aspects of what prayer is as well as a preview for the book (as it is a summary of what he teaches in the book itself). Enjoy!

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I’d love to know if anyone has thoughts, pushback, questions, or just really liked it. Anything stand out, for good or for not so good reasons? Feel free to sound off in the comments below.

Our Father (“Riffing” on the Lord’s Prayer)


A specific example Tim Keller passes on in Prayer of how to transition from reading and meditating on the Word to free-form praying comes from Martin Luther, who

…suggests that after meditating on the Scripture, you should pray through each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, paraphrasing and personalizing each one using your own needs and concerns.
-from Prayer p. 93

Keller uses the phrase “Spiritually ‘Riffing’ on the Lord’s Prayer” (which might be my favorite phrase of his ever, for various reasons haha) to describe the process. He suggests that this is a beneficial way to both provide structure to your initial prayers to help focus flighty minds like mine. To be very honest, distracting thoughts have often keep me from beginning or completing times I’ve set aside for prayer and have discouraged me in past pursuits of deeper prayer.

As such, I’ve found this to be an immensely helpful tool to add to my “spiritual tool belt” as it were-and it’s so simple! Who among us doesn’t already know at least most of some version (ESV, KJV, NIV, or a combination) of the Lord’s Prayer by heart? [Incidentally, this is an excellent example of the power memorization of the Word has to impact the other spiritual disciplines.] And who among us couldn’t benefit from implementing the model Jesus gave his disciples in answer to their request to teach them to pray?

Now neither Keller nor Luther (nor I!) are suggesting that this is something you must do every time you pray. To turn this into a law or requirement or “the” way to pray is to miss the point. Instead, it’s offered as a helpful tool. May we avail ourselves of it and other similar tools in our daily prayers.

Bonus Content:

Hillsong Worship’s latest cd has a song based on the Lord’s Prayer. There are plenty of other songs based on it, but I enjoyed listening to this one and thought I’d share it 🙂

Applying the Word Step by Step


” 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose, you shall read this law before all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, men, women, and little ones, and the sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, and be careful to do all the words of this law, 13 and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as you live in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”

-Deuteronomy 31:11-13 (ESV)

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Book Review Roundup: August and September 2014


Since starting seminary I’ve had WAY less time to read for pleasure (although I’m certainly enjoying my readings for class!). So most of this list is made up of books I finished prior to starting classes. But here a few of the books I read over the past few months and some brief thoughts about them. Ratings are out of 5 stars.

9781433526367Gospel Wakefulness by Jared C. Wilson (3 stars)

I enjoyed several aspects of this book. Wilson is a great communicator and funny at times too. I highlighted like crazy because he just says things in a memorable way many times. But the book has some issues that detracted from it in my opinion.

First, the good stuff. Wilson states that “gospel wakefulness means treasuring Christ more greatly and savoring his power more sweetly.” It is “not a second conversion experience…but rather a deeper and fuller appreciation of…conversion.” What Wilson is really writing about is gospel-centrality. The gospel is or should be the center of every aspect of your life and here’s what that looks like. Wilson further defines this wakefulness to the gospel as a two-step process: be utterly broken and utterly awed. He reverently and gloriously describes Christ, his Word, and the place the gospel deserves in our lives. Very passionate stuff.

As far as the negatives go, the book seemed to have some structural issues. Every chapter (or almost every chapter) he includes a story from a friend or acquaintance to tie into his overall point. Good idea, but the stories were a lot more miss than hit for me. Many of them seemed more mystical than anything. Also, at times the chapters felt like a series of strung-together blog posts. There was a “flow” issue. Nothing too serious, but distracting nonetheless.

If you don’t mind some digging, there are nuggets aplenty to be found here!

The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay (4 stars) alrassanus

The Reconquest of Al-Rassan is at hand. The three hundred year golden age of the caliphate’s rule is ending, and three characters-a Jaddite commander named Rodrigo Belmonte, a Kindath doctornamed Jehane, and an Asharite poet and soldier named Ammar ibn Khairan-are caught in the middle. The world is changing and they must find their place within it.

Now, the Reconquest is just an imaginative retelling of the Reconquista of Spain. The Jaddites are Christians, Kindaths are Jews, and Asharites are Muslims. The map that’s included is basically a sliiiightly changed map of Spain. But the thin veneer of fantasy over the historical events actually works and allows Guy Gavriel Kay to place his characters in very interesting positions where ethnicity, religion, and friendship/romance all swirl together to make some very complex and interesting choices for the characters.

This was initially recommended to me for someone who enjoys George R.R. Martin’s works because (among other things) of the way they draw on the War of the Roses for inspiration. Definitely enjoyed it and considering reading some of his other works.

JOH08BH_200x1000John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, & Doxology  by Buck Parsons (4 stars)

A volume of 19 essays on the life and belief of John Calvin. The purpose of this volume (as stated in the introduction on page xvi) is “best served if the reader comes to the conclusion, ‘I ought to be reading Calvin himself!'” Measured by that standard, this volume was a success for me.

Fewer names conjure up the same mixture of adoration and abhorrence as Calvin (or the eponymous theological system of Calvinism) does. It seems people are either convinced that his views are next to gospel or the worst of heresy with little grey area. Whatever your prior thoughts, this volume sketches Calvin’s personal history, character, and beliefs and invites you to consider the man himself. An excellent introduction for those wanting to know more about Calvin.

My main critique would be that the chapters were at times of uneven quality. It is hard to avoid this when you take the anthology approach and have many different authors, but it seemed that even some of the chapters that should have had a similar focus were (literally AND figuratively) on different pages. The clearest example is the five chapters that address the doctrines of Calvinism. Some of the chapters addressed what made the doctrine of Calvinism they focused on distinct (the chapters on election and perseverance of the saints) while others focused on broader theological definitions (the chapter on atonement, for example, dealt with atonement as a concept and not the distinctives of limited atonement). Finally, I found the chapter authored by John MacArthur to be less objective and balanced than the others. Hence my subtraction of a star.

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster (5 stars)81sMcTc4vPL._SL1500_

This book on the spiritual disciplines is a classic for good reason: Foster both equips the reader practically and encourages the reader passionately to pursue the disciplines with the ultimate goal of communing with Jesus. He constantly brings the focus back to pursuing a relationship with the living God and cautions that rote repetition of any of the disciplines is meaningless without a thirst to know God.

The chapters are divided into the Inward Disciplines (Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study), the Outward Disciplines (Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, and Service), and the Corporate Disciplines (Confession, Worship, Guidance, and Celebration). I found myself continually challenged and stretched in the best way possible. This is a book to read slowly and savor. Time and time again I found myself setting the book down to reflect or pray. Both a helpful book to read straight-through and also to serve as a reference in the future as a refresher.

What about you? What are you reading right now or hoping to read soon? Thoughts on any of these books that I’ve read?