Archive for August, 2009

Daniel: Reading & Praying Jeremiah

Having spent the Summer preparing a Bible Study on the book of Daniel—which by the way explains where I have been to my fellow contributors—the book has weighed heavily on my mind for a while. The passage that was really brought home to me was Daniel 9, a passage of which I’m sure our readers are familiar. The prayer of Daniel 9 is one of the truly convicting sections of the book, as the reader is challenged by Daniel’s sincerity and eloquence. The prayer stands as a fitting example for believers of all times.

While tempted to jump in and talk about the OT use of the OT (this is not a typo), a topic I would like to post more about in the future, I thought I would share some general thoughts about an implication I believe comes home to we who share in leading congregations in corporate worship.

Daniel 9:2 makes an interesting shift in the book. Daniel had previously received revelation through visions and dreams. Here, the text shifts to the interpretation of Scripture. Instead of receiving a new divine vision, Daniel reads, tries to understand Jeremiah 25, and prays as a response to this text. The particular verse that mentions the 70 years is Jer 25:11 (see also 29:10), but it is pretty clear based on his prayer that he was reading the whole text. Moreover, it is also clear that Daniel had a mastery of the Scripture that was available to him.

As a result of his understanding the text of Jeremiah, Daniel responded in the following manner: “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes” (v. 3). Daniel literally “turned his face toward the Lord God,” which is a fitting description of prayer. In prayer, believers turn their face from the world, its allurements, and their preoccupation with themselves to the Lord their God. The focus of their mind turns to God Himself and His will for their lives. Daniel’s manner in prayer revealed a determined, fervent heart; not an in-passing, flippant approach to prayer. He was desperate, and he lingered long before the Lord in order to understand God’s will. This was not simply a quick request before reading Scripture to ask for God’s blessing; this was a prolonged time of fasting and sitting before the Lord in a humble state. We learn much from Daniel’s countenance, but…

If you are like me, prayer sometimes is difficult because we do not know what to pray. What is it about the prayers of those we think of as good pray-ers? I am pretty certain that good praying is not marked by its use of King James English. I think what sticks out in my mind about such individuals is that their prayers are well versed in Scripture. I think this is the reason that their prayers seem to be an expression of the heart of God. They know Him well, because they have spent time in His Word. This reflects itself in their praying as they view life through His lens, not their own.

For those of us who struggle with this, praying in light of Scripture, I believe, is an important principle for modern believers. If God speaks to us in His word—and He does—and if we desire to pray according to His will—as we should—then we will consistently pray in light of the text. When we read Scripture, in other words, we learn what God’s heart truly loves and what He desires. Therefore, when we pray with the words of Scripture, we are assured that our requests are not self-centered or outside of His will. Our requests will be focused upon Him and His glory and in line with His larger plans. When we read the Bible for our devotions or when reflecting upon Sunday’s sermon, it would be helpful for us to rephrase what we have learned in a prayer. This will help us develop not only a better vocabulary for prayer but also train our hearts to respond to God in a way that pleases Him. In many ways, this is why the book of Psalms has been so well loved by believers. In it we find the writer dealing with the highs and lows of life, and we learn how he responds to those situations with his words. The same is true of Daniel in this passage. His mind was filled with the Word of God. Much of the language he uses in his prayer is not new to him; it is taken from what he was reading in Jeremiah. This prayer may leave you saying, “If I could only pray like Daniel!” Well, the good news is that you can, because he was simply a faithful student of God’s words, and he recognized their continued validity in his life.

In my opinion, praying in light of the significance of the text, particularly during corporate worship, is extremely valuable. We practice this at our church in order to ensure that the prayers we pray reflect our belief that Scripture, where God speaks and clearly articulates His will, should inform the way we approach our Lord.

Review of Beth Moore’s “Believing God”

As a pastor, I am frequently asked about Beth Moore’s many published books and lectures by ladies who are looking for helpful Bible study materials. While I have perused many of her works I have yet to write a formal review detailing my thoughts and concerns. Our friend Craig Johnson has performed a helpful service and penned a careful and detailed review of one of Mrs. Moore’s more popular works: Believing God. Johnson writes:

My overall impression: While there are many good things about the book, I would never recommend it. In fact, the weaknesses of the book are so significant that I would go so far as to discourage people from reading it – if they are reading it for the purpose of being edified.

Be sure to read his entire review here.

My Latest Study Partner

No, it’s not Bach or Handel, or any of the other usual suspects. This time it’s Francesco Geminiani, the Italian violinist and composer who studied under Corelli and published his Art of Playing the Violin in 1751. If you enjoy Baroque while you study the Word, check out volume 1 of his Concerti Grossi. It’s tremendous.

The Problem with the Evidentialist Approach to Apologetics:

It reaffirms to the unbeliever the very self-autonomy that he needs to repent of in order to come to Christ and be saved.



Too harsh?

Too simplistic?

Or right on?

A little less talk and a lot more action

Where is the balance of application in preaching today? Some say that sermons have drifted toward the cerebral side of things and have neglected application. However Shaddix questions the conventional wisdom and seems to think it may be the other way around. What do you think?

“More application is preached than exegesis . . . While preaching may have once erred on the side of weighty exegesis with no connection to the real world, its contemporary crime is reverse. Today, application is the sermon and exegesis is the servant.”

[from Jim Shaddix, The Passion Driven Sermon: Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2003), 101.]

Evangelism training question

Has anyone used the evangelism training course from Matthias Media in their church? I am very familiar with their tracts but would like to know if anyone has found the “Two Ways to Live” course to be helpful. Was it something that your congregation was able to understand and implement? Did everyone use a training manual? Did you use the DVD in the training or only in preparation? What were the strengths/weaknesses if any?

What say you? (Revelation 5:13)

Do you think that all creation (redeemed man, fallen man, holy angels, the demons, etc) will one day offer some form of praise to God?

 In other words, does Revelation 5:13 teach that even the demons and unredeemed humanity will join in forever adoring the wisdom of God’s sovereign plan for the cosmos?

 Greek scholar Robert Thomas puts it like this, “The entirety of intelligent life in God’s creation joins in, even fallen angels imprisoned ‘under the earth’ (Jude 6) and unredeemed humanity who must someday join in recognizing the preeminent qualities of God and the Lamb.”

 Revelation 5:13, And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”

N.T. scholar G.K. Beale writes, “This scene anticipates the universal acclamation to be offered at the consummation of all things.  If it represents universal praise in an absolute sense, then it issues not only from God’s willing subjects but also from His opponents who will be forced into submission.”

Is this another shocking passage of Scripture like Philippians 2:9-11? Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 OR is this passage simply trying to teach that all creation (excluding unredeemed man, the demons, etc) will one day join redeemed humanity and the Holy Angels in offering to God (Father and Son) the worship that He alone deserves?

 Psalm 69:34, Let heaven and earth praise Him, The seas and everything that moves in them.

 Romans 8:19-22, For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

 I’ll let you know what i conclude once i come to a biblical conclusion.

What are you reading?

As a senior teaching pastor I find myself working very hard to stay afloat almost every single week.  Throw a funeral or two into the mix and you have yourself a really exciting week.  I find it challenging to prepare a Sunday AM sermon and a Sunday PM lesson week in and week out.  Pastors have so much to do and so little time to do it in.  Thank goodness God does not want us to accomplish these tasks according to human strength or worldly wisdom.

 On a weekly basis the most important ministry task I face is the Sunday morning exposition.  I find most of my extra reading time is used to supplement my sermon preparation or some other church related ministry.

 For example, this past Sunday I preached through Revelation 5:9.  Outside of Scripture, Bible Works, LOGOS, and numerous Revelation commentaries I used the following resources: John Gill’s Body of Divinity; R.B. Kuiper’s, For Whom Did Christ Die; D.A. Carson’s, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God; & the opening chapters of Elyse Fitzpatrick’s latest book, Counsel from the Cross.

 At night I finished up Mike Abendroth’s Jesus Christ: The Prince of Preachers.  This was a very application orientated book and one that I would recommend to our faithful readers.  I am ashamed to say that during my first topical series on Biblical Preaching (I delivered these a year ago) that I did not spend a single Sunday talking about the model of Jesus.  Abendroth’s book points out how most of the great books on preaching skip over His wonderful example.

 Other than that I find myself rereading the books we’re using for our leadership training class (9 Marks of a Healthy Church, The Exemplary Husband, and 10 Questions to Diagnosing Your Spiritual Health) or reading books in preparation for my Sunday PM lessons (The Message of the Old Testament).  I am so grateful for the Christian resources that are available today.

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