Simple Praying for Complex Times

As we see the inward, moral deterioration of the western world with waves of immigrants from other lands, many of whom are hostile to Christianity, coming to us, knowing how to pray directly and effectively can be difficult. Here’s a little help to that end from a book by Martin Luther.

Authored in 1535, A Simple Way to Pray was written to Luther’s barber, a man named Peter Beskendorf.  This man, known as “Master Peter,” had been Luther’s barber for years and was his friend.  Master Peter recognized the link between Luther’s prayer life and his obvious greatness, so he asked the Reformer to teach him how to pray. One can imagine Luther sitting there in a barber’s chair, his face all lathered up and a razor blade whisking along his neck, and this barber asking him questions about prayer.  Luther probably hesitated talking too much, not wanting to distract Peter in his work for obvious reasons!  So Luther wrote this book, which begins:

Dear Master Peter:  I will tell you as best I can what I do personally when I pray.  May our dear Lord grant to you and to everybody to do it better than I! Amen.”

The Lord used Luther to help […]

Some Dogmatic Thoughts on Grace

When I was five years old, my parents took me and my sister to a farm – I think it was a farm – I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings so much as the reason for the trip.  We were getting a puppy!  Pretty soon I was standing in front of a wire-fenced, makeshift kennel in which a litter of mutts happily yipped and played together.  They were a mix of Golden Retriever and German Shepherd, and the one with a white tip on his tail immediately caught my attention.  So did the fact that he nipped me.  Yep, this was going to be our dog. 

But You Belong to Me

My grandmother grew up on a farm during the Great Depression. From a young age she was taught to work. By seven years old, her father tasked her with running water to him and the farm hands. He required cold water, so she had to pump at the well until the water came out cold as she filled the earthen crocks – which had first to be emptied of any warm, stale water – and then deliver them to the workers.

Amid all the work, she and her three siblings longed for a bicycle. Her father promised them that when the price of hogs reached twenty-five cents a pound, they could have a bicycle. When market prices rose, they had their bicycle from the Sears Roebuck & Co. catalogue. By propping the bike against the fence to start, she taught herself to ride alongside the fence by the lane. Within no time, and at the cost of a few skinned shins, she was off to the races.

But, there was still water to be pumped, and the bicycle riding would have to wait until the chores were complete. Her father even tried to make the work fun – every task was a competition […]

Cat Christians

Recently we had some Christian friends from Asia over.  As we discussed the church in their land, one of them used an analogy I had not heard before. She said a lot of Christians in her country were “like cats.”

Not understanding what she meant, I asked her to explain. She described these people as those who go to church here and there, have no loyalty to a single congregation, and show no respect for authority and structure. Thus, like cats they walk about independently, having little regard for the church of Christ.

We laughed at the analogy. It reminded my wife and me of one of our favorite commercials featuring cowboys on the range herding cats. The rugged men juxtaposed with the idea of driving cats across the range highlights in a silly way their nature.

Yet as I have thought more about it, “Cat Christians” are not limited to our friend’s country and are a serious problem in the church. We have plenty of them in our nation as well. People show little loyalty to congregations. They bite and claw at one another, then run away without settling conflicts. So many come to church wanting it to serve their needs rather than seeking to serve others. […]

Bearing The Cross of Silence

Attention is often given to the words of Jesus. Rightly so! He is wisdom incarnate and his words are a wellspring of truth and life. But I wonder if you’ve ever paused to think about what Jesus didn’t say. I still remember the day, as a nervous seminary student, when I got off the pulpit and a man in the congregation to which I was preaching publicly said, “Judas Iscariot could preach a better sermon.” Now, there’s two things you should know about me. The first is that I sometimes take criticism very personally. Second, I can be reactionary. So as these devastating words fell on my ears you can probably imagine how I wanted to respond. But it was out of this experience–and like I said, I’m not trying to be counterproductive–that I first began to notice the silence of Jesus and what it meant to bear the same cross.

The Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle once wrote: “Silence is the element in which great things fashion themselves. Speech too is great, but not the greatest. Speech is silver, silence is golden.” Now, if there’s an element of truth in those words it’s surely seen in Jesus’ own silence. His silence […]

Look at the Fish!

We live in a hurried society. We live in a society that tells the microwave to hurry up. We live in a time when we can get anything we want as soon as we want it. Think of the entertainment that streams from our internet service. I live in a city where Amazon offers one-hour deliveries! We are a hurried and impatient people.

This hurried society has caused the Church to know less of the Scriptures, even while 20 centuries of commentaries and sermons are available with the click of a trackpad. We must regain a depth of understanding and a depth of humility as we approach the Word of God.

The Scriptures tell us that we are to meditate on the Word of God. Meditation takes time. It take effort to look at the Word of God and to dive deeply into the teachings, mysteries, and truths of the Word. The first Psalm tells us that the godly makes the Word of God his meditation day and night.

Do we take time to mediate on the Word? Would the church today increase in her love for Christ, understanding of Systematic Theology, application of New Testament ethics, and knowledge of the Bible if […]

Browse Worthy: Doctrinal Quizzes

Tim Challies has been running a series of quizzes on doctrine at his site. Going through these helps sharpen your mind and theological precision. So why not try one or two of the links below?

But beware! The last one may be the hardest one of all.

Thirty-Three on the Three-in-One: A Quiz on the Trinity
A Quiz on Christ
A Quiz on the Doctrine of Scripture
Joel Osteen or Fortune Cookie?

A Good Day to Die

A line from a book I recently read is sticking with me. It went something like this:

Wherever there is spiritual life, someone has died.

The point is powerful and important: in God’s economy, life is brought about through death. In the smallest sense, we find ourselves physically sustained through the death of other things in this world, whether plant or animal. Jesus told us it basically works the same way with the life we have in him:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24; see also 1 Cor. 15:36)

Sow Only One Seed in the Vineyard

You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, or all the produce of the seed which you have sown and the increase of the vineyard will become defiled. You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. You shall not wear a material mixed of wool and linen together. You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of your garment with which you cover yourself. If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, ‘I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin…’” -Deuteronomy 22:9-14

When you read the above laws prohibiting sowing two types of seeds in the vineyard or yoking an ox and donkey together, what kind of law do you consider them to be? The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) gives three categories for the law – moral, judicial, & ceremonial. Yet sometimes sticking laws in these categories is not always as easy as it might first appear, and the wisdom that is to come from meditating on them and seeing them in context can be lost in the process (see Psalm […]