Archive for February, 2016

Prayer pointsThis is a very nice book as far as its aesthetic value is concerned. I like very much the compact size and the faux leather appearance. The cover is also imprinted with a verse of Scripture (Psalm 145:18) and some trees along the spine. The copy I received also contains a small dust cover which covers about 2/3 of the book and repeats the title of the book and other important information. I like the dust cover and I am typically loathe to dispense with certain features of a book such as dust covers; however, if I am to use this book as I think it is intended to be used, I will have to dispense with the cover.

Inside there is a nice ribbon like book mark to give it an even deeper appearance of biblical spirituality. One might even mistake this small book for a Bible.

So much for appearances. Let's move on to the more important aspect of a book: content. First, the book is, to be sure, a collection of prayer points arranged topically so that seemingly whatever problem the reader is having, there is a prayer at her fingertips. So, are you feeling empty? There's a prayer for you. Are you feeling overwhelmed? There's a prayer for you. In a car accident? There's a prayer for you. Are you struggling with worldliness? There's a prayer for you. Just imagine you are having some sort of trouble in life and there's a prayer for you in this book: emotional, physical, relational, spiritual–they are all there. Sometimes the topics seem a bit contrived, but they are there.

Therein, however is the main problem with this book: it presupposes that the only times we will (or need to) pray are when life really, really sucks. There are no prayer points in the book for times of joy, blessing, gratefulness, for thankfulness, finding a job, for having friends, for good health. There are no prayers of thanksgiving for Jesus, for the cross, for resurrection, or for God's provision. Why is there an assumption that the only time we pray is when things are not going well?

Second, there is nothing terribly wrong with the prayers as such. They are thoughtful and worded well, generally refer the reader back to Scripture, and stay close to the topic being addressed. Sadly, this presents another point of criticism: the topical arrangement of the prayers and associated Scriptures. The Bible was not written topically. Don't get me wrong, because I understand well the point and I understand well that Christians 'use' the Scripture in this way far too often and far too comfortably. It's like we are afraid of the big picture/story the Bible is painting for readers so we break it up into small, seemingly comprehensible, pithy statements we can absorb in a single gulp.

But this is not how the Bible was written and I will continue to mark down every book I review that uses Scripture in this way. It's not even fair or right to do this to books of the Bible that lend themselves to this sort of game–say, for example, the Psalms or the Proverbs. Even those two books were written/edited with a singular purpose in mind and it seems to me that it is unfair to yank passages out of that context to make a point about to pray when you've been in a car accident. In my opinion, this does damage to Scripture and to the intentions of the authors who wrote the books we call Scripture. I have no problems with praying the Scripture and I think we should pray the Scripture, but what I have in mind is something substantially different from the manner in which most books use Scripture.

Third, if I recall correctly, nearly every single prayer in the book contains some version of the words 'Lord…I claim your promise…' I do not come from a tradition of Christianity that has embraced this way of praying so I'm not saying it is necessarily wrong to 'claim' a 'promise' that is in Scripture. (The editor used many different variations of this phrase such as 'seek,' 'claim,' 'embrace,' 'long for,' 'hold on to,' 'cherish,' and so on and so forth. Frankly it became kind of boring after a while.) It might just be me, but I think there is a better way to pray. I didn't see Jesus saying this was how we are to pray when we do. Again, this is not to say it's 'wrong', it's just to say that I have not been taught to pray in this way and it may sound awkward to some people who are learning to pray for the first time using this book. Which takes us back to point two which is the way we understand the point of Scripture. Are those promises we are 'claiming' promises in context? Are they in line with God's plans and purposes in this world? We must be very careful, in my opinion, when praying in such a way.

On the other hand, it's a book of prayers that someone wrote, collected, and published. It's terrible difficult to be critical of a book of prayers because prayers are not generally offered to other people for review purposes. Prayers are meant to be prayed, not reviewed, and as such they are offered to the Father. So my review here is of a 'book', not of the prayers per say. Whatever else may be said about these books, I say this: if they draw the reader into a meaningful prayer life with the Father, then who am I to criticize? If the out of context Scripture references draw someone into a meaningful reading of entire books of the Bible, then who am I to criticize? At the heart of this book is someone's thoughts and prayers written with the Lord in mind. This is a good thing.

Someone, somewhere is going to benefit from this collection of prayers. Of that I am sure. And with that in mind, I am glad Tyndale published a book of prayers. For this reason, I happily award the book three stars. One star is deducted for the way it 'uses' Scripture and another star is deducted because of the overall gloomy feel to the book, i.e., the lack of prayers for the good times. We do not always have to be in a funk in order to pray and that's what I think this book lacks the most.

3/5 stars

Important Book & Author Things

  • Where to purchase Prayer Points: Praying God's Promises at Your Point of Need: Amazon (Imitation Leather, $13.99)
  • Author:
  • On the Web:
  • On Twitter:
  • Academic Webpage:
  • Editor: Ken Petersen, General Editor
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
  • Pages:
  • Year: 2015
  • Audience: 324
  • Reading Level: High school
  • Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this book via the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my fair and unbiased review.
Advertisements

I preached a couple of weeks ago (again!) and I decided to use Matthew 13 as my text. I had been doing some light research on the chapter and taught a little of it in my Sunday school class so I took the next logical step and went ahead with a full blown manuscript. It preached fairly well although I would agree with anyone who said it's a bit long. It preached long too. Anyhow, here's the text of the sermon. Enjoy.

The Kingdom of God

Sermon Text: Matthew 13

One of the things we understand from Jesus, that is, things explicitly taught by Him, to us–about how to do something–is how to pray.

So, when Jesus, for example, said “I will make you fishers of men,” it’s not like he explicitly told you and me–and I assume the majority of us are not fishermen in the sense that Jesus’ first disciples were–how it is that we are to go about doing such a thing. For that matter, what does it mean to be a ‘fisher of men’?

But some will argue that he did in fact teach us how to make disciples at the end of Matthew 28 and thus we do, in actuality, have our blueprints for how to be fishers of men.

We might also take the idea of worshiping in Spirit and truth. We do not really gather from his conversation in John 4 what that means or exactly how such worship might look–and I assume it would look profoundly different in our culture than it would in Samaria in the first century, or in Africa in the 21st century.

But whatever else we may decide about such things as these, and they may be radically different from person to person while remaining profoundly orthodox, is that at the end of the day, Jesus did teach us how to pray. We know the sort of things he taught us to pray–things that are typically quite different from the things we pray for, safe travel, sunshine and safe travel–not that there’s anything wrong with these things but that they are different from what he specifically said to pray for.

And, to put a fine point on this, Jesus told us specifically to pray, “Your kingdom come.” I have heard a lot of people pray before that the Lord provide us with daily bread, and forgiveness of sins, and that his will be done. But I have heard few, very few, people–elders, deacons, preachers, prophets, or little old faithful ladies–pray that God’s kingdom come.

And why? What is it about this kingdom that prevents us from praying ‘your kingdom come’?

It seems that even in this context of Matthew 6, it’s not as odd as it might seem to find Jesus talking to his disciples about the Kingdom. Matthew has had the kingdom in mind from the beginning of his Gospel when he started with a genealogy of ‘Jesus Messiah, the son of King David, the son of Abraham.’ When you start a book by talking about kings, the reign of kings, and the sons of kings well, then I suppose we ought to assume that perhaps the idea is going to be featured in the rest of the book.

And so it is and so it goes. Over and over again in Matthew we see a clash of kingdoms: Jesus collides with Herod near his birth, he collides with the satan after his baptism and many other times too, at times he collides with his own disciples, and other times with the leadership of Israel. Finally, he collides with the kings of Rome.

Matthew’s Gospel is one telling you and me not so much about how to be saved–in some strange sense of going to heaven when we die–but about how God was once again becoming the King of this earth and thus bringing about to fulfillment his plan which he announced in creation–if He created this heavens and the earth, then the heavens and the earth and everything in them are his and he will rule them–and specified in the person of Abraham in Genesis 12–that is, his plan to bless all nations through Abraham and the promised Seed who would crush this earth’s kingdoms which are so masterfully under the control and direction of the serpent.

And in some way we see God becoming King in Jesus and we see Jesus reclaiming the heavens and the earth for God through his death and his resurrection: All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, he said, now you go and tell this story and make disciples.

Scott McKnight writes, “I lay down an observation that alters the landscape if we embrace it–namely, we need to learn to tell the story that makes sense of Jesus. Not a story that we ask Jesus to fit into. No, we need to find the story that Jesus himself and the apostles told. To us common idiom, If Jesus was the answer, what was the question?’ Or, better, ‘If Jesus was the answer, and the answer was that Jesus was the Messiah/King, what was the question?’ (22) McKnight goes on to state, quite bluntly: “What is the kingdom story of the Bible? Until we can articulate the Bible’s kingdom story, we can’t do kingdom mission.’ (23)

Continue Reading »