Encouraging Pastors to Teach on Fasting

Friday is for Heart Songs

Jonathan EdwardsWe are in the middle of 21 days of praying for friends an neighbors to hear and respond to the gospel during the Easter season. “Knees on the Ground” or “Elbows on the Table” are two of the slogans, code words we are using to remind the whole church to petition heaven for their neighbor’s souls and to look for opportunities to serve their good. But I think I have neglected to teach on fasting for much of my ministry. Jonathan Edwards make a case for not just pastors to fast but for all Christians to fast and pray regularly. The article below is from Kairos Journal.

Fasting—Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758)

Jonathan Edwards knew that all spiritual renewal comes from God and that ministers are central in God’s outworking of His plans. In this extract from his famous work Some Thoughts Concerning the Revival, he reflects on the urgent need for ministers to seek God’s “extraordinary supplies of divine grace” through fasting and prayer. Edwards wrote these words in the months after New England’s Great Awakening of the early 1740s. Given the extraordinary challenges the Church is facing, this is a timely message for her leaders.

The state of the times extremely requires a fullness of the divine Spirit in ministers, and we ought to give ourselves no rest till we have obtained it. And in order to [do] this, I should think ministers, above all persons, ought to be much in secret prayer and fasting, and also much in praying and fasting one with another. It seems to me it would be becoming the circumstances of the present day, if ministers in a neighborhood would often meet together and spend days in fasting and fervent prayer among themselves, earnestly seeking for those extraordinary supplies of divine grace from heaven, that we need at this day …

One thing more I would mention concerning fasting and prayer, wherein I think there has been a neglect in ministers; and that is, that although they recommend and much insist on the duty of secret prayer, in their preaching; so little is said about secret fasting. It is a duty recommended by our Savior to his followers, just in like manner as secret prayer is. . . Though I don’t suppose that secret fasting is to be practiced in a stated manner and steady course as secret prayer, yet it seems to me ’tis a duty that all professing Christians should practice, and frequently practice. There are many occasions of both a spiritual and temporal nature that do properly require it; and there are many particular mercies that we desire for ourselves or friends that it would be proper, in this manner, to seek of God. I should think the people of God in this land, at such a time as this is, would be in the way of their duty to do three times so much at fasting and prayer as they do.1

1  Jonathan Edwards, “Some Thoughts Concerning the Revival,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 4The Great Awakening, ed. C. C. Goen (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1972), 507, 521, 516.

Things I Don’t Need

Teaching My Soul its Place on a Friday

CS Lewis on HumilityI don’t need to be used …

sought out,

I need  to be

a servant,
a bond-slave,
a brother,
a Christ-one,
a follower, . . .

My life isn’t mine; it’s Yours.

I need You.


Loving Holiness

Friday is for Heart Songs

Holiness of GodThen Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, ‘Keep silence and hear, O Israel: this day you have become the people of the Lord your God. You shall therefore obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping his commandments and his statutes, which I command you today.”  (Deuteronomy 27:9-10, [ESV])

Our God wants us to obey him. He wants us to be holy. He wants to protect us from the consequences of breaking his laws. And that means obedience to God is not only how we honor our God but also how we protect ourselves.  

Holiness is the will of God for us (1 Thess. 4:3-4).

Let us embrace it with joy.

Living Passionately For and Like Jesus isn’t Very Popular

Friday is for Heart Songs

Chase Your Passion

  • Live passionately for and like Jesus.
  • Living passionately for and like Jesus.
  • Training men and women to live passionately for and like Jesus.
  • Planting churches that plant churches filled with people living passionately for and like Jesus.

These are the phrases, that have dominated my thinking, studying, preaching, teaching and living for the last 25 years. When I try to imagine what it is that Jesus wants from His disciples I come to the same conclusion over and over.  He wants me (us) to live passionately for and like Him. Out of our enchantment and love for God our lives are to be radically transformed as we follow Him, and to better reflect Him every day.

Some weeks ago, a national leader in one of the fastest growing denominations in America asked me what it looked like for a person to “live passionately for and like Jesus.”

My response surprised not only him but everyone in the room. I can’t remember the exact phraseology I used but my response was something like this:

“I’m not sure I can. And I’m not sure it is important that I can’t. There are many things in life that are important that cannot be defined with the precision of a mathematical formula.  Like the Supreme Court justice who said ‘I can’t define pornography but I know it when I see it,’ living passionately for and like Jesus is easily seen or experienced but not so easily defined.”

“But when our words and life begin to look like Jesus, when our passions and pursuits begin to resemble a ‘not my will but Your will be done’ type of texture, when the fragrance of our life reminds people of the holiness of God, when the boldness and confidence of our lives coupled with the humility of our lives begins to attract some and repel others—something wonderful and noticeable is happening.”

“I think Acts 4:13 is a profound statement of what a disciple looks like and what their effect is on the people around them.”

Acts 4:13
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 

Well the discussion went on for a while but that is the gist of what I said.

If we change the question slightly and say, How do we get there?, a whole new avenue opens up for discussion. I will blog on that topic soon.

What do you think?

Is living passionately for and like Jesus a good description of what a disciple looks like and therefore what we should be aiming at in our process of making disciples?

The Serious Business of Heaven (and Earth)

Friday is for Heart Songs

CS Lewis on Joy“Joy” said C.S. Lewis, “is the serious business of Heaven.”

—(Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, 93)

“Lord, make my heart serious about joy. Make my heart desire the greatest joys knowing that the passionate pursuit of real joy, will always lead me to You.”

A Challenge from God to Farmers

Farmer and tractor at Twilight“Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.”

—Exodus 34:21 (ESV)

While this verse is directed perhaps most appropriately to farmers, it applies to all. What does resting one day out of seven do?

  1. It demonstrates obedience
  2. It demonstrates trust.
  3. It demonstrates dependence.
  4. It demonstrates humility.
  5. It provides rest for the work that is to come.
  6. It provides presence for the family that needs more than sustenance.
  7. It gives the body time to recuperate.
  8. It provides margin for others to fit into our lives.
  9. It models all these things for those who watch our lives.

It is marvelous the things you find year after year simply reading your Bible through.

Discipling the Whole Family for the Glory of God

Friday is for Heart Songs

Family Worship 1Continuing my goal to reread all of C.S. Lewis in 2014, I read this today from God in the Dock. It was a great reminder to me that those churches who are on track to equip the next generation best are churches that take seriously the discipleship of not only the affections for Christ but the development of the mind for Christ.  We need to disciple men and women to disciple their families.

“If we had noticed that the young men of the present day found it harder and harder to get the right answers to sums, we should consider that this had been adequately explained the moment we discovered that schools had for some years ceased to teach arithmetic. After that discovery we should turn a deaf ear to people who offered explanations of a vaguer and larger kind—people who said that the influence of Einstein had sapped the ancestral belief in fixed numerical relations, or that the gangster films had undermined the desire to get right answers, . . . If the younger generation have never been told what the Christians say and never heard any arguments in defence of it, then their agnosticism or indifference is fully explained. . . . And having discovered that the cause of their ignorance is a lack of instruction, we have also discovered the remedy. . . . The young people today are unChristian because their teachers have been either unwilling or unable to transmit Christianity to them. . . . None can give to another what he does not possess himself.”

—C. S. Lewis in the essay, 
“On the Transmission of Christianity”
in God in the Dock

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Excerpt)

Friday is for Heart Songs

The Love of GodThe following is an excerpt from D.A. Carson’s book The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. The introduction to the excerpt is from Kairos Journal. There is so much mushy thinking and teaching on the love of God and so much of it is often put at odds with his other attributes. Perhaps it couldn’t be otherwise in an age that is as emotionally warped as ours. But like everything else, all our thoughts are to go through a different process.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, (2 Cor. 10:5, NASB 1995)

That “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” requires us to conform our thoughts to the teaching of Scripture and not the speculative and unharnessed imagination of our sin-affected minds. Here’s the article:

God: Aware, Caring, and Unflappable—Donald A. Carson (1946 – )

Donald A. Carson, Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, shows how modern misconceptions of God are, in reality, practices of idolatry. To think of God only in “emotional” terms separated from other attributes of His being, prepares the way for God to be presented publicly as little more than a super human being—capable of feeling, but powerless over the world and its problems.

The modern therapeutic God may be superficially attractive because he appeals to our emotions, but the cost will soon be high. Implicitly we start thinking of a finite God. God himself is gradually diminished and reduced from what he actually is. And that is idolatry.

Closer to the mark is the recognition that all of God’s emotions, including his love in all its aspects, cannot be divorced from God’s knowledge, God’s power, God’s will. If God loves, it is because he chooses to love; if he suffers, it is because he chooses to suffer. God is impassible in the sense that he sustains no “passions,” no emotion, that makes him vulnerable from the outside, over which he has no control, or which he has not foreseen.1

(1)  D. A. Carson, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 60.

“Lord, let all our thoughts of you be purified by an true picture of who you reveal yourself to be in your word. Make us men and woman who think rightly of you and worship you in spirit and truth. In the name of our Savior we ask it. Amen.”

Give Your Opinion: What is your preferred way to start a new church?

Lessons Learned in Church Planting

Tell us why?

Eat This Book and Change Your Life Forever

Friday is for Heart Songs

“The average person reads 200 to 250 words per minute; there are about 775,000 words in the Bible;
therefore it takes less than 10 minutes a day to read the whole Bible in a year.”
Justin Taylor)

Stack of Bibles (various translations)Our church is reading the Bible through this year, with everyone using the same Bible reading plan. Last year we encouraged the whole congregation with multiple plan options but we decided to go with the YouVersion “EAT THIS BOOK” plan for 2014. We are only three days in so its not to late to join us in the adventure.

For those of who are Bible reading virgins, there are some helpful videos (4-6 minute videos), available through links on our website that give overviews of the sections that you will be reading at the start of each week.  Right now the links for the month of January are up and running. [The videos themselves were produced by the staff of Black Hawk Church in Wisconsin, the originator of the EAT THIS BOOK plan.]

I don’t know how many times I have read the Bible through, more than 30, less than 50. But every time I do, my life is changed for the better. Here’s ten other things that happen.

  1. I see things I never saw before.
  2. I make connections between books I never saw before.
  3. The Spirit of God, throughout the year, brings me to the perfect text for some thorny problem I am struggling with at the perfect time.
  4. My worship of God is deepened as I see his sovereign hand at work over time in the nation of Israel.
  5. I have some old questions answered and …
  6. I have some new confusions created.
  7. My faith grows stronger.
  8. My love for grows God deeper.
  9. My commitment to living sacrificially for others is challenged, informed and empowered.
  10. My desire to read the Bible through again increases.