How To Cultivate This Relational Virtue

In my last post, I wrote about the Philippians 4:5 challenge of being well known for a sweet reasonableness–a perfect courtesy, if you will, in dealing with others.

Here in part two is the first of three ways from the context of that passage for developing this otherwise unnatural disposition, especially when we are wronged.

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We don’t often associate the rather familiar verses of Phil. 4:4-8 with negotiating conflict and preserving oneness in our dealings with others. But the context in vv. 2-3 makes this connection very plain.

Paul calls out publically two godly women struggling to get along. He even enlists the aid of a mediator–“true companion”–to help resolve whatever dispute left the ladies at odds.

Let this hit you right between the eyes. That real church-life struggle sets the stage for the exhortations which follow.

Here is step one from these familiar verses for cultivating a sweet reasonableness known to everyone–especially in your church when conflict threatens to disrupt unity.

One, pursue your joy in God (v. 4). Rejoice in the Lord. He doesn’t want us to miss the point, so he repeats himself. Again, I will say rejoice. The apostle likes this theme. He hit them with it once before in Phil. 3:1.

I’m not sure we can hear this often enough. Our contentment ought not depend on how well relationships work out. No matter how hard we try, things can get dicey with others. When it does, the way to sweet reasonableness lies in a Godward orientation.

Ken Sande puts this so well in The Peacemaker:

Salvation through the gospel, the motivation and power to change, sound guidance through God’s Word and Spirit, the resources of the body of Christ, opportunities that come through a sovereign God–all these blessings are available when you are “in the Lord.” But remember, Satan does not want you to think like this; he wants to keep you worried about your conflict, wrapped up in yourself, and looking everywhere except at God. Resist him! Go to the Lord repeatedly in prayer and worship, and delight in his goodness to you. You will be surprised at the freedom and power that such rejoicing brings (85).

This is precisely why our church offers once a year a class on the subject of spiritual disciplines. Joy in God grows as the fruit of our gospel-driven pursuit of God through the means of grace with which He has blessed us.

How’s your joy in God quotient?

There’s little hope of sweet reasonableness known to all without it.

Stay tuned for part three!

A Way to Pray

A Way to Pray

When someone gifts me a book, I tend to pay close attention. Books change lives. A new title added to my library, prompted by someone’s concern that it might enrich me, makes me want to read the thing with very few exceptions.

That certainly was the case with my recent sabbatical when a dear friend of mine sent me this gem of a read. Most people know the Puritan Matthew Henry for his massive commentary on the whole Bible. Rarely do I prepare a sermon that I don’t reference this classic as part of my study. What I didn’t know until receiving a copy of A Way to Pray and reading its introduction by O. Palmer Robertson, is that the man never finished the commentary without help. He considered the publication of this work a greater priority.

A Way to Pray consists almost entirely of Scriptures arranged topically and put into the language of prayer to help guide the believer’s intercessory life. Robertson revised the 300 year old work to put it into language suitable to the modern day.

Here’s what Robertson says in the introduction about the significance of this approach to prayer:

Prayer in this form is nothing more and nothing less than what the old Puritans called ‘pleading the promises’.  God has made promises to his people.  His people respond by redirecting those promises to the Lord in the form of prayer.  How could a God who is faithful to his word fail to answer prayers of this kind?  He has promised.  He will honour that promise.  If Christians would join together and form their prayers with the maturity and insight provided by Scripture itself, the impact on the world could not be measured.”

Robertson also goes on to say, and this strikes me as no insignificant testimony, that, “Next to the Bible it has been the most read and the most influential book in my life.”

As I have begun to work through the various sections – praise, confession, petition, thanksgiving, intercession, etc., I have found A Way to Pray to provide a richness to my spiritual disciplines which I regret not adding to the mix a long time ago. You can purchase a copy here. Or you can access a free online version here.

In working through the section on confession this morning, I prayed this from p. 54:

In the multitude of our words there never has been a lack of sin, for man full of talk will never be justified. While the lips of the righteous feed many, our lips have poured out foolishness and spoken perversity. Much corrupt communication has come out of our mouths. We are guilty of foolish talk and jesting, which are always out of place in your presence. We have spoken little of things useful for building up; others in the faith. We have failed to speak words that could minister grace to our hearers.

If we must give account for every idle word that we have spoken, we stand condemned. If by our words we shall be justified and by our words we shall be condemned, then woe to us. We are ruined, for we all have unclean lips and live among people with unclean lips. What would happen to us if you should turn our tongue against us?

Here’s to prayer that impacts the world beyond measure.

Praying Without Ceasing

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This morning’s message, “The Jewelry of Grace,” from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 is now on the web. You can listen to the audio here.

Following the service, someone approached me about the sermon. She called the yearly emphasis on prayer “inspiring” and “overwhelming.” I appreciated the honesty and vulnerability. Then she asked me if I could recommend any practical resources by way of follow up that might help with making prayer as a spiritual discipline more real in her life. I did and actually lent her the book from my library.

That got me thinking today about the best books on prayer I have read and their value to me. I don’t mean to imply that other resources don’t exist that perhaps equal or even outstrip these in value. But these have meant a lot to me.

Paul Miller’s A Praying Life. The final section where he gets down to the nitty gritty about making prayer practical has numerous helpful suggestions. It was this book I spoke of above.

E. M. Bounds’ Power Through Prayer. For an inspirational resource on prayer, this can hardly be beat.

D. A. Carson’s A Call to Spiritual Reformati0n. Carson examines the prayers of the Apostle Paul as a template for praying specific, biblical prayers as a follower of Jesus.

Dick Eastman’s The Hour That Changes the World. The author explains how to spend an hour alone with God without it feeling like the time will never pass.

Andrew Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer. A classic. Enough said.

John Piper’s A Hunger for God. This is the best treatment on prayer and fasting I have ever read.

R. J. Short’s, The Diary of George Muller. For a biography of a praying man, this will convict and inspire.

Jason Mandryk’s Operation World. No Christian with a global heart for God and missions should be without this definitive prayer guide for the nations.

I certainly have read my share of books on prayer. Now if I will only learn actually to pray more.

A New Year’s Call


What summons beckon you in 2014? If you are like most folks, lots of things run through your mind.

Of all the options you weigh, consider this from Scottish churchman and hymn writer, Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), among, if not the most important of them:

Be much alone with God. Do not put Him off with a quarter of an hour morning and evening. Take time to get thoroughly acquainted. Converse over everything with Him. Unbosom yourself wholly,—every thought, feeling, wish, bonarplan, doubt,—to Him. He wants converse with His creatures; shall His creatures not want converse with Him? He wants, not merely to be on “good terms” with you, if one may use man’s phrase, but to be intimate; shall you decline the intimacy, and be satisfied with mere acquaintance? What! Intimate with the world, with friends, with neighbors, with politicians, with philosophers, with naturalists, or with poets; but not with God? That would look ill indeed. Folly, to prefer the clay to the potter, the marble to the sculptor, this little earth and its lesser creatures to the mighty Maker of the universe, the great “All and in all!”

Might you resolve to spend more time alone with God this coming year than in any previous one of your life? If so, you will never regret it.

The "Scrubbing Floors" Side of Prayer

I continue to feel like God is using Paul Miller’s book A Praying Life in significant ways in my spiritual journey at the top of this new year.

That’ true for a variety of reasons, one of which has to do with the balance of his approach between a kind of prayer-without-ceasing-lifestyle approach to intercession along side a disciplined-planned-scheduled approach to this all important spiritual discipline.

He uses a helpful analogy on p. 224 to make his point that both matter:

Remember, life is both holding hands and scrubbing floors. It is both being and doing. Prayer journals or prayer cards are on the “scrubbing floors” side of life. Praying like a child is on the “holding hands” side of life. We need both.

Last Sunday in my message I challenged us to apply Acts 20:32 by making some prayer cards for the most important people in our lives. I read one of the guidelines Miller gives for doing this effectively. Here is the entire list:

  1. The card functions like a prayer snapshot of a person’s life, so I use short phrases to describe what I want.
  2. When praying, I usually don’t linger over a card for more than a few seconds. I just pick out one or two key area and pray for them.
  3. I put the Word to work by writing a Scripture verse on the card that expresses my desire for that particular person or situation.
  4. The card doesn’t change much. Maybe once a year I will add another line. These are just the ongoing areas in a person’s life that I am praying for.
  5. I usually don’t write down answers. They are obvious to me since I see the card almost every day.
  6. I will sometimes date a prayer request by putting the month/year as in 08/07.

Before this week is out, how about doing some floor scrubbing of the most important kind by coming up with at least a couple of prayer cards for the most significant people in your life?

May we be doers of the word and not hearers only (Jas. 1:22).