[re]Understading Prayer

February 25, 2006

I would like to think that I have some diversity in my reading.  Whether it is the fiction of John Grisham, the liberal theology of Marcus Borg, the conservatism of John Piper, or the milky [RELEVANTBOOKS] that I work through.  This brief synopsis concerns the latter of these categories.  I enjoy Relevant Books and appreciate the work they are doing in the kingdom; however, I would not describe their volumes as “meaty.”  Their books are not void of theological content, but it is typically not too challenging.

[re]Understanding Prayer was written by the late Kyle Lake.  This book was refreshing.  I did not change my philosophy of prayer much through reading it, because I think Kyle and I started on the same page.  To me, prayer is the all-day conversation you have with God by your awareness of Him.  I would also agree that it is beneficial to have times designated to spend more focused moments in prayer; but we should not use that to measure our spirituality.  If you are discouraged in your prayer life, then this book could be refreshing.  It is not a theology of prayer and no how-tos are provided.  I leave you with his closing statement:

This seems to always be the danger with prayer and perhaps the essence of what Jesus communicated to the Pharisees in Matthew 6.  “Religions leaders, your prayers have taken on a life of their own.  Maybe at one time, there was s imple love for God.  And your communication with God fascilitated that.  But somewhere along the way, prayer became the point, not God.  That is praying became the point of prayer.  Rather than God being the point of prayer.”

Following in the way of Jesus, praying has never been the point of prayer.  God has always been the point.


Who Moved My Cheese?

February 25, 2006

Another great find at Half Price Books was Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.  About 6 years ago, I had a friend who spoke of the relevance this book has to church life.  The young lady who said that was a new Christian herself, but she could see the wisdom of this book applied.

I recommend this book to anyone who has had unpleasant experiences with change.  To pastors who are confronted with inevitable change and anticipate resistance, this can be a helpful resource.

The bulk of the story has to do with an analogy of 4 characters and their response when their cheese is moved.  Two of these characters are mice, and two of them are little humans (such that they were the size of the mice).  They all live in a maze.  There is insight to be gained from the responses of each.  The hardback copy that I picked up (for $1, which is $19 off its retail) is 94 pages in length.  The margins are more than generous, and there are at least 15 full-page illustrations with one line of content.  The book could easily be compacted to 25 pages or less.  However, in spite of its brevity, the truth could have been portrayed with half the words.

Depending on your reading speed, I would guess most could digest this book in a one-hour sitting.  If you think the content might be relevant to you, I highly recommend it as a valuable resource.  I am sure you can find a copy at your local library instead of paying the inflated cover price at the local bookstore.

Precritical naivete

February 25, 2006

I learned a new term today, precritical naivete. Marcus Borg uses this in the first chapter of his foundational book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time. [Before proceeding, I want to mention to any who might be reading this from googling somehow, that I do not agree with Dr. Borg’s theology; however, I am interested in the journey he has taken to arrive to his conclusions.] Borg borrows this from Paul Ricoeur, and defines it as “that childhood state in which we take for granted that whatever the significant authority figures in our lives tell us to be true is indeed true.”

This is my first introduction to any of Borg’s writings. I am fascinated by the journey that has taken him from holding to the basic tenets of the evangelical faith to a “closet agnostic” (pg. 8) to a “closet atheist” (pg. 13) to [what he describes as] “Beyond Belief to Relationship” (pg. 17).

My own journey has led beyond belief (and beyond doubt and disbelief) to an understanding of the Christian life as a relationship to the Spirit of God — a relationship that involves one in a journey of transformation (pg. 17).

I am fascinated, already, by Borg’s theology [again, not in agreement]. Take this statement as an indicator of what is to come:

John’s gospel is a powerful testimony to the reality and significance of the post-Easter Jesus, the living Christ of Christian experience. John’s gospel is “true,” even though its account of Jesus’ life story and sayings is not, by and large, historically factual. My journey for the childhood state of precritical naivete through the critical thinking of adolescence and adulthood now led to hearing John (and the Bible as a whole) in a state of postcritical naivete — a state in which one can hear these stories as “true stories,” even while knowing that they are not literally true (pg. 17).

A father’s broken heart

February 25, 2006

I am extremely fortunate in my current job situation.  Although I aspire to return to vocational ministry in the future, I am enjoying my sabbatical from ministry and my tent-making.  My current form of ten-making finds me in the role of software developer.  The company that employs me is a global corporation with clients across 6 continents (does anyone have clients on all 7?).  The company to which they have contracted me is in Dayton, OH.  Although the latter company is within an hours drive of my house; I don’t work there.  I work here.

My job affords me the privilege of working out of my home office.  There were concerns (of my own) at one point that I would not get much work done; however, I have come to realize that I am much more disciplined than I gave myself credit.  I put in at least a minimum of 8 hours work every day (I’m salaried).  There are many “perks” that come with this as well, not the least of which is the absence of commute.  My greatest joy under these circumstances is that I am able to see my kids grow up.  It is not that I simply come home to them each evening, but I am at home with them each day.

[All of the above has been to lay the foundation for the anecdote below.]

Last night, my daughter fell ill (she vomitted once but also showed other signs of viral infection).  We were concerned that when we put her to bed that it was going to be a long night.  However, God saw fit to give her adequate rest.  I woke up this morning around 5:30, and could not go back to sleep.  So, I came up to my office to read and study.  Around 7:30, Annie woke up, and as is her habit, she came to see me.  Typically, I would already have started the day’s task of my occupation, but with today being a Saturday, my current activities were personal.

She appeared at my office door, and I asked her (as is my habit) if she wanted me to hold her.  Each morning I hold her for a minute and tell her I love her, before I help her get situated for the morning as I return to “work.”  She came over and I picked her 3-year-old body up and sat her in my lap.  I held her close and asked if she was feeling better as I told her I loved her.  She so sweetly and innocently replied to me, “Daddy, please don’t put me down and tell me to go somewhere else” [insert knife and begin twisting].  “From the mouth of babes….”  The truth of this statement lies in the fact that she will come to me many times in the day in which the ritual is repeated that I hold her for a minute, but then explain to her that I must get back to work.

My children do not know how fortunate they are that both their mother and I are home with them all day long, even if much of my day is secluded to my home office (but my door remains as open as possible).  I hope that I never put work over holding my daughter when she really needs me.

“Sweetheart, I’m sorry if I have told you that before.”

“You told me that yesterday.” [Although this is likely accurate, her 37-month old mind equates “yesterday” to anything that has occurred in the recent past.]

“Annie, some days Daddy [what is the obsession with parents referring to themselves in 3rd person?] has to work, but I don’t have to work today.  Do you want me to carry you into the family room and watch a movie with you?” 


I have learned a great deal about love in these past 3 years of fatherhood.  It is most certainly a different kind of love than that between a husband and wife.  I have grown to understand better how God loves me, His child.  I am so thankful that He has never held me for a minute or two, only to say “now go somewhere else.”

A wish list

February 25, 2006

My wish list:
Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem
The Unity of the Bible, by Daniel Fuller
The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, by Wayne Grudem
Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist, by Sam Storms
Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul, by J.P. Moreland
Paul: In a Fresh Perspective by N. T. Wright
or any other books by N.T. Wright (except The Challenge of Jesus)

There are certainly other volumes that I would like to add to this list.  But this is a good starter kit.  After I started this post (as a draft) I visited yet another Half Price Books to find Love Your God with All Your Mind in paperback for $3.50.  It is very gently used and has no markings in it.  I also picked up Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time by Marcus Borg.  I certainly don’t agree with Borg’s theology, but this is one of his most known works, and I wanted to become familiar with it.

I love Half Priced books

February 22, 2006

My wife doesn’t understand it, but I have a slight obsession with Half Price Books.  The difference between this bookstore and others is that the stock is always changing.  The stock changes as someone comes in and parts with their old books for a price.

This is a great place for kids books, because it is that type of book that people would realistically want to part with after their child reaches a certain age.  Kids are going to abuse books anyway (no matter how hard we teach them); so why not get the “gently used” versions at a cut-rate price?

My favorite section is theology.  This is not always the greatest section, because who would want to give up good books.  However, inevitably, people part with these.  My most recent find was a copy of Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart.  This was amazing, because I had just looked for this book at the local Christian bookstore with intent to buy.  Barnes and Noble had a copy, but they wanted cover price.  At HPB, I got it for $7.  That was a steal.

I have seen many other worthwhile options at my local HPB, but many of these options include books I already own.  I highly recommend checking this store out whenever you are in the neighborhood.  You neve know what you might find.

Founders Ministries Blog: What should we discuss for an encore?

The above post is a follow-up to a blog entry by Tom Ascol over at The Founders Blog, concerning the possibility of Johnny Hunt being nominated to the SBC presidency, and subsequently what characteristics should we look for in a Convention president.

One comment in the original post introduced the suspected “anti-Calvinist” stance of Pastor Hunt.  This snowballed into a debate of Calvinists vs. non-Calvinists (forgive the labels, they are adoptive from the debate), that exceeded 240 posts.  Much of the debate was not on the merits of either position, but ended up being attacks of one group on the other.

I, myself, commented over at Friesville in response to Micah’s take on this entire ordeal, and I felt as if I should migrate some of those thoughts here, as well:

I like Johnny Hunt, he has a tremendous testimony, and he has made a
phenomenal impact on his community. He has an exceptional love for
young pastors and a desire to help them. Certainly we disagree
theologically; and if I thought he would try to use his two-year term
as a polemic to abolish “Calvinism” (another label I am not entirely
comfortable with) from the SBC, I would likely be spurned to more
action against his election. However, I highly doubt that is the case.

I have other thoughts on who I would like to see nominated. In the end,
the majority will win, and I think that is fair and right. I hope we
[the SBC] can continue to champion the autonomy of the local church,
agree on the commission (“make disciples”), allow for variety of
methods, and accept theological differences (to the extent that the
gospel is still proclaimed).

Am I naive to think that Johnny Hunt would not destroy the SBC?  Is it foolish to think that in spite of my theological differences with him, that I think his dynamic personality and love for pastors will make him an exceptional nominee?  There were those who have worked for him that commented in Ascol’s original post as to why he may not be perfect, but I would have to agree that they are likely biased (I can’t say all good things with respect to all the pastors I have served under).  I am concerned with his character and his positions in reference to Reformed theology, but certainly, as Ascol points out, the latter of those concerns is not going to bring the end to Reformed thinking among many SBCers.

Up to this point, we are not comparing nominees.  We have just seen those who want to attack the current (anticipated) nominee.  I know of nothing that would necessitate anything less than my full-support for Johnny Hunt as President of the SBC.  Until another candidate is presented, I believe he is the best man for the job (if he’ll accept it).

Must argument preced experience?

Over at another post, as Warren and I deliberate among the comments, I have introduced the experience vs. argument debate.

When I was once more grounded in cessationism, I had a discussion with a rather charismatic continuationist (is that redundant?). I was more versed in the Scriptures surrounding the theology of the gifts than this young man was. I presented my framework to him in such a way that he was incapable of denying the validity of what I had to say (although I question it now). His response to me was simple, “Well, you are a man with an argument, but I am a man with an experience.”

Today, I am on the fence. I am certainly not convinced by the arguments of cessationism; however, I am not thoroughly convinced by the argument of continationists (although I do recognize now that they have an argument). You know what would be the clencher? I would be overwhelmingly convinced if I just broke out into some tongue-speak right now. Is that possible? (please forgive any irreverancy)
The Assemblies of God website shares this insight:

The believer must (1) have a clear understanding of the biblical base for promised gifts; (2) be touched in his heart with a desire for the gifts to flow; (3) be willing to submit to the inner sense that the Spirit is seeking expression; and (4) offer to the Holy Spirit his heart, emotions, will, and voice by which those gifts may operate. The key is obedient availability coupled with a sincere desire to please God. (link) (previously referenced here)

For them, it seems obvious, argument must precede experience. You cannot experience it until you are thoroughly convinced of their validity for practice today.

I have recently sought the gifts and have prayed earnestly for them, but my prayer has always been prefaced with “if.” I never thought I would come this far in my journey. I am not sure I can go any further without experience. I don’t want to miss out on a greater spiritual experience if such is available to me. I also don’t want to manipulate something in my life that is not real. Where do I go from here?

What has discouraged me is that I have yet to find many Charismatic Calvinists, or more moderate cessationists write about their experiences. I don’t want a how-to, or step-by-step process, but tell me about your experience.

Some helpful links:
Part 1 of an interview by Tim Challies with Cessationist Dr. Samuel E. Waldron
Part 2 of an interview by Tim Challies with Cessationist Dr. Samuel E. Waldron
Part 1 of an interview by Tim Challies with Continuationist Dr. Wayne Grudem
Part 2 of an interview by Tim Challies with Continuationist Dr. Wayne Grudem
Are Miraculous Gifts for Today
? Part 1 by Dr. Sam Storms
Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Part 2 by Dr. Sam Storms
Are Prophets the Foundation of the Church? by Dr. Sam Storms
Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Part 1 by Dr. Sam Storms
Baptism of the Holy Spirit, Part 2 by Dr. Sam Storms

I want to share some thoughts on this article.

The Evangelicals who deny that the gifts of the Spirit are for today are living in a false world, like Ostriches with their heads in the sand.

That is a bold statement, but said with conviction. I am undeniably reformed. I am surprised that there is so much literature available on Charismatic Calvinists; that is, Reformed thinkers who are also continuationists. Such is the author of the above statement.

To say that a person, who clearly praises the Lord, and who uses the spiritual gifts is demonic is coming very close to the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Remember if there is a counterfeit there has to be the real thing too.

This is why I am careful not to take a dogmatic position against the “sign” gifts being exercised today. I cannot be confident that they are not manifested in the power of the Holy Spirit; so I therefore simply remain silent (at least until now).

This article was not as in depth and as exhaustive as others, but I was thankful for its list of links and resources to both cessationist and continuationist positional documents.