Contemplative prayer: Not contemplative and not biblical prayer

Posted on Eternity Matters blog

Contemplative prayer is a mystical practice that is making inroads in all sorts of churches. Don’t be taken in by it.  If you really contemplate on scripture and then pray to God, that’s great.  But that isn’t what is meant by contemplative prayer.  It involves repetition of phrases, in opposition to what Jesus taught (Matthew 6:7 ”And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.”).  It implies that there is formula you can use to “experience” God.

Prayer is the primary way you talk to God, not the primary way He talks to you.  If you want to hear from God, read the Bible.  If you want to audibly hear from God, then read the Bible out loud.  If God communicates to you other ways then that is his prerogative, not his obligation.

The Opposite of Love

by Richard Innes at>

No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. John 4:12

I once asked a class I was teaching, “What would you say was the Christian’s number one sin?” to which a jokester replied, “Apathy, but who cares?” And as the old saying goes, “Many a true word spoken in jest.”

“In the book The Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis, a devil briefs his demon nephew, Wormwood, in a series of letters on the subtleties and techniques of tempting people. In his writings, the devil says that the objective is not to make people wicked but to make them indifferent. This higher devil cautions Wormwood that he must keep the patient comfortable at all costs. If he should start thinking about anything of importance, encourage him to think about his luncheon plans and not to worry so much because it could cause indigestion. And then the devil gives this instruction to his nephew: ‘I, the devil, will always see to it that there are bad people. Your job, my dear Wormwood, is to provide me with people who do not care.'”2

The opposite of love is not hate. It’s apathy or indifference that is practiced by people who don’t care enough to care. The fact is that “people don’t care what we know until they know how much we care.”

Suggested prayer: “Dear God, please give me a loving heart so that I will truly care about others and care enough to share the love of Jesus in some way with all those you bring into my life. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

A Prayer of Praise for the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit

by Scotty Smith on his blog Heavenward

     For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Rom. 8:5-9

Be filled with the Spirit. Eph. 5:18

Dear heavenly Father, meditating through this passage leaves me quite grateful today for the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Several things come to mind, as I think about the ministry of the Spirit.

Just as assuredly as Jesus stood outside of Lazarus’s tomb and said, “Come forth,” you sent the Holy Spirit to preach the gospel to my heart, and I came out of the tomb of my sin and death. How I praise you for your sovereign goodness and power. Unless you’d breathed new life into my spirit, I would’ve never, could’ve never believed the gospel.

Father, when you raised me up in Jesus, you baptized me with the Holy Spirit, making me a member of your family and Christ’s bride. You sealed me for eternity by the Spirit, marking me as your very own possession. You sent the Spirit to live as a permanent resident in my heart—to constantly preach the gospel to my heart, convict me of sin, make me like Jesus and tell me that I am your beloved child. Hallelujah!

According to the truth of the gospel in your Word, I’m already controlled by the Holy Spirit. I am no longer controlled by my sinful nature. You’ve given me all the gifts of the Spirit I need to live as a functioning part of the church and a caring servant in your kingdom. You gave the Spirit to me as the firstfruits and guarantee of the full inheritance of the salvation that Jesus completely earned for me.

What a generous and loving God you are! Father, today—right now, please fill me with your Spirit that I might walk according to the Spirit, keep in step with the Spirit, and set my mind on what the Spirit desires. So very Amen I pray, in Jesus’ glorious and loving name.

10 Attributes of God in Natural Revelation

Here is a re-post from a new blog to me. It is by  Nathaniel Claiborne at Marturo blog

As promised, you’re getting some insights from my “plodding.” Actually, that’s twice this week!

Anyway, as I was plunging into Joel Beeke & Mark Jones’ A Puritan Theology, I ran across Stephen Charnock’s list of 10 attributes of God that “can be recognized by the light of nature” (17):

  • The power of God in creating the world out of nothing
  • The wisdom of God in the order, variety, and beauty of creation
  • The goodness of God in the provision God makes for His creatures
  • The immutability of God, “for if He were mutable, He would lack the perfection of the sun and the heavenly bodies”
  • His eternity, “for He must exist before what was made in time
  • The omniscience of God, “since as Creator He must necessarily know everything He has made
  • The sovereignty of God, “in the obedience his creatures pay to him, in observing their several orders, and moving the spheres wherein he set them”
  • The spirituality of God, “insofar as God is not visible”
  • The sufficiency of God, “for He gave all creatures a beginning, and so their being was not necessary, which means God was in no need of them”
  • His majesty, “seen in the glory of the heavens”

As you can see, Charnock has put quite a bit of thought into what we can know through natural theology. Actually, he has put quite a bit thought into the doctrine of God in general as you can see from The Existence and Attributes of God, Charnock’s massive tome on the subject.

Two things to keep in mind about this list:

  • Whenever someone brings up the “tribal warrior in Africa who’s never about Jesus” you can remind them of this list available to all (see Romans 1:20ff)
  • None of these attributes are sufficient for a saving knowledge of God

So in other words, everyone knows a great deal about God if they reflect on it. But, even with this impressive list, the gospel still needs to be preached for anyone to know God in saving way. This list though makes a great starting point, taking full advantage as it does of the resources of natural revelation.

I Can’t Wait Until I’m Not In Heaven

Need a thought to jog your thinking cap? Here is one by Stephen Altrogge at The Blazing Center blog.



I’ve gotta confess, I feel a little uncomfortable saying this. Am I allowed to say this in a public forum? Is this going to be bleeped out, or am I going to be fined by the FTC, or something? Maybe I should post this anonymously…Oh what the heck, here I go…

A lot of times heaven sounds really boring to me. 

There, I said it. Phew. Glad that’s off my chest. No more secrets. No more hiding. I’m not that excited about heaven. When I think about heaven it all seems so…abstract. I know that we’ll be in God’s presence for eternity, I know that we’ll worship Jesus for eternity, I know that there will be hordes of angels, and I know that there will be no more pain, sorrow or tears. And don’t get me wrong, all that stuff sounds great. But when I picture it in my head, it just sounds like one really long Sunday morning worship service. I’m a worship leader, and even I can only sing Chris Tomlin for so long before I need to do something else. I’m a preacher, and even I could only listen to myself preach for so long before I had to do something else.

I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that heaven sounds boring. I think lots of Christians feel that way. And, as Randy Alcorn has said, not being excited about heaven is one of the main ways Satan keeps us comfortable here. So how do we become more excited?

I think we need to remember that heaven is not our final destination. 

So often we talk about heaven as if it is the final resting place for a Christian. When someone dies, we talk about them finally “going home”, and “being in a better place”. And they really are in a much, much better place. As Paul said, he longed to die and be with Christ, which was better by far.

But the reality is, heaven is simply the waiting room for the rest of eternity. When a person dies, they leave their body and go to be with Christ. But that’s not the end. Our final, glorious, exciting hope is not an abstract, bodiless existence. Our great end is not to float about the universe as bodiless souls. The end comes when Jesus returns, makes a new, physical heavens and earth, and gives us new, physical resurrection bodies.

I can’t relate to simply being a soul. I have no concept of that form of existence. But I can imagine having a new, resurrection body, and the prospect of that excites me! Our resurrection bodies will feast at the table of the Lamb! We will eat glorious meals! What sorts of flavors will our new bodies be able to sense and savor? Our new bodies will sing to the king. How many different shades and shimmers of harmony will we be capable of producing? What sorts of things will we do with our friends in heaven? Will we explore? Will we swim in heavenly lakes? Will we have heavenly competitions?

I don’t know all that we’ll do in the new heavens and the new earth, but I can imagine. I can think of all the God-given joys I experience in this life, and then amplify them by a million. I can think of the many gifts of God I experience in this life, then blow those up. It’s going to be wonderful. Astonishing. Breath taking.

Will heaven be good? Yes, it will be great. But I can’t wait until I’m not in heaven. Heaven is just the waiting room. I can’t wait until I’m in the new heavens and new earth, with my new resurrection body. That’s what I’m truly looking forward to.


[Join the discussion at ]

When You Don’t Feel Loving


“Let love be your highest goal.” 1 Corinthians 14:1

As none of us is perfect, most of us have an issue of one kind or another. Probably my biggest issue was being afraid to love, which came from childhood hurts. A friend recently asked me if I ever still feel afraid to love and I said not very often but sometimes I do. “What do you do when you feel this way?” he asked to which I replied, “I do the loving thing.”

Nobody feels loving all the time, but we can always do the loving thing if we so choose. People who choose otherwise usually end up driving love away. I’ve seen this happen and I’m sure you have too.

Jesus never told us how we should or shouldn’t feel … he just told us how to act. Sure, it is important to recognize and acknowledge our feelings. Not to do so is to be in denial. However, it is equally important not to allow our feelings to control us. That can be childish and immature. But rather, we need to be in control of our feelings and regardless of what we feel, always do the right thing, the loving thing. This is a mark of maturity.

Suggested prayer: “Dear God, no matter what situation I am in nor how I feel, please help me to be like Jesus and always do the loving thing—even if this includes tough love where such is needed. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus’ name, amen.”

The Main Reason People Leave a Church

bDr. Thom S. Rainer on zPeter Cockrell’s Already Not Yet blog

Rainer-web-300x300Numbers of gifted persons and organizations have studied the phenomenon of the church “back door,” the metaphorical way we describe people leaving the church. And there will always be the anticipated themes of relocation or personal crises. We should recognize those issues, though we can respond to the latter more than the former.

But all the research studies of which I am aware, including my own, return to one major theme to explain the exodus of church members: a sense of some need not being filled. In other words, these members have ideas of what a local congregation should provide for them, and they leave because those provisions have not been met.

Certainly we recognize there are many legitimate claims by church members of unfulfilled expectations. It can undoubtedly be the fault of the local congregation and its leaders.

But many times, probably more than we would like to believe, a church member leaves a local body because he or she has a sense of entitlement. I would therefore suggest that the main reason people leave a church is because they have an entitlement mentality rather than a servant mentality.

Look at some of the direct quotes from exit interviews of people who left local congregations:

  • “The worship leader refused to listen to me about the songs and music I wanted.”
  • “The pastor did not feed me.”
  • “No one from my church visited me.”
  • “I was not about to support the building program they wanted.”
  • “I was out two weeks and no one called me.”
  • “They moved the times of the worship services and it messed up my schedule.”
  • “I told my pastor to go visit my cousin and he never did.”

Please hear me clearly. Church members should expect some level of ministry and concern. But, for a myriad of reasons beyond the scope of this one blogpost, we have turned church membership into country club membership. You pay your dues and you are entitled to certain benefits.

The biblical basis of church membership is clear in Scripture. The Apostle Paul even uses the “member” metaphor to describe what every believer should be like in a local congregation. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Paul describes church members not by what they should receive in a local church, but by the ministry they should give.

The solution to closing the back door, at least a major part of the solution, is therefore to move members from an entitlement mentality to a servant mentality. Of course, it is easy for me to write about it, but it is a greater challenge to effect it.

May I then offer a few steps of a more practical nature to help close the back door by changing the membership mentality? Here are five:

  1. Inform church members. Though I do not have precise numbers, I would conjecture that more than one-half of church members do not have a biblical understanding about church membership. Providing that information in a new members’ class can move an entire congregation toward a servant mentality.
  2. Raise the bar of expectationsWe have dumbed down church membership in many congregations to where it has little meaning. Clarify expectations of members. Again, doing so in the context of a new members’ class is a great way to begin.
  3. Mentor members. Take two or three members and begin to mentor them to become biblical church members. After a season, ask them to mentor two or three as well. Let the process grow exponentially.
  4. Train membersAlmost 100 percent of pastors agree that their role is to train and equip members. But almost three-fourths of these pastors have no plans on how they will train them (see Ephesians 4:11-13). I will address this issue more fully on my blog next Wednesday.
  5. Encourage people to be in small groups. Those in Sunday school classes and small groups are more likely to be informed and functioning church members. In others words, there is a much greater likelihood of a member with a servant mentality to be in a small group than not.

What are you doing in your church to close the back door? What are you doing to move members from an entitlement mentality to a servant mentality?

Stop Saying “I Don’t Have Enough Time”

This is written by the author , Josh Irby, of one of the incredibly challenging books I read last year called “Meeting Miss Irby“. I highly recommend reading his book. It takes place in late 19h century Bosnia. It is a story of love and dedication that will challenge the reader.

I did not sleep much last night—in bed after midnight and up before 5:00AM. Last night my wife and I played a concert with my sister, Bethany, and her husband, Abe. They were in town all week visiting us on the way back to their home in India. The past five days were filled with fun excursions and family activities. The concert capped off a busy and enjoyable week.

This morning I drove them to the airport before the sun came up.

In the past, I would have skipped out on writing this week. I don’t have enough time. However, I am learning something about time.

Time is not what keeps me from reaching my goals.

Photo by Toni Verdú Carbó (Creative Commons)

Photo by Toni Verdú Carbó (Creative Commons)

“I don’t have enough time.”

I hate to admit it, but I complain too much about not having enough time.

“Sorry, I don’t have enough time.”
“Imagine what I could do if I had more time.”
“Let me just make it through this week and I will have enough time.”

Sort of ironic, since time is the only resource we all have the same amount of.

Kings and paupers, presidents and street sweepers all have the same amount of time. 24 hours a day. 128 hours a week. 8,760 hours a year. It is a daily gift from our Creator. It is a trust fund that delivers interest each morning without fail. It is a resource evenly delivered to everyone in the world, without discrimination.

We all have the same amount of time. The difference is what we do with it.

We invest it.
We waste it.
We save it.
We lose it.
We run out of it.
We spend it.
We count it.
86,400 seconds, 1,440 minutes, 24 hours a day.

Although we all have the same amount of time, it is a limited resource. No amount of money can buy more of it. Once spent, it cannot be retrieved. A day will never have more than 24 hours. Therefore, time is valuable—the most valuable resource we handle each day. It is the doorway to all other resources.

If you doubt the value of time, ask someone who just ran out of it.

And, no matter how much time we have, we feel we never have enough of it.

Don’t say “I don’t have enough time.”

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

As the father of three small children and the leader of our 13-person team, time is scarce. “I don’t have enough time” is my go-to excuse.

Last year I quit writing because I couldn’t fit it into my schedule. My five-month-old blog went into hibernation. When I awoke it again in August, I knew I needed a different perspective of time. Instead of complaining about how little time I have, I need to make the most of the time I’m given.

The truth is, we have time for what we value. If I don’t have any time, then why have I not missed an episode of Downton Abbey or The Office? I have time. The question, is HOW I will use it.

In the West, we have more leisure time than ever before (perhaps more than any other time in history). What do we do with it? TV. Video games. Facebook. Movies. Our prosperity has become our undoing. We spend buckets of cash to assuage our boredom while simultaneously bemoaning our busyness. (you can tweet that)

If you want to stay up until 2:00AM watching a Jersey Shore marathon, than that’s your choice. It’s OK. Just stop whining about not having enough time.

Photo credit Sybren Stüvel (Creative Commons)

Photo credit Sybren Stüvel (Creative Commons)

I have enough time 

Here is my logic:

A.  God gives me a limited amount of time
B.  God gives me a purpose and calling in life.


C.  God is playing a sick joke on me and is laughing himself off his heavenly cloud as he and the angels watch me try to accomplish my purpose when he knows he hasn’t given me enough time to do it.


D.  I have enough time to do what God is calling me to do.

I know the logic is simple, but the conclusion is transformative:

We don’t have enough time to do everything we want to do, but we have enough time to do everything we are called to do. (you can tweet that too)

This means our problem is not our limited time but our inability to limit what we do with our time. We have entangled ourselves in the unrealistic expectations and endless demands of our culture, leaving us no time for what we really want to do—live a life of purpose and meaning. The time has come to break free.

This means making some difficult choices.

  1. What does God actually want me to do with my life? What is my purpose?
  2. What roles has God given me?
  3. What do I need to cut out to truly fulfill those roles?

The world does not need one more busy person running from activity to activity. Find your purpose and focus your energy towards that end.

Now is the time.

Just enough time

I read about a guy who died in his early thirties. Three years before his death he started his “life’s work.” He was just beginning to gain influence when he died. His life looks sad on paper. He didn’t have much time to accomplish anything. He was only just beginning to live.

However, the night before he died, he was recorded as saying, “I have accomplished everything that God has given me to do.”

A different perspective of time.

You might have heard of him. His name was Jesus.

Learning Contentment

by Paul D. Adams at In Christ Jesus blog

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13

A few observations:

1. Lest the Philippians misunderstand his reason for rejoicing, Paul offers a disclaimer. His joy results from finding contentment with all things, not necessarily from the gift sent. When asked who the wealthiest person was, Socrates replied, “The one who is content with the least.”

2. It is significant that contentment can be ours in poverty or abundance (4:12). Contentment is a state of being, not necessarily the result of our needs being met. Those with needs learn trust and patience; those with wealth learn humility and dependence. Paul knows how to live in prosperity or poverty.

3. Contentment is a safeguard against both the arrogance that often comes from having plenty and the false piety that can be attached to poverty.

4. Contentment is the very thing that eludes us when we seek it from within material gain (Deut. 8:11ff; Ecc. 4:8). Yet we’re admonished to thank God when He meets our needs (“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God,” Pr. 30:8-9).

5. The greatest gain and sure path to joy is serving God in determined contentment whatever one’s material lot in life (1 Tim. 6:6-9). Indeed, a genuinely happy person is one whose contentment rests solely in a relationship with the Lord (cf., Josh. 36:11; Pr. 19:23; Heb. 13:5).

6. This kind of contentment comes over time and results from a pattern of life that is focused “not on what is seen, but on what is unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18). This kind of contentment frees us from slavery to external circumstances. Paul voluntarily chose poverty and hard work (1 Cor. 4:10-14; 2 Cor. 6:10), no payment for his pastoral services (2 Cor. 11:7), and a life of abuse and suffering (2 Cor. 11:23-30). Yet in all of this, Paul learned contentment!

The Greatness Of Yahweh

by Andrew Wilson a tBible Reflections blog

The Greatness Of Yahweh

We need to be slapped in the face with the greatness of Yahweh. Human problems will never be solved by economics, or politics, or science, or self-help, but only by a renewed understanding of the wonder and the glory and majesty of Almighty God. I remember the first time I read Tozer’s The Knowledge Of The Holy, and this truth hit me right between the eyes:
It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God… is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity… The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.’
Sin results from knowing God but not responding appropriately to His greatness (Romans 1:21). So every person suffers from a sickness for which an understanding of the greatness of God is the only medicine.
Incomparable pp.223-224