Prayer & Worship

Some quotes from John Piper

It is not surprising that prayer malfunctions when we try to make it a domestic intercom to call upstairs for more comforts in the den.

Prayer is the open admission that without Christ we can do nothing. And prayer is the turning away from ourselves to God in the confidence that He will provide the help we need. Prayer humbles us as needy, and exalts God as wealthy.

The key to praying with power is to become the kind of persons who do not use God for our ends but are utterly devoted to being used for His ends.

Do you feel more loved when God makes much of you or do you feel more loved when God at the cost of His Son allows you to make much of Him?

Strong affections for God, rooted in and shaped by the truth of Scripture – this is the bone and marrow of biblical worship.

Worship is basically adoration, and we adore only what delights us. There is no such thing as sad adoration or unhappy praise.


Joy in the Church

by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Lord, give more joy to your church…Without the church, the whole world is joyless and miserable, and there is no end to hunger and thirst.


The Bible Is Not about You

by Byron Yawn at blog

I hate to disappoint you, but the Bible is not about you. Specifically, it was not written to improve the quality of your daily existence (in the way you think). It is not a spiritual handbook and it is not a guide to determining God’s will for your life. The Bible is not a story of God determining in eternity past to send His Son to earth to create a more satisfactory existence for you. But, this is usually where we take the story. We are seriously self-absorbed when it comes to our Bibles.

Who else could take the unbelievable episode of Moses and the burning bush and bend it back toward our everyday experience? Or, the life of Joseph and draw out principles for effective management? Your life and happiness are not adequate points of reference for the scope of what God has done and is doing. Neither are mine. It’s bigger than you and me.

In the Bible we are watching as redemption comes to pass on the pages of Scripture, one unbelievable event after another, eventually leading to Christ. Each page rumbles with anticipation. When you see it from here, the Bible opens up in ways you’ve never imagined. It takes off.

Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to read ourselves onto the pages and into the events of Scripture. We don’t even realize we’re doing it. What’s the first question we ask of the Bible in our personal reading times or church services? “How is this relevant to me?” This is the wrong question entirely. No question could push us further from the real story. It’s very much like walking out into the night sky and assuming all the stars showed up to look at us.

When we approach the Bible this way, we can’t help but read it as if we’re the center of the biblical universe and all of its history revolves around us. When everything is read through the lens of self, self-improvement, and self-contentment, we’re destined to miss the point. But this is what we always do. Is it any wonder most Christians—even those who care deeply about the Word of God—are unable to put it all together?

Usually, biblical stories are approached as a set of isolated events with no connection to each other or to the greater redemptive plotline of the Bible. Without the real story, the events of the Bible become merely parables for better living, moral platitudes, character studies, or whatever else we can come up with. In the absence of a greater plot this is all we have. Over the years popular Christianity has practically rewritten the Bible. Our version of various events reads more like a fairy tale than God’s story.

  • Eve’s decision to eat of the fruit and the subsequent disintegration of humanity becomes a lesson on the effects of negligent leadership and an absentee husband.
  • Cain’s homicidal rage becomes a lesson on avoiding sibling rivalry.
  • Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his only son becomes a lesson in trusting against all odds for God to provide, or how we should all surrender our children to God.
  • Moses before a burning bush becomes a prototype for decision-making.
  • Gideon becomes an example of how to determine the will of God.
  • The prayer of Jabez becomes a lesson about expanding our personal influence.
  • David’s encounter with the fighting champion of a hostile nation becomes a lesson in overcoming our greatest personal challenges (“giants”).
  • Jonah, a prophet miraculously swallowed by a fish and vomited out on a specific shoreline, becomes an example of the futility of resisting God’s purpose in your life.
  • Jesus’ testing in the wilderness in a template for how we resist temptation.
  • The story of a caring Samaritan is a model of how we should reach out with compassion to those of other races and classes.

Connection is necessary part of our calling as followers of Jesus

Connection is necessary part of our calling as followers of Jesus; we simply cannot continue to live according to the isolation brought on by the individualism of Western culture. We have been made in the image of the triune God, whose persons exist in loving community with each other. We will need to be patient and diligent for there will inevitably be challenges, but we will find joy and fulfillment in the community of our brothers and sisters, the joy that comes from living in harmony with our created purpose. God loves us and has given us the Holy Spirit to dwell in our midst and to guide us toward the fulfillment of our calling to be the people of God. In the

Smith, C. Christopher (2010-02-01). Growing Deeper in our Church Communities: 50 ideas for Connection in a Disconnected Age (Kindle Locations 1011-1017). The Englewood Review of Books. Kindle Edition.

Dressed for the Battle

Ephesians 6:13-18 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

Each morning it’s wise to dress for the day’s weather or activities. The same is true spiritually, yet many believers leave home unprepared.

God has graciously provided the needed equipment for any challenges. First, we strap on the belt of truth. Like the leather apron that covered a Roman soldier’s abdomen, the truth of who we are in Christ—namely, saints with supernatural power from God’s indwelling Spirit—protects us.

Next, when we’re tempted to live by anger, fear, or dissatisfaction, the breastplate of righteousness can deflect such “arrows,” enabling us to respond in a godly manner.

Third, sandals of peace help us to remain standing, firmly planted in God’s peaceful will. Roman battle sandals usually had thick, spiked soles so soldiers could anchor themselves as they fought.

Then faith, offering Christ’s protection against anything Satan throws, is compared to a door-sized Roman shield. Faith is also what brought us salvation—when we exchanged our old thought patterns for new ways of thinking. Consequently, with salvation’s helmet, we put on the mind of Christ, which gives us discernment and wisdom.

And finally, we take up the sword of the Spirit so that we can combat Satan’s lies with Scripture’s truth.

We cannot know precisely what we’ll face each day, but Scripture warns us that there is a battle raging in the spiritual realm. Don’t venture out until your are dressed for the fight. Before rising, let your first prayer include step-by-step application of God’s armor.

How Not to Become a Christian Chihuahua

by J. Warner Wallace of Cold Case Christianity

I’ve been posting articles and blog entries for six or seven years now, so I’ve developed a relatively thick skin. I’ve saved all my email correspondence during this period of time to remind me of some of the responses I’ve received and to keep a record of complaints. Some people have encouraged me over the years while others have grumbled. I recognize that it’s important to evaluate and accept criticism; I try to be my own worst critic, and I am quick to adjust my thinking on a particular issue when someone offers a valid criticism. But I’ve noticed that some emailers are not interested in discussing the issues calmly or rationally, and they are unwilling to accept an alternate explanation in a non-essential doctrine. In fact, critics of this kind typically elevate their issue of interest to the level of essential Christian doctrine and refuse to accept any explanation or view that differs from their own. They consistently complain if someone strays from their favored view in even the slightest way, and their complaints quickly become vicious. They write repeatedly, post complaints on their own blogs about non-essential issues and demonstrate a lack of charity that is shocking, especially when coming from a Christian brother or sister. They continually nip at the heels of those who differ from them, barking out complaints incessantly. They become Christian Chihuahuas.

Chihuahuas Are Smart to a Fault
I owned a Chihuahua for over ten years and often marveled at her intelligence. My dad owned a black Labrador, Woody, during this time and the apparent differences in intelligence were striking. He often complained that he couldn’t even take Woody on a run down a country road because Woody didn’t have the sense to stay away from cars that occasionally passed by. My Chihuahua, on the other hand, was smart enough to recognize the danger, but her level of intelligence caused her to be paranoid of anything she thought might hurt her. Christian Chihuahuas are often very smart people. In fact, I believe their level of uncharitable intolerance is directly proportional to their knowledge of theology and apologetics. The more someone thinks they know about a particular topic, the less likely they usually are to accept or tolerate alternative explanations. I think this is the reason Peter felt the need to admonish Christian Case Makers to make their defense with gentleness and reverence (1Peter 3:15-16); he understood the relationship between knowledge and prideful arrogance.

Chihuahuas Are Protective to a Fault
When I first got my Chihuahua, she was a sweet, accepting dog who loved anyone who wanted to pet or pay attention to her. But as she became more and more familiar with our family and recognized that she belonged to us, she became obsessively protective. She became less and less tolerant of strangers or non-family members. It wasn’t long before she barked and growled at anyone who wasn’t a member of the family. Christian Chihuahuas are similarly protective of the like-minded thinkers they call “family”. They tend to affirm one another, write blogs and posts that appeal only to people who think the same way, and viciously rush to attack anyone who might challenge a “family member” who shares their view on a nonessential issue.

Chihuahuas Are Defensive to a Fault
My Chihuahua was determined to be the biggest dog in the yard, even though she was always the smallest. She consistently over-compensated for her size by being the loudest, fiercest and un-friendliest dog in any group. It was difficult to meet with other friends who had dogs, because my Chihuahua had a hard time getting along. Christian Chihuahuas are similarly defensive, especially if they hold a view that is in the minority position. Feeling outnumbered (like the smallest dog in the yard), they are typically louder, more obnoxious, less forgiving, and less gracious.

So, the questions I have for myself are simply these: Am I the Chihuahua in the room? Am I the kind of person who arrogantly thinks he has all the answers? Do I selectively cloister myself with like-minded believers? Do I obnoxiously defend what I believe with ruthless animosity? Am I more of a nuisance than a blessing? Have I elevated my pet theological positions to the level of essential Christian doctrine, even when they are non-essential issues? In the many years that I owned a Chihuahua, my friends tolerated her with patience. In fact, they usually ignored her incessant barking and posturing as they tried their best to carry on a conversation while the silly little dog was barking in the background. That’s what we do with barking Chihuahuas; we try to ignore them and carry on as though they weren’t the obnoxious little dogs they actually are. I don’t want people to feel that way about me. Sadly, I am sure there have been many times when I was the kind of nuisance people could easily ignore.  So I continue to ask these questions about my own behavior and attitude as I try my best to avoid becoming a Christian Chihuahua.

J. Warner Wallace is the author of Cold Case Christianity

Called, Chosen, Empowered

from In Christ Jesus blog [ ]

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13

Sanctification, or growth as a Christian, is not entirely monergistic (involving one agent only) but synergistic (involving two or more agents). Augustine says it best, “Without God we cannot; without us God will not.” In some sense, every command issued to believers to live a holy life assumes we have the capability to carried out that command (2 Cor 7:1; 1 Thess 4:3-4; Heb 12:1; 1 Pt 1:15- 16). Yet, Scripture also insists that it is God who, by his grace, initializes and accomplishes everything that is holy in you (1 Cor 15:10; Col 1:28-29). Just as no one can take credit for their salvation, so no one can take credit for their sanctification. The same grace that saved us is the same grace that sanctifies us. At the end of the day, it is God alone who gets the glory for any spiritual progress made, though we are privileged to participate in the process.

Nevertheless, our participation is not entirely passive since we are responsible to live out what God is doing in us. No passage is clearer about this synergistic model than Philip 2:12- 13.

1. Contextually, this passage has nothing to say about “getting/becoming saved.” Rather, it speaks to us who are saved and how we should walk in our salvation, particularly in the church and in the world (see, Philip 3:16-18 for the latter).

2. The phrase “working out your salvation” complements “as you have always obeyed.” In other words, Paul is exhorting the Philippians to grow in obedience (“salvation” here is tantamount to obedience). It is a call to obedient living as depicted by a life already saved.

3. “For it is God . . .” is better translated “because it is God . . .” In effect Paul is telling us that we are not left to our own resources. All of God’s gracious activity in salvation, from first to last, is accomplished by him who will “carry it on to completion” (Philip 1:6).

4. This activity of God is dynamic and ongoing. Paul sees no tension between exhorting us to do something on the one hand, and showing confidence that it is accomplished by God on the other (comp., e.g., Rom 8:12-14 with Rom 8:4).

5. Obedience is always good for us because it is God’s purpose in us, even though we don’t always know precisely how this might look (cf., Gen 22:1-18; Heb 11:8).

6. Philip 2:12-13 beautifully and unashamedly illustrates the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility.

7. The text does not say “Work to gain salvation, because God has done his part.” Or, “Perseverance depends entirely on you.” Nor does it say, “Relax! You’re one of the frozen, chosen.” Still, it does not say that God is doing the “work” for us since the command is to us to do something.

8. God works deep in our souls at the level of our will to inspire us with the determination to obey and provides the power to carry out his “good purpose.” We could almost say that the work of sanctification is ultimately and finally accomplished by God, despite our cooperation (Philip 1:6)! That you do occasionally obey demonstrates the reality that God “works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

9. Hence, the ability to “work out” our salvation, though in us, is not from us. A will inclined toward God is always a product of God and never solely the result of self-determination (Jn 15:1-5).

10. Finally, coming to grips with the reality that God is mightily at work in us is anything but a disincentive. The profound significance that God’s sovereign rule over the universe will never be made contingent by the “free” choices of humans should not only inspire us at the intellectual level, but ignite in us a firm resolve at the practical level to live every waking moment for Him who died, has risen, is coming again, and empowers our will for his glory at every turn! To this we were called. For this we are chosen. By this we are empowered.

6 Ways to Get to Christ Via the Old Testament

The Shepherd-Rancher Divide

I found this very challenging and informative. I have a much earlier blog about Ranchers and Shepherds. Although I still believe that at its care, I have had to sit back and think about and modify some of my earlier stances. This makes for interesting pondering with the anabaptist thoughts of the earlier blog. This blog by Dr. James Emory White at his Church and Culture blog is very insightful.


Every church longs to grow. That’s the way it should be. “The Great Commission” was not “The Small Suggestion.”

But many churches are stuck in neutral. They can’t seem to break through their current plateau to the next level.

So what is keeping many of these churches from reaching their full potential?

In many cases, I think it’s something as simple – but decisive – as the Shepherd/Rancher divide. This is based on the premise that there are two basic kinds of church leaders: Shepherds and Ranchers.

Shepherds are oriented toward providing primary care to their sheep. They are the ones in the trenches with coffees and funerals, discipling and weddings, one-on-ones and late-night calls. They are not usually leaders as much as chaplains.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I honor them and revere them.

Ranchers are oriented toward ensuring that their sheep are properly cared for. They are leaders and visionaries, mobilizers and catalyzers, inspirers and motivators, change-agents and provocateurs.

There has been much back and forth as to which “model” is best. It’s trendy to opt for the Shepherd role, and thus argue for smaller church communities. As a result, the “Pastor as CEO” has become almost cliché for dismissal and condemnation.

But what if we have a false dichotomy?

What if it’s not Shepherds vs. Ranchers, but Shepherds and Ranchers? And what if what is keeping many churches at their current level is that there isn’t enough ranching?

Let’s make a case for the Rancher for a moment. 

In the Old Testament, God clearly put Moses into a Rancher role. When he tried to fulfill it as a Shepherd, arbitrating each and every situation, he failed miserably.

And the people suffered.

It took the wisdom of his father-in-law Jethro, employing the skills of a Rancher, to organize things and unleash others to care for the people.

In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit birthed the church by dropping 3,000 fresh converts on 11 very overwhelmed men. It was a megachurch mess if there ever was one.

It wasn’t long before the apostles realized they needed to pursue Rancher roles while setting apart deacons for the shepherding tasks.

The point is that both Shepherds and Ranchers are needed.    

A hard-working Shepherd can care for around 70 people. If that person doesn’t bring in other Shepherds, or become a Rancher, they will become a bottleneck for growth.

Intriguingly, the average size of the typical church is around 70 people. Hmmmm…

I know that at Meck, we had 112 people at our first service on our first weekend. That means the church outgrew me day one. I had two choices: I could continue to be a Shepherd to the church and stay around 70 or so as a church in terms of impact and influence; or I could become a Rancher and ensure that the people were shepherded and position the church for unlimited growth.

I became a Rancher.

We went from 112 in attendance to now over 8,000 in terms of active attendance.

It wasn’t easy. Most who enter the ministry are, by nature, Shepherds.

And being a Shepherd is appealing.

You get to be at the center of almost every “Yea, God!” story. You are the one in the hospital, at the wedding, drying the tears, holding the hand, leading them to Christ. You are building every ministry and taking every hill.

And those strokes are intoxicating.

Not so much for the Rancher. You have to be willing to let others get the credit, see others take the hill, let others be praised. You are not at the center of every life-event in the lives of those you love. Instead, you hear stories of people praising a counselor or small group leader.

So why give up shepherding? It’s simple. Based on Romans 12:8, if you have the gift of leadership, you are called to lead. And that is what a Rancher does.

And as Jim Collins has written, the best Ranchers are “level five” leaders who do not care for themselves, only the organization.

So what can be done?

It’s simple. Either become a Rancher, or bring some into the mix.

I’ve seen a lot of staff persons at churches be absolutely perfect for building a church to 200 or so attenders. But then, those very same skill-sets and practices kept them from building the church to 500.

They needed to move from Shepherd to Rancher, and didn’t.

Or couldn’t.

It’s not that you fire those folks at critical growth stages, as much as you realize that either someone grows into a Rancher role, or you bring in Ranchers to continue the effective and necessary work of the Shepherds.

So let’s drop the bashing of “Pastors as CEOs” and realize a deeper truth. In Scripture, both shepherding and ranching were called for.

So let’s call for them now.

James Emery White


James Emery White, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker).

Jim Collins, From Good to Great.

Editor’s Note

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press).

Anabaptist Core Convictions

I have to admit that I find a lot of corresponding correlation between these stated core beliefs and mine. I also understand the efficiency in the political realm of dictatorship over democracy, of the need of accountability and seeking out wisdom. I have fond that most people are so used to their traditions, habits, and preferring others to make decisions and “do the ministry” that any change will come slow, at best.

I have found that many congregational run churches to waste a lot of time in planning even such things as when and where of a church picnic. It seems from my limited experience with other church organizations that many of those who come from an anabaptist, even restorationist-type tradition, are doing less to reach out to the world, evangelizing and providing loving help. That could easily be my lack of insight and awareness.

It would seem to work best when people are truly more than church-goers, but Christ-seekers. But, even beyond that, these seem to be closer to the NT ideal that what we commonly see or experience. This is  from a blog called The Centrality and Supremacy of Jesus Christ by David D. Flowers.


In my last post (Finding the Naked Anabaptist) I confessed that Anabaptism resonates with me more than any other historical tradition of church history. The 16th century Anabaptists were seeking a restoration of NT church life and practice. And for the most part, they did just that—paying for it with their lives.

The Anabaptists sought to recover a radical discipleship that would bring about a Kingdom revolution, not by power-over others, but instead through humble service and loving obedience to the teachings of Jesus.

The first Anabaptists believed their ideas to be rooted in NT orthodoxy and orthoproxy. They re-envisioned the Christian faith as it was before the church’s acceptance of political power and the wielding of the sword.

It was the Kingdom vision of Anabaptist leaders like Balthasar Hubmaier, Hans Denck, Conrad Grebel, and Michael Sattler that began a movement, lived on in several traditions (e.g. Mennonites, Amish, Brethren in Christ, etc.), and is alive today among “Neo-Anabaptists”—folks who ascribe to Anabaptism, but have no historic or cultural links to them.

In fact, it appears that an increasing number of evangelicals are leaving what’s left of Christendom and embracing Anabaptist convictions.

Authentic Christians Follow Their Christ

Stuart Murray, author of The Naked Anabaptist (2010), says that Anabaptists accepted the basic ecumenical creeds of the early church, but they wanted to go beyond theological statements to a description of Christian behavior.

The following is a list of seven core convictions set forth by The Anabaptist Network, expounded upon in Murray’s book. These core convictions are aspirations of an Anabaptism creatively at work in the world today:

1. Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer, and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church, and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshipping him.

2. Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centered approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.

3. Western culture is slowly emerging from the Christendom era, when church and state jointly presided over a society in which almost all were assumed to be Christian. Whatever its positive contributions on values and institutions, Christendom seriously distorted the gospel, marginalized Jesus, and has left the churches ill equipped for mission to a post-Christendom culture. As we reflect on this, we are committed to learning from the experience and perspectives of movements such as Anabaptism that rejected standard Christendom assumptions and pursued alternative ways of thinking and behaving.

4. The frequent association of the church with status, wealth, and force is inappropriate for followers of Jesus and damages our witness. We are committed to exploring ways of being good news to the poor, powerless, and persecuted, aware that such discipleship may attract opposition, resulting in suffering and sometimes ultimately martyrdom.

5. Churches are called to be committed communities of discipleship and mission, places of friendship, mutual accountability, and multivoiced worship. As we eat together, sharing bread and wine, we sustain hope as we seek God’s kingdom together. We are committed to nurturing and developing such churches, in which young and old are valued, leadership is consultative, roles are related to gifts rather than gender, and baptism is for believers.

6. Spirituality and economics are interconnected. In an individualist and consumerist culture and in a world where economic injustice is rife, we are committed to finding ways of living simply, sharing generously, caring for creation, and working for justice.

7. Peace is at the heart of the gospel. As followers of Jesus in a divided and violent world, we are committed to finding nonviolent alternatives and to learning how to make a peace between individuals, within and among churches, in society, and between nations.

How do you feel about these seven core convictions set forth by The Anabaptist Network? Which conviction(s) do you agree or disagree with? Is there a conviction that resonates with you more than the others?

About David D. Flowers

David received a B.A. in Religion from East Texas Baptist University and a M.T.S. in Biblical Studies from Houston Graduate School of Theology. David was in vocational ministry for 7 years. He has taught Biblical Studies & Latin at The Woodlands Christian Academy since 2008. He lives in The Woodlands, TX with his wife and son.