Power Through Prayer by EM Bounds

EM Bounds is known as a prolific prayer-warrior, mainly because of his many and various books on the topic. While they were written many, many, years ago they are still greatly relevant for our soul today.

“Power Through Prayer” is a book written particularly for ministers, that’s certainly the impression you get from reading it. Bounds encourages everyone, but particularly those who preach, to come back to prayer, to fight for prayer, and to do all things with and through prayer. Bounds stresses the power that comes through prayer, and through close communion with God in prayer you soul will be lifted high unto the heavens.

Bounds tells tales and stories of people of the past who have spent many hours on their knees fighting for their congregation, the people they minister to. Throughout the book there are various quotes about prayer from famous churchmen in Christian history, including a special affection for David Brainerd, the young American preacher and Indian missionary of the 18th century. They are very inspiring and perfect for an Instquote if one could be bothered. In fact, much of the book is quotable as he wrestles the reader to the ground, urging them to take up a prayer ministry. There is constant encouragement to spend time in prayer, praying for the sermon, and the souls of men and women.

An example of this would be:

“What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use — men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men — men of prayer.”

Even though the book is only 128 pages it is an inspirational book. It will shake you up and help you understand the power of prayer in the Christian life. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is wondering about prayer and its importance. It is an excellent book, and you can even download a free PDF of it here.

E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (128 pages; London, UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott).

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Richard Baxter On The Pastor and Recreation

Richard Baxter on recreation for the minister:

“Recreation to a minister must be as whetting is with the mower – that is, to be used only so far as is necessary for his work. May a physician in plague-time take any more relaxation or recreation than is necessary for his life, when so many are expecting his help in a case of life and death? Will you stand by and see sinners gasping under the pangs of death, and say : “Go, doth not require me to make myself a drudge to save them?” Is this the voice of ministerial or Christian compassion or rather of sensual laziness and diabolical cruelty?”

Once Upon A Time In Beirut by Catherine Taylor

Once upon a time beirutHaving lived in the Middle East for a couple of years, and studied its history while at university, I am always drawn to books depicting personal experiences of it.

Catherine Taylor, a professional journalist from Australia, tells of her life and travels of the Middle East in this little gem of a book. She and her husband were based in Beirut for three to four years, from post-9/11 to 2005. During this time they travelled the region, including visits to Iraq during and after its occupation.

This journalistic-biography is very pleasant to read. It just flows; and there are plenty of stories to get wrapped up in.

The experiences Catherine has come across as amazing. And the ease in which she adjusts to life in the Middle East is commendable. Her and her husband’s story skip along at t great pace, and reflect what any Westerner living in the Middle East would and should feel. I can certainly relate to many of the stories she tells, particularly in her interactions with people, the places she visits, and the experiences with various religious expressions.

It was great to get more of an insight into the nature of city life in Beirut. The clubs, pubs, eateries, cafes, streets, shops, swimming pool, hairdressers, and the like are experiences to be treasured when in the Middle East.

I found what Catherine says regarding living in the Middle East to be true. The enduring mind-set of the Lebanese people after the Civil War, the exuberant and nationalistic support post-Hariri’s assassination, and the recovery after the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in 2006 all ring bells. The survey and investigation as to what went on in various parts of Lebanese history is told through interviews with close friends, Hezbollah officials, Sunni’s, Palestinians, and others. This gives different points of view to the historical narrative of Lebanese history.

I think the book would have been improved if there was a greater focus on the Hariri assassination and its after effects. While Catherine was not there at the time of the bombing and assassination there is only one chapter dedicated to it.

Overall this is a good read and gives a basic understanding of life, for a Westerner at least, in the Middle East. It is not a cultural thesis, and nor should it be read as such, but for a little glimpse into the milieu of the region it is worth the read.

Catherine Taylor, Once Upon A Time In Beirut: A Journey To The Heart Of The Middle East (364 pages, Sydney: Bantam), 2007.

George Whitefield (Vol 1) by Arnold Dallimore

This great volume comprehensively describes the life and times of George Whitefield.

Starting with his early years right through to the age of 26, Arnold Dallimore describes the wanderings and impact of this young man. Using previous biographies, and the more important journals of the man himself, Dallimore outlines Whitefield’s contribution to the spiritual state of Britain and America during the 18th century.

This book is brilliantly illustrated with stories of his time at home and at school. There is detailed analysis of his time at university, where he became a true convert of Christ and became firm in his understanding of the doctrines of grace.

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His travels throughout Britain and America take up considerable pages, but these are very much the guts of his ministry. The book ends with Whitefield about to face more trials as he returns to England for the second time.

As I’ve written previously, there are a number of things to take away from this work. His preaching ministry is a powerful manifestation of the Spirit, and his courage in the face of adversity is something to behold. He began preaching while in his teens, and soon began speaking to crowds upwards of 20-30,000 people. Such was the power of his preaching.  Furthermore, there is a sense of his overwhelming love for his fellow brethren, wanting to be united with the many ministers and other preachers.

This is only book one of a two volume set, and there is much depth and content to be gleaned about the man. It’s worth the read.

Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield: The Life And Times Of The Great Evangelist Of The 18th Century Revival (vol. 1, 590 pages, London: Banner of Truth Trust), 1970.

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges

In 21 chapters Jerry Bridges writes about a number of sins which the Western church has, for some odd reason, decided that it’s OK with.

Particularly focused on 1 Peter 5:5, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”, Bridges speaks of issues such as pride, selfishness, ungodliness, unthankfulness, anger, self-control (or lack thereof), impatience, envy, jealousy, sins of the tongue and many others.

Founded upon the doctrines of cross of Christ and God’s sovereignty, Bridges calls his readers to take a long, hard, look at themselves. He highlights the work of the Spirit in the hearts of each believer and seeks to convict his readers about those sins he comments on. respectable sins by jerry birdges

I found this a really good and thought-provoking book.

Bridges challenges each individual to be humble before the Almighty and recognise that there are sins, sins which we ‘take for granted’, that need to be confessed and repented of. At times you might debate whether or not everything he mentions are actually sins, he writes in a humble and good-natured way that urges godliness. I found it a book that slaps you around the head a bit, but in a good way.

It’s not a long book, finishing up at page 181. It would be a good book for small group discussion, or a preaching series. I’d encourage anyone wanting to flee from sin or grow in godliness to pick this book up…and read it.

Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins: Confronting The Sins We Tolerate (181 pages, USA: Navpress), 2007.

5 Ways George Whitefield’s Life Is Good For Your Soul

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As I was walking out the door to go on holiday I randomly threw the biography of George Whitefield by Arnold Dallimore in my bag. It is an extensive biography, a two-volume set, that sets out the life and times of the great preacher.

Having finished the first volume I find myself reflecting on his life and ministry. Biographies teach us a great deal, not only about an individuals life, but also about their value system, worldview, and passions.

In thinking about Whitefield, I found five areas of his life that struck me as being central to the way he lived.

First, he was a man passionate about Jesus and only Jesus.

From his teenage years, but more so after his conversion, Whitefield was consumed with proclaiming and showing Jesus in everything he did.

While at university in Oxford he was a member of what was known as the ‘Holy Club’ and made a conscious effort to always be upright in everything he did. As he grew in grace and a fuller understanding of the gospel he pursued a passion for God’s glory and supremacy over all things.

Second, he was a man committed to preaching.

Everywhere he went, from the age of 17 onward, he preached consistently.

In certain seasons of his life Whitefield would would preach up to 15 times per week! His ability and gift in preaching was beyond the average person, but this still doesn’t negate the fact that he was always wanting to share the truth of the gospel everywhere he went.

Whether he was in America, or in Britain, Whitefield couldn’t help but preach and try to win souls for the Lord.

Third, he was a man who instigated change.

His preaching practices were unorthodox for his time.

He pushed the limits and received rejection for it. His actions of moving away from the church pulpit and begin preaching in the open air changed the face of his preaching ministry. When not allowed to preach in the local church, due to a decree from the local bishop or minister, he would simply began preaching outside–in the fields and parks of the city.

Fourth, he was a man who had the courage to persevere in his ministry despite ridicule and rejection.

Whitefield’s Calvinistic convictions, zeal for the Lord, and unorthodox preaching practices rubbed people up the wrong way.

Fellow ministers, clergy, and other lay people developed a great dislike for Whitefield. Hundreds, if not thousands, of articles, journals, letters, and books were written against him and his beliefs. Throughout he continued to trust the Lord and pursue his ministry for the betterment of the Kingdom.

While hurt by many of his detractors, Whitefield had the courage to stand and proclaim the gospel.

Fifth, he was a man who sought unity rather than separation.

At all times, particularly in his relationship with John Wesley, Whitefield sought to find common ground first rather than polarise people because of their belief or practice.

In the end Whitefield had to separate from some relationships, but not after he had pursued unity, support, and friendship under the gospel. He was concerned for Christian unity in amongst  his single-minded goal of preaching the gospel.

Whitefield’s biography, and some of his writings, have come at a perfect time. Dallimore portrays his life wonderfully well, exposing the godliness and character of the man.

I would highly recommend reading this book, and even dipping into Whitefield’s other writings here and there.

It will do wonders for your soul.

Life As A Witness

This week I’m spending time preparing two messages to give on Sunday. My text for the weekend is John 15:26-27:

“When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also must bear witness because you have been with me from the beginning.”

This passage is set in the Upper Room, or at least on the way to the Mount of Olives just before Jesus’ death. It is the final time Jesus and his disciples will be together. Between 13:31 and the end of chapter 16 Jesus speaks his final words to them. These two verses are placed in the middle of Jesus talking about the persecution they will face, even by those who think they are offering a service to God (16:3).

Last night I began pondering what it means to bear witness.

It is evident from the text that the Spirit gives witness about Jesus.

In other words, the central point of the Spirit being sent is to testify about Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection.

One must also ponder what that means for us.

The disciples are given somewhat of a command, they must bear witness.

Why? Because they have been with him since the beginning of his ministry.

Not only will the Spirit witness about Jesus’ life, ministry, death and resurrection, but so will his disciples.

This grounds the gospel and the life of Jesus in its historical context. Suddenly, we see that 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 comes into play and agreement is reached regarding the historical fact of Jesus and the gospel. Here is one part of bearing witness, testifying to the truth of Jesus.

There also seems to be a distinct link to Jesus’ final command to his disciples in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

The act of bearing witness could be classified as evangelism and teaching. Telling people about Jesus and teaching people about Jesus.

Bearing witness and being a disciple of Jesus also has lifestyle implications. A disciple of Jesus doesn’t just proclaim the historical gospel with their mouth, or teach others about Jesus, they too pursue a life worthy of the gospel.

A life of being a disciple is a life of following Jesus, his words and actions.

God Hears Our Prayers

“The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.” (Psalm 6:9)

Isn’t great that we can be safe in the knowledge that the Lord hears our prayers?

While reading Psalm 6 this morning this verse stood out to me. It gives me assurance of a God who listens to me, who hears me, and who accepts me.

Prayer can be a difficult and weary task at times. Our relationship with him may be rather dry, or it is difficult to speak to God when we are conscious of our own sin. However, the Lord is good and he hears our prayers and cries for help.

David, the writer of this Psalm, is troubled and knows he has done wrong. It seems he is conscious of his sin and is guilt-ridden because of it. He is crying out to God, desperate for his help.

It can be easy to resonate with David here.

How often are we in sin? How often have we done things we don’t want to do? How often have we gone against God and chosen the wrong path, the wrong words, the wrong actions toward others? Sometimes this leads to regret, to a knowledge of guilt, a knowledge of sin.

There is no worse feeling, I believe, than knowing you have sinned against the Almighty. He is an all-powerful, glorious, and magnificent God who knows all and is in all and is through all.

Here David rests in the knowledge that the Lord has heard his pleading, his cry for help, and his cry for mercy. What great assurance! To know the Lord has heard our pleas and heard our cries brings an assurance from above.

Yet, he not only hears them, he also accepts them! He is willing to accept what we say to him, hearing our anguished cry for forgiveness and for help. Through our Mediator, Jesus Christ, our cries are heard and accepted and we are made new once more.

Through the work of Jesus Christ upon that beautiful cross the Lord hears and accepts our prayers. But even more, he hears and accepts us! Us! With all our sin, foibles, and quirks he takes us into his loving arms and holds us in our time of need.

O what assurance, O what loving grace!

What Happens When All The Chocolate Has Been Eaten?

I’m currently trying to work out what I will preach on next Sunday.

It’s Easter Sunday and logic would suggest that the resurrection would be appropriate.

But, isn’t it the case that as we move through the Easter weekend we are more concerned with remembrance than on what’s next?

It goes without saying that we are to remember. It is a great time to reflect on the death and resurrection of our Lord. It is important to see and feel the gospel afresh again.

But are we missing something if all we do is stop there? 

Easter is a great time for remembering our Lord but it is also a great time to re-adjust our priorities. We can come closer to him, be convicted toward transformation, and seek to bring glory to God. The gospel changes and renews, and what better time of the year for this to make a tangible impact in our lives than at Easter.

So, what do we do once all the chocolates have been eaten?

Do we continue on our merry way like nothing much has occurred, only slightly slower from the extra calories?

Or, do we get a renewed sense of God and his purposes, a renewed sense of the gospel?

The Sadness Of Ministry Closure

When things come to a close it can be a sad time.

When we come back from overseas after a wonderful holiday, when we say good-bye after a lovely dinner with friends, when the inspiring movie could have gone on much longer but had to come to an end. There is often the feeling of sadness.

So it is with youth ministries and programs that come to a close.

The Sadness Of Ministry Closure

At a recent ministry meeting a team of us decided to close a ministry that has been going on in our church for the last three years. For the past 18 months many of the main leaders in this program have left and moved onto other things. Others have simply stopped participating and helping out, not making it a priority. And some, sadly, have left the church and the faith altogether.

The feeling of the team was that it is best to lay the program down for a season or two.

And, it is sad.

It is sad because it is something many have put their hearts and souls into.

It is sad because it is a ministry that was loved by parents, students, and the wider church.

It is sad because relationships were strained because of the program and the stress involved.

It is sad because the investment of money, time, and effort into something like this brings with it an emotional connection.

But my pastor, who chaired the meeting, reminded us all of John 12:24,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” 

Our ministries, and church programs, including our precious youth group or camp or event, are like the grain. Sometimes they must fall to earth and die in order for more fruit to be produced.

Looking at this verse in closer context we see that some Greeks have come to see Jesus. From Andrew to Peter the message of these visitors is passed on to Jesus. Jesus responds by telling these visitors that his time to be glorified is close, very close.

What the…?

We find shortly after that Jesus is actually referring to his death. Through his death the disciples and the believers will bear much fruit.

But as Jesus continues to speak he says the following in v25-26:

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honour him.”

What a challenge!

It seems we are to look to do the things of God, look to do the work of Jesus, which is to die and be a sacrifice to the world.

How then does this relate to ministries and programs dying? 

Well, maybe it is the case of having to let them die so that more fruit can come from the wider ministries of the church. And maybe, just maybe, it is the case that we are to adjust our focus to Christ and look closely at how we serve him, realigning our ministries with his.