Daily Prayer 2

Daily Prayer 2, written by Nick Fawcett, is a book which provides a resource for anyone seeking a deeper walk with God.

Each day’s devotion follows the same format: read, ponder, ask yourself, pray, remember and close.

The first section, read, consists of the bible reading for the day. Ponder contains some thoughts and reflections from the author on the theme for the day. Then follows ask yourself, which normally has two or three questions for the reader to answer in relation to the theme. Next is the pray section which contains a prayer to help us respond to what we have read so far. Remember is a bible verse and the devotion finishes with close which is the closing prayer.

In addition to providing 365 daily devotions, there is also a supplement section which focuses on certain seasons of the Christian year e.g. Holy Week and Easter, which fall on different dates each year. There is also a devotion written for 29th February too!

I especially like the supplement section of the book, as it means that the reader can use this resource in whatever year they wish and still have relevant seasonal readings too.

One of the most striking features in this book in my opinion is the richness of the pray section. The author has a gift of writing some powerful and meaningful prayers which are very helpful. I find that he seems to be able to “hit the nail on the head” with his prayers.

If you are looking for a devotional book then this is one that I would recommend.

Scandalous

Scandalous is a book written by D.A.Carson that examines five New Testament pieces of scripture to discover what they show us about the death and resurrection of Jesus. The material in the book is taken from five addresses that the author gave at a conference.

The first chapter is entitled “The Ironies of the Cross” and is based on Matthew 27:27-51a. Through this passage we see the irony of what is being played out at the cross. For example: the man who is mocked as King is King. Matthew knows this and in the passage makes it clear to his readers. However, the mockers and the soldiers do not realise this, but the gospel writer knows this, the reader knows this, God knows it and Jesus knows it. He is indeed King of the Jews.

In the second chapter, “The Center of the Whole Bible” the author looks at Romans 3:21-26. He argues that this passage of scripture is not only key to understanding the letter to the Romans but the whole Bible itself. He does this by showing where the passage falls in the book of Romans and what Paul establishes through these verses.

The next chapter is called “The Strange Triumph of a Slaughtered Lamb” and is based on Revelation 12. The author believes that it’s important for us to consider Satan’s rage against the church so we can understand what is happening in Christianity today. He does this by explaining in this chapter: The Occasion for Satanic Rage, The Reasons for Satanic Rage and How Christians Overcome Satanic Rage as outlined in Revelation 12.

In chapter four, “A Miracle Full of Surprises”, we look at the events of John 11:1-53. These verses in John tell the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. D.A. Carson believes that we sometimes miss the element of surprise which is in this text as we have become superficially familiar with the Bible. He then breaks the chapter into four sections each containing surprising elements that we may have previously overlooked when reading this passage.

The final chapter “Doubting the Resurrection of Jesus” examines John 20:24-31 and looks at the apostle Thomas. The author starts the chapter by listing six causes of doubt. However, his argument here is that John is addressing the specific doubt of Thomas and not the universal answer to doubt. He then goes onto discuss: The Cry of a Disappointed Skeptic, The Adoration of an Astonished Skeptic and The Function of a Converted Skeptic.

Including the indexes at the back of the book, which includes a scripture index, the book is reasonably short at 173 pages. However, it is packed full of teaching on the cross and resurrection of Jesus that is clear, enlightening, encouraging and challenging. It is one of those books that should certainly be read more than once. If you are looking to read a book this Easter which reflects on the important events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday then I would recommend this book to you.

Do not be anxious about anything

The book of Philippians contains some very well known verses, one of which contains the phrase “Do not be anxious about anything” (Phil 4v6). This is an incredible statement to make, especially when you consider that Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter to the church at Philippi.

I expect that there were many things that Paul could have been anxious about in his situation. However instead of being anxious, Paul instructs us “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” No matter what the situation is we are told to present it to God, nothing is too big or too small to present to God. The result of this is that “the peace of God, which transforms all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4v7).

Once we have presented our requests to God what should we be thinking about now we no longer need to entertain anxious thoughts? The answer from Paul is in the next verse (Phil 4v8) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

What an incredible three verses these are in Philippians 4v6-8. Oh, how we all need to live out these verses! I wonder how much time we waste being anxious? When you think about it we cannot change anything by worrying or being anxious, so we might as well make better use of our time!

Online Prayer Meeting

A few years ago one of the Christian Facebook groups I belonged to held an online prayer meeting and I thought it might be interesting to blog about it.

The prayer meeting was led by the group moderator and instead of speaking our prayers out loud, we typed them out on our laptops / computers into the private Facebook group. This is a different approach for most people, but one of the advantages was that we had to think about what we were saying. It prevented us from rambling on!

If I’m being honest I do struggle with praying. One of my problems is that my mind does tend to wander and my concentration levels are not brilliant. However, I found that during the online praying my mind did not wander and I was able to concentrate. Although this prayer meeting only lasted about 30 minutes, I have found that in shorter prayer times when I’m praying my concentration levels have wandered.

So why could I concentrate better at this meeting? Normally during times of prayer, we bow our heads, close our eyes and then pray. Now obviously I could not do that at this online prayer meeting. Well I could have done, but I would not have known what people were saying in their prayers! I found that by concentrating on the screen, reading the prayers and then thoughtfully typing out my own prayers my concentration levels were much better than normal.

I personally found the prayer meeting very beneficial and felt closer to God during this time. This was interesting because the group contained a mixed bunch of people and a wide range of theological views, not all of which I agreed with. Yet this prayer meeting worked. Afterwards I reflected that I stopped myself judging the content of the prayers of the other people and make sure that I kept a right heart attitude throughout. I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t always do this at prayer meetings!

Some might feel hesitant about the value of online praying but Jesus did say “for when two or three gather together in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20). Nowadays thanks to the wonder of technology those two or three could be literally thousand of miles apart physically but united spiritually through prayer.

Online praying provides us the opportunity to pray with those who we may never meet on this earth. It also means that the house bound person or the parent who cannot go out due to childcare arrangements can also participate in prayer with us. It allows us to pray with our missionary friend when they are away overseas.

Although the prayer meeting I attended was conducted via typing into my laptop, of course you could use tools like Skype and pray out loud as you would normally do in a prayer meeting. There are so many ways that one could use technology to assist them in online prayer meetings. I don’t think that Christians should abandon “real-life” physical prayer meetings and replace them with online ones. But instead these could supplement them.

If you are interested in online praying why not give it a go!

 

Church Online: Websites

Whenever I visit another church I normally look at their website beforehand to find out various things about that church. These include the time of the service, what type of service I will be attending and a general idea of what the church is like.

Therefore, for me it’s important that a church website is accurate and displaying correct information. However, having been a webmaster of a church website, I know that it can be a challenging job and you are dependent upon others passing information onto you to keep the website updated.

I have recently read a book called “Church Online: Websites” by Laura Treneer which I found to be a very useful resource. This book is published by BRF (Bible Reading Fellowship) and is one of four books that form part of their Reach Out Church Communications series.

There are four chapters in Church Online Websites which cover:

  • Why it matters
  • What to consider first
  • Essential next steps
  • Toolkit

The author provides some very useful advice which can be used by those looking to transform their websites or perhaps looking to create one for the first time. Anyone who might feel daunted at the prospect of becoming a church webmaster for the first time will find this book very beneficial. Those who are experienced in this area will also gain from reading this book too.

Although “Church Online: Websites“ is only a short book it is packed full of helpful tips, resource links and ideas. I would strongly recommend this book and if you put the ideas it contains into practice your website will be enhanced.

Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey

Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey is a 65 minute long documentary about the famous evangelist written and directed by Vonda Harrell and Daniel Camenisch.

The documentary features many clips of Billy Graham preaching throughout his ministry in different places in the world, as he passionately challenges people to come to Christ. Billy Graham did not just preach when at meetings though. We see some of his appearances on chat shows and he never missed an opportunity to share the truths of the gospel when he was a guest.

There are many interviews with Billy Graham, at different stages of his life, in the documentary and among the subjects that are covered in these were: his conversion to Christ, the calling to be an evangelist, how he met and married his wife Ruth, and the challenges he faced early in his ministry as he wrestled with the bible being reliable and true.

Additionally, there are interviews featuring his mother, his wife Ruth, his children, friends and chat show host Larry King, all of these adding helpful insights into the man. Tributes are also included from ex-presidents Ronald Reagan, George W Bush and Bill Clinton.

Although Billy Graham is generally known as a passionate evangelist he also made a stand against racial segregation. The documentary covers his refusal to segregate his meetings in the Deep South and his refusal to preach in South Africa due to apartheid.

It’s impossible for someone as prominent as Billy Graham not to encounter controversial at same stage of his life and ministry. The documentary makers to their credit included the negative comments he received when he went behind the Iron Curtain and attended a peace conference in Russia. Whilst some people in America felt he was being used for propaganda purposes he saw it as an opportunity to preach the gospel. There is also some interesting footage of him preaching to an audience in Pyongyang, North Korea.

As well as being very informative, the documentation is both encouraging and moving as we see how a normal man who responded to the call of God was used by God in an extraordinary way.

Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey is currently available to watch on Netflix and the dvd can be purchased from Amazon. There is also an official trailer on YouTube

I highly recommend Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey.

Reviving the Soul

In Psalm 19v7 there is a wonderful statement by David:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”

I’m not sure about you but so often my soul needs reviving. At the end of a stressful day at work or an exhausting and busy week I certainly need to be revived. Yet to be honest I don’t always turn to God’s word for revival. There are occasions when instead of doing this I turn to earthly things e.g. leisure activities, food, sport, TV, social media etc. Whilst none of those are necessary wrong in themselves, they will not bring revival to the soul.

This is because those things are not God’s word. They may be enjoyable past times and activities, but they do not revive us. Instead of turning to them we should turn to God’s word. We regularly need to read the scriptures, study them and meditate on them. It’s important that we set aside time each day to do this.

If we neglect these disciplines, then we miss opportunities to experience a revived soul. Some people also find it helpful to have a bible verse in their mind for them to ponder as they prepare to go to sleep each night. It’s a good way to finish the day.

If you ever read anything about the persecuted Church, you will see their love for the bible. In many of these countries a person can get into severe trouble for owning a bible. When they receive a bible, they are so grateful and full of excitement. Conversely, many of us in the west have numerous different translations of the bible at home, not to mention the ones on our phones! Yet we often rarely read them.

Let us not neglect the scriptures but instead know the reality of this wonderful phrase in Psalm 19v7:

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.

Continue reading “Reviving the Soul”