Reading Notes

Cookie Cutter Prayers Miss The Mark (Reading Notes)

“The life that God calls into being in us is enormously various and infinitely complex. Rote responses are not adequate to the dazzling creativity of address that is put to us by God’s word. What is required in us is not that we learn a specific answer to a specific address, but that we acquire facility in a personal language that is accurately responsive to what we hear God say to us out of his word in Scripture and in Christ in our changing situations and various levels of faith. We need a vocabulary and syntax that is sufficiently personal and adequately wide-ranging to answer everything that God says from wherever we happen to hear it within every developing stage of our pilgrimage across the entire spectrum of our lives.” (Eugene Peterson in Working the Angles)

Pastors & Prayer (Reading Notes)

“The inner action of prayer takes precedence over the outer action of proclamation. The implication of this for pastoral work is plain: it begins in prayer. Anything creative, anything powerful, anything biblical, insofar as we are participants in it, originates in prayer. Pastors who imitate the preaching and moral action of the prophets without also imitating the prophets’ deep praying and worship so evident in the Psalms are an embarrassment to the faith and an encumbrance to the church.” (Eugene Peterson in Working the Angles)

Pastor, Watch Yourself! (Reading Notes)

“Pastoral Ministry is holy, sacred work. We are heralds of a divine message. We are ambassadors for Christ. We are stewards of the gospel. We are shepherds who are charged to oversee the block of God, which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). We are servant-leaders and must be examples of Christian integrity and maturity. This requires vigilant self-watch. Paul instructs, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). You cannot watch over the congregation if you do not know how to watch yourself. If you do not examine yourself and maintain your spiritual devotion to Christ, your ministry will become mechanical. You will go through the motions of ministry while your heart is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (H. B. Charles in On Pastoring)

What People Need In A Pastor (Reading Notes)

“People do not need to know that pastors are human just like them. They need to know we are godly. They need to know we are Christlike. They need to know we are humble. They need to know we are faithful. People, both within the church and outside of it, need pastors who are men of God. This has nothing to do with your title or the way you dress of how spiritual you are on the platform. Real pastors do not merely act or talk or look a certain way. They live a certain way; they are a certain way. Of course, pastors are not perfect. We are in need of God’s grace just as much as the people we minister to are. But our high calling demands a firm commitment to live godly lives. As pastors, we should live in such a way that people would not only know we are pastors if we told them. Yet once we tell them, they should not be surprised.” (H. B. Charles, Jr. in On Pastoring)

The Greatest Gift Is God Himself (Reading Notes)

The best and final gift of the gospel is that we gain Christ. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8). This is the all-encompassing gift of God’s love through the gospel – to see and savor the glory of Christ forever.

In place of this, we have turned the love of God and the gospel of Christ into a divine endorsement of our delight in many lesser things, especially the delight in our being made much of. The acid test of biblical God-centeredness – and faithfulness to the gospel – is this: Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, or because, at the cost of his Son, he enables you to enjoy making much of him forever? Does your happiness hang on seeing the cross of Christ as a witness to your worth, or as a way to enjoy God’s worth forever? Is God’s glory in Christ the foundation of your gladness?

From the first sin in the Garden of Eden to the final judgment of the great white throne, human beings will continue to embrace the love of God as the gift of everything but himself. Indeed there are ten thousand gifts that flow from the love of God. The gospel of Christ proclaims the news that he has purchased by his death ten thousand blessings for his bride. But none of these gifts will lead to final joy if they have not first led to God. And not one gospel blessing will be enjoyed by anyone for whom the gospel’s greatest gift was not the Lord himself. (John Piper in God Is The Gospel)

A Heart That Serves (Reading Notes)

“Some time ago I had dinner with a man who was a deacon in his church. With great energy he told me about how he loved to serve the people at his church. He was so enthusiastic that he gestured a lot as he spoke, and I became a little embarrassed because we were in a packed restaurant. Yet nothing could keep this man’s excitement down as he continued to tell me of his passion for serving God. He constantly looked for opportunities throughout the week to serve the needs of fellow church members, and on Sunday he couldn’t  wait to get to church so he could continue his ministry of service. This man’s zeal for service may seem excessive at first glance, but in actuality, he was exhibiting yet another mark of a man after God’s heart – a heart that yearns to serve.

As fleshly humans, our natural (and selfish) tendency is to take care of our own needs first. We like to make sure there is plenty of time for the things we want to do. Then if we have any time or energy left over, we might be willing to use it to serve someone else. But as men after God’s own heart, you and I need to resist these selfish tendencies and strive instead to see ourselves as servants.” (Jim George in A Man After God’s Own Heart)

Seeing Like Jesus (Reading Notes)

When worldly men see a crowd, each sees something different. The educator sees potential students. The politician, potential voters. The merchant, potential customers. Each sees them with the thought of the way he can profit from them. Jesus never exploited any man for His own benefit. “When He saw them he had compassion on them.” And soon that compassion would lead Him to the cross.

Eyes that look are common. Eyes that see are rare. Do we have eyes that see? (J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Discipleship)

Christian Leaders Should Serve (Reading Notes)

“Ambitious and self-seeking Christian workers, like the priest and the Levite, pass by on the other side of the street in order to devote themselves to a higher stratum of society. They are not willing to keep teaching the elements of the gospel to simple believers, or to endeavor to encourage backsliders onto the narrow way. They want a ministry more worthy of their powers.

Jesus, however, found delight and satisfaction in stooping to serve those whom most choose to ignore. His skillful, loving care caused the broken reed once again to produce heavenly music and fanned the dimly burning wick into a glowing flame. He never entirely crushed of concerned the penitent. It is noble work to care for those whom the world ignores.” (J. Oswald Sanders in Spiritual Discipleship)

Our Great Business Of Prayer (Reading Notes)

“Let us thoroughly understand ourselves and understand, also, this great business of prayer. Our one great business is prayer, and we will never do it well without we fasten to it by all binding force. We will never do it well without arranging the best conditions of doing it well. Satan has suffered so much by good praying that all his wily, shrewd and ensnaring devices will be used to cripple its performances.

We must, by all the fastenings we can find, cable ourselves to prayer. To be loose in time and place is to open the door to Satan. To be exact, prompt, unswerving, and careful in even the little things, is to buttress ourselves against the Evil One.” (E. M. Bounds in The Reality of Prayer)

Biblical Knowledge Should Lead To Passion In Prayer (Reading Notes)

“If we believe with our minds that God is holy, we must also come to find his holiness enjoyable and satisfying just to praise it. If we believe the great God of the universe really loves us, it should make us emotionally unshakable in the face of criticism, suffering, and death. In short, we must be able to existentially access our doctrinal convictions. If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will lead eventually to nominal Christianity – that is, in name only – and eventually to nonbelief. The irony is that many conservative Christians, most concerned about conserving true and sound doctrine, neglect the importance of prayer and make no effort to experience God, and this can lead to the eventual loss of sound doctrine.” (Tim Keller in Prayer)