Free eBook – Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor

9781433501999Anything by Don Carson is worth reading. His books are always biblically sound, theologically rich, practically relevant, and pastorally insightful. A good many people regard him as the finest New Testament scholar in the world today.

So what could be better than a book by Don Carson? How about a FREE book by Don Carson?!

Carson’s Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor (about his father, Tom Carson) is currently available as a free download from Crossway Books. If you serve in full-time, paid Christian ministry, I’d regard this as almost compulsory (not in a ‘You’re not a real pastor until you read this book’ kind of way, but more in the ‘Why would you not read this book?’ kind of way). Continue reading

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31 Days of Prayer: Day 31 – Time to Pray

PrayWe made it – 31 days of prayer, done and dusted. If you’ve been here throughout the month, or if you’ve just dropped in occasionally, thanks for being part of it!

Actually, let’s not kid ourselves. Thirty-one days of blogging about prayer is hardly 31 days of prayer. My lingering suspicion – based largely on my personal experience – is that it’s far, far easier to talk about prayer, read about prayer, or think about prayer than it is to pray. Anyone with me?

So as we finish, let me recommend this short article from Don Carson, ‘Lessons from the School of Prayer’, as a way of helping you take specific action. This originally formed an Appendix to his magisterial book on prayer, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, but has now been reproduced in this abridged form with his permission. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 27 – Why your ‘shopping list prayers’ are right, and wrong

Shopping List“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:9-11)

Somewhere along the line, some clever Christian came up with the belittling idea of ‘shopping list prayers’. You know the idea – when you want to criticise someone for praying selfish, navel-gazing prayers, just deride it as a ‘shopping list prayer’.

I think the ‘shopping list’ has become a decidedly unhelpful Christian putdown. There’s nothing wrong with bringing all our requests to God. In fact, there’s everything right with it: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil 4:6) “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) There is plenty to be anxious about in the average life, so bring your ‘shopping list’ to God, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

However… Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 20 – Does God change his mind?

Prayer Changes Things“The Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” (Ex 32:14)

Yesterday, we began to wrestle with a key question around the Bible’s teaching on prayer: ‘If God is completely sovereign, why should I pray?’ The question comes from the existence of two unavoidable biblical truths: God is in complete control of all things, and is working out his plans and purposes in deliberate fashion; yet prayer is not just encouraged throughout the Bible – it is commanded. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 16 – A bestselling guide on how not to pray

Prayer of JabezIt may seem a bit mean-spirited and curmudgeonly to talk about prayer by being negative. After all, there are so many positive things to say. But sometimes, talking about the negative – refuting popular but unbiblical (mis)understandings of prayer – can help us to understand more of the truth about prayer.

In the last 15 years, one book on prayer has been more influential in mainstream Christian circles than any other: The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson.

The book was released in 2000, so its moment has passed. But its influence remains, and it continues to sell around the world (it’s now passed 10 million copies). Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day 13 – Approaching with confidence

Child Waking Parents“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven…’ (Matthew 6:9)

Yesterday, thanks to Tim Chester’s new book on prayer, we began looking at what it means for us to pray to God as Father. We focused on the simplicity that comes from knowing we can approach God in this way: “Prayer is a child asking her father for help – nothing more, nothing less” (You Can Pray, p. 16).

Today, I want us to think about the sense of intimacy and boldness that calling on God as Father allows us to have.

I’m the father of three small children. And like most parents of little ones, it’s not uncommon for our night’s sleep to be interrupted with a tap on the shoulder, a few tears, or a persistent whisper in the ear of ‘Dad, Dad!’ Maybe they’ve had a bad dream, or they’ve been woken up by a bump in the night and can’t get back to sleep. Continue reading

31 Days of Prayer: Day Ten – Delighting in the Lord

Psalm 73“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. (Psalm 37:4)”

Yesterday, we looked at how pursuing the pleasures of this world as our driving desire can be fatal to our prayer lives. ‘You do not have, because you do not ask,’ is James’ blunt way of putting it. (Sorry for making you think of James Blunt just then.)

Isaiah puts it equally bluntly: Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear. (Isa 59:1-2) The Psalmist raises a similar idea in Psalm 66: “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer.” Continue reading

Don Carson on biblical productivity, and surviving intellectual challenges to faith

Ligonier has posted a valuable little interview with Don Carson, with answers packed with biblical insight and practical wisdom. Especially interesting to think through what he has to say about preparing your children for life in university (or for those of us who work in student ministry to consider how these insights might impact the way we minister to young Christians):

Here’s an example: “The most dangerous seedbed for intellectual rebellion is a home where faith is sentimental and even anti-intellectual, and where opponents are painted as ignorant knaves, because eventually our children discover that there are some really nice people who are atheists and agnostics, and they can present arguments in sophisticated, gentle, and persuasive fashion.”