my books: friends & counselors #16


The OT … is more than the factual base out of which the NT is to be understood. The earliest Christians understood the OT as the very basis for achieving a proper relationship with God. …

Though the institutions of the OT have passed away, the theology of the OT remains. In fact, on it is built the theology of the NT. …

The church today suffers malnutrition if a part of its diet is not the theology of the OT.

Thomas Olbricht in The World and Literature of the Old Testament edited by John T. Willis (Sweet Publishing, 1979); pp.344-345

toward application: prayer for self

Matter: “Aside from forgiveness, how ought I to pray for myself? I need guidance.”

Means: A friend of mine, Timothy Archer, has addressed this very matter extremely well. Reproduced below is his prayer. Pray like this for it reflects the fruit we long to bear in abundance, the fruit of God’s Spirit.

My Father, through Your Holy Spirit, in Your Son’s name, I ask …

… help me choose love rather than resentment,
… help me choose joy over bitterness,
… help me live peace in a world of turmoil,
… help me to be patient with others as You are patient with me,
… help me to be known for kindness not harshness,
… help me to seek goodness not success,
… help me be faithful to You above all,
… help me to be gentle, especially with those who disagree with me,
… help me practice self-control, letting You control me.

May Your Spirit produce His fruit in me.


toward application / prayer block

Matter: “You’ve heard of writer’s block. I often feel like I have a mental block when it comes to prayer.”

Means: Reverse the flow of your thoughts and call in some reinforcements. That is, instead of trying to mentally “come up with something,” let your body’s physical senses “bring you something.” As for the reinforcements, summon up some imagination and creativity. Be unafraid to “play” a bit with how you pray.

Try this: close your your eyes and concentrate solely on identifying all the sounds you hear. Let each of those individual sounds serve as prompts for subjects or trajectories of prayer for you to explore.

For example, as I sit outside I can often hear the sounds of traffic. That prompts me to pray for the variety of people in those vehicles. That can lead me to pray with thankfulness to our Father for all of the occupants of those vehicles, for their being given the gift of life and the privilege of another day. That can stimulate me to ask God for the safety of them all as they interact on the road. And how about all of the households of which they are a part? May truly healthy and happy attitudes and relationships flourish in those families and in the lives of all the people whom they are connected. Etc., etc., etc.

Practice such “extension of awareness” with all of the other sounds you identify. Do you hear a bird? Let such prompt you in prayer regarding the witness of, and praise to, God by all of the natural world/creation. Do you hear a siren or a life-flight helicopter? Allow such to lead your mind to pray for first-responders of all kinds, everywhere, and all whom they seek to aid.

Have fun and build in some imagination, too. (Incidentally, this is a great way to include children in your prayers, for they are often naturally-inclined toward such.) For example, let each barking dog you hear stir you to talk with God about all the complainers you know in life … as well as about your own wrestling with “barking” and complaining that you give and/or receive. (To prompt a child with you, ask them, “What do you think that dog is saying with their barking?”) Tie memories of specific, relevant Scriptures in with your prayers (e.g. – Philippians 2.14-15).

All of this works for all of your other physical senses, of course (i.e. – sight, smell, taste, touch). Vary your surroundings and work through your senses. You will likely find what you pray about, and how you pray, refreshed and revitalized.

IMMERSE – Feb. 2019 reading schedule

IMMERSE is the name of the three-year, five-day-per-week, church-wide Bible reading that the church I preach with is engaged in right now. As of today, we have completed the first two weeks of IMMERSE. We’ve now got the story of Christ fixed in our mind via the longest book in the New Testament, Luke’s Gospel. We’re now set to read volume two of Luke’s two-volume work, Acts.

Following is this month’s reading schedule (February). The page #’s match the paperback edition of ‘Messiah’ in the IMMERSE series. The location #’s match the eBook version of the same (e.g. – if you use Kindle).

  • Feb. 1 (Fri.) – Luke 22.1-24.53 (pp.52-59; loc.1661-1830)
    Feb. 2 (Sat.) – reflect/review/catch up
    Feb. 3 (Sun.) – reflect/review/catch up
  • Feb. 4 (Mon.) – Acts 1.1-4.4 (pp.61-66; loc.1833-1948)
    Feb. 5 (Tues.) – Acts 4.5-6.7 (pp.66-70; loc.1948-2027)
    Feb. 6 (Wed.) – Acts 6.8-9.31 (pp.70-77; loc.2027-2171)
    Feb. 7 (Thur.) – Acts 9.32-12.24 (pp.77-82; loc.2171-2281)
    Feb. 8 (Fri.) – Acts 12.25-16.5 (pp.82-89; loc.2281-2416)
    Feb. 9 (Sat.) – reflect/review/catch up
    Feb. 10 (Sun.) – reflect/review/catch up
  • Feb. 11 (Mon.) – Acts 16.6-19.20 (pp.89-94; loc.2416-2537)
    Feb. 12 (Tues.) – Acts 19.21-23.35 (pp.95-103; loc.2537-2704)
    Feb. 13 (Wed.) – Acts 24.1-28.31 (pp.103-110; loc.2704-2874)
    Feb. 14 (Thur.) – 1 Thes.1.1-5.28 (pp.111-117; loc.2877-2997)
    Feb. 15 (Fri.) – 2 Thes. 1.1-3.18 (pp.119-123; loc.3002-3067)
    Feb. 16 (Sat.) – reflect/review/catch up
    Feb. 17 (Sun.) – reflect/review/catch up
  • Feb. 18 (Mon.) – 1 Cor. 1.1-2.16 (pp.125-129; loc.3078-3161)
    Feb. 19 (Tues.) – 1 Cor. 3.1-7.24 (pp.129-135; loc.3161-3282)
    Feb. 20 (Wed.) – 1 Cor. 7.25-12.31 (pp.135-142; loc.3282-3433)
    Feb. 21 (Thur.) – 1 Cor. 13.1-16.24 (pp.142-148; loc.3433-3569)
    Feb. 22 (Fri.) – 2 Cor. 1.1-7.16 (pp.149-158; loc.3575-3750)
    Feb. 23 (Sat.) – reflect/review/catch up
    Feb. 24 (Sun.) – reflect/review/catch up
  • Feb. 25 (Mon.) – 2 Cor. 8.1-13.14 (pp.158-164; loc.3760-3895)
    Feb. 26 (Tues.) – Gal. 1.1-2.21 (pp.165-169; loc.3900-3977)
    Feb. 27 (Wed.) – Gal. 3.1-6.18 (pp.169-175; loc.3987-4093)
    Feb. 28 (Thur.) – Rom. 1.1-5.11  (pp.177-185; loc.4101-4272)

toward application / why pray

Matter: “If God knows me, why pray? I rarely see things change anyway.”

Means: Turn the lens around; you’re looking at things through the wrong end. You’re making prayer out to be about “changing things” and for that to occur when you want it to happen.

Now God often does change matters in response to our prayers. In ways we can see. Sometimes even exactly the way, and when, we’d want it. But, such must not ever be our total expectation from, or our take on, the purpose of prayer.

It is imperative for us to see prayer primarily as a means by which God changes us, not merely our situations. Prayer wasn’t made for our merely getting what we want and our deliverance, so much as it was made for our exercise in becoming what he wants and our development. (Read that last sentence again, slowly and thoughtfully.) Prayer is about growing in our relationship with, and our reliance on, God our Savior, not about us and our surroundings. Prayer is not about reaping what we want. Prayer is about belonging to God in every way, come what may.

God is infinitely more than the granter of our wishes. He is our Sovereign, not our slave. He must be enough for us; his grace sufficient for us. This is what he wants you to grow to see and become. He is to be our all in all. He knows us, and our true needs, far better than we do. If he changes things, let those things be in us. If he changes anything else, that will be good and gravy and grace. His will be done.

So … turn the lens around. You need to picture prayer, God, and yourself differently.