Intercessors AriseAs I read Debbie Przybylski’s latest book, Intercessors Arise (Navpress, 2008) my first reaction was not what I expected. A few chapters in, I was asking “Where is the fire? I’m interested in this subject. As a believer, I want a more dynamic prayer life. But this book is, well, uninteresting.” I’ve heard the anecdotal stories before, and felt I should pray more than I do. However, I already know this stuff. The book was missing the proverbial trigger. Debbie didn’t pull the trigger on how to make the reality she described a part of my life.

Debbie is the founder of Intercessors Arise International, and has spent decades on the mission field with Operation Mobilization. She’s an acclaimed writer, and mentor, teaching on the subject of prayer and intercession across the globe. So her experiences suggests that she must know about prayer. Yet I spent half the book asking where is the fire? Where di I find the kind of life she is describing?

I would like to pat myself on the back and say “And then lights went off . . . ” No, my final analysis of Debbie’s book demands that I humble myself rather than disclose some grand revelation. Debbie’s book will tell me the 5 points to a better prayer life. Intercession isn’t a spectator sport that one can learn from the bleachers of Christian life. Indepth intercession like Debbie describes doesn’t follow a formula. It is learned on one’s knees, discovered through utter dependence on God.

Intercessors Arise is a manual to be poured over slowly. I recommend taking 2 or 3 months to digest and apply the lessons. This book can be a wonderful resource for a group of friends who seek to improve their prayer lives. Intercessors Arise is not and cannot be formulaic, as are many modern Christian titles. Intercession is not a formula where I insert currency and like a gum ball machine, God turns the crank and rewards me. From her deep experience Debbie describes that intercession require a person’s commitment to their God – a broken open, unfaltering, humble-and-willing-to-wait for an answer commitment which is too often absent in today’s modern church.

My confession is that I didn’t get much from her book the first time through because I was looking for a formula. My own attitude and shallow expectations were the roadblock. Intercessors Arise is not a book. Rather it is a tried and proven field manual that encourages Christ followers to pray big, dream big, and then depend on an equally Big God. In response, God often starts by creating brokenness and dependency, a humbling process that creates intercession from self focused prayers.

I recommend this book highly, and give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Tim Burns featured as a Guest Blogger

Check out Tim’s latest blog entry, as a guest on http://www.devodiva.com/

A Relevant Work, Timeless Issues, Biblical Models

Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today

Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today

In her latest book, Mothers of the Bible Speak to Mothers of Today, award winning author Kathi Macias demonstrates her depth as author, speaker and bible teacher. Kathi selects 15 women from the Bible, from Old and New testaments, obscure and renowned, and makes their stories come alive through practical application. The reader will find that Kathi has the special talent that makes the lives and emotions of ancient moms relevant to post-modern American culture.

Each of the 15 women who are selected as role models are made real through in-depth, inductive Bible study as well as the author’s feminine insight. Like Kathi’s other books, this work is refreshingly personal. Still Kathi finds a way to press deeper by cross referencing scripture, explaining cultural influences, and spotlighting the text’s linguistic background. She fleshes out the personal side of God’s redemptive work as illustrated through her subjects.

For example, in the first chapter, Kathi examines the maternal side of Eve, whose name means: Life Giver. According to the author, Eve must have wrestled deeply with being the “first” at many things. Without role model or mentor, she was the first to have a husband, endure and fall in temptation, lose a son to violent crime and then lose a second to the consequences of his crime. Yet, through it all, God proved faithful to her name, and promise He had given her. Eve bore another son, Seth, through whom Jesus would eventually become the redemption of all mankind, the Eternal Life Giver.

Kathi brings her readers face to face with timeless issues which impose themselves upon today’s moms. Have you ever watched a mother play favorites with her children, and the ensuing chaos within a family. Have you experienced a mom’s deep struggle with isolation, competing with others due to personal insecurity, or laying down personal desires for your children as they forge their own way in the world? Each chapter concludes with review and application questions. Information without application aborts the disciple-building process, and Kathi makes room for both in this wonderful work.

I’ve interviewed Kathi a few times, and each time I’ve come to appreciate her deep commitment to God’s word, and desire to live biblical faith in a practical way. As Christ followers, we can mistakenly assume we can have one part of this equation, the practical faith, without a commitment to real discipleship built on a foundation of God’s Word. Kathi is an example that these two elements are conjoined twins. The only way to have one is to engage the other.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5, and recommend it highly. This latest work is insightful, balanced, scripturally grounded, well researched and highly relevant.

Book Giveaway – the Latest from Andy Stanley

Check out Vessel Project Book Giveaway for a copy of Andy Stanley’s book The Principle of the Path.

Tyndale’s Every Man’s Bible: a Publication Fit for the Man-cave.

Tyndale's Every Man's BibleLet’s face it. As men, a person wanting our attention is better served talking in short sentences, bullet points, and even showing us pictures of a sporting event that illustrates a message rather than initiating a 10 minute discussion. It’s not that we’re dull, but God has wired men differently than women. We just think differently. With this caricature in mind, I’m giving five stars to Tyndale’s recently published Every Man’s Bible. Here’s why.

The Every Man’s Bible contains helps which meet the average man in the way we like to learn. Each chapter begins with an in depth outline, including headings like “The Breakdown” “Key Concepts” and “Verses Worth Memorizing.” As a guy, these headlines focus my attention, and help me dig deeper into the text that I may have read many times before. Each book’s first page contains a time line I can use to put the book in historical context. Another call-out box announces a simple declaration: “What is the Point of this Book?”

I don’t want to give the impression that Every Man’s Bible is less than scholarly. The book’s New Living Translation contains extensive footnotes, cross references, and in depth biographies of persons who are prominent and others who are, well, not so much. Each of these persons highlighted contain important lessons which apply to a man’s life. The “Persons You Should Know” segment help the reader dig deeper into the text, unearthing pearls of great price.

I could continue, describing contributions from teachers, preachers and authors from around the country, over 40 pages of topical study aides, complete indexing, and more. Rather, let me simply recommend this version of the bible for any man interested in personally moving deeper into God’s Word. The tools are excellent, and slanted to connect with men thus catalyzing His transformational process.

Even a Broken Clock is Right Twice a Day.

As my wife and I settled in for movie night, the romantic comedy He’s Just Not That into You unfolded on the flat screen. We followed the somewhat interconnected relational missteps of nine people for 129 minutes. As the credits neared, the narrator, or narratress as the case may be, finally divulged the movie’s thesis.

Finding true love is the exception to the rule, the unexpected twist in life’s third act” It seemed that this romantic tragedy which have been theatrically reproduced is the norm, or so we were told. “Maybe we are so focused on finding a happy ending, we can’t learn how to read the signs. How to tell those who want us from those who don’t, the ones who will stay from the ones who will leave. Maybe a happy ending doesn’t include a wonderful guy. Maybe it’s you, on your own, picking up the pieces and starting over . . . maybe it’s just moving on.

Or maybe the happy ending is this. . . knowing that through all the unreturned phone calls, broken hearts, blunders and misread signals, pain and embarrassment, you never gave up hope” With the narratress’ final thought ringing in my ears, the music score surfaced and ended poignantly.

Save me”

How does this statement on 21st century love and life fit on a ministry blog? Glad you asked. This picture of dysfunctional love and life is on daily display, front and center in the main gallery of our culture’s lifeflow. To a great extent, what Christian’s would call broken life has become normal life of the dominant, post-Christian, post-modern social order we call contemporary. This new normal is the culture we, as Christ followers, are called to engage.

As Christ follows we are called to disciple the nations, not to separate ourselves from this emotionally damaged generation. For when we do, we thereby communicate that we are somehow better, and by comparison the hurting person is somehow less. This isn’t the way Christ interacted with his world . . . the woman at the well in Samaria, Mary Magdalene, Simon the outcast tax collector.

Yet even in the movie’s sadly narcissistic and slightly damaged conclusion, the writer sowed a small seed of truth. Life isn’t about the happy ending, or about what you get out of a relationship. Life is about finding wholeness. After that pearl of great price is unearthed and understood, a person is ready to share that life, and his or her own, with another. Thereby we become a blessing, instead of demanding to be somehow fulfilled and completed by another. Before we can give we have to receive.

As Christ followers, we know, and have the source of that blessing in our midst. We know personally the One who will genuinely love and never leave. We meet in closed circles to discuss Him, learn about Him, and make sure we are really part of His group.

Yet the world is still wondering, wandering, lost and needing to be saved.

Will we break out of our comfort zones? When will those outside the walls of our churches hear that real love is not the exception th the rule. When will they see? When will we go and tell them . . . with our lives, our actions and our words?

Be the Surprise – Who . . . Me?

be the surpriseAuthor Terry Esau creates a second refreshing look into active Christianity, and the unexpected journey it can become. Be the Surprise is his second book, following God Surprise Me (2005). Terry’s writing style seemed a bit ADD-ish at first. His book is a collection of short stories, poems, song lyrics and anecdotes supporting the title, asking God to be active and make him the surprise in other people’s lives. After digging into his personal history, I discovered that before becoming an author, Terry wrote commercial jingles. His resulting adjunct writing style doesn’t detract from the book, but rather creates a fun and unexpected delivery, like a memorable bit advertising a new soda pop.

Terry’s theme revolves around giving and receiving. As Christ followers, while we are called to give to others, it seems we easily become focused on receiving. Terry calls giving and receiving Siamese twins, co-joined at the heart. You can’t fully have one without the other. As he talks about his journey from God Surprise Me to Be the Surprise Terry also makes a comparison to the natural process of breathing. A person inhales, which is like watching God work in your life. Exhaling completes the cycle as we take what god has given us, and give of the living waters to someone else. You can’t have one without the other.

The body of the book retells examples of those who chose to be the surprise, and the lessons Terry collected along the way. Almost living parables, Be the Surprise gives the reader uncomplicated illustration of how to be the surprise and unexpectedly give of God’s life. On p.22 Terry quotes one of the people he met along his journey. A woman in a restaurant who bussed tables and washed dishes said “You can’t do good without being good. And God is the good in me.” Through another incident, he was reminded that often Christ followers try too hard to be religious, and impress or influence others. Our goal should be to become transparent, and genuine. Ultimately we are the gift, Christ living in us. We can influence the world and build His kingdom: inhaling and exhaling, giving and receiving.

Terry’s book is a wonderful example of how a Christian’s faith can influence the world, and I recommend it highly. We aren’t called to be blow torches setting the world on fire, or theatrical search lights piercing the night sky in front of some retailer’s sale of the decade. Christ followers are a light set on a table, a city on a hill by which others can find their way home.