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Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal

Gratitude

A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal from Tyndale

 

Tyndale House Publishers has produced several high quality coloring journal products in the past, and the Gratitude prayer and praise journal is no different. I purchased the Inspire creative journaling Bible for my wife earlier this year, and she loved it. Gratitude is similar to the Bible in that it contains lines for journaling and pictures for coloring. The difference, however, is Gratitude contains selected verses and scriptural prayers to help the readers focus on praise and prayer. The book is exceptional for two reasons: the quality of the craftsmanship and the quality of the content.  

 

First, the book is well made. The front and back are hardback, but the spine is paperback. This may seem odd, but it really is nice. The hardback cover keeps the book from getting beat up, and the paperback spine allows the book to lay flat. In addition, the paper on which the verses and pictures are printed is nice and thick. Pen ink, coloring pencils, and markers do not bleed through the paper, which is important due to the nature of the book. Overall, it is a well-made, durable book.

 

Second, the content of the book is excellent. The passages selected for reflection revolve around prayer and praise, leading the reader to engage in prayer and praise God. There is ample space for journaling, so the reader has room to record their thoughts, prayers, and praises. The pictures are creative and aesthetically appealing, and anyone using the book will enjoy them.

 

Bottom line: this is an excellent journal for Christians to use as they seek to grow in the areas of prayer and praise to God.

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html&gt; : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Final Committee Member.

I am beginning to focus on my dissertation, which means I have been thinking about my third committee member. Dr. Hershael York and Dr. Robert Vogel had both agreed to serve on my committee, but I really wasn’t sure who I should ask to fill the final slot. I solicited advice from Dr. York, my supervisor, and he suggested three names: Greg Wills, Tom Nettles, and Berry Driver. 

Since Dr. Nettles had written on John Broadus (in the second volume of his The Baptists series) and James P. Boyce (the best friend of John Broadus, the subject of my dissertation), he was my first choice. I emailed him, and he was initially hesitant to agree to serve on the committee. After talking to Dr. York, I decided to email him again and reaffirm my desire for him to serve on my committee…and he agreed! I now have three committee members and am ready to write the prospectus for my dissertation. Prayers appreciated!

(Dis)Comfort Zone.

I had the opportunity to spend last week speaking to elementary-age boys. Almost 200 boys gathered at Baptist Hill in Mt. Vernon for boys camp, and I spoke to them each evening from God’s Word. Let me be completely honest here: it was one of the most challenging weeks I’ve had in a while. I was totally out of my comfort zone. I’ve spent the last 11 years in student ministry working with middle school and high school students, but there is a difference between middle school students and elementary-age boys. So it was a challenging week for me.

In spite of the challenges, however, God was gracious.  30 boys turned from their sin and put their faith in Jesus Christ! I can confidently say that God worked “in spite of me” and not “because of me” (which is true all the time!). I am grateful that God allowed me to be a part of what He is doing, and I was also reminded that God likes to get us out of our comfort zones in order to stretch us and grow us. 

Puebla, Mexico Vision Trip.

I just spent several days in Puebla, Mexico with a friend from seminary. When I first met him, he was a pastor in Alexandria, VA, but he recently moved to Puebla, Mexico to teach at Puebla Bible Seminary. When I found out he was moving to Puebla, I was shocked because our church regularly flies into Puebla and drives into the interior to do ministry in unreached villages. When he found out we regularly flew into Puebla, he was shocked! It has turned out to be a “God thing.” I’m once again reminded of God’s providence over our lives.
Long story short, it looks like our church will be able to help out the seminary, and it looks like the seminary may be able to help our church reach those villages. I can’t share too many details at this point, so just pray everything works out and we are able to establish a partnership with Puebla Bible Seminary with the goal of training pastors and planting churches in Mexican villages where there is ZERO gospel witness! 

Rejoicing, Rewards, and Recognition.

In Matthew 5:12, Jesus tells His disciples to rejoice in suffering. This is obviously an unnatural response to suffering, but nevertheless it is what Jesus calls His followers to do when they suffer for Him. How (and why) can followers of Christ rejoice in suffering? Two reasons:

1. We Will Be Rewarded. Those who suffer will be rewarded. Jesus said, “Your reward is  great in heaven.” The exact reward is not specified, but Jesus did say it would be great. Therefore, Jesus can call His followers to rejoice. Yes, suffering is painful now, but the future reward is great. It is worth it to follow Christ and suffer for Christ. Indeed, simply knowing Christ is a great reward and should enable us to rejoice in suffering.

2. We are Not Alone. You are not alone in your suffering. Historically, you are not alone. Others have suffered. Jesus said, “They persecuted the prophets who were before you.” The prophets suffered and were abused and rejected, and we should not be surprised when we suffer and are rejected. Jesus Himsef suffered and was rejected by men. So, when we suffer, we join a long list of godly men and identify with Christ in His suffering.

Christian, if you are following Christ and this leads to suffering, rejoice! Not because it is pleasant now but because it will be worth it in the future. Your reward will be great! Rejoice! Not because it is easy but because you know you are in good company. Other believers, and Christ Himself, have suffered, so rejoice in the fact that you can identify with Christ in His suffering, which means you will be able to identify with Him in glory!

SBC

I attended the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in St. Louis this past week. It was one of the most attended annual meetings in years, and there were several interesting interactions during the meeting. I was particularly encouraged by two things: the stance taken by the SBC on the confederate flag and the compassion shown to the victims of the shooting in Orlando.

 
Those familiar with the history of the SBC are well aware of the sinful past of the convention in regards to slavery and racism. When the Northern Baptists refused to appoint Southern slaveholders as missionaries, the Southern Baptists formed their own convention. The SBC has publicly confessed this sin, and progress has certainly been made (although there is room for continued improvement). This past week, the SBC made further progress by passing a resolution regarding the confederate flag. The confederate flag is viewed by many as a symbol of hatred and racism, and the SBC passed a resolution encouraging churches and Christians to abstain from flying the flag. As James Merritt said in his speech, all the confederate flags in the world aren’t worth the soul of one person. I applaud the move and hope those in the convention who value the flag will be sensitive to the offensive nature of the flag in the minds of many and disavow its use.

 
In regards to the shooting, the SBC spent time in prayer for the victims in Orlando. Christians are often viewed as judgmental and hateful, but Southern Baptists expressed compassion and concern for the victims of the shooting and their families. While still affirming the sinfulness of homosexuality, the SBC demonstrated love and compassion for these victims and their families, praying for them specifically (something we did at my church on the Sunday after the shooting as well). It is possible to say that homosexuality is a sin and still show compassion to those who are involved in it.

 

So, these two things stuck out in my mind from the annual meeting. The Southern Baptist Convention and its messengers continue to push towards racial reconciliation, and they continue to stand for the truth of Scripture while still showing compassion and concern for the victims of the shooting in Orlando. May God continue to bless the SBC as its churches proclaim Christ and send out missionaries to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth.

Starting Up…

Well, it’s been over six months! Family, school, and work got the better of me, but I am going to try to start up again. I plan on resuming my “devotions” from Matthew on Monday… let’s see how long I last this time!

Personalizing Persecution.

In Matthew 5:11, there is a shift from third person to second person. Jesus moves from talking about people in general (those) to His disciples in particular (you). I believe Jesus is making a specific, personal application of the eighth beatitude (vs. 10), not stating a final beatitude (contra Osborne, Matthew, kindle loc. 3386). He is not introducing a new beatitude; He is applying the eighth and final beatitude to the disciples in a personal way. 
Carson noted the expansion of the eighth beatitude in verse 11 in regards to persecution, righteousness, and response to persecution. First, persecution involves verbal as well as physical attack. People experience persecution when they are verbally attacked for their faith. Second, righteousness is connected to imitation of Christ. Verse 10 talks about persecution for righteousness’ sake, whereas verse 12 talks about persecution for Christ’s sake. “This confirms that the righteousness of life that is in view is in imitation of Jesus” Carson, The Sermon on the Mount, 28). Third, the response to suffering is joy. They can be full of joy because they have a great reward in heaven.
These verses are especially comforting in our day. It is not popular or politically correct to be a Christian and affirm biblical truths. It is likely those who love Jesus and are outspoken about their beliefs will be verbally ridiculed. If we love Jesus, seek to follow Him, and face persecution, let’s not falter. Rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven.

Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake.

The final beatitude deals with persecution. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (vs. 10). Jesus’ statement makes it clear some will be persecuted for their faith. This truth undermines any “gospel” that denies personal difficulty or hardship. Jesus made it abundantly clear some beliebers would experience verbal and even physical abuse because of their righteousness (which is based on Christ’s righteousness). Christians who are committed to Christ should not be surprised when they face persecution or opposition.
One word of caution is in order. Christians should make sure they are persecuted “for righteousness’ sake.” D. A. Carson quipped:

This final beatitude does not say, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because they are objectionable, or because they rave like wild-eyes fanatics, or because they pursue some religio-political cause.” The blessing is restricted to those who suffer persecution because of righteousness (cf. 1 Peter 3:13f.; 4:12-16). The believers described in this passage are those determined to live as Jesus lived (Carson, The Sermon on the Mount, 27).

So, if you are facing persecution or difficulty, make sure it is for “righteousness’ sake” and not because you are being a jerk or are taking a hard stand on a non-biblical issue.
The reward is the kingdom of heaven. Carson asked, 

“If the disciple of Jesus never experienced any persecution at all, it may fairly be asked where righteousness is being displayed in his life. If there is no righteousness, no conformity to God’s will, how shall he enter the kingdom?”

So, are you being persecuted? If not, is it because you are not displaying righteousness? Every Christian should strive, not for persecution, but righteousness. If persecution comes, so be it. Let’s practice righteousness and enter the kingdom.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

The seventh beatitude revolves around “peace.” Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9, ESV). Jesus Himself was the ultimate peacemaker. Paul wrote, “And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20, ESV). Christ’s death made it possible for us to have peace with God and should motivate us to pursue peace with others.

Osborne does a good job highlighting the vertical and horizontal dimensions of “peace” tied up in this verse. He commented:

This connotes both peace with God and peace between people—the latter flows out of the former. Jesus is the supreme peacemaker, who reconciles human beings with God through the cross (Col 1:20), so the supreme peacemaking is the proclamation of the gospel (Osborne, Matthew, Kindle Loc. 3352-3357).

We become peacemakers by proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Supreme Peacemaker. And, we seek peace within the church and between the church and the world. All of this is connected to the gospel and our relationship to the One who made peace by his shed blood on the cross. 

The result of being a peacemaker is being called a son of God. Carson wrote, “The peacemaker’s reward, then, is that he will be called a son of God. He reflects his heavenly Father’s wonderful peacemaking character” (Carson, The Sermon on the Mount, 27). Let us seek to demonstrate our familial relation to God by pursuing peace through gospel proclamation and gracious interaction with believers in the church and unbelievers outside the church.