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RESOURCE: Kneeling With Giants 30th June, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Books, Discipleship, Prayer, Reviews.
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kneeling with giantsBack in December I received a message from someone I didn’t really know.  I’d followed Gary Hansen on twitter or he’d followed me (which ended in following each other) and that led him to my blog (check out his blog here).  After reading my blog and seeing my blogs about prayer and various books, he offered to send me a copy of a book on prayer he’d written, in return for reviewing it on my blog.  My thought process went like this:

“Free book?  YES PLEASE!!”
Prayer? BONUS!!

I’m glad to say that like the book!  I wasn’t all that far through when I realised it wasn’t just a book on prayer, but also a great discipleship tool.  So rather than simply reviewing it, I want to recommend it to you as a great discipleship resource you can use to help you (or people you’re discipling) grow in the essential area of prayer.

I’ve read a number of books on prayer and have a couple of “go tos” that I suggest to people but none that I’ve taken a specific liking to… until now.

The aspect of the book that really sold it to me is how practical it is.

There are many books that talk about prayer without really helping you develop your prayer life.  While many books provide a new insight into prayer, often prayer books stay quite theoretical, talking about ways to prayer without helping you understand how to do it.  Kneeling with Giants provides you with both. More than the other books on prayer that I’ve read, Kneeling with Giants gets into the how, providing us with practical instruction and examples that really help you to engage each style of prayer.

The premise of the book is wise: Awareness of different styles of prayer will help keep prayer fresh over time, and give you access to new styles of prayer which can help sustain you in different seasons of your life.  The author’s hope in the book is to help you find a way to pray that you will find life-giving, since for so many people prayer can be such a struggle.  By introducing you to different styles of prayer found throughout the history of the church, hopefully you’ll discover a style that will bring new life and enjoyment to your time spent in prayer.  Gary’s clear pastoral desire to lead us deeper into the arms of God, and to equip us with tools to enhance our intimacy with Him come through the book clearly.

The book looks at ten styles of prayer.  For each one Gary Hansen explains the particular type of prayer, grounds it in Scripture and historical writings, then by using his own experiences he helps guide us in experimenting with that particular method of prayer.  Of the ten styles covered, I’d say that his chapters healing and intercession are the weakest, but they introduce you to some great writings you can jump to for more!

When I received the book back in January my thought had been to bash through the book quickly and get a blog up.  At the end of his introduction came the exhortation: “However you go through this book, the one crucial thing is to pray (p15)” and I realised that “bashing through” would not do justice to his gift!  [If you read this book without giving time to his suggestions, you’ll miss just how rich this resource is and rob yourself of some opportunities to experience God in a new way!!]

The material is rich!  Each chapter looks at the writing of a great man or woman in church history (like St Benedict, Luther, Calvin, Ignatius of Loyola, and the Puritans) and explores how they experienced prayer.  Coated with Hansen’s personal experiences, which he reflects on throughout the book, the pages take on a humble pastoral persona, like a spiritual director helping you (and challenging you) to experience deep new ways of meeting with Jesus.

This would be a good book to work through as a group study.  At the end of the book are two helpful appendices.  The first suggests ways to use the book as a small group or class curriculum, and the second is a helpful summary of suggestions for to how to practice each of the 10 styles Hansen discusses.

I’d recommend buying the e-book.  It includes a reader (that isn’t included in the paper copy) containing excerpts from the primary source texts, which he draws from throughout the book.  Though the book is a fine tool without this, the reader would add an extra element of depth through exposure to some of the writings from the history of the Church.

So… if you find prayer challenging, if your prayer times seem dull, if you’re looking for a prayer study for yourself or a group, or if you’re simply intrigued now that you realise there’s more than one way to pray, I’d highly recommend you grab a copy of Kneeling With Giants!

Thanks go to Gary for sending me such a great resource!

Why protestants should pray for Pope Francis 18th March, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Church, Heart, Prayer.
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0315-pope-francis-first-jesuit_full_600Growing up, I never really understood the Pope.  As a child, he was just a really old man in funny clothes.  As a teen he captained the other team and so wasn’t relevant to me.  As a young adult I listened to people debate about him.  But as my faith has matured I’ve grown in empathy for this Roman Catholic figurehead.  My curiosity was piqued reading Dan Brown’s novels, with their details of the conclave and the process for electing the pope.

I was intrigued when Benedict resigned, and began musing about the papal election.  When I was in the airport travelling home from the States all the TVs were focused on the Vatican Chimney, and so I watched and pondered.  As I was reflecting, I found myself more horrified for the man than excited for him, and I realised the tremendous responsibility we have as believers to PRAY FOR THE POPE.  Here’s why:

  • The Pope was appointed by God.
    Scripture is clear: “There is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Rom 13:1), and we are to pray for those in authority (see 2 Tim 2:1-4).  If you believe the Pope is a good and godly man, pray for Him, for He has been appointed by God to lead the Roman Catholic church, and he needs our prayers for God’s Spirit to empower him to govern wisely.  If you believe the pope is the antichrist, pray for Him, for He has been appointed by God, and needs our prayer for God’s Spirit to take hold of his heart.  It doesn’t matter where you fall on this spectrum, the result is the same.  We have a responsibility to pray that God would move in and through this man.
  • The Pope is a sinner and in need of Jesus.
    It is quoted that upon accepting the papal office, he said: “I am a sinner, but as this office has been given to me, I accept.”  This is a truth we need to remember.  The Pope is a sinner and needs to experience Jesus.  He comes to his office with a past riddled with sin, and he will continue in sin while in this office… because he is human.  It is wrong to venerate him as a god, as some will do.  But we must not do the opposite and accuse him of being the devil incarnate, for he is no more a sinner than we are.  A sinner in such a high position desperately needs the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
  • The Pope is the face of Christianity.
    Whether you like it or not, this is the truth!  Ask a random person on the street to name influential Christians, and the person they’ll name is the Pope.  They don’t know Tim Keller, or Mark Driscoll, or John Piper, or your denominational leader… but they know the Pope.  Every move he makes, every success and failure will be broadcast to the world and impact how people view Christianity.  The enemy of our souls would love to exploit this situation to mar the image of Christ, so let us pray that the opposite be true.
  • The Pope immediately becomes the most loved and hated person in the world.
    The instant Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio became Pope Francis, he became a figure adored by 1.2 billion catholics, but hated by millions who are antagonistic towards not only towards Roman Catholicism, but towards religion in general.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a “normal” person one day, and one of the most hated people in the world the next day.  Moments after the election I saw an insane number of tweets and facebook posts simultaneously blessing and cursing him.  The media now has their sights set on bringing out into the open any tiny piece of dirty laundry they can find, and conspiracy theories galore can be found with this man’s name as the focus.  Throughout his life time he will receive death threats, curses, and all-night prayer vigils focused on his harm.
  • The Pope has an unfathomable burden of responsibility to bear.
    I can’t begin to imagine what it feels like to carry the burden that Pope Francis now carries.  I think only Benedict and other world leaders can comprehend that amount of pressure.  1.2 billion Catholics are looking to Pope Francis to lead their church.  Within the Roman church competing factions all want him to address or ignore various issues.  The rest of the world is looking on to see what he will do to address the major failings that the media has made us so aware of.  No matter what actions he takes, people in and out of the church will not be happy!  In the midst of all this, he is somehow supposed to seek God, hear Him and do His will.  I would crumple under such a tremendous load.  I have a hard time picturing a Cardinal sitting in the conclave desperate to become Pope for the power and accolades.  Instead, I imagine drops of sweat pouring down the face of any man whose name was read out from a ballot because of the gruelling task of implementing reform that is being called for from both inside and outside of the church.
  • The Pope has an unfathomable amount of power and influence.
    He can use this power for good or evil.  His actions will have incredibly large ramifications, sometimes in the direction he is hoping, and sometimes those consequences don’t go quite as planned.  Through him, more people can be influenced towards Jesus, but equally, many can be turned away.  At the same time, we need to remember that the power to bring someone to Christ lies not with man, but with the Holy Spirit.  God can use any person or any circumstance (good or bad) to introduce people to Jesus.  With such a visible presence, I am praying that God will use this man to draw people to Christ rather than pushing them away.  Pray that God would protect him from the lure of worldly power and use him to influence people toward Christ.
  • The Pope is a Christian.
    Of all the things I’m going to write, I know this is the place where people may get heated.  I believe this pope knows Jesus.  I have read some articles by prominent Christians I respect who know this man personally and attest to his love for Jesus.  I get frustrated when Christians use blanket statements which state that Catholics aren’t “saved” as if being a Protestant is what saves.  I have some wonderful Roman Catholic friends who love Jesus more than most of my Protestant friends and are clearly in a saving relationship with Jesus.  Yes, we disagree on areas of theology, but then I don’t see eye-to-eye with every Protestant either.  (I’m yet to meet a Christian with flawless theology, and those who claim to have it are making a dangerous claim!)  There are people in the Roman Catholic church who think they are saved but aren’t.  That breaks my hearts… just as much as when I look at people in my own church who claim to be saved but live lives that show otherwise.  Sadly, there are many people around the world who attend churches and confess to be Christians, yet they don’t have a saving relationship with Jesus.  I am encouraged that Pope Francis has a desire to ensure that Christ is preached.  And I am praying that God will use the Pope’s imperfect-and-sometimes-erroneous preaching to win people to Christ in the same we He works in spite of my imperfect-and-sometimes-erroneous words to the do the same.

For all these reasons and more, Christians world-wide should pray for Pope Francis.  We can sit back and criticise, or we can pray.  I know which one God commands us to do.

If you are looking for some fuel for prayer, here’s an idea:  Spend some time this week imagining what you would do if you were the Pope.  Consider how you would fare if you were given his responsibility to bear.    How would you address the controversial issues that lie before him?  What backlash do you think you’d have to deal with?  What changes would you make to the church and how would you implement them?  What events in your life would the media dig up and how would it make you feel having them aired to the world?  Would you be able to stay faithful under the pressure and while being enticed with power and riches?  Then allow this to inform how you pray!

Lord Jesus, I pray for Pope Francis.  Enlighten the eyes of his heart that he would know You deeply.  Pour your Spirit over him, filling him with grace and humility to advance your Kingdom, not any worldly system.  If his ways are opposed to Yours, convict him of sin and align him with Your Word.  Give him wisdom to do govern wisely, and use him to bring people to the cross and in doing so exalt the Name of Jesus.  Amen.

RESOURCE: Operation World iCal 9th February, 2013

Posted by Scotty in Books, Discipleship, Mission, Prayer.
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Operation-World-book-cover_Page_01In my last post The Radical Experiment, I said that one of the things my family is committed to doing this year it’s praying for the world.  We’re working through the book Operation World (there’s also a website) which gives information, statistics and prayer points for all the countries

Now that we live in the world of smartphones (and knowing how terribly I function when I don’t have things in my phone/laptop calendar )I decided to perform a labour of love today:

I input the Operation World Prayer Calendar into a google calendar, so that I have daily alerts and quick access to the corresponding website content.  

So, if you like to use digital calendars, and you want to join us in praying for the world, here are the links to access the calendar:

XML       iCal      HTML

And if you like the idea, but still prefer the old school hard copy, it is available to print on the website (http://www.operationworld.org/prayer-calendar).

Monday Morning Prayer 3rd October, 2011

Posted by Scotty in Prayer.
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About a year ago, Sam started a prayer meeting in his flat.  He felt burdened to gather people together to intercede for Scotland, asking God to pour out His Spirit and revive the church.  Stuart invited me along one morning and I’ve been pretty much every week since.

Some mornings 20 people show up, and other times there are just 2… but all of us are united by the desire to see Jesus glorified in Scotland.

I love starting my week this way.  Every Monday I wake up early to add my voice to the countless others that have petitioned God for Scotland through the years.

God is moving.  Our hearts and being changed.  Our numbers are growing.  Our prayers are being answered.

We meet 7.45am-8.45am on Mondays.

Come and join us!

Hope to the Hopeless 23rd November, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Heart, Ministry, Prayer.
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I had forgotten how much God had broken my heart for the people of Scotland.  When I was in the States I spent most of my time praying for specific people who I’d left behind, who I was ministering to and who I was ministering with.  I’ve been home for about a month now and God has re-shattered my heart for this city and this country.

Our church is currently participating in a week of 24-7 Prayer.  The week has been divided between a number of Christian organizations and we opted to cover the first 3 days.  Knowing that people hate the middle-of-the-night spots I signed up for a 2-4am and two 4-6am slots… and man I had forgotten how amazing it is to be up praying when the rest of the world is sleeping.

God has reminded me just how much He has broken my heart for Scotland.

On Sunday at church, during worship, I wept.  I have a little friend over here who’s a 15 year old orphan.  His parent’s deaths were tragic.  His closest friend/relative committed suicide last week.  He has no self-worth, no dreams, no ambition.  He puts himself in harmful and destructive situations, no knowing any better.   After spending the day with him I was rocked to the core.  My heart breaks for my young friend.

I lay in bed most of that night talking to God about him.  Wrestling with God about the hopelessness of his case.  By church on Sunday I’d learned more about the hurt and pain he’s been experiencing over the last few years and I couldn’t take it any more.  I sat in church, hearing a powerful message from Daniel, and I broke.  Entering in to his pain I sat and wept for him as I cried out to God.  I was wrestling with questions… Can I help?  Will he ever be able to receive love?  Is the wounding too deep?  Is there anyway to help him break free of the self-destructive lifestyle he’s been forced into?  Is he beyond hope?

As I was praying God made me “zoom out” for a moment.  As I sad weeping for my precious friend I realized that God’s brokenness over him is infinitely more than the glimpse I’m feeling.  And that He breaks like this over EVERY one of His children.  The Cross demonstrates how far Jesus is willing to go to enter into our pain… God became MAN… lived here… and was abused and beaten and murdered… so that there is hope for the hopeless.

I began to weep for Glasgow and for Scotland.  So many people who have rejected God, who due to the choices of their parents and grandparents generations, have grown up believing the Gospel has no value to them.  So many people marked by sin and brokenness, making choices that only harm them more, unaware of the damage they are doing to themselves and blind to the reality that the love of Jesus Christ is what their heart is searching for.

So last night, I prayed while the rest of the city slept.  I cried out to God through tears knowing that He hears our prayers.  I allowed Him to re-break my heart for this city that has walked so far away from Him.  I pleaded and argued with Him, holding Him to the promises of Scripture… that ALL things have been put under Jesus’ feet… that He has power over every situation… that His heart is for the widows and orphans, the oppressed and downtrodden… that He came to set the captives free and bring hope to the hopeless… and that nothing and noone is beyond hope.

My heart is shattered.  I’m broken for my people.

But underneath the pain I have a deep-rooted stoic confidence.

Where Jesus rules… there is hope for my little friend.

Here I am Lord, send me.

Prayer: Search My Heart 23rd June, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Books, Prayer.
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I’m reading a book by Bill Johnson at the moment.  While I don’t agree with everything he writes, I love the desire he has to see more of God’s power in the world today.  Toward the end of the book he includes a prayer asking God to search His heart and reveal the impurity within.  It is a powerful prayer that many of us would do well to pray:

Father, you know that I don’t do so well when I look inward, so I’m going to stop.  I am relying on You to point out to me the things that I need to see.  I promise to stay in Your Word.  You said that your Word was a sword–so please use it to cut me deeply.  Expose those things in me that are not pleasing to You.  But in doing so, please give me the grace to forsake them.  I also promise to come before you daily.  Your presence is like a fire.  Please burn from me those things that are unpleasing to You.  Melt my heart until it becomes like the heart of Jesus.  Be merciful to me in these things.  I also promise to stay in fellowship with Your people.  You said that iron sharpens iron.  I expect You to anoint the “wounds of a friend” to bring me to mt senses when I’m being resistant toward You.  Please use these tools to shape my life until Jesus alone is seen in me.  I believe that You have given me Your heart and mind.  By Your grace I am anew creation.  I want that reality to be seen that the name of Jesus would be held in highest honor.

(Bill Johnson, When Heaven Invades Earth, p148)

Sermon: The Necessity of Prayer 22nd June, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Prayer.
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We just finished a short sermon series at Grace called Elemental.  Mike asked if I’d preach on prayer, and so I got to give my first topical sermon.  Almost all of my preaching experience and training has been expositional, where you study a passage, work out what it is saying and preach the content of the passage.  With topical preaching you pic a topic, then study what the Bible has to say about that topic and preach that.  I discovered that good topical preaching is much more difficult than normal expositional preaching.  Why?  In expositional preaching you study one passage inside out to extract the Truth to preach on it.  In topical preaching, you study multiple passage to extract the Truth and preach them all in a way that ties them together without distorting the Truth in each.

I realized I’ve never posted anything I’ve preached, so here’s the sermon.  Let me know what you think.

(direct link: http://scottburns.co.uk/audio/ScottBurns061310Prayer.mp3)

Disturb Us 2nd June, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Church, Heart, Prayer, Worship.
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We had a really great prayer night at Grace last week where we, as a body, called on God to shake us up.  After 30mins of individual contemplation there were a couple of worship songs to bring us together and to join corporately in raising our voices to God.  During that time Jake read this awesome prayer by Sir Francis Drake.  It is the kind of prayer I long to hear every Christian praying:

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Bible Crazy 12th May, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Bible, Heart, Prayer, Spirituality, Worship.
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On Monday Joe and I are heading off to camp for the week, with one goal in mind:  to read the entire Bible in one week.

This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time but have never made the time for.  My church at home does Bible Week where the congregation take 1hr slots and they read the entire Bible aloud in the church building.  It usually takes 2-3 days.  I’ve always wondered how it would be to take a week and on my own read through the Bible in one week.

The idea is not comprehension, nor deep mediation and reflection.  It is simply about being saturated in His Word.

In our fast paced world, where we are bombarded with everyone’s version of Truth, we want to spend a week cut off from all distraction, and allow the Word to be our only focus.

We’re both excited.  The Bible.  One Week.

It’ll be tough, but it’s do-able.

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes.

Your Kingdom or Mine? 21st April, 2010

Posted by Scotty in Challenges, Heart, Prayer.
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I just saw this on Jeff’s facebook status and it challenged me.  Thought I’d share it:

“If God answered all your prayers in the last month, would the world change … or just your world?”

Father, may you make my heart about you and your Kingdom, not me and mine.