Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

Happy Thanksgiving! Here is Abraham Lincoln’s short speech to institute Thanksgiving as a holiday in the United States.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness (sic) of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

- Abraham Lincoln, October 3, 1865

Review: Women of the Word

My wife Carly was kind enough to read and review a recent release from Crossway by Jen Wilkin, a Bible teacher and author from Dallas. Here are her brief thoughts on the book (and I can speak for her: she gives it five stars!).

Jen Wilkin. Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible with Both Our Hearts and Our Minds. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014. $9.94 (Amazon).

Jen Wilkin is an author and Bible teacher who attends the Dallas mega-church The Village. In this new book intended to help women in their study of Scripture, Jen reveals her own struggle with being raised in church yet being biblically ignorant. This gives the book such a real and personable feel. No one wants to learn from someone who claims they have it all together! Her personal stories are easy to relate to and help the reader understand the information in the book. The chapters are quick and easy to read, but contain vital content for becoming more biblically literate.

In the opening pages, Jen talks about the mountain of Biblical illiteracy many Christians face (chs. 1-2). And she says that this mountain must be moved one spoonful at a time. Yes! But just by the end of the introduction, I was ready to put on my work boots and start digging!

The highlight of the book comes in chapter 6 where Jen talks about the process of study. Her very practical process does seem a bit daunting and time consuming (especially to this stay at home mom of two toddlers!) but our generation is biblically illiterate and starving for a reason. We assume we don’t have time to study the Bible in depth so we give ourselves 5 minutes a day to “read the Bible” which really just means reading the verse of the day that we have texted to us while we’re brushing our teeth. The biggest take-away for me–the one line that stood out–was when she wrote, “The heart cannot love what the mind does not know.” I think I shouted “Amen!” out loud at that point.  If we want to know and love God deeply, we must know and love his Word. You must spend time studying God’s word if you want to know and love him!

If you gain nothing else from this book (believe me, though, you will gain more than this), you will gain a hunger to know God’s word deeply, and be mastered and changed by it.

So, I highly recommend this book to new and mature believers alike. I would love to see women’s ministries in churches read this book before launching into Bible and book studies which are helpful, but may not teach women to study the Bible for themselves.  It’s easy to read and engaging even for people who don’t usually read non-fiction.

After reading only a few chapters (and hi-lighting every other line), I arranged for a friend to read it with me and we meet and talk about it weekly. It’s been helpful for us to digest together and keep each other accountable in our study of Scripture.

Thank you, Jen, for writing this very practical and helpful tool that I hope and pray will be used to bring about spiritual renewal and Biblical literacy among Christians today!

Readers for Your Reading Pleasure

A while back I compiled a few “readers.” A “reader” is a compilation of shorter works (article, essay, blog, chapters, etc.) on a particular subject. Here are all four of them in one place. If you are a pastor, ministry leader, or just a curious person, you might find this list of resources helpful.

These readers aren’t exhaustive, but if you have any other resources that you think are “must-reads,” let us know!

A Church Leadership Reader
A Gospel-Centered Reader
A Pastoral Ministry Reader
A Youth Ministry Reader

Pastoral Ministry and the Practice of Prayer

“Lord, teach us to pray.” This request from the disciples (Luke 11:1) is quite puzzling. These were Jewish men–men who from the time they could speak were taught how to walk and talk with God. They knew the Psalms–the prayer book of Israel. Perhaps not all the disciples had them memorized like the religious leaders of the day. But they knew them. They loved them. They sang them. If anyone knew how to pray, it would be these Jewish men who were instructed in the way of the Hebrew scriptures.

Because of this reality, the question is also quite humble, quite profound. It was a blow to the ego to ask for help.

In my short time as a pastor in a local congregation, I have found that many people, like the disciples, are saying, “Lord, teach us to pray.” It makes good sense, of course. If the disciples, who spent time with the Incarnate Son of God, needed to be taught how to pray, we probably need it, too. Many people find themselves at a loss when it comes to conversation with God. It may be because they don’t know some basic things about God. It may be because they are not immersing themselves in the Scriptures. It may be because they were concerned about having “bad theology” when they pray. It may be because they don’t make time for it. The list goes on and on.

Whatever the reasons, I’ve come to see that one of my primary roles as a pastor is to be a praying man and help others pray. It’s been a grace-wrought burden for several months now. I’m still learning how to pray; yet at the same time, I want to lead like Jesus and help others pray.

I first felt the weight of this when I read The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson last summer on vacation.  Peterson writes about how his perspective on helping people pray changed when he moved from seminary into the pastorate:

My secularized schooling had shaped my educational outlook into something with hardly any recognizable continuities with most of the church’s history. I had come into the parish seeing its great potential as a learning center, a kind of mini-university in which I was the resident professor.

And then one day, in a kind of shock of recognition, I saw that it was in fact a worship center. I wasn’t prepared for this. Nearly all of my preparation for being a pastor had taken place in a classroom, which chapels and sanctuaries ancillary to it. But these people I was not living with were coming, with centuries of validating precedence, not to get facts on the Philistines and Pharisees but to pray. They were hungering to grow in Christ, not bone up for an examination in dogmatics. I began to comprehend the obvious: that the central and shaping language of the church’s life has always been its prayer language.

Out of that recognition a conviction grew: that my primary educational task as a pastor was to teach people to pray. I did not abandon, and will not abandon, the task of teaching about the faith, teaching the content  of the gospel, the historical backgrounds of biblical writings, the history of God’s people. I have no patience with and will not knowingly give comfort to obscurantist or anti-intellectual tendencies in the church. But there is an educational task entrusted to pastors that is very different from that assigned to professors (p. 89).

Indeed, my task is much different than a seminary professor. So in the coming days/weeks, I hope to write several posts reflecting on the intersection of pastoral ministry and the practice of prayer.

In the meantime, whether you are a pastor or not, ask yourself, “How vital is prayer to my life with Christ? Am I doing as Jesus did and leading others toward a life of prayer?”

The Mystery of the Kingdom

George Ladd, in The Gospel of the Kingdomwrites about the mystery of the Kingdom of God (mystery meaning that something was hidden for a time is now revealed):

This is the mystery of the Kingdom: that the Kingdom of God has come among men and yet men can reject it. The Kingdom will not experience uniform success. Not all will receive it. This was a staggering thing to one who knew only the Old Testament. When God’s Kingdom comes, it will come with power. Who can resist it? Who can withstand God? But precisely this is the mystery of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is here, but it can be rejected. One day God will indeed manifest HIs mighty power to purge the earth of wickedness, sin and evil; but not now. God’s Kingdom is working among men, but God will not compel them to bow before it. They must receive it; the response must come from a willing heart and a submissive will.

God is still dealing with us in this same way. God will not drive you into His Kingdom. It is not the business of those who are called to the ministry of the Word to speak with authoritarian compulsion. We speak as emissaries of God, but we plead and do not demand, we persuade and do not drive. We implore men to open their hearts that the Word of His Kingdom may have its fruitage in their lives. But men can reject it. They can spurn the Gospel of the Kingdom. They can scorn the preacher of the Word; and he is helpless.

- George Eldon Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdompp. 56-57.