Thursday, January 22, 2009


Last spring I read slowly through the book of Psalms. It was during the period when church matters weren't going well. People were upset. Some were leaving. It has been the most stressful season of ministry ever for me.

You know, the Psalms are prayers. "Help" and "Thanks" are our two basic prayers and we pray these spontaneously. But honesty and thoroughness don't come as readily. Psalms are not the smooth, polished, poetic prayers we have made them out to be. Especially in the original language, it is obvious that they are raw--honest, passionate prayers to God.

In my journaling through this book, I did something a bit different. After reading each psalm, I wrote a brief prayer to God. One side of me doesn't want to blog these journeys because the prayers are very personal to me. But one of the purposes of a blog is for the writer to be transparent and share the true matters of the heart. Don't get your hopes up for "juicy" stuff. For example, when David prays harm upon his enemies, I don't mention names :-). And as I wrote the prayers, I knew that they probably would be published in internet land. So I kept that in mind as I journaled. So, my prayers went much deeper than what you will read. At the same time, I hope that the personal nature of these prayers will at least give you a glimpse into the struggles of my soul.

Last time I counted there were 150 psalms. I know it will take a bunch of blogs...but I plan to blog every prayer that I wrote during these weeks in this wonderful book of the Bible. They were handwritten. I wanted to type them out anyway. So as I type, I will pass them on to you as well.

  • Psalm 1--Lord, give me the discipline to chew on Your Word day and night so that I can live a fruitful life.

  • Psalm 2--Father, open the eyes of world leaders so that they will recognize that there is a God of this universe who is supreme and carries far more power than they.

  • Psalm 3--Father, even though many forces are attacking, You give me rest each night. And I awake refreshed, knowing that You will fight my battles.

  • Psalm 4--Lord, help me experience your joy in every ordinary day.

  • Psalm 5--O God, it is incredible that you invite me to come into Your house as Your guest.

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Essential Church (2)

I introduced you last week to Essential Church by Thom and Sam Rainer. The driving force behind this book is that 70 percent of church-going young adults, ages 18-22, drop out of church. Instead of asking the question negatively, put a positive twist on it. Why do 30 percent of young adults stay in church? The answer? They see the church as essential in their lives. Realistically, churches are doing very little to become essential to the lives of their membership.

In a nutshell, the essential church has four components.

  1. It has learned to simplify.

  2. It moves its members to grow deeper in biblical truth.

  3. It has high expectations of its members.

  4. It is committed to helping its members multiply spiritually.

The church is losing ground. Between 1990 to 2004 the U.S. population grew by more than 18 percent. During the same time frame, church attendance decreased by around 3 percent. We are especially losing ground in reaching the emerging generation.

The Rainers cite seven common reasons why so many churches are losing ground and even dying

  • Doctrine dilution
  • Loss of evangelistic passion
  • Failure to be relevant
  • Few outwardly focused ministries
  • Conflict over personal preferences
  • The priority of comfort
  • Biblical illiteracy

More insights later.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."


Is it Phi-le-mon with long "i" and long "e" with the accent on the second syllable? Or is it Phil-e-mon with short "i" and short "e" with the accent on the first syllable? I've heard both and I'm not sure who could answer that question definitively. I prefer the long "i" and "e". Anyway, here are some takeaways from my read through the very short book of Philemon.

  • For whatever reason, Paul wanted to make sure the readers knew that he wrote this letter with his own hands and not through a scribe.
  • This letter acquaints us with Philemon (a slave owner) and one of his slaves Onesimus.
  • Storyline: Onesimus, the slave, a Christian in name only, fled from his owner. He ends up under Paul's mentoring and becomes a true follower of Christ. Now Paul writes Philemon to ask him to be gracious as Onesimus returns. Onesimus hand-carried the letter to Philemon.
  • Verse 2--Evidence that the early church met in homes.
  • Verses 4-7--Philemon was a model believer.
  • Verse 5--Our love for Jesus should always brim over to other believers.
  • Verse 6--Moreover, our faith in God should brim over into good deeds.
  • Verse 10--Spiritually speaking and referring to his relationship with Onesimus, Paul says, "I fathered a child." Do you have anyone you could declare that you fathered in the faith?
  • When Onesimus left Philemon, he was a slave. He returned to his boss a changed man, a true follower of Christ.
  • Even from prison Paul had a contingent of followers/helpers who partnered with him in advancing the gospel.

"For our email subscribers, please visit Ken's full blog page at to view previous blogs and many other helpful links."