Prayer and renewal
Four accessible theology books
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The Possibility of Prayer by John Starke: Starke’s book about waiting on God hit the market a few weeks before the coronavirus plunged the world into waiting on relief. But even in the forced stillness of quarantine, noisy souls need reminders to wait for God alone. Starke offers reflections on praying the Psalms to meditate on the character and care of God. He describes the Christian’s mysterious privilege: “When we pray, we come with Christ into the mountain-melting presence of God.” That’s good news since God commands us to enjoy Him: “Prayer is the daily habit of opening your mouth wide for all the fullness of God.” Those are important lessons, even when our lives resume their normal routines. Until then, solitude offers opportunities for reflection, repentance, and rejoicing: “Solitude settles us into God’s universe, not ours.”
Not Home Yet by Ian K. Smith: For Christians, a global pandemic has a way of underscoring Hebrews 13: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.” But Smith reminds us God doesn’t plan to throw away the earth and usher Christians into a disembodied, heavenly existence for eternity. Instead, Smith constructs an outline of Biblical history to demonstrate how “the renewal of the earth fits into God’s plan for the world.” He shows how the Bible is concerned with God coming down to earth: “This downward movement is seen in Eden, in the tabernacle, in the temple, in the incarnation, in the crucifixion, in the resurrection, and in the second coming.” Smith also describes how the promise of a renewed earth and resurrected bodies informs how we should live now.
Mercy for Today: A Daily Prayer From Psalm 51 by Jonathan Parnell: Minnesota Pastor Jonathan Parnell offers a rich guide to praying Psalm 51 in all circumstances. He notes that we rightly think about the well-known psalm as a confession of sin and plea for mercy. But he also shows that what King David needed in his worst of moments “is what I need all the time.” Parnell invites the reader to meditate on how the mercy and love of God saturate the Christian’s life, whether he is aware of it or not. The book focuses on a section of the psalm to guide readers through four areas: praise, change, presence, and joy. At moments, I found myself moved to close the book and give thanks for God’s greatness and mercy.
With All Your Heart by A. Craig Troxel: The word heart appears in the Bible nearly a thousand times, and Troxel explores the Bible’s expansive teaching about this core of our being. He shows how the heart encompasses our mind (what we know), our desires (what we love), and our will (what we choose). Sin corrupts all of the chambers of the heart, and we need Christ’s work for forgiveness and restoration. Troxel shows how God does this work in our salvation and our sanctification. He also explores the Bible’s teaching about how we should “keep our hearts”—even as we recognize that God alone can keep us now and forever: “Until your work is done, or more to the point, until His work is done, God will keep you in the paths of holiness.”
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