Streams In The Desert (book review)

streams-in-the-desertGod said, “Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). This verse perfectly sums up the dominant message in Lettie Cowman’s book Streams In The Desert.

Everyone has been there: things haven’t gone as we planned … we’re not sure how we could have ended up in such a dry, barren place … it seems like nothing is working out right … we begin to think that even God has lost sight of us. But it’s in this painful, desert place that God is ready to do something unheard of!

Lettie Cowman knew the pain of sickness and disappointment and thwarted dreams. Yet in the midst of her desert place, as she poured out her raw emotions, she began to see a river springing up in her wilderness. This book is a heaven-sent blessing to anyone in those dark, barren places.

Each day you will get a glimpse of God’s spring, as Lettie shares her personal discoveries, insights from Scripture, quotes from other desert wanderers, poems of reflection, and even prayers for help. Each day’s short reading is thirst-quenching and soul-satisfying.

If you are going through a desert place, get a copy of this book for yourself. If you have a friend who is struggling, buy a copy for them, and find times to get together to discuss each day’s reading. There’s a reason why this book has stood the test of time and has been an immense help to so many throughout the years.

Praying With The Authority Of The Creator

pray-boldlyJesus had a way of praying that sounds unusual to our ears because He didn’t pray “normal” prayers. His prayers were bold statements! But Jesus also taught us to pray just like He did.

Most prayers that Christians pray sound like they come from the same formula. We may start with something like, “Heavenly Father” or “Dear God.” Then we probably spend some time praising God for His greatness before we make our requests of Him. Often our requests include something like “If this is Your will, I ask You to please heal/help/answer/etc.” And then almost always the prayer concludes, “In Jesus’ name, Amen!”

When Jesus prayed, His prayers sounded more like commands than requests. He would say things like, “Be clean” or “Rise up and walk” or “Blind eyes, be opened.” He usually didn’t ask His Father if it was His will to heal/help/answer/etc. And He never concluded a prayer by saying, “In My name, Amen!”

In Luke 6 there is a story about a man with a withered hand. Jesus healed him by speaking to the man, not to God. He said, “Stretch out your hand,” and when the man did so, his hand was completely restored. Jesus spoke with the authority of the Creator. 

I believe this was possible because Jesus had an unbroken conversation with His Father and the Holy Spirit. Certainly He had set times of prayer (see Mark 1:35, Mark 6:45-46, and Luke 6:12-13 as examples), but Jesus also told us that He only did what His Father told Him to do (John 5:19), and He only said what His Father told Him to say (John 12:49).

I know sometimes people want to say, “Yeah, but this is Jesus we’re talking about! C’mon, He’s the Son of God, so of course He could do these things.” But remember that the miracle of Christ’s Incarnation is that He chose NOT to do these things out of His Deity while He was on Earth, but restricted Himself only to His humanity. That’s why the Bible says that everything we face, Jesus also faced in the flesh (Hebrews 2:14-18).

But perhaps another example from someone who had no Deity in his nature might help. Consider Joshua—this man spent more time in God’s presence, listening to His voice, than even Moses (Exodus 33:11). So when the time came, Joshua could pray an incredibly bold prayer: He actually spoke to the sun and the moon and told them to stand still in the sky, AND THEY OBEYED HIM!

Just like Jesus spoke to the man with the withered hand in the authority of the Creator, Joshua spoke to the sun and the moon in the same authoritative voice. How could these men do that? Because they were familiar with God’s voice, and when He told them to speak out boldly, they simply obeyed.

Jesus said we could pray the same way—Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in My name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it (John 14:12-14, emphasis added).

How can we learn to pray this boldly? We need to spend more and more time in dialogue with God. We need to become increasingly aware of the His abiding presence with us. Then we, too, can pray in the Creator’s authority.

Praying this way glorifies God!

Get together with a friend this week and work through these application questions:

  1. Am I spending time in planned prayer and Bible reading?
  2. How can I make myself more aware of God’s perpetual presence?
  3. What’s holding me back from praying more boldly?

11 Quotes From “Absolute Surrender”

absolute-surrenderThis book is a challenging book for any Christian to read. Check out my review by clicking here, and then check out a few quotes that especially caught my heart.

“I have a pen in my pocket, and that pen is absolutely surrendered to the one work of writing, and that pen must be absolutely surrendered to my hand if I am to write properly with it. If another holds it partly, I cannot write properly. … Can God work His work, every day and every hour, unless you are entirely given up to Him? God cannot.”

“How much Christian work is being done in the spirit of the flesh and in the power of self! How much work, day by day, in which human energy—our will and our thoughts about the work—is continually manifested, and in which there is but little of waiting upon God, and upon the power of the Holy Ghost!”

“One of the great causes why God cannot bless His Church is the want of love. … It is only when God’s people stand as one body, one before God in the fellowship of love, one toward another in deep affection, one before the world in a love that the world can see—it is only then that they will have power to secure the blessing which they ask of God.”

“A great many of us try hard at times to love. We try to force ourselves to love, and I do not say that is wrong; it is better than nothing. But the end of it is always very sad. ‘I fail continually,’ such a one must confess. And what is the reason? The reason is simply this: Because they have never learned to believe and accept the truth that the Holy Spirit can pour God’s love into their heart.”

“You can deceive yourself with beautiful thoughts about loving God. You must prove your love to God by your love to your brother; that is the one standard by which God will judge your love to Him. If the love of God is in your heart you will love your brother.”

“God has a plan for His Church upon earth. But alas! we too often make our plan, and we think that we know what ought to be done. We ask God first to bless our feeble efforts, instead of absolutely refusing to go unless God go before us. God has planned for the work and the extension of His kingdom.”

“God can only reveal His will to a heart that is humble and tender and empty. God can only reveal His will in perplexities and special difficulties to a heart that has learned to obey and honor Him loyally in little things and in daily life.” 

“May God forgive me that I have allowed self and the flesh and the will actually to have the place that God wanted the Holy Ghost to have.”

“The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you want to work it out partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work gloriously. … All God’s servants in the Old Testament counted upon the omnipotence of God doing impossibilities. And this God lives today, and this God is the God of every child of His. And yet we are some of us wanting God to give us a little help while we do our best, instead of coming to understand what God wants, and to say: ‘I can do nothing. God must and will do all.’”

“Ah, the great question for us to ask of God in self-examination is that we may be shown whether our religious life is lived more in the power of the flesh than in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

“Ah, yes; you failed because you do not accept the strength of God. God alone can work out His will in you. You cannot work out God’s will, but His Holy Spirit can; and until the Church, until believers grasp this, and cease trying to by human effort to do God’s will, and wait upon the Holy Spirit to come with all His omnipotent and enabling power, the Church will never be what God wants her to be, and what God is willing to make of her.”

I will be sharing more quotes from this book soon. To be notified immediately when these quotes are posted, fill in your email address in the field to the right and click “Sign me up!” Also be sure to follow me on Tumblr and Twitter for great quotes I share every day.

Absolute Surrender (book review)

absolute-surrenderAnyone who calls himself a Christian is more than likely searching and striving for a way to become a closer follower of Jesus Christ. That, says Andrew Murray in this book, is where that Christian will perpetually remain stuck. Rev. Murray makes the case that the only way for a Christian is Absolute Surrender.

Andrew Murray never pulled his punches when he spoke and wrote. Whether he was challenging fellow pastors or the congregation in his church, he spoke directly and authoritatively, like a New Testament apostle. For instance, he warned, “The great hindrance to trust is self-effort. So long as you have got your own wisdom and thoughts and strength, you cannot fully trust God.”

In nine short chapter, Rev. Murray brilliantly shows how God’s Word calls the Christian to absolutely, unreservedly yield to Jesus. We cannot progress in our Christian walk by our own best efforts, but we must daily make the decision to surrender to His hand.

In one sense this is an easy book to read. Rev. Murray doesn’t use big words or deep theological concepts. But in another sense, it’s a very challenging book, in that I found the Holy Spirit convicting me through Murray’s biblical messages. In the opening pages, Rev. Murray asks a simple question: Are you willing to surrender yourselves absolutely into His hands? If you can answer “yes” then this book is for you; if your answer is “no” or “I’m not sure” then you should probably wait awhile before attempting to read Absolute Surrender.

How Do You Start A Conversation With God?

pray-through-the-bibleLast week I asked you to imagine how your relationship grew with your best friend. You probably found that this special friendship was formed during hours and hours of talking.

I’m going to guess that at first your conversation was a little on the superficial side. You talked about “tame” topics like sports teams, or your job, or the city you lived in. But at some point you took a huge riskyou became vulnerable by sharing something really personal. Perhaps you shared a time that you got hurt, or something that makes you anxious, or maybe a big dream you carry around in your heart. But if that friend is still your friend, that means they treated what you shared reverently. They didn’t laugh at you, belittle your hurts or dreams, nor did they share with others what you said.

The relationships became deeper and more special because you now knew each other on a more intimate level.

Prayer is a conversation with a Friend. Of course that Friend is God, so some people wonder, “What do I talk to God about?” The simple answer is anything and everything!

Time and time again God calls us to come closer to Him (see Isaiah 55:1-3), to discuss with Him things we don’t understand (Jeremiah 33:3), or to be assured that He is intimately tuned in to what’s happening in our life (Psalm 139:17; 1 Peter 3:12).

How do we get there? A good place to start is with our Bible. Dwight Moody said:

“The two first and essential means of grace are the Word of God and Prayer. … If we read the Word and do not pray, we may become puffed up with knowledge, without the love that buildeth up. If we pray without reading the Word, we shall be ignorant of the mind and will of God, and become mystical and fanatical, and liable to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.”

Scripture was written to point us to Jesus. So we don’t read the Bible just to read it; we read it to get to know God.

We don’t want to know the Word of God; we want to know the God of the Word. 

A great place to start is in the book of the Psalms. Many of these were written as prayers, so it’s a good way to start our conversation with God. You can also search in the New Testament for all the places that biblical writers said, “I pray…” or “This is my prayer….”

I share a personal example of this in this video, especially if you want to fast forward to the 36:00 minute mark.

Don’t just read through the Bible this week—pray through the Bible. Use it as a means to have a conversation with the very Best Friend you could ever know!

I encourage you this week, as you think about this topic, to get together with an earthly friend and discuss these questions:

  1. How can I use my Bible as a “conversation starter” with God?
  2. How can I get into the regular practice of talking to God as a Friend?

Favorite 2016 Posts

Book Reviews From 2016

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