Book Review: Valiant Ambition

valiant ambition

What led one of the great American generals of the revolutionary war on to become the father of our country? What led another equally great Revolutionary War general on to become the most infamous traitor in our countries history?

I confess that before I read Valiant Ambition, by Nathaniel Philbrick, I had never given either of those questions any thought.   But in order for us to understand how George Washington and Benedict Arnold ended up in such different places Philbrick shows us first just how similar they are. Both men had a common desire to be known for their military achievements. Both had great military victories and defeats. Both suffered from the attacks of other generals within the Continental Army and the Continental Congress. It is the similarities that makes the one great difference between them so striking. Here is how Philbrick highlights the difference:

Washington’s sense of right and wrong existed outside the impulsive demands of his own self-interest. Rules mattered to Washington. Even though Congress had made his life miserable for the last four years, he had found ways to do what he considered best for his army and his country without challenging the supremacy of civil authority. … For Arnold, on the other hand, rules were made to be broken. He had done it as a pre-Revolutionary merchant and he had done it as military governor of Philadelphia. … What made Arnold unique was the godlike inviolability he attached to his actions. He had immense respect for a man like Washington, but Arnold was, in the end, the leading personage in the drama that was his life. Not lost to his own character, but lost in it, Arnold did whatever Arnold wanted…

The fundamental difference between Washington and Arnold was that the former was willing to sacrifice for his generals, his army, and his country. Arnold, on the other hand, was not willing to make those sacrifices. That is why he contacted the British in order to find out how much they would pay him if he would help them win the war.

Valiant Ambition is a great study in the contrast of these two men. It highlights what led Washington to become one of the greatest leaders our country has ever known, and what led Arnold to become the best-known traitor our country has ever had. It is a study in leadership. It was the sacrifices Washington made that endeared so many men to him. It was the selfishness of Arnold that led so many men to despise him.


A Prayer App that Works

Like many I have struggled over the years to maintain a healthy prayer life. For me there have been basically two obstacles.

The first obstacle has been time. I have plenty of it; I just seem to have a hard time finding it.

The second obstacle has been organization. Over the years I’ve tried different systems for managing my prayer requests. Each new attempt fizzling out with time. Why? Some systems required me to have a special notebook or journal with me to pray (and if I don’t have it with me when I remember to pray the system fails). Other systems failed because they were not intuitive, it took too long to learn the system, and I gave up before that happened.


But I have now found a system to manage my prayer requests which is both simple and always with me, it is an app called PrayerMate.  I hesitate promoting a method like this because I know some people are not as comfortable with technology.  But it has been working for me for some time now, which is why I want to tell you about it.

How I have it Organized

PrayerMate is like a filing cabinet for your prayers. You can take your individual prayers (think files) and organize them into categories (think drawers) in your PrayerMate cabinet.

In my PrayerMate app i have 9 “drawers,” which the app calls lists. (The number in the parentheses is for how many “files” (i.e. prayers) are in each drawer right now (it changes regularly):

  • Praying the Bible (* populated by PrayerMate) – which is a feed I get which helps me use passages of Scripture for prayer
  • Preparation for Prayer (2) – which I have a few quotes about prayer that help inspire me to be serious in my prayer life
  • Biblical Prayer (40+) – which is a list of passages where NT authors are writing out prayer (you can download pre-set lists from within the app for this kind of thing.)
  • Family (15)-  here I have a file on each member of my immediate family.  I am able to list out individual prayer needs for each person.
  • Church Ministries (11)- here I pray for things that are happening in my church, ministries, special projects, etc.
  • Church Members (15)-  when a member asks me to pray for something i put it in this list
  • Pastors and Missionaries (13)- here I list many of my friends in ministry, as well as the missionaries that my family or church supports
  • Salvation (20) this is the list of all my friends who do not know Jesus

How I Control What I Pray and When

PrayerMate allows me to preset how many files I want to pull from each drawer.  I can control how often I pray for something or someone (i.e. every day, once a week, once a month). I can even set when I want a prayer request to be archived.

For example:  I have a total limit of 19 prayers.  The app won’t give me more than 19 at one time.  But I can also control how many prayers come from each list.  So generally, I pray for two pastors/missionaries I know, as well as for two church members and two church ministries.  PrayerMate shuffles them for me and it keeps track of how often I have prayed for something/someone.

The only major drawback of this app for me is that it does not sync across my devices, so changes made on my iPhone don’t get made on my iPad. This can be frustrating, but I’ve learned to work around it and hopefully a future edition will fix that problem.

Anyone looking for a system or an app to help them manage their prayers should look into PrayerMate.

Book Review: Strangers Next Door


stranger next door

In a previous post I wrote about the book Strangers Next Door by J. D. Payne. In this post I want to briefly explain the layout of the book so that you have a sense of the big picture as you read it.

From my point of view the book can be divided into four parts:

Chapters 1-3 set the stage by talking about God’s sovereignty in the movements of people around the globe. Payne introduces terms and presents charts to help us get our bearings.

Chapters 4-6 are a survey of the history of migration. We start in Eden and end the West today seeing how God has moved people.

Chapters 7-9 talk about refugees, students, and other unreached people who are living in the West.

Chapters 10-12 finish the book by giving guidelines and suggested strategies to actually work among unreached people groups.

In chapter 11 Payne gives a 5 –step strategy to help those who want to begin working with unreached peoples groups.



  • What do we know about the people (culturally, spiritually, demographically)?
  • Why are they in this community?
  • What are the bridges to connect with them?
  • What are the best ways to share the gospel?


  • Now that they are believers, what is the best way to teach them the Scriptures?
  • Are we casting the vision for them to return to reach their social networks?
  • How can we model spiritual disciplines and local-church involvement for them?
  • Is the Spirit leading them to unite to form a local church?


  • Are we treating the new church as partners in the gospel ministry?
  • How will we continue the encouraging, training, and coaching after they return to their people


  • How do we assist migrants to return to their peoples across the globe?
  • How do we travel with them to assist them in the planting of churches in other parts of the world?
  • Are we sending long-term missionaries to serve alongside them in church planting endeavors?


This is just a sample of the types of questions you will find yourself wrestling through as you read this book.

Few books or authors have had as profound of an impact on my views of ministry in recent years. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in seeing the church seize this wonderful opportunity it now has to befriend, serve, and evangelize the unreached people groups around us.



Praying for Muslims

Today is the last day of Ramadan, the holy month in which Muslims celebrate the giving of the Qur’an to Muhammad. Our church has spent the last 30 days praying for the Muslim world.  Specifically praying that more Muslims would have opportunities to hear and respond to the message of the gospel.

Why Pray?

There is an unprecedented movement of people moving from Islam to Christianity in the world.  Islam began in the seventh century, 622 A.D.  From the time of its birth in the seventh century up to the nineteenth century there were a total of five movements of Muslims toward a Christ. (A movement is at least 1,000 people turning toward Christianity.) In the twentieth century there was a total of eleven movements recorded.  So far in the twenty-first century there have been seventy-two recorded movements in the house of Islam.

We are praying because we will not see the gospel spread in the unreached people groups of the world (including within in Islam) without a commitment to prayer. We are praying because God is obviously already at work and we want to see that work continue.

The Effects of Prayer

I have to confessed that I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when we committed to having the church do this.  I wasn’t sure how people would respond. I wasn’t sure if people would participate at all. But God was gracious in showing me some of the effects of these prayers.

One of my favorite stories of this past month was a conversation I had with a member of my church just before one of our worship services.  She came up to me to tell me how much she was enjoying and learning from the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World booklet. Then she told me about a Muslim woman that she met one day in front of her home.  This woman was standing in the rain with her child waiting for the bus.  My friend invited her to stand in the carport while they waited for the bus.  Now after spending time praying for followers of Islam around the world this member of my church was thinking about her neighbor. She’s been hoping that she will run into her again so that she can speak to her. (Since it is summer they aren’t coming to the bus stop.)

What made that morning even better was that while I was having this conversation another woman in our church came up to share how much she has learned about Islam.  She commented that she had so many misconceptions about Islam; but the booklet and the videos we were watching had helped her.

Next Step

Next year Ramadan is from May 27 – June 25. I hope you’ll consider joining us as we pray for the gospel to advance in the Muslim world (of course you don’t need to wait till then). Why not set a reminder for yourself to order a copy of the 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World booklet. Perhaps even ask your pastor/friends to join you as well.