A Practical Read on Church Health

28 02 2018

Every January the gyms fill up with people who made the New Year’s resolution to get fit.  It is a time that the year round gym rats do not enjoy, but what gets them through this season of the year is the fact that it will be short lived.  Before long they have their space once again as one by one people step out of their routines.  They do so because fitness is tough and it takes great effort.

In much the same way church fitness requires the same tenacity and effort.  In Building the Body:  12 Characteristics of a Fit Church, Gary L. McIntosh and Phil Stevenson attempt to show what it is goi41sKF0GQxPL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ng to take to build a fit church.  Realizing that not every church is at the same place, they have divided each chapter into a section of teaching about that particular characteristic, followed by practical advice on how to improve in that characteristic according to where your church was in the process.

Likening the church to a body that is getting healthy through cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility, and body composition, this book, published by Baker Books, takes you through a list of 12 characteristics that are needed for each section.

I found the teaching section with each characteristic to be rich with nuggets of truth.  I really thought that part of the book was well done.  Where the chapters lost me just a bit was when the authors attempted to give practical application on how to improve.  Because I do not pastor a church that they would describe as elite, advanced, or even intermediate I found myself feeling that this was not written to me.  I found myself struggling through those sections.

One of the parts about this book that was helpful was the chapter that allowed you to track your church’s progress as to its health by evaluating your church in each section. Following this evaluation is a short guide leading you to set goals on improving your health.

All in all I feel that this will be a book that I will refer back to at some point as I seek to build the church that I pastor.  In short I have read better written books on church health but I certainly would not discount this read either.

I was given a copy of this book for an honest review.


My Opinion: Go Buy this Bible!!!

21 02 2018

ApologeticsStudyBible_Hardcover_WithJacket@2x Apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia which means “defense” or “answer”.  It is commonly known as the practice of giving a defense of your faith.  In this post Christian era that we have been privileged to live in, wouldn’t it be nice to have a resource at your finger tips to assist you in that defense.  The publishers of the Christian Stand Bible, CSB, have done that with the CSB Apologetics Study Bible.  In this Bible they have brought together some of the best apologetic minds to help us with such a defense.

This Bible is truly a must have for almost all believers.  As you share the gospel you are always faced with questions and situations that require greater insight than you may feel comfortable delivering at the moment.  This Bible is filled with 134 articles on key apologetic subjects.  Want to know if the Old Testament is trustworthy?  You will find an article written by Walter C. Kaiser Jr.  Want to know about how the Bible was accurately copied down through the centuries?  Norman L. Geisler has an answer for you in this Bible.  How do you defend miracles?  Ronald H. Nash has an article on that very subject in this Bible.

Why a Bible?  What better place to put such material especially when its very content is being questioned.  This Bible includes 48 “twisted Scripture” sections for Scriptures that have been misunderstood.  You are able to see the apologist give explanation to help you have an objective answer in such a relative world that we live.

Each of the 66 books have an introduction written exclusively for this Bible.  The introductions along with the short study helps at the bottom of the pages of Scripture, help you have a greater grasp as to the reliability of the book that you are studying.  This is actually a good study Bible to have on yourself.

This Bible helps you by giving you profiles of 12 of the most prominent apologists from Thomas Aquinas to C.S. Lewis.

All of this and more is placed in the CSB translation which I find very easy to read and reliable.  I just love the type in these CSB Bibles.  It is very easy on the eyes.

I would say that every pastor and student of the Word needs to have this Bible on his shelf to read and to reference.  I’m thankful to have mine.

The publisher sent me a copy of this Bible for an honest review.

Marriage is Worth the Fight

21 02 2018

Imagine being a fly on the wall of a Christian couple as they battle to have what they call a gospel saturated marriage.  Imagine walking with them through their fights, their times of suffering, their struggles with sin, and their victories.  That is what you get in D.A. and Elicia Horton’s newest work entitled Enter the Ring:  fighting together for a gospel-saturated marriage.

D. 512b-d58LUL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_A. Horton serves as Pastor of Reach Fellowship, a church plant in North Long Beach, CA and as Chief Evangelist for the Urban Youth Workers Institute (UYWI). He is the author of three previous books before taking on this project with his wife. This is Elicia Horton’s first book, and apart from being married to D.A. and raising 3 children, she travels the country teaching and encouraging others through rap and poetry.  Both bring a wealth of experience and Biblical training to the writing of this book.

In this book the Hortons definitely do not come out of their ivory tower to teach us about marriage.  They truly take you on a journey through some of their ugliest and most painful parts of their marriage to show the reader the sufficiency of Christ in the life of a believer and his/her marriage.  They call for a gospel-saturated marriage and life in this book, a life that the gospel’s content and implications affect every part of the life and marriage.

The Hortons take us down different roads with each chapter.  In the first two chapters you see what Christian oneness looks like in a marriage and get solid advice on the importance of communication in the marriage and how to get to what they call Level 1 communication.  I must tell you that some of the sections on communication are hilarious as they give us a look into their own struggles.

Their chapter on going the distance gives practical advice on leading your marriage through times of suffering and pain.  Just as you found yourself laughing with the Hortons in chapter 3, you will find yourself feeling their pain in chapter 4.

The Hortons turn more to the Scriptures in their fifth chapter as they go in-depth into the role of husbands, wives, and parents according to the Scriptures.

In the next chapter they take up the subject of purity before and during the marriage.  You get to see the Hortons in very vulnerable spots in this chapter.  The story of the day when D.A. accidently posted an admission to looking at porn publicly when he meant to do it privately made for some interesting reading.

They finish the book off by taking an honest look at the pressures of finance.  We get to learn from their mistakes and also learn from their journey to freedom.  I absolutely loved what they learned while at Summit Church with J.D. Greear.  They even give a sample budget to start a couple off on their journey to financial freedom.

Their final chapter is a Scriptural discussion on what a Gospel saturated life looks like.

A section that I almost didn’t read was the Epilogue, but I’m certainly glad I did because there they address those who are unmarried.  It certainly made me think how I view them and how I’ve misused them in the past in our ministry.  That may be my favorite part of the book.

All in all I enjoyed the book.  I appreciated how the two authors bounced back and forth with their sections.  You get to see their teaching from both points of view.  I believe this will be a great read for a couple getting married or recently married.

I was presented a copy of this book by the publisher for an honest review.

When a Guy Reads a Book for Women

14 02 2018

I know what you are thinking.  Why is a guy reading a book intended for women?  Good question!  I’m married to a woman.  I’m the father of one.  I pastor a slew of them.  That is why I was glad to read the newest book from author Kayla Aimee51MKQnwd4kL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ entitled In Bloom:  Trading Restless Insecurity for Abiding Confidence published by B & H.

As my daughter, who is now 19 and is attending college, was growing up I often wondered about the battles that were going on in the heart of a young girl.  As she struggled with insecurity and life, I often thought to myself that what she needs to do is be resilient and strong.  I don’t think that I quite understood the pain that she was facing.

In this book Kayla Aimee chronicles her own life and struggles.  Through the art of excellent storytelling, she takes us on a journey into her own life, a journey that she admits leaves her vulnerable and exposed.  Her greatest fear is that her dad might read the chapter on sex.  Through her journey you see the struggles of a teen, a young single adult, a wife, and a young mother.  You also see her applying God’s Word to her life.  You learn about mercy, grace, friendship, and empathy.  This book has allowed me to appreciate the journey of ladies all around me.

I think that the author is a great story teller who is able to bring you into her life.  Once again I’m not a lady, but I have seen one after another speak of how they related to her struggles.  I believe that this book is going to be a blessing to the women who read it.

Since we are all better together, the author has given you discussion questions in the back of the book so that a group of ladies could journey through this book as a group.  I’m thankful to be a part of the team who helped launch this book.

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Everyone needs a good friend!

14 02 2018


A Different Look at the Disciplines

12 02 2018

41WQr4W89ML._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_I will never forget how one of my favorite books on spiritual disciplines, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life written by Donald Whitney, begins with the story of a young boy who is transported by an angel to Carnegie Hall where he is allowed to observe a future view of himself. In this future view, he effortlessly plays the guitar with great precision only to be told that that could be him if only he would practice.  In the words of Donald Whitney, “Discipline without direction is drudgery.”

Philip Nation, author of Habits for our Holiness:  How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send us Out, published by Moody Press, goes even a step further in his book on these disciplines in that he concludes that they are not just to make us holy, but also to make us ready for His mission.  Spiritual disciplines, according to Nation, don’t just allow us to have greater intimacy with God, but they have a missional purpose in them where they make an impact in the lives of the people we encounter.  I love how he makes that next step in this book showing us how to make it missional.  I don’t recall seeing that in other books on discipline that I have encountered.  The author is also very intentional to show in his book that love is the key.  His first chapter is all about this.  He wants us to love Him for Who He is and for our lives to reflect that love.  That theme of love is strung all throughout his book.  This is definitely more than a book of a list of things that we must do as Christians.

One of the characteristics that I believe makes this book on disciplines unique is the fact that it first gives you instruction concerning tackling a specific discipline alone; then it gives you instruction on how to do it with others.  He shows how togetherness brings a whole new dimension to the discipline.

Another characteristic of this book that I appreciated is how the author takes each discipline and shows how bringing this into your life would cause you to rely on God.  He shows you where your idols are.  He shows you how these disciplines cause you to trust God, trust His goodness, trust His sufficiency, and trust His love.

I believe that the chapter on fasting may just be worth the whole book.  Nations does a tremendous job of helping you understand the discipline and the true motivation behind it.  I found his words very convicting and convincing that this is something that I need in my life now.  I will be pulling this book back off of the shelf just to reread this section of the book.

I appreciated how he ends the book talking about the discipline of leadership and disciple making.  As his subtitle suggests, these disciplines are not just meant to grow us up but send us out.  At the end of the book he said, “It is time for you to live out the spiritual disciplines with love as the centerpiece and mission as the result.”  Love and mission.  That is one of the reasons I recommend this book.

This book is not your typical book on spiritual discipline.  If you have read the classics like Foster and Whitney, you will appreciate Nation’s fresh take.  I truly do recommend it for your consideration.

I received a copy of this book for an honest review.