Great Book on Battling Sexual Sin

15 06 2018

41qeSqVJniL._SY346_There is hardly a few weeks that go buy that I don’t have a conversation with somebody about sexual sin.  Whether it is a young man struggling in the church that I pastor or it is seeing it first hand as the male that I’m ubering around in my car is trying to convince the girl with him to come back and cuddle just a bit, it is evident that we do live in a broken world.  Paul David Tripp talks about this world gone crazy in his book Sex in a Broken World:  How Christ Redeems What Sin Distorts, published by Crossway.  In this book he doesn’t deny that we are sexual beings, but we live in a world that is not sexually healthy but is deeply broken.  In this world God does not promise us that we will not struggle, but rather He has given to us the best gift ever in it—Himself.  As a matter of fact according to the author, “The cross is our guarantee that in all our struggles with sex, no matter who we are and what those struggles may be, God will give us everything we need.  If He willingly gave us His Son, we can rest assured He will gladly supply what we are not able to supply for ourselves.”  There can be victory in this area of our lives!

In this book Tripp takes a close look at the brokenness of this world but challenges the Christian to not use that as an excuse to chase sin.  He encourages the Christian to take a good long look at his/her own heart and ask the question of whether or not your heart is controlled by a higher pleasure of God, which is greater than any other pleasure you could seek.  The question is this:  Is God the master of my heart?  Everything else falls into place after that.  In this book the author goes in great detail to show us that we must have a heart-controlling love for God that can protect us in this world that we live in.

Tripp completes his book with some practical advice on how to find victory in this area of your life.  He points to hope found in the gospel and in the power of God.  He says, “When you begin to understand that you’ve been invited to a meal that will never end, that you’ve been welcomed to the King’s table forever, you’ll quit looking to sneak a bite at other tables.”  Understanding what we have in this relationship with God, goes far in the victory we all need.

This is going to be a book that I keep close.  It is going to be a book that I recommend time and time again because of the pervasive nature of this sin and this sinful world that we live in.  I found many of the truths in this book to be applicable not only to sexual sin, but any sin.  This is one that you need on your shelfs not just for yourself, but for those you love.

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

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Does Your Church Welcome?

17 04 2018

765452You never get a second chance to make a first impression.  That is something that I have personally reminded my first impressions team at the church that I pastor.  That statement and more like it were reinforced to me in Thom S. Rainer’s book Becoming a Welcoming Church, published by B&H.

In this book Rainer challenges us to think through whether or not we are as welcoming as we think that we truly are.  When we take an honest look into the mirror, we find that when we think that we are friendly and welcoming, we are really focused on ourselves and not outsiders.  It is so easy to get complacent and therefore lacking in this area.

This short book by Rainer encourages you to look at your church from the eyes of an outsider.  Discussions about signs, websites, safety, cleanliness, greeters, and welcome centers are vital.  They are short but concise.  He touches so many areas of the church in so little time.  What I like about this book is that this is something that I can hand to my leaders and be assured that they will read it.

Each chapter has a list of discussion questions that could help you or a small group think deeper about your own situation.  I found the questions to be very helpful.  There is also a church facility audit in the back of the book as well as a secret guest survey that one might give to someone that you have attend a Sunday at your church to see how you are doing.

This is a very helpful book and there is a companion book entitled We Want You Here that can actually be presented to first time guests of your church.

Yes, I do recommend this book to you and your guest services team.  I plan to share it with mine.

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





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.





Great Discipleship Tool!

4 01 2018

51Ngo61rBaL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Bearing Fruit:  What Happens When God’s People Grow is the latest book by author/pastor Robby Gallaty.  Robby is the Senior Pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Hendersonville, TN and has become a leading voice for discipleship within Christian circles.  This book is the third and final book in a series which began in 2013 with Growing Up:  How to Be a Disciple Who Makes Disciples followed by Firmly Planted:  How to Cultivate a Faith Rooted in Christ in 2015.

In Bearing Fruit, the author attempts to work through the concept of sanctification, defined by Gallaty as the “process whereby Christ lives His life through us.”  He states that the entire process is God’s doing from start to finish but when it happens, God brings forth fruit.  All of us should strive to be fruit bearers.

But what is that fruit?  That is the question that Gallaty attempts to explore in this book by going to the seven places in the New Testament where the word “fruit” is located.  He then explores the following:  The Fruit of Repentance, Fruit of Ministry; Fruit of Sanctification, Fruit of Righteousness; Fruit of Good Works; The Fruit of the Spirit; and The Fruit of Praise.

I found this book to be a powerful read, especially when you put it up aside the other books in this series.  This will be an excellent discipleship tool that can be used in a small discipleship group setting.  It would be helpful to go through this book with what Gallaty has called a “D-Group:  a gender-exclusive, closed group of three to six people who meet weekly.  He does a great job of really going deep in each of these areas.  If you are like me, you will be underlining quotes along the way.  This book is full of repeatable material that can benefit believers in their walk with Christ.

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





Why should you bring your kids to Sunday School?

1 11 2017

At the church that I pastor we still have age appropriate Sunday School classes every Sunday morning prior to our worship service.  It is something that our discipleship team works extremely hard on each year in getting teachers and material.  Sundays come on the weekends though and some parents find it difficult to get up and give that extra time.  Why should you do it?

You do it because they have a class that is targeted to their age.  It will be a place where they will meet friends and have a teacher that will pray for them, teach them, and love them.  I read somewhere that if you come to church a little earlier with your child that it will equal to over 800 hours of additional Christian teaching before they graduate and children-sunday-schoolleave your home. 800 hours!  Did you hear that?  800 hours!  If the Word of God is true and I believe that it is where Psalm 119:11 says,  “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you,” it means that your child says 800 hours of the Word poured into them because you got up early.

You do it because that teacher has spent considerable time preparing the lesson for them.  There is nothing more discouraging to a teacher than to spend time in preparation and then have hardly anyone show up.  They have spent time not only in Bible study but in prayer preparing for that time when the kids enter the room.  Nothing says I love my child’s teacher like you having them there for the study.

It just sends the right message to your kids when you bring them to Sunday School and you stay with them.  It shows your children that you believe the Bible is the authority in your own life.  At our church when your child is in class you too have an opportunity to go to class.  There have been plenty of times in my own experience when the truth I needed to hear for that day came in the Sunday School lesson, not the sermon.

There have been too many people that I’ve known in life that look back to a faithful Sunday School teacher as one of the most influential people in their lives.  That can’t happen unless you make the effort to get your child there.  Hope to see you this Sunday!

 





Will you die knowing your life counted? Review of The Last Arrow: Save Nothing for the Next Life by Erwin Raphael McManus

27 10 2017

9781601429537When I leave this world, I want to leave a hole in it from where my life counted.  I want to be missed.  I want people to come to my funeral because in some way I touched their life.  I want to know that my life counted.  That is why The Last Arrow:  Save Nothing for the Next Life, written by Erwin Rachael McManus, resonated with me.  This book is a combination of personal stories experienced by the author with sound teaching.  It is about making your life count and how that is accomplished.

McManus is the pastor of Mosaic, the community of faith in Los Angeles, and is probably best known for his book The Barbarian Way.  His books have sold over a million copies worldwide and he is a nationally sought after speaker.  I heard him speak many years ago at a Promise Keepers meeting for men.

The premise of this book comes from the Old Testament story in 2 Kings 13 where King Jehoash, the King of Israel, goes before the dying prophet Elisha after his kingdom has been threatened by Amaziah, King of Judah.  You will need to read the Scripture to get the whole story, but when Jehoash is told to take the arrows in his quiver and strike the ground, he only strikes the ground three times.  This angers the prophet who desired for the king to strike the ground five to six times because by striking it only three times only partial victory was assured.  The prophet felt as if the king left something on the table.  He felt the king settled for less.

McManus feels that this translates to us as Christians in that we too leave things unfinished and never rise to our full potential.  He states that we should die with our quivers empty because we have given our all in this life.

Ironically McManus goes back into the life of the prophet Elisha himself to prove what a life of striking the last arrow looks like.  Perhaps that is why Elisha is so angry at the king for only striking his arrows three times.  The books takes you from the calling of the prophet Elisha, through his life, to his death, and to after he has died.  It catalogs what made the prophet Elisha so effective that even after his death, he made a difference.

Throughout his teaching McManus introduces us to some extraordinary people that are scattered all over the world.  He weaves their lives with the example of the prophet to teach us how we can live such a life.  The author also tells personal stories of his own adventures including recently being diagnosed with cancer himself.

The book is 224 pages but easily read.  It has a great flow to it and the stories keep you reading wanting more.  I found myself stopping only to take time to tweet out a quote taken from the book.  There are plenty of tweetable quotes.

My overall impression of the book is that this is a powerful book that could be a game changer in the life of a reader.  It is challenging.  Probably my favorite two chapters were chapter 7 entitled “Stand Your Ground” and chapter 8 entitled “Find Your People.”  I will go back to those chapters time and again.   The price of the book is $22.99 which seems a little high but that is why we have book discounter sites for right?  I had just a few moments in the book where my personal theology cringed just a bit but overall it was sound.   If you want to do some heart work in your own life, then pick up this book today.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.





Review of Portraits of a Pastor, Jason K. Allen, General Editor

19 10 2017

When Thom Rainer says in the introduction of a book that it would be “pastoral malpractice to not read” a book, you read it.  That book that he is referring to is Portraits 9780802416346of a Pastor:  The 9 Essential Roles of a Church Leader, edited by Jason K. Allen and published by Moody Publishers.  Jason K. Allen is the president of Midwestern Baptist Seminary where he has served since 2012. In bringing nine ministry leaders together to write individual essays in this book, he answers the questions of what a pastor is to be and do.

The first chapter was written by Jared C. Wilson, who holds several titles and responsibilities for Midwestern Baptist Seminary.  He challenges the pastor to take up his role as a shepherd.  I found the chapter challenging and comforting.  Challenging in that he lays out in this chapter what a shepherd does and pretty much says that if you are not doing these things you’re not just a poor shepherd, but you’re not a shepherd.  It is encouraging in that he reminds us that our righteousness is in Christ Jesus and not in ourselves.  That was a blessed thought to me as sometimes I deal with insecurity in my own life.

Chapter 2 was penned by Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary since 2004 and Professor of Theology and Christian Preaching since 1999.  He was given the task of speaking into the pastor’s heart concerning his role as husband and father.  Akin grabs your heart when he poses this question on p. 40 of the book:  “Are you committed to making your wife a success, not in man’s eyes, but in God’s?  Have you determined that if you only shepherd one person in your entire ministry, it will be your wife?  Then your children?  Do you understand that shepherding begins in the home?”  I like that he just doesn’t diagnose the problem, but he gives you practical steps to shepherd your family well.  This was a very practical chapter.

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Jason K Allen

Jason K Allen himself tackles the third essay in this book; his subject is the pastor as preacher.  Although an entire book could be and has been written on this subject, he tackles this subject.  He argues that preaching the Word is best done through biblical exposition, preaching where the sermon is driven by the text.  Because this is such an exhaustive subject, I found myself wanting to hear more in this essay, but still he gives several tidbits of truth for you to chew on.

Owen D. Strachan is the Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of many books; his essay topic was the pastor as theologian.  He begins his essay asking where the pastor fits in modern America?  He points out that there are so many cultural tugs at the pastor to be something other than what God has called him to be.  To do that he believes the pastor must be a theologian who finds the true source of his pastoral power in these days.  Strachan takes the pastor back to his calling and all that truly entails: to the gospel and the joy to proclaim Christ no matter the cost and to God’s sovereignty, which will sustain the pastor when the gospel takes him into the lion’s den.  Strachan finishes out his chapter with application for pastors to follow who wish to be faithful theologians.  This essay made me stop, reread, and meditate as he showed how necessary this part of being a pastor truly is.

christian-george-portrait

Christian T. George

When I got to the fifth essay in this book written by Christian T. George on the pastor as church historian, I started reading it wondering why this even made the book.  Church history, as I recall it, was nothing more than a bunch of dates and names to remember.  George sucked me right in to his chapter, and I began repenting of my previous thoughts.  His essay is full of tweet worthy quotes such as, “Church history comes to life when we realize that we are the history of tomorrow” or “Every pastor must become a church historian because he is part of the history he is studying.”  Honestly this one chapter has made me want to pull out some biographies that have been collecting dust on my bookshelf or bring out Spurgeon’s sermons once again when I’m studying a particular text.  This essay is worth reading the book.

 

John Mark Yeats believes that it is time for a “significant conversation” to take place about pastors taking up their role as lead evangelists in their churches.  Yes, the title of this essay is the Pastor as Evangelist.  Serving as Dean of Midwestern College and Associate Professor of Church History at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and College, Yeats believes that church needs to turn from its “come and see” mentality and take up what the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20, Divine Mandate in Acts 1:6-8, and the Great Sending in Matthew 10 teach: all believers clearly need to go.  The rest of this chapter has Yeats giving some practical ways to make evangelism great again in the local church.  His contention is that the pastor should not only take the lead in this but should build an army of people with the same passion.  Though this was not an exhaustive piece on evangelism, it was enough to cause you to go and dig in other places.

In the chapter entitled Pastor as Missionary, Jason G. Duesing answers the question as to whether the title missionary fits the work of the pastor as described in Acts 6:4 where the twelve saw their duty as focusing on prayer and preaching.  Should the pastor add the title of missionary to his duties or could that be an outworking of the duties to which he is already focused on?  Duesing is the the academic Provost and Associate Professor of Historical Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary & College.  I will let you read the book to find his answer (it’s the latter).  One of my favorite parts of his essay was his instruction on how to answer the critic who questions whether we should practice global mission efforts when there are many lost people so close to home.  As a pastor I get this question quite a bit.  I appreciate his reasons why we should.  Overall this was once again a thought provoking chapter that would do well for pastors to read and consider.

Ronnie W. Floyd most certainly knows how to lead.  He has successfully led Cross

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Ronnie T Floyd

Church in Northwest Arkansas since 1986, lead the largest protestant denomination for two years as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, and has recently been chosen as the President of the National Day of Prayer.  For those reasons he was given the task of writing the essay entitled Pastor as Leader.  In this chapter he talks about the brand of the pastor which is the gospel.  He gives this vital advice, “You cannot let other people and what they say about you define. you.  If you do, you will live a long and miserable life.”  He then spends the rest of his chapter giving you seven solid pieces of advice that every pastor would do well to heed.

 

“Not every man of God is a pastor, but every pastor must be a man of God.”  That is how Donald S. Whitney, Professor of Biblical Spirituality and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality, started his essay entitled:  Pastor as Man of of God.  After showing that “Man of God” is an appropriate title for the pastor, he argues why the pastor should fulfill that title by actually becoming a man of God in practice.  Taking from his years of meditating on this subject of how a person can grow in godliness, having authored the popular Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian LifeWhitney gives some very practical advice to the pastor as to how he can most faithfully be a man of God himself.  Nobody, in my opinion, is more qualified to speak on this subject and Whitney doesn’t fail to deliver.

No, this is not an exhaustive book on pastoring, but it does give you enough truth with each essay to meditate on and perhaps pursue further.  This is the kind of book that a pastor should keep around and read again from time to time just to keep him on course.  My book is filled with highlighted sections that I will return to and meditate upon.  With that being said, this is a book worthy of the pastor’s library.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.