Great Book on Politics and Culture for the Beginner

20 06 2019

downloadI’ve always been told that you don’t talk about religion or politics but Bruce Riley Ashford has done both with his newest book Letters to an American Christian published by B&H.  Ashford is the Provost/Dean of the Faculty at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he also serves as Professor of Theology and Culture. He is a Senior Fellow in Public Theology at the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics (Cambridge, UK) and a Research Fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  His book is a 256 page read written as a series of letters to Christian, a new believer who is struggling to bring his faith into hot political topics of the day.

In a day where Christians are all over the place with their political views, the author through these series of letters teaches us how to not ignore the hot button issues of our day but also come across in a Christ like manner.  Not having read much on the Christian’s involvement in the political area and in culture, I found myself challenged by the content in the pages of this book.

The first section of his book deals with a Christian view of politics and public life and challenges us to find balance in our political lives.  We cannot ignore it but at the same time we must not forget our Christian values while engaging it.

The second section of his book deals with various hot button issues of our day like religious liberty, free speech, a woman’s right to choose, Black Lives Matter, political correctness, small vs. big government, supreme court interpretation of the constitution, gun legislation, education, the environment, nationalism, war, gender, and fake news.

He finished up the book with a discussion concerning the Christian hope for American politics.

Some have criticized this book for not giving us enough and have blamed the author’s decision of putting this in letter form as the culprit, but for somebody who hasn’t read much on this subject, I found it to be a great way of getting across the truth.  To me, the average Christian can take this book and find application.  Perhaps he will write something more in depth in the future that will satisfy the desires of the academic world.  For the average Christian in the pew, this will be a solid read.

I will be referring back to this book as I attempt to engage this world that we live in and speak about our role in engaging it.  I do recommend it.


Leaders Who Bring Life to Their Teams

18 09 2018

9780735290945If you are going to be the president of an organization that exists “to unify and equip leaders who love the Church” then you might want to know a thing or two about leadership.  Tyler Reagin, President of Catalyst, has taken on the subject in his newest book entitled The Life Giving Leader:  Learning to Lead from Your Truest Self, published by Waterbrook.

Reagin has had the opportunity of sitting under the leadership of Andy Stanley and has been influenced greatly by some of the leading leaders in the world including Craig Groeschel, who wrote one of the two forwards (the other is written by Andy Stanley).

Reagin unashamedly approaches leadership from a Christian perspective and encourages Christians to embrace their lives as leaders in this book.

His premise in this book is that we should breathe life into the people that we lead and spends the entirety of this book showing how that can be accomplished.  He encourages us to not see people as an interruption to our day but rather that they are our day.

I appreciated his words on self-awareness, something that I have struggled with in the past.  There have been plenty words spilt on awareness so I was happy to read discussion on this topic.

He ends his book with a discussion on a leaders call to sweat, sacrifice, surrender, and serve.  I found these chapters convicting and helpful.

Reagin in my opinion does a great job of balancing hard work with the need for down time and family.  He sets an example to his own team in this area.

All in all I believe that this is going to be a helpful book for those who wish to lead.  It certainly will go well with this year’s Catalyst theme:  Fully Alive.

I received this book from the publisher for an honest review.  I honestly liked the book.  You will too.

One of My Favorite Reads

5 09 2018

-bE2DwAAQBAJ            From time to time I read a book that makes a significant impact on my life.  The kind of book that cuts you deep but you can’t stop reading it.  It challenges you in your walk and in your heart.  Bob Goff has written such a book in Everybody, Always: Becoming Love in a World Full of Setbacks and Difficult People published by Thomas Nelson.  There is no wonder why this book has hit bestselling list as did his previous book Love Does to which this is a follow-up.

Bob Goff is a lawyer, speaker, world changer, and story teller.  He uses the art of story to bring across tremendous truths in this book.  In his book he says that we should follow the practice of Jesus who just loved everybody always.  Yes, we are to love the difficult ones too.  He says in his book, “I don’t want to get to heaven and have Jesus tell me my big opinions blocked someone’s view of Him.”

Goff sucks you in with story after story.  Almost every chapter is a story and some stories are extended over several chapters.  Each story has been taken from his life and each one has a tremendous lesson attached to it.  He encourages you to view people through the lenses of Jesus.  In the end his desire is for the world to see less of us and more of Jesus in our lives.  “I want people to meet you and me and feel like they’ve just met everyone in heaven,” says Goff.

Probably one of the greatest parts of this book is his challenge for you to love difficult people and he gives practical advice on doing that.  We are talking good, solid, advice.

I could fill this review with quote after quote from this author.  Probably the most powerful story is his last.  I found myself in tears reading it.

There is a reason why this book is a best seller.  His next book will be as well.  If you have never read Bob Goff, you need to.  His book needs to be your next purchase.  You will thank me.

Follow this guy on twitter at @bobgoff.  You will love his daily wisdom.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review.  This was a pleasure.

Encouragement for the Small Church Pastor

5 09 2018

41qsejNasDL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_In over 25 years of ministry I’ve been to several church conferences.  I will admit that there have been several times where I’ve come home either feeling guilty for not pastoring well because I didn’t measure up to the success that was displayed at the conference, or I’ve come home and tried to implement their blueprint for our ministry when it just didn’t fit.  In the end it almost seemed like a worthless pursuit.  Since 90% of the churches are composed of 200 or less people, it makes sense for somebody to focus on the small church.

Karl Vaters speaks to the small church pastor in his newest book:  Small Church Essentials, Field-tested Principles for Leading a Healthy Congregation of Under 250 published by Moody Publishers.  Finally, there is a book for the rest of us.

Vaters authored The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches, and the Small Thinking that Divides Us (2013), speaks extensively at conferences on the topic of the small church, and writes a blog on small churches for Christianity Today. He has put a lot of thought on the subject.  He even pastors a small church and shares stories in his book on how he has had to overcome many of the challenges in his pastorate as small church pastors all over.

One of the first things Vaters does in his book is alleviate this feeling of insignificance that small church pastors may feel at times because of the size of his church. He grows through great lengths to show that small doesn’t necessarily mean unhealthy and that our goal should be becoming a great small church.  Personally I found this very encouraging.

What I found helpful was the practical advice given in this book on tackling the issues and problems that arise in a small church, that a larger church doesn’t have.  From dealing with difficult people to dealing with a lack of resources, there is some truly helpful tidbits in this book.  I even found myself convicted a few times for how I’ve handled things recently.

All in all I believe that this will be a helpful book for small church pastors.  I could see small church pastors meeting together to go through this book.

I have always been a small church pastor and probably will remain in that role.  In closing I believe that there is a special place in Heaven for those pastors who work 40 hour weeks while pastoring a flock.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to read this book.

I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher for an honest review.  I’m thankful for the opportunity.

Hurting? This is an Excellent Read!

6 06 2018

downloadHave you ever read a book and you could only think of is the people that you needed to pick up a copy of it?  That is exactly how I felt as I began my journey with author Sarah Van Diest in her book God in the Dark:  31 Devotions to Let the Light Back In published by NavPress.  The words of this book were first written to a friend who was in great pain.  Knowing that there was nothing that she could do to make the pain go away, she resorted to praying and writing him letters.  Each day she would send her friend a small note with her thoughts on a section of Psalm 119.  Those small notes and a few more added just for the book are what you have in this devotional read.  This devotional is vGod in the darkry personal and each day’s read is short and concise.  This book of 160 pages is so full of truth, encouragement, Scripture, God, hope, and faith.  If I sound as if I’m gushing about it, then you would be correct.

I could just about tweet this whole book out, if that was possible.  Of course I commend this book to you or somebody that you might know that is in a dark place right now.  It is a wonderful reminder that God is always present in our darkness.  The same comfort that the author sought to bring to her friend who was hurting, can be brought to you.

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

Read This Before You Implode!

11 05 2018

wpln-1I sat in my living room with my mouth open wide in amazement as I watched the Lifeway building downtown implode.  I had been in that building many times and all I could think about is how much work for the Kingdom of God had gone down in that place.  I immediately kicked myself for not making the effort to go down and watch it in person.  Everybody likes to watch a good implosion, right? Maybe so with buildings but it is not very fun to watch it in somebody else or for it to happen to yourself.  Imagine all the pain and disappointment that goes along with imploding lives and multiply that by 100.  I don’t believe you can even scratch the surface.  Some of those scars never heal.

Eric Geiger serves as a Senior Vice President for Lifeway Christian Resources and he has authored How to Ruin Your Life, a book which looks at the story of David’s fall with lessons of how to avoid such a fall in your own life and what to do when you have fallen.  This bestselling author of such books as Simple Church, Creature of the Word, and Designed to Lead, which he coauthored with Kevin Peck, has put together this great resource in hopes of keeping others from falling into some of the same traps that have brought down some of the mighty in the Kingdom of God.

Geiger recommends that you don’t read this book alone, but rather find others to go 5173NyHyYWL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_through it with you.  He has even provided a five day devotional at his website to help.

By looking at three precursors of a fall, which are isolation, boredom, and pride, the author shows how each one of these led to the mighty fall of David, a man after God’s own heart.  He goes on to look at David’s confession and the components that ensured that David’s failure would not be final in his life.  To finish up the book, the author takes us to Psalm 32, which was written after David’s fall, to show how God’s grace applied, can restore us to the joy that we once knew.

This book is an easy read filled with Scripture and stories from real life.  Once I began reading it I could not lay it down.  It is something that I wished I could have read many years ago with others.  This book reminded me of the grandeur of God and the power of His grace.  I plan to use it as I’m teaching through 2 Samuel.  It points out a few things that your commentary will not.  I especially love how this book is about redemption as much as it is about instruction.  He deals with all sides of the issue of failure.

With all of this being said, I too recommend you grab a few peers and read this together.  Though God’s grace heals and forgives, the scars of failure remain.  As I drive by the location where the Lifeway tower once stood, there is a big hole where once a great building once stood.  That is nothing compared to the damage down when a person falls.  They never fall alone.

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

A Must Read for Spiritual Leaders!

17 04 2018

418HvjpKd-L._SY346_Cream rises to the top.  That is what I always have heard.  For the past couple of years I’ve been listening to numerous podcasts about leadership and I have read plenty of blog posts as well.  When asked what books have influenced their leadership the most, the one book that continues to rise to the top is none other than J. Oswald Sanders’ book entitled Spiritual Leadership published by Moody.

I’m so glad to finally have this classic on my book shelf and the publisher Moody has recently updated it by changing the wording so that it can speak to the culture of our day.  They were careful to remain faithful to his original meaning.  They also added helpful endnotes that helped you identify many of the authorities cited in the book since they may not be known by the modern reader.  Another change was in the Scripture translation used to once again help the modern reader in his reading.

This book originally grew out of two series of messages that were originally spoken to the leaders of the Overseas Missionary Fellowship at conferences in Singapore in 1964 and 1966.  After numerous requests these messages were eventually put into book form.

The truths in this book are timeless and fit any time period.  Below you will find a summary of each chapter:

  • The author begins by showing that our ambition to lead must center on the glory of God and the welfare of the church. When we do this we are a mighty force for good.
  • That in this search for leaders we must realize that it is God alone who makes them therefore, a person must quality to be a spiritual leader. They begin by first seeking the Kingdom of God and at the appropriate time God will anoint that person with the Holy Spirit and calls them to a specific ministry.
  • To find what an ideal leader looks like, look no further than Jesus who took the form of a servant. The author in chapter 3 speaks to the qualities that were found in Jesus and the qualities that will make us into great servant leaders.
  • In chapter 4 he talks about the difference between a natural and a spiritual leader. There is no such thing as a self-made spiritual leader.  A true leader influences others spiritually only because the Spirit works in and through him to a greater degree than in those he leads.
  • In chapter 5 he asks if I can become a leader. He speaks about how Jesus took a group of men who many would never have pegged as a leader and turned them into a group powerfully used by God.  He asks a series of questions for us to mull over and then encourages us to work on our weaknesses.  Most of these questions have to do with character than ability.
  • Chapter 6 dives into the leadership teaching of Paul and looks specifically at the Scripture in 1 Timothy which speaks to the qualities of an overseer.
  • Peter is another one who spoke on leadership in 1 Peter when he addresses his fellow shepherds. Chapter 7 takes a close look as to what he had to say about leadership and how he may have learned these qualities from his past failures and successes.
  • Chapter eight takes us through a list of essential qualities of leadership: discipline, vision, wisdom, decision, courage, humility, integrity, and sincerity.
  • In chapter 9 he gives us even more qualities including the appropriate use of humor, the right use of anger, the need for patience, the power of friendship, the use of tact and diplomacy, the incredible power of inspiration, the use of executive ability, the therapy of listening, and the art of letter writing.
  • According to chapter 10, a spiritual leader can do without many things but he/she cannot do without being Spirit-filled. They must be controlled by the Spirit of God.
  • If you want to know how the author feels about prayer and leadership in chapter 11, all you have to do is see his first sentence of this chapter which reads, “The spiritual leader should outpace the rest of the church, above all, in prayer.”
  • The use of time will tell you much about the quality of a person’s leadership. That is what the author says in chapter 12, where he convicts us of the fact that the president has and Jesus had the same 24 hours that we do each day.
  • In chapter 13 the author instructs that we should choose our books like we choose our friends, which speaks to the power of reading. I loved a quote that John Wesley spoke to his young ministers that he was influencing, “Read or get out of the ministry.”  There is also helpful proven strategies for making your reading profitable in this chapter.
  • Chapter 14 is about improving your leadership by recognizing your weaknesses, making corrections, and cultivating strengths. There is a great guide written by Hudson Taylor to help in doing that in this chapter.
  • Self-sacrifice, loneliness, fatigue, criticism, rejection, pressure, perplexity, and cost to others are a summary of the cost that one finds in leadership. In chapter 15 he discusses the cost and how to focus on the rewards instead.
  • Chapter 16 was his lesson on the responsibilities of leadership. According to the author leaders are to serve, apply discipline at times, provide guidance, and show initiative.
  • There will always be tests of leadership. In chapter 17 he discussed the different tests that can come against a leader such as compromise, ambition, facing impossible situations where the leader must go forward, failure, and jealousy.
  • A leader cannot stand alone and must delegate responsibility to others. Using the example of Moses, the author shows in chapter 18 that to fail to delegate is a failure in using the resources that God has provided us.  It hurts the leader but it hurts the people that could have used their talents in service as well.
  • A leader will not last forever. In chapter 19 the author speaks about trusting God when it is time for a leader to move on.  The work is not built entirely upon the leader but upon his awesome God.
  • Chapter 20 is about reproducing leaders and the responsibility that a leader has to provide those under him the opportunity to exercise and develop their own powers. What struck me about this chapter is that we don’t advertise the end that we have in view but rather take the pattern of Jesus and teach them to serve.  He also went into detail how this is hard personal work and shouldn’t be done on a mass scale.
  • Chapter 21 discusses the perils of leader, the dangers that the enemy may attempt to exploit in our life such as: pride; egotism; jealousy; popularity; infallibility; indispensability; elation and depression; prophet or leader; and disqualification.
  • The last chapter is a look at the life of Nehemiah and the qualities that made him a strong leader.

I highly recommend this book and now understand why other top notch leaders do as well.  It is a timeless classic that should be on the book shelf of every leader, especially every spiritual leader.

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