Friday, December 30, 2011

Books I Read in 2011….How About You?

I am always on the look-out for good books to read on a variety of different topics. kindleMost of the books that I read this year were on my Kindle. Personally, I have found that the Kindle has made me a better, and more avid reader.Hopefully, within a month I will be upgrading to the Kindle Fire (I could do it sooner if you would like to contribute to the fund Winking smile) But, not all my books were eBooks. Many came from a couple different publishers that I review books for, for free. So while I might not normally choose to read them, I do for the blogging review program and am pleasantly surprised sometimes. Here is my list that I read in 2011 with a quick thought about each (many of these have full a full review if you check through my 2011 blog posts):

1. The Faith of Ronald Reagan by Mary Beth Brown – Not a bad read, though it seemed a little thin, almost like it was written by a PR firm.


2. Awakening: A New Approach to Faith, Fasting, and Spiritual Freedom by Stovall Weems – Would not recommend this book. I only read it as a part of book review program.


3. revelation cover eBookRoadmap Through Revelation by Rick Schworer – A good commentary on Revelation that was sent to me via eBook form by the author for review. Like all commentaries, you may not agree with everything, but I would definitely refer back to it when I preach through Revelation.


4. Pursuit of God – AW Tozer – I have never came across a book written by Tozer that disappoints, this one included. It is not quite to the level for me of  Knowledge of the Holy, but very close.daddy dates


5. Daddy Dates by Greg Wright – A surprisingly good book. There is not much “Bible” mentioned outright in it, but it is still good none the less, and look forward to implementing some of it when my daughters are a little older.


6. Who Stole My Church by Gordon McDonald – This was a very helpful book, even though it was a fictitious account of how a church learned to bridge the generational gap.


7. Holier Than Thou – Ergun Caner – The author recently joined the staff of a college that many of our missionaries a associated with, so I grabbed this book and began to read it and was glad that I did. It quickly became one of my favorite books to read as the author deals with the issue of phariseeism in a balanced way. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone.


8. King James Version Debated, A Plea For Realism by D Carson
9. Facts on King James Only Debate by John Ankerberg
10. One Bible Only? By Roy E. Beacham – These are three books on my list that I know many of my readers probably don’t want to see or know that I read. The reason I chose to read these three books was to balance out my understanding of the translation issue. One of the interesting facts that I gleaned from it is how both sides of the debate use the same logic to defend their position. The only difference is what verses you pick to prove your point.


11. Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff – A lighthearted and fun read, much like the website that bears the same name.


12. Sticky Church by Larry Osborne – There is a good idea here about doing small groups that are based upon the previous week's sermon. I have not quit found a way to implement that here in my church, but it still might happen in the future. This should be a book read by anyone who does small groups in their church.


13. Poke The Box by Seth Godin – This was a book on leadership/initiative that came highly recommended and it was pretty good at the time, but now that I think back on it, not much stands out.


14. Communicating For A Change by Andy Stanley – In my opinion, this is one of the best books on preaching that I have read.  It is not a text book (the first half is a narrative about how the process he explains later in the book might unfold in a preachers life), and it does not promote expository preaching – but it is a tremendous help in the area of communicating your message.


15. Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross by Arthur Pink. – I read this as I preached through this subject and it did not disappoint.


16. Sunday School in HD by Allen Taylor – The reason I chose to read Sunday School in HDthis book was that we were/are struggling a bit in the area of Sunday School and I was looking for a reason to not just blow it up completely. After reading this, I put away the TnT and we are devoting more time and resources into moving forward in Sunday School.

17. Going Deep by George MacDonald – I read this book because of his other book I read previously this year, and this one did not disappoint either. A great book on discipling new leadership within our church.


18. This Year Is Different: How the Mavs Won it All by Bob Sturm – Here is a book that most of you would not care about, but it was great to me because it dealt with the greatest year of one of my favorite sports teams: The Dallas Mavericks. If you are a Mavs fan, or even an NBA fan at large, you will like this book.


19. The Profile of a Leader by James Rasbeary (gifted to me by the author)
20. Nehemiah: Experiencing the Good Hand of God by John MacArthur
21. A Passion For Faithfulness by J.I. Packer
22. Nehemiah: Memoirs of an Ordinary Man by Stephen Davey
23. Hand Me Another Brick by Charles Swindoll – I read through these five books this year while preaching through the first half of Nehemiah. All five were useful at times, but I found Swindoll’s the most helpful, followed by Davey’s. Those would be the two books that I would definitely recommend to you if you were studying/preaching through Nehemiah.


Well, that’s my list. Let us know in the comment section below what books you read this year


P.S. – My next post will be about what books I plan on reading in 2012, with the recommendations of others.

Monday, December 12, 2011

THE CHRISTMAS SERIES: ISAIAH’S FALLEN TREE–ISAIAH 11:1-10

fallen tree 1


        Isaiah 11:1-10 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots: 2  And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and might, The spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; 3  And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: And he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, Neither reprove after the hearing of his ears: 4  But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, And reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: And he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, And with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked. 5  And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, And faithfulness the girdle of his reins. 6  The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, And the leopard shall lie down with the kid; And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. 7  And the cow and the bear shall feed; Their young ones shall lie down together: And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8  And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, And the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. 9  They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea. 10  And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, Which shall stand for an ensign of the people; To it shall the Gentiles seek:

Last week, we covered, in a three part series, our first tree: Adam’s Forbidden Tree - here, here, and here. This wee, we dive right into our next tree: Isaiah’s Fallen Tree, which deals with the prophecy of the coming of Jesus.

THE CONTEXT OF THE PROPHECY

In the first verse of Isaiah 11, the words, “stem … roots.” With the Babylonian captivity of 586 B.C., the Davidic dynasty appeared as decimated as the Assyrian army (mentioned in Isaiah 10:28-34) who came to attack. A major difference between the two was the life remaining in the stump and roots of the Davidic line. That life was to manifest itself in new growth in the form of the Rod and Branch. But while we always talk of the Davidic line to the Messiah, we see here the name “Jesse” spoken of. Why? Well, Jesse was David’s father through whose line the messianic king was to come (ref. Ruth 4:22; 1 Samual 16:1, 12, 13). [1]

Another phrase found in that first verse I want to point out is, “grow out of his roots.” As we see from Isaiah 11:10, Jesus is the "root of Jesse.” All of this reminds us of this tremendous truth - sometimes God's greatest & most important work is like a plant's root - unseen but necessary for growth.

THE CHRIST OF THE PROPHECY

root of jesseWe see the name The Branch of the Lord. This is a title for the Messiah (see also Isaiah 4:2). The Messiah is also referred to as the “Righteous Branch” in Jeremiah 23:5. Jeremiah, in this chapter,  denounced all the leaders (“pastors, shepherds”) of Judah for the ruthless way they treated the helpless people (vv. 1–4). Instead of leading the flock in love, they drove it mercilessly and exploited it. The shepherds didn’t visit (“care for”) the sheep, but God would visit the leaders with punishment. Because the leaders disobeyed the Law and refused to trust God, they destroyed the nation and scattered the flock among the Gentiles. God, however, promised to regather His people and transform the remnant into a nation. (The word “remnant” is used nineteen times in Jeremiah.) A remnant did return to Judah after the Captivity, rebuild the temple, and restore national life.[2]

And in a greater sense, this is prophetically filled by Jesus, especially in His Second Coming as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Righteous Judge.

Now, the question arises – how does this apply to our lives today?
I believe we get a greater understanding of Jesus’ teaching in John 15:1-17 by understanding Him as the Righteous Branch and the Root of Jesse. Here are three truths for us to ponder:

  1. We bear no fruit if there is no root (vs. 4).
  2. Love is the fruit (vs. 12-14).
  3. And if there is no love, then there is no fruit, which means there is no root (vs. 16).
Can you open up your “spiritual cupboard” and find some spiritual fruit of love?

[1] MacArthur, J. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible : New American Standard Bible. (Is 11:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[2] Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be decisive. An Old testament study. (103–104). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Christmas Tree Series: Adam’s Forbidden Tree of Genesis Chapter 3 – Part 3 of 3

Today, as we wrap up the chapter and our study of Adam’s Forbidden Tree, we notice:

snake around apple

 THE FALL3:14-21

Adam’s sin brought about the fall of mankind. Which we see it play out in two curses and the cure. First is The Enemies Curse3:14. serpent-in-treeUnlike with Adam and Eve, there is no questioning of the serpent here. By agreeing to yield itself to Satan, the serpent is changed into what we commonly refer to as the snake today. More can be read at this at Answers to Genesis. The snake is now an everlasting reminder to mankind of the temptation of sin and the results of the fall.

Secondly, we notice The Extended Curse3:16-20. Let’s look at Adam and Eve individually here.

  • Eve - 3:16 - The word Conception in the Hebrew is heron, which means pregnancy.[1] So not only would child birth bring pain, but woman would now be under the headship of man – 3:16b. Eve, in essence, took the leadership here in this moment in the Garden, but now man was to be the spiritual head of the home. That is probably why there is such a lack of male leadership in our homes today – Satan was there that day to hear the roles given out and has been working ever since to destroy them. We see the NT application of this in Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” and Colossians 3:18, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.”
  • Adam: 3:17-20 - You really sense the fact that God was letting Adam know just how completely and utterly he failed. God, in essence, tells him, “You listened to Eve instead of Me.” And because of Adam’s sin, we see the far reaching effects it had. The ground (earth) was cursed (3:17-18), and so was mankind. Death was not a reality until Adam took of the forbidden fruit. This is what Romans 5:12 is referring to when it says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”

It is interesting to note the response of Adam in 3:20. He named his wife Eve, which means “mother of all living.In essence, we could say that Adam was the father of all dying. So by naming Eve just as he did, he is displaying his understanding of the punishment that has been meted out to them – Eve would sorrowfully bring forth life; and his actions would bring forth death to all offspring.

If this is where it ended, we would be a hopeless people. But we notice The Eternal Cure3:15,21. Genesis 3:15 is the first prophetic verse recorded in the Bible. In this, we see God’s redemption plan of mankind unfold. This verse is why we celebrate Christmas – the coming birth of the Messiah. In this verse, we see the struggle between Satan and God’s people, with Jesus Christ bring the ultimate and final victorious blow.

God gives them the future prophecy, and then gives them the current example – 3:21 – making coats of skin. adam_eve-278x370For these coats to have been made, an animal had to of died. This was the first example of the need for death and bloodshed to cover man’s sin. This is seen throughout the rest of the book’s of Moses, and it culmination in the Gospels with the death and shed blood of Jesus. The only eternal cure for sin and death is faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. Because the first Adam sinned, the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45) came and as a quickening spirit gave His life a ransom for our salvation today.

Adam and Eve look forward to the coming Messiah; today, we look back. They looked to the sacrifices as a reminder; today, we look to the Bible. It is God’s Word, the Bible, that reveals to us the greatest gift ever give – salvation to a lost and dying world.

THE FINALITY3:22-24

There is no going back to the Garden on this side of death and eternity. Unless the Lord chooses to return, death is certain for us.

The question is this: are you in fig leaves or coats of skin? There is no hiding from God, and there is eternal judgment for your sin.

But God offers eternal grace through Jesus Christ today if you will only accept it today.


[1] Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries: Updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Christmas Tree Series: Adam’s Forbidden Tree of Genesis Chapter 3 – Part 2 of 3

In our first post, we covered THE FRUIT. Today, we see:

f-on-report-card.thumbnailTHE FAILURE3:6-13

In this part of the chapter, we notice three different forms of failure, The first is The Failure of Wants3:6. How was she able to surmise all of this detail about the fruit just by looking at the tree? Because she was already thinking about it from the deceptive seed that Satan planted in her mind. The word desired is a similar word in the Hebrew that is used for covet. This is an illustration of Commandment #10 – Thou shalt not covet. She began to covet, or want, to be a god, just as Satan told her in 3:5.

This was an appeal to man’s desire to be religious. But religion never has nor never will save anyone. Satan is all too happy for you to be caught up in religion at the expense of a real relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

This desire to have something that she could not is playedScary but true out in our society every day. How many people are spending money that they don’t have, to buy things that they don’t need, just because it is new…better…someone else has it…etc? How much money is being spent this Christmas season in the name of buying happiness and contentment for their kids, family, and or friends and acquaintances – which it never delivers? Eve wanted something that she could not have, and it led to disaster.

Now, how does Adam fall into all of this. Well, because Adam wanted to be with Eve, he deliberately chose to disobey God’s command and took the fruit. Did you notice that the whole time the Serpent was speaking to Eve, he was really speaking past her to Adam, who was there? That is why he used the word “ye,” which is the plural form of you. This leads to the failure of all mankind, as we will see in part three.

The second failure we notice is The Failure of Works 3:7-10. Adam_and_Eve020The cover of fig leaves is an illustration of man’s attempt to cover their sin with their own good works. Verse 7 shows us that death was immediate. Not the physical death that we often think about (but that process of death began at that moment), but a spiritual death. This was the beginning of eternal separation from God. The sweet fellowship and communion they had was now completely severed. Man, no matter how hard he tries, can never cover their sins with good works or deeds.

3:8 - Isn’t that just the most pathetic scene in the entire Bible? Adam hiding in the bushes from Him who made the bushes. As if God couldn’t see him! “God’s glory is no longer their central heartbeat; it has been supplanted by their own self-preservation according to their own pitiful notions. Their very notion of God has become warped and inadequate. [1]

The whole human race tries to hide from God – but it is pointless – there is no corner to hide in from the One who created the four corners!

MontyHallFinally, we see The Failure of Why3:11-13. Here is where things get REAL ugly (as if it hasn’t been bad enough already!). You can almost imagine it playing out like some old TV game show from the 70’s or 80’s called “The Blame Game.” In 3:12, Adam blames Eve. Today, we blame others for our sin…situations…problems.

But really, Adam is blaming God – and we do the same. You don’t think so? Well, when we utter excuses like, “IF I had so-in-so’s talent and time I would do more…If I had more money I would give,” what we really are saying is that, “God hasn’t blessed me like He has you…” We are blaming God!

Eve blamed Satan. She was the first person to ever say, “The devil made me do it!” But the truth of the matter is that she was to blame. And we have no one to blame but ourselves when we give into temptation. The Bible tells us in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

What excuses are you hiding behind today?


[1] Phillips, Dan (2011-07-14). The World-Tilting Gospel (p. 50). Kregel Publications. Kindle Edition

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Christmas Tree Series: Adam’s Forbidden Tree of Genesis Chapter 3 – Part 1 of 3

The Christmas treetree 1 has become one of the symbols of the American Christmas. Putting it up the day after Thanksgiving signals Christmas time is truly here. Now, in my opinion, there is some silliness when it comes to Christians and whether or not you should have a Christmas tree. Usually, the argument comes from Jeremiah 10:1-4. The internet is full of people quoting these verses on why we should not have a Christmas tree (Don’t tell anyone this, but we have one up in our church – oops!). Here are the facts from the text:

  • He was not talking about Christmas trees because they did not even exist yet. You can do hours and hours of Google searches on the origin of the Christmas tree and find all kinds “truths” about when and where the Christmas, or Yule Tree, began. So whatever your argument is, you can probably find a source of “authoritative truth” to back it up on the internet somewhere. The actual truth is probably lost somewhere in time because it is just not that important.
  • The context (I know, context often gets in the way of “good” preaching Winking smile) of Jeremiah’s statement was about idol worship and using the wood to build an idol to worship. We see that from the wordPalm Treeused in verse 5. It is a Hebrew reference to a modern scarecrow in a cucumber patch. So the context of these verses is about someone who takes wood that they chopped down, fashions it into an idol, and worships it instead of God.
  • Now, if you are bowing down and worshipping your tree and teach your kids that at night gifts grow on its branches for them, or if you are allowing all the commercialism and trappings of the holidays to cause you to lose your focus on worshipping God and the earthly birth of God Incarnate – then there is a problem. But if not, there really is no big deal about the Christmas tree, one way or another. Those who argue these things usually don’t have a proper interpretation of Romans 14 and the issue of personal liberty in Christ. If you choose to not have a tree, then GREAT. If you choose to have a tree, that is fine, too. There is nothing to get worked up about. When we get worked up over these things, we show that our focus is not where it should be.

The tree will be our theme this Christmas season at our church, and I want to share with my readers my messages from the pulpit for this Christmas season. There are many trees that become a focal point throughout the Bible. In this blog series, we look at ADAM’S FORBIDDEN TREEwhich is found in Genesis 3. (NOTE: It is my suggestion that you have your Bible opened to Genesis while reading these post. I will try to link the other Bible references for you.)

tree of knowledgeThis is where it starts for mankind, and where it starts for us. If we don’t understand this chapter and this tree, we will never have a proper understanding of the rest of the Bible, salvation, grace, or how we are to live and our limitations in this life.

THE FRUIT3:1-5

The first thing we notice is The Deception 3:1-3.The Bible tells us this about Satan in Revelation 12:9, “…Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.” Satan is described as a liar by Jesus in John 8 and a deceiver, and here we see why. The word used to describe him here is Subtil, which means “crafty or cunning.” His subtlety is seen in his twisting what God had said. From the very beginning of man’s existence, Satan has desired to deceive man and lead them away from God. The same is still true today.

We notice in vs. 2-3 that Eve quotes to Satan God’s command. How did Eve know this was God’s command? Read carefully Genesis 2:15-17. Did you notice that this command was given before Eve was created in 2:18-25? When Eve quoted it, it was not exactly as we have it in chapter 2. There is lots of debate and discussion about the reason why. The difference could be explained one of these ways:

  • Adam added on to it for Eve’s warning – this is not likely because Adam would have been adding to God’s command, and this would be considered the first sin.
  • Eve added her interpretation to it because she misunderstood the phrase “surely die” and thought there might be something poisonous about touching the actual tree – not likely.
  • Most likely – We can surmise from 3:8 that God commonly walked with Adam and Eve while in the Garden. It was probably during one of these times that God and Adam talked with Eve about this one forbidden tree and they went into further instruction about it.

Either way, we see both the deceptive and subtle work of Satan already at hand, which leads to…The Doubt3:4-5. Pay careful attention to Satan’s wording – “surely.” The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled (deceived) Eve through his subtilty (Craftiness),… (parenthesis mine) Satan was clearly being deceptive in his wording in deceiving Eve, just as Herod was in speaking to the wise men in Matthew 2:8 when he said, “…Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. Herod never planned to worship Jesus, but instead planned to kill Him.

The devil deals in deception to cause God’s children to doubt. His desire is to get you to think that sin is not that bad…not that big of a deal…God’s way is outdated…etc. He was trying to get Eve to doubt God’s love and goodness by withholding this one tree from her. Yet, God’s love is displayed in the fact that He allowed them to freely have every other tree in the Garden!

 
How easy is it for us today to forget the goodness of God?
 
Are we more like the wise men, who understood Herod’s deception and did not fall for it? Or are we more like Eve, always falling for Satan’s deceptive traps?
 
What do you do to prevent this from happening in your life?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What’s The Password

merry_christmas_not_happy_holidays_bumper_sticker-p128577539028043360trl0_400
Let me say this upfront if you have been redirected back to this blog post: I’m Sorry. My intentions is not to offend you, hurt your feelings, or make you angry at me. Maybe you saw the link and clicked on it, or are a regular reader. Please understand, I am not trying to offend you. But there is a problem. It creeps its ugly head up around this time of year. It is the “Merry Christmas” uproar.
I know, I know, what am I saying?!? This is what I am saying: why are we making a big deal about this? While I cannot prove this, I would not be surprised if many American Christians believe the following fictitious account:
When a person dies, they are immediately transported to the gate of heaven. There, some historical religious person (like Paul, Peter, or maybe Gabriel or another angel) waits to either let people in or keep them out. 
As you walk to the door, you knock two times and a little hinged door opens up and the voice inside asks, “What’s the password to let you in to heaven?” You excitedly and emphatically answer, “Merry Christmas!” The door then swings wide open, and you enter in to heaven as  countless others stand sulking on the outside saying, “Why did I say Happy Holidays?!?”
It always amazes me as to all the people who get so bent out of shape when some department store decides to hang a banner that read Happy Holidays and not Merry Christmas. It is as if some people think that Jesus was speaking to Target, Wal-Mart, etc. and not the church when He said, “Go ye therefore into all nations…” These stores are not in the business of spreading the Gospel, they are in the business of making money. That is what they base their decision on. Christians, on the other hand, SHOULD be about the business of spreading the Gospel into all nations.
So, am I saying that you should not say “Merry Christmas”? NO. I always using the phrase because that is what I am celebrating. Here is my point: instead of getting mad at a store for taking “Christ out of Christmas,” lets get upset with ourselves for thinking it is someone else’s responsibility to do what God has commanded us to do.
So now, when I see the phrase “Happy Holidays,” it is a reminder to me about my responsibility to spread the Gospel. How about you?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kindle eBook Review: Going Deep: Becoming A Person of Influence By Gordon MacDonald

Going DeepABOUT THE BOOK: The future of the Christian faith will not be determined by the number of people who fill the pews but by the spiritual depth of those people. Pastor Gordon MacDonald revisits the fictional New England congregation of his critically acclaimed book Who Stole My Church to deal with a new dilemma: What's his church's story? What is it doing that justifies its existence? The importance of these questions is anything but fiction.Through a series of e-mails and discussions with friends and parishioners, Pastor Gordon's search for their story leads him to realize that the future of the Christian faith, and thus the church, is at risk. As MacDonald says, "We seem to know how to get unchurched people to visit our buildings. We even seem to know how to draw them across the line into a declaration of personal faith in Jesus. But what we do not seem to know is how to cultivate spiritually deep people. Tomorrow's church could be headed for trouble." Deep people. People who possess spiritual awareness and maturity, people with solid, grounded, life-altering faith. MacDonald shows that the church needs people with a passion for God's presence and a desperate hunger to seek him above all things.
MY THOUGHTS: I was really interested and excited to get this book and dive right into it because I had already read his first book Who Stole My Church and really enjoyed it. Just like his first book, this is a fictitious story and you need to know that going in to it. And just like the first book, I found myself a couple of times saying, “That only works in ‘fiction land’ and probably would not happen like that or come together like that in real life.” Some of the issues, and the blend of temperaments of the people in his group, were just a little too perfect to be reality, in my opinion. But, that still did not take away from my enjoyment and encouragement from this book. 

There are many issues that this book brings to light, and many things that I personally have been dealing with lately here in my ministry. We seem to be in the midst of a “low commitment” Christianity, and therefore are not training up any committed followers for the next generation. When you study the life of Jesus, while many times He taught the masses, much of His time was directed toward the training of the twelve. Yet, how often do we spend a good portion of our time not only discipling, but specifically training small groups on how to take the spiritual lead? I know I have been challenged and encouraged to spend more time and effort with a smaller group of believers who show the characteristics of committed believers who could be used for leadership in the near future.

MY RECOMMENDATION: Though I know some will not care for the fictitious style of the book and immediately scoff at it, this really was a great book for me, and it has really moved me and motivated me to cultivate some “deep” Christians in our church. I would highly recommend this to any pastor or Christian in a position of leadership and influence. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <[...]> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kindle Book Review: Sunday School in HD: Sharpening the Focus on What Makes Your Church Healthy by Allan Taylor

Sunday School in HD
BACKGROUND: Ministry professional Allan Taylor writes to all church leaders about the crucial role that Sunday School must play in producing healthy Christians who in turn produce healthy churches. He emphasizes the value of the Sunday School model to the total church ministry for its superior ability to nurture relationships and more personally stir passion for the Great Commission across every age group.

Taylor presents the sharply focused idea that all Sunday School programs are either imploding (through directionless ineffectiveness) or exploding (thanks to visionary leadership and practicing some fundamental disciplines). As such, he guides the reader toward growth principles that must be operative for any church to begin or continue a transformational Sunday School boom.

MY TAKE: Our church has really been struggling with our Sunday School department recently. So much so, I had begun the process of stepping back and evaluating its effectiveness and whether or not we needed to continue with it. As I was praying and evaluating, I came across a Twitter recommendation for this book and decided to give it a read – and I am glad I did! There is so much good and helpful information packed within this book. While I realize that much of it may not be “new,” it is all very helpful and practical. He covers the issue or Sunday School importance, purpose, and leadership, among other things.

MY RECOMMENDATION: This is a very good and helpful book for anyone to read who is involved in Sunday School ministry, or who plans to be one day. I feel so strongly about this book, I will probably be purchasing one for all of our Sunday School workers - I learned not to call them volunteers in the book, read it for yourself to find out why Winking smile.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Kindle Book Review: Seven Sayings of the Saviour on the Cross by Arthur W. Pink

The-Seven-Sayings-of-the-Saviour-on-the-Cross-9780801065736
ABOUT THE BOOK: The words Christ spoke from the cross can inform Christians of the purpose, the meaning, the sufferings, and the sufficiency of his death. After an introduction that discusses the nature of Christ's death as natural, unnatural, preternatural, and supernatural, Dr. Arthur W. Pink clearly illustrates the lessons that can be drawn from Christ's words-lessons on forgiveness, salvation, affection, anguish, suffering, victory, and contentment. This comprehensive and accessible volume is useful for both sermon preparation and personal study.

MY TAKE: I recently felt led to preach through the seven different cries from the Cross and used this as a basis of my study, and I was not disappointed. Pink is very thorough in his coverage of the differetn statements made by Jesus while on the cross, and he also does a good job in pointing the read to the practical applications of what Jesus says. Pink also does an excellent job in going back to the Old Testament to point the read to the fulfilled prophecies of Jesus.

MY RECOMMENDATION: This would be an excellent book for any Christian, and especially any preacher or pastor. I would recommend the Kindle version as well. Sometimes I have found that older books are a little “choppy” when transferred to the Kindle, but that is not the case with this one.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal…or Why I Was Way Too Into This Last World Series

word series 2011
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin'd from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

While I must admit that I do not know much about this poem listed above, I have always heard the phrase, “Hope springs eternal.” Usually, it is around the time of Spring Training when fans of baseball look forward to the upcoming season. Rangers - Logo old For 25+ years, there never was too much hope for the team I rooted for – the Texas Rangers. But this season was a little different. They had just made their first ever World Series the year before, and even though they lost their best starting pitcher and a couple of other players, there was still some hope. Then the improbable happened – they made it back. Not only did they make it, but they actually were doing so well that many thought of them as the favorite to win their first ever World Series title.

I will admit up front that I have never really been into watching a full, nine inning baseball game on t.v. (always enjoyed watching it in person, though), but I really got swept up in the excitement of the World Series. I am sure that many who follow me on Twitter and Facebook observed this phenomenon, as I DEFINITELY over tweeted during the last two games. To come so close twice in game six and not win was probably one of the greatest and most excruciating roller coaster rides I have been on as a sports fan.

Sports will do that to you. Well, actually, anything you become heavily invested in will do that to you. Hope makes us freese game 6more involved, more passionate, more vocal, and more invested. And we do so not knowing how it will all end. I always thought that the Rangers would win game six all the way up till David Freese hit his homerun in the bottom of the 11th inning.

Yet, we often do not get that involved, passionate, vocal, or invested in the things of God. I know this may be a bit of a cheesy statement to make, but maybe it is just my way of justifying my temporary obsession with the World SeriesSarcastic smile. Does this mean that we should not be passionate about anything else other than the Lord. I know some that feel that way, but I don’t feel that is the truth to take away. To me, it is a reminder of how hope motivates us to step outside of our “normal” self and say and do things that we would no longer do. And when it comes to hope, we have the greatest hope available:
Romans 15:13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Because of the eternal hope that fills our hearts and mind, we can and should openly rejoice and share our hope to those without any…like Houston Astros fans Winking smile.

Is there anything that you found yourself becoming heavily involved and passionate about?
What are ways that we can become this passionate about our faith?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Competing or Completing?

husband wife silhouette
Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
This title “Competing or Completing” came to my mind as I read my wife’s blog today and thought to myself, "Man, its been a while since I posted and now she is out blogging me!" While I say that “tongue in cheek”….well, sorta Winking smile….it is true that many marriages forget that there primary purpose is to cleave to each other and begin they begin to clash and compete with each other. Each spouse thinks it is their responsibility to change the other, and in essence a competition begins to see whose "differences" are superior and should be emulated in the other. While there will always be differences in personalities, opinions, likes, etc,, those differences actually become a strength when looked at like a puzzle piece. puzzle pieces The different shapes of the puzzle fit together in a certain way that keeps everything together. Without the different pieces, the puzzle would endlessly slide around and never form the picture that it is intended to. If every piece was the same shape with ins and outs (not sure how to describe an actual puzzle piece??), the puzzle would never be complete.
Often, couples begin to look at their differences and deficiencies and wonder, “Why don’t we have more in common…he/she just doesn’t seem to get me…etc.” But when it comes to puzzles, and our marriages, the differences are not deficiencies – they are part of a large picture and are made the way they are for a purpose. As husband and wives, we should embrace the differences, knowing that God is putting together a masterpiece of a puzzle.

How do you view differences in your relationships?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Does Spiritual Health Affect Your Physical Health

 

We live today in a very compartmentalized society. By that I mean that we look at everything as a separate entity that does not affect the other. I thought of that this morning when I read:

Psalm 32:3 (KJV) - When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long.

By breaking down this verse of David’s psalm, we learn how our physical health often correlates with our spiritual health:

  • When I kept silence – By keeping silent, what David is implying is that he was silent in confessing his sins. We know this because the previous two verses deals with the subject of repentance.
  • my bones waxed old -  Here, David is alluding to the physical pain he was suffering. He felt that his bones and his body were waxing, or wasting away. Think about it, the older we get the more physical pain we feel,e specially in our bones.
  • through my roaring all the day long – Here, David pulls back the curtain and tells us how he was roaring, or groaning, all day because of this physical pain.

So at one point in David’s life (the Bible shows us at least a couple of different instances that this could refer to) he suffered physical pain because of unconfessed sin. In the common language of today, it could be said that David pens, “When I kept silent and refused to confess my sin, my bones and body wasted away, and I groaned in pain all day long.”

Now, before anyone thinks, '”Well, that is only in the Old Testament,” let me remind you of what Paul warned the Corinthian church in relation to the taking of the Lord’s Supper:

1 Corinthians 11:27-29 KJV (27) Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  (28) But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  (29) For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.

As I read David’s psalm today, I thought about how much my pain, both physically and mentally, is really just spiritual in nature. Many times, our physical health is tied to our spiritual condition. There is joy when our communion with God is where it should be, and we often suffer from physical ailments when stress and sin separate us from a closeness with our Heavenly Father.

NOTE: Please don’t misunderstand me and paint me as a “Health and Wealth” prosperity preacher. There are many instances given to us in God’s Word where men and women suffered physically do to no spiritual shortfall of their own. Job is an example of this from the Old Testament, and Paul is a great reminder of this in the New Testament. But truth be told, many of us suffer more as David did in this Psalm than as Paul did with his thorn in the flesh.

So, how do we combat this? Here are a few practices that I can think of:

  1. Pray – This is what Psalm 32 is: a prayer and song of David’s reflection on the times when his physical suffering was due to unconfessed sin. I know this sounds so simple, and we know that prayer is what should be done, but do we pray sincerely and deeply as we should? I remember when I lived in Texas the family doctor we had in Decatur, Texas. He was a good Christian man, and when he found out that I was a Bible College graduate and was praying about pastoring soon, we would often spend a couple of minutes talking about spiritual things. I will always remember what he said to me (and I think my wife Darci was with me at that time), “I know a lot of people who come to my office sick, and there is nothing I can do for them because there problem is spiritual in nature.” He then talked a little bit about the importance of prayer.
  2. Confess – Sin is the source of our pain. So if we are tired of it, we should let it go through confession in prayer. When we come to the realization that sin is the source of our health ailment, there is no earthly doctor who has the remedy.
  3. Serve – There is joy in serving the Lord by doing good things for those around you.

What are some other ways to renew your physical health through spiritual disciplines that you can think of?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Labor of Love

love job 1
1 Timothy 5:17 KJV  Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

As Paul is closing his letter to Timothy, her reminds him to teach the church how they are to take care of the pastor, or elder leader of the church. While there is a lot that can be said on that subject, I will leave that for others to do at this time since I am a pastor and would not want to come off as someone who is teaching on this subject for selfish reasons. Truth be told, my church takes care of my family very well, and for that I am grateful.

What I do want to briefly touch on the last part of the verse – especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. While I know it is somewhat “taboo” to say that pastoring is a job, it is a labor, as Paul mentioned. And so, as a pastor, I often ask myself, “How well am I laboring? Am I laboring in the best areas of the ministry, or am I sacrificing the best labor to take care of some good labors?”  There is so much that happens within a church, even a smaller-sized church like ours. Many good responsibilities and ministries fall under the umbrella of the church, and too often those things fall into the lap of the pastor. But is that always right?

Remember what happened early on in the book of Acts (chapter 6) when there arose a contention inside the church about the perceived neglect of certain widows. What was the response of the leadership of the church? They cast a vote and added men to the “church staff” to take care of these areas so that they could continue to do the best thing – praying and studying the Word.

I often wonder how this same situation would have been handled in today’s modern church. Unfortunately, this happens a lot and the answer is usually something along the lines of, “Tell the preacher and let him take care of it.” We have lost, in some regards, the aspect that the ministry of the church is to be done by everyone, and not just a select few. There are many responsibilities in the church that would be better handled by others in order to free up the pastor to spend more time in prayer and Bible study.

The interesting thing about laboring in word, doctrine, and prayer is that it is something that will be unseen by the average church member. And because it is unseen, the pastor is often viewed as having “done nothing” all day and wasted away his time. I must admit that there have been days that I looked back on all that I had done and found myself a little underwhelmed because there was nothing “concrete” to show for it, i.e. a visit made in the home or hospital, etc. But just because your pastor is not in your home visiting you every other day does not mean that he is not busy in the Lord’s work. Unfortunately, we will often forsake the best work of the ministry because it is unseen, for the good work that can be seen and recognized by others. Think about how your church could be revitalized if:
  1. Your pastor had more time to pray and study uninterrupted
  2. Everyone had a part in the ministry of the church
Please don’t misunderstand this post as a pastor trying to get out of “work.” In truth, if you take some of the ministry responsibilities from your pastor and allow him to spend more time in his office, you have created more work for him. But it is the best work! That is why I chose the picture for this post that I did. I love the opportunity I have to study, pray, and help God’s people every week. I just think that more pastor’s out there might enjoy their church and pastorate more if they were allowed to focus on the best things while the church members took care of the good things.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review: The Runner’s Devotional

runners devotional;

ABOUT THE BOOK: Ever wondered if there’s a purpose to your running and what it has to do with your spiritual life? The Runner’s Devotional will inspire you in your faith while encouraging you to excel at the sport you love! This book is for runners of all levels—casual and avid, competitive and recreational—who want to improve their running skills, attain personal running goals, and grow closer to God. Fifty-two devotional readings will keep runners motivated, inspired, and running in the right direction, both on and off the road, through life’s many peaks and valleys. Each devotional includes an inspirational reading, a personal story from a runner, Scripture application, running tips, and questions to consider. Additional features include health and fitness tips, and weekly runner’s logs.

MY TAKE: First, let me admit I requested this book because I was in the last half of a successful diet and really wanted to get into long distance running. But that was BEFORE I tore both of the meniscus and my ACL in my left knee, which not only stopped the diet/weight loss, but shelved any possible notion of me taking up running. Still, I found this book to be not only interesting, but I could see it being helpful for someone who is either an avid runner, or an aspiring one to be. There seems to be many good training  tips throughout, and a weekly chart to keep tabs of your progress. The book is a little “lite” on the Bible, but makes good applications from running and the nuances of marathons and training to the everyday spiritual aspect of life.

MY RECOMMENDATION: I could see this book being very helpful to anyone who is a runner, and the weekly logs at the end of each chapter seem helpful. But let me caution you on two things:

  1. This is set up as a weekly devotional, and not an every day devotional.
  2. This is strictly geared to the runner, and probably would not be very useful to someone who is not.

But, if you are a runner and understand that this is not a daily devotional, I think you will be helped by this book.

NOTE: Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

To Blog or Not To Blog…Is That The Question?

Questioning-1

Let me first say, “Sorry.” While I have mixed in a couple of reviews, I have not posted a true blog post in a while. It seems that for a month or so in the summer I get super busy and blogging is one of the first things to go. August was that month, and even the last part of July as I got ready for all that August would bring. We had a combined church camp, then our first Vacation Bible School that we put together from scratch. Not our first Bible School, but our first one that we did not buy the prepackaged program from a publishing company. This meant we came up with the theme, lessons, songs, crafts, games, skits, etc. It was a lot of work, but very rewarding when it was all said and done (and it saved our church a lot of money that was normally spent). Now, I could try to deny the fact that I have not posted in a while, but it is true. While I don’t know that there is anyone out there who just waits with bated breath for my post, I am sure that most people have not noticed. But if you did – I’m sorry.

Even though I may not have posted any real blogs lately, that does not mean that I stopped reading other people’s blogs. While many people will get up and read the daily paper, I usually read blogs – and a wide variety of blogs and topics. Some are long post, some are short. Some are devotional in nature, and some are theological in discussion. A couple are sports related, but most have to do with the Bible, church, Christianity, etc. My criteria for following and reading a blog is very simple: if it helps me in some way, shape, or form, I will follow. If not, then I don’t. And on regular intervals, I will re-evaluate my blogroll and drop those that I have stopped reading. Pretty simple and straight forward.

Now, this does not mean that I have to, or that I do, agree with everything I read on a blog that I follow. All this means it that that certain blog is a help to me. Sometimes reading an opposing view will help sharpen me as to what and why I believe what I do. That is why my blogroll is somewhat eclectic. And it may be why I can be somewhat eclectic in my practice of faith and why I do not necessarily fit into one “camp” or another. Seems as though there are some who think I am a little too “liberal,” while others feel as if I am too “pharisaical” in practice. But at the end of the day, I suspect that are many more preachers, pastors, and Christians like myself – they just aren’t as vocal as the extremes of both sides. At the end of the day, we must be fully persuaded in our own minds (Romans 14:5).

And as I thought about the reason why I choose to read and follow certain blogs, it reminded me once again of the importance of using my blog to be an encouragement for whoever may read it. Encouragement is not always a pat on the back, but sometimes it is the illumination of God’s Word to certain areas of my life that need to be improved. But never is it mean-spirited, hateful, or accusatory – and neither should my blog be! I understand that I might be in the minority on that one, especially considering how many blogs, websites, and even ministries seem to be devoted to being as mean-spirited and crude as possible while pointing out supposed short-comings. These folks often remind me of those who are trying to preform eye surgery on an unsuspecting brother or sister in Christ to remove a small splinter while a huge rafter beam is sticking out of their eye (Luke 6:42).

I hope and pray that you are reading this because somewhere along the way you were helped or encourage, and it is my prayer that will continue to happen in the future.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Free Book Give-away

Here is a link to an free book give-away by Tyndale Publishers on parenting. Go and check it out.

http://www.tyndale.com/blog/?p=1243

Friday, August 26, 2011

DVD Review: Desiring God by John Piper

desiring God dvd

I recently have finished watching John Piper’s 10 part series on “Desiring God: Finding Complete Satisfaction and Joy in God.”  I must admit up from that I have never read the original book Desiring God, so this was my first exposure to this line of thinking. One of the issues I had to try to get around, and still have not completely done so, was his use of the word “hedonism.” While I understand what he meant by that (Completely desiring and joying in God), it is still shocking to me. That is probably due to my exposure to the word in a different context early on in my life, which has shaped my view of the word now. Maybe that was the point in using the word. But I know that my wife was casually watching it with me and the moment she heard that word, she asked me, “What is he talking about?”

Again, while my viewing of this series was mostly positive, I did not have a study guide to go along with the videos. This probably would have enhanced the experience, though I cannot say for sure since I did not have it. Without them, the videos seemed really short and choppy. So, if you are thinking about purchasing the video, you should probably get the Study Guide to go with it. But even with the “choppy” feel of the videos, there was plenty of information packed into it. At times it seemed that he was a little “heavy” on references outside of the Bible, but there was plenty of Scripture to back up his main thought of joying in God.

I received this DVD for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.