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


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.


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.


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.


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 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?