Category Archives: Books

Sale on Bruce and Moo NT Commentaries

Logos Bible Software just concluded their March Madness competition, and the winners this year are Doug Moo and FF Bruce.

For a limited time, you can buy Dr. Bruce’s works at 60% off retail price, and Dr. Moo’s at 70% off retail price. Some great deals especially on commentaries. If you are interested in building a digital library I would highly recommend:

· Hard Sayings of the Bible

· NICNT Acts

· NICNT Romans

· NICNT Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians

· Pillar NTC Colossians and Philemon

· NICNT Hebrews

· Pillar NTC James

· NIVAC 2 Peter and Jude

· Canon of Scripture

People often think Logos is too expensive to get started, but you can buy the Logos Starter library for less than $200 (even lower with Academic discount). Payment plans are also available to spread the cost over several months.

Book Review: Living Forward

Living_ForwardAre you satisfied where your life is headed? Do you know you’re giving your very best to God and others? Have you reached a fork in the road, and aren’t sure which way to turn?

Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy’s new book Living Forward can help. It fills a gap in productivity and self-help books. Where most books deal with the nuts and bolts of time management, delegation, increased sales, and organizational tips, Living Forward starts with a more fundamental question – Where’s your life headed?

The day-to-day choices we make start with deeper values. But how often do we pause to take account of what’s important, and to make sure we haven’t drifted off course? Living Forward explains how to chart a course for the future by identifying your values, goals, and dreams, and will make sure your daily routine is in sync with your long-term goals. The book is divided into three sections.

I. Understand Your Need. Part One reveals our natural tendency to drift. We are introduced to the idea of mission and see the benefits of creating our own. If there was one section of the book that seemed to drag a little, it was this first section. I came into the book eager to learn about a life plan, and didn’t need 54 pages to convince me of its importance.

II. Create Your Plan. Part Two is the heart of the book. In these four chapters, we learn how to design a legacy, define priorities, chart a course of action, and set aside one day to turn this from a nice idea into a reality. These chapters alone are more than worth the price of the book.

III. Make It Happen. Part Three shows you how to implement and review your life plan, and how to facilitate one in the lives of others — particularly your business. I could see the benefit of an entire organization doing this as a personal development or team-building activity.

The strength of the book lies in its simplicity and practicality. What other productivity books often assume, or nod in passing, these authors devote an entire book to. It’s the culmination of hundreds of life-coaching seminars and conversations. Steps are clearly laid out, with lots of examples, questions, checklists, and worksheets. I’m already implementing some of the tools into my own life, and sharing them with others.

My main advice for the reader is this: Don’t use it alone. Living Forward will convince you of the benefit of a life plan and help you craft and review your own. But how do you decide on the right goals in the first place? Where do you find the right vision and mission for your life or organization?

I would suggest that visualizing “the life that you want” and writing your own eulogy is not enough. Ultimately, it is faithfulness to God that should be our highest concern. We should all want to hear those words from our heavenly Judge, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Now, I realize this book targets a much wider audience than just Christian readers, and that it’s beyond the scope of the book to go into such detail, but that’s my point exactly. Read it — just don’t read it alone. Use it as a springboard. Use it as a productivity tool. As the dust jacket suggests, Living Forward can even be a compass to point you in the right direction and keep you on track. But a compass only works if it is properly calibrated to true north. And for that, you’ll need a guidebook written by God himself.

My Year in Books 2015

2015 Books

Here’s an infographic of the books I read in 2015, courtesy of Goodreads. In all, I finished 23 books:

Dragon by Clive Cussler
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan
Legend of Zelda graphic novel by Shotaro Ishinomori
Reading the Bible & Praying in Public by Stuart Olyott
Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
The Edge by Dick Francis
Anchored in Grace by Jeremy Walker
For the Love of God Vol. 1 by D.A. Carson
Ecclesiastes: Total Life by Walt Kaiser
Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Talk like TED by Carmine Gallo
No Children, No Pets by Marion Holland
The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray
Good News about Satan by Bob Bevington
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
Hornblower and the Hotspur by C.S. Forester
What is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever
When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett
What’s Best Next by Matt Perman
The Generals by Thomas Ricks
Leadership 101 by John Maxwell
The Happy Holisters & the Little Mermaid by Jerry West
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

Some of these were bedtime stories with the kids, others were audio books, and others were for personal development and ministry.

Missing from these stats are some books I partially read, such as Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, our advent story Jotham’s Journey , Historical Theology by Gregg Allison, Evangelism by Mack Stiles, The Peacemaker by Ken Sande, Humility by C.J. Mahaney, a number of commentaries and study Bibles, plus magazines and periodicals, and the Bible itself, which I try to read and memorize on a daily basis.

All in all a great year of reading. Aslan sacrificed his own life to deliver Edmund from the White Witch in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Dirk Pitt braved the ocean to prevent nuclear war in Dragon, and the residents of Cimarron County endured the Dust Bowl in The Worst Hard Time. I especially enjoyed D.A. Carson’s devotional For The Love of God Vol. 1 alongside my daily Bible reading, and can’t wait to get into Volume 2 in the year ahead.

Thank you, Lord, for the joy of reading, and for the wonderful places we’ll go in a book!

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Book Review: Biblical Counseling and The Church

CounselingAs a church grows, so do its problems. That’s because we’re all sinners. But this is good news, because it means more people are finding the gospel of grace!

In order to keep up with people’s hurts and struggles, a church needs to think carefully through its counseling strategy. Thankfully, there’s a brand new book that can help. It’s called Biblical Counseling and the Church: God’s Care Through God’s People.

I’m glad to see a growing emphasis on biblical counseling in the local church. What better place for counseling to occur than where the word of God is preached, where elders are appointed, where ordinances are administered, where discipline is practiced, and where the body can help each other along? But setting up a new counseling ministry or re-tooling your existing program is a daunting task.

This book has six main sections:

Part I – More than Counseling: A Vision for the Entire Church
Part II – Biblical Counseling and Small Group Ministry
Part III – Biblical Counseling and Conflict Resolution
Part IV – Equipping Biblical Counselors
Part V – Biblical Counseling and Outreach
Part VI – Biblical Counseling in Historical Perspective

Want to start a counseling ministry in a small church? Confused about the difference between biblical counseling and Christian psychology? Ready to branch out and use counseling as an evangelism tool in the community? This book can help you with all these, and much more.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the book’s size or breadth of topics. Just pick one or two chapters that seem most relevant to you and use them as a starting point. It’s meant to be a practical book. You’ll probably glean a few tips along the way, and more than likely, get hooked and want to read more.

Healthy churches will make biblical counseling a priority. This is not an optional program, but an essential part of the ministry of the Word (Ac. 6:4; 20:20). This book will help you do it right.

I received a free copy of this book as part of the Amazon Vine product review program.

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My Review of the Zondervan NIV Study Bible

NIV_Zondervan_Study_Bible

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day (Psalm 119:97)

The Bible is a priceless treasure from God, and a good Study Bible makes it even more edifying.

Study Bibles are not new, with tools like the Geneva Bible and Scofield Reference Bible serving past generations. But never before has there been such a wealth of Study Bibles. In the past 20 years, we’ve seen the arrival of the MacArthur Study Bible, NET Study Bible, Reformation Study Bible, and many more.

These books are frankly ridiculous in the amount of content packed in such a small amount of space. On top of thousands of study notes and introductions to every book of the Bible, many include theological articles, a concordance, and other helpful charts and illustrations.

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible is no exception. While the MacArthur Study Bible remains my top all-around choice, the NIVZSB is a wonderful gift to the Body of Christ, and has climbed above the ESV Study Bible as my second favorite study Bible. Here are three reasons why:

1. Focus on Biblical Theology. It does an excellent job tracing the redemptive storyline all the way through the Bible and capturing its “big picture.” Christ is the hero of every story. Some will disagree on just how far biblical eschatology should be realized (‘already’) versus awaiting fulfillment (‘not yet’), but the study notes are fair to all sides, without forcing a conclusion on the reader.

2. In Depth Study Notes. This Bible offers 20,000 in-depth study notes from many of today’s leading evangelical scholars. Edited by D.A. Carson, you will not find any Study Bible with a more impressive resume. I still prefer the NASB or ESV translation for in-depth study, but nothing beats the NIV for easy reading. Though I am disappointed with the overall gender-natural philosophy of the NIV translation team, this study Bible helps guard against some of its more egregious misapplications. Its explanation of 1 Timothy 2:12, for example, is spot on.

3. Superb Illustrations. The full color maps, photos, and illustrations are outstanding. Reading through this Bible is an immersive experience, and helps bring the ancient land of the Bible alive. It is one thing to be told about a place or idea. It is quite another to see it for yourself. In some cases, the illustrations actually aid in understanding Scripture. Some of my favorites are the silver scrolls of the Aaronic Blessing (p. 258), the threshing sledge (p. 1766), the Ephesian Theater (p. 2262), two views on physical/spiritual Israel (p. 2309), and the bema seat (p. 2337).

If there is one major complaint, it is the font size of this study Bible. The words are just too small. I don’t know what could have been eliminated, but there comes a point where publishers need to trim down their study Bibles. This Bible weighs in at almost 5 lbs. and is nearly 3,000 pages long. With such a hefty size, you’d expect a readable font. But no, the font is almost microscopic. It’s a shame, since anyone over 55 will have a hard time enjoying this resource.

Font issues aside, the NIV Zondervan Study Bible is a great study Bible. It contains a wealth of biblical material and promises to help Bible students for generations to come. May it increase our love for the Word, and increase our love for its divine Author.

I received a free preview copy of this book as part of the Amazon Vine product review program.

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A Culture of Evangelism

At our Fall Unity Breakfast a few weeks ago, Dr. Paul Cedar shared the statistic that less than 10% of Christians are actively sharing their faith. That’s heartbreaking. Why did Jesus leave us here on earth if not to make disciples of others?

When we fail to pray for unbelievers or to share the gospel with them, we’re like a mailman driving his whole route without delivering a single letter. God has commanded us not to just believe the good news, but to spread it to others.

One of the reasons I think Christians are so bad at sharing our faith is that most churches lack a culture of evangelism. Mack Stiles discusses this in chapter two of his book Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus.

Here are ten features of a culture of evangelism that a church can cultivate:

  1. A Culture Motivated by Love for Jesus and His Gospel
  2. A Culture That is Confident in the Gospel
  3. A Culture That Understands the Danger of Entertainment
  4. A Culture That Sees People Clearly
  5. A Culture That Pulls Together as One
  6. A Culture In Which People Teach One Another
  7. A Culture That Models Evangelism
  8. A Culture in Which People Who Are Sharing Their Faith Are Celebrated
  9. A Culture That Knows How to Affirm and Celebrate New Life
  10. A Culture Doing Ministry That Feels Risky and Is Dangerous

Don’t you want to see these in our church? I do. Every one of them deserve reflection, but one of the points that stuck out to me was the idea of celebrating when the gospel is shared.

Certainly, baptism is a wonderful moment to celebrate and welcome new people into the family of God. But long before that, we should be asking our Christian friends if they’ve had an opportunity to share the gospel lately, and should be praying for one another and counseling one another in this area. We should celebrate even when small steps of progress are made. It should be a regular part of our Christian conversations.

Not all attempts to share the gospel will end with a victorious “Damascus Road” kind of experience. But Stiles reminds us, “Even if an evangelistic effort doesn’t lead to a gospel conversation, evangelistic failure is better than not trying evangelism at all.” (p. 57)

Some will undoubtedly reject the gospel, but we should not be discouraged by this. The gospel has power (Rom. 1:16-17). Whenever the seed is faithfully planted, we should celebrate and remain confident that lives will be changed.

(This post is part of an ongoing review of ‘Evangelism’ by Mack Stiles. You can read my previous posts below)

Question: Which of the ten signs of a Culture of Evangelism would you personally like to grow in? Click here to leave a comment.

We Persuade Others

Evangelism
The Book of Acts makes clear there is no single way to share the gospel. Peter preaches to a massive crowd during Pentecost (Acts 2). Philip discusses Isaiah privately with a royal eunuch from Ethiopia (Acts 8). Paul reasons with both Jew and Gentile in the synagogue and marketplace of Athens (Acts 17).

Also absent from the Book of Acts are the raising of hands, altar calls, signing of decision cards or repeating of prayers that often accompany evangelism today. In fact, the only outward pattern is that people were baptized shortly after professing faith in Christ.

If the Bible has no quick formula, no one-size-fits-all approach to evangelism, we should be careful not to either. That’s the main point of chapter one of Mack Stiles’ book Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus.

Last December, I said I’d read a chapter a week and blog through Stile’s book. Well, that lasted for about one week. But now I’m finally starting up again. And I promise I’ll finish this time! If you have a copy of the book, will you pick it up and read along with me?

In his Introduction, Mack Stiles championed the idea of a “culture of evangelism” where the church will see evangelism more as a way of life than a specific program or event in the church. Now, in chapter one, he tackles the meaning of evangelism itself.

“Evangelism is teaching the gospel with the aim to persuade” (p. 26).

I like short definitions, and they don’t get much shorter than this. Stile’s definition of evangelism has four key ingredients:

Teach. That is, use words. Building friendships with unbelievers and being an example to them is great, but it is not enough. We must also speak to them. Lost people need to hear the message of the gospel. This may happen on a Sunday morning at church. But often, it’s in everyday conversation over a cup of coffee, in the break room, on the golf coarse, in the McDonald’s playland, or even better, reading through a gospel together. This is one reason I’ve chosen to preach next through the Gospel of Mark. Because I want our people to own this book. I want us to know it backward and forward. To be so familiar with Mark and so in love with Jesus that we’ll feel comfortable leading other people through it.

The Gospel. This is what we are to teach. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 that the gospel — or good news — is “of first importance,” consisting of this simple message: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” Do you believe this? Are you praying and looking for opportunities to share it? Mack gives a really helpful outline to use in our gospel conversations: God. Man. Christ. Response. I use this a lot in my own preaching and evangelism. But “the particular outline you use doesn’t matter as long as you teach the message people must know to be reconciled with God” (p. 34).

Aim. This part of the definition reminds us to share with urgency and compassion. People will spend eternity in heaven or hell, depending on how they respond to this message.

To Persuade. To “persuade” means to win over, to attract, to convince. We have a duty to use all the powers of truth, emotion, logic, image, and story, to move a person to a different point of view and subsequent action. We are not to argue. We are not to force. We are persuade. If the word persuade makes you fidgety, sounding just a little too Arminian, just remember it is a biblical word. Paul says, “knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others” (2 Cor. 5:11). Stiles encourages us to adopt the word, with an important caveat: “I find the word persuade helpful, as it guards us from error: we persuade, but we do not manipulate; we persuade, but we are not the ones who bring about repentance or conversion. Of course, we long to see people converted because we understand that conversion is required for them to become Christians. But true conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.” (p. 36). “Conversion,” he goes on, “isn’t merely a good feeling. It’s not just a change of mind…It’s born out of repentance and faith, and its fruit is a changed life” (p. 37).

This first chapter is a great reminder to differentiate between biblical evangelism and outward rituals, with a goal to persuade people of the truth of the gospel.

Question: How can we take measures so our persuasion will not turn into manipulation? Click here to leave a comment.

The Teacher I Want to Be

Teacher TrainingThis spring, I visited our local Lifeway store scouting for teacher training materials and was immediately excited when I saw The Teacher I Want to Be on the shelf.  I can now say this is some of the best material out there on how to study and teach the Bible.

The course is six 30-minute videos taught by Dr. Danny Akin, President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina. Dr. Akin is a sharp thinker who sat under the late Howard Hendricks, one of the greatest Bible teachers God has given His church. Here’s the outline:

PART 1: HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE

Lesson 1 Foundation: How Do I Get Started?
Lesson 2 Observation: What Do I See?
Lesson 3 Interpretation: What Does It Mean?

PART 2: HOW TO TEACH THE BIBLE

Lesson 4 Application: How Does It Work in Real Life?
Lesson 5 Presentation: How Do I Put It All Together?
Lesson 6 Proclamation: How Do I Communicate Effectively?

I really wish every church leader and curriculum writer could attend this course. It would eliminate a lot of the common errors of Bible Study like taking verses out of context, missing the main point, or sharing “opinions” on a passage.

Some may feel intimidated by the depth of Dr. Akin’s lectures, but I’ve found that with ample time for interaction and practice exercises between each session, the content will become very practical and keep people’s attention span. I would rather go a little too deep and risk people missing something than stay shallow and omit any of these principles.

The course is most beneficial when facilitated by an experienced Bible teacher or pastor, making comments and answering questions along the way. For example, after Session 3, I shared a step-by-step process for preparing my own lessons and how to get the most out of pre-made curriculum. After Session 4, I introduced a helpful tool I use called the Application Pyramid.

The six lessons are flexible and can be viewed in a variety of ways. You could do a one-day workshop, or three Saturday morning workshops (we’re doing one per month over the summer), or six consecutive Sunday morning classes. Be creative! The course also comes with a set of CDs for people to listen in their car, and 10-minute supplemental videos for recurrent training throughout the year.

This is an outstanding product by Lifeway that I hope will help many teachers “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

You can buy individual student workbooks through Amazon. But for the entire DVD teaching kit, go to Lifeway or Christianbook.com.

Question: Are you a teacher? What training materials have you found most helpful? Click here to leave a comment.

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The 8 Most Important Books in a Leader’s Library

 

2015-01-23 13.46.25If you’re thinking of starting a leadership development program at your church, one of the first issues you’ll face is what books to study with them. As I began putting together our own elder training program last summer, I quickly realized there are more good books than we have time to go through.

My goal was to introduce our leaders to the very best books possible, from the very best authors, yet keep the program realistic, knowing these men are stretched thin between work, home, and church, and simply don’t have a lot of spare time for reading. So after sifting through hundreds of titles, I finally landed on these eight books. I think they find the right balance of depth, practicality, and readability, that will become tools our leaders will use for years to come.

Not all the books in this list are assigned to be read from cover-to-cover. But each serves a unique purpose. Together, they form a basic Church Leader Library on theology, biblical studies, and pastoral ministry issues.

As a bundle, the print editions cost a total of $140 after tax, or you can buy all of them in Kindle for a mere $64. Personally, I recommend owning the print editions, but if funds are lacking, go digital. You can always buy the print editions later.

So here are what I believe the eight most important books every leader should own…

ESV

ESV MacArthur Study Bible – Kindle |Hardcover

 

 

Grudem

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

Religions

Christianity, Cults, & Religions pamphlet by Rose Publishing – Kindle | Print Edition

 

Dever

What is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever – Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

Mahaney

Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney – Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

Croft

Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness by Brian Croft – Kindle | Paperback

 

Street

Men Counseling Men: A Biblical Guide to the Major Issues Men Face by John Street – Kindle | Paperback

 

Murray

How Sermons Work by David Murray – Kindle | Paperback

 

If you decide you want the whole set, you can click here to buy them with one click using my Amazon Listmania! pre-made order list. Just scroll down to the bottom and click the yellow button “Add all items to Cart.”

One final note. Upon completion of our Elder Training Program, I encourage leaders to ask what books to buy and read next. As J. Oswald Sanders says, “The leader who intends to grow spiritually and intellectually will be reading constantly.” So from there I encourage them to go deeper using the bibliographies in the books they already own (Grudem and Street both have excellent bibliographies at the end of every chapter.). Plus, they should consult Colin Adam’s booklist “100 Recommended Reads,” making it a goal to read a few of these classics every year.

Question: Which books do you think are most essential for leaders? Click here to leave a comment.

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