Books I’ve Read Recently

WeCannotBeSlient-webWe Cannot Be Silent by Albert Mohler. When it comes to being informed and educated about what’s happening in modern culture from a Christian perspective, Mohler is a guy we should listen to (check out his podcast called “The Briefing.”) In this book, Mohler speaks to the sexuality issue we have in our country today. He shares about how the sexual revolution has unfolded over the years and how we, as Christians, should respond. Mohler does an excellent job at tracing the history of the sexual revolution all the way up until current day. In the process he address everything from the homosexuality movement, same-sex marriage, the transgender revolution, and the breakdown of marriage. He caps this discussion off with chapters on Biblical sex, religious liberty, what the church should do, and the hard questions we must face and answer. Throughout this book Mohler is extremely researched, Biblical, and challenging. My favorite part of this book was the chapter on how the sexual revolution didn’t begin with same-sex marriage (chapter 2). In this chapter, Mohler points out, “Opposition to the Christian understanding of sex and marriage did not begin with the arrival of same-sex marriage. Long before those in same-sex relationships had any realistic hope for legal recognition of their unions, heterosexuals in the modern age seemed to be accomplishing the weakening and structural compromise of marriage all on their own” (page 17). Throughout this chapter he argues, “The eclipse of marriage in the last century must take into account four massive developments: birth control and contraception, divorce, advanced reproductive technologies, and cohabitation” (page 17).

41eMBHV46BL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Soul Detox by Craig Groeschel. This is an older book  by Groeschel that has been on my shelve for a good while. I’ve always enjoyed his books so thought it was time to give it a read. In this book Groeschel challenges Christians to pursue holiness in a very unholy world. He uses the idea of “detox” to describe how Christians need to evaluate how they are living and how the world around them is influencing them. He calls Christians to not stay there but to turn from those things and pursue living the way God wants and tells us to. Each chapter is geared towards a certain negative behavior, emotion, or influence.. He address things like hidden sins, bitterness, envy, anger, fear, materialism, and bad relationships. Each chapter is very practical and Biblical. Groeschel does a great job at explaining what the Bible says about each of these things and what Christians should do in response. My favorite part of this book was the chapter on envy (chapter 6). Through it, God gave me a better picture of what envy is and revealed in me some roots of envy. It was a very challenged chapter that helped me grow.

Walking-with-GodWalking with God Through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller. I picked this book up to read while my wife was in the hospital and had to have emergency surgery due to an infection. It was a very painful and emotional few weeks. You can click here to read her story. Our lead pastor, Joe Coffey, recommended this book to the staff a while back. It wasn’t until my wife started her ordeal that I realized it was time to give it a read. Through it God did some work on my heart. He showed me more about what He says in His Word about pain and suffering and showed me how I should walk through it. Like most Keller books, it has both an academic feel as well as a very practical feel. Throughout the book, Keller uses the idea of a “furnace” to describe going through pain and suffering (he spends a good amount of time using the fiery furnace story in Daniel 3 as a parallel for walking with God through pain and suffering). The first section of the book his more academic and explains different secular views of suffering, the Christian view, and the problem of evil. The second and third parts of the book deal more with how Christians can prepare and walk through suffering when it comes into their lives. This book ministered to me a very deep way when I was walking through some pain and suffering. I would encourage everyone, Christian or not, to take the time to read this book. We will all face pain and suffering in our lives. This book will help you as it will ultimately point you to the One who will help you.

Another book I read that I decided not to review was How to Study the Bible by John MacArthur. I went through this little book with my student leadership team and it was great. It gave me a good refresher in understanding what the Bible is and how we should study it. I would highly recommend this book to new believers or Christians who have not started reading and studying the Bible on their own.

Freebie: Acts Teaching Series

Acts Social MediaThe book of Acts is an incredible book. In it we see the beginnings of the New Testament church and how God used ordinary people to do extraordinary things. We see how God used ordinary men and women to build His church by spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. Throughout the book of Acts we read story after story of how people encountered the Gospel and were changed. We read stories of people who gave up everything to serve Christ. We read stories of God doing incredible things through people so His glory and truth can be revealed and spread to more and more people.

Below you will find a link to a six week teaching series on the book of Acts that I have written and taught. I’m sharing this completely free! It’s not an exhaustive series by any means but instead it highlights a few stories from Acts where we see God doing amazing things in the life of the early church. This series includes six teaching manuscripts as well as small group questions that go with each of the six teaching sessions. There is a also a 40 day reading plan for the book of Acts.

Please keep in mind this series was originally written for and taught to students. However, it’s a great series for other audiences as well so feel free to tweak it and use it how it best fits your context. The link below will give you access to all the files for this teaching series. I hope this is a blessing to you and your ministry!

Click Here to Download the Acts Teaching Series

Book Review: The Most Excellent Way to Lead by Perry Noble

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I read and reviewed this book before the news came out about Perry Noble no longer being the Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church. However, my opinions on this book, what I learned from it, and what I liked about it, hasn’t changed. I am heartbroken over the news and what has happened in the life of Perry as well as NewSpring Church but believe we can all still learn something from this excellent book.

One of the books I just finished was Perry Noble’s newest book on leadership called The Most Excellent Way to Lead. I have always enjoyed Noble’s leadership stuff as well as his books (his book Overwhelmed was a game changer for me personally) so I was excited to read this one.

When most people hear “1 Corinthians 13” they automatically think of the “love chapter.” It’s a chapter that is usually tied into the topic love in the context of marriage or a relationship. However, Noble argues (and I would agree with him) that it seems like this is chapter is better suited for the context of leadership. As Noble says, “In 1 Corinthians 12, the emphasis of Paul’s writing to the church is on spiritual gifts, leadership, and the importance of working together. In 1 Corinthians 14, he continues this line of reasoning as he encourages leaders to sound a clear call for their followers. But right in the middle of these two chapters we find 1 Corinthians 13” (page 5). Noble continues by arguing the context of chapter 13 then is leadership. He says, “Paul is continuing his discussion about leadership here, and when he says he’s going to show you the most excellent way, I believe he’s saying, ‘I will show you the most excellent way to lead” (page 6).

Throughout this book, Noble uses Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 13 to show his readers how to become better leaders. In this book Noble addresses the heart of the leader. Like Paul shows us in 1 Corinthians 13, the heart of the leader is most important. The way to become a better leader is through having the right heart attitude.

I want to change up the way I do the rest of this review. I want to share three things I really liked about this book.

First, it focused less on what leaders do and more on who leaders are. This book focuses on the heart of the leader. If the heart of the leader is in the right place than correct and loving leadership will flow out of them. Noble shares very practical leadership advice throughout this book but the theme throughout is the heart of the leader. Through this book, God showed me a lot about my heart in regards to my leadership. I was encouraged, challenged, and convicted. It was just what I needed for this season of my leadership journey.

Second, it included a ton of great leadership one liners. One of the things I have always enjoyed about Noble’s leadership stuff (podcasts, articles, etc.) is his great leadership one liners. These are simple statements that contain a wealth of leadership knowledge and advice. At the end of each chapter this book includes a page of “summary statements” from that chapter. Just having these pages to look back on and read the leadership one liners is huge!

Third, I appreciated Noble’s honesty and humility throughout this book. Noble shares a good bit of his leadership failures and mistakes. He even shares about seasons in his life that were very dark and things that most leaders with his platform would like to keep quiet. I was encouraged by his authenticity and humility. He isn’t a guy who is claiming he has it all together and he has done it all correctly and we should follow him. He shares his failures, faults, and mistakes but continually points to God and how God has continued to shape him into a better leader.

The book is very straight-forward, easy to read, and will impact those leaders who take the time to read it. I’d encourage anyone who finds themselves in a leadership position to read it.

Books I’ve Recently Read

51VQyOca-kL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Respectable Sin by Jerry Bridges. One of the authors God has used to shape my spiritual life is Jerry Bridges. His book Pursuit of Holiness was huge in helping me understand personal holiness.  His other writings have helped me as well grow in my understanding and love for the Lord. Recently I picked up a copy of his book Respectable Sins. In this book, Bridges walks through various sins we as Christians tend to see as not that big of a deal. These are sins we often overlook in light of the “big” sins we see in the world around us. Bridges calls these sins we don’t take seriously and often overlook “respectable sins.” Some of the sins he deals with are anxiety, pride, discontentment, unthankfulness, anger, and judgmentalism. There are several other sins he covers in this book. What I loved about this book was how Bridges didn’t hold back in addressing the seriousness of each of these sins. He shows the reader what God says about these things from His Word. However, Bridges doesn’t stop there. He helps the reader understand how they can fight each sin in very practical ways. I’d encourage every Christian to read this book and allow God to use it to expose overlooked sins in their life.

Heaven_2015_update_with_over_1_million_sold__73625.1427149103.300.400Heaven by Randy Alcorn. This book has been on my list for a few years. I wish I would have read it earlier because after reading it I was amazed at how many misconceptions I had about heaven. As Christians, we all believe in heaven and know the Bible talks about it but often we just don’t have a really good picture of what heaven is and what it will be like. I was one of those  Christians. In this book, Alcorn helps us understand what heaven is and what it will be like. He spends some time dealing with the intermediate heaven (where believers now go when they die) and then the majority of the book deals with the new earth, which we commonly call heaven (where all believers will spend eternity). Alcorn deals with the theology of heaven, common questions people ask about heaven, and how we should live in light of heaven. What I loved about this book was how detailed Alcorn was in explaining heaven and what the Bible says. He doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He backs up everything he says with Scripture and careful study of it. One of the big things Alcorn helps the reader see in this book is that heaven is not some mystical place above the clouds where we will spend forever as disembodied spirits. In fact, heaven (or better yet the “new earth”) will be a physical place where we will spend forever with our Lord in resurrected bodies. The new earth is much like the present earth but with the curse lifted and the physical presence of God. The new earth (or heaven) will be a restoration of how things were before the curse, how things were meant to be. This book did two big things for me. First, it removed many misconceptions I had about heaven. Second, it gave me a clear picture of what heaven will be like, which created in me a fresh desire for it. I believe every Christian should read this book. It will give you a fresh view and desire for our eternal home.

51wjG9qHY9L._AC_UL320_SR212,320_Four Views on the Book of Revelation by Various Authors. Revelation is one of the most interesting and debated books in the Bible. When it comes to interpreting the book of Revelation, there are various views. In this book, four major views of discussed: preterist, idealist, progressive dispensational, and classic dispensational. Each view is explained and defended by someone who holds to that view. No matter where you fall on the interpretation of Revelation, this book will help you understand each view and why people hold to that view. In summary, the preterist view sees Revelation has been historical (the events already happened, specifically with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.), the idealist view sees Revelation has being a “spiritualized picture” of the ongoing fight between good and evil, the progressive dispensational view sees the events of Revelation happening in the future and doesn’t hold to much of a distinction between Israel and the church, and the classic dispensational view sees the events of Revelation happening in the future but sees a clear distinction between Israel and the church (their view would see most of the events of Revelation being centered around Israel, since the church would be raptured before the tribulation). I was familiar with a few of these views before reading this book but after reading it I learned a lot about the other views. This book help me to see the strengths and weaknesses of each view.

Another book I recently read but chose not to review is Onward by Russell Moore. I am currently reading We Cannot Be Silent by Albert Mohler and Soul Detox by Craig Groeshel.

3 Ways to Use Student Leaders in Your Ministry

12771549_10209197367077562_8672662913260402396_oAn important aspect of student ministry is student leadership. Every student ministry needs student leaders. When students begin to lead and take ownership within their student ministry amazing things happen. It’s important we give students leadership opportunities instead of just making our staff and volunteers do everything.

But how do we use student leaders in our student ministry? There are countless ways to do this and it will look different in every student ministry. However, there are three key ways we have used student leaders in our ministry that I think can be translated to almost any other student ministry.

Planning. One of the worst things we can do is plan events for students without actually getting any input from students. If we want to have an event that connects well with students we need to know what they want and don’t want. We need to discover what things are popular in their world and what would reach other students in their context. For the past two years we have been using our student leaders in our planning process for events and retreats. It’s been a game changer. Our events and retreats have gotten much better because of this. Don’t be afraid to ask student leaders for their ideas and input. Also, don’t be afraid to give your student leaders ownership over an entire event. We have done this and are planning to do it even more in the future.

Interacting with new students. Our hope should be that all our students are welcoming and interacting with new students when they come into our ministry. We can’t expect every student to do that. However, we can expect our student leaders to do it. When student leaders join the team they should be reminded that they will be held to a higher standard and will be asked to lead in various ways. So one of the things we require all our student leaders to do is to be on the lookout for new students when they walk in. If they see one, they are to go talk to them and hangout with them throughout the night. The phrase we communicate over and over to our student leaders is this – “No student left behind.” We want every student to feel welcomed and to feel like they belong. We don’t want them left alone in any way. This will require a lot of coaching on your part. You may have to remind your student leaders of this every week. But it’s worth it. Students interacting with new students and making them feel comfortable and welcomed is huge!

Teaching. Yes, I said teaching. Don’t be afraid to step aside and let your student leaders do some teaching. This will require you to do a lot of coaching but it is worth it. Walk your student leaders through how they can plan and teach a lesson or a whole series. Give them time to then do that together. Once they are ready give them the stage. Have them teach for a night or a few nights. Students teaching God’s Word to other students is an awesome thing. This may sound risky to some but it’s a risk that’s worth taking. It will help your student leaders grow in their knowledge of the Bible as well as how they can communicate it to others. One of the highlights of this year has been watching our student leaders plan and teach an entire series.

These are just three ways we use our student leaders in our ministry. I’d encourage you to try these three things with your student leaders. Also, don’t just settle for these three. Be creative and find your own ways to use your student leaders.