Books I’ve Recently Read

51c69HfZihL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Finding Common Ground by Tim Downs. My campus pastor had me read this book to better understand his philosophy and style of ministry. Because I have been on staff under my campus pastor for a little over two years now I had a decent idea of where this book was going. However, it was great to read a book like this that I know had shaped my campus pastor’s view of how he does ministry. I was glad he had me read it because it was a book that challenged some of my views on how to speak to and reach the unbelievers in the world around me. As the title suggest, Tim Downs goal in this book “is about the crucial job of finding common ground between the Christian and the secular worlds, two vast continents that are rapidly drifting apart” (page 12). As Christians, we are not called to remove ourselves from the culture and to create a “sub-culture” of Christianity but instead we are called to engage and be salt and light in our culture. In this book Down helps the reader understand the importance of sowing the Gospel. That means taking the times and means necessary to connect with unbelievers, understand them, and helping create an atmosphere that when the time is right the soil of their hearts will be ready for the Gospel. Throughout this book Down gives the reader tons of principles, ideas, and practical information to help Christians connect with unbelievers in their culture. Two chapters in this book really challenged me. First, was chapter 4 called “The Sower’s Art.” In this chapter Down talks about how the communication contains both science and art. Science being what is said, the raw content, and art being how the content is being shared and presented, the style of of the communication. Christians are guilty of putting a lot of emphasis on the science of connecting with unbelievers and sharing the Gospel. We focus on getting all the facts right and make during our theology and doctrine is perfectly lined up. These are not bad things. In fact, we need to be practicing good science in our communication to unbelievers. However, Down says, “Christians don’t tend to see the value of art. In this area, we are thirty years behind the rest of our culture” (page 54). In this chapter Down helps Christians understand how we can take the Gospel and Biblical beliefs and package them in a way that is understandable and effective for the unbeliever. Down says, “We must begin to encourage all Christians that spiritual growth requires developing goths science and art. Every Christian must grow in his knowledge of Scripture and theology, but equally in his ability to communicate it persuasively and attractively, whether through rioting or teaching or interpersonal communication” (page 59). The other chapter that really challenged me was chapter 11 called “Planting Part 2 – Materials.” In this chapter Downs challenged Christians to really evaluate the type of materials we give unbelievers that informs them about our faith. We should use resources that are relevant, speak the cultures language, raise good questions, and other things. I’d recommend this book for anyone who wants to effectively connect and reach unbelievers in the culture around them.

new-detox-coverSexual Detox by Tim Challies. I have read many books on the topic of sexual sin. Some have been great while others have not been so great. This book was one of the best books on the topic of sexual sin that I have ever read. In this book Challies writes to men who are sick of porn and the negative effects of sexual sin. Challies tackles issues such as the reality of pornography and sexual sin, masturbation, the gift of sex, and how men can go through a “sexual detox” in their soul as well as in the bedroom with their wife (or future wife). Challies deals with the reality of issues surrounding sexual sin but offers Gospel-centered principles on how men can be victorious over these sins. This is an incredible book that every man should take the time to read. It will convict and get to the heart of porn, lust, and sexual sin while offering practical advice on how to honor God and your wife in this area.

Two books I have recently read that I chose not to review here are The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer and The True Measure of a Man by Richard Simmons. I am currently reading Jesus Continued by J.D. Greear and plan to read Prayer by Tim Keller next.

Books I’ve Read Recently

gospelGospel by JD Greear. This book has been on my reading list for a while. I decided to go ahead and read it in preparation for a teaching series I was doing with my students on the gospel. What I found was not only a helpful book for shaping and writing that series, but a book that challenged me personally and helped me go deeper in my love and understanding of the gospel. Greear says, “The gospel is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe have eternal life in Him. I want you to see the gospel not only as a means by which you get into heaven, but as the driving force behind every single moment of your life” (page 5). This books helps Christians understand that the gospel is everything. “The gospel is not merely the diving board off which you jumped into the pool of Christianity,” says Greear, “the gospel is the pool itself” (page 248). The book is centered around what Geear calls “The Gospel Prayer.” It’s a tool Geear says helps him saturate himself in the gospel. He spends the majority of the book walking the reader through that prayer and helping them understand the implications of the gospel on their life. I really enjoyed chapter 8, which was on generosity. Geear does an excellent job at explaining what the relationship should be like between a gospel-centered believer and money. It was both a challenging and refreshing chapter to read. I’ve always enjoyed Greear books and would recommend this one to everyone who wants to go deeper in their love and understanding of the gospel.

HoleInHolinessBookCoverThe Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung. I read my first book by DeYoung not long ago so I was excited to grab a copy of this book and give it a read. I also really enjoy reading, discussing, and studying the topic of personal holiness in the Christian life, which is what this book is about.  DeYoung spends the first chapter of this book surveying the landscape of holiness within Christianity today. He states there is a “gap between our love for the gospel and our love for godliness” (page 21). At first, I wasn’t sure if I agreed with DeYoung or not. But the deeper I got into this book the more I saw what he was pointing to. An intentional, disciplined pursuit of holiness is not a major theme in Christianity today. I have even seen this tread in my own Christian life at times. In this book, DeYoung urges the Christian to pursue holiness and make it a priority in their life. DeYoung keeps the gospel and Biblical teaching at the center of this encouragement. This was a short, easy to read book and God used it to help give me a better understanding of my relationship with holiness as a Christian.

41N8edp473L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Other Preacher in Lynchburg by John KillingerI have always been fascinated with reading and researching the life and ministry of Jerry Falwell Sr. Even though I don’t agree with all the things he did, I have great respect for his love for God and his boldness to do great things for God while he was on this earth. His legacy can been clearly seen in Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church, both located in Lynchburg, VA. I ran across this book a few years ago on amazon and just now got around to reading it. I was excited to read a book about Falwell and his endeavors in Lynchburg through the eyes of another pastor that was in town during Fallwell’s prime. If you do any research on Killinger, you will quickly find him and Falwell were on very different sides of major issues regarding Christianity. However, this book isn’t necessarily focused on the theological differences of Killinger and Falwell, even though that obviously came up a few times, but more on what it was like for Killinger as a pastor doing ministry in the same town as Falwell. The book covers Killinger’s time both in Lynchburg and his time after moving away from Lynchburg to take another ministry position in Los Angles. This was very interesting book that made me appreciate Falwell even more, but at the same time scratch my head and wonder why he did some of the things he did.

Resources for Addressing Teens About Homosexuality

gay-teensRecently I wrote a series of posts answering common questions teens ask about homosexuality (you can read those here and here). My desire is to equip parents, student pastors, and youth workers with answers to some of the difficult questions teens bring up about this issue. Our teens live in a culture where homosexuality is becoming more and more acceptable. Many of them may not even be struggling with homosexuality themselves, but they have questions about it. However, I don’t want to make light of the fact that many teens in our culture are struggling with homosexuality and many of them have embraced a lifestyle of it.

I want to point you to a few resources that I believe will be helpful as you address teens about homosexuality. These resources are helpful for anyone dealing with this issue, but since my primary audience is student pastors, youth workers, and parents, I will be focusing on them as I share these resources.

Ministering to Gay Teenagers by Shawn Harrison (book). I have not purchased a copy of this book yet, but have only heard good things about it. In this book, Shawn gives practical tips and ideas of how to handle ministering to a gay teenager. My friend Jonathan wrote an excellent review of this book you can read here. Also, Shawn has a large number of posts on his blog about homosexuality that would be a great resource for you as well (click here to view those).

The Best Argument I’ve Read for Traditional Marriage, and against Same-Sex Marriage (article). This is an extremely helpful article that explains one of the best arguments against homosexuality. It’s an argument that is not necessarily based on Scripture or Christian beliefs, which is helpful when addressing this issue to teens who are not Christians or don’t believe in God. It argues for traditional marriage based on the definition of marriage and how marriage has always been in society.

If Your Child Says, “I’m Gay” (article). Here is a great article for parents who have a child that has come out as a homosexual. In this article, Tim Wilkins shares how parents should respond if their child comes to them and says they are gay. I hope you don’t find yourself in this difficult spot, but if you do, this article is a must read. Also, check out this article about loving your gay child.

Testimony of a Christian who struggled with same sex attraction (video). This is a great video to show teens that may be struggling with homosexuality. This video was taken at a leadership event at The Summit Church where J.D. Greear, the pastor, interviewed and had a young man share his story about same sex attraction.

There are many more resources, both Christian and non-Christian based, out there they will help you address homosexuality to teens. These are ones that I have found helpful that I believe will be a help to you as well. If you have any resources to add to this list please leave them in the comment section below.

Book Review: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart by JD Greear

9781433679216Recently I finished reading the book Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved by J.D. Greear. Don’t let the title fool you, the point of this book is not to discourage people from coming to Jesus, but instead, encourages people to place their faith and trust in Him and not in what many Christians call the “sinners prayer.” It’s a short book about doubt, assurance, and the Gospel.

I appreciate J.D.’s honesty and transparency in this book. In the first chapter of the book, as well as throughout the rest of the book, J.D. shares about his own struggle he had with doubt and assurance as he was growing up and into his college years. I can identify with his struggle and believe many other Christians can as well. J.D. writes this book with two audiences in mind. First, those who have said the “sinners prayer” and truly placed their faith and trust in Jesus, but still struggle with doubt. They wonder if they said the right words, were they sincere enough, did they really put their faith in Jesus, or if they were sorry enough for their sin. Second, he writes to those who have said the “sinners prayer,” but have really never placed their faith and trust in Jesus. J.D. says, “Jesus warned that there are a vast number of people who seem assured of a salvation they don’t actually possess” (pg. 4).

With those two audiences in mind, J.D. writes about what salvation really is and how someone can identify if they have been saved or not. Throughout the book J.D. communicates salvation in a very clear, Biblical way that I believe takes the focus off of the “sinners prayer” and on the person and work of Christ. He says, “Salvation is not a prayer you pray in a one-time ceremony and then move on from; salvation is a posture of repentance and faith that you begin in a moment and maintain for the rest of your life” (pg. 5).

This book has a great balance of theological meat and practical application. With chapters addressing questions like what is the Gospel? (Jesus in my place), what is belief?, what is repentance?, can you loose your salvation?, J.D. captures great theological truths found in God’s Word. Then J.D. explains the practical side of this issue. He shares practical ways from God’s Word to know you have been born again and what one should do when they continue to doubt (which is not to say the prayer again, but to continue in a posture of repentance and faith in Jesus).

I believe J.D. has written a great defense of salvation by faith in Christ alone and not on a “sinners prayer” ritual. Growing up in the Bible belt of our country like J.D. did, I have seen much emphasis be put on the “sinners prayer.” I have seen too many preachers ask people to walk down an aisle, repeat a prayer, and put more emphasis on that ritual than on faith in Jesus. This book helps us see the prayer doesn’t do anything, Jesus has done everything and all people have to do is respond to Him in repentance in faith. That may be done through a prayer or it may not. Salvation does not come through a prayer, it comes through repentance and faith in Jesus.

This has been the most helpful book I have ever read when it comes to dealing with doubt and assurance. It has been a helpful for me as I have had period of doubts in my own Christian walk and I believe it will be a great help to others in this area as well. It’s a short, easy to read book that will help you understand the Gospel and what salvation really is. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this book.

3 Ways to Handle Personal Sin as a Leader

I believe one area of leadership we don’t talk enough about is how leaders should handle personal sin and failure due to sin. We often wait until leaders sin to the point where they are disqualified, then we talk about what they should do. They should step down. They should be fired. They need to get help. But we never talk about what they should do to handle the sin before it gets to the point they are disqualified. I believe there are a few reasons for this problem. First, leaders don’t always like talking about their sin. As a leader, you don’t want people to see your flaws and struggle because your their leader. This is a terrible attitude, but we often have it as leaders. Second, if a leader does talk about his sin, he will be judged and condemned. That might be a strong statement, but often times when leaders confess sin and ask for help they don’t receive the loving support and help we are told to give in Galatians 6:1.

As leaders, we are sinners just like the people we lead. If you’re a pastor, you’re a sinner just like the people in your congregation. Student pastors, you are a sinner just like the students that make up your student ministry. Leaders, we will sin and struggle with sin, but we need to learn how to handle it so it doesn’t destroy us to the point of having to leave our leadership position. Here are three things leaders can do to handle personal sin in their life.

1. Confess and repent quickly. This may seem simple, but when we sin we often get so discouraged and down on ourselves we forget God told us to confess our sin to Him and He will forgive us (1 John 1:9). In his book Doctrine, Mark Driscoll reminds us that repentance is a gift to the Christian. Because of Christ and his payment for our sin on the cross, we have the privilege to confess and repent of sin! Christian leader, don’t stay down and discouraged when you sin, confess and repent of it quickly! God will forgive you and your fellowship will be restored the moment you confess! This doesn’t mean that you will not feel broken, we should feel broken over our sin. But remember Christ already paid for every single sin you will ever commit on the cross. Confess, repent, and get back up!

2. Seek out accountability. This is huge! We often shy away from this as leaders because we don’t want to reveal our sin to someone else and naturally as sinners we don’t want to be accountable to someone. But as leaders, we must have accountability set up in our life’s. Don’t stop at confessing and repenting when you sin, get help and be accountable to someone. Leaders, you need someone in your life asking you the “hard questions” and asking how you’re doing personally in your walk with God. The leader who does not have accountability in their life are asking for the enemy and their flesh to destroy their leadership position. When you sin, confess, repent quickly, get back up, and find some accountability!

3. Use your sin to encourage others. I am not saying share all your struggles when you stand up to preach or teach, but what I am saying is that when it is helpful and appropriate encourage others by your struggle with sin. Encourage others to confess and repent as you confess and repent. Encourage others to seek out accountability as you seek out accountability. The people we minister to need to know their leader is a real person who has real struggles. In Psalm 51 David confesses his sin to God. In verse 13 he says, “Then I will teach transgressors your ways…” After he has confessed and repented of his sin, David says he will then turn and teach others no to sin! J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church, said, “God can take the sins of our kingdom and use them in great ways in His kingdom.”

Leader, you will sin and will blow it at times. If you have fallen morally you may lose your position because God is clear in His Word that there are some sins that will disqualify a leader. But you WILL NEVER loose your relationship with Him! Deal with your sin before it costs you your position.

A book I would recommend on this subject would be Failing Forward by John Maxwell. In this book he explains how as a leader you can fail, but fail forward in a way that will help you as a leader. Also, if your a leader, you need to check out Perry Nobles blog for some great thoughts on leadership.