Books I’ve Read Recently

553494Reading the Bible Supernaturally by John Piper. This is one of the best books I have ever read on the topic of the nature of Scripture. In this book Piper helps the reader understand the goal of reading the Bible as well as how to go about reading the Bible. I walked away from this book with a deeper appreciation for the supernatural nature of the Scriptures as well a better understand of how I should go about reading it the way God wants me to. In typical Piper fashion this book is extremely thorough and will take some time for the average reader to work their way through it. As in all of Piper’s writing and teaching his aim is for Christians to deeply savor and treasure Christ. In this book he does just that through encouraging faithful and God-honoring Bible reading.

41p+IdriMOL._SX347_BO1,204,203,200_A New Kind of Leader by Reggie Joiner. This is a little book that packs a big punch. In this book Joiner encourages leaders to lead and minister in such a way that impacts the faith (both now and in the future) of the younger generation in the church. He walks through a few phrases that should characterize leaders who want to impact the younger generation: kids matter, strategy matters, your church matters, every family matters, the truth matters, doing good matters, and this week matters. I’d encourage anyone who finds themselves ministering to younger generations (especially within the local church) to read this book.

41XjX9xTyBL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The New City Catechism (Devotional) by Various Authors. I’ve always been interested in working through a catechism personally as well as with others. This devotional helped me do just that as I used it during my own personal time with the Lord. The devotional is based off The New City Catechism, which is broken down into a series of 52 questions and answers. This devotional makes each of those questions/answers a daily devotional that contains Scripture, short section from a modern evangelical leader, as well as another short section from historical church leaders. I found this devotional very challenging as well as refreshing for my faith.

Another book I recently read that I chose not to review was Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray. I’m currently reading Pleasing People by Lou Priolo and Kingdom Come by Sam Storms.

Raising the Bar

I recently wrote a book review of John Piper’s new book Bloodlines and in that review I said it was a book that changed the way I view how the Gospel relates to all areas of life, especially racism. After reading Bloodlines I decided to read Raising the Bar by Alvin Reid. This book also changed my thinking, but about student ministry. I got this book awhile back, but have not been able to read it. There hasn’t been many student ministry books that have impacted me like this book did! After reading this book, my excitement and passion for student ministry as grown and I feel more prepared to disciple and reach students with the Gospel.

It is no surprise that modern student ministry has failed to produce life-long disciples of Christ. Sadly, most students leave the church and their faith after they graduate high school and leave our youth groups. In Raising the Bar, Reid pleads with student pastors and parents to raise the bar for our students. Kristin, age 17, says, “We know how to be teenagers. We want the church to show us how to be adults.” This quote is mentioned numerous times throughout the book and it sums up the basis on this book. It is time for students pastors to raise the bar and start training students to be adults who own their faith and become life-long followers of Christ.

Reid breaks this book down into two parts: Test Time: Does Youth Ministry Pass? and Reinventing Youth Ministry. In part one, Reid begins by explaining who modern student ministry is reaching: the millennials. Then he spends a few chapters talking about how we should expect more from students and from history, especially Biblical history, we know that students are capable of doing great things for God! In a recent blog post I shared about how God usually chooses younger people to be leaders and do great things for Him (Click here to see that post). Reid then ends part one with a discussion on the Jesus movement that swept our nation in the 70’s. This was my favorite part of the first part of this book. I never really learned about the Jesus movement and Reid helped me understand how most modern ministry finds its roots in the movement. Throughout part one, Reid doesn’t bash student ministry all together, but he does point out how it has failed. That is why it is time to raise the bar in student ministry.

In part two, Reid talks about how we should raise the bar and what do we raise it to. Reid gives four main areas were we must raise the bar in student ministry: prayer, Bible knowledge, evangelism, and worship. Instead of going through each of these and sharing Reid’s thoughts, I want to point out the two that was most helpful to me. First, evangelism is one area I personally struggle with. Because of that, I need to be intentional and push myself to grow in this area so my students can learn from me. Reid talks about how evangelism is exciting for students! Students want to share their faith, but they need instruction and an example from the adults above them. Second, I was extremely encouraged by the Bible knowledge part. For far too long, student ministry has been about “behavior modification” rather than teaching theology from God’s Word that changes belief. Right belief based on God’s Word, will bring about right behavior. Reid talks about how student pastors need to be well-trained in Biblical history, language, and theology so we can train students to be life-long followers of Christ! Student pastors should be trained just as well as a senior pastor!

I encourage anyone involved in student ministry to read as much student ministry related books possible. But if there is a book you MUST read it is this one! This book will help you understand why student ministry needs to raise the bar and do better than what we have done in the past. It’s a great read that will challenge you personally and the ministry God has put you over. Go on over to Amazon and grab you a copy of Raising the Bar by Alvin Reid.

Teaching Teens About Alcohol

During the past month (30 days), 26.4% of underage persons (ages 12-20) used alcohol, and binge drinking among the same age group was 17.4%. 

Nearly three quarters of students (72%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and more than a third (37%) have done so by eighth grade.

Among underage drinkers (ages 12-20), 30.8% paid for the alcohol the last time they drank – including 8.3% who purchased the alcohol themselves and 22.3% who gave money to someone else to purchase it. Among those who did not pay for the alcohol they drank, 37.4% got it from an unrelated person of legal drinking age; 21.1% received it from a parent, guardian, or other adult family member.

Many students, especially in high school, are involved in drinking alcohol. If you are a student pastor than you have students in your youth group that are faced with the pressure to drink or are currently drinking. Parents, your children are either faced with the pressure to drink or are currently drinking. In many churches and Christian families the method we use to keep students away from alcohol is this – just don’t drink! Some churches and Christian families may even go as far as to say – don’t drink because its a sin! Just telling students to not drink or don’t drink because it’s a sin doesn’t work. In his book, Youth Ministry by the Book, Roger Glidewell correctly states that “We cannot just lay down ironclad rules and expect that to suffice. Young people need to be equipped with principles behind the rules that will guide them in the gray areas of life.” So how should we teach our students about alcohol?

Teach students that underage drinking is breaking the law. Even if you are on the social drinking side of this issue, we all know that if you are under the age 21 it is against the law for you to drink. We need to teach our students that God expects and commands us to obey the law. In Romans 13:1-7, the Bible makes it clear that God has placed governing authorities over us to in force laws. In that passage it says that if we disobey those laws we are actually disobeying God. Students don’t need to learn that underage drinking is against the law and disobeying that law is actually disobedience towards God.

Teach students that in some circumstances it is not wise. Even though the Bible doesn’t say drinking alcohol is a sin (more on that later) it does say at times it isn’t wise. Leaders are told to be careful with drinking. Believers are told to abstain from drinking if it causes another believe to stumble. Drinking may not be wise if one as a history with alcohol abuse. These are situations where drinking may not be wise. Students will be better equipped to deal with the pressure to drink if they understand that in some situations it really isn’t wise. John Piper said, “Alcohol is deadly in our culture.” Alcohol isn’t something to be taken lightly. It can be damaging, which is why we need to help students understand the situations where it may not be wise to drink.

Don’t teach students it is a sin. Through study, research, and thinking I do not believe drinking is a sin. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture we drinking is called sin. I do see where Scripture makes it clear being drunk is a sin (Ephesians 5:18). I don’t believe drinking is a “deal breaker” and should cause division between Christians. I do ministry alongside many who believe drinking is ok in moderation and I do ministry along side people who think it is straight up sin. If your study of Scripture and research leads you to believing drinking is a sin than you should hold to that conviction but don’t hold that conviction on others. Don’t teach students your conviction, teach students the Scriptures.

My aim in this post is not to cause controversy or division. All I am saying is that telling students “Don’t drink, it’s sin” does not work well. We must teach and equip them with principles that will guide them to their own personal conviction based on Scripture. Here is a helpful video where John Piper explains how drinking can be wrong, but is not sin in and of itself.

Helpful links on this subject: Mark Driscoll on Alcohol, John Piper on Total Abstinence and Church Membership, and another great John Piper video on this subject.

My Thoughts on the Church and Interracial Marriage

The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and saw this status posted by one of my friends:

A church banned inter-racial couples……hmmm, and we wonder why so many non-christians look at ‘christians’ the way they do….so sad.

I wanted to see what all this was about for myself so I googled it and found that in fact a church in Kentucky did ban interracial couples from being a part of their church. I would recommend you read that article entitled “Small Kentucky Church Bans Interracial Couples” so you know where I’m coming from in this post (just click the article title and it will take you to it). Also, click here to read another article on this same situation. After reading the article and thinking about the whole issue I want to share my thoughts on it.

No where in the Bible does God say interracial marriage is wrong. The people who are against interracial marriage will go to several passages in the Old Testament where God tells people not to marry others in different countries or people groups. It is a huge leap to go from these verses and then say interracial marriage is wrong. Nowhere in the New Testament does God say couples cannot marriage other races. I’m not saying the Old Testament is not profitable for us today. I believe the whole Bible (Old and New Testament) are profitable and God’s inspired Word for us today. What I am saying is that there are things in the Old Testament that does not apply to us in this dispensation. It is dangerous when the church starts to set standards and rules in place that are found nowhere in Scripture. Some other popular issues that people stand against and say are “sin” when it’s not taught that way in Scripture is dancing, drinking, Bible translation, and styles of worship. Don’t make things wrong or a sin if the Bible doesn’t.

The Gospel is seen in interracial marriage. God loves diversity! We serve a God who loves diversity because it shows how marvelous and awesome He is! I believe an interracial couple shows the Gospel very well. In God’s eyes there are no races, just humans that He loves and desires to have a relationship with through His Son Jesus. I believe God sees humans in only two groups: His children and His enemies. The Bible is clear that a unsaved person is an enemy of God (Romans 5:10), but once they accept the free gift of salvation they become a child of God (John 1:12). In Christ there are no racial, ethnic, or social distinctions, the ground is level at the foot of the cross. In Galatians 3:28 Paul says it this way:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (ESV)

In Christ we are all the same! So why can’t a white Christian man marry a black Christian women? It’s unbiblical and stupid to say they cannot! The Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong! The only kind of marriage God makes clear through the Scripture we should not support is marriage between a believer and a non-believer (2 Corinthians 6:14).

I have been blessed to be around many Christians who are interracial couples and when I look at the love between them I see the Gospel. It’s encouraging and I wish more Christians we see that interracial marriage is not unbiblical and because our God is a diverse God it shows His unmatchless love and the wonder of the Gospel!

Here is a quick video that is worth watching on this subject. In this video John Piper explains why pastors should bless interracial marriages. If your not a pastor, still watch this and learn why you should bless interracial marriages as well.

Recommended things on this subject: John Piper’s book Bloodlines, “Racial Harmony and Interracial Marriage” sermon by John Piper, and “Can’t Afford to be Color Blind” video with John Piper.

Kiddie Pool Christianity

If you look around the Christian world today you will notice one thing, there are far too many shallow Christians. Before we point our fingers at others, if we are all honest with ourselves we would have to admit that we ourselves are shallow, kiddie pool Christians. This is a problem I struggle with more than I would like to admit and I see it as a huge problem in our Christian world today. I was reminded about this problem both in my life and the life of others the past few days as I was reading a chapter in the book What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile. In this book, the author talks about characteristics of a healthy church member. This book goes a long with Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever. One of the last chapters in What is a Healthy Church Member the author talks about a healthy church member, or better yet a healthy Christian, is a growing Christian. We become shallow, kiddie pool Christians when we stop growing. We need to understand that God is clear in His Word that Christians are supposed to be growing individuals in their walk with Him (Hebrews 5:11-13; 6:1; Philippians 3:12-14). Thabiti Anyabwile says, “it is normal for Christians to grow, to work for growth, and to expect increasing spiritual maturity.” He also goes on to say that our spiritual growth is not really accomplished by us, it is God working through the Holy Spirit in us, but we have the privilege to strive and pursue spiritual growth as God works in us. Christians who are growing are normal and expected by God, but Christians who are not growing are becoming more and more popular in our Christian world. As I have been thinking about this, three main things have stood out that as Christians we must see properly in order to see spiritual growth in our lives. There are numerous things that we as Christians can do to promote growth in our lives, but these three things are just some major themes I have seen in my life and the lives of Christians around me. These three things can get us out of the kiddie pool and into the deep waters of spiritual growth and maturity.

See Church as a community. Far too many Christians see church as a building and a place. No where in the Bible does it talk about church being a place or a building. What the Bible does say is church is a community. Does that community meet a specific times and maybe at a specific place? YES! But that does not mean the church is the place or building, it means that the church is the people. I have met so many Christians who define their Christianity by what they do on Sundays. Your Christianity is more defined by what you do Monday thru Saturday. Why do Christians see church as just a building or where we go on Sundays? I would suggest it is because we have sectioned God off to a specific time and place of our lives and also because our culture is now so man centered the church is just another “activity” or “place to be.” The atmosphere of our churches is becoming so man-centered and entertainment-oriented that the saints now must be amused and not amazed,” says Donald Llewellyn Roberts. We need to get back to what the early church in Acts saw, the church is not a place, but a community. We were saved and put into a community, the body of Christ, and we have the privilege to take part in the local communities of believers around us. When we see church as a weekly event and not a constant community we are in danger of being in the kiddie pool of Christianity.

See prayer as a constant part of our lives. In our culture, it is rare to see someone without a cell phone. Most of us carry our cell phones everywhere and if they are not in our hands and we are texting or they are to our ear and we are talking they might be in our pocket or purse where we can get to them within an arms reach. Prayer should be like that. Prayer should be a constant companion for all of us as Christians. The Bible is clear that prayer needs to be a constant part of our lives (Romans 12:12; Colossians 4:2, 12). When we do not see prayer as a constant part of our lives we are in danger of being in the kiddie pool of Christianity.

See the Christian life as an intentional pursuit. Many of us go through life and just “profess” to be Christians, but that profession never really shows in our life. We look exactly like the unsaved people around us and the only different about is we call ourselves “Christians.” The Christian life is a pursuit, not a label. Yes, as we pursue Christ and His Kingdom we will carry the label as Christians, but our Christianity is found in the pursuit not the label. I talked about this same idea in an earlier post called Intentional Christian Living so check it out and get a better understanding of this last idea. When we see our Christianity as a label and not a pursuit we are in danger of being in the kiddie pool of Christianity.

Recommended reading on this subject: What is a Healthy Church Member by Thabiti Anyabwile, Radical by David Platt, Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper.