Book’s I’ve Read Recently

I enjoy reading and writing reviews of what I have read here on my site. However, I do not always review every book I read. Some books I simply read and put them on the shelve. But in an effort to review and recommend more books here on my site I will be posting “mini-reviews” from time to time of recent books I have read. So today I want to share some quick reviews of three books I have recently finished.

FURT_9781601424563_jkt_all_r1.inddCrash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick. Crash the Chatterbox was a good read. I read a chapter a day during my devotional time and learned a lot about how Satan and his lies can cause me to loose focus on my Savior and His promises. Furtick is one of my favorite preachers to listen to and I have enjoyed reading his books. In this book Furtick considers some of the “chatter” Christians hear in their heads from Satan that often times trips them up and causes them to fail. He gives Biblical principles in how to overcome the “chatter” and reminds readers of the promises of God. This was a really easy read that I would recommend to anyone that is looking for a book to help them in their spiritual growth. Overcoming the lies of the enemy is important if we want to believe and live out the promises of God for our lives.

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Building a Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples by Duffy Robbins. When it comes to youth ministry, I love reading and learning from Duffy Robbins. This guys has been around for a long time and is full of youth ministry related wisdom. It’s evident from his books (and when you hear him speak) that he loves Jesus and teenagers. He is also passionate about helping youth pastors follow the Great Commission in making disciples, which is what this book if all about. In this book, Robbins shares how you can build an effective youth ministry that builds teenage disciples. This by far was one of the best youth ministry books I have ever read. It was practical, but very theologically sound. Robbins doesn’t just share how to attract teenagers, but how to pour into them and help them become fully-devoted disciples of Jesus. I really enjoyed chapters 2 and 3. In chapter 2 Robbins talks about how youth ministry is more about the youth pastors relationship with Jesus than anything else. Then in chapter 3 Robbins talks about how youth ministry must be incarnational. With Jesus ministry as the blueprint, Robbins helps youth workers see the important of being with teenagers and how healthy relationships with teenagers make for great ministry. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone in youth ministry both full-time or as a volunteer.

cotw-cvrCreature of the Word by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger. We need Gospel-centered local churches. Not many pastors (or Christians for that matter) would disagree with this statement. But what does a Gospel-centered local church look like? How does a Gospel-centered church operate? Those are the kinds of questions this book addresses. The local church is all about Jesus. He built it, runs it, and owns it. The Gospel, the good news of what God did through Jesus, is what should drive the church. The Gospel, the person of Jesus, should be at the center of it all. The first few chapters (chapters 1-5) unpacks this truth while the last section (chapters 6-12) get more practical in dealing with how the Gospel impacts everything from church leadership, ministry, preaching, and contextualization. I really enjoyed chapter 8 and what the writers had to say about children and student ministry. As well as chapter 9 and the discussion on what is Biblical, Jesus-centered leadership. I’d recommend this book for anyone who is in church leadership and is passionate about building a Gospel-centered church.

I’m currently reading The Judgment Seat of Christ by Samuel Hoyt and plan to start reading Perry Noble’s new book Overwhelmed this week. Reviews coming soon.

Book Review: The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler

This past weekend I finished reading Matt Chandler’s book The Explicit Gospel. Even before this book came out there was a lot of hype surrounding it, so I was excited to read it for myself. I remember when I was at Lifeway buying the book, one of the first things I noticed is the Rick Warren quote on the front that said, “If you read only one book this year, make it this one. It’s that important.”

To be honest, the book wasn’t as groundbreaking as I thought it would be. I don’t want to belittle Matt Chandler’s work, because it was a great book. Even though this isn’t as good as I expected, I do highly recommend it to anyone who wants a better understanding of the Gospel. In this book, Chandler does a great job at explaining the whole Gospel from start to finish in a very smooth, progressive way. What I mean by that is that he starts with Genesis, why we need the Gospel, and goes all the way to the consummation of our faith and what the future looks like for Christians. In a world where many people claim to be “Christians” and many have grown up in church so they know the “words to say,” it’s important we, especially church leaders, understand the Gospel thoroughly. That is why I would recommend anyone in church leadership to read this book.

There were two things I really enjoyed and learned more about thanks to this book. First, Chandler does a great job of explaining why and how we should be a missional Christian in light of the Gospel. I have always loved the “missional” mindset of Christianity, but I feel like I got a better understanding of why that is, thanks to this book. Second, Chandler does a great job at explaining Biblical eschatology. He gets away from what “tradition” says about eschatology, and shares what the Bible says about it. I learned a lot from this part of the book.

Overall, this was a great read and I would recommend it to others. I’m looking forward to reading the book Gospel by J.D. Grear soon and expect it to be much of the same thing I read in this book. If you want to buy The Explicit Gospel for a great price, click here to get it from Amazon.

Choosing Curriculum

One of the things I am currently working on right now in my new student pastor position is choosing a curriculum for the student ministry. This is no small task and can be somewhat overwhelming when you start to discover just how much curriculum is out there for students. Because of the amount of curriculum out there, student pastors need to take time to look around and discover the curriculum that best fits you, your students, and your church. With all that being said, here are some questions to consider when your trying to choose a curriculum for your student ministry:

Does it have Biblical content? The first, and most important thing, you need to consider when you’re looking at curriculum is how much Biblical content does it have. Unfortuantley, there is a lot of curriculum that does not have a lot of Biblical content in it. I believe teaching God’s Word is the most important thing we do as student pastors. God’s Word will change students, so we need to make sure our curriculum has plenty of God’s Word built within in.

Do you want expository and topical? Personally, I lean towards expository teaching. I believe it’s the best way to teach and allows you to keep God’s Word at the center. Even with that conviction, I do not discount or throw away topical teaching. I try and throw in topical lessons and series from time to time and believe they have a place. Because of this, I try to look for curriculum that is a balance between the two. I usually use curriculum that is overall expository, but has topical lessons as well. This is sometimes a hard thing to find. But when your considering curriculum, decide what style of teaching best fits your style of teaching.

Does it agree with your overall church? You need to make sure the theology of your curriculum agrees with the theology of your church. Out of respect for your senior pastor and overall church, try and stay within the theological “circles” that your church is. I say this because you don’t want your students learning one thing in youth group and then another on Sunday mornings. You want your curriclum in the student ministry to compliment and agree with the teaching of your church.

Does it have good media? Some might think this is shallow, but this is huge! In our culture, student ministries need to invest in and have good media. That is why we need to make sure a curriculum has good media with it. Most good curriculums will have good media. Curriculum with good media built in will save you time, energy, and money. It allows you to focus on preparing the lesson rather than spending an hour making a PowerPoint and trying to find a video.

I hope these questions will help you as you look for curriculum for your students. As I said earlier, curriculum is a good thing and believe it you take the time to find the right one it will help your students grow and your teaching to become a vital part of your ministry. Here are a few curriculums I have used or am planning on using that you may want to check out:

Word of Life-This will be your more conservative theology type of curriculum. I lean more towards that, so this is a curriculum I have used and will probably be using more  in the future. Has a great balance between expository and topical and comes with a great media package.

YM 360-If you have not checked out YM 360’s curriculum, you need to! I am planning on using one of their studies in the coming months and have a good relationship with the guys over there. Their  stuff has a lot of Biblical content and comes with probably the best media stuff out there.

Simply Youth Ministry-The curriculum you get from this group will be more broad in theology than others. I have used a lot of there stuff and usually am happy with it. They allow you to edit it and make it your own which is a plus. Also, comes with top notch media.

The Gospel Project (Lifeway)-This is brand new and has not officially been released yet, but from what I can see it looks really good. It’s a Gospel centered and Bible based curriculum. Matt Chandler has been a huge contributor to this and I am looking at using it in our ministry.

2 Reasons You Need Check Out Code Orange Revival

The past two nights, Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC has been seeing God move in their Code Orange Revival. Code Orange Revival is a twelve night revival put on by Steven Furtick and his church Elevation. It is simply amazing at what is happening there! They are streaming the services live for anyone to watch. People are watching from all over the world and with just two night in the stories that are coming out of this revival are breathtaking.

I personally believe that this could be the start of the next great revival. With the technology we have today and the ability to stream a revival that is taking place in one area to the rest of the world, joining millions of people together in prayer and sitting under sound preaching, this could be the way the next great revival takes place. I am sure there are people out there that don’t like Elevation or Furtick because of silly “preferences” they can’t let go, but when God is on the move like He is in this revival it’s time to drop our preferences and get in on what God is doing! Here are two reasons you need to be a part of Code Orange Revival either live in Charlotte or online from wherever you are.

1. It’s a real move of God. Honestly, as believers, shouldn’t we want to get in on anything that is a real move of God? I have committed to be  a part of this revival online because I believe God is in it and if He is in it, I need it! I desperately need God to move in my life and I am excited about being part of something like this. If you don’t believe me or believe the magnitude of this revival, here are some amazing facts.

The hash tag #codeorangerevival was the number one trending topic on Twitter the first day and has been a top trending topic since.

People are tuning in from all over the world via live stream and TV stations that are showing it. 

People of flying and driving into Charlotte from all over the world just to be a part of this revival live. Last night two men flew from Seattle because they wanted to be a part of it!

People are camping out and getting to the Elevation campus throughout the day just to get a seat inside.

This is not your typical revival. This is a move of God! Wherever you are, tune in on TV or watch the live stream, do whatever you need to do to be a part of this move of God. I have already been blessed, challenged, convicted, and changed by the first two nights!

2. Good Biblical Preaching. This is the part that makes this revival so amazing. Furtick managed to bring in some of the best speakers from around the country to share God’s Word. Here is the line up: Craig Groeschel, Jentezen Franklin, Matt Chandler, Christine Caine, Ed YoungIsrael Houghton, Perry Noble, Stovall Weems, Kevin Gerald, T.D. Jakes, and James MacDonald. The moment some people read this list they will write off this revival because they don’t agree with some of the speakers. I personally do not agree with all of them, but that is not a reason to not be a part of this move of God. There comes a time when we need to drop our preferences and opinions so we can hear God speak. So far the preaching has been the focus and center of this revival. I believe that is Furtick’s heart and I am encouraged by his passion to make God’s Word the center of this revival.

Here are all the links you need to be a part of the Code Orange Revival:
Elevation Network-This is where the live stream can be found as well as the rebroadcasting of each service if you mis the live stream.
Code Orange Revival-This is the main website for the revival. On this site you can find all the info, schedule, and speaker bio’s.
Elevation Church-The main website for the church.
Steven Furtick-This is his personal website and blog.

Dealing with Doubt

Recently my fiancee and I traveled from Ohio down to North Carolina to spend this Christmas with my family. One of the things we always do on long trips is listen to sermons from preachers we both like. On this trip we decided to listen to a Perry Noble sermon and a Matt Chandler sermon. Both were great, but the sermon from Matt Chandler was just what I needed! I want to share with you the main points of the sermon and hope it ministers to you as it did me.

The sermon was called “Dealing with Doubt.” If we were all honest, we would admit that sometime in our Christian life we have struggled with doubt. Either something has caused us to question the reality of our salvation or the assurance of it. To be honest, this is one of the “thorns in my flesh.” Doubt is an issue that from time to time I struggle with and if I am not careful, it becomes a sin that the enemy uses to distract me. I was encouraged by Matt Chandler’s honesty in this sermon as he shared that he struggles with doubt from time to time as well.

In this sermon, Matt Chandler addresses three areas where doubt comes from. He then ends the sermon with some principles to examine if you truly have saving faith or not. I want to share the three areas then give my own principle that will help us examine if we have saving faith or not.

1. You really are not Christian. One reason a person may doubt is simply because they are not truly a born-again Christian. They may “profess” to being a Christian, but that is not enough! Matthew 7:22-23 says that many will stand before God one day and profess His name and even say they did things in His name, but sadly God will tell them He never really knew them. There is a big different between knowing about God and personally knowing Him in a relationship. James 2:19 tells us that even the demons believe there is a God! One reason many doubt their salvation is because they profess it, but do not truly possess it.

2. Uncertainty of God’s affection for you. Many Christians struggle with doubt because they forget that God loves them unconditionally. We received Christ’s righteousness at the point of salvation, but we start to live the Christian life in our own righteousness. So we start to see the Christian life as a checklist and a list of things we can do and things we cannot do. The problem is we are sinners, and we still sin and do those things we shouldn’t do. So what happens is that we start to doubt and every time we sin we doubt if God really loves us. When we doubt that God loves us and if we are truly saved, we are looking at the cross of Christ and telling God He must show us something better for us to believe He loves us. God showed His love for us by sending Jesus to die for us (Romans 5:8). Not only did He die for us, but we have been given His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). We now stand justified before God (Romans 3:24).

3. You are walking in sin. I believe this is the main reason Christians struggle with doubt. Many struggle with doubt because the are walking in unconfessed, unrepentant sin. When a Christian is walking in unconfessed sin they are miserable! Just read Psalm 32 and see how David felt when he did not confess his sin. When we are walking in unconfessed we cant see God clearly and we cant see His love clearly. Because of this we doubt our salvation. The good thing about this is that God has given us a way out of this situation. Because Christ already paid for all of our sin on the cross, we can confess and repent when we do sin which restores our fellowship with God (1 John 1:9). Many people doubt their salvation because they are out of fellowship with God, they are not confessing and repenting of sin. In his book, Doctrine, Mark Driscoll reminds us that repentance is a gift to the Christian. Christians, don’t forsake the gift of repentance. When you sin, confess and repent quickly!

I want to take a step away from Matt Chandler’s sermon now and share with you one simple idea that I believe can help us identify if we truly have saving faith or not. I believe your life indicates whether or not you have true saving faith. What I mean by this is that your life, since you became a Christian, should tell you that your are a true Christian. There should be spiritual growth, changes, and conviction of sin. If things like this are not seen in your life it is probably an indication that you are not a true Christian. I’m not talking about perfection. As a Christian, you will sin and may have times when you turn your back on God, but the overall picture of your life will be growth, change, and God working in your life.

Matt Chandler is lead pastor of The Village Church in TX. You can download their preaching podcast here and listen to all of Matt Chandler’s sermons. I would encourage you to listen Matt Chandler’s sermons as well as the other pastors at The Village Church.