Books I’ve Read Recently

The Christ-Centered Expositor514vgksbzl-_sy344_bo1204203200_ by Tony Merida. This is by far one of the best preaching books I have ever read. From the title of the book it’s pretty easy to catch what Merida is passionate – expository preaching that is Christ-centered. The goal of this helpful books is to help preachers (even though others could benefit from this book but his main audience is preachers) understand how they can better preach Christ-centered expository sermons. It serves as a handbook to do just that. What I love about this book is how Merida spends the first half talking about the preachers heart. These are challenging chapters that will cause preachers to evaluate their life, doctrine, prayer life, and more. These early chapters help the preacher see that who is plays into what he preaches. The second half of the book is extremely practical. These chapters lay out a five step process to writing Christ-centered expository sermons. I’d recommend this book to those who have been preaching for a long time as well as those who may be in seminary preparing for pastoral ministry. It’s also helpful for those in between who are early in their ministry career.

Growing Younggy_green_cover_coming_soonv3 by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. This is the newest book put out by the Fuller Youth InstituteThe Churches Engaging Young People project studied churches who were effectively engaging 15-29 year olds (click here to read more about their research). From their research they found out there are six essential strategies that churches use to engage teenagers and young adults. This book helps churches understand how they too can practice these essential strategies in their context. I really enjoyed the depth of this book and the extent of the research. In addition, the book also gives many practical steps for churches to follow if they want to effectively reach teenagers and young adults. I also really liked how they included many stories of churches doing this well. I came away with some great ideas but also with some fresh inspiration for reaching teenagers and young adults in the context of the local church. I would recommend this book to anyone who serves in a local church, especially those who work with teenagers and young adults.

67084Money, Possessions, and Eternity by Randy Alcorn. In this book Alcorn helps the reader understand money in light of God’s Word. There is almost too much in this book to even be able to write a short review. It’s packed with challenging chapters on tithing, giving, debt, savings, materialism, church finances, and money in light of eternity. Alcorn is both extremely Biblical and practical. He doesn’t hold back in sharing with the reader what God says about money and goes to great lengths to provide practical things for the reader to do in regards to their money. I’d recommend this book to every believer who wants to better understand God’s view of money and how they should handle it.

Up next on my reading list is On Preaching by H.B. Charles and Erasing Hell by Francis Chan.

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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.

Book Review: Storify by Rachel Blom

51cjoMnENiL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Communicating the truth of the Bible to teenagers in our culture is not an easy task. To make it even more difficult, the approach that may have worked in the past is not guaranteed to work in the present or in the future. So what do we need to do? Instead of doing what we have always done and expecting new results, we should take a step back and rethink our approach. When it comes to communicating the truth of the Bible we need to ask ourselves, “Is our current method of teaching really working?”

In her new book Storify, Rachel Blom helps us rethink how we communicate to teenagers by promoting a style (or method) of teaching that she refers to as “storify.” Storify is all about “using principles of story to empower our message” (page 15). Later in the book, she says it this way: “Storifying means using the principles of story-the characteristics that make stories so effective-throughout your talk” (page 90). Blom believes that our modern approach to teaching teenagers isn’t cutting it in our postmodern culture, which is also heading towards being a post-Christian culture (if you don’t fully understand the idea behind postmodernism and post-Christianity no worries, Blom does an excellent job at explaining them both and what they look like in this book). In order to teach teenagers effectively in a postmodern culture we must use a postmodern approach. This is where the idea of “storify” comes into play.

As I read through this book, two big ideas kept surfacing. I think these two ideas sum up what Blom is trying to communicate in this book.

First, we must make good use of the element of story as we teach teenagers. Stories are excellent ways to communicate truth in a way that sticks. Blom spends several chapters on the idea of using stories well in our talks. She gives very practical tips on how to use and tell stories in our teaching. This by far was one of the most helpful things for me personally about this book. I often spend too much time and preparation on content while neglecting the time it takes to think about and craft good stories to include in my teaching to better communicate what I’m trying to teach.

Second, we must structure our talks (or messages, sermons, etc.) like a story. A few chapters of the book are dedicated to just this idea. Blom encourages us to think about the structure and flow of stories and how we can follow that same flow and structure in our teaching. This section of the book is sure to rub up against anyone who has taken homiletics courses or read any preaching books by anyone other than Andy Stanley. As someone who has taken many courses in homiletics, read many books on preaching, and tends to take a more traditional approach to preparing and teaching the Bible, this section was tough for me. There where times I loved what Blom was saying and then there were times I am not so happy with what she was saying (probably because what she was saying went right up against my traditional approach that I have been taught and tend to use most of the time). However, I appreciated what she brought to the table on this topic and how she gives a clear argument for the benefit of structuring our talks like a story. I came away with some things to think through and apply in my approach to teaching teenagers.

There has been many books written on the topic of speaking to teenagers. However, Storify challenged me more than any other book on this topic has in awhile. I would highly encourage anyone who regularly teaches teenagers to read this book.

Books I’ve Read Recently

During the month of January we did a series in our student ministry called “Dating, Marriage, and Sex” (you can go here to listen to that entire series online). In preparation for that series I read a few books on the topics of relationships and sex. Below are those books.

sex-dating-relationships_2Sex, Dating, and Relationships by Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas. This was by far the most interesting book on this topic I have ever read. The authors did a fantastic job of being Biblical accurate and Gospel centered while explaining the practical side of relationships and sex in ways that I have never heard. The authors goal in this book is to move past the “just don’t have sex before marriage” argument by helping the reader see the Biblical foundation for sex and relationships and what God actually calls us to. There is great chapter on sex and how it is a picture of the Gospel. There is also two great chapters that focus on dating and helping the reader understand why the Bible doesn’t address dating (and it’s more than just “dating didn’t exist back in Bible times). In light of this, there is an interesting chapter that calls for dating to be done differently in the form of what the authors call “dating friendships.” They define this concept as “two friends getting to know each other with a view toward marriage” (page 92). They go on to explain that concept in more detail in the book. Overall this was a great book that challenged many of my own thoughts on sex and relationships. I’d highly recommend this book to singles who want a clear understanding of sexual purity, dating, and marriage.

Love-Sex-DatingThe New Rules for Love, Sex, and Dating by Andy Stanley. This book deals less with sex and more with love, relationships, and preparing for marriage. Even though the principles and concepts Stanley talks about in this book are Biblical, there isn’t a ton of references to the Bible and an attempt to helping the reader understand God’s Word. However, I wouldn’t say that makes this a “bad book.” In fact, I think it’s a great book that will challenge both the Christian and non-Christian single to understand love, relationships, and marriage better. In this book, Stanley calls singles to drop the “right person myth,” prepare well for marriage, strive to become the right person (“be the kind of person you want to marry”), and a commitment to sex the way God designed it. There are a host of other things Stanley discusses in this book but the overall message is to slow down, prepare, be the right kind of person, and enjoy marriage and sex the way God intended it to be enjoyed. I would highly recommend this book to young adults who desire to marry. I’d love to get this in the hands of upper high school students as well as college students. I wouldn’t recommend this book for anyone under that age group.

41uEQDpG5OL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Sex Matters by Jonathan McKee. This is the best book written to teenagers about sex. There has been plenty that have been written but many simply argue “just wait” rather than explaining God’s beautiful design for sex. McKee doesn’t hold back in this book. He doesn’t tip toe around this topic but answers head on the questions teenagers are asking about sex. He does an excellent job at helping teenagers see why waiting on sex for marriage is actually a very good thing. The next obvious question teenagers ask after they hear about waiting is “how far is too far?” Instead of going the legalistic route and giving a list of things teenagers “can do” and “cannot due” until marriage, McKee explains that sex is a process and that “entire process is only for marriage” (page 49). In light of that, McKee urges teenagers then to do the obvious – don’t start the process. McKee then spends a whole chapter on helping teenagers understand why the Bible says “flee” and how teenagers can do this. The last two chapters of the book deals with porn and masturbation as well as answering some common questions teenagers ask about sex. This is a book I wish every teenager would read. It will help them understand God’s design for sex and answer many of the questions they have. It’s extremely practical as well. If you’re a parent, get this book and encourage your teen to read it. If you’re a youth worker, consider giving this book to your students or at least reading it and having it on your shelve to help you understand how to address teenagers about sex.

Books I’ve Read Recently

929CB448F87340438FC9946BD61DBC9E.ashx30 Events That Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. I’ve always struggled to enjoy reading and studying church history. There are aspects of church history that certainly grab my attention but church history as a whole is not a topic I find easy to read or study. However, there have been a few books related to church history that have helped me cultivate a better appreciation and love for church history over time and this was on of those books. In this book the writer, Alton Gansky, writes about 30 events that have shaped the church as a whole. Gansky quickly admits it wasn’t easy picking just 30 events. He says, “Selecting which events to include in this book was difficult…In the end, I believe this is a good sample of key events in church history, drawn from both the distant past and modern times” (page 10-11). I think Gansky does a good job at this. He successfully picks 30 events that gives the reader a well-rounded view of events that have shaped the church into what it is today. What’s interesting about this book though is Gansky didn’t just stick with events that happened “within” the church community. In addition to those types of events, he writes about events that happened “outside” the church community. These events, like the ones within the church, impacted the church in profound ways. This is a great book for anyone who wants an easy, interesting church history related book to read. It’s also helpful to anyone who is interested in how major events in history, both inside and outside the church, has shaped the church as we know it today.

51E4B0BFYVLForeign to Familiar by Sarah Lanier. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a phrase you hear often. Many times I have passed up a good book because the cover didn’t grab my attention. This was almost on of those books. I received this book when my wife and I decided to be a part of a ministry called International Friendship Connection. IFC is a ministry that serves international undergrad and graduate students who are in the states studying on a university campus. This book was given to us at a training we went to for IFC. At first glance, I didn’t have a desire to read this book. However, I decided to pick it up and give it a shot and I’m glad I did. In this short book, Sarah Lanier talks about the differences between what she calls “hot climate cultures” and “cold climate cultures.” Lanier says, “The population of the entire world can roughly be divided into two parts. The two groups represented are ‘hot climate’ (relationship-based) cultures and ‘cold-climate’ (task-oriented) cultures” (page 15-16). These two cultural groups have different ways they communicate, manage time and planning, find their identity, and even show hospitality. If someone from a hot climate cultures goes into a cold climate culture and interacts the way they normally do in their hot climate culture they will have a hard time. One must understand the culture they are going into so they can best serve and do life in that culture. In this book Lanier lays out the key differences between these two cultural groups and how one can understand them. It’s defiantly a book that should be read by anyone doing or planning to do cross-cultural missions, whether thats domestic or international, but is also helpful to Christians in general as we seek to serve others in different cultural contexts.

51XQrJqkg9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Teaching to Change Lives by Howard Hendricks. This is a book I have always heard great things about but have never got around to reading. I’m glad I decided to finally take it off the shelve and read it. The wisdom that Hendricks shares in this little book is gold. The book is filled with practical insights and principles that help you become a better teacher of God’s Word. In this book Hendricks shares seven laws in regards to teaching: law of the teacher, law of education, law of activity, law of communication, law of the heart, law of encouragement, and law of readiness. In regards to the seven laws, Hendricks says, “If you boil them all down, these seven laws essentially call for a passion to communicate” (page 15). That’s what this book is all about. Helping people who teach the Bible do it with passion, excellence, and skill. This is a great little book that I believe is a must read for anyone who is in a role of teaching the Bible.