On Preaching by H.B. Charles, Jr. I always enjoy reading books on preaching. This was one of my favorites because of all the practical insights it includes. It’s a short book that includes very short chapters. Each chapter covers something in regards to preaching. It feels almost like sitting at a coffee shop with a seasoned preacher who is sharing all the wisdom he has about preaching with you. I enjoyed every chapter of this little book. I’d encouraged anyone who is involved in preaching ministry to read this book. No matter if you’re a beginner or have been preaching for many years, this book will encourage and sharpen your skills.
Erasing Hell by Francis Chan and Preston Sprinkle. This is one of those books that have been on my list for a long time. Because I am doing a series with our students on what happens after we die, which includes a sermon on hell, I decided to pick this book up and give it a read. Chan and Sprinkle do a great job at addressing the topic of hell from a Biblical point of view. This book almost serves as a short survey of what the Bible teaches on hell. Believers, and non-believers, would do well to read this book. It brings the reader face to face with the reality of hell and what the Bible says about it. There was much I enjoyed about this book but my favorite parts where the short survey of universalism (chapter one) and two chapters on what Jesus and His early followers believed about hell (chapter two and three).
The Top Ten Leadership Commandments by Hans Finzel. The Bible is full of great leaders that God used to do amazing things. One of those great leaders was Moses. In this book, Finzel looks at the life and leadership of Moses and pulls out ten “leadership commandments” that leaders should follow. I enjoyed Finzel’s Biblical approach to leadership in this book as well as how he helped the reader understand how they can apply these lessons to their own leadership. Mixed in with all of this was many examples and illustrations from Finzel’s own leadership journey. This wasn’t one of the best leadership books I have read but it was encouraging and helpful.
The Christ-Centered Expositor 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 Young by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin. This is the newest book put out by the Fuller Youth Institute. The 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.
Money, 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.
So far in this series I have talked about what the Bible teaches about pain and suffering (post one) and some of the reasons God allows pain and suffering into our lives (post two). In this final post I want to share a few things we can hold onto and remember when we go through pain and suffering.
God promises He will always be with us. We see this promise throughout the Bible. In Deuteronomy 31:6 we see God promise His chosen people that He will always be with them and that He will never forsake them. It’s His presence that will help them be strong and courageous as they move forward. In Psalm 23:4 David says he can walk through the valley of the shadow of death and not fear because God is with Him. As you move into the New Testament we see that Jesus’ name Emmanuel actually means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The very coming of Jesus is a reminder that God is near to us. He came to us. Then in 1 Corinthians 6:19 we are reminded that even now as Christians we have God in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit. God promises to always be with us. His constant, real, and powerful presence is something we must hold onto and remember during times of pain and suffering.
God understands our pain and suffering. The second truth we can hold onto when we go through pain and suffering is the fact that God Himself understands how we feel because He Himself went through pain and suffering Himself. He entered into this world of pain and suffering and suffered through it. This is a teaching that’s unique to Christianity. Christianity not only gives us a God who is above our pain and suffering but a God who entered into our pain and suffering. He willingly puts Himself through it and knows how it feels. Don Carson says, “The God on whom we rely knows what suffering is all about, not merely in the way that God knows everything, but by experience.” God’s Word reminds us of this powerful truth as well in Hebrews 4:15 (ESV), which says, ““For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” When we go through times of pain and suffering we can run to our Savior because He understands how we feels.
God will end pain and suffering one day. For Christians, the pain and suffering we face on this earth will one day end. There is coming a day when the curse of sin will be lifted and this earth will be made new. One of the amazing things about that coming day is that pain and suffering will be done away with. Speaking about this coming day, John says in Revelation 21:4 (ESV) that “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Christians can look forward to this day and have hope.
Below is the sermon where I preached much of the content above. I hope this series of posts has encouraged you and helped you.
Starting with this post I will be sharing a four part series on walking with God through pain & suffering. Two things prompted this series of posts. First, Tim Keller’s book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering. I read that book recently during a season when my wife and I were walking through a very painful time in our life and marriage. Second, at the time of writing this series of posts I am teaching a series by the same title to our middle and high school students. I’m taking those sermons and condensing them into a series of posts. I hope you find them encouraging and challenging as you walk with God through the pain and suffering this life throws at you.
In this first post I want to share three truths Christianity gives us in regards to pain and suffering. All religions say something about pain and suffering. However, Christianity gives the best answer and the most hope in times of pain and suffering.
Christianity holds to the reality of pain and suffering. Christianity doesn’t ignore, explain away, or excuse pain and suffering. In fact, Christianity holds to the reality of pain and suffering as something we all experience in this fallen world. Job 14:1 says, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble.” Even Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33 NLT). Throughout the Bible we encounter men and women who went through tremendous pain and suffering. The Bible doesn’t skip over it or glamorize it. Instead it shows us the reality of it. It’s important to note as well that most of the people who experienced pain and suffering in the Bible were people who loved and followed God. This reminds us that Christians don’t get a pass on experiencing pain and suffering. Many times being a Christian means we experience more pain and suffering. Pain and suffering is real and no one escapes it.
God is sovereign over pain and suffering. This is where it gets tricky. Christianity holds to the reality of pain and suffering but it also gives us a God who is above it and more powerful than it. One of the clearest examples of this is found in the book of Job. In Job 1:6-12 we see Satan coming to God in order to get permission to put pain and suffering into Job’s life. R.C. Sproul sums it up like this: “Satan can do only what the sovereign God allows him to do.” This exchange in the book of Job is very important because it shows us that pain and suffering cannot enter into our lives without first going through the hands of our Lord.
God has a purpose behind pain and suffering. That last point can be hard to swallow. But the truth is in God’s sovereignty He has a purpose behind the pain and suffering He allows. He doesn’t just allow it into our lives for no reason. Verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and Romans 8:28 don’t let us off the hook and give us a pass from pain and suffering, but they both remind us that God has a plan and purpose behind it. These two verses also remind us that sometimes to experience God’s divine purposes we have to go through the fires of pain and suffering.
Below is the sermon where I preached the content above. In the next post I will share some of the reasons God allows pain and suffering into our lives. I hope you come back to check that post out as we continue this series about walking with God through pain and suffering.
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 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.
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.