Gospel-Centered Teaching by Trevin Max. I picked this little book up when I ran across it at a used bookstore. It was a short and easy read that served as a great reminder to keep the Gospel at the center of my teaching. This book focuses its attention less on corporate preaching of Scripture and more on teaching Scripture in a classroom or small group setting. Someone who has formal training in studying Scripture and teaching it may not benefit a whole lot from this book but those who are volunteers in the church and may not have any formal training would do well to read it. It will help them get the basic tools they need to prepare and teach Scripture in a classroom or small group setting.
The End of Me by Kyle Idleman. I read this book in preparation for a series I’m doing through the Sermon on the Mount. I’ve always enjoyed Idleman’s books so was excited to not only read this one in prep for the sermon series but also to spend some time in another one of his books. The first half of this book deals with four specific beatitudes found in the opening section of the Sermon on the Mount. Idleman, with the help of these specific beatitudes, show that the path to true life is found in coming to the end of ourselves. The second part of this book then explains how being at the end of ourselves is actually the best spot to be in because it’s there we experience God and His work flowing through us the most. In reality this book didn’t end up helping me a ton in my sermon prep but I really enjoyed what it had to offer for my own walk with Jesus. I’d encourage you to read this one and see how coming to the end of yourself is the best place to experience the true blessings of God.
I’m Still Here by Austin Channing Brown. This is by far my favorite book I have read this year. Understanding racial issues and seeking racial reconciliation is one of my passions so anytime I can read a book on this topic from a person of color I’m excited. In this book Austin shares her own journey of being a black female in a very white American culture. She shares about how this tension has played itself out in the past as a child and college student but then also shares how it’s still playing out at work and even at church. She is open, real, and honest as she shares about her own struggles and frustrations. She doesn’t just call our whiteness out (which I’m glad she does) but she also calls us up to a better place. A place of love, dignity, and honor towards our brothers and sisters of color. There were moments while reading this book I was angry, there were moments when I was sad, there were moments I was convicted, and there were moments I was broken. It was a wild ride but one that was good for me to take. I’d high encourage everyone, especially my fellow white Christian Americans, to read this book.
Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes by Randolph Richards and Brandon O’Brien. This book was one of the best books I have ever read when it comes to the topic of reading the Bible. The author’s goal in this book is to help Western readers understand how their Western context impacts the way the interpret the Bible. They point out that often we miss things (some small and some big) in Scripture that people in Eastern cultures as well as during the time when the Bible was written wouldn’t have missed. The authors chose to focus on nine major differences between Western and Eastern cultures that impact the way we read and interpret Scripture. By doing this they help the Western reader understand the Bible in the culture it was originally written. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to grow in their understanding of Scripture and how to read it well.
The Self-Aware Leader by Terry Linhart. As a leader there are times you need to step back and evaluate yourself. This book was helpful to me in doing just that. As I lead others I often neglect myself and who I am as a person and a leader. I’m glad I took some time to read this book as it served as a helpful tool is evaluating myself and helping me grow. In this book Linhart helps leaders see the blind spots they often miss. He covers areas like the leader’s past, temptations, emotions, pressures, and more. In each of these areas he helps leaders see where they can go wrong but also how they can manage them well. I really liked how there was a focus on Scripture and what it says about leadership and these blind spot areas. I also liked the practical “self-check” sections inserted throughout the book to help the reader think about and apply what they are reading. I’d recommend this book to anyone who finds themselves in a leadership position.
Facing Messy Stuff in the Church by Kenneth Swetland. Churches are messy because people are messy. Sin has caused major brokenness and people bring that brokenness into the church. In this book Swetland provides several case studies to help pastors and churches think about how they should deal with messy situations. Each chapter is it’s on case study and provides no instruction on what a church should or shouldn’t do. This allows the reader to think about their own situation and how they should handle in within their own church context. There are helpful questions at the end of each chapter to guide this process. The topics covered in this book through the case studies are – depression, sexual harassment, gambling, pornography, divorce, suicide, AIDS, grief, abuse, alcohol abuse, adultery, child molestation, homosexuality, miscarriage, murder, and abortion.
One other book I read recently I chose not to review was A Little Book on the Christian LifeA Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin.
12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You by Tony Reinke. Smartphones have changed the landscape of our culture. Phones have impacted the way we communicate, view ourselves, work, and even interact with the Bible. All these things and more are discussed in this helpful book. In this book, Reinke walks through twelve ways the smartphone is changing us. Before getting into the twelve reasons he offers a very insightful and helpful theology of technology. As far as I’m aware that isn’t something that has been written about that much in other places. He does an excellent job of laying the foundation and then diving into the twelve reasons. I’m not going to list all twelve reasons here but there were a few that stood out to me as they where the most convicting in my own life – ignore people around us, loss of literacy, and are comfortable withs secret vices. My favorite thing about this book is how Reinke never encourages the read to just get rid of their smartphone as a way to fix the problems and issues it had created. In some cases that might be a good option for people (Reinke helps the reader walk through a few questions to consider if that should be their next step or not) but it may be that many people just need to make changes and adjustments to use their smartphones more wisely. Overall this was an excellent book I would recommend to anyone who uses a smartphone (which is almost everyone).
Conscience by Andrew Naseli & J.D. Crowley. I’ve never seen or read a book on the topic of conscience before so when I saw this book I knew I had to read it. As someone who grew up in a culture that I was very legalistic I have always struggled with matters of the conscience and the Christian life. This book was extremely helpful in my journey out of that culture and into a better understanding of the freedom we have in Christ. The first few chapters of this book deal with defining conscience and tracing it’s appearance throughout the Bible. Once the foundation is laid the obvious questions about living as a Christian with a conscience as well as how to relate to other Christians when our consciences don’t agree. In this book the Christian is encouraged to not ignore their conscience but to calibrate it so it’s in line with God and His Word. The authors rightly point out that people tend to have one of two extremes when it comes to their conscience – insensitive (they ignore its warnings and end up with what Paul calls a “seared” conscience) or oversensitive (they pack it with more rules than God intends and make it more about matters of opinions rather than truth). Neither of those are good. God has given us a conscience and we should use it rightly, which requires us to calibrate it with God’s Word. I’d encourage every Christian to take the time to read this important book.
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson. I’ve aways been a fan of Peterson. His consistency and commitment over the years have been something of a model of what a pastor should be about. He is a man who loves God and His Word. These things are evident in this classic book. The book serves as almost a practical commentary on Psalms 120-134 (Songs of Ascents). Peterson points out that “these fifteen Psalms were likely sung, possibly in sequence, by Hebrew pilgrims as they went up to Jerusalem for the great worship festivals” (page 18). Peterson walks through these fifteen chapters and explains what each ones teaches us about an area of following Jesus. As with all his writings, these pages contain a pastoral tone from Peterson and the reader will finish this book convicted for sure but encouraged to continue walking with Jesus.
Two other books I recently finished but chose to not review here are Zeal Without Burnout by Christopher Ash and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Both were great read I’d highly recommend.
Throughout the book of Acts you see the power of God on display. One of the places you see this power on display very clearly is in chapter 19 as Paul ministers in Ephesus. Recently I had the opportunity to preach from this chapter during our Sunday morning worship services. Below is that sermon. I hope it’s a blessing and challenge to you.
Christians struggle with sin. When someone becomes a Christians they don’t stop struggling with sin. In fact, before someone is a Christian there isn’t really a struggle at all. They are dead in their sins and live in rebellion against God. However, when someone becomes a Christian their sins are forgiven and they receive a new nature (Ephesians 1:7; 2 Corinthians 5:17). This new nature in Christ is what starts the struggle with sin. The old nature remains. Until Christians get to heaven that old nature will still be with them. This old nature is at war with the new nature (Paul shares this struggle in Romans 7). The good news is God has revealed in His Word how Christians can deal with sin. We are not to continue in our sin but strive to put off our old man and put on the new man (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Below you will find a link to a three week teaching series I wrote and taugh on the topic of dealing with sin. In this series, I cover three ways the Bible tells Christians to deal with sin – confession, repentance, and war. Each week focuses on one of these things. This series includes three teaching manuscripts, small group questions, and the series graphic.
The link below will take you to Download Youth Ministry where you can purchase the entire series or individual messages from this series. While you’re there check out some of the other resources DYM offers.
Note: Please keep in mind this series was originally written for and taught to students. However, it’s a great series for other audiences as well so feel free to tweak it and use it how it best fits your context. I hope this series is a blessing to you and your ministry.