Book Review: 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me

41nz6oBmELL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Seminary was a great experience. I gained a ton of knowledge about the Bible, theology, and ministry practices. However, I quickly learned that full-time ministry came with a host of things seminary never prepared me for. There are some things you can’t learn in seminary and the only place you’re going to learn them is in the thick of ministry.

That is what this book is all about. 15 Things Seminary Couldn’t Teach Me is an easy read that includes short chapters from various writers on topics you will not learn in seminary. These are topics you will only learn as you pursue ministry in the local church. Some of these topics are things like what to do when your church is dying, leading your wife, managing volunteers, handling conflict, and knowing when to leave your church. All these topics and more are talked about and the reader is given practical insight into each of these important topics.

I really enjoyed this book and there are few things stood out to me about that I’d like to mention. First, it has a Gospel and Biblical focus. The writers are not just talking about these topics and giving their opinions on what to do. The advice and application given in each area is Gospel-centered and based upon Scripture. The writers call the reader to remember the Gospel frequently and encourages them to obey God’s Word in these areas. Second, the chapters are short and practical. The topics are not beat to death but instead hit on in a timely and focused manner. Each chapter includes a ton of practical things the reader can apply to their own ministry context. Third, seminary is upheld as an important thing but not the only thing. The writers don’t bash seminary. They instead talk highly of it but are honest about its weaknesses and shortcomings. One writer says, “We do not intend to denigrate the valuable work of seminaries. Rather, we want to help young pastors, seminary students, and other aspiring ministers learn from our experience how God fits a man to be a faithful and effective minister” (page 145).

I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who is either in or has attended seminary and desires to go into local church ministry. I would also encourage those currently in ministry to read this book and gain some practical insight on these important topics.

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Book Review: How the Nations Rage by Jonathan Leeman

_225_350_Book.2558.coverI’m not drawn to conversations about politics and governmental affairs. I’d also consider myself a passivest when it comes to these matters as well. However, over the past year or so this has somewhat changed with the current political climate in our country. Jonathan Leeman’s book, How the Nations Rage, helped me think through how I should and should not engage in these political matters. This book provided me with many things to think through as I set out to hopefully be a humble follower of Christ that can wisely dialogue in the public square.

Overall I enjoyed reading this book. There isn’t anything negative I can really say about it. With that being the case, let me share a few things found within this book I really liked.

First, there is a great chapter on the Bible and politics (chapter 4). It seems that some people view the Bible as a political handbook in how to run a country while others claim the Bible contains nothing about politics. However, Leeman argues there is a balanced approach we can take instead of picking sides. He rightly claims that the Bible contains absolute truths that we cannot let go off no matter the political climate we find ourselves in. These absolutes are things like covenants, commissions, and commands. However, when it comes to things ideologies, constitutions, parties, candidates, and policies we should hold those loosely and seek out wisdom in making decisions in those areas. Leeman says, “When it comes to thinking about politics, the Bible is less like a book of case law and more like a constitution. A constitution does not provide a country with the rules of daily life. It provides the rules for making the rules” (page 79).

Second, there is a great section on the purpose of government. Why does government exist? Does the Bible support it? About midway through the book Leeman gives a short summary of the purpose of government from a Biblical perspective. I found this section to be one of the most helpful in the entire book. I know the Bible talks about government and that there is good use for it but I never really formed a great defense of the purpose behind it all.

Third, the local church is elevated throughout this book. What I absolutely loved about this book was how the local church was constantly elevated and kept at the center. Almost everything Leeman says in this book ties itself back to the local church. The church is where good, God honoring politics should take place. Leeman says, “Our political instincts should develop by living inside the loving and difficult relationships that comprise the church. You might even say our political thinking should be pastoral” (page 133). In addition to making points like the one above, Leeman makes a habit of using his own local church experience to share examples of what it looks like to practice good politics within the local church. These examples help the reader understand how they too can live out good politics within their own local body of believers.

I’d encourage anyone who desires to get a better grip on being a political engaged Christian to read this book. It’s balanced, thought-provoking, and will help you understand how to better being a follower of Christ who lovingly engages the world of politics.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

Book Review: Supernatural Power for Everyday People by Jared Wilson

_240_360_Book.2480.coverMany Christians go through their lives never truly experiencing the Holy Spirit. Maybe it’s due to lack of understanding of the Spirit or an over correction in response to more of the “charismatic types” of Christians. Either way, many Christians, who do indeed possess the Holy Spirit, go through their daily routines that look very similar to those around them who are non-Christians who do not possess the same Spirit.

Jared Wilson, in his book Supernatural Power for Everyday People,” helps Christians understand how everyday followers of Jesus can experience the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. Wilson helps the reader see how the Spirit is at work in every aspect of the Christian’s life. The Spirit is working in everything from convicting us, helping us in our spiritual disciplines, comforting us during hard times, gifting us with spiritual gifts, and much more.

I’m a huge fan of Wilson’s books and once again this one didn’t disappoint. I really enjoyed reading a book that was on the topic of the Holy Spirit but was not a “Systemic Theology” type of book. Wilson dives into the topic of the Holy Spirit in a way that’s easy for the reader to understand no matter their theological background or experience. This book reminds me much of Francis Chan’s book Forgotten God as it calls Christians to a similar thing – living their lives saturated with the Holy Spirit. He’s not some mystical, third being of the Trinity that we can’t experience. He’s quite the opposite really. He is God’s presence with us always. Wilson wants Christians to not miss out on this amazing truth as they go about their lives.

Two parts of this book really stood out to me. First, the chapters on Bible reading and prayer. In these two chapters Wilson helps Christians see how the Spirit aids in these two important spiritual disciplines. He includes some very practical tips as well in regards to practicing these disciplines. Second, the chapter on spiritual gifts. In this chapter Wilson gives a quick overview of spiritual gifts and then argues his case for why the “sign gifts” should not be seen as gifts that have ceased but instead of relevant to the church today. He gives three very compelling arguments for his stance: experiential, historical, and Biblical.

I’d encourage any Christian who feels like they are in a rut and not experiencing God’s working in their lives to pick up this book and give it a read. It will help them see that God, through His Spirit, is indeed working and wants to help you experience His power as you go through your live as a follower of Christ.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers.

Books I’ve Read Recently

41Lj7+G9HnL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Pleasing People by Lou Priolo. I ran across this book back in college but never took the time to read it until recently. In this book Priolo addresses an issue the majority of us struggle with – the desire to please other people. The first half of the book is dedicated to helping the reader see why this is such a problem. What many will find in this section is that even people who say “I’m not a people-pleaser” usually are to some degree. Priolo does a great job at pointing out how we all struggle with this issue to some extent. The second half of the book deals with the solution to this problem which is to be a God-pleaser. This section, and throughout the entire book really, is a call for Christ followers to be driven by the desire to please God rather than man. This is a solid book I’d encourage every Christian to read at some point.

41dlBhPCZiL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_God Space by Doug Pollock. This is by far one of the best evangelism type books I have ever read. Pollock offers us an approach to sharing the Gospel that I believe is highly effective and needed in our culture today. In this book Pollock helps us see how conversations with people open the door for us to share the Gospel. His aim is for Christian to create what he calls “God space” through intentional, spiritual conversations. This book serves as a guide to having those types of conversations. It’s extremely practical and easy to follow. I was also encouraged by the amount of stories and illustrations Pollock used to show how this method works. This is a book that will reshape how you go about sharing the Gospel. I’d encourage every Christian to take a peak into this one as well.

701142Secret Power by D.L. Moody. I’ve never read a book by Moody until this one. I enjoy reading classic books written by men and women of God who have gone before us. Like most of those books, this one didn’t disappoint. Throughout this book Moody helps the reader see how the Holy Spirit works in and through the life of the believer and the church. It almost serves as a doctrinal book on the Holy Spirit but doesn’t just stay in the “theological” realm but spends a good bit of time in the practical realm as well. Moody points us to timeless truths about the Holy Spirit that where not just needed in his day but ours as well. Readers will everything from some characteristics of the Holy Spirit to how the Holy Spirit works in our witness for Christ.

Another book I read recently that I chose not to review was Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul. I am currently reading The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul, Kingdom Come by Sam Storms, and The Skinny on Communication by Jeff White.

Honduras In Review (Wes)

This summer our high school ministry partnered with LeaderTreks for a short-term mission trip to Honduras. It was an incredible week that allowed our students to serve and grow in big ways! I wanted to give a few of the students a place to share what they learned and how they grew. Wes Gray is a rising senior in our high school ministry. He has been on a few trips with us in the past but this was his first international trip. Read his thoughts below as he shares about his experience in Honduras.

20229857_1929660103714711_5823704956355675678_o“My first missions trip out of the country is definitely one that I will not forget. There is so much that God did through the team during the week. We stayed at La Providencia, which is an organization who cares for widows and orphans. They have taken James 1:27 to heart: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” They don’t give them the leftovers like most cultures do but they put their needs first.

Our team got to be apart of this through manual labor on a worksite and caring for the kids by having a VBS (Vacation Bible School) for them. On the worksite we were hauling dirt to a section to eventually make it the right height to make it into a patio. Also there was a giant trench we had to dig around this area where we would eventually put supports in. On a normal day we would spend 4-5 hours on the worksite. There were so many awesome team bonding moments on the worksite as well. Like when we would try and get everyone excited to go back to work and we would all scream and do something crazy. Also there were great conversations going on as we shared with each other what God was teaching each of us as well. Prayer was a very important part of our days as we very nearly did it before we did anything. This was a key takeaway for me, just how important prayer is and how it is something I should regularly be doing during each day. We saw so much progress throughout the week on the worksite as well which is a big encouragement especially as this was some of the most physically straining work I have ever done. My legs cramped up on a couple different occasions but with encouragement from the team and God given strength I was able to push through.

The VBS was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. Everyday as soon as we were done on the worksite we would leave to go to a church about 20 minutes away to hangout with 30 kids. We played soccer with them, jumped rope, colored, made bracelets, and played tag. After a while we would call everyone in and give them a snack and perform a skit for them. Our skits were on the life of Jesus. You would think the language barrier would have been a lot more of a problem than it was; however, we had several team members who could speak spanish quite fluently. The kids were such a joy to be around; even when they didn’t have much they were still overflowing with happiness and that really hit home.

So I have talked about all of the encouraging and positive ways God had connected with me during my trip… Now for the not as fun ways. Three days before we were supposed to leave ⅓ of our team got sick some worse than others. I happened to be one of them. Thankfully I didn’t throw up like some of the other team members but I had other side-effects that we do not need to get into. Lol. Anyway I did not feel my best but when I woke up the next day I was feeling better to some degree and did not have a fever anymore. I was able to work my hardest on the last day on the worksite before we had our day of fun ziplining and going through a waterfall. By the end of the day our team was wiped, but we still finished strong. On our day into the city Lexi (my sister) started feeling awful on our way back and she started throwing up. Then she started hyperventilating. She did it once before when we got rearended together. What happens is her hands clamp up and she loses feeling there and her whole body gets really tingly. The only way to fix it is for her to focus on taking deep breathes but it is hard to do that when you are freaking out. Luckily a US doctor was close by so we were able to load her into a van and take her back to La Providencia. She threw up two more times as well on the way back. Eventually we got her back and she was feeling again and was done thoughing up but she was really tired so she went to bed. Then we both weren’t feeling good on the plane ride back as well. So it seems like I’m just going on a really long rant about why I’m never going to go on a trip like this again, but really it is quite the opposite. God taught me this lesson through it all: He is going to give me strength when I need it and rest when I need it as well, but it is all according to his plan with his mission coming first. So that is the hard lesson I learned, but it was a very important one!”