User Friendly Churches: What Christians Need to Know About the Churches People Love to Go to - George Barna
The introduction to this very practical book asks the question, “What is a user friendly Church?” Then, it proceeds to illustrate how various Churches in diverse areas are answering that question within their own communities. In a nutshell, George Barna summarizes the purpose and picture of a user friendly Church when he says, “It is a Church that is in touch with the needs of those it wants to serve.” That means just any old “cookie cutter” approach won’t do, no matter how “tried and true” it may have been in the past or in another seemingly successful Church. Barna writes, “In the context of Church growth, imitation is the quickest route to doom. Ministry by mimicry almost invariably results in deterioration, rather than growth.”
The book is divided into four sections of discussion: 1. Perspective; 2. Participation and Programs; 3. Structure and Leadership; and 4. Take Off, Put On. With interesting discussions about the attitude visitors sense when they attend a Church for the first time; giving people more priorities and focused vision than programs; credibility, quality, and integrity; listening to God more than the people you’re trying to reach; being ministry-minded outside the Church walls; difficulties and essentiality of children and youth ministries; and evaluating sacred cows in the Church, there are many interesting insights and approaches to effective community ministry that point people to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Even if we do everything right all of the time and have the most energized, praying, and engaged ministry team in town, the Lord must build the house and we must accept the reality that not everyone will want to be a part of a mission-minded Church. The Lord will draw people to Himself as only He can, but He exhorts us to do our part to impact the world around us for His kingdom.
- Pastor Darbyshire
Snubbing God: The High Cost of Rejecting God's Created Order
Someone needs to say it: Our culture’s fanatically determined embrace of what was just yesterday recognized by all sides as wrong and harmful is nothing but “snubbing God”—rebellion against our Creator. And if that is so, it can’t fail to have unhappy consequences—societally as well as individually. Author Victor Kuligin in his book, Snubbing God: The High Cost of Rejecting God's Created Order demonstrates this in his exploration of issues ranging from science and evolution to life, sexuality, and the environment. It’s a contemporary re-examination of important matters that demand clarity. Confusion abounds in a world bent on rejecting a loving Creator's guidance on a life well lived. Snubbing God shows how "biblical wisdom is opposed by a secular view that has at its heart a fundamental misunderstanding or outright disregard for God's creation and how he has designed it." Some of the issues Kuligin explores as a result of rebuffing God include gay marriage, abortion, climate change, animal rights, and evolution. Though pointing out the weaknesses of a secular viewpoint, the author provides convincing arguments for why living the way the Creator designed it leads to a rich and satisfying life.
- Pastor Kleiser
No More Excuses - Tony Evans
In the introduction to this book, Dr. Tony Evans describes the phenomenon known as the “loser’s limp.” “It’s what happens when an outfielder misjudges a fly ball and misses the catch, or when a wide receiver drops an easy pass. They fall to the ground and get up limping. The purpose of the limp is to camouflage their failure . . . So the limp becomes the athlete’s excuse, his attempt to be exonerated of blame for his misplay.” He goes on to conclude, “We need to start looking at these things as challenges and opportunities for success rather than as excuses for failure or not doing anything.”
With chapters dealing with such topics as: No More Hiding Behind the Past, No More Feeling Worthless, No More Allowing for Immorality, No More Going Through the Motions, No More Compromising Your Integrity, No More Giving in to Temptation, No More Second-rate Marriages, No More Passive Fathering, No More Playing the Lone Ranger, and, of course, No More “Loser’s Limp,” he addresses the issues head on that cause us to fall short of all God wants us to be. Dr. Evans encourages us that we “may have stumbled coming out of the blocks. You may have tripped up during the race. You may even be starting the race a little late, but God can help you make up for lost time. He can help you pick up speed in the last half of the race and cover more ground in less time than the average runner.”
This is a tremendous book for someone who wants practical solutions to overcoming challenge in the race that’s set before us, so that we may run with patience, run with endurance, run in faith, and receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who remain faithful.
- Pastor Darbyshire
Teaching to Change Lives - Howard Hendricks
Howard Hendricks offers timeless principles applicable to teaching scenarios in his book Teaching to Change Lives. Many such writings focus on the teacher, but this book emphasizes student-centered learning and engagement, key methods and teaching techniques. He offers seven laws of teaching that spell the acronym TEACHER: The Teacher, Education, Activity, Communication, the Heart, Encouragement, and Readiness. Hendricks draws upon decades of seminary classroom instruction to illustrate each law effectively. The late Dr. Hendricks was a distinguished professor and Chairman of the Center for Christian Leadership at Dallas Theological Seminary and was one of the most effective and influential Christian teachers for thousands of future pastors and Christian leaders. This 152-page book is a "must read" for anyone who wants to improve their ministry of teaching those of any age.
Additional Note: all PBC teachers, assistants, and interns will be scheduled over the next two months to complete the 7-lesson DVD training, The 7 Laws of the Teacher [produced by Walk Thru the Bible, Atlanta, Georgia]. This course is designed to somewhat 'mirror' the book under review. It is also highly recommended that our teachers read this book as well. Loan copies are available upon request.
- Pastor Kleiser
The Practice of the Presence of God - Brother Lawrence
Nicholas Herman, who took the name Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection when he entered the Carmelite monastery in AD 1649, was a humble monk who found joy and fellowship with God through fifteen years of scrubbing pans in a kitchen. When it was decided that he needed a less strenuous job in his older years due to serious illnesses, he became a cobbler.
After serving in the French military, being captured by the Germans and accused of being a spy, he was later released, only to be wounded in a subsequent battle with Swedish soldiers. He went home to recover and became a footman for the treasurer of the King of France. This combined service lasted 18 years. This was a very corrupt time in history, when the immoral and constantly warring King Louis XIV reigned in France. He had banished Archbishop Francois de Fenelon, persecuted the Huguenots, and imprisoned Madame Guyon. The vanity of the age caused Brother Lawrence to seek the counsel of his Uncle, a Carmelite monk, who told him, “The air of the world is contagious and, if it does not strike to death all who breathe it, it alters or corrupts the morals of those who follow its ways.” Brother Lawrence was convinced to withdraw himself from the corruption of the age and present himself as a candidate in the Carmelite Order. According to Hal Helms, “He developed the habit of continual conversations with God. Whether at prayer or at work, it became his practice to focus his heart and mind on God, thanking Him, praising Him, and asking for His grace to do whatever had to be done.”
This book is divided into easy-reading sections consisting of background information of his life; his eulogy as presented by M. L’Abbe Joseph de Beaufort, Grand Vicar of the Cardinal of Noailles; conversations he had with Abbe de Beaufort; letters he had written to express his system of continual conversations with God; and his Spiritual Maxims, which formed the basis for how he lived. His philosophy can be summarized in his statement, “All we must do is recognize God’s intimate presence within us and speak to Him at every moment, asking Him for His help. In this way we will know His will in doubtful things and we will do well those things that He is clearly asking of us, offering them to Him before doing them and giving Him thanks for having done them once we have finished.” His words ring true to this day and we would all do well to follow the sage advice of this humble man of God.
- Pastor Darbyshire
131 Christians Everyone Should Know
"Christian History Magazine"
It’s so easy to get lost in the vast array of Christian history, -isms, schisms, names, and dates that it all gets muddled together when we read about the great saints of the past and present. Here’s a book that will help you wade through history without all of the long, drawn-out details and theological discourses. 131 Christians Everyone Should Know, by the authors of “Christian History Magazine,” gives brief, two to three page introductions to many of the great Church leaders, what they are most known for, famous quotes, timelines of events contemporary to their writings, as well as a timeline index of events from AD 30 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The book is divided into sections based on the types of ministries for which each man or woman is known. For instance: Theologians; Evangelists and Apologists; Pastors and Preachers; Musicians, Artists, and Writers; Poets; Denominational Founders; Movers and Shakers; Missionaries; Inner Travelers (Mystics); Activists; Rulers; Scholars and Scientists; and Martyrs. You may want to read it through, familiarize yourself with some of the names, find out about the times in which they lived and the obstacles they faced, or just look at the ones who interest you the most. It can be used as a history book or a quick reference guide. Either way, there is something for everyone in this easy to read and concise book format.
- Pastor Darbyshire
Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel - Russell Moore
“The Church is recognizing that more and more Americans do not greet us as liberators, but indeed see the idea of a ‘Christian America’ as more of a threat than an idea. If we ever were a moral majority, it’s hard to make the case that we are anymore.” The words of Dr. Russell Moore, President of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, are a sobering reminder that the Church in American may never have truly been a moral majority. Instead, we are called to be a “prophetic minority,” as Jesus was in His culture. We are called to engage the culture, be a peculiar people, and risk being called “Jesus Freaks.” As Dr. Moore points out, “The shaking of American culture is no sign that God has given up on American Christianity. In fact, it may be a sign that God is rescuing American Christianity from itself.”
At times, we have been guilty of substituting political expediency and social conformity for the Gospel message. Dr. Moore states, “An almost-gospel won’t do; a cut-rate righteousness won’t either . . . A Church that assumes the Gospel is a Church that soon loses the Gospel.” The message must remain a clear beacon of light in the midst of the rhetoric. However, zealous and misplaced acts of cultural engagement and outrage are inconsistent with the Gospel. We have attempted to reverse the cultural trends by joining forces with the “enemies of our enemies” by assuming “If you are angry with the same people we are, you must be one of us.” He explains, “Jesus never operated this way . . . Rage is no sign of authority, prophetic or otherwise.”
This is a hard hitting, very quotable, and exciting book to read. You will be very encouraged that hope is not lost, but God is drawing people to Himself. Some things will change, as they should, but He works consistently throughout history and His plan is never thwarted. “Those who identify with Christianity, and who gather with the people of God, have already decided to walk out of step with the culture. These Christians have already embraced strangeness by spending Sunday morning at Church rather than at brunch . . . Those who were nominally Christian are suddenly vanished from the pews. Those who wanted an almost-gospel will find that they don’t need it to thrive in American culture . . . Who then is left behind? It will be those defined not by a Christian America but by a Christian Gospel.”
Engage the culture with love and truth. We do not need to try to defend or sell Jesus to the world, but merely to point to Him through our words and actions. The Lion of the tribe of Judah is perfectly capable of defending and revealing Himself.
- Pastor Darbyshire
One of Satan’s greatest triumphs is in convincing Christians to abandon the Bible, or at least keeping them from really mining its depths. He tries to convince us that the Bible is outdated, unimportant or less important than many other things. He tries to convince us that it is difficult to understand and that we should rely on others to interpret it for us.
R.C. Sproul wrote Knowing Scripture in 1977 to address these concerns and out of a desire to see Christians dedicate themselves to a systematic study of the Bible. Even now, it is one of Sproul’s most important and highly recommended books.
Sproul begins with an introduction to why we should read the Bible. He dispels myths regarding Scripture being too difficult to understand or too boring to hold our attention. From that foundation he shows how the principle of private interpretation was a pillar of the Reformation and thus remains a pillar of Protestantism. He explains what private interpretation is and what it is not. He shows, for example, that it does not preclude us from verifying our interpretations against those of others. He also stresses the need for objectivity as we read the Scripture. In short, he keeps us from viewing private interpretation as being a method of forcing Scripture to say what we want it to say.
He dedicates a chapter to an introduction to hermeneutics. Do not be scared by this technical word as it simply means “a list of rules and guidelines for interpreting Scripture.” Some of the concepts he introduces are:
The analogy of faith. This says that Scripture interprets Scripture, or that one passage supports and explains another. It also means that one part of Scripture never corrects another part, for Scripture needs to correction.
Literal Interpretation. This says that Scripture needs to be scrutinized as literature, paying attention to grammar, word choice and genre. Just because the Bible is a special book does not mean we can ignore standard literal interpretation.
Genre Analysis. This says that Scripture must be analyzed for genre and it is crucial that we distinguish between genres such as history and poetry.
Grammatico-Historical. This is a method of interpreting Scripture that focuses on, among other things, grammatical constructions and historical context. This is the traditional and most accurate method of hermeneutics.
Authorship and Dating. It is important to understand the dating of a particular book or passage as well as its authorship.
The author calls attention to a discussion of culture and the Bible. Just I am confined to a specific cultural setting, so were the authors of the Bible. We need to be able to discern the difference between principle and custom in regards to the Bible. Sproul provides several guidelines for doing this.
The book closes with a discussion of some resources that may help in studying the Bible. These range from commentaries to dictionaries and lexicons. If there is an area of this book that shows its age, it is in this section. There are so many more resources at our disposal now, especially on the Internet, that this section loses some of its usefulness. A discussion of modern translations and some of the newer commentaries would be helpful. Perhaps a second edition of this book is in order.
This book does a wonderful job of introducing hermeneutics for the lay person and I would recommend it for any Christian. It presents advanced concepts in a way that it easy to read and understand.
- Pastor Kleiser
In his concise book Know Why You Believe, Paul Little helps us to understand and be able to articulate many of the questions skeptics ask about the Bible and Christianity. The chapters cover such topics as: Is Christianity Rational?; Is the Bible God’s Word?; Are the Bible Documents Reliable?; Does Archaeology Help?; Do Science and Scripture Conflict?; Why Does God Allow Suffering?; Does Christianity Differ from Other Religions?; and several more. You’ll gain tremendous insight into the amazing accuracy of the Scriptures and God’s plan for mankind while having solid answers to some of the difficulties unbelievers (and many believers) face when they wrestle with the myriad of viewpoints. This is a book packed with knowledge in an easy to understand format.
- Pastor Darbyshire
"[From] the moment students set foot on the contemporary campus, their Christian convictions and discipline are assaulted. ‘Faith is just a crutch,’ they hear from friends and teachers. ‘The Bible is just mythology.’ ‘Christianity is judgmental and intolerant.’ ‘Morality is different everywhere.’ ‘Everyone must find his own truth.’ ‘I can be good without God.’ ‘Jesus was just a man who died.’ No wonder so many lose their faith!” (J. Budziszewski, How to Stay Christian in College).
Dr. Budziszewski is a philosopher, and a professor who, according to the website at the University of Texas at Austin, “specializes in political philosophy, ethical philosophy, and the interaction of religion with philosophy. Among his research interests are classical natural law, virtue ethics, moral self deception, family and sexuality, and the problem of toleration.”
The book, originally published by NavPress in 1999 contains chapters entitled Worldviews, Talking with NonChristian Friends, Campus Myths, and How to Cope. Reading How to Stay Christian in College will be a blessing and a help in your battle against the enemies of Christ whether you are in college or not. "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise." Proverbs 13:20.
Professor Budziszewski points out that for many young people college is the first escape from the structure and boundaries of home and can be a strange world of adult personal freedom combined with, in some cases, an atmosphere that still protects, provides, and pampers. Unfortunately, “colleges and universities are [also] magnets for extreme beliefs, ideologies, and cults.” For the young Christian, raised by Christian parents, who was part of a Christian youth group and church, and who may have even attended Christian schools, campus can be culture shock. Finding oneself with an unbelieving roommate, and/or suddenly outgunned and outnumbered in a place where the Bible, the Christian faith, and Christian values are held up to constant ridicule is a face-slapping reminder that the world is the enemy. Unfortunately, “As students grow older, the intellectual level of their Christian training often drops instead of rises! Many of them never get beyond a child’s understanding of the faith. They carry it right into college, where it’s all too often blown away.” So Dr. Budziszewski begins the book by underscoring the basics of orthodox Christianity.
Following that the author introduces the false philosophies and beliefs systems that the Christian student may run across in the halls of academia: Naturalism (“Naturalists like to think of themselves as brave defenders of clear reasoning against irrational superstition, but actually naturalism itself is the superstition. It isn’t supported by reasoning, but by blind hostility to the evidence of God.”). Postmodernism (basically a self-refuting “There is no such thing as truth” belief system), and Do-It-Yourself Spirituality (as in “I’m a very spiritual person”, a wonderfully ridiculous western buffet of pick and choose what you want kind of religion you want).
He introduces the reader to many other lies that will be commonplace in the halls of academia such as, “Faith and reason or faith and truth are mutually exclusive”. “Truth is whatever you sincerely believe” (i.e. relativism), and “Truth is whatever works” (pragmatism), and “We can’t really know anything for certain”. He covers a lot of ground in this easy to read, fairly short book.
- Pastor Kleiser
In his book, Stop Dating the Church, Josh Harris makes the statement, "even though I had stopped playing the dating game with girls, I was perfectly happy to keep playing it with the Church. I liked attending on weekends, and I enjoyed the social benefits of Church, but I didn't want the responsibility that came with real commitment."
He goes on to describe what real commitment looks like in a relationship with others, with God, and with His bride (the Church). We are to see the Church from heaven's perspective, think globally, love locally, put passion in action, and discern what matters most to God. Pastor Harris continues, "remember that you're not here to be entertained. You're not part of an audience - you're part of a congregation. You stand before the Audience of One."
For a concise view of the value of the local Church and God's perspective on commitment, check out this excellent book by Josh Harris.
- Pastor Darbyshire
Evolution's Achilles' Heels is a powerful book (illustrated in full color) exposing the fatal flaws of evolutionary thinking.
The authors, a combined group of nine PhD scientists, have produced a work that is thought by many other scientists, to demolish the very pillars of the belief system that underpins our now-secular culture--evolutionary naturalism. The book covers natural selection, origin of life, geology, genetics, radiometric dating, the fossil record, cosmology, and ethics. This 272 page book has been written with the high school student in mind but would be an excellent choice to read by an adult as well. It is available in our library.
- Pastor Kleiser
In Reckless Abandon, David Sitton of To Every Tribe Ministries has given us a good book to challenge our missionary thinking as he recounts a lifetime of experiences among the most difficult to reach peoples.
While Reckless Abandon is certainly not less than a book of stories from the field, it offers significantly more than that. As Sitton recounts his experiences in Papua New Guinea, he weaves into it his own philosophy of missions, one that calls for (you guessed it), reckless abandon. He defines the term like this: “To give oneself unrestrainedly to the cause of Jesus and the promotion of His kingdom without concern for danger and the consequences of that action.” His life models just that.
That kind of recklessness and abandon begins with an understanding of the beauty and power of the gospel. He says it well: “The gospel is so valuable that no risk is unreasonable. Life is gained by laying it down for the gospel. If I live, I win and get to keep on preaching Christ. If I die, I win bigger by going directly to be with Christ and I get to take a few tribes with me.”
His life story exemplifies that level of commitment. Converted as a young man, he very quickly determined that he was being called to foreign missions, and not only that, but was being called to go where no one had gone before. He wanted to be like Paul, not building on another man’s foundation but laying the foundation himself. He soon found himself in Papua New Guinea, trekking through the jungle, approaching tribes that had never even seen a single caucasian man before. Wherever he went he proclaimed the gospel. Needless to say, his life has not been one of ease, but the Lord has used him powerfully to save the lost and to inspire others to follow in his footsteps.
I would encourage you to read Reckless Abandon to marvel at how the Lord has used a man who, by his own description, seems to be unremarkable and no more than average in many of his abilities, but driven by a passion to see God worshiped all the way to the earth’s farthest corners. And read it to see how much work remains and how many more people are needed to take the gospel to those who have never once heard the name of Jesus.
Written in an informal, conversational tone, it is not difficult to imagine as you read these pages that Sitton is sitting with you, simply recounting some of what he has seen and done in his thirty-four years of ministry. You will be inspired; you will rejoice.
- Pastor Kleiser
Before You Hit Send: Preventing Headache and Heartache is a recent (2017) book by Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love & Respect. In it, he discusses practical ways to avoid embarrassment and regret for sinning against God and others through the things we say and the things we post on social media. While it’s possible to delete a post, it’s impossible to erase the damage caused by behaviors that are misrepresenting the Lord Jesus Christ. Others are taking “screenshots” of the things we say and do and, oftentimes, those cannot be erased from their memories. He explains, “When we don’t stop to think before we speak, we increase the odds that we will misrepresent our best selves, which could result in people misinterpreting us. We leave them wondering if we have goodwill or good sense, or neither.”
Dr. Eggerichs breaks the book down into five major categories, based on Philippians 4:8: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it clear? and the Epilogue, “After You Hit Send.” In these chapters, he describes various types of communicators and receivers that we encounter each day and how these filters bend the messages toward the style of the communication. For instance, in dealing with true communication, he addresses the fearful, the selfish, the evasive, the prideful, the emotional, the flatterer, the chameleon, the copycat, the oath-maker, the wordsmith, and several others. After describing each of these issues, he gives helpful advice on how to decipher the message, deal graciously with the miscommunication, and achieve the intended goals. This book will be helpful for anyone who wishes to get their message across in a clear and accurate manner.
- Pastor Darbyshire
In Soul Physicians, Robert W. Kellemen explores seven key biblical categories for developing a theology of soul care and spiritual direction. The result is a thoroughly biblical systematic theology written with the insights and illustrations of a mental health professional. The tremendous issues that people face today call for a work that skillfully guides those who labor in helping Christians reach maturity in Christ. Soul Physicians meets that need and will be of great value to pastors, students, and those in the pew. Dr. Kellemen’s credentials both in the theological world and the world of counseling make him uniquely qualified to produce such a work. If you enjoy assisting believers in Christ with spiritual growth as well as monitoring your own progress, you will be well rewarded by reading this book.
- Pastor Kleiser
Angola Beloved, T. Ernest Wilson
First published in 1967, Angola Beloved still challenges believers today to live a life of faith. From boyhood, T. Ernest Wilson's imagination was stirred by reading about David Livingston, Fred Arnot, and Mary Slessor. He wanted to follow in their footsteps, see the places they had pioneered.
Born in Belfast, in a Christian home, at age 21 he left work in the world's largest shipyard to venture into the heart of Africa with the gospel. This volume tells of the forty years spent in his beloved Angola. Forced to leave in 1961, he continued his Bible teaching ministry throughout the United States and around the world for the next thirty-five years before going home to be with the Lord in 1996.
When only eighteen years old, he had listened to missionaries tell of the great spiritual need in Angola and made a commitment in his heart to serve the Lord among those people. That heart-felt commitment became a reality when he was commended to the work of the Lord in Africa several years later by a small working class assembly in Belfast. He not only had a desire to be obedient but had also been deeply impressed by the faith and testimony of men like George Mueller, who had put their confidence entirely in the Lord, never asking for money. Believing this to be the way God intended us to live, he made it a practice to never mention his material needs to anyone but the Lord.
In the book, God is Faithful, compiled by Jabe Nicholson, a story is told that perfectly illustrates what living a life of faith really means. As T. Ernest Wilson was standing on the Belfast docks preparing to leave for Africa, a kind brother pressed two gold coins into his hand, saying, "If you are ever down to your last penny, there is something to fall back on." As a testament to God's faithfulness and provision, T. Ernest Wilson still had those two gold coins over seventy years later. God had fully met their needs during a life of service to Him.
This book is an account both of hardship and joy, as well as setback and accomplishment. It is a riveting story of danger, adventure and opportunity for the Lord. But more than all that, it is a practical example of how we as believers should be living. We do pray that this updated edition will reach a new generation of believers, both young and old who desire to serve the Lord faithfully, putting into practice the words of Philippians 4:19, "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
- Pastor Kleiser
Prince Caspian, C.S. Lewis
It is no secret that C.S. Lewis is an incredible writer and story teller. Unlike his popular series, The Chronicles of Narnia, this book is nonfiction; however, it is still written in the same thought-provoking way that The Chronicles of Narnia was. Lewis has a way of taking common questions and concerns that everyone is struggling with and offers a type of explanation for them. While it is far-removed from an academic textbook, Prince Caspian has been often used as required supplemental reading for many various college courses. If you struggle with the existence of pain in a world with an all-loving God, this book is definitely for you. As with every sermon or article that discusses theology, it is very important that you take Lewis' words and see how they line up with Scripture and your own convictions. You will find greater peace after reading this book as it causes you to think and may well challenge some existing beliefs that you have. Ultimately, and without doubt, it will cause you to grow as a person.
- Pastor Kleiser
In Letters to the Church, Francis Chan advocates for the home Church model of ministry. After pastoring a mega-church in Simi Valley, California, he handed the leadership over to other Pastors and walked away from it to seek a more simple and biblical approach to ministry. Much of his influence came from reading how the New Testament Church was so successful in spreading the Gospel, as well as seeing how this structure is implemented in countries where the Gospel is growing exponentially. He states that, all too often, our doctrinal statements contain good theology, but our structures convey a different, heretical theology. He goes on to say, “The theology that matters is not the theology we profess but the theology we practice.”
In China, a leader of an underground Church network explained the five pillars of the home Church movement that they follow: 1. Deep commitment to prayer. 2. Commitment to the Word of God. 3. Commitment to the sharing of the Gospel. 4. Regular expectation of miracles. 5. Embracing suffering for the glory of Christ. While most of us will raise our hands in support for the first three, we began to lose people with number four and many more with number five. Why is this? Could it be that this is the line in the sand that separates the committed from the attendees? We have become so comfortable in going to Church that we lose sight of what it means to be the Church. Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs, who was tortured by the Nazis and Russians for his faith stated, "A man really believes not what he recites in his creed, but only the things he is willing to die for." Francis Chan adds, “We must stop creating safe places for people to hide and start developing fearless warriors to send out.”
If you’d like further details on the logistical structure of how these concepts are implemented, you may read more at http://wearechurch.com/structure-1/. Some may completely oppose this concept while others embrace its effectiveness. Regardless of which school of thought you follow, there are important lessons to be learned from the scriptural expectations of all believers. Let us not attempt to offer to the LORD our God that which costs us nothing (2 Sam. 24:24; 1 Chron. 21:24).
- Pastor Darbyshire
Have you ever found yourself so caught up and concerned with the rampant sinfulness of our culture that you forget about the subtle sins in your own heart? If so, Jerry Bridges has written a book for you. Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate (NavPress, 2007) takes aim at the sins many Christians consciously or unconsciously consider “acceptable” behavior. For those who take the lordship of Jesus Christ seriously and seek to be like Him, this book is required reading.
The first chapters of the book set the stage by describing the true nature of sin as God sees it. Tragically, the idea of sin has disappeared in many churches, and where the concept remains, it is sometimes deflected. In other words, we readily condemn those outside of the church for flagrant sins, all the while silently condoning our own sins such as gossip, envy, and discontentment. We do not realize that sin, all sin, is a malignant spiritual cancer that, left unchecked, will destroy us and corrupt those around us.
Bridges, however, does not leave it at this. He does not stop with the bad news. He places his discussion of sin in the context of the Gospel of Christ — the only remedy for sin. He reminds us that the reason Christ died on the cross was in order to atone for the sins of His people. In order to deal effectively with sin, whether flagrant or “respectable,” Christians need to preach this Gospel to themselves every day. Bridges also reminds us that in order to deal with sin, we must depend on the Holy Spirit. This does not mean taking a quietistic “let go and let God” approach, because our action is still required, but our action apart from the work of the Holy Spirit will be ineffective.
After dealing with these necessary introductory matters, Bridges moves to a chapter-by-chapter analysis of “respectable sins.” Bridges considers the root sin to be ungodliness: “living one’s everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God’s will, or of God’s glory, or of one’s dependence on God.” Christians often live in this way, as if God is essentially irrelevant in their day-to-day lives. Bridges turns next to the common sins of anxiety and worry. Both are sin because both betray a basic lack of trust in God.
Another sin that is widespread among Christians is the sin of discontentment, which arises from unchanging circumstances that we can do nothing about. Unthankfulness is also persistent among Christians, who sometimes do not realize how serious a sin it is. Bridges suggests that one reason for the decadence of our culture may be the judgment of God for our failure to honor and thank Him. An entire chapter is devoted to the sin of pride. Bridges focuses on four specific kinds of pride: moral self-righteousness, theological self-righteousness, pride of achievement, and the pride of an independent spirit. He then examines the sin of selfishness, which can also manifest itself in different ways. We can be selfish about our interests in conversation, about money, about time, and we can demonstrate selfishness by simply being inconsiderate.
Self-control, as Bridges explains, is “a governance or prudent control of one’s desires, cravings, impulses, emotions, and passions.” Lack of self-control is another common sin among Christians. Bridges offers as examples our lack of self-control in regard to food, tempers, personal finances, and activities such as watching television. Bridges then looks at those sins closely related to anger, sins such as irritability, resentment, and bitterness. Sadly, these sins are often directed at those whom we should love the most, including our spouses and our children.
The final chapters deal with the “respectable sins” of judgmentalism, envy, gossip, slander, lying, and worldliness. Gossip is among the most prevalent “respectable sins” while at the same time being among the most destructive. Worldliness may require definition. It may be defined as “being attached to, engrossed in, or preoccupied with the things of this temporal life.” Bridges deals with three types of worldliness: a worldly attitude toward money, vicarious immorality, and idolatry of the heart.
A word of warning is required when reading this book. If while reading you catch yourself thinking, “I really wish so-and-so would read this book,” then it is especially for you. We are all guilty of at least some of these sins some of the time. We all need reminding that every time we sin, we despise God (2 Sam. 12:9–10). Most of all, we all need reminding that Jesus died on the cross that all of our sins might be forgiven.
- Pastor Kleiser
Thom Rainer’s sequel to I Am a Church Member is titled I Will. Like its predecessor, it’s a small, easy to read book of just over 100 pages. He begins with a story of a Church member who started out with joy, but became discouraged and dropped out of Church altogether.
His focus is on moving from the self-centered member perspective of “I want” to the true servant perspective of “I will”. We are to remember that we don’t exist as members of Christ’s body to be served, but to serve. Our rewards come from knowing Christ and the ultimate blessings of a relationship with Him, not positions, awards, recognition from others, etc.
The book is divided into the following chapters: 1. I Will Move from “I Am” to “I Will”; 2. I Will Worship with Others; 3. I Will Grow Together with Others; 4. I Will Serve; 5. I Will Go; 6. I Will Give Generously; 7. I Will Not Be a Church Dropout; 8. I Will Avoid the Traps of Churchianity; and 9. I Will Make a Difference.
In chapter one, he asks us to take inventory of our attitudes concerning the Church by focusing on being a unifier, having a sacrificial mindset, being prayerful, being joyful, and deciding to not let distractions cause us to lose our focus on these things.
The past several years have seen a paradigm shift in the relationship between the Church and the community. We’ve become Church hoppers, program shoppers, big toppers, and prayer dropouts. We have checklists of service expectations as if we’re heading to the supermarket for groceries. While Churches should be sensitive to the legitimate needs of their members and guests, we should not be so program-driven that we lose sight of our focus remaining fixed on Christ and the Gospel message. Rainer elaborates this point when he discusses the idea of corporate (group) worship that has gone off the tracks and has become “about me, myself, and I. It is about my needs, my preferences, and my wants. It’s hard to find God in this scenario. It is all about us. It’s not all about God.” Statistics show that Churches decline when the members become inwardly-focused, self-serving, and lose their interest in fulfilling the great commission, even though eight out of ten people who do not attend Church will come if someone invites them.
1 Corinthians 12:27 states, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Which part are you? Are you growing and strengthening the parts around you? Are you dormant or atrophied? Is it hard to find a place to fit in and use your gifts? Serve Christ (our audience of One), be faithful, and opportunities will present themselves.
I believe you will find this book compelling. Each brief chapter concludes with Points to Ponder, a few questions that help you to personalize the concepts discussed in the chapter.
- Pastor Darbyshire
In preparation for a sermon series on the cross this month and in April, I re-read The Truth of the Cross by theologian R.C. Sproul. It is perhaps the best book on the cross I have ever read and I have read quite a few over the years. Less reflective and meditative than the superb book, The Cross He Bore by Frederick Leahy, but with a greater emphasis on teaching theology, The Truth of the Cross will be a great addition to any library. This and The Cross He Bore could be read together every year and would undoubtedly bring great blessing with each reading. It is good to remember the cross and to come to a greater understanding of what it means and why it matters. The Truth of the Cross will center your thoughts upon the cross and upon the One Who went there willingly so that we could have eternal life. Let me share views from a couple of respected scholars:
“The Truth of the Cross is a ‘must’ for every church library and a book that I will give away many times to friends. This is so because it is sober (i.e., it contains historically informed reflections on salient biblical texts), sensible (i.e., it is well-argued), simple (i.e., it holds the reader’s attention through grabbing illustrations and even a seventh-grader can understand its substance), and spiritual (i.e., it comes from a heart set ablaze by the Spirit).” - Dr. Bruce K. Waltke, Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, MS
“The cross stands at the very center of our Christian lives. Still, many Christians are confused about the heart of the gospel, for many deviant views are in the air. R.C. Sproul blows the fog away in this wonderfully clear, theologically profound, and pastorally rich work. Learn afresh or anew what God has accomplished in the cross, so that you will boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ.” - Dr. Thomas R. Schreiner, Professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY
- Pastor Kleiser
The Holy War by John Bunyan
Bunyan is marvelous. Pilgrim’s Progress is, of course, his most famous work, but The Holy War is in much the same vein. However, whereas Pilgrim’s Progress is much more of an allegory for a Christian’s sojourn from earth unto heaven, The Holy War is more of an allegory about the internal war which takes place in a man. Bunyan presents us with a town called Mansoul, and describes how it was lost to Satan, and how Shaddai and His Son Emmanuel regained it. Bunyan does allegory like none other, and while many have tried and done quite shabbily, Bunyan knows what notes to hit, and throughout are gems of wisdom, insight and edifying truths. One statement that struck me was this one, which Bunyan put in the mouth of Diabolus (the Devil):
Their looseness of life is a sign
that there is not much heart in what they do,
and without the heart things are little worth.
Truly, the Devil knows, often more than Saints do, that true religion must be from the heart and engage the whole man, body, soul and spirit.
One of the most insightful (and edifying) points was when Mansoul had fallen into a state of backsliding and indifference, it is the character Mr. Prywell whom Bunyan selects to be the means of grace whereby God (Shaddai) awakens the town of Mansoul. This was one of the more useful tidbits from the book. I’ve discipled folks who are so introspective, and have all the self-evaluation of the Puritans without any of their Gospel freedom. We must often reflect on our spiritual state, but we ought to “Prywell.” It doesn’t do any good to simply find all your faults, fears, and doubts, and then fail to ring the warning bells of the town. True introspection and pious self-reflection ought to be done with the goal of awakening grace within us to fight.
This was my first time through this classic. There was only one thing that felt “off” to me and it was that the allegory’s portrayal of God lacked trinitarian robustness. The Father was presented as “Shaddai,” and His son, the Prince Emmanuel; however, the Holy Ghost didn’t quite play as integral a part as I think would be more biblically accurate. Perhaps I missed it, but the character the Lord-Secretary, I believe was presented as being the Spirit, but Bunyan didn’t seem to quite give Him the right sort of attention. That could have been by design, for the Spirit moves mysteriously. That would be my only quibble, and perhaps on a subsequent tour through Mansoul, I might be made to change my mind.
And in the final chapter, Prince Emmanuel gives a message of comfort to the inhabitants of Mansoul, and it is quite moving. I’ll leave you with the first paragraph of His speech:
You, my Mansoul, and the beloved of mine heart, many and great are the privileges that I have bestowed upon you; I have singled you out from others, and have chosen you to myself, not for your worthiness, but for mine own sake. I have also redeemed you, not only from the dread of my Father’s law, but from the hand of Diabolus. This I have done because I loved you, and because I have set my heart upon you to do you good. I have also, that all things that might hinder thy way to the pleasures of Paradise might be taken out of the way, laid down for thee for thy soul a plenary satisfaction, and have bought thee to myself; a price not of corruptible things, as of silver and gold, but a price of blood, mine own blood, which I have freely spilled upon the ground to make thee mine. So I have reconciled thee, O my Mansoul, to my Father, and entrusted thee in the mansion-houses that are with my Father in the royal city, where things are, O my Mansoul, that eye hath not seen, nor hath entered into the heart of man to conceive.
- Ben Zorn
A Sweet and Bitter Providence is a very fine exposition and application of the story of Ruth to our lives today. The story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz plays out under the invisible hand of God, as told by the skillful hand of John Piper. He gleans his title from Ruth 1:20-21, where Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, candidly laments, “The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. The Almighty has brought calamity upon me.”
Summarizing his summary, Piper notes, “Here’s the question the book answers: Is God’s bitter providence the last word? Everywhere I look in the world today, whether near or far, the issue for real people in real life is, Can I trust and love the God who has dealt me this painful hand in life? That is the question the book of Ruth intends to answer.”
Piper’s answer, Ruth’s answer, Naomi’s answer, and God’s answer is clear: God is at work in the worst of times. The worst of times are not wasted—globally, historically, or personally. Piper’s quote of William Cowper’s verse says it well:
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
Piper makes the additional, important point that the answer to this question is meant not merely to help us to think right thoughts about God, nor merely to give us hope in His good providence. “That hope-filled confidence is meant to release radical, risk-taking love. It’s there to make you a new kind of person—a person who is able to ‘do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8).”
The book is a brief, but rich, four-chapter journey through the four chapters of the book of Ruth. The trek begins with the trials and travails—the bitterness and calamity—of Naomi, her sons, and her daughters-in-law. Piper rightly affirms Naomi for her acceptance of the sovereignty of God even in the darkest days of her life. “When the world is crashing in, we need assurance that God reigns over it all.”
- Pastor Kleiser
In his exceptional 2013 book, gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for your Heart (which also has an accompanying DVD study series), Kyle Idleman postulates the following thesis: “Idolatry isn’t an issue; it is the issue . . . Idolatry is always the issue. It’s the trunk of the tree, and all other problems are just branches.” I found this statement to be quite compelling, which led me to read the book to see how he supported this concept.
We have issues in our lives that we desire - apart from or in addition to God - which we attempt to minimize and justify. We give them inoffensive names, claim they are no big deal and that God understands, or hide them from others who may not accept them the way we do. Os Guinness writes:
Idolatry is huge in the Bible,
dominant in our personal lives,
and irrelevant in our mistaken estimations.
We all have struggles and this book helps to bring these issues to light so they may be addressed for what they are, submitted under the blood of Christ, and their strongholds broken from ruling our lives.
Not all idols are overtly evil. In fact, some may be philanthropic in appearance. Idleman explains, “One of our problems in identifying the gods is that their identities not only lack the usual trappings of religion; they are also things that often aren’t even wrong . . . These things are not immoral but amoral; they are morally neutral until they are not . . . The problem is that the instant something takes the place of God, the moment it becomes an end in itself rather than something to lay at God’s throne, it becomes an idol. When someone or something replaces the Lord God in the position of glory in our lives, then that person or thing by definition has become our god.”
Some of the issues he addresses in this book are: the gods of food, sex, entertainment, success, money, achievement, romance, family, and the god of me. These things have their appropriate places in our lives, but should never take His place. In reference to Psalm 34:8, he states, “God cannot and will not give us a sense of lasting pleasure apart from Him, because it violates His purpose and our design.” This is an intriguing statement because it is so contrary to our desires for immediate gratification from the people and things we think will fulfill those needs.
This is a very interesting - and often humorous - book about finding balance in serving the true God in everyday life. Something helpful to remember is Idleman’s statements: “The ultimate path away from a false god is the path toward the true one . . . Idols are defeated not by being removed but by being replaced.”
- Pastor Darbyshire
D. A. Carson’s, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, is an intriguing book with an equally intriguing title. This is more of a “deep read” than a “page turner”. It will lead you to think outside of the box to the paradoxical statements and situations that led to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah.
The chapter titles and sub-titles introduce the juxtaposed ironies that the Bible presents when it discusses the truth of God’s plan to redeem mankind by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. These include:
* The Man Who is Mocked as King is the King
* The Man who is Utterly Powerless is Powerful
* The Man Who Can’t Save Himself Saves Others
* The Man Who Cries Out in Despair Trusts God
Some of the other points of interest that Dr. Carson raises are:
* We are more frightened of temporal judgements than final judgment.
* In pagan propitiation (that which causes one to act favorably toward another who has wronged them), a human being offers a propitiatory sacrifice to make a god propitious.
* In Christian propitiation, God the Father sets forth Jesus as the propitiation to make himself propitious; God is both the subject and the object (propitiator and propitiated) of propitiation.
* Many in our society have been taught that, in the religious realm, the only view that is wrong is the view that says that any other view is wrong. The only heresy is to insist that there is such a thing as heresy.
* He (Jesus) is the Lion and the Lamb, the reigning King and the bloody sacrifice, the heir to David’s throne yet the one who appears from God’s throne.
* The world will continue to get both better and worse. The Gospel will advance, and so will opposition.
* God often surprises us; He is not to be domesticated by reductionistic theology; He takes the common things and turns them into surprising things.
* Those who draw really close to Jesus think of themselves, first and foremost, as those loved by Him rather than as those who profess their love for Him.
* God may be less interested in giving us explanations than in building character.
* Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus because He was both compassionate and outraged.
* Whenever we sin, God is the most offended party.
Dr. Carson (professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) shines through with his deep insights and warm humor to take us behind the scenes of some well know biblical encounters and enlightens us on the stories behind the stories. You will learn a lot from this book and be drawn closer to our amazing God, who loved us before we first loved Him.
- Pastor Darbyshire
The Bondage of the Will is considered by many to be Martin Luther’s most important book, and it stands today as one of the great classics in Christian history. He wrote in 1525 at the beginning of the Reformation in answer to a work by Erasmus, the classical scholar and humanist (1469-1536). Both Erasmus and Luther rejected many of the erroneous practices of the Roman Catholic church but Luther went further to challenge the Roman teaching of salvation by works. Erasmus pleased the Pope by writing to uphold the Roman dogma of “free will,” that man could of himself decide to choose for his salvation and that no handicap existed in man to hinder that decision. Luther saw correctly that the Biblical doctrines of the depravity of man and salvation by faith alone stand together. He declared Erasmus to be at odds with the doctrine of salvation by faith alone and not works, and wrote The Bondage of the Will to establish this doctrine at the core of evangelicalism. An abridged version can be found in PDF form and is available from The Modern English Series in the Pastor's library.
- Pastor Kleiser
John Piper’s A Sweet and Bitter Providence explores the Old Testament book of Ruth to teach the powerful truth that God is at work even in the worst of times. In Piper’s able hands, we learn that God’s affectionate sovereignty brings glory to Christ, comfort to Christians, and hope that leads to risk-taking love for others. He gleans his title from Ruth 1:20-21, where Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, candidly laments, “The Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. The Almighty has brought calamity upon me.” In his summary, Piper notes, “Here’s the question the book answers: Is God’s bitter providence the last word? Everywhere I look in the world today, whether near or far, the issue for real people in real life is, Can I trust and love the God who has dealt me this painful hand in life? That is the question the book of Ruth intends to answer.” Piper’s answer, Ruth’s answer, Naomi’s answer, and God’s answer is clear: God is at work in the worst of times. The worst of times are not wasted—globally, historically, or personally.
- Pastor Kleiser
If you have an interest in Church history, especially the Reformation, you may have heard of the German monk, Martin Luther. However, Luther did not develop his theology on his own; he was greatly influenced by the writings of the Bohemian priest and theologian, Jan (John) Hus [A.D. 1369 (or 1373)-1415]. William Dallmann’s short book, John Hus, a Brief Story of the Life of a Martyr, is a great introduction to a man of impeccable character who was unwilling to compromise the truth of Scripture, even at the cost of his own life.
Jan (Hus was added from Husinec, where he was born) attended the University of Prag where he received both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, even though he was often hungry and homeless. He often sang in the streets just to have bread to eat. He was later ordained as a priest, appointed Dean, chosen to be Rector, and was the preacher at the prestigious Bethlehem Chapel. When Jerome of Prag introduced the writing of John Wycliffe to Bohemia, the teachings spread quickly and Jan was very impressed with Wycliffe, although he knew that he would be in grave danger with the government and the Roman church, who had declared many of Wycliffe’s writings to be heretical.
Once he took a stand against Emperors, Kings, Popes, and Archbishops and refused to withdraw any statements that could not be refuted by Scripture - a similar stance taken by Luther - it was only a matter of time before he would be betrayed, excommunicated, exiled, and condemned. One of his more famous statement was “I call God to witness . . . that I came here of my own accord with this intent - that if anyone could give me better instruction I would unhesitatingly change my views.” No one did, but they were more concerned with crushing any dissent among the people than seeking truth. His focus was on winning souls with the truth of the Gospel and he was bitterly opposed to indulgences, fake relics, simony, and other forms of fraud that fleeced the people.
Upon finding the writings of Jan Hus in a library, Luther wrote, "I was overwhelmed with astonishment. I could not understand for what cause they had burnt so great a man, who explained the Scriptures with so much gravity and skill." I believe you will find his writings and bravery equally inspiring.
- Pastor Darbyshire
During my recent sermon series, "Dressed for Battle," which was an exposition of Ephesians 6:10-20, I re-read William Gurnall's classic The Christian in Complete Armour. Gurnall was a giant in the faith who died in 1679. While it is available in a 'modernized' version, I recommend the original though it may require that you slow down a bit and ponder the language. The beauty of his 19th century style of writing is worth the effort. Certainly one of the greatest of all the Puritan’s practical writings, this book has been many times republished, but the best edition in my opinion remains that of 1864. Many abridged or “modernized” versions of classic works fall short of the original's impact much like a modernized interpretation of a Rembrandt would do. I cannot improve on the comments of others, so I include the following endorsements from men whose walk with Christ was unquestionable and whose opinions are to be highly valued.
If I might read only one book beside the Bible, I would choose The Christian in Complete Armour.’ — JOHN NEWTON
‘Gurnall’s work is peerless and priceless; every line is full of wisdom; every sentence is suggestive. The whole book has been preached over scores of times, and is, in our judgment, the best thought-breeder in all our library.’ — C.H. SPURGEON
‘You will often find in a line and a half some great truth, put so concisely, and yet so fully, that you really marvel how so much thought could be got into so few words.’ — J.C. RYLE
- Charles Kleiser