Three Books to Read to Spark Gratitude

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Thanksgiving is a holiday built around gratitude. It has been a national holiday since 1941 and it was an annual tradition for a longtime before that. We should be thankful all year long, but the holiday helps to remind us of our God-given blessings. Here are three books that will spark your gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Choosing Gratitude: Learning to Love the Life You Have by James Autry

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James Autry is a former Fortune 500 executive turned author, poet and business coach.  In this book, Autry writes about finding gratitude for the simple things of life like family, friends, spiritual matters, those who serve, and even the pain of life. He doesn’t necessarily come from an evangelical Christian direction, but his writing is humorous, warm, and inspiring. His original poetry is a breath of fresh air too. This book is great for someone who is looking for new inspiration this holiday season.

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin

81k6cZbsAYLCranberry Thanksgiving is a classic children’s tale about sharing with others and mistaken impressions. In the Devlin’s tale, Grandmother and her granddaughter Maggie invite someone poor and lonely over for Thanksgiving dinner. When one of their guests steals the receipt to Grandmother’s famous cranberry bread their meal takes a surprising turn. Share this book with your children or grandchildren as you prepare for your own Thanksgiving feast.

Choosing Gratitude: Your Journey to Joy by Nancy Leigh DeMoss

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In this book, DeMoss challenges and equips readers to live intentionally based on the freedom that is found in Christ Jesus. My favorite quote in this book is, “Gratitude is a lifestyle. A hard-fought, grace-infused, biblical lifestyle. This is a guide for readers who want to push back against the bitterness and resentment that exists all around us and who want to choose joy. Gratitude and joy exist together in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

You can find these books at your favorite retailers. Feel free to share this post and share these books with any one that you know who wants to grow their gratitude.

Three Books to Read Before You Go to Seminary

 

pawel-czerwinski-yqp59hghp8y-unsplash.jpgSeminary offers intense instruction and specialized training for those called into various leadership roles in the kingdom of God. Seminary exposes students to wide variety of Biblical, theological, and practical themes. It also inevitably involves a lot of reading. Here are three books a student should read before he or she goes to seminary.

1. How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

51crijZbWGL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_This suggestion is not a put down. Before I went to seminary, I didn’t realize how bad I was at reading, analyzing, and interacting with written text. Alder’s and Van Doren’s book on how to read gave me the tools I needed to become a better reader, which a must in seminary. This book is  especially for those who already think they are a good reader and those who would like help improving their skills in this area.

 

2. Who Needs Theology? by Stanley J. Grenz and Roger E. Olson

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In this book, Grenz and Olson describe why everyone is a theologian and why theology (especially good theology) matters. Then they explain how to “do” Christian theology well. The authors go into the tasks, traditions, and tools that are available to a theologian in order for him or her to do their work. This book is good for the student who may look past the reflective side of seminary in a rush to learn the more practical skills of ministry.

3. Why I Am Not An Arminian by Robert A.Peterson and Michael D. Williams and Why I Am Not A Calvinist by Jerry L. Walls and Joseph R. Dongell

62469585The titles of these two books alone should be enough to explain why they are this list. Too many seminary students have emerged from there first semester of study thinking they have solved a debate that has been raging in the Church for generations. These books should be read together by the student who wants to get better, humbler handle on these popular approaches to salvation.

You can find these books at your favorite retailers. Feel free to share this post and share these books with any one that you know how is thinking about going to seminary.

 

 

 

Three Books to Read about Discipleship

florencia-viadana-DsqgRPnrfW0-unsplashChurches can be as creative as they want to be with their vision, strategy, and values, but  not when it comes to the mission of the church. In the Great Commission, Jesus tasked the church with making disciples in His name (Mathew 28:18-20). The mission of the church is and always has been to make disciples. Here are three books I would suggest about how that can be done in today.

  1. The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman

9780800788087This book has evangelism in the title, but it’s really about discipleship. In it, Robert Coleman traces the eight guiding principles Jesus used to train His disciples and to send them out in His absence. Coleman cautions church leaders against prepackaged discipleship programs. Instead, he encourages a more relational approach. This book would be good for anyone who is thinking though the overall process of discipleship and leadership development.

2. Rediscovering Discipleship by Robby Gallaty

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Robby Gallaty builds his case for discipleship in the church on the ministry of Jesus and other discipleship leaders throughout church history. He goes on to suggest a model of progressive discipleship found in Charles Wesley’s ministry. Gallaty gains ground by including  spiritual disciplines like Bible memorization and journaling into his suggested model. This book is excellent for church leaders who want to refocus their churches on reproducible discipleship.

3. Disciple-shift by Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington

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Jim Putman and Bobby Harrington believe that discipleship should be the core focus of the church. To that end, they suggest five shifts to engage the “engine” of discipleship. The shift that is most meaningful for me as a pastor is to go from informing the church to equipping the church. This book is best for those who are already looking to ramp up the discipleship efforts in their churches. Readers will find value insights to help them troubleshoot their revitalization efforts.

You can find these books at your favorite retailers. Feel free to share this post and share these books with the people who know who care about discipleship in the church.

Three Books to Read Once You’re Saved

markus-spiske-wbqdgo6cxq-unsplash.jpgNew believers need lots of encouragement and instruction when the begin their walk with the Lord. Ideally, this should happen within the supportive community of a local church. In addition to the Bible, here are three books that I would suggest.

1. New Christian’s Handbook: Everything Believers Need to Know by Max Anders

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Max Anders does a wonderful job of summarizing all of the introductory issues of Christianity in one relatively small and approachable volume. He focuses on what Christians believe, why they believe it, and how they should live in response. Each chapter is organized around a different question like, “Who is God?” and “How Did We Get the Bible?” making it easy to digest. This is a great place to start for new believer.

2. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

51W5H+JR4DL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgC. S. Lewis is a literary legend. In this book, Lewis helps believers (and unbelievers as well) come to grips with a Christian view of the world. He unpacks a Biblical view of morality and explains how it applies to difficult issues of like human sexuality and personal forgiveness. He cautions against “the greatest sin” of pride and encourages the virtues of faith, hope, and charity (love). This book would especially helpful for new believers who are wrestling with big questions in their life.

3. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney

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Donald Whitney recognizes one of the greatest needs of a new believer is growth. In this book, he describes ten personal and corporate habits (spiritual disciplines) that promote spiritual growth. Each chapter has application questions to urge the reader towards action. Whitney has written some related resources, but they point back to this volume. This book is great for new believers who are ready to grow in their faith.

 

You can find these books at your favorite retailers. Feel free to share this post and share these books with the new believers that you know.

Introducing the “Three Things” Series

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Charlie “Tremendous” Jones” once said, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” Some have add, “the experiences you have” to Jone’s insight and I would agree. These are the things that have shaped me and they have inspired me to start a new weekly series called “Three Things.”

I will start the series with what I think are the three most important books to read on a particular topic. For example, three books someone should read once they get saved. You will notice that I will be pick categories that should matters to wide variety of believers.

The absolute importance of the Bible will be assumed in all my posts. I write, teach, and preach using the Bible all the time.  It is God’s inspired word and it gives us everything we need for faith and godliness (2 Timothy 3:16-17). At the same times, it can be a tremendous help to read how other people think about a particular topic.

You may wonder why just three things. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Focus. The number of choices in our modern world can be overwhelming at times. This includes books as well. The writer of Ecclesiastics warned, there is no end to the making of many books (Ecclesiastics 12:12, HCSB). A book in your hand that you will actually reading is more valuable than a whole bookstore worth of books.
  2. Developement. Reading forces us out of our comfort zones and into a new world of possibilities. It helps us to develop and grew, even when we are defending our treasurer assumptions.
  3. Memorability. Three things stick together. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. They make an easy list to follow up on.

I will launch this series with three special posts over the next three days covering:

  • Three books to read once you’re saved
  • Three books to read on discipleship
  • Three books to read before you go to seminary

 

Preach the Gospel to Yourself and Others

nycholas-benaia-2wGjjX8Qb-g-unsplashYesterday I preached a sermon on the glorious future of the Church from 2 Timothy 3:1-9. In my experience, this passage has been used to inspire negativity and defensiveness in the church. I’ve heard people say things like, “We are in the last days and things will go ‘from bad to worse,” or, “We just need to keep our distance and pray for the rapture.” But when I read this passage, I don’t see reasons for despair, I see reasons to have great confidence in the future of the church. Sure, it says “difficult times will come,” but I’d rather know that ahead of time than be surprised by it. And the fact that it’s predicted ahead of time proves that comes from a God who has everything under control.

One of the reasons for confidence in the future of the church that is found in this passage is the transforming power of the gospel. The last days will be a time when the “cult of self” will grow out of control. People will love themselves more than they love God and all kinds of selfish behavior will flow out of that misplaced love. There is nothing that can be done about this apart from the self-less message of the gospel. God sacrificed His Son, Jesus Christ on our behalf so that we might be forgiven and reconciled to Him. That is the most perfect picture of selfless love you can ever imagine.

In the closing, I challenged the congregation to preach the gospel to themselves and to others. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen to my own words. After the service was done my family went home to have lunch with two families who were visiting from a nearby Christian camp (Scioto Hills is a great camp, you should check it out!) They left, we cleaned up, and I was looking forward to some downtime before our evening activities at church. That’s when our dog decided she needed some extra attention and I blew up at her, yelling at the top of my lungs right in front of my kids. I’m ashamed of my horrible display of selfishness. I wanted what I wanted and I didn’t want anyone (or any dog) to get in my way. As I apologized to family afterwards I was quickly remembered my challenge to the congregation earlier that morning.

I’m very enthusiastic about the future of the Church. Not because I think we will have “smooth sailing” or – heaven forbid – I have anything special to offer. I am confident in the future of the Church because the Church belongs to God and He purchased her future and freedom at great cost to Himself.

Photo by Nycholas Benaia on Unsplash

Seven Ways to Prepare for Worship This Weekend

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I have the privilege worshiping with my church family every Sunday at Unity Baptist Church in Ashland, Kentucky. I may be a pastor, but I’m a worshipper at heart. My primary responsibility in life is to glorify God and worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).

Worship is one of the spiritual activities (a.k.a spiritual disciplines) that gives focus and provides growth spiritual for those who want to live as Christians. I enjoy worshipping God on my own, but I also enjoy worshipping God with my church family as part of our formal church gatherings.

I rediscovered a fantastic book recently on the spiritual disciplines: Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. In it, Foster outlines the path to spiritual growth through thirteen different spiritual disciplines. Personal and public worship are one of those activities. I was so encouraged by his seven ways to prepare for worship (he calls them “Steps  into Worship”) that I wanted to share them with you here.

1. Learn to practice the presence of God daily (1 Thess. 5:17). Public worship is really just an extension of private worship. Try to cultivate a sense of appreciation and awe throughout the week. When you get to church on Sunday you will eager to share your worship with others.

2. Have many different experiences in worship. Foster suggests worshipping with others in smaller settings throughout the week in addition to worshipping on your own. These sessions can provide the encouragement and accountably you need to express your praise to God.

3. Find ways to really prepare for the gathered experience of worship. Sundays can be busy days. Sometimes we are grateful just to make it to our pew on time. You can improve your experience in the worship service, however, by getting adequate rest the night before or by reviewing the songs or Scripture passages that will be used in the service that day.

4. Have a willingness to be gathered in the power of the Lord. Foster suggests that the language of gathered fellowship (worship) is not “I,” but “we.” We should be more concerned with God’s presence and work in the church as a whole than if our own individual needs have been met.

5. Cultivate holy dependency. The danger of “preparing” for worship is that we think that worship depends on us. God is the one who took the initiative in revealing Himself and His Word to us. Our worship is really just a response to Him and His gracious work.

6. Absorb distractions with gratitude. Distractions are unavoidable in public worship. Foster suggests thanking God for the life and energy of a little children who may be making noice rather than being annoyed by them.

7. Learn to offer a sacrifice of worship. Worship is rarely convenient. It takes time, energy, and other resources to praise God like He deserves. It takes commitment to gather with God’s people every week to worship God. When we learn to see these “difficulties” as a sacrifice in themselves, we will be more inclined to overcome them.

In the end, we are all worshippers at heart. We can either worship the One True and Living God revealed to us in the Scriptures, or we can worship something or someone less than God. If you are drawn to worship God, then I hope this helps you prepare well for worship with your church family this weekend.