QUICK REVIEW: RHYTHMS OF GRACE

Rhythms-of-GraceIt was a Sunday afternoon a few years ago.  That morning I had led the service at Banstead Community Church.  The way I led the service was the way I had always led and seen services led for as long as I could remember.  But as I thought about it, something didn’t feel right.  Even though we had sung and prayed and heard the Bible read and preached, I was still left with the question of why?  Not, why did we do those things? but rather, why did we do it the way we did it?

It was that afternoon that started the process of trying to get my head around the question of what should we be doing when we gather together as a local church each Sunday.  I read the Bible.  I read books on corporate worship.  But it wasn’t until I read Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Worship that suddenly things started to make sense.

Yet as good as Christ-Centered Worship is, and it is very good, this isn’t the first book I would recommend to pastors, those training at Bible college, or people in the congregation who have responsibility to lead services.

The first book I would recommend is Rhythms of Grace by Mike Cosper.  In many ways this is Christ-Centered Worship for the masses because the essential message is the same: “Every week, we should gather and remember that God is holy, we are sinners, and Jesus saves us from our sins.”

Rhythms of Grace is a great introduction to the whole topic of corporate or gathered worship and what we do in these times.  It begins by tracing the theme of worship through the story of the Bible showing over four chapters that the story of worship is the story of the gospel: “God creates, sin corrupts, but Christ redeems.  And all of us get to sing along.”

Then in the remainder of the book, Cosper, turns to how the story of worship relates to what we do when gather as a local church.  Topics covered include the relationship between all of life worship and the weekly worship service, the purpose of Sunday, a survey of worship services in church history, how to plan a service that tells the gospel story, music and the priorities of those who lead worship.

If you want some practical steps on how to allow the gospel story to shape and structure your weekly services, Rhythms of Grace and particularly chapter 8, I think, is the ideal starting point.

Rhythms of Grace is available to buy HERE.

QUICK REVIEW: THE MINISTRY MEDICAL

MedicalThe Ministry Medical.

I’ll be honest.  I’m not a fan of the title of this book.

But I’m glad I didn’t let the title put me off reading it because Jonathan Griffiths has written a really helpful book for pastors and other gospel workers.

Griffiths writes that 2 Timothy is “a letter that gospel ministers should return to regularly and consider carefully” and his book is designed to help them do that.  It does this by asking 36 questions drawn from 2 Timothy, which provide a so-called ‘health check’ of things they should be doing in their ministries.

From the opening question “Are you praying for your people?” to the last “Are you zealous for the Lord’s glory?” there is much to challenge, convict, encourage, remind, expose and spur you on.

This is a book not to speed read but to take your time over.

I especially appreciated the encouragements the book begins with, firstly, that the gospel makes ministry possible: “God through the gospel has made it possible for us to serve, and makes it possible for us to keep on serving, as ministers of the gospel” and then secondly, the gospel makes ministry worthwhile: “You and I have the privilege of proclaiming to a grieving and fearful world that Jesus has abolished the great enemy that is death and opened up the way to life and immortality.  For those who will trust Him, there is the sure promise of life.”

Whether you’re thinking about going into gospel ministry, a pastor in the early years of ministry or one who has been doing this role for a long time, here is a book I would recommend to you.

The Ministry Medical is available to buy HERE.

QUICK REVIEW: CHANGING LANES

ChangingLanesLogoPreroll_0There is a real shortage of really good Christian books written specifically for teenagers.  As someone who has a teenage daughter and does youth ministry, if a new book comes out for them, I’m keen to read it.

A recent release is a short book by Jonny Pearse called Changing Lanes.

Using the imagery of Jesus’ description of two roads, one that’s wide and leads to destruction, and one that’s narrow and leads to God and eternal life, the question this book asks its teenage readers is “Which of the two roads am I on?” with the hope that those on the wide road will change lanes!

To help them do that, the seven chapters of the book take the teenager on a journey of discovery to find out the truth about religion, evidence, sin, hell, Jesus, forgiveness and Christianity.

I really like this book.

Each chapter is short, clear, uncompromising (especially the chapters on sin and hell), and accessible for teenagers, especially those who are currently on the wide road.  There is also a seven week evangelistic DVD course which can be done in a youth group setting or individually online HERE.

I’m looking forward to running this course with the youth group I help to lead and to give out copies of the book at the end.  Why not do the same?

Changing Lanes is available to buy HERE.

QUICK REVIEW: JESUS ON EVERY PAGE

JesusOnEveryPageEvery now and then you read a book that makes you go “Wow!”  David Murray’s Jesus on Every Page is a book that would fit into this category.  I was looking forward to reading it, and having read it, it does not disappoint.

It is a book of two halves.  The first half tells David’s own ‘Road to Emmaus’ story of how he came to discover that the Old Testament was all about Christ.  This part of the book really draws you in with a mix of personal narrative and clear Bible teaching.

The second half of the book provides 10 ways of finding Jesus in the Old Testament: Christ’s Planet, People, Presence, Precepts, Past, Prophets, Pictures, Promises, Proverbs and Poets.  Time and time again these chapters made me say to myself “Why didn’t I see that before?”

Each chapter of this book was a delight to read, however the one that really blew me away, was Christ’s Planet, where Murray shows how we can discover Jesus in creation, giving 11 ways (yes, eleven ways!) we see Christ in Genesis 1 and 2.  If the rest of the book weren’t so good, I’d say it’s worth buying just for the chapter, but actually it’s worth buying for every chapter.

I really cannot recommend this book highly enough. Both for pastors to help them preach Christ from Old Testament passages, and also for the whole congregation to help them to know Christ better from these 39 books of the Bible.

Jesus on Every Page is available to buy HERE.

QUICK REVIEW: THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF AN UNLIKELY CONVERT

SecretThoughtsEvery time someone puts their trust in Jesus, it is a miracle of grace.  From the child who grows up always believing in Jesus, to the person who seems furthest away from Christ, there is much rejoicing in heaven every time a sinner repents, and every conversion story is one worth hearing.

But stories like that of Rosaria Butterfield need to be told and heard widely, to remind Christians afresh of the power of the gospel to save, and this is why ‘The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert’ is such a great book, because it does just that.

Rosaria was a radical, lesbian, feminist professor who specialised in Queer Theory (a postmodern form of gay and lesbian studies).  That was until God used the loving witness of pastor Ken Smith and his wife Floy, who befriended her, and shared the gospel with her over a number of years, to bring her to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus, and her whole life was transformed.  Today she is a homeschooling, pastor’s wife and mother of four adopted children who is part of a local church that sings unaccompanied psalms.

This book tells the story of how that happened.

You might not agree with everything she says (particularly about homeschooling and unaccompanied psalm singing), but you will be amazed and at times moved, as she tells the story of what God has done in her life.

The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert is available to buy HERE.

QUICK REVIEW: IS GOD ANTI-GAY?

Is-God-Anti-GaySam Allberry has already written a couple of cracking books on the implications of the resurrection and the Trinity so expectations were high as I picked up his latest Is God anti-gay? to read.

It doesn’t disappoint.

It’s short, easy to read, clear, honest, biblical, practical, uncompromising, sensitive with nice touches of humour.

In the opening couple of chapters, Sam deals with what the Bible teaches about homosexuality in the wider context of marriage.  Working briefly through all the relevant passages on homosexuality he shows that the consistent teaching of the Bible is clear: “God forbids homosexual activity” in fact “God is opposed to all sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage.”

Then, having laid the foundations with what the Bible teaches, he helpfully moves onto to look at some practical issues such as, how a Christian is to respond if they experience same-sex attraction, how a church should respond if a gay couple starts attending, what a church can do to support Christians facing this issue, and how Christians and churches can be effective witnesses to the world in this area.

And in answer to the question in the title – No!

This book is a great resource for the whole church giving clarity to one of the big issues of the day in a refreshingly positive way.

Is God anti-gay? is available to buy HERE.

Thank you The Good Book Company for providing a free copy of this book.

QUICK REVIEW: THE STORY OF CREATION BATH BOOK

SCBBUntil recently the only bath book Harry had was Squishy and Squirty, which tells the story of Squirty crab’s search for Squishy fish who is hiding in the rock pool.  Now he has one that tells him the story of creation as he splashes around.

This new bath book from 10ofthose uses colourful and eye-catching pictures from ‘The Beginner’s Bible’ to teach under 5s about the different things that God has made.

The other night as Harry was reading it in the bath I asked him what he thought of it.  His reply: “It’s brilliant, I love it, I wish I could have another one!”

The Story of Creation Bath Book is available to buy HERE.

Thank you 10ofthose for providing a free copy of this book.

QUICK REVIEW: EXODUS ACTIVITIES

EAAre you a Sunday School teacher looking for worksheets for the children to do or a prize to give away?

Are you a parent looking for activities for your children to do at home based on Bible stories?

You need to check out the new puzzle and colouring books for children from 10ofthose.com.  So far in the series are activity books based on Easter and Exodus.

In Exodus Activities there are 18 different sheets ranging from mazes to word searches, dot to dot’s to spot the difference and all of them are brilliantly illustrated by Martin Young (from www.biblecartoons.co.uk).

Exodus Activities is available to buy HERE.

Thank you 10ofthose for providing a free copy of this book.

Quick Review: The Missing Generation

“The consequences of ignoring the missing generation will be seen in the years to come with dying, ageing and empty churches.”

In churches up and down the country there is one group of people who are conspicuous by their absence – a missing generation – people in the twenties and thirties age group, especially young singles and professionals.  In addition to this, those who do go to church in this age group tend to go to the larger churches.

What can be done about this?

The first step I think is for church leaders to read The Missing Generation by Kay Mumford, which is a practical guide to 20-30s ministry.  In this short book, Mumford outlines a vision for 20-30s ministry that focuses on two big goals: maturity (helping them to become mature in their faith) and mission (helping them to reach their friends, family and work colleagues with the gospel).  She also gives a number of practical ideas about what can be done to get you started with extra suggestions in the appendices.

But this book isn’t just for those looking to start a 20-30s ministry or improve an existing one.  No, there are a couple of chapters that I think are must-read for every pastor to help them apply their preaching to or pastorally care for those in this age group:

Chapter 3: Culture Shock, compares the hopes and dreams of this generation with the reality and exposes the idols they are most like to go after.

Chapter 8: Pastoral Care, looks at the different issues men and women in their 20s and 30s struggle with.  Reading through the list it occurred to me that often these are subjects that are never addressed in sermons and other Bible teaching, but need to be.

These two chapters alone are reasons why The Missing Generation is worth a read.

The Missing Generation is available to buy HERE.

Book Highlights: How to Master the English Bible

Here are some highlights from How to Master the English Bible by James Gray.

“One is grateful to have studied Hebrew and Greek, just to be able to tell others who have not that they do not require either to hearken to our Heavenly Father’s voice.”

“and therefore asked him to explain the manner of his reading, when he related the following: He had gone into the country to spend the Sabbath with his family on one occasion, taking with him a pocket copy of Ephesians, and in the afternoon, going out into the woods and lying down under a tree, he began to read it; he read it through at a single reading, and finding his interest aroused, read it through again in the same way, and, his interest increasing, again and again.  I think he added that he read it some twelve or fifteen times, “and when I arose to go into the house,” said he, “I was in possession of Ephesians, or better yet, it was in possession of me, and I had been ‘lifted up to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ in an experimental sense in which that had not been true in me before, and will never cease to be true in me again.”

“read a whole book of the Bible straight through at a sitting.”

“Thus to master book after book is to fill the mind with the great thoughts of God.”

“I read Genesis through in the English at a single reading, and then repeated the process again and again until the book in its great outlines had practically become mine.  Then i took up Exodus in the same way, Leviticus, Numbers, and practically all the other books of the Old and New Testaments to Revelation, with the exception of Proverbs, the Psalms and one or two others which do not lend themselves readily to that plan of reading, and indeed do not require it to their understanding and mastery.”

“The plan was to read and reread each book by itself and in its order, as though there were no other in existence, until it had become a part of the very being.”

“Was the task tedious and long?  No more than was Jacob’s when he served Laban for his daughter Rachel.”

“It is not asked that it be studied in the ordinary sense, or memorised, or even sought to be understood at first; but simply read.”

“It stands for two things – the reading of the book uninfluenced by its divisions into chapters and verses, and reading of the book in this way at a single sitting.”

“Why read the books in a single sitting?  Many of the books of the Bible have a single thread running through the whole – a pivotal idea around which all the subsidiary ones revolve – and to catch this thread, to seize upon this idea, is absolutely necessary to unravel or break up the whole in its essential parts.”

“A book is not to be laid aside for any other succeeding book of the Bible until the mastery is assured.”

“John Chrysostom said that “If any one assiduously attend public worship, even without reading the Bible at home, but carefully hearkening here, he will find a single year sufficient to give him an intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures.”

“Every church should be more or less truly a Bible Training school, and the pastor the head of it.”

Book Highlights: Awaiting a Savior

Here are some highlights from Awaiting a Savior by Aaron Armstrong.

“The idea that we can wipe out injustice and inequality for good overlooks the fundamental problem of our sinful nature.”

“Our good faith efforts to address legitimate questions of poverty and injustice must never lose sight of the fact that poverty will persist as long as the heart of man is ruled by sin.”

“Everything about Adam and Eve’s fall makes economic prosperity difficult and elusive.  In fact, the fall has made poverty the default setting, an ever-present gravitational pull intent on dragging us down.”

“A fallen world inhabited exclusively by sinners: that is the essence of poverty.  Sin, and the effects of sin throughout creation, is the Poverty from which all other poverty flows.”

“There will be no poor among you as long as you fully obey my laws.  But I know what is in the heart of man, that his every thought is always evil continually, so let me warn you right now – there will never cease to be some among you who are poor.”

“Sin… not only causes poverty but also poisons our attitude toward those suffering within it.”

“Loving our neighbour in real, tangible ways is as much a “proof” of our salvation as anything else.”

“When “doing enough” becomes primarily a matter of numbers, we can be sure we are focusing on the wrong thing.  Alleviating poverty is about more than a certain amount of giving, whether of time or money.”

“Caring for the poor starts with understanding the grace Jesus has given to those who believe in him.  We must get this straight in our heads – and in our hearts.”

“We care for the poor because we know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of grace.  We were the poor in spirit, we were lost and without hope, we were separated from God and enslaved to sin.”

“In telling us for a fact that the poor will always be with us, perhaps Jesus is trying to set our expectations in caring for the poor.”

“This minister saw Jesus saying “the poor you always have with you” not as a discouragement but as an opportunity.”

“Sometimes it is unwise to assist an individual financially.  Sometimes it can be the least merciful thing you could do.”

“Give to organisations that demonstrate Christ’s love, not only in practical ways but also by explicitly sharing the gospel with those they serve.  Deed ministry and Word ministry cannot be divorced.”

“The first Council of Nicaea decreed that wherever a cathedral or church was built, a hospital would be as well.”

“Without the hope of the coming of the new creation, we have nothing to offer those who suffer in poverty.  It is this hope we must share, whether we’re working for relief, development, or social reform.”

“We must bring immediate relief to those suffering from severe drought and famine, but we must also bring them the promise that there is one who will someday relieve all their suffering.”

“You are not called to meet every need.”

Book Highlights: What the most successful people do on the weekend

Here are some highlights from What the most successful people do on the weekend by Laura Vanderkam.  You can read a quick review of it HERE.

“Success in a competitive world requires hitting Monday refreshed and ready to go.  The only way to do that is to create weekends that rejuvenate you rather than exhaust or disappoint you.”

“You have fewer that 1,000 Saturdays with each child in your care before they’re grown up.”

“The question of what you’re doing this weekend often doesn’t get asked until Friday sneaks up on you, and sometimes until everyone rolls out of bed on Saturday morning.”

“Nothing now means weekend hours parked on the sofa watching television we didn’t mean to watch, surfing Web sites we didn’t plan to surf, and checking e-mail in an inefficient manner.”

“Anatole France: “Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labour by taking up another.”

“Simply knowing that you and the kids will be leaving the house for the afternoon can add order to the day.”

“Three common causes of weekend stress: chores, children’s activities, and work that follows you home.”

“Even if you plan three to five anchor events for your weekends, you’ll still see that this leaves plenty of open time.”

“You don’t have to be religious to see the benefit in not doing your normal work for at least one day a week.”

“Schedule not just what you have to do, but what you want to do.”

“I find that making a priority list for the coming week helps me end the weekend and start the new week with a sense of purpose.”

“If you live to be eighty, you’ll have a grand total of 4,160 weekends in your biography.  There are probably at least that many things you’d like to do or experience during your life.”