Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Review: How Can I Be Sure? by John Stevens

Christians from time to time in some form or fashion struggle with doubt particularly with their salvation. I am remember in my earlier days as a Christian, I doubted my salvation because I did not feel saved. All my doubts were put as aside when a guest preacher from Alabama told me never to associate my salvation with my feelings.

From indwelling sin, lack of evangelistic zeal, even comparing their walk with Jesus to another Christian who seems to have it all together, or whatever the reason, Christians have various reasons for why they struggle with doubting their salvation. How does one overcome doubt? In his book, How Can I Be Sure?, John Stevens takes a look at what doubt is and answers questions regarding assurance of salvation.

In the beginning for the book, Stevens deals with the question about what doubt exactly is and why it can be dangerous for Christians to engaged in it. Next, he deals with overcoming doubt and how to be sure that God truly loves those he calls his children. Finally, Stevens talks about having a confident faith which he addresses having a closer walk with Jesus, being part of a community of believers, and allow suffering to produce maturity among other things.

As one who struggled with doubts over his salvation, I can say that this is something you cannot just overcome by yourself. I did not have any great books to go to when I was doubting my salvation, but now for those who do doubt, I can point people to this book. This book is good for Christians to go one-on-one with a struggling believer. This is also good for pastors to take a believer who is struggling with doubt through as well.

Thanks Good Book Company for letting me review this book.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Calvinism Debate

This past Wednesday in Chicago, there was a debate on Calvinism which featured Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones who wrote the book,
Proof: Finding Freedom Through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace
, who are on the side of Calvinism. While on the side of the issue is Austin Fisher, author of Young, Restless, and No Longer Reformed, and Brian Zahnd, author of Farewell to Mars.

There are two parts to this debate. The first deals with unconditional predestination and the other talks about the cause of faith and repentance.






Friday, August 29, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Incoming Freshmen: Don't Forget The Church

As college starts this week, at least for us in Wichita Falls, I am reminded of my Freshman year going to a new city which means I would have to find a church to attend. Going to a Christian college, churches were all over campus getting students' attention as to why they should attend their church. Most of them served free food which is not a bad thing.

As students went from church to church, I was amazed by how many were going home to attend their church, which is not bad if you live close but you live far away, this a waste of gas, considering gas was not as high as it was when I attended college. That first Sunday, I attended Central Baptist Church and I believe God was leading me to join it. The next Sunday, I did under a watchmen program which was where I did not move my membership but I was part of the church. I have to say that was a mistake. If you are joining a church, you need to move your membership. Thankfully, I did move my membership from Champion Forest Baptist Church to Central which the leaders of the church asked me to do since I wanted the church to license me in the ministry.

Over the next few years, I was amazed at the number of Christian students in a Christian college who were not attending a church. They were letting the Baptist Student Ministries (BSM) take the place of the church which was very unbiblical. Not many moved their membership either and most of them were ministry students. My hope and prayer is that trend has ceased at East Texas Baptist University (ETBU).

If there is one thing I can write to the incoming Freshman, this would it: Don't forget the church. Christ died for the church and we are to be part of it. Just because you changed cities, it does not mean God has stopped his mission. We are be in community with other believers. If you are part of the BSM, that is great, but it is not a church. If your BSM tries to become a church and does not encourage church attendance whatsoever, get out.

I know many college towns have a lot of churches to choose from. My encouragement to you to take your time, attend a service, and pray. Ask the Lord where He would like for you to serve during your college years. Do not compare the church you attended to any other church in your city because you will not find one. Yes, the church you attend must teach in accord with sound doctrine and preach the Bible faithfully.

Whatever church God has called you to join, move your membership. Become part of a Sunday School class/Community group (depending on the context of the church) and be active in the ministry of the church. If you sing, join the choir or praise band (whatever the church has). If you are called to the ministry, talk with a church leader and see where you could be used to serve the body of Christ while getting your education. Also take your time in discern what church God is leading you too.

My prayer for you incoming Freshmen is to glorify God as you get your education and serve Him faithfully in the local church. My prayer is that you attend a church and not let the college world overwhelm you with the pressures of academics that will make you forget about the church and the fellowship you have with God.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pastor: Communication is Important

Imagine this scenario: You are on staff in a church with a pastor who preaches the Word very well. He has great clarity and the people understand what he is saying. Then comes Monday and you do not hear from the pastor at all. People are asking you questions about upcoming events at the church and the only answer you give is, "I don't know." That same individual goes to the pastor and talks about those events while at the same time making you feel really stupid.

Ever had that problem? I am sure many in ministry have. I have had that problem where the pastor knows more about what is going on than I did. Here is another scenario: you are a youth pastor and you have had several youth the church for various reasons. You talk with the pastor and he gives you nothing. No guidance. No direction. What is wrong with this picture? The pastor preaches the Word effectively but fails at communicating with his staff.

Pastors, when was the last time you communicated with your staff with what is happening in the church good or bad? Have you help guide a staff member who is struggling in his ministry? Do you surprise your volunteers with some changes that catches them off guard leaving them unequipped to perform their duties in the church? If you have not, then you have a communication problem.

While communicating from the pulpit is important, it is also important that you communicate with your staff, fellow elders, and deacons. How can you lead an effective church if you do not communicate with those who are in ministry with you? The truth is you cannot. Communication is important because it keeps everyone on tract and it demonstrates the gift of leadership the Holy Spirit has given you. You cannot be the one man show who knows all and does not tell people you lead in ministry what is going on or giving them guidance and expect the church to be effective.

Pastor, pray that God will guide to be a more of an effective communicator to the people you lead and the people you along side of. Confess your sins to those people and repent. A church cannot have a pastor who preaches well in the pulpit but lacks communication with those he leads.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Review: How Will The World End? by Jeramie Rinne

I became a Christian during my freshman year of High School and I remember hearing some interesting theories about the return of Christ. I remember that there is going to be some time in the future where all Christians will disappear without a trace and the world goes into chaos. One summer, the head of the 11-12th grade Sunday School department decided to go through the book of Revelation, which was interesting, and gave his reasons why Jesus would return midway through the Great Tribulation.

Throughout the years, many men have come out to say when Jesus will return and gave proof through charts and have even written best selling books. I remember hearing one guy saying Jesus is going to return I feel it in my bones. What makes this interesting is he did not preached from the Bible during his sermon. Basically, his proof for the return of Christ was the "feeling in his bones."

Jeramie Rinne has written a short book to help those confused with the return of Jesus, called, How Will The World End? The focus of this book is to help Christians regain the "big picture about the end of the world" (pg.9). Rinne writes about what will happen before Jesus comes back and what will happen when he comes back. He wrote about the last days. Many Christians are confused by that expression because of some TV preacher. The end times have been around for the last 2,000 years because of the first coming of Jesus. In fact, I love that Rinne called the Second Coming, "Christmas The Sequel."

Rinne takes time to go through the different positions Christians have had over the years regarding the return of Christ which can be confusing if you do not know what each "theory" holds. The last chapter of the book deals with how Christians are to live prior to Jesus coming back which you will not hear from many of the doomsday preachers because they are more focused on scaring people into the kingdom, which can produce false converts.

If you are confused with the teachings of the Second Coming, this book will be a resource for you. If you are a Bible teacher or even a preacher, this book will be a great resource for you to use in preaching/teaching on the return of Christ.

Thanks Good Book Company for letting me review this book.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Music Monday: My "Grace" Playlist

Nearly two months ago, I heard my friend and fellow pastor Mike Strickland preach on the grace of God during an old fashion tent revival meeting. He had four songs playing in the background as the people were praying and being dismissed and the songs were about the grace of God. I felt that I needed to make a playlist on Spotify on grace and below you will find that playlist which over two hours long. I hope that you enjoy these songs but more importantly you worship God with these songs.

*Be advised: You must have an account with Spotify to listen to this playlist*

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

Every parent feels unequipped to answer their kids' hard questions. They even feel terrified when they help with homework over things they have no idea what it is. As a parent, I sometimes find myself wondering would I have been able to get through school with all these things they teach my kids.

As a Christian parent, I know it is my primary duty to teach my children spiritual truths. I must admit they have asked me hard questions I had to do some research on. Some parents do not feel that way. They freak out when their kids ask them questions such as, "what is sin?," "why grandpa have to die?," or "why are my friend's parents getting a divorce?"

Mother and daughter team, Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson tackle how parents can answer their kids' hard questions in their book, Answering Your Kids' Toughest Questions. This book deals with the questions of sin, divorce, natural disasters, and even who is Satan. Fitzpatrick and Thompson takes the questions kids will have and writes what the Bible says about those certain topics.

What I love about this book is that Fitzpatrick and Thompson even break down what should said about the topic in each chapter to different age groups. Let's face it, sometimes talking to child about sexual sin is more difficult than addressing this issue to a teenager. The last chapter of the book deals with the gospel. The gospel is be shared at all times in the home. Fitzpatrick and Thompson tell their readers that their kids need to trust in what Christ has done and not their good behavior. I love this book. I think every parent, whether you a one month old or a 10-year-old, should read this book. Children and Youth Pastors give this book to your parents.

Thanks Bethany House for letting me review this book.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What I Have Learned From Building A Youth Ministry

I recently shared my transition from the church I serve at currently to a new opened door of ministry the Lord has given me. When I came on board with Emmanuel Baptist Church, my task was to build a Youth Ministry from the ground up which I can say was no easy task. I thought it would be a benefit to share what I have learned from my experience in building a Youth Ministry.

1. It is hard. Our city is a unique place because we have more churches than restaurants and established churches with massive budgets. Not to mention, I am also bi-vocational so you can imagine trying to work a full-time job and leading a ministry was not easy. Also finding that right balance to work on ministry and spending time with family was not easy either. When it came to work on lessons, I always waited till the kids went to bed so they can have my attention.

2. You will not always be successful. We had three youth rallies where the first two we had over 50 students come hear the Word of God. The last one we had did not measure up. We had less than 20 students show and only one of those 20 were from my church. When it came to contacting schools, I had no success. Charles Spuregon once said that "success is not the minister's true reward," and he was right.

3. There will be some teenagers that do not like you. If you have been around Youth Ministry for a while, this should be no surprise but when you are trying to excite students about your new Youth Ministry, they really will give you the cold shoulder especially those who attend another church.

4. Not everyone in the church will be understanding if the numbers are not great. Back again to success. Many may consider my ministry a failure because we did not have the excellent numbers of other churches. There will be some people in the church that will not understand why we do not have more youth if you are putting enough effort.

5. Your fellowship with God is more important than your ministry. It has been said that ministers only pray at minimum 2 minutes per week. I am not even sure how much time is taken for reading the Bible outside sermon/lesson preparation. In building a Youth Ministry, or planting a church, do not neglect your fellowship with God.

6. Do not neglect your family. As I mentioned earlier, finding balance is hard especially if you work a full time job and working in a church. Do not neglect time with your wife and kids. You can also change churches but your family is something that you cannot change. Love your kids and disciple them. Let your wife know she more important to you than having 300 students every week.

I hope this will help those who are building a Youth Ministry whether it is in an established church or in a church plant. I pray that the Lord will use what I have learned to encourage and minister to all Youth Pastors in a very tough ministry.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A New Season Has Come

This year marks my fourth year as Youth Pastor to Emmanuel Baptist Church. It has been a great joy to serve this church. Prior to my arrival at the church, I felt God was leading me to either plant a church, become pastor of an existing church, or replant a church. I had no idea why God allowed me to go back into youth ministry, however, my task was to build a youth ministry from the ground up and I have admit it was no easy task.

The desire for gospel-centered ministry especially in church planting never went away. My wife has told me that it was not a good idea to be involved in planting a church because I did not have the resources nor a core group to help plant a church. I listened to her discernment on this issue and I thank God for that because if I attempted to start a church on my own, I would fail in five minutes.

Through the common grace of social media, I have been talking with a brother in Christ who started a church nearly six years ago. He confessed to me he started things backwards. He is a reformed baptist, like me, who embraces reformed theology and preaches expositionally, which I feel is the best approach to preaching the Bible. He did not have any membership covenants nor elders to leader the church. The church is right now in the middle of a relaunch and they want to do things right.

We have had a few conversations and discussed our love for Jesus and the church. Also we discussed the need for a gospel-centered community in our city where we make much of Jesus. After praying, talking with a few others, and the support of my family, I am leaving Emmanuel Baptist Church to join in the relaunching of Truth Bible Church in Wichita Falls.

At this time, I do have a staff position nor a ministry title. However, I am currently, along with a few other men, going through the process of being installed as one of the church elders. I ask for prayer during this transition. I ask for prayer from my family as well. I thank God for them and supporting me in my ministry over the years through the good and hard times.

We do not have a relaunch date right nor do we have a website that is up. We hope to get all that taken care of soon. I will do my best to keep everyone up to date as to what is going on with the church.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Book Review: On Preaching by H.B. Charles, Jr.

Preaching is hard work. Preparation for a sermon in just as hard if not harder. I wish I knew what I know now when I preached my first sermon which was on God giving us second chances which is very little preparation and very shallow theology. I called that time my "young and stupid days."

Sure I took a preaching class in college that did equip me for better sermon preparations but I did not have something more tangible to keep with me as I prepared a sermon. H.B. Charles, Jr. has taken upon himself to write down advice for preachers on sermon preparation as well as the practice of preaching in his book, On Preaching. Charles has been a pastor for 23 years in the same church. He offers some good sound advice for those who desire to preach the Bible.

The book started off with a bang. Charles wrote that the central function of those shepherding the church is to preach the Word. Pastors must preach the Word in it entire form and not take anything out because it is complicated. Charles deals with theological training stating that you have the chance to go to seminary, do it, however, just because someone goes to seminary, it does not make him a preacher.

The rest of the book talks about finding time to study, becoming a better expositor, finding the right illustrations, and even being yourself in the pulpit. What I love about this book is that Charles does not draw out what he wants to communicate to his readers. The chapters are short and simple for anyone to read not just once but over and over again as they continue to preach the Bible. This is a great book for those starting out in the ministry or seasoned veterans.

Thanks Moody Publishers for letting me review this book.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: 1 Samuel for You by Tim Chester

It was about a year or two ago that I went through the book of 1 Samuel as part of my personal Bible reading. Everytime, I read the book, I kept thinking in my head that Jesus is a better king, which is true. Throughout the Old Testament, we see great kings who followed God with all their heart and some not-so great kings who were just as wicked and evil as the days of Noah.

Of course when studying the Old Testament, one must proceed with caution as to make it a moralistic study which has been the case for many Christians. 1 Samuel is a book that promises a king and even shows us that there is a greater and better King. Tim Chester deals with this writing in the Old Testament in his latest book, 1 Samuel for You. Just as in his previous book, Chester takes the entire book and breaks it down verse by verse where the reader can understand.

As mentioned earlier, there is a tendency to take the Old Testament scripture and turn it into some form of moralistic teaching. The most famous passage in 1 Samuel happens to be David vs. Goliath and it is always attributed to facing your giants. Chester points out the David vs. Goliath is not about that. Chester points to Jesus and shows Him as the true Adam who took down our true giant which is sin. At the end of the book, Chester points out, just as I concluded from my own personal study of 1 Samuel, that Jesus is the better king. He is the King for all people and just one nation. Unlike all the other kings in the Bible, Jesus is a King that will never fail His people.

Pastors and teachers will benefit from this book as they study the Bible. It will also be a benefit to all Christians so they can see that 1 Samuel is not about being a good leader or facing your giants, but points to Jesus as the true and better King.

Thanks Good Book Company for letting me review this book.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: NIV Essentials Study Bible

The New International Version (NIV) has been one of the best selling translations of the Bible for over 30 years. Many pastors, scholars, and lay people embraced it as their main translation for preaching, teaching, reading, and memorization. There has also been a great number of study Bibles that has been produced containing the NIV such as the NIV Study Bible, The Archaeological Study Bible, and the Quest Study Bible. In addition to study Bibles, there has been a number of special interest Bibles such as the Student Bible, which was my first NIV.

Zondervan has produced a study Bible that is unique known as the NIV Essentials Study Bible. Why is this study Bible unique? The reason being is that it contains 6 NIV resources. Those resources are:

The NIV Study Bible, which contains study notes and book introductions

The Archaeological Study Bible, which is looking at the history and archaeology of the Bible

The Quest Study Bible, which is a Q&A Bible suitable for new believers

The Student Bible, which is a Bible for students with book introductions and little devotionals

The Great Rescue Bible, a narrative Bible that looks at the central story of the Bible as God's rescue plan for mankind

The Essential Bible Comparison, a reference resource used to point out the context of the books of the Bible and understand the significance of the Bible's story

Since this contains the NIV Study Bible, it does contains the book introductions and study notes from it. However, it does contain elements from all the other resources which can a distraction for those new to the Bible. It seems at times, those elements seem to drive you away from the text. Don't get me wrong, a study Bible is important, but not one that will distract you from the text. Also, not everyone who is a new Christian is not a student so I question why the Student Bible was thrown in this mix. I am sure no adult who comes to faith in Christ would want to have something meant for teens in a study Bible like this one.

Yes, there are a lot of resources for Christians to study the Bible. I thought it was a good idea to put 6 resources into one study Bible, yet I felt there was to much going on. If I was making a study Bible like this one, I would not have put the Student Bible in the mix. This was a good idea, I just don't think it was executed very well.

Thanks BookLook Bloggers for letting me review this Bible.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Music Monday: Top Christian Albums in the Last 25 Years

Recently, The Wardrobe Door has made a list of the top 25 Christians from the last 25 years. Some of these albums I have listened to and others I did not. So here is that list:

25. Heart in Motion – Amy Grant
24. The Ride – 4Him
23. And Now It’s Time for Silly Songs with Larry – VeggieTales
22. Lifesong – Casting Crowns
21. The Light Meets The Dark – Tenth Avenue North
20. Love & War & The Sea In Between – Josh Garrels
19. Satellite – P.O.D.
18. Fall and Winter, Spring and Summer – Jon Foreman
17. A Liturgy, A Legacy and A Ragamuffin Band – Rich Mullins
16. Behold the Lamb of God – Andrew Peterson
15. The Anatomy of the Tongue In Cheek – Relient K
14. Go West Young Man – Michael W. Smith
13. Rehab – Lecrae
12. Kansas (Gold Edition) – Jennifer Knapp
11. Time – Third Day
10. Almost There – MercyMe
9. The Outsiders – NEEDTOBREATHE
8. Sixpence None The Richer – Sixpence None The Richer
7. Underdog – Audio Adrenaline
6. Caedmon’s Call – Caedmon’s Call
5. Take Me to Your Leader – Newsboys
4. The Beautiful Letdown – Switchfoot
3. Speechless – Steven Curtis Chapman
2. Jars of Clay – Jars of Clay
1. Jesus Freak – dcTalk

Source: Top 25 Christian Albums of the Last 25 Years

I am not surprised that "Jesus Freak" made the list due to the fact that many Christians were still listening to that album to this day. I am a little surprised that Audio Adrenaline's "Don't Censor Me" was not on there due to the fact it is the album that contains the hit song, "Big House." "Take Me To Your Leader" is my all time favorite album from the Newsboys as well as "Speechless" from Steven Curtis Chapman.

What other albums surprised that made or not made the list?

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