Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: Be The Message by Kerry & Chris Shook

Kerry & Chris Shook are the founders of Woodlands Church formerly known as Fellowship in the Woodlands in The Woodlands, Tx, which is just outside Houston. There church is one of the fastest growing church in America which now has a television ministry. Together they have written a book called, Be The Message, which is about living for God more and talking about him less.

The idea of this book is to communicate that "You are the gospel." Meaning God has giving you a life message to live out among those who do not know him. Shook begins the first chapter by stating, "I am sick of sermons." Coming from a pastor this is disturbing. Continuing on, Shook says, "I am tired of talking about God. I am tired of hearing about God." This is starting to sound like the confession of one who has turned away from God not someone who loves Jesus and proclaiming the Word. What Shook is communicating in this book is we need to let our actions speak louder than words and even uses the infamous quote (more like misquote) from St. Francis of Assisi, "Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words."

The rest of book continues to share that our lives are the gospel and how God will give us a life message. Last time I checked, no where in the Bible does it say God will give us a life message. He gives us a gospel to proclaim. Also, since did we become the gospel? The message of this book seems like another attempt to make people feel they do not have to speak when witnessing which is nothing short of laziness and cowardness.

Should our lives reflect the gospel? Absolutely but nothing should replace words. Our demonstrating the gospel follows our proclamation not the other way around. We are not evangelistic mimes using our bodies to communicate the gospel without the use of words. I feel this book is trying to get us to do that. As I mentioned earlier, what Shook said about getting tired of sermons, hearing about God, and talking about God really concerns me. What does this communicate to his church where he preaches? What does this say to the readers that read this book or any of the other books he and his wife have written?

In conclusion, Be The Message is not a book on evangelism. It is a book only to appease what itching ears want to hear. I cannot recommend this book to anyone.

Thanks Waterbrook Press for letting me review this book.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What Is The Big Deal About Reformation Day?

This Friday is not only Halloween, although most of our culture will be celebrating it. It is also Reformation Day, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints' Church, Wittenburg.

Why is this day so important for Christians? Robert Rothwell recently posted a summary of what Reformation Day is all about:

On Friday, much of the culture will be focused on candy and things that go bump in the night. Protestants, however, have something far more significant to celebrate on October 31. Friday is Reformation day, which commemorates what was perhaps the greatest move of God’s Spirit since the days of the Apostles. But what is the significance of Reformation Day, and how should we consider the events it commemorates?

At the time, few would have suspected that the sound of a hammer striking the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany, would soon be heard around the world and lead ultimately to the greatest transformation of Western society since the apostles first preached the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. Martin Luther’s nailing of his ninety-five theses to the church door on October 31, 1517, provoked a debate that culminated finally in what we now call the Protestant Reformation.

An heir of Bishop Augustine of Hippo, Martin Luther is one of the most significant figures God has raised up since that time. This law student turned Augustinian monk became the center of a great controversy after his theses were copied and distributed throughout Europe. Initially protesting the pope’s attempt to sell salvation, Luther’s study of Scripture soon led him to oppose the church of Rome on issues including the primacy of the Bible over church tradition and the means by which we are found righteous in the sight of God.

This last issue is probably Luther’s most significant contribution to Christian theology. Though preached clearly in the New Testament and found in the writings of many of the church fathers, the medieval bishops and priests had largely forgotten the truth that our own good works can by no means merit God’s favor. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, and good works result from our faith, they are not added to it as the grounds for our right standing in the Lord’s eyes (Eph. 2:8-10). Justification, God’s declaration that we are not guilty, forgiven of sin, and righteous in His sight comes because through our faith alone the Father imputes, or reckons to our account, the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21).

Martin Luther’s rediscovery of this truth led to a whole host of other church and societal reforms and much of what we take for granted in the West would have likely been impossible had he never graced the scene. Luther’s translation of the Bible into German put the Word of God in the hands of the people, and today Scripture is available in the vernacular language of many countries, enabling lay people to study it with profit. He reformed the Latin mass by putting the liturgy in the common tongue so that non-scholars could hear and understand the preached word of God and worship the Lord with clarity. Luther lifted the unbiblical ban on marriage for the clergy and by his own teaching and example radically transformed the institution itself. He recaptured the biblical view of the priesthood of all believers, showing all people that their work had purpose and dignity because in it they can serve their Creator.

Today, Luther’s legacy lives on in the creeds and confessions of Protestant bodies worldwide. As we consider his importance this Reformation Day, let us equip ourselves to be knowledgeable proclaimers and defenders of biblical truth. May we be eager to preach the Gospel of God to the world and thereby spark a new reformation of church and culture.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why Do People Have a Problem With Grace?

Grace is God's unmerited favor to sinners who do not deserve it. Sounds like good news to those who are lost yet it is so offensive. Why? The answer varies between people. Most Christians do not have a problem with grace yet some do. Lost people may not have a problem with grace depending on the circumstance.

Why do people have a problem with grace if it is the gift of God not based on works? Why do some Christians want to hear what they can do for God instead of resting in his grace? When I say do for God, I mean do to earn his love and his forgiveness. Here are my opinions on why people have a problem with grace:

1. People are not in control of their salvation. People want to make their own destiny so they think their salvation is in their hands which, clearly, it is not.

2. People have a problem with grace because they do not take God at His Word. The Bible says we are saved by grace not works yet people have a hard time because we work hard for that promotion or get the house the way we want it. Taking God at His Word means that we can rest in his grace without worrying about our future meaning our eternity is secured.

3. People want satisfaction. Mick Jagger is the one who sings "I get no satisfaction" and for a lot of people that is true. Christians are not satisfied with grace because it is out of their hands. That is why you hear sermons on doing more and being moral superior than others. They want the feeling of being saved. Salvation was never backed by feelings although sometimes it can come across that way, but we when we walk with Jesus sometimes their is no feeling. That is where faith comes in.

4. People, especially Christians, want to make sure God still loves them. The Bible says nothing can separate us from the love of God, but that is not enough. I remember one lady in church praying that she will try to keep Jesus in her heart. I have heard from a pastor that some people in his congregation think God loves them in the evening and damns them in the morning. Christian, God will always love you even when he disciplines you because those who go through God's discipline are true sons (Hebrews 12:4-11). Lost person God loves you and extends His hand of free grace that you will never worry about losing once you have received it.

Recommended Reading:

The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

Prepared by Grace, for Grace: The Puritans on God's Way of Leading Sinners to Christ

Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration by Matthew Barrett

What's So Great About The Doctrines of Grace by Richard D. Phillips

Grace: God's Unmerited Favor by Charles Spurgeon

All of Grace by Charles Spurgeon

Friday, October 24, 2014

What Is Encouraging About Rising Leaders in the Church?

Tim Keller, D.A. Carson, and John Piper talk about what encourages them from their interactions with upcoming church leaders

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Beat God To The Punch by Eric Mason

I have said it once and I will say it again, never judge a book by it's title unless the author is a well known prosperity false gospel teacher. When I heard Eric Mason had a new book being released I was excited because I was blessed by his last one, Manhood Restored. The title of Mason's new book, Beat God To The Punch, really threw me off because it almost sounded like some weird teaching. What does it mean to beat God to the punch?

Another thing that is threw me off is that Paul Tripp and his mustache (if you know who I am talking about, you get the joke) wrote the foreword to the book which I know Tripp will never put his name with a book with some hokey theology. The subtitle to the book says, "Because Jesus Demands Your Life." So the question remains, what is Mason's new book all about? After reading the book I can tell you that Beat God To The Punch is not some weird theological 180 Mason nor Tripp have taken. This is book is about grace and it is also about discipleship.

Mason wrote that beating God to the punch "involves willingly bending one's life to Jesus now, and forever. Practice begins by trusting in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead as a substitutionary atonement for your sins. Upon the return of Jesus, all will acknowledge His Lordship. On that day, those who are forced to bow will experience the punch of God's wrath. Those who willingly bow at the appointed time of salvation will be missed by God's wrathful punch because God hit Jesus on their behalf" (pg. 2). Beating God to the punch is about missing the full wrath of God to those who deserve judgment. All true believers stand in grace and will miss the wrathful punch. Those who experience grace will give Jesus everything in their lives which is discipleship.

As I mentioned, this book is about discipleship, however, it is more about grace than discipleship even though Mason ties both of them in his teachings. Mason wrote that Jesus is the embodiment of grace so when we follow Jesus we also follow the grace of God. Without the grace of God there is no hope as we follow Jesus. Grace does not keep us from suffering but help us through the valley as we go through suffering.

Every year there seems to be at least one book that surprises me. Mason's book happens to be one of them. Maybe because the title is very catchy. The title of the book might come across someone's eye in a Christian bookstore and pick it up. He/she would read it then realize they need God's grace more than they ever thought they did. I highly recommend this book. It is well written and easy to read. This book is a strong contender for my top five books of the year.

Thanks Broadman & Holman for letting me review this book.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Monday, October 20, 2014

Music Monday: Playlist Based on Prodigal God Study

As I mentioned last week, we are starting a study based on Tim Keller's bestselling book, The Prodigal God. I have created a playlist on Spotify based on this study. Please pray for us as we start this study in order to ignite the fire to plant a gospel-centered church in Wichita Falls.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Fruit of the Spirit is Not The Same As The Gifts of the Spirt

There is a common misunderstanding among Christians, which is the difference between the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. Some think there is no difference at when reality is there are. The Bible says, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace" (1 Peter 4:10). In 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4, we are told different gifts that believers have been given "the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" (1 Corinthians 12:7).

The gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to each believe upon our faith in Jesus and is to be used to serve the body of Christ. Not every believer has the same gift. Some preach, some teach, some are good encouragers, and some serve faithfully without recognition.

How is this not the same as the fruit of Spirit? The Bible says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:22-24) Notice we have said gifts but we have not said "fruits" when mentioning the fruit of the Spirit. Darrin Patrick wrote this in his book, Church Planter:

In the original Greek, the word "fruit" in verse 22 is singular. Paul is not listing a kind of spiritual menu by which some people choose love, others choose peace, others choose patience, and so on. Rather, all these qualities together constitute the fruit that a Christian man produces.

As I like to put it, the fruit of the Spirit is one big package that a Christian gets through the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. You get them all at once and you get all of them because they the fruit of the Lord's labor in your life. What did Jesus say? "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

How Can You Love Your Brothers and Sisters In Christ?

Jesus said we are to love one another (John 13:34-35). Many Christians just do not know how to. Joe Thorn wrote a post on 10 ways for believers to love their brothers in Christ:

1. Put Them First
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." (Phil. 2:3)

Self-denial lives at the center of love. True love denies self and supports another. Putting others first should be more than an act of humility, but an act of affection. It's not that we think so little of ourselves, but that we feel so warmly toward our brothers and sisters in Christ that we are happy to lay aside our interests and preferences so that another may experience blessing.

2. Seek Their Good
"always seek to do good to one another" (1 Thess. 5:15)

Love does more than put someone else first. One's desires may be destructive, or their path may lead to danger. Love will seek their good, their betterment, their advancement. The questions we ask must be, "How can I personally help my brother do well?" "How can I serve my sister so that she prospers in faith and life?"

3. Ask for Their Forgiveness/Forgive Them
"forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." (Col. 3:13)

If you love your fellow saints then you will ask for their forgiveness when you sin against them, and will freely forgive them when they sin against you. Sin grieves the heart of a believer for in it we know we have sinned against the Lord, hurt someone made in the image of God and recreated in the image of Jesus Christ. And as a people who have been forgiven of far worse crimes than have been committed against us, we must also forgive those who sin against us.

4. Listen to Them
"be quick to hear" (James 1:19)

Love listens. Just as God hears us when we call to him, so must we listen to others. We need to listen in order to gain understanding either of truth, or of the one speaking. Until we listen to another we are ill-equipped to know their needs and seek their good.

5. Include Them
"Show hospitality to one another without grumbling." (1 Pet. 4:9)

Hospitality is a welcoming of others into your life. Love includes; it draws near to others and invites them in. It will not dismiss people because they are different or difficult, but will pursue them and offer them a place at the table. Love looks around, sees the uninvolved or unknown, and extends a hand of welcome.

6. Be Generous
"You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way" (2 Cor. 9:11)

God has given you what you have for more than your own personal enjoyment. You are called by God to steward what he has entrusted you by sharing it with others. Love seeks to give, and give big. As John Calvin said, “the legitimate use of all our gifts is a kind and liberal communication of them with others.”

7. Sacrifice
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." (Jn. 15:13)

Generosity is important, but it's easy to pick and choose what we will be generous with. Many today have an easier time parting with their money than their time. They would rather be generous with their wallet than their calendar. Such "generosity" is giving without real sacrifice. Love, in denying self, goes farther than an easy offering. Love gives untill it hurts. If you love your brothers and sisters it will be seen in your willingness to sacrifice what you have, and even yourself, for their good.

8. Tell the Truth
"let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another." (Eph. 4:25)

Love doesn't lie. In fact, it speaks truth. This isn't about offering true opinions, but truth itself. It is willing to offer hard words when needed. Love corrects, rebukes even, but not from a mere love for truth. It is also connected to a sense of concern and compassion for people.

9. Encourage Them with the Gospel
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." (1 Thess. 5:11)

Love doesn't flatter, but it does encourage. Biblical encouragement is a kind of preaching; a gospel word offered to those who need it. Love points people to Jesus Christ, in whom we see love in its brightest display. Those around you need to hear how the good news of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, remains good news for them today. It's not just for the lost. It is for the found. For without it we drift back to false hopes, doubts, and fears.

10. Pray for Them
"pray for one another" (James 5:16)

If you love your brothers and sisters you will pray for them. It is sad that we so often quickly;y promise, "I'll pray for ya!" only to walk away and never approach God on their behalf. Even sadder is that those who need the prayer are happy enough with the false promise. They appreciate the nice thought, and think it's better than nothing. But it's not. It's just nothing. Love prays. It seeks God's action in their lives. It pleads with God for greater grace on behalf of others. And to this God responds.

There are many other ways in which we should be loving one another in the church, but here's a start. Let us love not "in word or talk but in deed and in truth." (1Jn. 3:18) We can do this because we have come to know the love of God through the death of Jesus Christ. We have been saved by love (Rom. 5:8) and for love (1 Peter 1:22).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Update on Church Plant-October 14, 2014

It has been a while since I gave the latest update for the church plant that I am apart of in Wichita Falls. Things are coming together as we speak with a few things that we are still working through. We still do not have a launch date for the church just yet but we do have an upcoming Bible study that I am very excited about.

Starting this Monday, we are having a study based on Tim Keller's The Prodigal God. We are having this study in the conference room at our local Jason's Deli in their conference room. One of the reasons we are having the study there is that it is in a central location for everyone attending can come. Another reason is the place we originally planned for fell through. By God's grace, the manager at Jason's Deli has graciously allowed us to use their conference room which is located at the back of the restaurant.

Here is a promo of that study:

As far as a church name, we have several ideas such as Sojourn, Redemption, Veritas, and even Pilgrim, which is unique because I do not recall any church with the name Pilgrim. We do have one hotel in the area that is going to give us a cheap rate for us to use their facilities when we launch plus it is next to a park so there is opportunity for children to play and possibly a church wide picnic following the service.

Things are moving along great. Excited for the study and what God is going to do. All of us believe God is about some great gospel work in Wichita Falls. I am humbled that He has allowed me to be part of it. I love the men I am working with to get this new ministry going. Continue to pray for us.