Summer Reading: The Ascension

Reading on The Ascension

One of the networks that I'm connected with in ministry (and very happy to be a part of) is the Porterbrook Network. Based out of Sheffield, England the Porterbrook Network was formed in 2007 to provide training for everyday Christians in theological, relational and missional development. I have the privilege of leading the local Learning Site in Wichita known as Porterbrook Kansas. The essence of Porterbrook is to develop gospel-centered Christians who live on mission in community within the contexts they live. As a church-based theological training center we are passionate about training everyday Christians for missional engagement and leadership in the church. As the Porterbrook Network has developed over the last few years access several exciting relationships have been developed and are in formation currently. As one of my friends in Sheffield recently told me, "Porterbrook is having a moment."

Part of that moment is the development of a publishing relationship with Christian Focus publishers and a series of books with the WESTPorterbrook imprint. The first book in this series is from Tim Chester and Jonny Woodrow entitled The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God. Although I don't have a full-scale review for you of this book right now, I have enjoyed reading it so far and thinking about the implications of the Ascension for everyday life. To put it simply, the Ascension magnifies the glory of Christ and the impact of His ministry to me today.

Let me recommend that you pick up this book and add it to your summer reading list. It's a good read for a day at the beach, lake, or just wherever you might get an hour or so to rest, think and grow in your knowledge of Christ. You can pick up The Ascension: Humanity in the Presence of God from Westminster Bookstore for eight bucks. That's a pretty good deal for some solid and sound theological resources!

Reviewing Abraham: Following God's Promise

Recently I was given a copy of Logos Bible Software's new church curriculum entitled Abraham: Following God's Promise. Logos is probably the largest Bible software developer and has built one of the most robust and multi-faceted ecosystems for selling ebooks in the Bible software marketplace today. A little over a year ago I switched to Logos from another Bible software and I haven't looked back one in regret one bit. My usage of Logos is daily, and I rely heavily on the iOS apps and desktop software for all my study and research. Here's what I liked about the curriculum:

  • It's scalable. It comes with a full guide, a leaders guide, and a set of videos. A person can use it for personal study, a leader can take a Sunday school class through it, or a small group can watch the videos and discuss the content.
  • It's engaging. The graphics and slides for the presentations are well designed and informative. They don't drive the content, but they don't get in the way either.
  • It's thorough. The curriculum crosses the line between pop-Bible study and academic research rather well. The authors have endeavored to bring as much of the context and historical situation into the material as possible without it being completely dry and inaccessible.
  • It's Biblical. It's a character study (more on that later) and yet it manages to handle the content of Genesis and Abraham's story well.

For it's upsides here are a few things however that will probably keep me from using it, or buying the other character studies in the series

  • It's a character study. These aren't inherently bad but many of them can tend towards moralism if they don't have a clear connection and demonstration of Jesus being the greater and better hero of the study. I didn't get a sense from my walk-through that it was overly moralistic, but then again I didn't see too much of the centrality of Christ and the gospel. That's my bias of course.
  • Theologically Where? Here's the struggle of the publishing industry these days. How do they sell content? How do they turn a profit? This is even more difficult for a Christian publisher because the range of what is considered "evangelical" is so wide that no body is going to be happy, even if you try and make everybody happy. If I am going to purchase a curriculum I want to know right up front that the theological trajectory of the material is in keeping with mine. Not because I am a rigid "can't-think-out-of-his-tribe's-box" guy, but because I am going to be using it to teach the people I lead. I'll read outside of my tribe all the time personally, most of that won't see the light of day when I am teaching my people. So this brings me back to this curriculum study. I have no clue where it sits in terms of the underlying theological worldview. I know they are Christians. That's good, but not good enough for me to buy it sight unseen, and then use it with my church. This of course, is my bias.

Those two biases against this sort of material sink the ship for me. For some I imagine this will be helpful curriculum for their Bible studies and churches, for me however, the well designed graphics and presentation don't overcome the unknown content on the interior.

 

 

 

 

FTC Disclosure: Logos Bible Software has provided me with a copy of Abraham: Following God's Promises for purposes of providing a review. I received Abraham: Following God's Promises at no charge to me and I am under no obligation to return the product but can keep it for me own personal use.

Raised: A Book for Skeptics on Easter

RAISED-high-res

I don’t know where Switchfoot picked it up, but in one of my favorite songs they sing, “doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs.” Now, I understand that statement is easily dismantled if our “doubts” and our “beliefs” are jacked-up to begin with. However, as a Christian there are times when I’ve been able to sort through some truth and error because I’ve doubted the truth of some of the thoughts that have seriously troubled me and have believed the things that I already affirm and believe.

This brings us to the issue of the resurrection of Jesus. My naturalistic, scientific, rational-thinking, cessationationistic (look it up) self doubts that kind of thing happens. However, as I look at Scripture and honestly deal with my doubts I find this is one “doubt” that I should most certainly discredit. If Jesus is not raised from the dead then my “beliefs” are really the things I should doubt. At least that’s the way it goes in my head.

Now, enter Jonathan Dodson and Brad Watson’s new book Raised? Doubting the Resurrection. This little book from my publisher GCD Books is an excellent book for the saved and skeptic alike. For the Christian it is going to frame and encourage you in understanding the reality of the resurrection and it’s day-to-day impact in life. It helped me see once again the prominence of the resurrection of Christ for our faith. Furthermore it helped me think through how to talk in a winsome manner with people who don’t believe in Christ or the resurrection. It helped shape me to live a “resurrection life.” I was personally helped by this little book. I encourage you to read or discuss it with someone who wrestles with the resurrection.

For the skeptic or non-believer this book isn’t going to beat you over the head with dogma or doctrine. It will raise some questions that you will have to intellectually and honestly deal with. It will give you a glimpse of why Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is true and life-changing. Unlike a ranting, debating, yelling street preacher this books tone is friendly and engaging. You might be challenged by the cross and resurrection, but you won’t be insulted for wrestling with the truth of it. I encourage you to read it and talk with a Christian friend about it.

With Easter almost here this book is a compassionate resource to engage and encourage people with the gospel. I encourage you to pick it up. You can download it in Kindle format, iBooks, or PDF.

January 2012 Reading

Photo

Here's my reading list for January 2012:
Additionally I am reading through the book of Judges this month in my Bible reading plan and starting a 32 week reading plan through Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion with a friend.  

Top Books of 2011

2011 was a work-horse year in terms of reading for me.  Most of that due to the fact that I was finishing my graduate studies at ReTrain and was reading at least 1,000 pages a month on top of my biblical studies at SRBC.  By the time I got to June I hit the wall and dropped off considerably in terms of volume of books read. 
Nevertheless these were the 11 books that impacted me the most in 2011 in no particular order.

Hosea 
Working the Angles - Eugene Peterson
Holiness by Grace - Bryan Chapell
Rework - Jason Freid and David Heinemeier Hansson
A Long Obedience in the Same Direction - Eugene Peterson
Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor - D.A. Carson
True Grit - Charles Portis
The Pastor - Eugene Peterson
The God Who Is There - D.A. Carson
When God Comes To Church - Ray Ortlund Jr.
A Sweet and Bitter Providence - John Piper

A few things to note: Eugene Peterson singlehandedly dominated my list this year because of the compelling nature of his writing regarding my profession, the pastorate. I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for helping me wade through the culture voices regarding what it means to be a pastor. I'll probably read A Long Obedience in The Same Direction annually. Secondly, I missed most of the popular choices that were published this last year. I just can't keep up with all that is new. That's why most of the books here were not published this last year. Finally, Ray Ortlund's book was absolutely ground breaking for me. I wish you could read it and if you can find a copy buy it. 

Vote For My Reading in May

Dear Readers,

Since my reading for ReTrain is all finished I am at a bit of a loss to know what to read next.  So here's the scoop, what follows is a list of "to read" books.  Vote for your favorite ones and I'll try and punch out the top three or four in May.  Of course I have the right to override all votes, but I'd like your input.  Thanks!

Bonhoeffer - Mextas
Radical - Platt
When God Comes to Church - Ortlund
God's Unfaithful Wife - Ortlund
The Deep Things of God - Sanders
God-Sized Vision - Hansen
Don't Call it a Comeback - DeYoung
Untamed - Hirsch
Trellis and the Vine - Marshal
Memiors to an Ordinary Pastor - Carson
Redemption - Wilkerson
Rid of My Disgrace - Holcomb
The Christian Faith - Horton
Charles Simeon - Moule
Pastor - Eugene Peterson
Note to Self - Thorn
Finally Alive - Piper
Think - Piper
Generous Justice - Keller
The Kings Cross - Keller
Good to Great - Jim Collins
The Gospel Commission - Horton

Reading in April or The End of ReTrain Reading

Img_0016

I have to say I'm writing this post with a bit of melancholy. You see the four books on this list constitute the reading requirements for my last class at ReTrain.  The finish line is in sight and while I am excited about completing this program and finishing well, I have to say I'm going to miss the learning format and most of all the relationships that I've developed with the guys in my cohort.  This next weekend I travel up for my last class, "Leader as Priest" taught by Sam Storms.  These are the books that we were required to read for the course.  All of them have been excellent, Piper however, has been devastating. Maybe one day I'll write about why. For now here's the list:

Reading in March

I realized today that I had not yet posted the reading that I have been doing lately and wanted to get a record of my reading in February/March on the list.  

My_hipstaprint_0

Three books were the result and an excellent article from the Harvard Business Review.  Here's the books.

All in all it was some excellent reading, especially as I worked through the issues of leadership in the church and leadership of a church.  What did you read in the last month?

Reading in February

Photo

We're already into the second month of 2011 and I needed to bring my faithful readers (thanks mom) up to speed on what I've been reading.  This afternoon I take off for Seattle for my next Re:Train course called "Leader as Prophet".  The aim of the course is to equip guys in Christ-centered preaching.  Bryan Chapell is the teacher for this course and this is the one I have really been looking forward to this year.  Here's the reading list I just completed:

None of these books were a dud and I would recommend you read the last three.  If you are going to be preaching or teaching someday you should read the first one listed, but everybody would be served well by working through the final three books in the list.  I am excited to learn more about the ministry of preaching and how to better do it.  I am praying that God would show me more grace and help me continue to develop and grow in bring the gospel to bear on the lives of people from the Scriptures in a clear and compelling way by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Reading in December (and half of November)

My_hipstaprint_0

The next 6-8 weeks is a bit of a break for me with my work at The Resurgence Training Center (Re:Train).  We do not have class in December but have a week-long intensive the second week of January.  In preparation for that course our required reading looks something like this:

  • The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
  • Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood
  • A biography of a dead evangelical pastor - has to be 200 pages.  

The biography is of special interest to me because I really enjoy church history and I learn a ton from biographies.  For this course I wanted to read a biography on a man I don't know too much about.  That knocked out reading on Edwards, Calvin, Luther and a few others.  When I started asking around many pointed me to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and said I should read a bio on him.  The problem with that is unless you read the large two volume, 1200 page, book by Iain H. Murray, you aren't going to find another biography on him.

So... I'm taking the plunge.  At least on the second volume of Lloyd-Jones' life.  I figure this volume has the most immediate lessons for me to learn from and puts his time-line in closer proximity to mine.  I'm excited about this set of reading.  Scott Thomas' book Gospel Coach has been excellent and when it finally is released it will be a benefit to leaders everywhere.  Read along if you like the next couple months!

Reading in October

At some point I will have to back up and do a post on what I read for my Re:Train course on missional ecclesiology.  However since I'm thinking about it and and getting started on my course in November I thought I would post what I am reading this next month.  Here's the list:

I've been told this class was the best one at Re:Train so I am excited for it.  Read along if you have a chance!

"I don't want to build a museum..."

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/14551672 w=500&h=281]

Everyone once in a while a little video clip or a book hit me right in the heart.  This trailer for Darrin Patrick's new book Church Planter is a clear shot across the bow for me. Legacies don't need to be left behind, leaders do. It's time to move, not build museums.   

 

Re:Train Reading for August

Here's the list with links for the reading I am doing this month in preparation for my September Re:Train course taught by Dr. Bruce Ware.  

My_hipstaprint_0

What I've Read: January-June 2010

My friend Ryan Rotman posted the books he had read at his blog last night so I thought I would jump in and share my own reading list from the last six months myself.  I keep a monthly "book log" and add a little paragraph about the content and quality, as I see it, of each book I have read.  So I'm just going to copy the whole list.  Note that these are books I read cover-to-cover.  I have probably another dozen that I am half-way through somewhere on my shelves.  Hopefully they will see the light of day.  

 

January 2010

Life of Pi by Yann Martel - Fiction.  Interesting take on religion and worldviews (universalism) against atheism and skepticism.   Story is framed in the midst of a shipwreck. 

The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy - Fiction. Submarine, Cold War suspense thriller.

Term Limits by Vince Flynn - Fiction.  Political, espionoge suspense thriller. 

Is Christianity Good For the World? by Christopher Hitchens and Douglas Wilson - Apologetics.  Short back and forth debate between Hitchens and Wilson on the titled question. Issue revoloves what standard Hitchens can appeal to to be able to condemn Christianity. 

 

February 2010

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N.D. Wilson - Apologetics.  Witty book that places life and our role in the Drama of God in place.  Wilson deals with the biggest philosophers and provides a solid apologetic for the Christian faith. 

The God Who Smokes by Timothy Stoner - Christian Life and Practice.  Stoner writes like an seasoned missionary would, lots of stories, some wisdom and truth (although oddly stated).  Overall the book argues for an exclusive, God-centered God who is glorious and lovely.  Good read.  End chapters were boring and too artsy-fartsy for my taste.  

Counterfeit Gods by Timothy Keller - Christian Life and Practice.   Keller takes us to task against the prevelant personal and cultural idols of our day.  From romance to money to power everything our culture values is put on display as an idol.  In each chapter the Gospel is clearly brought forward.  Excellent book.

 

March 2010

Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft - Church Leadership.  The book is not a manifesto on Christian leadership or anything like that but it is helpful in some of the more practical counsel in establishing leaders and helping leaders grow.  Probably very helpful for young men who are developing into leaders.

Fantasyland by Sam Walker - Baseball.   A sports writer enters the world of fantasy rotiserrie baseball and the nerds that inhabit it.  Funny book about trying to win a fake league with real players.  A bit too much foul language but fun to read.

Confessions of a Reformisson Rev by Mark Driscoll - Church Leadership.  A biography of sorts of the history of Mars Hill church through growth.  Much help here for a starting planter in terms of methodology and ecclesiology. 

Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus by D.A. Carson - Biblical Studies.  A series of five lectures given at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington on the cross and resurrection of Christ.  Carson unpacks Matthew 27:27-51, Romans 3:21-26; Revelation 12; John 11:1-53; and John 20:24-31 in this book.  Excellent teaching on the Scripture and heart-penetrating application for my life.

Doctrine by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears - Theology.  Driscoll and Breshars cover thirteen chapters of the major Biblical themes and teaching.  A helpful resource for training new Christians in the teaching of the church.  

 

April 2010

The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, and Bench-Clearing Brawls: The Unwritten Rules of America's Pastime by Jason Turbow - Baseball.   Deals with the unwritten but yet pertinent traditions in Major League Baseball on how players, managers and owners behave.  Fun book of good stories. 

 

May 2010

Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith by Greg Bahnsen - Apologetics.  Bahnsen’s book is a capture of many lectures he gave dealing primarily with the methodology of apologetics.  His basic premise is to strip away all the philosophy of apologetics and all the Spirit of God to use the Word of God to convict and convert unbelievers.  Book read for seminary course on Apologetics.

 

Five Views of Apologetics edited by Steven Cowan - Apologetics.  This book dealt with the five “traditional” views of the methodology of apologetics and the essay authors had opportunity to critique one another.  None of the veiws were well presented, most relied on philosophy or strange mathematical equasions to justify the probable existence of God.  None of the views were anchored on the Word of God.  No help here.  Book read for seminary course on Apologetics. 

 

June 2010

The Pacific by Hugh Ambrose - World War II History.  Following the HBO miniseries by the same title this book traced the events in the Pacific Theater of war through the eyes of five Marines.  It gave a good sense of the battles and the endeavors of these five soliders and fit well as a companion to the TV miniseries.  

 

Church Planting is for Wimps by Mike McKinley - Church Leadership.  A short autobiographical book on the revitalizing of a dying church in northern Virginia.  McKinley has no revolutionary formulas or devices for church planters other than what the Bible teaches; preach the Word, train elders, evangelize the lost, be a healthy church.  Fun to read and helpful to remember the “mundane” work of ministry. 

 

Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper - Christian Life and Practice.  A call to escape the trap of the American Dream and spend my one life on maximiziing and broadcasting the glory and grace of God in Jesus Christ.  This book will never stop being a dagger to my soul and a call to real, passionate living for the glory of God.  A must-read for every Christian.

 

 

Asking the Right Questions

I've been reading DeYoung and Kluck's book Why We Love the Church  tonight and found some great questions that churches need to ask themselves as they consider why their church might not be growing as they hope.  These are gospel-centered questions that force us to look not to our methods and programs and style as much as they force us to look at the content of what we saying and doing.  Here they are:

  • Are we getting in the way of the gospel?
  • Are we believing the gospel?
  • Are we relying on the power of the gospel?
  • Are we getting the gospel out?
  • Are we getting the gospel right?
  • Are we adorning the gospel with good works?
  • Are we praying for the work of the gospel?
  • Are we training up our children in the gospel?
  • Are we trusting God's sovereignty in the gospel?

These are profoundly good questions and ones that need to be at the focus of our self-evaluations.  I encourage you to pick up the book and check through the fuller descriptions of each question on pages 32-36.


The Kindle and Accordance

Screen_shot_2010-01-06_at_5

I received an Amazon Kindle for Christmas and I have to say at this point that I love it. For me it is almost the perfect reading experience. I don't think it will replace actual paper and ink books in my life (and I don't want it to) but it does make getting around with many books a lot easier. After having the Kindle for close to two weeks now I have found it to be one of the most profitable tools for reading in my life right now. To date I have been able to keep up with my Scripture reading plan and read several other very helpful Christian books in a steady manner. I really enjoy it.

Today however I discovered an unintentional benefit of my Kindle. For a long, long, long, long time I have wanted to be able to read a book, highlight particular sections of the book and then be able to catalog those highlights for future reference and for sermon prep. One friend told me his method of reading, highlighting, typing the quote into his computer and then having it index that quotation. That seemed rather long and tedious to me and the one time I tried it I got sidetracked by typing the quote and lost track of reading the book.

This is where the Kindle and my favorite Bible software created the perfect combination. When you read on the Kindle you can highlight and mark particular quotations in a book. The Kindle then makes a .txt file of those highlights, marks and even your own personal notes. I can copy that .txt file from the Kindle and create a new User Note in Accordance that will allow me to search through and archive my notes. So now when I finish a book (or a chapter in a book) I pull the .txt file and throw the quotes into my User Note and away I go. If I want to search something I can search by any text I put in that file. It's amazing, and a very helpful tool by both the Kindle and Accordance.

My Best Books of 2009

I know I am not the most prolific reader on the planet or in the realm of the Christian blogosphere.  However because it is the end of the year I thought I would recommend the five books that I most enjoyed in 2009.  If you haven't read them I would encourage you to.  Not all of them are Christian books but they are interesting and provocative books nonetheless. 

  • Total Church - Tim Chester and Steve Timmis ~ If there is one book that has been a major influencer in my thinking this last year this was it.  Chester and Timmis build a sound ecclesiology that has the Gospel at the core.  I can't think of "doing church" any differently now.

  • The Triumph of the Lamb - Dennis E. Johnson ~ In teaching through the book of Revelation at the end of 2009 I knew I had many good commentaries for the book on hand.  My dad recommended this book however and it was a great benefit.  Johnson also wrote the notes for Revelation in the ESV Study Bible and this volume was a sane, clear presentation of the teaching of the book and was very helpful.

  • The Reason for God - Timothy Keller ~ I've found this book to be challenging in two ways.  1) It has helped strengthen my arguments for the Gospel and 2) it has called me to carefully dialog with those who do not believe in God's existence or might consider themselves agnostics. 

  • Freakonomics - Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner ~ I got this book in an airport because a friend recommended it to me.  It is a book full of interesting questions like, "what does a school teacher have in common with a Sumo wrestler?"  The answers are not what you would think and has caused me to think through data and numbers issues a little bit differently.  

  • Nehemiah - now you might object that reading the Bible cannot be a "best book" for a year since I'm supposed to read it every year.  However in my reading and studying of Nehemiah this last fall was profound for me as I think about the spread of the Gospel and the public demonstration of the glory of God in my life.

So what about you?  What did you read in 2009 that was helpful or beneficial for you?

My Holiday Study

Sunday night I take off for Missouri and some great times with family and friends.  Christmas holidays are great.  But I also have a load of reading and watching to do before I return to Santa Rosa and get cracking at 2010.  Here's what is on the agenda:

Reading:
  • Keller's Reason for God
  • Goldsworthy's According to Plan - trying to get a leg up on my seminary class
  • Timmis and Chester's Gospel-Centred Life
  • Johnson's Him We Proclaim 

Watching:
  • Collision: Is Christianity Good for the World?  Hitchens vs. Wilson
  • The Case for Faith: Strobel
  • The Case for Christ: Strobel

So that's a pretty heavy list to be sure.  I am excited to plow through as much as I can.  Here I come 2010, ready or not!