Book Review: What Did You Expect?

Book Review:  What Did You Expect? By Paul Tripp

The Good: 

Goal of Marriage.  It won’t take you long before you realize this isn’t just a marriage tips book.  If you want that, check out the grocery magazine stand or peruse the self-help books at Barnes & Noble.  Here, you find a spiritual awakening to your marriage.  You get a theological education of where God wants to take your marriage, and where God wants to take YOU in your marriage.  That’s what makes this a worthwhile read.

A Mirror to Your Soul.  If you are not ready to dive deep into your heart, then you better not click “Add to cart” on Amazon.  But, if you are ready to get to the heart of the problem, issue, or struggles of your marriage, then buckle up…this book will take you there.  I’ve never thought I had a bad marriage, but is that what I want?  “Not a bad marriage”.  For a great marriage, I MUST work at my marriage, and even more so, work on MYSELF in my relationship with God.

Can you give me an example?  I love a good story.  And when the stories of real marriage examples weave in and out of the chapter contents, it makes for a much more enjoyable read.  If the whole book was principles and practical tips, it still would be a valuable book.  But, with the real life examples of marital difficulty and victory, the reader gets the best of both worlds.

The Bad:

Verbose.  This was a BOOK.  Nearly 300 pages worth made it for a very long, but important read.  While all the material is valuable, I typically feel like it can be condensed when it gets to that thickness.  If I drop the book on my foot and it hurts, it’s too much and time to sum up.

The Grade:  B+

The length was the only downside to the book.  Tripp is one of my favorites.  Man, he is able to take theological concepts and apply them to everyday life-like no other.  Challenging principles from Scripture that get to the heart of the husband and wife, rather than surface marriage tips that only gloss over the real problems and issues.  If the self-help books are a band-aid, this here book is major heart surgery.  And if I’m your marriage doctor, I would be prescribing you this book to read 2 chapters and call me in the morning.

 

 

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Book Review: 10 Who Changed the World

Book Review:  10 Who Changed the World by Daniel L. Akin

The Good: 

The Stars.  The stars of this book were the missionaries.  Men and women that I admire greatly.  Incredible stories of dedicated faith through hardship, persecution, and even martyrdom.  Missionaries who took the Gospel where it needed to go.

They Said It.  The author went to great lengths to provide quotes from the missionaries themselves.  From personal letters, journal entries, and other documents were used to give the reader actual missionary quotes.  Powerful does not even describe the words.  As some quotes were taken just moments before the missionaries were killed.

Biblical.  While the biographies of these missionaries were remarkable, the Biblical basis for their legacy was what held the book together.  Each missionary story was assigned a passage of Scripture that weaved through their life story.  This was a perfect touch by the author to make sure the glory is given where glory is due.

The Bad:

Read with a little excitement (audio book only).  Ok, confession time…I didn’t actually read the book.  I listened to it on audio book.  Obviously, the reader was a professional and there was never any mistakes, pauses, or interruptions.  However, there was little enthusiasm.  As a pastor, if I would have read some of these pages, I could not help but raise my voice.

The Grade:  A-

Wow.  It was a word that I would say out loud as I listened to these powerful stories of legendary missionaries of yesterday.  If you want a book that will inspire you to share the Gospel, you can start here.  I could not wait to get in my car for more stories of missionaries being faithful to their call.  What is amazing, the missionaries were often quoted as what they did as no big deal.  They each saw it as the calling of any Christian, to follow where God leads and share his precious gift of salvation with others.  To them, it was a privilege to give their life to such a call.

 

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Can Jesus Really Sympathize With Me?

Jesus.  King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Savior of the World.  The Messiah.

Could the Son of God truly sympathize with me?  Did he really have the same struggles that I have today?  Hebrews 4:15 says it is so.  But to what degree?  What are some examples of how Jesus knows exactly how you feel?  Off the top of my head, here are few…

  1. Fatigue – Jesus’ ministry schedule was pretty packed (3 years to start a revolution) – he understands the fatigue of young mothers with little sleep, he understands the student after a long work week, and he understands the elderly weary from battling their health
  2. Health – would be naïve to think Jesus didn’t go through flu season, have a cold, or a headache from all the hammering in his father’s shop
  3. Physical pain – Sure there was the indescribable pain on the cross, but what about growing pains, hitting his thumb with a hammer or falling down on his 1st camel ride
  4. Temptations – Jesus was at times treated like a rock star (not what He intended). But as the crowds grew, I’m sure there were women who desired his power, businessmen who say $ signs, and an enemy who would tempt him in every possible way.  You think your temptations are intense – how hard do you think Satan tried with Jesus who held the keys to his eternal future in the lake of fire.
  5. Job Demotion – Wait, when was this? Hello?  From heaven, to take a form of a servant…talk about a job loss!  Still 100% God, but took the form of man.
  6. Financial struggle – Jesus was rarely home in his ministry days, often did not have much financially as he traveled, and his treasurer skimming off the top of his ministry funds!
  7. Sorrow – He wept over his friend Lazarus. Had to be alone when he heard of John the Baptist’s execution.  And several times recorded his cries over the city of Jerusalem.

I’m sure there is more.  But you get the idea.  Christ is not just our Savior, he is our sympathetic high priest who was tempted in every way we were, suffered every possible ailment we experience…yet He did not sin.  Yet, He does not fail to give us sympathy in our struggles.  No, we have a high priest that cares, suffers with us, and even intercedes on our behalf.  Oh, what a Savior!

Listen to the entire sermon here – http://mbconline.org/sermons/current-year – 2/25/18 Sermon

 

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Book Review: Date Your Wife

Book Review:  Date Your Wife by Justin Buzzard

The Good: 

Younger Author.  No offense to the many marriage book authors I’ve read in the past, but they were typically old dudes.  While I certainly am not discounting the wisdom that comes with age & experience, I appreciated a marriage book by someone who was in the same life stage as myself.  Someone with young kids and a younger marriage.  As a result, I was glued to the author’s words as I was often living out similar experiences, trials, and victories.

Let’s Chat.  Easily was the best conversationally friendly book I had read on marriage.  There were great talking points throughout the book.  While some chapters lacked some depth, it made up for it immediately with the practicality and ability to transition the material into a conversation with your wife.

Short Chapters.  For a slow reader like myself who sneaks in a few pages here and there, the chapter length was a blessing.  It actually encouraged me to read more as I felt like I was progressing.  Sometimes the 30 page chapters are intimidating can be like trying to swallow the whole pizza, rather than having small chapters to take many small bites or slices.

The Bad:

Mr. Repeat.  The author tends to repeat himself.  The author tends to repeat himself.  Ok, I’ll stop.  It was a little annoying at the beginning, but it seemed there was purpose to the repetition.  When I was about halfway through the book, I was able to share with my wife all I had learned, and the concepts and lessons came-a-flowing out of my mouth.  Why?  Could be because of the repetition.

The Grade:  A-

There was a considerable amount of lessons and insight to appreciate from this book.  The application of Adam & Eve to current marriage was especially appreciated.  Justin Buzzard is tremendously creative in his pursuit of his wife, and the creativity spills out onto the pages.  I’m more excited about the days ahead of my marriage than I was before the book.  Even after finishing the book, I feel like the journey has just begun with the principles and ideas I gained from reading “Date Your Wife”.  A read I would put on every husband’s shelf.

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Faith’s Checkbook – Preview Review

Book Review Preview:  Faith’s Checkbook by Charles Spurgeon

The Good:  This is the book I have chosen as part of my devotions this year.  So, naturally I am just a couple of months into it, but I wanted to share a few quotes that were especially memorable.  Bookmark this blog post, as I hope at the end of 2018 to list off all the incredible quotes from the book, which I believe will have an impact on your life.  Here are a few lessons I’ve already learned from “Prince of Preachers”.Quote #1:  “My Own Weakness makes me shrink, but God’s promise makes me brave”

Isaiah 41:10 comes to mind.  An encouragement to God’s people from the prophet Isaiah.

Reminds me of the many men and women in Scripture who were given a task.  Moses to lead the Israelites, David to defeat Goliath, the disciples to risk their lives for the early church, Paul fighting for the name of Christ while in shackles…how could they do it?

This quote really hit me hard – “my weakness makes me shrink”.  It does guys.  I’m not the best conversationalist – so does that weakness give me an excuse in sharing Jesus with others?  I’m no longer the young, cool youth pastor (never was, but you guys didn’t have to think that), so does that mean I can’t dive deep into the lives of teenagers?

Each of us have been given a task, a mission field, an assignment from the Lord – how often do we let our weaknesses get in the way…when God has proven over and over in Scripture how He, and He alone, can make us brave.

Quote #2 – “Among the lost souls in hell there is not one that can say “I went to Jesus and He refused me”.

John 6:37 – Aren’t we thankful this statement is true?  Jesus would never deny us if we come to Him.  What an amazing statement of truth.  Oh what a blessing that is.

Because you know what – I don’t know about you, but there are certainly a boat load of reasons Jesus could say no to me.  At one point an enemy of the cross and at this point, very much a sinner…but Jesus can’t deny me as His Savior.   Why?  Because of His love, His grace, His mercy…and everything else that makes Him my Redeemer.

Doesn’t that just give you chills?  There is no one in hell because Jesus denied them their chance at eternity in paradise.  No, it was because they denied Jesus.  And all those that are fortunate enough to call Him Savior – we are eternally grateful He did turn us away

Quote #3 – “If we are wise, we shall rather welcome the refining process than decline it.”

Zechariah 13:9 is the verse accompanying this quote.  Refining silver is a process that takes some time.  High heat of over 1700 degrees F, intense melting process, ridding the mineral of its impurities takes time…

We are no different.  God will continue to work on us, sanctify us until the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:6).  The worse thing we could do is to resist the process.   Silver isn’t refined in a microwave or with a Bic lighter…it takes time and major heat.

The difficulties, challenges, temptations, disappointments…let them be teachers.  Don’t miss the refining process.  Don’t “decline” what God is doing in your life.  The goal of the refining process was a precious metal.  For us, God’s refining process, if we allow it and submit to it, can also produce something very precious.

Conclusion – hope these quotes can challenge and encourage you today…

Quote #1:  “My Own Weakness makes me shrink, but God’s promise makes me brave”

Quote #2 – “Among the lost souls in hell there is not one that can say “I went to Jesus & He refused me”.

Quote #3 – “If we are wise, we shall rather welcome the refining process than decline it.”

 

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America’s Pastor Was My Pastor Too

Billy Graham, known as “America’s Pastor” for his years of advising our Presidents and for his incredible ministry both in the United States and around the world.  Countless believers can trace the start of their relationship with Christ at one of his rallies.  He is an incredible spiritual figure in Christian heritage, especially in recent memory.

My shoulders slump as I think of how I never got to meet Billy Graham.  On this side of heaven, I will never get to shake his hand and thank him for his influence on my life.

He’ll never know what his testimony would teach me.  His rules of making sure to not meet with a woman alone, and to always live above reproach.  His integrity that lasted until he took his final breath.  That’s the type of legacy and example that young man in the ministry needs.

He’ll never know that as a very young pastor, nervous on a Saturday night about taking the pulpit in the morning, I would watch Billy Graham preach.  It was like Knute Rockne or Herb Brooks walked into my family room and gave me a spiritual rallying cry.  After listening to him, I was absolutely pumped to deliver God’s precious Word in just a few short hours.

He’ll never know my first son has a middle name Graham, named after the man I admired from afar for all these years.  My boy will learn what a great man he was and all he did for the Kingdom of God.

He’ll never know I got a shelf with his books on them.  No it’s not a shrine.  It’s a reminder of one of my mentors, who was able to disciple me from the television, through his writings, and by his example.

So thank you Reverend Billy Graham.  One day I will have the chance to tell you thank you.  Until then, your sermons, your books, and your example will continue to teach this young student.

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Which is Better: The Creator or The Creation?

I remember when I learned that Jesus was there at creation – my mind was blownYou understand why there are plural pronouns in the creation account in Gen. 1:26You see it clearly in John 1 that Jesus was a big part of the start of this worldColossians 1:16 becomes like a bright and shining star.  And in, Hebrews 1:2 it is pretty clear I was missing out on something special.  Jesus was THERE before creation, during creation, and will be there after the created world perishes

Every year at Thanksgiving – my wife hopes that I will show up in a different sweater.  But the last 10 years, I have worn the same sweater.  Each year, I faithfully wear that brown & orange argyle piece of art.  To my wife, it makes little sense to show up in that ugly, old, and tattered the sweater year after year.  With the choice of a new sweater vs. one that by most accounts is hideous, it should be an easy choice.

In Hebrews 1:10-12, we find a comparison of the Creator (Jesus) vs. Creation – after we review this, the choice should be easy…

CREATOR (JESUS) CREATION
Creator Created
Unchanged Grow Older
Eternal Death
Just the Beginning End is Near

Do me a favor and look at these lists.  Which do you want to follow?  Which list do you want to be a part of?  Which list wins?  Which list is better?

It’s an easy choice.  You’d rather have the creator, unchangeable, eternal, and beginning of an incredible future…instead of an old, headed for death, ending soon creation. Easy choice?  Then why do we constantly make the wrong choice.  We choose creation all the time over the Creator.  We choose the ugly, wrinkled, old sweater…We choose money over the joy of giving. We choose lust, pride, and anger over purity, humility & grace.  We choose to love the things of this world instead of putting our treasures in heaven. We choose wrong all the time – and we put a list like this, side by side, and puts our hearts to shame.

It’s an easy choice…that we make WAY too hard.  When we get the creature (US) and the creator (Jesus) mixed up…our life gets messed up.  We do things on our own – w/out the counsel of Scripture.  We rely on our own strength and we fail in our weakness – it’s why we ARGUE (our way seems beset), why we FIGHT (our way was violated) and why we GET DOWN (our way wasn’t chosen).

I can remember in high school.  We had soccer practice in the rain, and to end practice we decided to slide through the mud.  I thought it was a good idea…until I got home.  My mom, and rightfully so, would not let me in the house.  You’ve been there – your mom looked at your clothes and said “Yeah that stain’s not coming out.”  The shirt gets rolled up and tossed…she says “Go take a shower and change into something new”.

This world we live in – it’s like those clothes.  It’s dirty.  It’s full of sin.  Just turn on the news for 5 seconds and you are reminded we live in a fallen world.  Sin has tainted its beauty and innocence that were part of it during creation week, only to be robbed of its purity in the Garden.

But Jesus – one day will roll it up, toss it aside and lay out a new one…without the dirt, the pain, the suffering…everything will be made new.  What a day that will be.

(You can listen to the entire sermon here – click on 1/28/2018 sermon)

 

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2017 Goals – Re-visited

When we turn the page on the calendar, we often do not look back at the goals of the year before.  If you’re like me, you are always looking forward.  It is important to take a moment to see how well you did in the goals you set.  Because what good are goals is they are set and never met.  Here’s a look at how last year’s goals went, to celebrate some victories but also discuss some obstacles you may face.

  • New Book! –  Blessing to announce my 1st book has been published and my goal is for 1,000 copies to be sold to help people fall in love with God’s Word.
    • Grade:  C.  Got about halfway to my goal this year.  While that’s a little disappointing, how God has used the book is not.  The book is now in the hands of missionaries across the world, youth groups across the country, and in the homes of dear families I care about.  Even in defeat, that is an incredible victory.  Feel free to check it out at http://www.bottomlinedevotional.com
  • New Curriculum Plan! – Hard to believe this is my 6th year ministering at MBC, which mean a new 6 year plan will be put in place—with the input of parents, students, and research this plan will be implemented in the fall of 2017.
    • Grade:  A.  Mission accomplished.  With the help of parents, leaders, & students, I was able to produce a sparkling new 6 year curriculum to allow parents to see a plan is in place for their teenager in every year of youth ministry.
  • Mentoring – Teach a 2 week Mentoring series to encourage mentoring of generations within the church.
    • Grade:  B-.  Sure, the class went well and had great interaction.  However, it’s been a slow process to see this culture happen within the church.  Have I seen some growth?  Absolutely.  But i would love for more to catch the mentoring bug.
  • Short Term Mission Trip – Due to monthly local mission project, the 3 year cycle is now work trip, out-of-state, international trip. This year we will be traveling for our work trip.
    • Grade:  A.  What a great week.  God provided for us to go work at a camp in New York.  The teens worked hard, grew in their walk with Christ, and found it a positive time of unity and service.
  • Life After High School Series—Special speakers to speak on after high school temptations like drugs, how to witness after high school, and leader advice for the young adult years.
    • Grade:  A.  One of my all-time favorite student ministry series.  You can check it out in detail here.
  • Public School Partnership – Continue to find ways to partner with local schools to serve them and bring the hope of Jesus Christ to students.
    • Grade:  B-.  While we have been able to have a steady presence at the high school, we have seen limited growth.  And the middle school partnership has not materialized.  Praying God will open doors and I’d be bold enough to walk through the opening.
  • Social Media Interaction – Bolster ministry social media footprint with student leadership help and more interaction on Facebook.
    • Grade:  B+.  Assigned a student as the social media coordinator, and seen an improvement in interaction.  Still working on ways to make this even more interactive.
  • Implement G.R.O.W.T.H Chart– Encourage parents to follow chart of spiritual growth for their students and provide training and help for students to reach these spiritual goals.
    • Grade:  B.  Through parent/pastor conferences, this has come a little more alive.  Still could use more improvement, but a step in the right direction.

Well, I passed 2017.  Maybe not on the honor roll this year, but God certainly blessed, and I praise Him for all the victories and lessons He has taught me along the way.

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2018 Youth Ministry Goals

  • Continue Parent/Pastor Conferences—Saw great value in the initial meetings, and need to find more opportunities and follow-up to the meetings.
  • Pre-Marital Counseling—With another wedding under my belt, I’d like to gain better traction and organize my pre-marital counseling material from past & present.
  • International Trip—Goal in taking an inter-generational foreign mission trip in the summer of 2019 to teach cross-cultural missions & importance of evangelism across the world.
  • World Religions Series—With the rise of different religions in our country, I see a need to teach on the various religions and how Christians can bring them truth.
  • Winter Retreat—Special trip to Lake Ann to hear their youth pastor speak! What a great unity opportunity and growing experience for us all.
  • Expansion of Elderly Ministry—Continue Young at Heart lunch, but expand it to ministry to shut-ins as well.
  • Local Mission Trip—It has been a few years since we done a localized mission trip. To prepare for next year, this could be the year to minister to our local parks.
  • Children’s Safety Policy Improvement—Unfortunate we have to, but a necessity nonetheless. Continued improvement in keeping our kids safe, and working with the children’s ministry department to find a policy that is effective and able to be accomplished.
  • Audio-Books.  Why didn’t I think of this sooner?  I am such a slow reader.  My biggest regret of college is not taking that speed-reading course they offered.  It’s time to learn on the move.

 

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Partnering with Parents

Some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way in partnering with parents.  Hope you find this podcast helpful in your student ministry.

https://lcm.wol.org/multiply/partnering-parents-jeff-beckley/

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