Tag Archives: gospel

Book Review: The Art of Neighboring

Book Review:  The Art of Neighboring by Jay Pathak & Dave Runyon

The Good:

Best Camouflage is Right in Front of Your Face.  I had a high school teacher that would repeat that phrase when he didn’t notice the person in the front row raising their hand.  It tends to be true in life.  We often neglect the things that are right in front of us.  This book is one of those obvious premises that is so clear in Scripture, but we often generalize it and walk right past it.  Love your neighbor actually means to LOVE…YOUR…NEIGHBOR.  Imagine that?

Uber Practical.  If you have read my reviews in the past, you know what a big fan I am of practical books.  Don’t just give me all the information and don’t give me pointers on what to do with what I learned.  Help this poor slow reader connect the dots.  And boy does this book do that!  It gives you numerous ideas and even personal examples on how to put the principles into practice.

The B-I-B-L-E.  Pathak & Runyon do a fantastic job of using Biblical examples, typically from the life of Jesus to drive each point home.  If I’m going to step out on a limb here and start applying these bold, but needed actions, it helps to have some Biblical support.

The Bad:

Huh?  One concern I did see was on page 174.  The paragraph under the heading “Find a Partner”.  With phrases like “all truth is God’s truth”, and listing of various religions as possible partners in “honoring God”.  Could cause some confusion and almost sounds like relativism.  I don’t think that was his intention, but did raise my eyebrow.  Basically, it was not a well-thought out idea and slightly tainted the ending of the book for e.

The Grade:  B+

Well thought out practical ideas that the church needs to hear.  You want to read books that change your life, and I can honestly say this book does.  It has convicted me in how I interact with my neighbors and in the month that I have been reading this book, I’ve met at least 3 new neighbors.  Sure, not astronomical numbers, but it’s a start.  Want to be a good neighbor?  I think even Mr. Rogers would tell you, try this book on for size.

 

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Book Review: Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

Book Review:  Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart by J.D. Greear

The Good:

Clear as Whatever the Opposite of Mud.  I don’t think I have read a description of salvation that was so clear and simple.  Anyone that is confused or even over-confident about salvation, this is a book you could put in their hand with confidence.

Hi, My Name is Jeff, Here’s a Book.  Someone asked me about the book as I started reading it, and I told them after just two chapters I wanted to give the book to everyone I knew.  The content is that good and vital to a proper understanding of the Gospel.

Weren’t You Just Here?  I often would circle back to the very sentence I just read to make sure I got it right.  I don’t often do this in books, but with this one it was different.  The material was so significant, I wanted to make sure I truly comprehended what I was reading.

The Bad:

That’s Some Bold Sauce.  The author was not shy.  There were some bold declarations of theological terms, where he would define them.  Now I didn’t see any errors, but that would be a dangerous path for me to walk down.

The Grade:  A.  With a topic of salvation so central to the Christian faith, this book should be on your shelf to read and refer to on a regular basis.  Don’t let the title of the book put you off.  In fact it seems the author isn’t that big of a fan of the title either.  It’s a small book that packs a punch and will organize what you know, and allow you to be articulate in your witness and knowledge of the Gospel.

 

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FREE Olympics Devotional

Last week’s blog post gave you a detailed description on how to host an Olympic Youth Event.  This week is your FREE devotional to use for the event.  It links the Olympics with the Gospel.  Hope your event brings students to Christ!

Olympics Devotional

Something very special happens every 2 years…what is it?  THE OLYMPICS!

When you think of famous Olympians, there are some names that come to mind right away… Michael Phelps, Carl Lewis, or Mary Lou Retton.

 

What about Derek Redmond?  Let me just tell you his story, and I think you will remember him.

He held the British record for the 400m at age 19.  He made it to the Olympics in 1988, but had to withdraw due to an Achilles injury.

In the course of the next 4 years, he had 5 surgeries and trained to become a favorite for the 400 meters in the 1992 Olympic games.

On that day in Barcelona, he stepped on that starting line wanting desperately to finish with a medal around his neck.  The starting pistol goes off, and the race is going great.  Derek is leading the pack as he passes the halfway mark, and suddenly he hears a pop that sounded like a gunshot.  His leg begins to shake, and he realizes he has tore his hamstring.

Some of you are getting the picture in your mind right now…Derek’s dad is watching in the stands.  He sees his son hurt from the top of the stadium.  He rushes down through the 65,000 people packed in that stadium.  He yells at the security guards as he races past them “That’s my son, and I need to help him”

You see, before that race, Derek made a promise to his dad that he was going to finish that race no matter what.  And his dad came onto the track, put his sons arm around him and together, father and son, they finish the race together in front of a roaring crowd.

 

What a powerful story, but is nothing compared to what I am about to tell you.

You see each one of us in this room is like Derek.  We try to run this life of ours and do our best, but in the end we will come up short.

Romans 3:23 – “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  What that means is we all have made mistakes and we come short of heaven.

But just like that day on the track, we have a loving Father that wants us to finish.  As Derek’s dad came down from the stands, our Father in heaven, sent His Son down to this earth to suffer for us.  He died to pay the penalty for our sins.

Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That day on the track Derek’s dad said to him – I’m here, son,” Jim says softly, hugging his boy. “We’ll finish together.”

God is saying that to you today.  I am here for you, I died for you, and I love you.  Believe & trust in me today, and we will spend eternity in heaven together.  Will you make that decision today?  Pray to God & trust Him today.

 

Pray (Invitation Option)

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God saved me, now what?

Before I get to the point…watch this incredible story of a Dad and his son.

You have experienced Amazing Grace if you have salvation.  And you have been given new eyes, a new focus, new meaning…a new life.  You have new sight.  You have been looking at the ground all this time…at this world hoping to find happiness, joy, and fulfillment.  Now, you can look up, and you can SEE.  You have been given new life.  From death to life.

And with these new eyes, How dare we look down on anyone else in the sense that we are any better – No, if anything we should have a better understanding of where they are – and where they could be!  It should break our heart – motivate us to share how they could be rescued, delivered from death to life.

To sum up…you have salvation, NOW WHAT?  Live a life as if you have been given a new life (because you have), and share this new way of living with those that have not experienced it.  LIVE & SHARE!

This is a clip from this sermon.  Clink on the link to hear more.

 

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Need help with parenting?

That seems like a silly question.  Couldn’t all parents use at least a little help with parenting.  Paul Tripp wrote a book called “Parenting”.  You know what it is about?  Parenting.  Seriously though, it’s more than that.  This book has a dynamite combination.  Sometimes when you combine two things, it’s not so great.  Like hot dogs and mayonnaise, not what the doctor ordered.  Or how about stripes and plaids?  Gasoline and an open flame?  These are all disasters waiting to happen.  But when you combine a parenting book with the Gospel, you get a must read.

Book Review:  Parenting:  14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul Tripp 410ppsax0fl-_sx328_bo1204203200_

The Good:

Don’t Skip the Intro.  What a way to set up a book!  Like a great pregame from a coach, the author’s motivation in the opening pages is impeccable.  Not sure about the book, read the intro and you’ll be asking “Where do I sign?”

Gospel-Centered.  The author’s web page suggested his concern of parenting self-help books, and even his previous parenting books being held in more importance than God’s Word.  So, the author goes all out in taking the Gospel into parenting, rather than the other way around.  And he does a masterful job of instilling Gospel principles into everyday parenting.  It’s not too over the top, the “porridge” tastes just right.

That Didn’t Take Long.  Read a chapter and set a timer…it won’t be very long until you are tested with these practical principles from God’s Word.  These chapters are filled with practical lessons, that are both challenging and convicting.  And it doesn’t take long for you to be tested on the material.

The Bad:

This, This, and This.  The author has a certain style.  He like a particular mode of writing.  The book is filled with a specific literary technique.  I was trying to be subtle there, but the author tends to lean on a repetitive style of writing, and enjoys repeating a phrase in different ways.  Most of the time, it is very effective and needed, but every once in a while the list just seems redundant.

The Grade:  A.  For any phase of parenting, this book is a must read.  Read it before having kids.  Read it when you are in the heat of the battle.  Read it as a grandparent.  Suggest it to friends.  Suggest it in parent meetings.  It’s a must read.  It goes to the heart of both the parent and the child, and it does not let go.  It is enlightening, frustratingly challenging, spiritually uplifting, directionally on target, and never wavers from the truth of God’s Word.  It is a must read.

 

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This Generation Needs the Truth

The longer I am in youth ministry, the more I realize how much this generation needs to be reminded of the truth of the Gospel.Picture3The Gospel…

A Gospel that tells them they are loved.  Not just a little bit of love – but love that would send an innocent man to His death…for them!  That they are worth dying for!  A love that does not change – nothing they can do can lose any of God’s love and earn any more…it is perfect!

A Gospel that tells them they have hope.  Even with the bullying, with the feelings of loneliness, the difficulties in their academics…there is hope.  Philippians 3:20 says our citizenship is in heaven…we are just visiting this world that is full of sin & destruction…there is so much hope that awaits you.

A Gospel that tells them they have a purpose.  Their purpose is to spread this GREAT NEWS.  They have a voice, they have something to share, they have the key to LIFE…which leads us to our passage.  Read I Timothy 6:19-21.

Remember these two verbs from this passage:  Pursue & Avoid

Pursue:  Check out the end of verse 19 – “TRULY LIFE”

First, little background/context here – this is a the end of a message Paul was giving to the rich – not to care so much about earthly treasures…but to care about the eternal.  Live for what truly matters – “take hold of that which is truly life” – How?  Pursue the eternal.  There is so much out there for this generation to hold onto…just hoping it will bring them LIFE.

They are out there searching – hoping life has so much more.  Thinking…this can’t be all there is…emptiness just filling their souls.  Like they are hanging on the edge of a cliff and reaching for something…anything to save them.  But they keep grabbing for things that don’t hold up, sending them further down the cliff.

Pursue LIFE.  Eternal life.  Let me ask you this:  Do we give this example to this coming generation?  When we show them – the Christian life – it’s where it’s at!  This is THE life!  According to Pew Research – Rise of the Nones (those with NO religious affiliation) that is growing in this country – Most given reason for breaking off w/ religion they were raised in because…they become disenchanted.  They were disappointed in Christianity!  Why?  Could it be we aren’t living like this is the ONLY way?  We live like there are other options.  Is it worth it to us?  Worth dying for?  Is it THE LIFE?  OR Do we live boring, risk-free, non-committal Christian lives?  Is it any wonder this generation is saying no thanks?

The Christian life is HARD, takes sacrifice, will produce persecution…it better be WORTH IT!  Does our life, our passions, our speech, our actions…do they prove to our children that the Christian life is worth it?

This is how we pursue – 5 steps

  1. We talk about God in our home – According to the College Transition Project – 1in 8 teens talk to their moms and 1 in 20 to their dads about faith in their lives.
  2. Serve Together – Let’s drop off cookies at the neighbors together, come paint VBS sets together, and visit the elderly together…and then get ice cream after. Ok?
  3. Church is a priority – Not in a legalistic way…but in a “We love the Bride of Christ” kind of way…and we WANT to be there to learn, serve, and worship.
  4. Share your faith – Not just daddy or mommy…but all of us share. In our schools, our jobs, our ball teams, our band concerts our neighborhoods…LIFE of faith.
  5. Love Others – Jesus said “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love others, love the lost…and prove it by your actions.

Avoid

End of verse 20 reminds me of:

  1. The philosophy professor at the secular college that wishes to disprove religion
  2. The rants of the atheists in our media aimed to humiliate anyone that believes in a higher power
  3. The theory that many call “science” claims the world was formed by a big bang & the existence of the universe was result of millions of years of chance

The world will call this knowledge – it is false – and our children need to hear the truth from us.  Avoid pointless arguments that get you nowhere…instead live by faith, share about what faith has done in your life, and love others – these are hard to argue.  We fight on FB – when we should offer a conversation at a coffee shopWe badmouth a child’s friend – when we should invite their parents out to breakfastWe get worked up in politics when we should be on our knees in prayer

What we want for our kids – verse 20…so we can do all we can to avoid verse 21.  The minute we water down the Gospel at our church or in our home – is the moment we fail.  We fail our Savior, we fail our responsibility, & we fail our children.  We guard the Gospel and avoid false teaching in our homes – with the hope of them staying firm in their faith.  Is this full-proof, money back guaranteed?  Not in this fallen world…but…  The more you talk about God in your home, protect the truth, and live it out…the greater the chance this coming generation will follow and stay firm in their faith.Picture2

Listen to the entire sermon here (9/4/2016)

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How the Oscars Got it Wrong

It is the film industry’s biggest event. All the greatest actors and actresses dress up for the award show put on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Scientists. Over the years, it has morphed into something bigger than just a movie award show. Even this year, midst a controversy over racial equality, there was a big cloud hanging over the ceremony.

indexEach actor came to the stage either with sheer jubilation or with a certain agenda. The actors became activists. There were ideals that every person should get behind, like the elimination of domestic violence and abuse. Others encouraged young people to delve into the arts and use it as a way to cope with their difficult adolescence. Some actors, just in their utter joy was contagious, and even those who lost were seen with smiles on their faces.

leo-will-leonardo-dicaprio-finally-get-his-oscar-win-in-birdman-director-s-new-movie-jpeg-231902But the whole night was a build up to one man’s triumph. Leonardo DiCaprio had never held the golden trophy. Years and years of nominations ended in the same result. Many film experts claimed this would be the year. So, the audience had to wait to the very end to see if this Titanic hero would take the stage. And as the envelope opened, it was his name that was read.

Now, as we said before, the stage was already used for various causes and heartfelt tributes. What would Leo use this moment to promote? Drum roll please…Climate change. Now, hear my right on this one…I’m all for a better planet, but I will admit I’ve never been accused of one that hugs trees. That being said, it was a little surprising this was the activism he chose on the biggest night of his career. Here’s the thing, he wasn’t the only one. The Oscar winner for costume design (Jenny Beaven) said this about her movie which portrayed a earth that lay desolate and rid of many necessary resources… “Actually, it could be horribly prophetic, Mad Max, if we’re not kinder to each other and if we don’t stop polluting our atmosphere…You know, it could happen,”.

And here’s where they got it wrong. It wasn’t the controversial choice for best picture, or the Sly Stallone upset.  Rather, these actors point out the need for us to take care of the earth before it is too late, yet they neglect the one thing that will outlast this planet…their souls. They are missing it.

So let me ask you, when you are given the mic, what will you say? Will you promote a political candidate, pay tribute to the influential parties in years gone by, or conjure up a save the wales or world peace speech like a candidate on Miss America…or will you point people to the Gospel? Just like DiCaprio, he didn’t get many chances on the big stage, and may never get that chance again. Do you treat your conversations with the lost this way? Where you get one shot on this stage to promote the biggest cause, who happens to be the One who appoints the political leaders, could provide eternal peace, created the whales…and could give you eternal life.

Those that have been forgiven, you have been given the greatest reward of all time. The world needs to hear your acceptance speech. They need to hear you pay tribute to who got you here, the Director of your life now, and which way to the after party.Mike Brown Flickr mic drop

Drop mic.

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How to Climb The Mountain of Righteousness

You are at the base of the tallest mountain in the world.  Let’s say no one has ever made it to the top due to treacherous slopes, dangerous animal habitats, and weather conditions where no human has ever survived.

Yet, with your can-do-it spirit, your Marmot coat, one of those unbreakable water bottles that doesn’t spill, some rope, and a packet of foot warmers…you charge the mountain. All around you, you see others making the same attempt, and all of them are failing miserable. But you still try, and try, and try again.

Oceans-Deep-Daily-Devotional-and-Meditation-on-Psalm-36-6Seems foolish, but this trip up the impossible mountain happens every day for so many people. This impossible mountain is called righteousness. As it says in Psalm 36:6, “Your righteousness is like the highest mountains”…that is, God’s righteousness. We live in a world that is trying to climb the impossible mountain of righteousness, and even though they keep failing to reach the top, they keep trying.

You will never reach the top on your own. But there is hope. Jesus is at the top of the mountain, reaching down with His hand. His hand offering forgiveness, new life, and eternal hope. But, in their hardness of heart, very few look up. Determined to climb the mountain on their own, they never look for help…they fail to see Jesus, their only hope for reaching the top.

Romans 3:23 tells us we all fall short of God’s glory. That is until we trust in Jesus. When we give our life to Jesus, He gives us His righteousness…He takes us right to the top of the mountain and our eternal journey begins.

Will you take His hand? He is reaching for you now. Stop trying to climb the mountain on your own and keep falling…grab His hand, and enjoy the view.

mountainTop

More of this sermon can be heard here.

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Book Review: Show Them Jesus

show_them_jesus_thumbnail__26699.1404693685.451.416Book Review: Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower

The Good:

This Book Can Preach. As the title suggests, the goal of this book is to teach the Gospel to kids. Well, in reading the book, the Gospel is preached to the reader over and over. Each time you open the book, there is the Gospel with incredible insight and creativity.

This Book Can Teach. Wow! The specific teaching lessons that are given in this book are incredible. Here’s a little teaser: The author takes the story of Balaam and the donkey and links it to the Gospel. It is amazing.

Honest & Humble. The author takes an honest approach to teaching children. Often, he humbly reveals his past mistakes and presents an honest view of what teaching children is like. You feel like you are in the classroom with him as he takes you on a journey teaching children the Gospel. It is a journey worth taking.

Break it Down. At the end of each chapter, the author provides a valuable breakdown for each reader. The general reader, the parent, the teacher, and the youth worker all get specific focus and breakdown at the end of each chapter.   This practical application is invaluable to the reader and expands your audience to more than just children’s ministry teachers.

The Bad:

Flow River Flow. There were at times where the flow was not especially easy for the reader. It was almost like the author was so excited to share the material, he couldn’t contain the information.

Repetitive. The author repeats himself from time to time. The author repeats himself from time to time. I thought it was funny. I get it though, the author is making a point of reiterating the Gospel’s importance, but the repeating of material could have made the book more succinct.

The Grade: A-

Everyone in children’s ministry should purchase this book, especially the teachers. Buy it for your children’s director for Christmas (I just did, but shhhh, don’t tell him). This book does a fantastic job reiterating the importance of the Gospel, but it does not stop there. Klumpenhower gives the reader multiple resources, lessons, methods to teach the Gospel effectively to children on a consistent basis. Don’t know how to Show Them Jesus? Read this book, and you will know how to every time you have opportunity to teach kids. And if one kid comes to know Jesus from this book, it will be worth it.

 

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Book Review: Follow Me

Book Review:  Follow Me by David Plattfollow-me

The Good:

Don’t Skip the Intro. Maybe it is a habit from your high school days of skipping the introduction of your book report book, so you could read the entire book by the next day…but I would suggest to break that habit with this book. Francis Chan provides a powerful testimony in this introduction that you do not want to miss.

Storyteller Extraordinaire. This dude can tell a story. One of the best storytellers I have read. He takes you into the story and you do not want to leave. Using personal stories and illustrations, these stories are powerful enough to make this book come alive.

Preach it! You can tell Platt is a preacher. His one-liners throughout the book give you chuckles and also elbows to your sides. Also, there were times where you can almost hear the pulpit being thumped (in a positive way) as he brings it! Chapter 7 is an example where you want to scream “you tell ‘em” or “amen”.

The Bad:

He, not he. You may think this is nitpicking, but not for me. When referencing the Creator God, you must capitalize the pronouns referring to Him. See how I just did it there. In this book, grammatically correct or not, it needs to be done.

The Grade: A. Seriously, you will love Jesus more after reading this book. It is some powerful and motivating material. If you are not motivated to share Jesus with others more after reading this book, you either need to check your spiritual hearth, or check your physical pulse! I strongly recommend this book to rejuvenate your love for the Gospel and your desire to share it with others.

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