Archive for the ‘Book Recommendation’ Category

Near the Cross

Posted: April 19, 2014 by philmartin4 in Book Recommendation, Book reviews, Gospel, Reading, Theology

“The whole value of the meditation of the suffering of Christ lies in this, that man should come to the knowledge of himself and sink and tremble.  If you are so hardened that you do not tremble, then you have reason to tremble.  Pray to God that he may soften your heart and make fruitful your meditation upon the suffering of Christ, for we of ourselves are incapable of proper reflection unless God instills it.” – Martin Luther, Adapted from his “Easter Book,” quoted from “Jesus, keep me near the Cross”


In the lead up to Easter, it is good to once again turn our gaze to the Cross and the empty tomb.  The whole event, however, has become so familiar that is easy to miss the richness, depth of beauty, and power of the cross.  I am thankful, therefore, for the small book edited by Nancy Guthrie.  “Jesus, Keep me near the Cross” is a collection of invaluable sermon and book excerpts written by 25 preachers from Saint Augustine to Tim Keller.  The short (max of 8 pages) messages each pack a powerful punch.  From the events leading to the Cross to the specific words Christ said while giving up his life, every aspect of this defining moment in history is dissected and preached piercingly right to the heart.

I am humbled to say that I’ve gone through many Easters since being a Christian without truly contemplating the Cross of Christ.  If there is any moment in our Savior’s life that we should seek to understand, it is this one moment.  I encourage you to buy this book and benefit from its boundless wisdom and insight.



“The call to reach the nations that have migrated to our neighborhoods is not a call to neglect to send missionaries to Majority World countries where large numbers of unreached peoples exist. We have been told to go and must continue to do so, for the greatest needs for the gospel and church multiplication exist in the non-Western world. However, something is missionally malignant whenever we are willing to make great sacrifices to travel the world to reach a people group but are not willing to walk across the street. The church is foolish to think that it pleases the Lord when we travel to another country to reach a people when representatives of that people group fly past us over the Pacific and land in our airports to settle in our communities, but we make no effort to reach them. In view of this pressure point, the churches and mission agencies that are likely to thrive in the realm of missions are those who integrate their domestic and international strategies and stop operating from the long-standing model that consisted of silos separating the “domestic” and “foreign.” (69-70)  J.D Payne, Pressure Points: 12 Global Issues Shaping the Face of the Church

  • Between 1990 and 2010, the more developed countries gained 45 million international immigrants, an increase of 55 percent.
  • Between 1990 and 2010, the migrant population of the less developed countries increased by 13 million (18 percent).
  • Between 2000 and 2010, nine countries gained over one million international migrants: United States (8 million), Spain (4.6 million), Italy (2.3 million), Saudi Arabia (2.2 million), United Kingdom (1.7 million), Canada (1.6 million), Syria (1.3 million), Jordan (1 million), and United Arab Emirates (1 million).
  • By 2010, immigrants comprised 22 percent of the population of Australia, 21.3 percent of Canada, 13.5 percent of the United States, and 10.4 percent of the United Kingdom.
  • The main nationalities granted British citizenship in 2008 were Indian (11,285), Pakistani (9,440), Iraqi (8,895), Somali (7,165), and Zimbabwean (5,710).
  • By 2017, one Canadian in five could be a visible minority race.

J.D also adds…

While it is easy to get lost in the numbers from across the globe, we must remember that each one represents someone created in the image of God in need of salvation or to serve on mission with Him. In light of the work of the Divine Maestro, the church must ask how she should respond in the age of migration. This pressure point creates many challenges and opportunities. Not only has the Lord told us to go into the entire world, but He is also bringing the world to our neighborhoods.

If you would like to read more about how to engage people that have migrated or immigrated to the U.S, I highly recommend you buying his book, Strangers Next Door.

             There are good and bad things to getting great chapter recommendations. The good thing is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money when someone has already weeded out the best content for you. The bad thing is, when the chapters are exceptionally good, they make you curious about the rest of the material. Reading, Leaders Who Last, chapters 4 and 5 only made you wonder what else was in store. 

            The only two chapters I read were phenomenal. Kraft begins in by encouraging his readers to think about what would be most important for them to do. In terms of priority, what would be the most significant thing to accomplish in your role? He then asks leaders to take stock of how well they have done in protecting their priorities. Kraft knows well that leaders have a tendency of wanting to do everything. I was really encouraged by this chapter to sit down and think of what would be the most beneficial thing for me to be accomplishing. Am I protecting it? What do I need to delegate in order for me to give myself to what only I can accomplish? I never would have thought in this way, if not for the help of Kraft. 

            But then I began to ask myself “Why?” Why do I have to stop certain things that I am doing? Dave followed up with what seemed to be a direct answer to my question. Pacing. It is all about pacing. Leaders have different capacities and it is important for leaders to operate within the God-given capacity that has been entrusted to them.

            I overwork. I have been burnt out. I have felt like quitting…and I am only 25. I need and will always need the reminder that in order to accomplish something well, I need to zero in my energy into what I am gifted to do. I don’t have, nor will I ever have, the capacity to do more than what I am physically, mentally, and spiritually capable of doing.

            Kraft brings home the point by giving us an analogy. Leaders are like rubber bands, which come in different shapes and sizes. Different bands were made for different things. When a rubber band is stretched far too much for far too long, it is only a matter of time before it snaps under the pressure. We need to be able to stretch but come back to a rested position before enduring a prolonged period of hard workflow.

            Overall this, accompanied with the other resources for this month, has made me protect my priorities, and pace myself. This is an extremely helpful resource for young leaders like me. 

I have been enjoying reading and studying through John Frame’s, Doctrine of God. I highly recommend this book to those who want to dive into the deep end of the theological pool. Here is an excerpt from this book from a chapter of the Name of God.

“There is an identity between God and his name, as between God and his word. As we sing praise to God, we sing praise to his name(e.g., Pss. 7:17; 9:2; 18:49); we give to him the flory due his name(29:2); we exalt his name(34:3) and fear it (61:5). God’s name is an object of worship. SInce in Scripture God alone is the proper object of worship, this language equates the Lord’s name and the Lord himself.

Similarly, the name of God defends us(Ps. 20:1) and saves us(54:1). We trust in his name for deliverance(33:21). His name endures forever(72:17; 135:13). It ‘reaches to the ends of the earth’ (48:10). It is holy and awesome (111:9). God guides us ‘for his name sake’ (23:3). In Isaiah 30:27, it is ‘the name of the Lord’ itself that comes to bring judgment on the nations and blessings on his people. So God’s name has divine attributes and performs divine acts. In short, Scripture says about the name of God virtually everything it says about God.

One of the most remarkable proofs of the deity of Christ, then, is that the New Testament uses his name just as the Old Testament uses the name Yahweh. When the Jewish rulers ask Peter and John, ‘By what power or what name’ they healed the crippled man, Peter replies, ‘It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth’ (Acts 4:7-10). He concludes, ‘Salvations is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved'(v. 12; cf. v. 17). In Acts 5:41 we read, ‘The apostles let the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the name'(cf. 9:21; 22:16). We see that name can be used as a substitute for Jesus, just as it substitutes for yahweh in the Old Testament, and the name of Jesus has the same powers as the name of Yahweh. In Isaiah 45:23, Yahweh says, ‘Before me every knee shall bow: by me every tongue shall swear’. In Romans 14:11, Paul applies this passage to God (theos), but in Philippians 2:10-11 he applies it to Christ.

…. that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Simple Ways to be Missional

Posted: May 24, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Book Recommendation, Mission, Reading

Have you ever wanted ideas for how to reach your neighbors, your family, your city, your coworkers? Well, Tim Chester and Josh Reeves have put together an e-book filled with different ideas for you. I have found this resource helpful and very reproducible in creating platforms to share the gospel.

I hope you enjoy it and are fruitful because of it. Here is a link to get your free copy

What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? This seems to be one of the biggest discussions within Christianity authors recently. There is a resurgence of leaders talking about what exactly the great commission means for individuals within the local church. Mike Breen and Steve Cockram provide not only a definition of discipleship, but also a way of developing a discipleship culture in this book.

The first part of the book is a brief look at the call to make disciples, looking at how Jesus modeled discipleship, and what it means for every Christian. The authors define discipleship as an apprenticeship. The leader of disciples, then, is likened to a mentor who invites and challenges others to greater maturity. This maturity then leads a Christian to a position of leading others into maturity. The goal of discipleship is to become a maker of disciples who make disciples of others.

I appreciate that in this section (Chap 3), we see not only in the life of Jesus, but in sociological studies, the importance of structured, informal, and immersion as needed components of learning. There are going to be people who are wired and geared to learn through one method, yet at the same time all of them are necessary in order to produce trainers that can lead others. This builds into the mind of every disciple (apprentice) the need to create person specific ways of building into others.

The larger and second portion of this book is dedicated to creating a discipleship culture through a unifying language. Mike and Steve then lay out the kind of language and diagrams they use in their context. Although most of these different diagrams and language can be helpful, I would encourage you to consider if these would be the most reproducible and memorable ways to disciple in your context. Within the context of campus ministry, for example, the more memorable, the more transferable, and easy to understand the better it is for students who already have a lot of information to learn and memorize. I would shoot for something students would be able to reproduce with the amount of time they have on campus.

Out of all of the chapters regarding language and culture, I really appreciate chap 9.  It is easy to picture a square with four stops or turns along the way. First, the leader does and the disciple watches. In the second step, the disciple helps as the leader does. The third step is the turning point for the disciple into a leadership role where he leads with the help of the leader. The fourth is a celebratory stage of partnership where the leader watches this disciple emerge as a leader of others in this circle of discipleship.  The circle goes on and on:

1)   I do, you watch          2) I do, you help

3) You do, I help             4) You do, I watch (and celebrate)

I have benefited and have been able to deepen certain convictions while reading this book. There are aspects of discipleship I have not thought of, and others that I am now more informed in. If you want to be a mission-driven leader of disciple-makers, I recommend this resource and the follow up Multiplying Missional Leaders to you.

Lit! on sale for $0.99 for Kindle users

Posted: February 26, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Book Recommendation, Reading

“I love to read.

I hate to read.

I don’t have time to read.

I only read Christian books

I’m not good at reading.

There’s too much to read.

Chances are, you’ve thought or said one of these exact phrases before because reading is important and in many ways unavoidable. Learn how to better read, what to read, when to read, and why you should read with this helpful guide from accomplished reader Tony Reinke. Offered here is a theology for reading and practical suggestions for reading widely, reading well, and for making it all worthwhile.” (Book Description)

If I could endorse and encourage everyone to buy Lit! I would. Tony Reinke writes about reading in a way that is inviting, encouraging, and envisioning. You won’t want to put this book down, or any other book for that matter. If you don’t like reading, or read a ton, this book will fuel a passion for literature. It can be yours for less than you pay for a fries, or a Mcdouble. This is a steal in my opinion.


Here are some endorsements:

“There is so much to commend about this book that it is hard to know where to start. The most obvious virtue of the book is its scope. On the subject of reading, Reinke covers every possible topic. Each topic, in turn, is broken into all of its important subpoints. With a lesser writer, this could produce a tedious book, but the opposite is true of this book. Reinke says just enough, but not too much. The effect is like seeing a prism turned in the light. There is never a dull moment in this book. Once I sensed that Reinke was going to cover all the important topics, and with unfailing good sense and Christian insight, I could hardly put the book down. What will Reinke say about THAT topic? I found myself asking. But to add yet another twist, Reinke has read so widely in scholarly and religious sources that I do not hesitate to call the book a triumph of scholarship. Reinke writes with an infectious and winsome enthusiasm. It is hard to imagine a reader of this book who would not catch the spark for reading after encountering Reinke’s excitement about reading and his carefully reasoned defense of it.”
Leland Ryken, author, The ESV and the English Bible Legacy

“If you don’t read books as both a discipline and a delight, then you should; and if you need help here, as in truth all of us do, more or less, then this is the book for you. Don’t miss it!”
J. I. Packer, Board of Governors’ Professor of Theology, Regent College; author, Knowing God

“Christians are people of the Book, and books are a very important part of Christian culture and Christian life. One of the most important gifts God has given us is the ability to read and to communicate from one mind to another by means of the printed page. Throughout the history of the Christian church, books have become some of the most cherished friends, teachers, and companions along the way. But reading is a matter of spiritual discipline, not just a matter of literacy. Tony Reinke helps us to understand how to grow through disciplined reading, not only as readers but also as Christians.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

“How to read, what to read, who to read, when to read, and why you should read—Tony Reinke answers all these questions and more in this very good and (surprisingly) brief book on reading. As he shows how reading can bring glory to God and growth to the church, Reinke encourages Christians to take up the discipline of reading widely and wisely.”
Trevin Waxeditor, LifeWay Christian Resources; author, Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals

“This is the perfect book for someone who doesn’t like to read, or who likes to read but isn’t sure it’s a good use of their time, or who loves to read a little too much and needs to proceed with discernment. Tony Reinke has made a wise, theological, and edifying case for why words matter. I’ll mention Lit! every time someone asks me why in the world Christians should read fiction—a question that never fails to shock me. Now, instead of snapping, ‘Are you serious?’ and spouting opinions, I’ll just smile and slip them a copy of this book.”
Andrew Peterson, singer/songwriter; author, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

“Tony Reinke does not just read, but he reads well, and these are two very different things. If you are not much of a reader, consider Lit! a part of your education. Tony will teach you to read, to read widely, and to read well. If you are already an avid reader, consider Lit! an investment that will instruct you in how to read better.”

Tim Challies, Christian Blogger; Editor, Discerning Reader; Author The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment

“If you read one book a week for the next 50 years you’ll read about 2,600 books. Not a lot when you think of all the books you could read. So should you include this book in your list? Yes. Because Lit! will help you read the right books in the right way. Tony Reinke sets our reading in a biblical framework and provides practical tips to make the most of books. I warmly commend it.”
Tim Chester, Director, The Porterbrook Seminary; author, You Can Change and A Meal With Jesus

“Since God decided ideas are best expressed in words, and that The Idea—the revelation of his Son as Lord and Savior—is to be learned through his timeless and matchless Word, Christians must dare not to lose sight of the primacy of books amidst the torrent of fast-moving, visual images of our culture. Tony Reinke argues from Scripture and life experience that ‘reading is a way to preserve and cultivate the sustained linear concentration we need for life.’ As an educator, I couldn’t agree more! Sustained reading must remain the heartbeat of any worthy educational program that seeks to produce Christian thinkers, leaders, and apologists. Homeschooling parents who are trying to craft reading lists as they raise Christian children will find gracious and principled guidance here. Moreover, Tony offers great ideas for parents to foster a love for reading, beginning with their own example.”
Marcia Somerville, president, Lampstand Press; author, the Tapestry of Grace homeschool curriculum