We Want You Here by Rainer

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This attractive hardback is a resource to put in the hands of visitors to your church. Thom Rainer, who has provided so many church resources, wrote this book. Since guests have such a wide variety of backgrounds, it took a lot of skill to pitch this book at a level that could catch the attention of many. It seems to me that Rainer pulled it off.

The first chapter gives five good reasons that the visitor is wanted at your church. Chapter 2 is one that not so much lowers expectations as it changes expectations. Gone is the idea that the church is a place of perfect people, yet there remains the high expectation that we as broken people will be loving to the broken people who visit us. Chapter 3 advertises the beauty of relationship. Chapter 4 talks about strengthening families in the context of the variety of family situations. Chapter 5 introduces God and is gently evangelistic. Chapter 6 encourages coming and being part of it while the last chapter thanks them for coming.

The chapters are short and easy to read without sacrificing what needs communicating. It’s classic Rainer. As a pastor, I’d be happy to put this attractive resource in visitor’s hands.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Power in the Pulpit by Vines & Shaddix (Books on the Ministry #22)

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This book is probably the most thorough on preparing and delivering sermons that I’ve come across. This work has been appropriately revised to stay up-to-date. It includes the original works by Jerry Vines entitled “A Practical Guide to Sermon Preparation” and “A Guide to Effective Sermon Delivery” with additional material by Jim Shaddix. The authors wisely address expository sermons in this volume because that’s the kind of preaching that brings out God’s Word.

Part 1 looks at preparation for exposition. In three chapters you will see the philosophy of expository preaching with a broad view of the preacher’s work. Exegesis, interpretation, and application, as well as a host of other things that are at play in preaching an expository sermon, are explained carefully. The second chapter gives us a theology of expository preaching that touches upon both inspiration and the work of the Holy Spirit. Chapter 3 looks at the preacher himself and pushes us toward inward reflection. These three chapters cover 135 pages and lay a great foundation before you get to the nuts-and-bolts section of how to put a sermon together.

Part 2 provides another three chapters that guide you through the process of exposition itself. Chapter 4 gives insight into the interpretive process with guidance on things like how to choose a text to preach on. From that careful process, the next chapter tells us how to organize our sermon. It’s to just how to turn from exegesis to homiletics. It explains how to take the mass of information you glean from the interpretive process and arrive at an outline. Chapter 6 continues by explaining things like introductions and conclusions in sermons.

Part 3 tells us how to take our finished sermon and deliver it. In four chapters we are told how to express our thoughts, how to understand what style is, how to care for and effectively use your voice, how to connect with the congregation and other pointers on delivery. I can’t think of any detail they overlooked.

The suggestions were balanced and clear. I’ve been preaching a while and found myself agreeing with them on so many points. On occasion, they explain how to break something down on the level that would be most beneficial to a beginner, but it’s all excellently presented. It would be fair to call this the Broadus volume of our generation. This is the book to put in a young preacher’s hands. Seasoned preachers will find it a helpful evaluative tool to review their own preaching. It’s hard to find a book like this one that is at once classic and current, but that’s what you have in this excellent book.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Lies Pastors Believe by Dayton Hartman

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It seems several other groups have books about the lies they’ve believed, so it’s good to see pastors get their turn. The lies we believe, however, come from deep within and are ugly when examined as in this book. Every generation has a book of this nature for pastors and this volume is ideal for ours. It’s a short volume that can be read rather quickly in our busy age, yet there’s nothing shallow about it. It probes deeply and pastors who read it must either look within or close the book and walk away.

The subtitle reads: “7 ways to elevate yourself, subvert the gospel, and undermine the church”. The seven types are the visionary, the iron chef, the achiever, the called, the holy man, the anti-family man, and the castaway. I don’t know which is more shocking: the fact that we pastors could fall into seven such ridiculous things or that we so often have fallen into many of them! Pride shows up in several of these and the consequences of being swallowed up in them are devastating. If you don’t see that, Mr. Hartman will provide several examples.

The visionary is one of the worst because it springs directly from ego. It’s an assumption that we are destined for great things as we are coming into the ministry even though the Lord might have other plans. The iron chef is similar in that over time we begin to believe that no one preaches or teaches at the grand level we do and we kind of fall into being the iron chef over time. The achiever tries to earn and ministry ranks are filled with achievers. I was least in agreement with the chapter about “the called”, but still it was filled with some great insights.

The chapter on the holy man reminds us that real holiness is far more important than perceived holiness. The next chapter debunks the lie that we must sacrifice our home life for our ministry. He really takes us to task if were failing in this area. He gives balanced counsel to the castaway as well. There’s a short conclusion that gives three steps to take to get back on track. There’s a rather intense appendix on elder qualifications as well as a nice one on recommended reading.

If we pastors took the truths in this book to heart, our churches, our families, and our own lives would be so blessed. Warmly recommended!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

 

Preaching by the Book: Developing and Delivering Text-Driven Sermons (Hobbs College Library)

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Here in the second installment of the Hobbs College Library series aimed at those in the ministry we have help with developing and delivering text-driven sermons. It’s another small, attractive hardback of quite-manageable length that is well done. It gives a grand overview that covers preaching from picking the text to giving the invitation.

As I read, it struck me that this book would especially appeal to two groups: 1) those starting out in the ministry, and 2) bi-vocational pastors. Still, even as one who has been a pastor for several years, I would catch myself thinking as I read– I need to remind myself to quit being sloppy here!

The book begins with a great chapter on inspiration for preaching and what preaching really is, as well as why textual preaching is so valuable. The next chapter shows a process of sermon development that begins with prayer and the first work of study. Part II includes chapters 3 and 4 on the framework that includes how to study and draw out what’s needed for the sermon from the text. Part III gives four chapters on what he calls the finishing touches. These touches include the importance of a good introduction to draw people in, the effective use of illustrations to captivate attention, and the crucial aspect of giving a good invitation. There’s a short, challenging conclusion to conclude the book.

If this book is an indication of what’s to come in this series, we have a tool to look forward to. This book is helpful, encouraging in the places where it’s most needed, and should be a boon for preaching to those who read it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Story of Scripture: An Introduction to Biblical Theology (Hobbs College Library)

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This book is the first of 21 volumes in the promising Hobbs College Library series published by B&H Publishing. Matthew Emerson provides what could be called either a broad overview of the Bible or an introduction to biblical theology. That’s a perfect place to begin any series aimed at those in ministry. We need the big picture before we dive into the details. I see this volume as the scholarly presentation of what many old-time preachers called “the Scarlet Thread that runs through the Bible”.

Chapter 1 explains what biblical theology is. It gives an overview of the difficulty that some have found in defining it. He even explains the Dallas School, the Chicago School, and the Philadelphia School, which represents the main viewpoints. The point for us is learning how a passage fits into the grand narrative of Scripture. He also argues for the Bible’s theological unity.

Chapters 2, 3, and 4 tell the story of the Bible in a way that honors that unity and develops biblical theology. Chapter 2 devotes itself to an explanation of Creation, the Fall, and redemption as seen in the foundational Book of Genesis. Chapter 3 traces redemption from Exodus through the end of the Old Testament in beautiful fashion. Chapter 3 carries the story to its completion in the New Testament.

Chapter 5 entitled “Exploring Biblical Terrains” looks at the primary themes of the story that covers the entire Bible. The author sees those themes as covenant and kingdom, with the additional themes of creation and wisdom, God’s servant, mission, and salvation through faith. The final chapter gives practical applications for using biblical theology in our preaching and teaching.

The book is less than 100 pages, easy-to-read, attractive, and filled with scholarly footnotes for those who seek additional study. If this first volume is any indication, I believe this series will be particularly successful.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Pastor’s Library by Yost

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Here’s a fine book for pastors to help with building a biblical and theological library. There are a few books on the market that give book reviews and recommendations, but this one stands out by recommending both old and new titles as well as both theological volumes and commentaries. Most other works review commentaries only and operate on the theory that new is always the best. While we would always want some of the newest exegetical works available, we must not overlook the treasures of the past. He tells us in the preface that The Minister’s Library by Cyril Barber was his inspiration. When I think about books that came after Spurgeon and went through 1985, Barber is my go-to reviewer. I’ve often thought that we needed a modern-day Barber-type volume. That’s exactly what Mr. Yost has done and done well. There may be several books on the market, but the author has truly found his niche. Pastors will be pleased.

Though Mr. Yost favors conservative books, he is fair in recommending some of the more well done critical works.  He has a simple system where a book that is recommended to be obtained, a recognized classic in the field, a work of liberal scholarship, and a work that is very technical but of scholarly value are all marked in the book. I love how he has included several classic volumes. He has even recommended many of the wonderful Klock & Klock volumes that should never be forgotten. I’d say my only fault with this book is his near obsession with a hatred of transliterations – I’m confident it isn’t that life-and-death an issue.

He gives recommendations for Old Testament introductions, theologies, Hebrew language works, and a nicely wide-ranging list of commentaries. After doing the same for the New Testament, he jumps into a section on systematic theology, church history, and theological topics. There’s a final section on practical theology that covers all sorts of topics.

I was amazed at how often I agreed with his recommendations. It’s really a balanced, helpful list. I’d be happy to see it in the hands of a brand-new pastor and would recommend it to any of them without hesitation. Since no one has every book printed, some of us that’s been building a library for decades can still find much help and enjoyment in this book. In fact, I’d recommend this book be purchased along with John Evans’ work on biblical commentaries where he covers even more commentaries but none of these other subjects. I’m a great fan of a library with a balance between old and new works and give this book of recommendations five big stars!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. 

Portraits of a Pastor (Books on Ministry #21)

 

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Pastors, we need this book! The nine key roles of our work are beautifully discussed in this outstanding volume. By taking these nine traits we can re-calibrate to what the Lord intended us to be. All the things that are not on the list are almost as instructive as the nine that are. Pastors who have a different nine main spheres of work need to do some soul-searching. If that happens to be the case, this is the perfect book for you. Even if you already agree that these are the main nine areas of the ministry that God has given you, you have here the reminder you may be needing as well as the cheerleading to pick up the mantle of God’s design in a world of contrary voices.

Jason Allen is both the editor and one of the contributors. Danny Akin, Jason Duesing, Ronnie Floyd, Christian George, Owen Strachan, Don Whitney, Jared Wilson, and John Mark Yeats round out the list of contributors. Sometimes a book seems cobbled together when it is a group production. In this case, the work has been so beautifully edited that every chapter seamlessly connects with the others. My guess is that Mr. Allen pulled this off by assigning each contributor to his most passionate area. I repeatedly forgot as I read that the author of the chapter I was in was not the author of the chapter before.

Mr. Allen gives a brief introduction that describes the almost maddening situation that most pastors are thrown into. In other words, they are to fulfill more roles than any human being could. It’s that very same cauldron that pulls them away from doing what they’re supposed to do.

I loved how chapter 1 that described a pastor as shepherd gave this simple outline of our work: 1) shepherds feed the sheep, 2) shepherds love the Lamb, and 3) shepherds trust the Good Shepherd.  Wow! The next chapter discussed the pastor as husband and father. Many pastors fail in this area and this chapter was a superb antidote. Chapter 3 discussed the pastor as preacher and described our primary work as preaching. There was a strong plea for expository preaching here.

The next chapter was on the pastor as theologian. It looked back and reminded us of the place pastors once held in society, and even if that is no longer true it is still our task to be theologians. The next chapter was on the pastor as church historian and I assure you it will make sense once you read it. The following chapter on the pastor as evangelist powerfully challenged us to remember our obligation to the lost. There was a chapter on the pastor as missionary that reminds us of our need to help missionary efforts around the globe. You would expect the chapter on the pastor as a leader, as was the subject of the next chapter, but it was not the self-help type material that has flooded the market for the last 40 years. No, it looked at the need for us to lead in living out the Christian life. The final chapter on the pastor as the man of God, which is a term that has fallen out of use for some but will be appreciated in the context given here, again calls us to personal holiness and is a reminder of the big picture of what we do. Mr. Allen gives a fine conclusion that further ties together what we have just read.

This book is less than 200 pages, is easy-to-read, but don’t let that fool you. It packs quite a punch! Every pastor would do well to grab and read this book.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255. 

Sermons on 1 Timothy by Calvin

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What a beautiful book! Book, binding, dust jacket – it’s all gorgeous! More importantly, it’s a consequential book. No one could reasonably deny the significance of John Calvin in the annals of Christianity. Further, you do not have to subscribe to the theological system that bears his name to appreciate that he was an outstanding expositor of Scripture. His output was mind-boggling. Besides his many commentaries, he turned out an astounding number of sermons. As the introduction to this volume explains, the sermons on I Timothy came from the latter part of his life and ministry. Simply put, they are good.

What also makes this work superlative is the work of the translator, Robert White. Quite frankly, he brought Calvin to the 21st century. It’s hard for me to describe how easy to read the sermons are – that’s to the credit of Mr. White. It’s also hard for me to describe how up-to-date the sermons seemed – that’s to the credit of the Word of God that Calvin carefully preached.

You may not, just as was true for me, agree with every word he says. But really, that’s not even the point. It’s his wrestling with the actual text of Scripture that is so valuable. You can wrestle with him. I Timothy has several highly-debated points, or at least points that repulse modern ears, but Calvin has something to say about what the text preaches about men, women, or even pastors, and a wide array of other subjects. If you know something of his biography, you will find it is no surprise that he will lambast idleness at any point possible. I Timothy provides several such places!

This book is something of a labor of love from both Banner of Truth Publishers and the translator. Still, don’t confuse it for a collector’s item because this book will be a great asset to your work in I Timothy. Fortunately, I think all 3 of the Pastoral Epistles are planned for publication in these beautiful hardback volumes. (Mr. White, since you are such an outstanding translator, I’ve heard Calvin’s sermons on Jonah are particularly good!)

Buy this book if you want outstanding volumes to help as you study God’s Word. Buy this title in this edition if you want something that will last a lifetime. I know the book market is a turbulent place these days, but I wish we could see more outstanding volumes in quality bindings published like this one. Book lovers – you will want this volume!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Some Pastors and Teachers by Sinclair Ferguson (Books on Ministry #20)

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This book is not at all what I expected when I first picked it up and began reading. In fact, I felt at times that the title did not match the contents. On most occasions, when a book does not live up to its title or the expectation the title produced, it fails. In this case, I may surprise you by saying that this book is Five-Star plus!

It turns out that it’s actually a compilation of many articles that Sinclair Ferguson has written over his long pastoral career. That approach often lands with a thud in many books that I’ve seen, but somehow those articles again made a magical whole here. Mr. Ferguson brings three incredible traits to the table that make this book a success: he’s an astute historian, a probing theologian, and an engaging writer. I offer that praise even though I don’t always agree with his theological conclusions. A book that can get me thinking as deeply as this one does is my friend.

The first 18 chapters are primarily a deep dive into three of Mr. Ferguson’s heroes: John Calvin, John Owen, and John Murray (I guess only those named John need apply!) In each of these three pastor/theologian’s cases he highlights their passion for preaching and pastoring coupled with an explanation of their theology. The theology never bogs down what is quite interesting biographical writing.

Chapters 19-31 are deep theology. Though he uses some of the explanations of his heroes mentioned above, Mr. Ferguson often wrote with more clarity, verve, and accessibility than they did. Again, I didn’t agree with all of his conclusions as I am not a reformed Presbyterian as he is, but with great warmth he laid the issues clearly on the table.

The final section is a bit more of a hodgepodge, but is in the category the book’s title led you to believe the whole book is about. He covers exegetical preaching, preaching Christ from the Old Testament, the preacher as a theologian, preaching the atonement, preaching to the heart, preaching and the Reformed theological tradition, followed by a preacher’s Decalogue, which was a very interesting list of things that he wishes he had heard earlier in his ministry. Only in his epilogue did the author leave off the emphasis on Christ and replace it with his own passion for reformed theology.

When you finally finish this book, you will then realize why perhaps the author felt comfortable with his title after all. Quite frankly, he thinks a pastor is not worth his salt who can’t ply theology. After I’ve thought about it, he’s correct.

This book is best done as a slow read. It’s thick and so will take an investment of time. Take it. You won’t regret it.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon: Vol. 2 [Collector’s Edition]

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It’s thrilling to see this second volume roll out in this exciting series of the lost sermons of Charles Spurgeon from the earliest days of his ministry (1851-1854). I fell in love with the first volume, and this one continues all the interesting features and beauty of the first. I noticed the sermons are little more developed here than those in volume 1 as well.

This Collector’s Edition contains the same content as the regular volume as you will see when comparing each Table of Contents, but is still worthwhile to check out. I suspect many Spurgeon fans will prefer it. ( I do!)  It has the look and feel of those heirloom volumes that existed in Spurgeon’s day and have lasted until ours. It comes in a slipcover box and is a cloth over boards volume with leather spine binding. In addition, there’s genuine gold foil on the spine as well as gilded page edges. I’m a book lover and own many, but this collector’s edition is easily the best I’ve seen published these days. Don’t miss the incredible pictures either that have been added in unnumbered pages at this end of this book–they aren’t found in the other edition.

The forward and editor’s preface are the same as in Volume 1, but the introduction is specific to the sermons in Volume 2. Editor Christian George continues his painstaking research to uncover an incredible amount of detailed information on the sermons. As we saw in Volume 1, he shows that Charles Spurgeon did little borrowing in the early days of his ministry from preachers like John Bunyan, Charles Simeon, and Thomas Manton. To my ear, they still came out sounding like Spurgeon himself. As is always the case when he preaches, they are full of the gospel.

Spurgeon had such an eye for texts. In fact, when I look through this work the idea would often strike me that I should preach on some of these texts someday. (I promise I won’t steal Spurgeon’s sermons!) It’s no understatement to say he was a master preacher.

This volume includes #78-134 of his sermons, including the famous sermon entitled “The Curse and the Blessing” that he preached from Proverbs 3:33 when the horrific accident at the Surrey Garden Music Hall in London happened where seven were killed and others were injured in a stampede. Be sure to read the footnote that describes how Spurgeon was so affected by that tragedy that the mere mention of the text would precipitate a reaction from him. For that matter, all the footnotes in this book are incredible. I can’t fathom the number of hours involved to assemble all this information.

This set will be a treasure when completed. Either set is superb, but the Collector’s Edition is extraordinary. I imagine many are collecting them one at a time as they are released and joyously anticipating the next release. If you have an appreciation for the greatest preaching from history, you can’t overlook Spurgeon or this set. I commend the publisher for undertaking the task of producing this treasure for us. We are all indebted to them. I give this book the highest possible recommendation!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.