The Self-Aware Leader by Terry Linhart

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Terry Linhart has written a book here that forces ministry leaders to take the inward look. With the current epidemic of ministers either falling by the wayside or succumbing to burnout, this book provides an important self check. Though we cover some of the same material found in similar books, his writing is perceptive, flows well, and issues a real challenge .

In his introduction, he is transparent in telling his own story and his own bumpy path that taught him to finally develop self-awareness. He explains self-deception that finally pushes us into a life of hypocrisy. Though self-awareness is a modern psychological term, he means it in the biblical sense of examining ourselves before God.

In chapter 1, he reminds us that most of us want to do our best in Christian ministry, yet we often fall short of our potential. He rips from the pages of the New Testament the analogy of a race to help us see life as it should be seen. (Be sure to note the Johari Window he shares). He exposes our allusions that we can bear fruit without being closely connected to Jesus Christ. In chapter 2 he goes after our blind spots and teaches us to learn to pass the smell test in our actions and reactions. In chapter 3 he encourages us to learn how to view our past appropriately.

When it comes to chapter 4, he tackles the sticky subject of our not being blind to our temptations. He hammers away at what he calls “the big five” of seeking prominence, holding on to control, valuing shiny stuff, pursuing inappropriate intimacy, and relishing resentment. He provides self checks and ways to build in personal safeguards in each category. In chapter 5 he tackles our emotions and surveys the damage they can cause and the emotional maturity we need. Chapter 7 guides us through the common ministry problem of conflicts. Again, he provides practical advice for being more mature in that area. The final chapter is about seeing your margins. He gives some really thoughtful help and encouragement here. His conclusion brings out the end goal to steady our perspective.

Mr. Linhart succeeds in helping us find our blind spots to reach our true ministry potential. The book reads well and is a real help. In our age of brokenness, this book has come along at a perfect time. I highly recommend 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.

Of God and Men A.W. Tozer

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This title is not as well-known as many of A.W. Tozer’s other volumes. Don’t let that lack of fame fool you as it has all the qualities that we have come to love in Mr. Tozer. In fact, even more than some of his other books he lived up to his title of modern-day prophet here. A few times he even sounded angry at our casual, carnal Christianity. He couldn’t suffer spiritual foolishness easily.

At 167 pages, this book is an easy, yet profound read. The chapters are short, but pack a punch. He knew God from the Scriptures and personal relationship and he knew men from his own heart and ministering to others. His clear perceptions sparkle on every page.

I’m sure what sticks out to me may not be the same thing that sticks out to you, but several things did stick out to me. I love his chapter on holiness before happiness. He compares Christians to soldiers who do not seek to be happy on the battlefield, but who seek to get the war over with so he can go home to his loved ones. Home is where you’ll find happiness. His point is that we be a good soldier no matter what as we have great happiness to come.

Another favorite chapter was on how not all faith pleases God. He said, “let us beware that the Jesus we ‘accept’ is not one we have created out of the dust of our imagination and formed after our own likeness”. I also loved the chapter on backing into our convictions. One other chapter that I especially appreciated was the one on cultivating simplicity and solitude. There he admonished us to avoid the “digest type of mind” that loves short facts. Wow, if he could see us now!

This is another great Tozer title that will bless your soul.

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.

Following the Party Line

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Are you a faithful follower of the Word of God or are you a supporter of the party line? In the first case, you’re a pursuer of Christ, and in the other you’re a partisan following the group. I suppose I’ve never met a Christian who didn’t believe he or she followed was the former rather than the latter. But the far-ranging views out there today proves more are a hanger-on of a particular religious group than they would like to admit.

Though my background is in the Baptist world, I’ve seen this plague many denominations and groups. To make the problem even worse, many groups splinter into several smaller groups with their own unique set of beliefs. While we might find the presence of sin in our world as the cause of this problem, we should still pull ourselves away from it and go ever back to the Bible.

This problem begins innocently enough. At some point, we try to draw our beliefs from the Bible. Because the Lord has designed that we live in the local church setting as a group, we will also at some point decide what we believe together. So far, so good. But something changes after a time. We fall into the lazy habit of just believing what the group does. We reason that since they sought the Bible in the beginning they can always be trusted to follow the Bible now. Then, another problem arises. New issues arise that we hadn’t thought of, or at least hadn’t thought of how to make an application of the Scriptures to it, and so we specify exactly what we mean to keep our original set of beliefs.

Again, the whole process is one of well-intentioned purposes, and yet we get off track. Our current set of beliefs have been revised several times since our original digging into God’s Word. We now are 2 to 3 steps away from the Bible while thinking we are still firmly in its boundaries.

I’m quite the inferior carpenter, but have been around the process enough to know one mistake we shouldn’t make. If we are going to need several boards of the exact same dimension, we should carefully measure out the first one and cut from it. When I was a boy, I can recall my Daddy taking a pencil and making a mark on the carefully measured board to distinguish it from the others. I can remember from way back then that he told me not to pick up the boards cut from the original to cut other boards. Though it technically should have been the same dimension, he told me it’s easy to get off more and more by that process. I believe this is what we have done in our Christianity.

As you may have noticed, groups tend to get defined by their unique differences rather than what they have in common. That perspective incurs great cost for Christianity. If the error was not bad enough, the Christian divisiveness is catastrophic. Because of our warped egos and general depravity, we fight for those differences, at times, even more than we do for the great trues that we hold in common, such as, the death, the burial, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As is often the case, we judge each other by the wrong board. We become quite bombastic, cry separation, and criticize our brothers or sisters in Christ relentlessly. In many cases, we are convinced that we are standing for the Word of God. Our motives likely began as a desire to faithfully follow the Bible, but now the results are far below the motives.

We would all do well to stop and ask ourselves when was the last time we checked the Bible for our deeply held beliefs. To be sure, we must carefully check those Bibles as our casual reading just regurgitates without thought was someone else decided we believe the long time ago. If you haven’t carefully verified the beliefs you loudly proclaim, then put yourself down in the category of one who spouts the party line. When you spout that party line, you are saying that where the belief came from doesn’t matter as long as the party says it is correct. Why does what scares us in politics not even phase us in our own Christianity?

If we allow ourselves to follow the party line, we are only sycophants carrying someone else’s opinions. Even worse, if we attack and criticize where they tell us to, we are their henchmen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a mere follower of the party line when I have the opportunity to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

Knots Untied by J. C. Ryle

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Banner of Truth has brought most of J. C. Ryle’s works back into print. Though Mr. Ryle is from another century, his works still have something to say to our generation. Not only have they brought these works back into print, but they have done so with nice bindings and attractive covers that will make these works last for years. This title, Knots Untied, is made with the same design as several others that they print to make a beautiful collection. For the record, they have also recently published an outstanding biography as well as Mr. Ryle’s autobiography.

Mr. Ryle did not write this volume for scholars. You could tell that he aimed at regular Christians, and perhaps, even new Christians. Since almost everyone in his generation attended church, he did write with the assumption that people knew about the churches in England at least. Still, there is at once no superficiality and clear, accessible guidance.

Unlike some of his volumes, this is not a book of sermons. Or at least if they are, they are of the topical nature. He never wavers in loving Scripture, being conservative, and clearly and logically laying out his case.

A few of the chapters were not especially interesting to me as they were too tied to the Church of England. I’m referring to things like the Thirty-Nine Articles and the chapter on prayer book statements about regeneration. In a few other chapters I did not completely agree with him, particularly on the mode of baptism, but don’t let a few disagreements keep you away from this fine book.

And in so many other places he wrote the things we so badly need to hear today. I rejoice in the clarity of his teaching on there being only one way of salvation, or in the help he brings to the subject of private judgment. I assumed I would not like his chapter on the church, but found it a great encouragement. My favorite chapter of all was on the fallibility of ministers. It was the tonic needed in our days.

This is a fine book and I warmly recommend 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.

Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt

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Mr. Vanderstelt is on to something. We are not fluent with the Gospel. As he strives hard to point out, a lack of gospel fluency is far worse than a little broken English. The stakes are so much higher. Getting the directions wrong to a tourist site because of ineffective language is of so much less consequence than getting wrong the directions to God because we don’t know how to talk about the Gospel.

This book is written for broad appeal among Christians. In other words, the net is cast all the way to the edge where the newest Christian lives, and yet is still meant to reach longtime Christians on the other side. Though that means some pages might seem to be on an elementary level, all Christians can be challenged.

The book is in five main parts. The first part explains what gospel fluency is and how so much of our attempts to speak to others lacks the Gospel. In a nutshell, if we don’t give them Jesus, we don’t give them the Gospel. I loved how he explained that even as Christians we like to speak the gospel to ourselves and really deal often with unbelief. He says a few shocking things like: “I have met too many people who love their Bibles yet have no genuine relationship with Jesus Christ”.

The second section is about the Gospel itself. In three chapters, he reminds us of what the Gospel is and how powerful it really is. Some of that is basic as many of his readers may not even have a fundamental understanding of the Gospel, but anyone will enjoy when he illustrates how wonderful it is. Part three covers the Gospel in me in three chapters. Don’t miss the chapter “Fruit to Root” as it had outstanding insights.

Parts four and five covered in six chapters attempts to take what we have learned and make it practical. His discussion of the importance of listening is a great reminder.

The book is easy to read. The only fault I found with it, and it is only a personal preference on my part, is that he illustrates too often with discussions that he had with people where he gave them great answers. While that strikes me as a little too self-promoting, we might remember that, in his defense, he might feel the need for us to know that he practices what he preaches.

The book is a success in the sense that it makes me remember that I need to put the Gospel so much more into my conversations with people. I pray the Lord will help me to do much better.

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 Pursuit of God by Tozer–A Spiritual Classic

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This book holds a rightful place on the list of the greatest Christian books of all time. Of the many outstanding books that A. W. Tozer wrote, “The Pursuit of God” is his most popular. If you have ever looked for this title in used bookstores, you probably found it terribly worn. That ragged condition would be from both use and from the inferior binding that I have noticed in many old editions. Moody has thankfully provided us here with an edition that is both economical and of a quality made to last.

This edition has a short article called “Tozer’s Legacy” that tells us a little bit about the man and that he wrote this volume on his knees. You can tell as you read. He sees that our souls are thirsty for God and many Christians have settled for something of such lesser value.

His first chapter on following hard after God sets the tone. For example, he said, “everything is made to center upon the initial act of ‘accepting’ Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls.” He will, as you imagine, prove that our need is more of the Lord.

In other chapters, he shows issues like being consumed with “things” rather than the Lord. He talks about removing the veil that we might see the Lord. He gives clues to apprehending God when he explains “O taste and see”.  He often draws on the incredible attributes of God, something else he is famous for writing about, to show, for example, what His presence and voice means. He talks about how this leads to rest and how this becomes what he calls “a sacrament of living”.

In short, this is a veritable masterpiece. Every Christian should read this book in his or her life

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 Attributes of God: Volume 2 by Tozer

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When you have Tozer on the Attributes of God you have Tozer at his best. Perhaps you have read his “Knowledge of the Holy” and found it one of the most amazing books you have ever read as I have. This volume, along with the corresponding volume 1, cover the same territory but with a more conversational and devotional approach. It is profound and worth reading even if you have read “Knowledge of the Holy.”

After an Introduction that talks about God’s Character in general, Tozer presents ten of the attributes in ten in-depth chapters. These attributes cover God’s self-existence, transcendence, eternalness, omnipotence, immutability, omniscience, wisdom, sovereignty, faithfulness, and love. There’s not a clunker in the bunch as I found meaning, warmth, and enlightenment in every chapter. You always get the feeling that you were reading a man who knew the Lord in the way you wanted to.

This edition by Moody has over 100 pages of a study guide by David Fessenden that really help readers dig into this volume. Mr. Fessenden is clearly well versed in Tozer’s writings and often quotes his other volumes to illumine the text here.

I highly recommend this volume. It is a true must-have 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.

God’s Pursuit of Man by A. W. Tozer

A. W. Tozer turned out an incredible amount of probing, moving, and spiritual writings. His classics “The Pursuit of God” and ” The Knowledge of the Holy” are two of the most important Christian books that we possess today–Something like a 12 on a scale of 1-10. This volume is only slightly below those venerable books. Not agreeing exactly with the Calvinist or the non-Calvinist, he never demonstrates the fear of man and writes what he got from intimate communion with his Lord.

To my mind, he writes mostly on what salvation is, what it is not, why we often have a superficial view of it. The second half of the book he moves on to the Third Person of the Trinity–the Holy Spirit. I heard echoes of his theological masterpiece, “The Knowledge of the Holy.” Actually, this book is intended to fill in some of the gaps, as well as be a counterpart to “The Pursuit of God.”

I can’t really think of a downside to the book and was personally moved by it. Some might think they find a few strands of legalism in it, but please notice their is nothing of the Pharisee’s heart from his pen. This book is a winner all the way.

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.

God and Tattoos by Allan Dayhoff

Have you ever read a book that was both provocative and somewhat outside your comfort zone, but still opened your eyes? This book by Allan Dayhoff was such a book for me. Tattoos to my mind were gross, ugly, and wrong. While I still am not a fan of tattoos at all, this book chided me for never considering what is going on in the souls of those with tattoos. Why are tattoos exploding in our day? More importantly, what should a Christian see in this trend of people writing on themselves? 

The author did what it never occurred to me to do: ask people why they have tattoos. He asked them what their particular tattoos meant and that opened up a massive flow of information from which some conclusions could be drawn.

He found that some are doing it because it is the “it” thing to do in our generation. In other words, for some it is merely a jump on the cultural trend bandwagon. I suspected this one, but sadly never thought about the other reasons involved. It’s in those other reasons that this book is eye opening. 

It seems as though people are needing empathy and to have meaning. In that they do not have those needs mets, Dayhoff explains that their souls are crying out these needs and writing them on their own skin. People are finding this new way to say who they are. Often, the story on their skins is one of deep pain. Other insights abound.

I met the author and while I could not do all his methods, I saw that he was sincere in sharing his faith. I must warn you too that in some cases he directly quotes his interviewees and that means some really bad language. That arose, no matter what we feel about it, from his approach to write a book that would teach Christians and could be used with non-Christians at the same time. 

It’s probably not a book for everyone, but I found it instructive and fascinating.

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.

Prayer by A. W. Tozer

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We all know that A.W. Tozer is a powerful, provoking, and spiritual writer par excellence. Since he died in 1963, we aren’t getting any new titles, yet W. L. Seaver has complied Tozer’s thoughts on prayer from across all his writings and given them too us here. While it can’t compare to his original writings, this volume accomplishes something worthwhile, and , frankly,  more powerful than I anticipated. 

You’ll be hooked in chapter one when he blows up our emergency-only praying. Praying is meant to be a whole-life experience as he well explains. If we would expand our prayer life to every area including the most mundane then we would not have these big blocks of our lives totally out of touch with our Lord. 

Especially moving were chapters on praying without condition, on wrestling in prayer (he removes much confusion here), and truth has two wings. While those were my favorites, or most personally challenging to me, there isn’t a dud in the book.

Seaver gives a small review after each of Tozer’s writings that is well done.  If you want to use it with a study guide as well, the section “reflect and apply” is there for you. Some of the later chapters even come from previously unpublished sermons.

You wouldn’t have thought a compilation volume could pull off being a major work on prayer, but I think it can worthily take its place on your shelves by the great classic volumes. It’s really that good!

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.