The Lost Sermons of Spurgeon: Volume 3

bppl spur 3.jpg

I love these lost sermons of Spurgeon more as every new volume is released. Here we are blessed to receive volume 3 of what will be an incredible 10-volume set for both Spurgeon fans and any who love gospel preaching. The design and setup match the previous two volumes, but I notice the sermon notes are becoming fuller as Spurgeon must’ve started keeping more careful notes.

With this volume, I became even more impressed with the editor, Christian T. George. It’s almost as if he went through these notebooks with a magnifying glass and nothing escaped his eye. He made sure we had everything he observed. Be sure to glance through the notes that follow each sermon. I even noticed that he traced down some of the sermon illustrations to volumes in Spurgeon’s library! I guess our beloved Metropolitan Tabernacle sermons will seem somewhat inferior after this set is finished. I, for one, appreciate the attention to detail that Mr. George brings to this project. B & H gave this production worthy packaging to make something truly beautiful.

Another observation: Spurgeon started hitting his stride in producing sermons that we would expect from him in this volume. As was his custom throughout his ministry, he is all over the Bible. It would be hard to argue that anyone was Spurgeon’s equal when it comes to textual preaching. The man could wring the Gospel out of almost any text! This book needs no recommendation from me – obviously its pure gold!

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.

Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom Rainer

book bec wel

Thom Rainer has become the guru of all things local church. This book, another of the small, attractive, hardback volumes published by B&H Publishing that he has turned out over the last few years, teaches us how to become a welcoming church. It’s not so much a book of suggestions as one of necessity because all of its recommendations are drawn from real data from church visitors.

Rainer explains that visitors often don’t rate our friendliness, facilities, or services in the way we do. Our friendliness is often in “holy huddles” that excludes visitors, our facilities are laid out nicely only because we’ve had years to get used to it, and our services are not as geared to visitors as we have allowed ourselves to believe.

Chapter 1 chips away our determined belief that we are welcoming and asks us to be willing to do a true evaluation. He warns us that we may be in for quite a shock. In this chapter, he explains what consistently bothers visitors (hint: it has nothing to do with doctrine or gospel faithfulness) and what makes for happy visitors. As I read over these lists, I marveled that there was no spiritual element, just practical things that we could work on. Chapter 2 goes on and give us what he calls a confidential report where he digs deeper into how our churches are viewed by visitors. Chapter 3 looks at the practical items of signage, parking, and websites. Chapter 4 describes how visitors expect a safe and clean church and what is most important on that list. Chapter 5 explains greeters and welcome centers while Chapter 6 is a concluding chapter. There is an appendix with a church facility audit and secret guest survey.

If you are familiar with Rainer’s work, this book is classic Rainer. I happen to be blessed to be a pastor of a friendly church yet see several things on these pages that we need to shore up. This book is a practical, top-notch work and 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.

Preaching God’s Word (Second Edition)

book preach 2nd.jpg

Now in its second edition, this book by Terry G. Carter, J. Scott Duvall, and J. Daniel Hayes lives up to its subtitle: a hands-on approach to preparing, developing, and delivering the sermon. It strikes me as a success because of its clear value as a first textbook for someone learning how to put together a sermon. It does better than most at keeping a big-picture view as it assembles the pieces of the sermon. There are other books that, perhaps, dive deeper into the details – the works of Jerry Vines comes to mind – but this one may be “just right” for a wide array of readers.

The book is divided into three parts: eight chapters on developing and preaching a sermon, three chapters on preaching the New Testament, and four chapters on preaching the Old Testament. Duvall and Hays had earlier produced a hermeneutics textbook entitled Grasping God’s Word, which is also published by Zondervan, so this book assumes an understanding of hermeneutics and goes straight into putting together a sermon after that work has been done.

The first chapter introduces their 11-step sermon process. Chapter 2 covers the first five steps: grasp the meaning of the text in their town, measure the width of the interpretive river, cross the principlizing bridge, consult the biblical map, and grasp the text in our town. As you can see, they word this information in practical terms aimed at our maximum understanding. Again, they avoid being either too shallow or too deep and succeed at being “just right”.

After all that wonderful help for putting the sermon together, the other two parts on the Old and New Testaments look at the genres and their unique challenges for the preacher found in each. Most of these were wonderful. The value of the chapter on preaching Revelation might correspond to your own prophetic viewpoint. Actually, they tell you that that might be the case when you preach the Book of Revelation.

If you’ve been called to preach and are trying to figure out how to put a sermon together, you owe it to yourself to check this book out.

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.

A Mentor’s Wisdom by Moyer

Book mentor.jpg

This is a special kind of book. It’s not hard to read. In fact, you may find it relaxing. By that I don’t mean it’s fluffy in any way, but that it’s reflective. Larry Moyer reflects on things he picked up from his mentor, Haddon Robinson, and it’s a journey that will likely help you reflect on your own life. If you happen to be a preacher like both the author and his subject, the scope of your ponderings will be even greater.

Admittedly, a book of this design would have little hope of success unless it had what this one does – a full-orbed life with Christ where both a deep immersion into the Bible and a life of trying with all its trial and error. Mr. Robinson is just such a man. Mr. Moyer had decades of interaction with Mr. Robinson and he was able to strike the perfect balance between admiration and reality.

Mr. Robinson has written some of the most influential books on preaching in print today. For that reason, he has an automatic respect by many preachers who will pick this book up and hear what he had to say. I suspect that even those who are not familiar with his writings will find respect easy to grant on these pages.

The book contains 45 statements that the author heard Mr. Robinson say at different points of their relationship. They range from the author’s school days all the way to Mr. Robertson’s last days. Mr. Moyer gives the background for when the statement was made and with additional insights that he had from their frequent association brings the statement alive. None of the statements or explanations ever came across as forced, trite, or corny. There’s even a Bible verse with every saying that matches what it’s trying to say. In a way, these sayings and their explanations were like devotionals throwing light back on the Bible.

The statements are arranged in categories with life lessons, work counsel, spiritual advice, public speaking and preaching, leadership, and evangelism. The advice ranges from broad help for life to detailed counsel. A preacher will carry away a few extra gems, but any Christian will receive thoughtful help. There were a few that I’ve heard people say that I now know they got from Mr. Robinson!

The author was real on these pages. At times he would describe how he initially struggled to accept what Dr. Robinson had said. There was inside to be gained and how his own wrestling’s brought him around to see things the same way Dr. Robinson did.

I liked all the sayings, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be number 9 (“time is your enemy. You must work to make it your friend”).  The Bible verse was Ecclesiastes 3:1. As I read that section, the thought struck me that there is enough time to do what God wants me to do.

This is not an academic book. This will be a book for you – your life, your spirituality, your heart. If you are like me, you know you need a few books like that along the way, and A Mentor’s Wisdom: Lessons I Learned from Haddon Robinson is just such a 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.

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

book power pulpit

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

book past lies.jpg

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.

 

Becoming Dallas Willard: The Formation of a Philosopher, Teacher, and Christ Follower by Gary Moon

 

book dallas

This biography is a joy. It has both an interesting subject and a skilled examination of the person that creates life upon the pages. If you’re tempted to think a biography of a man who is a philosopher and a college professor is too dull for pleasant reading, I challenge you to prove yourself wrong by reading this book. Dallas Willard’s life never allows the reader to become complacent. His journey twists and turns and yet follows an upward trajectory. As a reviewer, I probably come from a different vantage point than most in that as much as I love to read I’ve still never read any of Dallas Willard’s works. I suppose many readers are drawn to this biography because they love his writings, but you may be like me and have this biography entice you toward his writings.

Part one covers the first 30 years of his life in seven chapters. His Missouri upbringing deeply influenced him. His mother’s death and other family situations that required his moving around were expertly probed without resorting to psychoanalysis. As a reader, you will be emotionally attached to Mr. Willard by the end of this rendition of his first 30 years.

Part two looks at the middle part of his life. There was always some sort of gravitational pull toward the Lord and the ministry in Mr. Willard’s life. Earlier, he went to Tennessee Temple University under the direction of Dr. Lee Roberson, which was also the place he met his wife, and loved many aspects including their zeal and revival emphasis but grew to have a problem with the “view of salvation that is complete when one has publicly professed (put forward an understanding of) the gospel and which only has a past tense.” It was that middle section of his life where he developed his much-appreciated thoughts on communion with God.

The latter part of the book gave much detail on how each of his books came together. Believe it or not, that was interesting and shed more light on who he was as a person. I could not agree with every conclusion that Mr. Willard came to hold, but I found him to be genuine, sincere, and a person who would be interesting to either talk to or pray with. This biography didn’t obscure his weaker traits, whether it be his nomadic nature or his family struggles, but a man who loves the Lord shone through. I really can’t imagine how Mr. Moon could’ve made this biography any 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.

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

book preah pace

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.

Portraits of a Pastor (Books on Ministry #21)

 

book pas

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. 

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

book p t

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.