Church Signs With Moveable Letters Should Be Outlawed (Pt. 4)

What I Listen To

My son asked me to send him a list of the podcasts I listen to regularly. So I did. And then I thought I'd share them on this blog as well. Here's what I wrote:
You asked me to send you the podcasts I listen to. I've listened to a lot over the years, from Artisan Church ( to LifeChurch and the Orchard, to David Foster and Bill Johnson, to Andy Stanley's Leadership Podcast. But the ones that have been fairly constant for me are the following:

Morning Prayer from the Episcopal Church in Garrett County
You know I pray morning and evening, of course. But every Sunday--and often at other times, like when I have to be in the car early, etc.--I pray along with this "Book of Common Prayer" daily podcast. Each one is between 15 and 17 minutes long.

Daily Audio Bible
This podcast gives daily Bible readings in 25 or 30 minute segments, in a Bible-in-a-year rotation. It's a great way to read (hear) the Bible on a daily basis. There is also an app as well as other varieties (like for kids, etc.)

Mars Hill Bible Church
I've always appreciated Rob Bell's preaching, and though he is leaving Mars Hill now, Shane Hipps, who is taking over for him, is also a great preacher and teacher.

Mosaic Church
Erwin McManus is another of my favorite preachers. I love how he approaches topics.

National Community Church
Mark Batterson is among my favorite writers and his "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day" is one of my favorite books. He and the other speakers at NCC are excellent.

These are the ones I've come to rely on, daily or weekly. I also love to watch T.D. Jakes preach, which I do almost every week. And I always have at least one audiobook going on my iPhone, by which means I manage to listen to ten or twelve books a year.

I've provided the web links to each of the podcasts above, but subscribed to them all in iTunes, of course.

One Billion

Beautiful. Sad. Compelling.

Lost from AsiaLink HistoryMaker on Vimeo.

Are You a Pipe Or Reservoir?

A quote from Michael Emlet's CrossTalk (Where Life and Scripture Meet), by way of Tim Challies's blog:
A temptation in ministry is to think that just because we prepared a Bible study, a sermon, or a discipleship appointment (or wrote a book like this!), we are deeply engaging with the God of the universe. But that’s not necessarily true. It’s easy in ministry to live more as a ‘pipe’ than a ‘reservoir.’ That is, it’s easy to live merely as a conduit to others of the transforming truths of God’s Word, rather than as a changed and transformed reservoir who overflows with lived-out gospel truth. You wouldn’t imagine cooking meal after meal for your family without sitting down to enjoy that nourishment, would you? To paraphrase James 1:22, let’s not merely be hearers or speakers or counselors of the Word, but doers, first and foremost.

Church of the Week: St. Peter's, Kenosha WI

St. Peter's Church, in Kenosha, Wisconsin, is one I have visited a time or two with my loved ones, Ron and Mariruth Montemurro, and their family.

The parish, with roots in Lithuanian families, dates to 1903. The current church structure was erected in 1966, with various improvements and updates made over the years. Among the unique things this church offers is a Polka Mass each year during the church festival. I can't imagine. Some mysteries are best left alone.

Close Enough to Hear God Breathe

Close Enough to Hear God Breathe, by Greg Paul, took me on a short roller-coaster ride of expectation, suspicion, surprise and fulfillment.

I was drawn to the book by the title: Close Enough to Hear God Breathe sounded like just the sort of book I longed for. I am drawn to to books that draw me deeper into God, the reading of which feels as much like prayer as it does reading.

I was slightly turned off, however, by the subtitle (The Great Story of Divine Intimacy), and by the structure of the book, organized into five parts: The Heart of the Matter (a few introductory chapters), followed by Creation, The Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. Don't get me wrong; this is a worthy subject, maybe close to the ONLY worthy subject. But I have read so many overviews and summaries along these lines, I expect to be bored by it.

But I wasn't. I really liked this book. It mostly delivered on its promise of helping the reader hear the voice of God in the ordinary moments of life, as well as in the broad, deep current of Scripture. It actually was a little like putting my head on God’s chest. And hearing him whisper, “You’re my child, my love, my pleasure.”

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, for review purposes. 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”)


There is a massive shift taking place in our culture, as we speak. Or text. Or Facebook. Or whatever. And the church needs to pay attention and make adjustments, as Eric Dye writes on ChurchCrunch:
There has been a shift in how we communicate. There has been a shift in the preferred communication medium.

If the Church doesn’t shift its communication medium, we fail to communicate, and if we fail to communicate, we fail to be heard.
Read the whole post here.

Need a Hip Pastor TItle?

It's so much easier being a pastor than it used to be. And cooler. Which is why I highly recommend this "Hippy Pastor Name Generator." Try it. You'll be cooler in no time.

(by way of Ministry Best Practices)

Church of the Week: The Salvation Army, Lancaster, Ohio

The lovely Robin and I had a fine time returning to the scene of the crime--er, I mean, the first church we pastored and our first assignment as Salvation Army officers. We were assigned to The Salvation Army in Lancaster, Ohio, in June 1980, and served there for three years. In our twenties. Before we knew how little we knew.

We fell in love with so many wonderful souls there, and a couple of them are now the new corps their hometown corps: Captains Jeff and Debbie Stacy.

It was a joy to worship in that simple but beautiful chapel once more, and even more so because we were joined by some who had been teens--or children--when we were there, like Jeff and Debbie, Georgetta Morris von Dolln, Cheryl Taylor-Finney, and Candy (Wiedner) Moore. In addition we got to see some dear ones who WEREN'T teens or children when we were there: Barb, Dickie, and Auggie.

And, for the first time since roughly 1982 or thereabouts, we heard God's Word from his servant, Debbie. What a blessing.

The Salvation Army's Lancaster Corps has been in this location since 1978 or 1979, just before we became corps officers. The facility is much larger than when we were there, due to a southern addition (for an adult day care center called The Samaritan Center) on which we broke ground in June 1983, just before our transfer to Cincinnati was effected (the addition was completed under the able stewardship of our friends Steve and Janice Howard).

15 Personal Accountability Questions

I saw a great post by Kent Shaffer recently on, listing fifteen accountability questions. Good for anyone, but especially for those in ministry:
Having an accountability partner is only successful if you consistently meet, are brutally honest, and ask the right questions. Ed Stetzer has compiled a list of 48 accountability questions used by leaders such as John Wesley, Chuck Swindoll, Neil Cole, and Church Multiplication Associates. For my own use, I’ve adapted these questions into my top 15 personal accountability questions.


#1 - Did the Bible live in you this week?
#2 - Do you give it time to speak to you everyday?
#3 - Are you enjoying prayer?
#4 - Do you trust God?
#5 - When did you last speak to someone about your faith?


#6 - Have you been honoring, understanding, and generous to your family and important relationships?
#7 - Have you damaged another person by your words, either behind their back or face-to-face?

Lust of the Eyes (Generosity)

#8 - Have you been materialistic or too focused on having something?
#9 - Have you been generous?

Pride of Life (Humility)

#10 - Have you been proud or too focused on being something?
#11 - Are you giving God the glory?

Lust of the Flesh (Integrity)

#12 - Is God honored in the way you eat and drink?
#13 - Are you improving your health through nutrition and exercise?
#14 - Have you been exposed to sexually alluring material or allowed your mind to entertain inappropriate thoughts about someone who is not your spouse this week?
#15 - Have you been with a woman anywhere this past week that might be seen as compromising?

These questions don’t cover everything, but they are manageable and help keep a broad scope of lifestyle goals in the forefront of your mind throughout the week.
Wow, that's pretty thorough. I have in the past given my accountability partner at most 5 or 6 questions to ask. I feel like such a slouch.

Treating Sunday as a Second Saturday

I don't think I quote anyone as much as Ray Ortlund on this blog (maybe Michael Hyatt). And here's why:
If we would stop treating Sunday as a second Saturday, one more day to run to Home Depot, one more day for the kids’ soccer games, another day for getting ready for Monday, if we would rediscover Sunday as The Lord’s Day, focusing on him for just one day each week, what would be the immediate impact between today and one year from today?

By one year from today, we will have spent 52 whole days given over to Jesus. Seven and a half weeks of paid vacation with Jesus.

He’s a good King. Maybe we should put him first in our weekly schedules. Not fit him into the margins of our busy weekends, but build our whole weekly routine around him.

The Waterproof Bible

Now, this is pretty cool.

By way of, I learned about the Waterproof Bible, an actual waterproof Bible that would be great for lifeguards and swamp dwellers, as well as people on missions trips and fishing expeditions, and pretty much anyone during Monsoon season.

It's reportedly a 100% Waterproof Bible with something called "Durabooks technology," which I guess makes it stain-resistant and waterproof. And it floats. Yet its pages also let you dry highlight and take notes in it.

It comes in blue, pink, and camouflage covers and in NIV, KJV, ESV, NLT, and NASB translations.

The Preacher Must

I discovered the great preacher Leonard Ravenhill many years ago, through Keith Green's Last Days Ministries. Here is a quote from In Light of Eternity, a new biography of Ravenhill by Mack Tomlinson:
The preacher must pray. It is not that he can pray or that he could pray, but that he must pray if he intends to have a spiritual church. There is no other way to power except to pray. Hidden prayer is like heat smoldering in the bowels of the earth, far beneath the steel cone of a volcano. Though to be either may be years of inactivity, sooner or later there will be an explosion. So it is with prayer in the Spirit—it never dies.

The Life of Christ in Art

I was astounded when I walked into the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton University some years ago and saw a display of massive (48" x 15") graphite drawings on Masonite panels (and some in full color).

They were all the work of one man, artist Robert Doares. Their size and detail were impressive, but even more so the accuracy (with, in my opinion, just a few exceptions). I didn't know at the time if Doares had ever been to Israel, but couldn't imagine how he could have produced these works of art otherwise (I later learned he had). They capture the place.

Though it was expensive, I had to buy the book containing the entire collection of fifty illustrations (produced over a period of thirty years), and I'm so glad I did. Immanuel: God With Us is a breathtaking, moving, and accurate portrayal of--well, what the subtitle says--the life of Christ in art.

Each picture, presented on a two-page spread, is accompanied by Scripture and narration regarding the event it portrays. Some of my favorites are the wedding at Cana (with the accurate depiction of the water jars), the visit of Nicodemus (shown at night on a rooftop in an Upper CIty location with the Temple in the background), and Capernaum, showing the bustling seaport with identifiable features that can still be seen today. But all of the illustrations are exceptional, and combined, they will enrich anyone's appreciation and understanding of the text they vividly enliven.

Tips for Preaching From a Manuscript

This post was prompted by a recent comment I received from one of the readers of this blog, who upon reading this post suggested it might be helpful to read more about the "hows" of preaching from a full manuscript, especially doing so in a way that prevents some of the hazards of doing so.

I've actually been asked by interested observers how I can preach from a full manuscript and yet retain as much freedom and spontaneity as I do in delivery. I typically answer that it's not one thing, but a combination of several.

Over the years, the manuscript format I've developed has been a huge aid to effective delivery of a sermon. I typically use 16-pt. Times New Roman, a font and size that can be read easily at a glance.

Also, as I write a sermon, I don't write in paragraphs but in phrases, making it much easier to absorb a series of phrases quickly. Thus, this paragraph would appear as something like this in my manuscript:

Also, as I write a sermon,
I don't write in paragraphs but in phrases,
making it much easier to absorb a series of phrases quickly.
Thus, this paragraph would appear
as something like this
in my manuscript.
I also use other formatting techniques: Scripture portions and quotes are blocked and indented; major points are boldface; emphasis may be indicated by italics, all caps, or by spacing.

I will also use colors to distinguish text and make the manuscript "pop" to my eyesight. For example, Scripture is always a bright blue, and green font is a visual cue to step away from the manuscript and deliver the next portion without reference to the text.

When I used printed manuscripts, I would print out the sermon on both sides of 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of white paper; this would allow me to see two full pages at a time and turn pages less frequently. Since making the switch to preaching from an iPad, of course, that practice has changed.

Finally, I make it a habit to review and practice orally from the manuscript several times in the day or two prior to speaking, often memorizing certain passages to allow for greater freedom or emphasis. I write cues to myself in the margin, and even further refine the text based on what I want to achieve verbally.

These are some of the techniques that work for me. A lot will depend on the speaker's skill level and comfort level, as well as on their speaking style. For example, I am actually liberated by the printed page; knowing where I'm going often frees me to ad lib and go "off script," knowing I can effortlessly find my place again later. Some, however, would be more inhibited from speaking extemporaneously.

I have no interest in defending my practice, nor in suggesting that anyone else ought to do things my way. I don't agree that there is one right or best way for every preacher. It depends on the person, and what works best for me may not work for anyone else. But if my practice is helpful to anyone else, I will be honored.

Church of the Week: Holy Rosary Church, Kenosha, WI

Our Lady of the Holy Rosary of Pompeii Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was the site of last week's wedding of Vincent and Amanda (Haman) nephew and his new wife.

Holy Rosary was constructed in the 1930s in the Baroque style, and is now a venerated historical landmark and spiritual home to many, including the groom and bride.

The organ and choir loft, above, together with the lovely acoustics of the place, allows music to fill the room--and the soloist at the wedding did a fine job.

These medieval-looking instruments, hanging in an alcove off the vestibule, are used for taking up the congregation's tithes and offerings--without ever allowing the offering basket to leave the control of the usher. I asked for an opportunity to try one out, but was rebuffed, inexplicably.

Holy Rosary is located at 4400 22nd Avenue in Kenosha. The congregation dates back to 1904.

Where Do You Get Your Self Esteem?

I get mine from The Self Esteem Shop:

Not really. I get my self esteem from what the most important people in my life think and say about me. And the most important, my God, says I am a priest and king, dearly loved and wholly his!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Preaching From a Full Manuscript

I have tried preaching from an outline. I have tried preaching extemporaneously. Yet, after more than thirty years of preaching, I still much prefer preaching from a full manuscript. I have managed over the years to find a format and manuscript style that frees me from the manuscript and enables eye contact, mobility, etc. For me, a full manuscript makes me the best preacher I can be.

So I was interested to see Timmy Brister's recent blog post (at about the advantages he finds in preaching from a full manuscript. It bugs me that he uses the abbreviation for the plural ("manuscripts") when referring to the singular, but other than that, I thought his post was worth reading for any preacher.

Here's what he says:

One of the most significant helps I received at the beginning was writing out a full manuscript of my message. I have taken some time in recent days in light of some Twitter conversations to reflect on the lessons I’ve learned and benefits I’ve received from using a full manuscript in my preaching, and I thought I share them here for what it’s worth.

10 Benefits I’ve Received from Using a Full Manuscript (MSS)

1. Clarity – The exercise of writing out what you are going to say before you say it provides you the opportunity of being clear in your communication. Cluttered, confusing statements do not serve preaching well. The discipline of writing a full MSS helps you address not only what you say but how you say it in ways that are clearly understandable to the hearer.

2. Brevity – When my first sermon was transcribed, it was over 7,000 words(!). Since writing a full MSS (and I mean full), I have whittled down my word count to roughly 4,000-4,500 words. The most effective preachers I know have an amazing ability to say a lot in a short amount of time. Length of preaching does not necessarily mean you cover the text well. It could be you are just rambling.

3. Precision – I was taught in seminary by professors that every paragraph in a research paper should contribute to your thesis. The same is true in preaching. If I have 45 minutes to preach, I cannot afford to waste 5 minutes on something that does not illuminate the text or apply it to my people. Make every paragraph count by making every sentence count. Don’t waste people’s attention by wasting your words.

Additionally, using a MSS has forced me to be more precise in my grammar. Things like subject-verb agreement, using the active voice, pronouns and antecedents may sound technical and geared toward an academic audience, but they are important to your delivery. You are a public speaker, but more than that, you are a herald of God’s Gospel, and we should of all people be careful not to unnecessarily provide a stumbling block to receiving the message through being imprecise.

4. Simplicity – One of things most impressed upon me by Tom Ascol has been simplicity in preaching. Coming from an academic environment, I tended to use long, complex sentences and theological terms I took for granted, assuming my hearers full understood them as well. And writing a MSS allows me to evaluate areas where my thoughts are too complex or my word choice could better serve my audience. The simpler, the better, and a MSS is a great tool to help make that happen.

5. Coherence – Does the points of my MSS argue and explain my thesis? Is my thesis the point of the text? Like precision, coherence makes the flow of your message easy for your listeners to follow. A choppy, disconnected message makes listeners struggle to follow what you are saying. Writing a full MSS helps you detect disjunctions and evaluate points or sub points in your message that either don’t fit or need to be communicated differently.

6. Macro – A full MSS allows you to see the big picture to your sermon. Is there a way you could illustrate a point better. Are you missing application at key points? Are your transitions helpful in reviewing? A full MSS is like an executed storyboard. Is your story compelling? Are you engaging the mind, the heart, and the will? What do you want to accomplish at the conclusion of your message? A full MSS can help answer those questions as you have time to consider all these matters from a macro viewpoint.

7. Retrieval/Preservation - You may preach a passage/message in the past that you may want to preach again in a different context. I recently did this while in Haiti. If all you have is a few bullet points or annotations, you may struggle in retrieval. But a full MSS has everything you said, including illustrations, transitions, applications, etc.

8. Discipleship – I have made the habit of making my MSS available on Sundays, and here recently I have had non-Christians and newly converted Christians asking for my MSS to take home with them. When the MSS is available to them, they are less worried about taking notes feverishly and can be more engaged then and there for the Spirit to apply the Word to them, knowing they could get my full MSS later. The MSS also becomes a tool I could use with guys I’m mentoring and training as future pastors or church planters in helping them in their craft.

9. Personal Application/Enjoyment - Exegetical/expository preaching is hard work. Writing a full MSS can make it even harder. But I can say that after doing it a while, God has used that exercise to convict me in areas where I’m not living where I’m preaching. Not only that, but God has also encouraged me in the process by the leadership and assistance of the Holy Spirit. For those who preach more extemporaneously and prepare little, God bless them. I’m not that guy. But here’s another thing to consider. God is with you in your preparation as much as He is with you in your presentation. Writing the full MSS and praying over it is an opportunity to experience the blessing of God’s Spirit owning His Word in my life. Those hours of preparation are when heaven enters your soul. Savor it.

10. Preparation – Even though I write a full MSS, that does not mean I preach from it or force myself to stick to it exactly. Some argue that it makes you more wooden or boring. I can certainly see that happening. But what about reading and praying over your MSS several times in the day or hours before you preach so that you are not only going to the pulpit with a hot heart but with a lot of light as well?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

7 Reasons Churches Choose to Have a Smaller Impact

Tony Morgan's excellent blog (for which I have had the honor of being a guest blogger) featured this post today:

Yesterday I was reading about a leadership change at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. It included this great observation from Mark Driscoll:

“Church size affects nearly every aspect of a church; bigger churches are not simply larger versions of smaller churches, but rather very different organizations.”

In my church consulting experiences, I see this all the time. Churches cling to what worked in the past assuming that it will bring success in the future. That rarely happens. In order to sustain growth and health, churches need to change.

Because churches are unwilling to give up on what worked for them in the past, here’s what I see:

  1. Churches get pulled in many different directions and lack a unified purpose, even though the Bible reminds us “There should be no division in the body.”
  2. Churches hold on to their structure, even though Scripture tells us “New wine calls for new wineskins.”
  3. Churches don’t define and implement strategies to accomplish God’s vision, even though the Proverbs tells us “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity.”
  4. Churches don’t embrace new leadership, even though God’s Word instructs us to find capable people and “Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.”
  5. Churches fail to establish systems, even though we know “God is not a God of disorder.”
  6. Churches don’t prepare financially for the future, even though Jesus told us to “First sit down and estimate the cost.”
  7. Churches don’t welcome counsel from people with experience, even though we’re reminded that “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.”

I could go on and on, but I think you get my point. We can’t become the church God’s intends for us to be if we’re unwilling to become the church God’s intends for us to be.

Mere Churchianity

Mere Churchianity by the late Michael Spencer, aka the Internet Monk, is an intriguing, entertaining, and provocative book.

Much of what Spencer writes resonates with me. He grieves the state of American evangelicalism. He believes that the church today has little in common with Jesus--the Jesus of the Gospels. He promotes a "Jesus-Shaped Spirituality." The sections and chapter titles of the book show some of his emphases:

Part I: The Jesus Disconnect

1 "When Church Signs Lie"
2 "The Jesus Disconnect"
3 "What If We're Wrong About God?"
4 "A Christianity Jesus Would Recognize"
5 "What Does Jesus-Shaped Spirituality Mean?"

Part II: The Jesus Briefing

6 Jesus or Vinegar
7 What We Can Know About Jesus
8 Accepting the Real Jesus
9 What Jesus Is Doing in the World

Part III: The Jesus Life

10 Jesus, the Bible, and the Free-Range Believer
11 It's a Bad Idea to Be a Good Christian
12 When I Am Weak
13 Leaving Behind the Church-Shaped Life
14 Jesus, Honesty, and the Man Who Wouldn't Smile

Part IV: The Jesus Community

15 The Good and Bad of Being Alone
16 The Evangelical Sellout
17 Following Jesus in the Life You Have
18 Some Help for the Journey

It is a book worth reading, though often too acerbic in tone for my taste. It is true to the title ("Mere Churchianity") than to the subtitle ("Finding Your Way Back to a Jesus-Shaped Spirituality"). It offers encouragement to the many people (including himself, though not his wife) who have more or less given up on churches and congratulates those who leave the church in order to follow Jesus (claiming, rightly I think, that many churches long ago left Jesus). But therein is a flaw. Spencer's personal experience often depicts images of the church being the church to him, while he claims all the while to have left the church. He promotes a vision of the church that is not confined to pulpits and chapels, but is slow himself to recognize THAT church in action, even in his own life.

Spencer's life and ministry was one of often-helpful critique of churches, and this book is often insightful (though less often helpful). It would be an interesting exercise to contrast Spencer's view of the church with that of, say, Anne Lamott (who is far from a traditionalist, and as such is someone he cites as an influence on him). It seems to me that Spencer loves Jesus, but not churches--not even the Church--which strikes me as an impossibility. For all its imperfections, particularly in American culture, and for all our admitted disservice to Jesus and his Gospel, Jesus loves the church. He wants it to change, I am sure, in pretty much all the ways Spencer points out. And nearly all of us can afford to break down walls and break out of our narrow, backward ways of doing "church" (I'm even writing a book on pretty much that subject right now!). But I tend to think a "Free-Range Believer," as Spencer calls it, is no more pursuing a "Jesus-Shaped Spirituality" than those who earn Spencer's disdain.

Still, as I say, the book is worth reading. And others may find it more constructive than I did. Because that's often how God works.

The Hebrew Scriptures at a Glance

This is fun. David Murray sums up the contents of the Old Testament books on one page. Check it out here.

40 Great Leadership Books

Brad Lomenick, whom I have quoted before on this blog (here and here) recently posted a list of "40 Great Leadership Books to Read." It's worth checking out.

I was somewhat gratified to see that I've read sixteen of the forty: #1, 2, 3, 5, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 21, 24, 28, 29, 32, 35, and 40.

How about you? How many--and which ones--have you read?

Bring the Books

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great preacher of the nineteenth century, had this to say about the preacher and his (or her) reading:
We will look at [Paul's] books. We do not know what the books were about, and we can only form some guess as to what the parchments were. Paul had a few books which were left, perhaps wrapped up in the cloak, and Timothy was to be careful to bring them. Even an apostle must read.

Some of our very ultra Calvinistic brethren think that a minister who reads books and studies his sermon must be a very deplorable specimen of a preacher. A man who comes up into the pulpit, professes to take his text on the spot, and talks any quantity of nonsense, is the idol of many. If he will speak without premeditation, or pretend to do so, and never produce what they call a dish of dead men’s brains – oh! that is the preacher.

How rebuked are they by the apostle! He is inspired, and yet he wants books! He has been preaching at least for thirty years, and yet he wants books! He had seen the Lord, and yet he wants books! He had had a wider experience than most men, and yet he wants books! He had been caught up into the third heaven, and had heard things which it was unlawful for a men to utter, yet he wants books! He had written the major part of the New Testament, and yet he wants books!

The apostle says to Timothy and so he says to every preacher, “Give thyself unto reading.” The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. Brethren, what is true of ministers is true of all our people. You need to read. Renounce as much as you will all light literature, but study as much as possible sound theological works, especially the Puritanic writers, and expositions of the Bible. We are quite persuaded that the very best way for you to be spending your leisure, is to be either reading or praying. You may get much instruction from books which afterwards you may use as a true weapon in your Lord and Master’s service. Paul cries, “Bring the books” – join in the cry.
(the photo is of Spurgeon's library at Westwood, his family home, which contained more than 12,000 volumes)

52 Lies Heard in Church Every Sunday

I first heard about this book in a live radio interview I did a few weeks ago. I was discussing my book, Don't Check Your Brains at the Door, and the host mentioned that the next day's interview would be with Steve McVey, author of 52 Lies Heard in Church Every Sunday.

The title intrigued me, so once the interview concluded, I went online and ordered a copy. I'm glad I did.

True to the title, McVey discusses lies most Christians believe, and many pastors teach. He says he himself once taught these lies from the pulpit. But he patiently and passionately uncovers each one and explains why the teaching of Scripture is so much better than the lie we have flippantly (and sometimes not-so-flippantly) believed. Examples include:
  • “Salvation is giving your life to Christ.”
  • “Our sins are under the blood of Jesus."
  • "God won't put more on you than you can bear."
  • "Your sins can disqualify you from being used by God."
  • and more.
While there were a couple chapters that I could argue with, just one was worth the price of the book, and then some: "Grace and truth need to be kept in balance." I couldn't agree more with his strong teaching in that chapter (I've written about it previously on this blog, here). Here's a taste:
There are those who struggle with the pure, undiluted grace of God, so they take the concept of balance and try to apply it here. They can't very well deny the grace of God--it's too evident in Scripture. But they'll try to tone it down with this argument: "Well, yes," they say. "Grace is a wonderful truth. But you have to keep grace and truth in balance with each other so you don't go to an extreme." Since few people want to be "extreme," that seems to make reasonable sense....This approach is problematic because it draws a line down the middle and puts grace on one side and truth on the other, as if the two are in opposition to each other. It's as if they're saying that grace is not truth and truth is not grace. That's not what the Bible says....If you're going to draw a line, draw it between grace and legalism, not between grace and truth.
There's more, but you really should get the book and read. You won't be sorry.