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RATING:

“Thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God,” writes John Piper in his book Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.  “Now, wait a minute,” you might say, “thinking?  Couldn’t we slip just about any number of words as being ‘indispensible on the path to passion for God’?  Why does thinking get precedence?”  Should this be your concern, I would reply back, “Good question!”

The reason thinking is so paramount “on the path to passion for God” is because thinking is fundamental to obeying the Great Commandment: to love God and love people.  Piper clarifies this idea, which he repeats throughout the book, beautifully: “loving God with the mind means that our thinking is wholly engaged to do all it can to awaken and express the heartfelt fullness of treasuring God above all things” (19).  Thus, thinking is not an end in itself, but a means to stir holistic affections for Jesus.

Think not only caused me to think; it gave me room to feel okay about thinking.  Piper clarified so much in my mind about how to view thinking and approach it.  Too many Christians are trapped in a life of “either-or,” as Piper calls it.  They think that either they should spend time in devout prayer or spend time reading and studying.  But this is a false dichotomy.  It should be both-and.  Paul puts this plainly, “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

Altogether, there is little I disliked about this book.  Chapter 13 on scholarship has a misleading title, as it applies to non-scholars as well.  Piper hits a home run in Think.  His six-page conclusion is alone worth the price of the book.  I will undoubtedly come back and back again to this book.

RECOMMENDATION:

Intellectual or anti-intellectual, reader or non-reader, thinker or feeler, this book will encourage, challenge, and awaken faith and love towards God and others.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway by request in order to review its material. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

RATING:

Two of the nations respected missiologists have teamed together combining pastoral insight with missional fervency in their book Spiritual Warfare and Missions: The Battle for God’s Glory Among the Nations.   Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research and current church planter in Hendersonville, TN, and Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board (IMB) and missionary to Asia for twenty-three years unashamedly heed the church to not lose sight of reaching the nations for God’s glory, while keeping an eye open to how Satan operates.  “Christians,” they note, “have been given the full responsibility for the proclamation of the forgiveness of sin for everybody in the world” (219).  But too often, our churches operate like resorts.  We don’t see the seriousness of the task and the significance of God’s mission to reach all.  Rather than resorts, our churches must be like airports.  We cannot afford to play it safe.  “To play it safe,” they write, “is the most risky decision we could make.  To risk is the safest decision we can make with God.  No matter the short-term implications, we must obey God with reckless abandon” (245).

Spiritual Warfare and Missions was such a blessing to read.  Chapter 6 on persecution will be ingrained in my mind forever.  The stories of those suffering globally for the advancement of the Gospel is both encouraging and challenging.  Each chapter of the book concludes with “Going Deeper” questions.  Contrary to most post-chapter questions I’ve seen, these were thorough and thought-provoking.  I starred a number of them to look at more in-depth.  While several of the chapters were startling, as I found myself underling ferociously, others were repetitive.  Several of the chapters had word-for-word points repeated.  I guess that’s the tricky part of dual authorship.

Overall, this book has made me much more aware of the world around me.  You cannot read Spiritual Warfare and Missions and remain apathetic about God’s glory and His desire to reach the unreached.  Stetzer and Rankin’s heart to see the church own mission was powerful, compelling, and unmistakable (see pp. 300-305).

RECOMMENDATION:

You won’t be able to read this book and remain apathetic about reaching all peoples with the Gospel.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LifeWay by request in order to review its material. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

RATING:

What do Tim Keller, Ed Stetzer, Albert Mohler, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Larry Osborne, Dave Ferguson, and Mark Batterson have in common?  They (and many others!) wrote reviews for Darrin Patrick, Vice President of the Acts 29 Church Planting Network, in his first book, Church Planter: The Man, The Message, and The MissionWhether or not I thought church planting would be in my future (which I do), the book had to be read on the basis of the wealth of reviews from respected voices!

While Church Planter is not an exhaustive resource, it serves as a fantastic guide for future and current church planters as well as those in pastoral ministry.  The book, at 238 pages strong, is a systematic introduction of sorts to church planting methodology, and more than that, the man behind the methods.  With regards to the church planting man, Patrick covers an array of topics such as what kind of man it takes to plant a church, how one should understand the call to ministry, what the primary responsibilities for a church planter are, the place and priority for giftings, and more.

Patrick’s heart for the Gospel must not be under-celebrated.  It’s so exciting to see a man speak of Jesus with joy, gratitude, reverence, and relevance without softening the message or bowing to polemics.  Patrick’s intentions are clear, “Salvation is the first and most important qualification for Christian ministry.  Without it, nothing else is possible…” (26).

I thoroughly enjoyed Patrick’s book for a number of reasons.  The strong emphasis on the man behind church planting (over 40% of the book) was refreshing, challenging, and eye-opening.  Furthermore, I loved Darrin’s approach and voice.  Darrin is a no-nonsense guy.  He’s been and is still clearly in the trenches of daily ministry.  I don’t know if I could stand to read another church planting book by a guy who hides away in the recesses of his office.  Where others would put forward theoretical CPM (church planting movement) strategies that may work, Patrick speaks openly, yet confidently about what has worked well and what really matters most.

Content-wise, I wish the value of empowering lay people was mentioned.  The book gave appropriate emphasis for the pastorate, and some for delegating as a “relief” strategy, but little vision for empowering people as a massive part of ministry.  These days, one of the larger problems church planters face is the issue of becoming the “Pastor Rock Star” (see Stetzer’s article).  The pulpit is not the place for an exegetical dunking show, as Steven Furtick says.  Now, I know the book could not be exhaustive, but I do wish something could’ve been mentioned about the nature of empowering people.  Also, while I enjoyed the story behind Mission: St. Louis, the entire chapter (Chapter 16) was inconsistent with the content of the rest of the book.  Lastly, the nearly three page discourse on Patrick’s vasectomy was also a bit unnecessary and distracting.

Overall, get it if you think you’ll be in church leadership one day.  Patrick has much you can glean from.

RECOMMENDATION:

If you’ve thought you might plant a church one day, this book will serve you well.  It’s not the be-all end-all church planting book, but it’s undoubtedly a great resource!

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RATING:

Bill Hybels has waited thirty-five years to write this book.  Controversy and confusion surrounding the subject has caused Hybels to pause and contemplate how to best communicate how God’s “whispers” have transformed his life.  “I’ve come to believe that hearing the quiet whisper of the transcendent God is one of the most extraordinary privileges in all of life,” writes Hybles, “and potentially the most transforming dynamic in the Christian faith.”

The Power of a Whisper is no light journey.  It’s an invitation into another way of living.  It’s an invitation to repair our broken antennas – to readjust the ears of our heart to hear the whispers of our living God and to respond accordingly.

The truth of the matter is that God speaks.  He has spoken and is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.”  He’s still speaking to those who’ve put their faith in Jesus.  As John 10:3 says, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

Hybels’ work captures the essence of this truth, primarily through story.  Now, Hybels does not move farther than one chapter before he lays a Scriptural underpinning for hearing God’s voice.  He also qualifies what hearing God’s “whisper” even means – namely that it’s not the image that many get of some strong, manly, audible voice descending from the heavens; rather it can be as simple as a verse that comes to mind, a phrase, or a thought.  Nevertheless, Hybels chooses to communicate the bulk of the book through stories and experiences of hearing God whisper and responding accordingly.

The Power of a Whisper included a number of things to celebrate.  I personally enjoyed Chapter 2 which narrates the history of “Our Communicating God” through Scripture.  Chapter 3 is chock-full of personal stories of hearing God’s voice which serve to spark a desire to listen to God throughout one’s own life.  I thoroughly enjoyed Bill’s transparency in all of his stories.  Hearing God is a learning experience and a muscle to be built – Bill doesn’t pretend to be perfect by any stretch!  I found myself laughing at moments, especially the stories that were all-too-familiar for me, while conviction crept upon me as I read about Bill’s own “gutsiness” to obey.  Bill’s guidelines included in the appendix for discerning if a word is from God or not were much appreciated.

While the book carries several strong stories and challenging words, a few parts were troubling to me.  Chapter 7 on the “Promptings for Parenthood” seemed altogether out-of-place.  The chapter tracked through some of Bill’s stories with growing to trust God in raising his kids.  This would serve well as a separate pamphlet, but detered from the power of Bill’s point all throughout the book.  Another piece of the book that was hard to swallow was its length.  The book could be summed up in a paragraph, but manages to be 260 pages because of the quantity of stories Hybels includes from his church and his personal life.  Page 253 sums the entire book up nicely,

This is what it looks like to live a life fully surrendered to God.  It’s rarely a walk in the park.  Obeying the Spirit instead of your own self-centered whims will lead you to places you’ve never been, challenge you in ways you have never been challenged and invite levels of scrifice you never dreamed you could make.  This is the power and the promise of full-throttle faith, of living a life fueled solely by God.

Nevertheless, a number of Hybels’ stories pack a punch.  I found myself repeatedly encouraged to live a life of full-obedience – to turn my ear and attention to our Living God who’s speaking even now.

RECOMMENDATION:

Get this book if you’ve struggled with understanding what it means to hear God.  Hybels demystifies it and gives you enough stories to encourage you to hear God for yourself and respond acordingly.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Zondervan by request in order to review its material. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.