Review of Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation

Reclaiming the Lost Art of Biblical Meditation is a helpful resource that guides readers into allowing the word of God to have its proper place in our lives. Morgan helpfully provides readers a biblical understanding of meditation which is in stark contrast to eastern and  New Age meditation practices that focus on emptying one’s mind. Rather than having an empty head we are to have a head that stores up God’s word to think it through and apply it to our life.

In nine chapters Morgan addresses the importance of biblical meditation and provides practical steps to put this spiritual discipline into practice.  Throughout the book there are quick tips which provide simple ideas that help make biblical meditation something that any reader can easily implement in their day-to-day life. In chapters 2 through 8 Morgan helps readers understand how to think about Scripture as they meditate on it as well as providing techniques that can be used. The final chapter addresses Bible memorization which is really foundational to meditation as one cannot meditate on Scripture that has not be stored in memory.

Given the lack of priority professing Christians place on the Bible Morgan’s book is both timely and valuable. It’s written at a level where most readers will find it accessible and understandable.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

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Review of Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching

In Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching the various contributors have provided an important resource for pastors. Many pastors avoid preaching the Old Testament for the simple fact they don’t know how to preach it.

A large chunk of the Old Testament is narrative, and often when it is preached it is mishandled. Lawrence Turner helps pastors understand the importance of plot in preaching the narrative passages. Paul Kissling likewise focuses in on narrative but with an eye toward preaching on characters. Christopher Wright’s work on preaching the law is particularly helpful in understanding the principles which apply to today. Through each chapter of the book every major genre and the major sections of the Old Testament are addressed with the closing chapters providing guidance in how to deal with difficult texts and how to preach Christ from the Old Testament in such a way that one does not butcher the text.

As a preacher I have to be honest that until I read this book I had not given the Old Testament the attention it deserves in my preaching ministry and had thus robbed my hearers of a balanced diet so to speak. This resource has reminded me of the importance of preaching the Old Testament and has helped me to think through how to actually preach the Old Testament in such a way that is faithful to the text and beneficial to the hearers.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out

Alvin Reid is a go to author for me when it comes to the issue of evangelism since I first read his earlier title Introduction to Evangelism. If we’re honest it seems we’ve made evangelism so complicated and so frightening that most professing Christians would rather have a root canal than attempt to evangelize someone. Reid’s latest title helps remove some of the fear that holds back many from being faithful witnesses to Christ.

What Reid presents in this book is a common sense approach to evangelism that is often missed in the church. Chapter one addresses the need to focus on the simple message of the gospel. Chapter two  provides a good overview of the biblical gospel message. Chapter three focuses on moving to an more natural evangelism where we converse with people rather than lecturing them. Chapter four shows that the power lies in God and how we as individuals are instrumental in evangelism. Chapters five and six addresses prayer and how to engage in gospel conversation. Chapters eight and nine address the importance of developing the relationships we have with those we are seeking to share the gospel with.

I think this book needs to be read by every Southern Baptist pastor. As it is we are a denomination in decline and that decline is owing to an absence of evangelism and discipleship in local churches. Reid helps us to see evangelism as what it was in the New Testament the regular lifestyle of all believers seeking to be salt and light.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of Abandoned Faith

In Abandoned Faith authors Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez explore the influences that have led to an increasing number of millennials distancing themselves from biblical Christianity.  I will admit that I’m not sure that lumping a group of people born in a 30 year window together as a generation is entirely helpful. As one who would fall into the age range of millennials  I think it is important to point out that as technology has rapidly progressed those born in the 80’s grew up in very different world that those born in the late 90’s or even in 2000.

Th first part of this book addresses some of the main causes behind the shift away from Christianity. Some of the causes addressed are the lack of parental involvement in shaping children’s faith in the home, increasing exposure to immoral influences such as pornography, and delayed maturity. The second section addresses challenges and forces influencing millennials. Sections three and four provide practical steps for parents to reach out to millennial children and instill a foundation of biblical faithfulness.

I think the authors provide some valuable insights but as with any book addressing such a wide range of individuals whether what is said will depend on the person in question. One thing is certain is that Christian parents and church leaders cannot continue to ignore the fact that many are growing up and failing to develop a biblical understanding of Christianity.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Review of Pray about Everything

Pray about Everything is a classic under a new title. This work was previously published by Day One under the title Teach them to Pray.  This is one of the best resources to guide pastors in placing an emphasis upon prayer in the life of the church.

Chapters one and two address the importance of constant regular prayer for regular everyday believers. Chapters 3 through 9 provide reflections on important passages involving prayer. The appendices which is worth the price of the book provide valuable resources to help pastors cultivate prayer in every aspect of the church’s life from the pulpit to small group gatherings.

I would recommend this book to every pastor I know. If we’re honest with ourselves one thing that most churches struggle with is placing a proper emphasis on prayer. As it is many churches have a prayer meeting where prayer, real prayer rarely happens. I firmly believe that the church will never rise above the prayer life of its members and if this is true it would explain much of the decline facing many churches as we seem to have lost focus on our dependence upon God. I hope that other pastors will read this book and be inspired to place a renewed emphasis on prayer in their churches.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review

Review of How to Break Growth Barriers

How to Break Growth Barriers by Carl George and Warren Bird is a book about equipping church members to carry out ministry. Equipping and releasing church members is the key to church growth according to the authors.

This book has been a helpful reminder of many things I learned in Intro to Evangelism and Church Growth. Like that class the authors argue for what could be called a shepherd-equiper model of ministry. This is crucial because if the members are not equipped to do the work of ministry the size of the church and the impact it has will be contingent upon the number of people the pastor is able to personally minister to.

I believe many churches would push back against the recommendations made in this book as many have a mentality that they hire staff to do ministry rather than seeing a need for all members to be involved in ministry. I would recommend this book as I think it provides valuable insight in how to think about the important connection between facilitating ministry on the part of church members and church growth itself.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing it. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review

Lloyd-Jones and Pastoring Through Preaching

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Martyn Lloyd-Jones points to the example of peaching in dealing with the personal problems church members face. In pointing to the Puritans as an example of this the Doctor says:

The Puritans are justly famous for their pastoral preaching. They would take up what they called ‘cases of conscience’ and deal with them in their sermons; and as they dealt with the problems they were solving the personal problems of those who were listening to them. That has constantly been my experience. The preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit, applied by the Holy Spirit to the individuals who are listening, has been the means of dealing with personal problems of which I as the preacher knew nothing…1

The Doctor shows us that in this way member care is being done. That the Holy Spirit can and does apply the truth in general to the particular individual through preaching. It is through expositional preaching of the word of God that the church is faithful to the Great Commission command to teach disciples to obey all that Christ has commanded. For all of the commands of Christ are to be found in Scripture.

1Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 37.

Lloyd-Jones and the Primary Purpose of Preaching

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Lloyd-Jones in Preaching and Preachers provides a good view of the primary task of preaching in the following:

What is the chief end of preaching? . . . To give men and women a sense of God and His presence. . . . I can forgive a man for a bad sermon, I can forgive the preacher almost anything if he gives me a sense of God, if he gives me something for my soul, if he gives me the sense that, though he is inadequate himself, he is handling something which is very great and very glorious, if he gives me some dim glimpse of the majesty and the glory of God, the love of Christ my Saviour, and the magnificence of the Gospel. If he does that I am his debtor, and I am profoundly grateful to him. Preaching is the most amazing, and the most thrilling activity that one can ever be engaged in, because of all that it holds out for all of us in the present, and because of the glorious endless possibilities in an eternal future.1

This experience of God which comes through preaching comes through the exultation and exposition of the word of God. As opposed to a lecture or a running commentary, true preaching seeks to engage the hearts of the audience with the inspired word of God. The question that must be asked is why preaching must be expositional? The answer to this question lies in the authority of the Word of God as the self revelation of God. Lloyd-Jones in addressing how to form a sermon stated:“So you must be expository; and in any case my whole argument is that it should be clear to people that what we are saying is something that comes out of the Bible. We are presenting the Bible and its message.”2 It was this complete commitment to the centrality of the Bible that was the foundation of his ministry as seen earlier. For Lloyd-Jones every action and word was to point to the importance of the Bible as God’s revelation.

1D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching & Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1971), 97-98.

2Ibid., 75.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones and the Priority of Prayer in Preaching

 

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In Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s thought and practice there was no more important part of preaching and preparation then that of prayer. In addressing the students at Westminster seminary he pointed out the vitality of prayer to the work of the preacher. He says the following regarding the importance of prayer, “From every standpoint the minister, the preacher, must be a man of prayer. This is constantly emphasized in the Pastoral Epistles and elsewhere, and , as I say, it is confirmed abundantly in the long history of the Church, and especially in the lives of the outstanding preachers.”1 Prayer in the thought of Lloyd-Jones was so important because of its connection to the unction given by the Holy Spirit in preaching. It is this knowledge and dependence upon the unction and power of the Holy Spirit that comes in preaching through prayer which shaped his preaching.

1D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching & Preachers (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1971),171.