Great Reads and Good Deals on Kindle

lightstock_78067_small_user_3970569Some great Kindle Deals on these books right now.

Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People by Michael Frost

The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters by Sinclair B. Ferguson

The Gospel of Jesus Christ by Paul Washer

Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines by David Mathis

Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do by Paul David Tripp

New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry by Paul David Tripp

The Imperfect Pastor: Discovering Joy in Our Limitations through a Daily Apprenticeship with Jesus by Zack Eswine

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin

Family Worship: In the Bible, In History, and In Your Home by Donald S. Whitney

On Grace and Free Will by Augustine

Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof

Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional Communities by Jonathan K. Dodson and Brad Watson

Multiply Together: A Guide to Sending and Coaching Missional Communities

by Brad Watson

Sent Together: How the Gospel Sends Leaders to Start Missional Communities by Brad Watson

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Big List of Great Kindle Deals

Here are some great deals on good books I’ve read or authors I like. Enjoy! [prices may change over time, reflect 10/28/14 pricing] stack460

Learning Evangelism from JesusJerram Barrs $0.99

A Meal with Jesus: Discovering Grace, Community, and Mission around the Table Tim Chester $0.99 [GET THIS ONE FOR SURE!]

The Leadership Dynamic: A Biblical Model for Raising Effective LeadersHarry L. Reeder III , Rod Gragg 

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, Timothy S. Lane, Paul David Tripp $2.99

Lectures On CalvinismAbraham Kuyper $0.99

Doxology and Theology: How the Gospel Forms the Worship Leader, Matt Boswell $2.99

Gospel-Centered Teaching: Showing Christ in All the ScriptureTrevin Wax $2.99

Holy Subversion (Foreword by Ed Stetzer): Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, Trevin Wax, Ed Stetzer 

Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with GodJ. I. Packer 

Pleasing God: Discovering the Meaning and Importance of SanctificationR. C. Sproul $1.99

God’s Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His ChildrenR. C. Sproul $1.99

The Promises of God: Discovering the One Who Keeps His WordR. C. Sproul $1.99

The Work of Christ: What the Events of Jesus’ Life Mean for YouR. C. Sproul $2.51

Does God Exist?William Lane Craig 

Too Good to Be TrueMichael S. Horton $2.99

A Place for Weakness: Preparing Yourself for SufferingMichael S. Horton $2.99

Transformational Discipleship: How People Really GrowEric Geiger, Michael Kelley, Philip Nation $2.99

Transformational Groups: Creating a New Scorecard for GroupsEd Stetzer, Eric Geiger 

Called Together: A Guide to Forming Missional CommunitiesJonathan K. Dodson, Brad Watson $2.99

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are SavedJ.D. Greear $2.99

Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity RevolutionaryJ.D. Greear, Timothy Keller 

PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible GraceDaniel MontgomeryTimothy Paul Jones 

Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered ChurchMatt ChandlerEric GeigerJosh Patterson 

The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our JobsSebastian Traeger, Greg D. Gilbert $3.99

Book Deal on Prayer – A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World with Bonus Content: Paul Miller, David Powlison: Amazon.com: Kindle Store

A great book on prayer is on sale for Kindle today at a ridiculously cheap price.  Well worth the $1.99 to get and devour.  Enjoy!

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World with Bonus Content: Paul Miller, David Powlison: Amazon.com: Kindle Store

A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World with Bonus Content: Paul Miller, David Powlison: Amazon.com: Kindle Store.

iPhone Orphans

I confess that I can struggle with this.  I wonder though how this also applies to Pastors and “books”.  I am all for redeeming the time and making the most of every opportunity, but digital devices and/or reading material of any kind, even if it’s sermon prep, can achieve this same catastrophic end.

iPhone Orphans.

Book Review: Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

Well its time for another brief book review.  I recently finished Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft, published under the Re:Lit banner of Crossway books.  Leadership and leadership development is a passion of mine, so when books like this come out, I’m usually on top of reading them.  This one slipped by me though for a few months before I dived into it.

The reason is because this has been one of the busiest season of my life.  In addition to my full-time pastoral role at Christ Church Santa Fe, I continue to serve other pastors as a Research Consultant.  But also two months ago we welcomed our fourth child into the world in Luke.  We are excited, but to any parent the first few months are the hardest (re-adjusting to an infant’s needs, lack of sleep, etc).

In that context, Kraft’s book was a breath of fresh air.  I have to say that in the pages of Kraft’s book I did not read anything new, necessarily.  Kraft is coming from a Navigator background, and myself having come up through Campus Outreach, I recognized many of the principles from other great books (thinking of LeRoy Eims, J. Oswald Sanders, etc).

But there was more. Kraft also weaved in some good principles and examples from the business side of leadership principles.  While I said there was nothing new, what was refreshing was to see someone integrate the biblical principles, theology of resource stewardship, and the practical insights and outworking in a context where leadership and effectiveness is prized highly.

Kraft wrote this with a particular audience in mind – that of the vocational ministry leader.  Every book needs a focus, so he should not be faulted for that.  Everything that he talks about is applicable to anybody.  His definition of a Christian leader I found to be quite heplful and refreshing in making room for leaders of various sizes and shapes: “A Christian leader is a humble, God-dependent, team-playing [that’s huge] servant of God who is called by God to shepherd, develop, equip and empower a specific group of believers to accomplish an agreed-upon [also huge] vision from God.” (24, Kindle edition).

You can tell by my inserted comments what I like most about Kraft.  He both affirms the role of key/Senior/Primary leadership, but also the “with others” context that permeates the Biblical witness as well as the experiences of many business leaders.  Look at Apple computers (my example, not Kraft’s): where would Apple be if Steve Wozniak hadn’t been working with Steve Jobs (or vice versa).  This was the biggest strength, in my opinion, of Kraft’s book.

The other most helpful section of his book were the sections on Formation (chs. 7 & 8 especially) and Fruitfulness (ch. 11).  These chapters alone are worth the cost of the book.  They are filled with great principles and packaged in a way that can be readily assimilated into whatever context you find yourself engaging as a leader.

Chapter 7 is especially helpful in forcing leaders to think through not just what they have learned (past tense) but at what rate are they currently learning (present).  The leadership dynamic that is most challenging – to leaders and their organizations – is resting on the laurels of previous work, accomplishments.  This is seen in the drastic statement that should never be the determiner of a course of action (though it should be informative to any course of action): “In my experience…”.  I am all for cataloguing experiences, learning from them and implementing them into the present for a desired future, but when they alone are what determines what is done, how its done, when its done, and why its done, we as leaders have effectively stopped growing, reflecting, learning and therefore leading.  Kraft’s thoughts in chapter 7 help shatter that paradigm, and for this I am most thankful for his work.

For all of its strengths, I do wish that Kraft had spent a little less time trumpeting thoughout the book his own personal philosophy of how he is seeking to be a purposeful leader.  I’ll explain that.  Normally, I think its a good thing when leaders know, own and share their personal passion.  For Kraft, his passion is to “develop leaders who develop leaders” essentially.  I share that passion with him.  But what can happen when we make statements like this is we tend to warp our definition of leaders to a particular type of leader.  The effect this can have is that other types of leaders are automatically discounted, not because they aren’t leaders, or not even senior level leaders, but because they don’t fit the mold of what pops into our head when we say “a leader who develops leaders.”  This is a systemic problem in a lot of discipleship-heavy ministries (especially college student ministries) that I think this rhetoric tends to merely exacerbate the problem, rather than speaking truth into it.

With that said, though, I can heartily recommend Kraft’s book, and would counsel any pastor or ministry leader to have it, digest it, and work it out, into your life and various ministries.  That one complaint is not indicative of Kraft’s whole work, just a disagreement on frequency of use and wording.  His thoughts, experiences and insights into leadership effectiveness for ministry leaders in the 21st century are extremely valuable and would assist anyone engaged in humbly leading others for the glory of God.

Worth it = Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft

Review: Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian (Crossway, 2011) – Updated 12/16/11

Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tulian Tchividjian

My time for book reviews has been sparse as of late.  That is why taking the time to write something up on Tullian Tchividjian’s new book Jesus + Nothing = Everything should carry a little extra weight if you are considering purchasing this book.

Let me start off by saying that this is the first book by Tullian Tchividjian that I have read.  I cannot be labeled a “fanboy” who is doing this out of some misplaced devotion to another person.  I have read a few articles of his over at The Gospel Coalition that I have found usually helpful.

This book was given to me by Crossway publishers to read and post several Tweets about tomorrow.  I took on the assignment out of my interest in the book, especially its title.  You see earlier this year I had the privilege of leading a group of 12 men through a study in the book of Galatians.  One of our first discussion questions, after having read through Galatians several times, was to each describe the gospel in your own words.  The one that stood out to me and several of the other guys was “Jesus + Something = Nothing, but Jesus + Nothing = Everything.”  Naturally, seeing a title of a upcoming book with that same premise peeked my interest.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything does a great job unpacking the gospel both doctrinally and practically, and it does so without being obtuse or fluffy.  I have found every chapter worth reading, and each is full of sound but intriguing insights into the nature of the gospel and how it affects our lives.

And that for me is its strength.  It takes the truth of what Jesus has done for us in all of its glorious heights, and applies to the deepest and darkest corners of my heart, particularly those that want to stroke my ego and claim that I can somehow attain or maintain my relationship with God by anything I can contribute.  I can’t.  Grace doesn’t work that way.  Instead, it works like Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

Another strength of the book is the full-orbed picture of the gospel. If you tend to follow the theological discussions in the blogosphere (are we still using that word?), you’ll know that over the past few years, discussions on the gospel have taken the line of justification by faith for the individual, or cosmic restoration of all things.  Either/or.  What I love about Jesus + Nothing = Everything is that Tchividjian doesn’t discuss the gospel along those lines.  Instead, he agrees with Paul who writes over and over again that the effect of Christ’s redeeming work covers ta panta – all things.  Thus the “everything” in the title.  And he does so without sacrificing or losing the great and principle doctrine of “justification by faith alone.”  A rare feat to achieve when the context of the conversation is set in false dichotomies.

Tullian Tchividjian’s book Jesus + Nothing = Everything will find a place on my bookshelf, both to revisit personally and to hand out to people in my church, or friends I’m having ongoing conversations with regarding the gospel and the Christian faith.  Its that good, and I commend it to you all for your consideration.

If you are wondering where more of the substance, or quotes, from Tullian Tchividjian’s book is in a review, I would encourage you all to follow me on Twitter (@gensheer) where tomorrow, I will be tweeting select quotes throughout the day and using the hashtag #JPNE.

UPDATE: I have recently come across another review of this book that I would like to include in my own blog.  It is more theologically critical of the book and particularly with the confusion over whether the gospel is more than just “justification by faith”.  I personally do not think Tchividjian’s book has to lead to this critics conclusions, but it is something worth thinking about when reading any book about the gospel.  I found the review helpful in providing a perspective I didn’t include in my own, but also, that I do not think undermines the integrity or value of Tchividjian’s book.

Mark Jones review  of Jesus + Nothing = Everything  (An Analysis) (Link here)

Does God run interference in your life?

Best book on Acts I've read

Best book on Acts I

Having just finished the “Acts” portion of my Acts and Paul class yesterday (part of the reason why my activity has been minimal on here), I thought I would share a significant quote on the christian life and God’s interaction.  This quote comes from The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption by Dennis Johnson.

Let me just say, if you are personally studying through Acts, or planning on teaching, do not do so until you have gotten and read this book (or at least, read it along your study/teaching schedule).  This is a great book, and it really shed some light on the significant thrust of the book of Acts, instead of offering up random insight into mot of the particular events.  Well worth the money and the time to read The Message of Acts.

Here’s the quote:

“However correct their statements in Bible studies or Sunday school classes may be, in practice many Christians really assume that God’s ‘interference’ in people’s lives pretty much came to a halt sometime in the past – perhaps in the apostles’ time, perhaps at the Reformation or some revival of bygone days, but surely before our time.

Would we say this out loud? Never!  But our meager prayer lives, our anxiety, our dependence on novel techniques in evangelism, our hope in technology to solve spiritual problems, our doubt that loving discipline can restore wandering brothers or sisters to repentance and reconciliation – all these testify to our unspoken assumption that God’s real action is in the past and in the future, but not in the present.”

Fellow brothers and sisters, God is continuing to work in our lives.  Believe that, then go live in light of it.

New Books: Church, Gospel, World, Reforming?

Well, yesterday I came home and had several new books waiting for me.  I thank the folks at Crossway who keep on sending me good and interesting reading material.  I want to highlight a couple of these and tell you all to be on the lookout over the next couple of months for some reviews.

The first book to mention is Total Church by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis.  This book had been previously published only in the UK, but thanks to Crossway and the new publishing banner of Re:Lit, it is now available here.  I have only scanned through the book, but the first chapter is promising.  The gospel is word-centered and mission-centered, so our churches need to be based on the word and on mission – love it!  I actually first about this book from a friend of mine over in South Africa (cheers Stephen!)

Book #2 – Wordliness, by multiple authors, but edited by a pastor’s pastor, C.J. Mahaney.  I wasn’t sure what to think of this book when I first started seeing it pop up on the web, but knowing C.J.’s other books (Humility: True Greatness and Living the Gospel-Centered Life) and pastoral heart (if you need some exposure, go check out his blog), I’m confident that this book will be insightful and helpful in discerning where and how the gospel applies to our world in our cultural situation.

Book #3 – Reforming or Conforming edited by Gary W. Johnson and Ronald D. Gleason.  This book appears to be a collection of various scholars critiquing the emerging church movement.  I haven’t dove in at all, but I will be interested to see if they distinguish between emerging and emergent.  Some of the chapters do seem fascinating (like “It’s Wright, but is it Right? An Assessment and Engagement of the “Emerging” Retreading of the Ministry of Jesus.” Caveat: I find myself being hesitant to read books like this.  I have read some thoughts by some of these guys on the internet and find myself not agreeing with their conclusions.  That being said, I do find myself appreciating the concerns they bring up.  Reading this will hopefully bring the fundamental issues to the front with constructive critique and positive assessments instead of just the reactionary tendencies demonizing those who differ.

Book #4 – Death by Love: Letters From the Cross by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears.  This book looks fascinating.  Its written as a series of letters addressing real live situations and people, with the full theological truth of the gospel.  I wasn’t expecting that, and I like it.  I honestly can’t wait to get into reading this one.  It seems to have a lot of potential of to help all pastors and lay leaders alike appreciate the depth of theological reflection, without losing sight of its pastoral implications.  This book also features some helpful answers to FAQ’s concluding each chapter (thank you Dr. Breshears for that!).  This is similar to their previous book, Vintage Jesus.

So, if you haven’t already done so, you should subscribe to my blog (button on the top right) and watch out for these forthcoming reviews.

The Leadership Dynamic – A Review

The Purpose

Harry Reeder, III writes as a seasoned pastor, who has both planted new churches and re-vitalized established churches.  This passion has led to his ministry Embers to a Flame, with annual conferences and ongoing consultation services.  This book, The Leadership Dynamic is birthed out of Reeder’s conviction that the church’s mission is best served and not complete until we reclaim the position of being a leadership manufacturing plant – a place that defines, develops and then deploys leaders out into the world.

For Harry, this is more than abstraction, it is also the answer to the question of what he would do in ministry differently if he were to go do it all over again – develop leaders out of a biblical model and framework, rather than the usual models of business, or more specifically “contemporary capitalism” with an emphasis on pragmatism and consumption of wealth, rather than the creation of it in order to do good (”traditional capitalism”). Harry writes “The church must escape the swamp of greed-driven leadership prevalent in contemporary corporate America and ascend the high ground of gospel-driven leadership described in God’s Word,” (15).

The Highlights

Harry Reeder does a very good job outlining the current state of the church and its leadership crisis.  He likens our situation today to dealing with the “cultural steroids” the church has for years injected into its various leadership programs, paradigms and structures.  He writes:

“In fear of rejection and with an incessant need for popular affirmation [the church today has] injected the church with cultural steroids to make it ‘relevant and acceptable,’ hoping that somehow the result will be that people will then ‘accept’ Jesus and the church will become bigger and stronger and therefore more influential,” (25).

The danger is that just as in athletics, steroids only produce an “immediate embellishment[s] of size and acclaim] (25), while paving the way for eventual disease and death.  Harry is not denying the need for effectively communicating to the culture around us; just the infusion of worldly principles governing the church and the church’s leadership development over those that Scripture teaches.  “Eventually, thoughtless accommodation to the world becomes capitulation to the world – and our witness for the Lord is rendered useless,” (29).  And Harry rails just as hard against the opposite danger of traditionalism as he does this cultural accommodation.

But he writes from a hopeful perspective, that “The Christian church must become a leadership factory and distribution center for the world, and by the grace of God, it can – if we return to both the biblical definition of leadership and the biblical method of producing leaders for the church and the world,” (15).

The rest of the book launches from this point and explains what Reeder calls “3 D Leadership” – what it means to define leadership the way Jesus does, develop them according to Scriptures model, and then deploy them into the world to further the church’s mission – to glorify God and bring His creation into joyful submission to Him.  Each chapter expounds these three main points, with helpful lists of principles, insightful applications and general traps to be aware of and avoid.

The Good

This book is clear and compelling.  It makes a strong case for the kairos (appointed time) moment the church finds itself in, and offers sensible and Scriptural applications for this season.  As well, reading (and listening to) Harry’s thoughts is an engaging, challenging and thought provoking experience.  Plus, he tells great stories.

The Bad

I honestly could not think of anything to critique in this book.  For a contemporary book on leadership and the church, The Leadership Dynamic excels at laying out the current need and Biblical paradigm for addressing that need appropriately.

The Audience

This book is for anyone who feels compelled to lead in any setting as a Christian.Whether you are a Senior Pastor, or CEO; a freshman in college or a community group leader, I suggest you get this book, read, apply and refer to it often.

My Take Away & Recommendation

Read and apply this book both personally and corporately in your immediate leadership context.  It will be worth your time and Christ’s church will be better served for it.

FYI – Be looking for a future post with an interview I was able to conduct with Dr. Reeder coming up here sometime in the next couple of weeks.  [If you haven’t already subscribed to my feed, now would be a good time!]

Balancing Personal and Historical Application of Scripture

Michael Spencer, over at Internet Monk, has recently interviewed David Powlison regarding his contribution to the ESV Study Bible.  [If you are looking for a single, solid resource for your personal library, let me recommend this study bible to you.  It is not only a great translation of the Bible, but this Study Bible contains a wealth of supplemental material to help you understand the historical context of the Scriptures with pertinent, and not overpowering information.  Back to Powlison.]

His focus was on reading the Bible and personal application – a task which can often be divorced from understanding the original setting, context and application of the text to its original audience.

The whole interview is helpful (click here for the whole thing), but this quote I found most interesting:

[MS] Can a verse taken completely out of context still yield a Spirit-revealed application?

[DP] Just read the sermons of Charles Spurgeon! His applications were often wise and biblical because he had such a refined sense for the unified teaching of Scripture and Spirit. But he rarely communicates what any passage means in context, and I think that is a liability as a role model. Readers and preachers less grounded than Spurgeon will have fewer checks on the temptation to make odd applications.

I’d probably pose your question in a slightly different way, saying “yield a wise application” rather than “yield a Spirit-revealed application.” The Spirit is the source of all wisdom, for believers and unbelievers alike. If a secular psychotherapist says to an angry, entitled, manipulative husband, “You are angry, entitled, and manipulative, and you need to learn how to love your wife and not be so self-centered,” I’d rather say that those words are wise, cohere with Scripture, and express a common grace goodness of the Spirit, instead of saying they were Spirit-revealed. That counselor is missing the saving grace of Christ that is Spirit-revealed in the Word, and that ought to find expression in counseling.

Again, check out the ESV Study Bible (website here) or go to Amazon and order one.  It is well worth the investment.