My wife recently posted her 10 most influential books. (She put my books on her list. Danger of nepotism?) So, here is my stab at my most influential. (Not counting my own. Danger of ridicule?) And, I’ve doubled and trebled up to get in some more. And, I’m leaving out some books that ought to get me banned from libraries and sitting rooms as penance.
1. The Bible. I read through the bible every year at least once and have for many years. It is more thrilling to me every year and is the foundation for my faith and my life. It is really 66 books, of course, but I’ll count it as one for this. If you haven’t read it yet, try starting with John and then Acts. Finish the New Testament a couple of times and then read the entire book.
2. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. This is a 7 book set. It is lots of fun to get lost in them. Very easy reading. I love the spiritual connection and the fun. I read them to my children and look forward to reading them to my grandchildren. And, add to this Mere Christianity (Lewis’s best non-fiction, I think) and The Screwtape Letters (tremendous insights into our spiritual battles) by Lewis. A serious Christian thinker not reading Mere Christianity is sort of like a serious student of English novels never reading A Tale of Two Cities–these things ought not to be done.
3. Trilogy of the Civil War by Shelby Foote. These three Continue reading
Posted in books, Christianity, education, history, revival, Uncategorized
Tagged bible, bible study, book, Christian, Christianity, deeper faith, devotional book, discipleship, God, Immersed, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, revival, spiritual awakening, spiritual growth
I have a special love for Isaiah 55. It is a powerful chapter in the bible that speaks to our generation just as it did to the generation that first read its words.
When revival came to my life and church 20 years ago, this is the chapter I preached on for the next several Sunday evenings. A couple of those services last 4 hours and longer. Without complaint. Let the thought of those last two sentences sink in a moment.
God has Continue reading
Posted in Christianity, revival, Uncategorized
Tagged bible, bible study, Christian, Christianity, faith, God, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, revival, scripture, spiritual awakening, spiritual growth
“There is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:10
Just one salvation is all it take to bring joy to heaven.
Some think of people like pennies–there are lots of them and they aren’t worth much individually. God thinks of them like diamonds–each is unique and of tremendous value.
Our focal verse nestles in the middle of three parables told by Jesus The first tells of a lost sheep, the second of a lost coin, and the third of a lost son. Each tells the same message. There is great rejoicing over Continue reading
Posted in books, Christianity, encouragement, evangelism, Uncategorized
Tagged bible, bible study, christian book, Christianity, Evangelism, faith, God, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, spiritual growth, witnessing
Books can have a deep connection with us. I love my connection with books and authors that have been meaningful in my life.
I recently preached in Atlanta in a church that had used my book “Immersed: 40 Days to a Deeper Faith” church-wide. Most of them had read each chapter of the book for 40 straight days, discussed it in their small groups and there was even a sermon series connected to it.
Because of that, we had a special connection- an ‘Immersed connection’. Men and women, teenagers, even some kids Continue reading
Posted in books, Christianity, discipleship, faith, Uncategorized
Tagged bible study, book, Christian, christian book, Christianity, devotional, devotional book, discipleship, faith, God, Jesus, new book, relationship with god, Religion and Spirituality
God made us for relationships. Yet many men- many men- will find meaningful friendships hard to build and sustain. We end up isolated and miss the benefits of close relationships with other men. If that isn’t you, great. But for many men, friendships are like doing a rubiks cube- challenging, intimidating and a little unnatural.
Let me mention three reasons for our difficulty in building lasting friendships.
1. We tend to stay superficial. Continue reading
Posted in Christianity, Church, friendship, Sunday School, Uncategorized
Tagged bible study, Christian, Christianity, discipleship, faith, friendship, God, men, Religion and Spirituality, small groups, Sunday School
There is some bad preaching out there. There are sermons that are theological swamp lands and others too boring for the strongest caffeinated drinks. Some sermons chase rabbits like a hound; others skirt the text like a ballerina. Preacher, please don’t mislead me or confuse me or, heaven forbid, bore me with this great message.
I’ve been preaching most of my life- 25 years off, 28 years on. At the risk of opening myself to clever comments from amateur comedians who hear my sermons, let me tell you what a good sermon ought to do.
1. A good sermon informs. A good sermon tells us the truth. It teach us God’s word. That should go unsaid, but because it too often goes undone, it needs saying. Preacher, tell us what God says, not just what you think. Tell us what we need, not just what we like or want. Teach us the bible. Tell us what God wants us to know. This is an irreplaceable part of good preaching, but it isn’t enough.
2. A good sermon inspires. A good sermon tells us the truth in a way that moves our emotion as well as informs our logic. It touches our spirit as well as our mind. Preacher, use a story once in a while. The bible is full of them. Use some illustrations. They grab our attention and they help us to see the truth in a different way. Preach with some passion and stir us to greater things.
3. A good sermon implements. A good sermon applies the text to our lives. It doesn’t leave us in theory, but connects God’s word to our practical world. Preacher, answer the question “So what?” Tell us why we need to know God is the creator. Tell us why it matters that we understand what grace is. Move us to action. Move us to change. We need to see that God’s word is relevant to our lives.
4. A good sermon invites. A good sermon invites us to trust Christ as Savior and to follow Him as Lord. It invites us on this great journey of faith. It calls us to decision as it confronts us with the truth. There is an invitation to something greater and deeper and more real. Preacher, don’t be satisfied for us to know the truth. Call us with everything you have to follow the Truth with everything we have.
Excuse me now. I’ve got to work on my sermon for this weekend. This needs to be a good one. Hey, even a pig can grub up a diamond every once in a while!
Posted in baptist, bible, Christianity, Church, discipleship, evangelism, preaching, southern baptist convention, Uncategorized
Tagged Baptist, bible, bible study, Christ, Christian, Christianity, church, evangelical, Jesus, preaching, Religion and Spirituality, sermons, worship
I’m finishing a biography of John D. Rockefeller. It is 650 pages long- which is about 450 pages beyond sufficient. I realized that the author- an otherwise excellent writer- doesn’t seem to understand Baptists much. (Rockefeller joined a Baptist church when young and stayed a Baptist all of his life- though in the more theologically liberal branch.) Earlier, I read a biography of Harry Truman. (Truman joined a Baptist church when young- though he didn’t stay very connected or influenced.) The author told me what he had for breakfast on multiple occasions, but hardly spared a word for what Baptists believed. I doubted that he knew.
I thought to myself, “If those fellows don’t know what Baptists believe, I’ll bet some others don’t either.” So, here is a brief synopsis.
A couple of quick disclaimers. Baptist belief in argumentation seems to be overly developed, so note that there are some differences of opinions about some issues. Note that this is my belief about Baptists beliefs (as a Baptist believer) and may not necessarily be matched by everyone using that title. And, these things are believed by many in the broader conservative, Evangelical world. Also, I can’t cover everything here, so I’ll just focus on a couple of basics.
1. Baptists believe that the Bible is God’s word Continue reading
Posted in baptist, Christianity, Church, evangelical, faith, southern baptist convention, Uncategorized
Tagged Baptist, bible, bible study, Christ, Christian, Christianity, faith, God, Jesus, Religion and Spirituality, SBC, southern baptist convention, Sunday School
Our church just started a new sermon series called “Immersed: 40 Days to a Deeper Faith”. We are using the devotional book I wrote by the same title in conjunction with it. The idea is to read a devotional each day for 40 days and the 2 chapters of the bible each day as it suggests. By the end of the 40 days we will have read the books of John, Acts and Proverbs.
Christians often look for a mountaintop experience- and I like mountaintops. But less often do believers buckle down to the harder work of consistent bible study, prayer and reflection. May I put in a good word for consistency?
There is something beneficial in a steady, long walk with God. Wonderful experiences are, well, wonderful. Emotional experiences have some merit. But a consistent walk day by day is not to be overlooked or discounted. In fact, I suggest that some of the greatest gains of discipleship are made in the consistency of a devotional life each day.
Feelings come and go; rise and fall. Emotional responses can be worked up or worked out. But a consistent walk with the Lord will get you somewhere. It will get you closer, deeper and stronger.
And that is a good destination.
Posted in books, Christianity, Church, discipleship, faith, Uncategorized
Tagged bible, bible study, christian book, Christianity, devotional book, discipleship, faith, Immersed