Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Book Reviews

Discipling: How to Help Others Follow Jesus by Mark Dever. Crossway. 128 pages. 2017 

In this short book, pastor and author Mark Dever defines discipling as helping others to follow Jesus. ‏‏  Discipling is deliberately doing spiritual good to someone so that he or she will be more like Christ. He writes that before we can disciple others, we must become disciples. A disciple is a follower. And to be a disciple of Jesus means to follow Jesus. The goal of the book is to help the reader understand biblical discipling and to encourage you in your obedience to Christ.
The author writes that disciples disciple. Discipling of others is motivated by love and obedience. Discipling is a relationship in which we seek to do spiritual good for someone by initiating, teaching, correcting, modeling, loving, humbling ourselves, counseling, and influencing.
Biblical discipling largely occurs in and through the local church.  The author states that the New Testament ultimately charges the local church with responsibility for ensuring that members live up to their professions of faith and covenants with each other. He goes on to state that churches don’t need programs so much as they need cultures of discipling, cultures where each member prioritizes the spiritual health of others.
Discipling includes evangelism and conversion, and at its core, discipling is teaching. It is inviting someone to imitate you, making your trust in Christ an example to be followed.
He addresses helpful questions about how and who to disciple. He states that we should disciple Christians in the same church and of the same gender. Age should be a consideration, with an older saint usually discipling a younger one.  He states that the “how” of discipling is not that complicated. It’s about doing life together with other people as you all journey toward Christ.
I didn’t find that the last chapter (how the author finds, encourages and raises up leaders in his church), and the Conclusion by Jonathan Leeman (how the author exercises and gives away authority in his church) flowed as smoothly as the rest of the book. They almost felt tacked on.
A helpful Appendix includes books to use in discipling relationships. ‏

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ The Cost by Steven Lawson and Philippians For You by Steven Lawson
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB   ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman

The Cost by Steven Lawson. Christian Focus. 128 pages. 2017

The author, a respected preacher, tells us that to follow Jesus is the greatest adventure in all of life. There is no journey that can compare to this one. On this journey you will find the real purpose for which you were created.
This short book, which reads like it may have originally been a sermon or sermon series, focuses on one encounter Jesus had with a large and diverse crowd that was walking with him. The author analyzes and applies Luke 14:26 – 35.
He tells us about the different people that were in the crowd. Most in the crowd were only curious, uncommitted and unconverted. But Jesus stopped and spoke to them. What he said was shocking and provocative. It was a hard saying. He called for a full-scale commitment to him.
His words were spoken on his final journey to Jerusalem, toward the end of his earthly ministry. He didn’t sugar-coat his message. His words were direct and demanding. They were intended to awaken the spiritually dead among them. The author tells us that what Jesus said to them, he says to us today. No matter where we are in life these words from Jesus are for us as well.
The journey begins when we commit our lives to him, when we become one of Jesus’ disciples. To begin the journey will cost us nothing. We enter into this relationship by faith. We cannot earn this through our works. But there is a high cost to actually live as one of Jesus’ disciples. It takes commitment. To follow Jesus, you must do a complete turnaround. Your whole life will belong to Jesus.
Following Jesus gives us the greatest of blessings, the forgiveness of our sins. We are then clothed with his perfect righteousness. We have true contentment, happiness, peace and joy.
But following Jesus is a journey that comes at a high cost. This journey will take priority over every pursuit in life. It will cost us old habits and perhaps some associations. It will cost us our time and treasure. It will result in suffering, opposition and perhaps even our very lives. We will need to believe, repent and turn to Jesus alone. In the end however, we will gain much more than it costs, as the journey leads to Heaven.
Like all of the author’s books, this book is soaked in scripture. This would be an excellent book to read and discuss with someone who is not yet on the journey.

Philippians For You by Steven Lawson. The Good Book Company. 243 pages. 2017

God’s Word For You is a series of expository guides from The Good Book Company which walk you through books of the Bible verse-by-verse. I have previously read and benefitted from Tim Keller’s books in this series. This summer, my wife and I decided to utilize Steven Lawson’s volume on Philippians for our study.
This volume uses the New American Standard Bible (NASB) translation. The author is a passionate and respected expositor of God’s Word and a Ligonier Teaching Fellow that I have heard preach many times.
Each volume of the God’s Word’s For You series takes you to the heart of the Bible and applies its truths to your heart. The books are Bible centered, Christ glorifying, relevantly applied and easily readable. The books can be used for reading, for feeding and for leading.  You can read them simply as a book or use them to feed on God’s word as a daily devotional, complete with reflection questions. You can also use them as you prepare to lead small-group Bible studies or teach in your church. The books are not commentaries. Verse references are marked in bold so that you can refer to them easily. Each chapter is divided into two shorter sections, with questions for reflection at the end of each.  The books can be read individually or as part of a book club with others, such as my wife and I are doing. The books do not require that the reader has a high degree of biblical knowledge.
The author tells us that he used Philippians as the last series for the church where he had served as pastor. He gives us seven reasons why he did so, and why the book is important to our spiritual lives.  He writes that Philippians is:

  • An intensely personal book
  • A joy producing book
  • A gospel-focused book
  • A doctrinally-rich book
  • A prayer-inclining book
  • A holiness-growing book
  • An eternity-gazing book

The author tells us that as you study the book of Philippians, you should expect to experience a greater realization of the fullness of God in Jesus Christ for your lives. He writes that the we should expect to grow in a desire for holiness as we walk through the letter.
Philippians for You is an excellent resource for studying this wonderful book, combining the God’s Word For You series format and a respected teacher. Highly recommended.

BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman. Thomas Nelson, 272 pages. 2018

This summer we are going to be reading through an important and timely new book from Jonathan Leeman, “How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age”. Leeman is the editorial director at 9Marks, a ministry that helps church leaders build healthy churches.

This week we look at Chapter 1: A Nation Raging, a Church Unchanging:

  • What has been difficult for me over the last decade or two, however, has been to watch a growing divide between America and my Christianity. I might even say the relationship is becoming downright contentious.
  • Pew Research shows that Democrats are more left-leaning and Republicans more right-leaning than they were two decades ago. And both increasingly see each other as an existential threat to the nation.
  • One thing is certainly true: America is in the middle of an identity crisis.
  • The elections especially divided Christians by ethnicity. Whites leaned hard toward Trump, nonwhites marginally toward Clinton. After the election, African American friends of mine wanted to be “done” with evangelicalism.
  • Little by little Christians have felt pushed to the outskirts of whatever America is becoming.
  • It’s my sense that one of Satan’s greatest victories in contemporary America has been to divide majority and minority Christians along partisan lines.
  • This is one of the first goals of this book: to rethink faith and politics from a biblical perspective.
  • What might a biblically driven vision of politics look like? What are the biblical principles that we must hold with a firm grip? What are the matters of wisdom and judgment to hold with a loose grip? And what should we discard altogether?
  • We should strive to stop from time to time and say, “Wait a second. Is this biblical?” and be willing to throw anything and everything off the boat if necessary. And we should do this even with the things that our nation, our tribe, and our people regard as most precious.
  • I am concerned that sometimes we let principles of Americanism determine the way we read Scripture, rather than letting Scripture determine how we evaluate principles of Americanism.
  • The second goal of the book is to encourage us all to invest our political hopes first and foremost in our local churches.
  • This brings us to the third goal of this book. If our political hopes should rest first in our churches, we must learn to be before we do.
  • First be, then do. Don’t tell me you’re interested in politics if you are not pursuing a just, righteous, peace-producing life with everyone in your immediate circles.
  • As the church moves outward and into the public square, we must be prepared for battle. That’s the fourth goal of this book.
  • The division and contention of our present cultural moment is just one more illustration of the nations’ rage against the Lord.
  • I want to help us be less American so that we might be more patriotic. To put it another way, I want to help you and me identify with Christ more so that we might love our fellow citizens more, no matter the name of our nation.
  • The primary goal of this book is not to help Christians make an impact in the public square. It is not to help the world be something. It is to help Christians and churches be something.
  • A Christian’s political posture, in a word, must never be withdraw. Nor should it be dominate. It must always be represent, and we must do this when the world loves us and when it despises us.

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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