THE PEACEMAKING CHURCH

An Update on a Book Long in Coming

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I submitted to Baker Publishing Group a proposal for writing a book way back at the end of 2014.

Much to my delight they accepted and fixed a date for submission.

Then the wheels came off with Nancy’s cancer fight and my jaw surgeries.

My editor graciously granted one delay after another.

In September of last year, I finally turned in a draft manuscript.

After Baker ran me through the editorial meat grinder (thankfully), I labored over a revision. It passed muster with the publisher in December 2017.

Today I learned from the marketing department that Baker posted a page on their website about the book with links to Amazon and other vendors. You can access it here.

I love the cover they designed. Ken Sande of RW360 wrote me a more-favorable-than-I-dared-imagine foreword. Thank you, brother!

The subtitle differs from my suggested version: The Best Fight Is the One Your Church Never Has. But what do I know? When you’re a rookie, you gladly defer to the pros.

The process begins now for seeking endorsements. That’s a big deal, since I’m a small potatoes pastor in Florida. But God knows how He may use the effort.

Baker tells me they plan to publish this November. Watch for further updates, if you are at all interested. I’ll keep you posted.

I am so grateful for God’s grace to get this done. Thanks to so many who have cheered me along the road to publication.

First Quarter 2014 Featured Resource

Holland Michigan Tulip Festival - Windmill and Tulip Flowers

Books change lives. I believe that with all my heart. Over forty-one years of walking with Jesus now, I have experienced over and over again the power of God unleashed in my life through an extra-biblical resource devoured at just the right time.

That’s why we have a resource center at OGC. And it’s why we feature various works from time to time in order to commend them to folks. For the first quarter of 2014 I have decided to draw attention to Richard Phillips’ excellent volume called “What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace.” For my previous review of this primer on the doctrines of grace click here.

Doctrines of Grace

Why beat the drum for a book for a second time? Couple of reasons. First, new folks to OGC will profit immensely from reading these pages, especially if the grid of reformed theology is something of a new concept. You won’t find an exhaustive treatment of TULIP within, but you will get a first-rate introduction to glorious truth.

Second, the volume will accompany quite nicely one of our new Equipping Hour (9:30-10:30 AM) classes starting this Sunday, January 5. Deacon Matt West will teach an introduction to reformed theology (meets in W1). If you have yet to take this core class in our three-year discipleship scope and sequence, I urge you to do so this time around. Of course you won’t go wrong with either of the other two offerings, namely biblical finance (F4) and New Testament (G0spels, Acts, & Hebrews – W5), but for a church with our confession of faith, everyone needs to take the reformed theology intro at least once.

I am happy to say that we have nearly a dozen or so copies in the resource center for the low price (our cost) of $7.00. Pick up a copy this Sunday!

Christmas Uncut

CU Cover.inddWhile surfing the web recently in search of Advent resources to use for our church, I stumbled across a little book with a provocative title. Christmas Uncut: What Really Happened and Why it Really Matters, by Carl Laferton (The Good Book Company, 2012, 64 pages), offers an unusual take on the Christmas story that engages, informs, and convicts on several levels.

Laferton cleverly and humorously launches the book and each chapter from a playful reminiscing of church-goers’ nativity pageant experiences to take the reader into an study of the gospels and a look at the real Christmas story, uncut as it were. His aim is to rescue the heart of the season’s message from what it has become. He explains:

When children act out the nativity, it doesn’t have much in common with the historical Christmas. Over time, we’ve cut huge, crucial bits out. We’ve added nice but completely made-up details. We’ve made it into a tale for children, and forgotten the real events. (Did you know that there were no kings or donkey?!)

We’ve turned Christmas history into a nativity play.

I don’t want to be a spoilsport. Nativity plays are part of the whole Christmas experience, along with desperate last-minute shopping and sending cards to people who you didn’t make the effort to see last year, and won’t make the effort to see next year. . . . It’s just that the real Christmas is much more interesting than what we’ve turned it into. It’s worth rescuing and re-telling. . . . What there was at the first Christmas was scandal. Controversy. Massacres. Mystery (p. 6).

In the brief chapters that follow, the author seeks to accomplish three things. First, correct misconceptions. By taking the reader through the biblical texts, he tells the real uncut story and sets the record straight. Second, make application. He skillfully spans the horizons between the first century and the 21st showing how the uncut details of the Christmas story can and should make a difference in our daily lives. Third, answer objections. Realizing that his book may well fall into the hands of skeptics and hoping, I suspect, that believers will put copies there, Laferton offers some “Yes, but” chapters at the end addressing answers to questions as to the authenticity of the gospels, the identity of Jesus, and the historicity of the resurrection.

I can see this resource serving multiple purposes in the Advent season. First, if you feel the need for a fresh look at the story of Christ’s incarnation to jump start your joy in God this Advent season, I believe this will help. Camp out in these pages throughout December, maybe a chapter every couple of days, and ask the Lord to revive your enthusiasm in Him as you read its pages.

Second, if you are the head of your household and want a tool you can use for family worship for you and your children, I think you will find this just the ticket. Kids will resonate with the artwork as well as the nativity play humor. Additionally, Lafteron writes in a straight forward, easy-to-understand style, that will communicate with just about everybody.

Third, if you have been building a relationship with someone who doesn’t know Jesus, you could give them this as a Christmas gift. Ask them to read it and discuss it with you. This may be Lafteron’s biggest contribution in writing Christmas Uncut. While the apologetic details of the final chapter only provide a minimum of ammunition for answering the skeptic’s questions, it will give you a starting place.

I read this little book in one sitting and found my heart all the more grateful for the tidings of great joy that lie at the heart of the Christmas story uncut. I trust you will too.

January Resource of the Month

Don’t think of it as rushing things. Yes, I know we still have a few days left in December. And we still do have a copy of December’s resource of the month left in our resource center for anyone still needing to snag John Piper’s Momentary Marriage for a measly $5. Think of this post as a way to get a jump on the New Year with another great read.

January’s resource costs twice as much at $10 per copy, but I assure you it is worth the cost. I selected How to Read to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart (Zondervan, third edition, 2003, 275 pages) for a time-sensitive reason. Beginning January 7 during the 9:30 AM Equipping Hour at OGC, we will commence three new classes in our discipleship scope and sequence. For more information on all three check your insert in tomorrow’s worship bulletin. Also, look for future blog posts on this site by all the instructors.

As we heard last week however, during the announcements, Ted Herrbach will teach the class called How to Study the Bible. Let me suggest that this handbook by Fee and Stuart would make an excellent companion text for Ted’s class for anyone intending to take it. Billed as “a practical approach to Bible study in an easy-to-understand style” the authors build most of the book (chapters 3-13) around the different genres of the Bible (Epistles, Old Testament narratives, Acts, the Gospels, Parables, Law, Prophets, Psalms, Wisdom, and Revelation). They explain why this particular approach in the introduction:

What we do hope to achieve is to heighten the reader’s sensitivity to specific problems inherent in each genre, to help the reader know why different options exist and how to make commonsense judgments, and especially to enable the reader to discern between good and not-so-good interpretations–and to know what makes them one or the other (p. 21).

They open with an informative chapter on choosing a good translation. While I would differ with their recommendation to favor the TNIV, they do make several good arguments for why consulting multiple translations makes sense for solid Bible study determined to get at the commonsense meanings of a text. Why they have so little to say about the ESV, given its widespread popularity in evangelical circles these days, puzzles me, but that does little to detract from the helpfulness of this resource. They close with an appendix on the evaluation and use of commentaries that includes suggested volumes for various books of the Bible.

Starting tomorrow we will have over twenty copies of this book for purchase in our resource center for $10 each. Why not get a head start on this important subject by picking up a copy to read over the New Year’s holiday, especially if you intend to take Ted’s class? If you want to avoid bad interpretation of the Bible and recognize that not bothering to learn interpretation skills is not the answer but rather doing good interpretation based on commonsense guidelines is a nonnegotiable, then this book is for you.

December Resource of the Month

Looking for a special gift with a spiritual thrust for someone this Christmas? Why not consider this new devotional from New Growth Press, Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives (2012, 412 pages)? This offering of daily devotional readings with suggested Scripture passages comes from the good folks at CCEF, a favorite around our ministry for promoting biblical counseling from a Christ-centered, gospel-shaped perspective.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Change that goes deeper than the surface of our lives happens over the long haul as we daily remember and connect the truths of the gospel to our lives. Every day we need to be reminded – in different ways – that Jesus, God’s own Son, came to this world to save us from sin, sorrow, and death. The promises of God, which are all “yes” in Jesus, change the way we view ourselves, our circumstances, and other people.

This devotional gives a daily reminder of these life-changing truths. Anchored in Scripture and saturated with the gospel, the 366 selections include the following topics: love, hope, grace, redemption, faith, contentment, conflict, relationships, prayer, fear, patience, humility, and anger. These reflections will help the reader to:

  • Learn how God in his Word addresses a host of life situations;
  • Focus on how the gospel intersects with life;
  • Look beyond circumstances to God’s purposes;
  • See how God values relationship and to learn to value it too by persisting, by speaking truth in love, and by not shying away from conflict.
  • Grow in wisdom when confronted by life’s changes.
  • Learn that God works change that is effective and visible.

This hardback gem retails for $19.99. We managed to secure a dozen of them for only $8. Pick up a copy this Sunday in the resource center!

November Resource of the Month

The good folks at Desiring God have done it again.

True to their mission to promote the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples by providing excellent resources at rock bottom prices they recently made available case lot quantities of John Piper’s first rate book on Christian marriage for a ridiculously low price. I purchased a case and determined to make This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence, (Crossway, 2009, 191 pages) our November resource of the month.

Piper explains his purpose in writing this way:

The aim of this book is to enlarge your vision of what marriage is. As Bonhoeffer says, it is more than your love for each other. Vastly more. Its meaning is infinitely great. I say that with care. The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ an his people (p. 15).

In the first third of the book, the author painstakingly unpacks that overarching theme showing how marriage between a husband and a wife ultimately points to the mystery that is Christ’s union with His church (Eph. 5:32). He shows how the gospel informs and shapes Christian marriage in chapters like Staying Married is Not Mainly About Staying in Love and God’s Showcase of Covenant-Keeping Grace and Forgiving and Forbearing and Pursuing Conformity to Christ in the Covenant.

In the second third of the book, Piper gives special attention to the responsibility of the husband to to practice what he calls lionhearted and lamblike headship and the responsibility of the wife to practice what he refers to as fearless submission. Rarely have I read a more balanced treatment of these challenging subjects.

The final third includes a brilliant twist one would rarely expect in a book on Christian marriage – two chapters on singleness! Single in Christ: A Name better Than Sons and Daughters, chapter 9, is a must read for anyone struggling with pangs of loneliness and feelings of being second class in the body of Christ for the absence of a spouse. Singleness, Marriage, and the Christian Virtue of Hospitality, chapter 10, lays down some challenges for both kinds of stewardship in the body of Christ. Singles, don’t think for a minute that you cannot profit from a book like this on marriage! These two chapters offer rich comfort and stirring conviction for your soul, if you will have them.

Along with the challenging subject of singleness, Piper also tackles sexual intimacy, childbearing, and divorce and remarriage. As always in all these things, he anchors his views in Scripture as he understands the Bible in each of these areas and writes with a pastoral heart for the peaks and valleys experienced by all in traversing the relational aspects of what it means to be male and female together.

Multiple copies of this book are now available in our resource center for only $5 each. For a free PDF download of the same book from Desiring God click here.

Here is my challenge, particularly to our married households in OGC. Christmas is coming. Let us determine that we will give ourselves and our church stronger marriages this Christmas. I want to challenge as many of you as are willing to take up the charge to get a copy, husbands and wives, and to read through this together, praying, discussing, and sharing all along how God would strengthen, change, and grow your relationship.

Whether your marriage suffers from particular distress right now or enjoys a season and pattern of blessedness, you can profit from this read. Pray with me that God will do a work in our households here at the end of 2012!

September Resource of the Month

orlando grace church 002 300x168 August Resource of the Month

With the establishment of our sweet and newly-stocked resource center at our new building, the options overflow these first few months for choosing a book to feature for our reading and study enjoyment.

When I thought about this month’s offering, I didn’t have to linger long over the choice. I went with Richard Philllips’ terrific little read (110 pages) entitled What’s So Great About the Doctrines of Grace? Here’s why.

Scott Devor begins teaching a new equipping hour on this subject tomorrow morning during the 9:30 hour. This would make an excellent introductory volume for anyone desiring to do additional study. Don’t worry Greg and Joe, I have you covered in the October resource of the month – God’s Big Picture by Vaughan Roberts. Your turn is coming!

But another reason compelled me to start with Phillips’ book. With the opening of our facility we have a number of new folks in the mix. Some may very well be knew to reformed theology and not acquainted with TULIP as a way of summarizing these biblical truths as our spiritual forefathers have done. My hope is a resource like this will help answer a number of questions our newcomers may have about this important aspect of our teaching at OGC.

Indeed Phillips organizes his book largely around the TULIP acronym. After an opening chapter treating the greatness of God’s sovereignty in Scripture overall, he then proceeds to unpack, all with the same heading, What’s So Great About . . .

  • Total Depravity
  • Unconditional Election
  • Limited Atonement
  • Irresistible Grace
  • Perseverance of the Saints

The author states his aim in writing this way:

This book has two purposes. The first is to explain the doctrines of grace, also known as the “Five Points of Calvinism,” through the exposition of Scripture. In this, my aim is not to exhaust the biblical data or to engage in heavy biblical polemics with differing theological views. Instead, I seek to exposit definitive passages as they pertain to the respective doctrines. My approach is to present and explain the doctrines as plainly as possible by drawing out both the clear teaching of the Bible’s text and the necessary implications thereof. The second purpose is one that I find often neglected in treatments of distinctive Reformed doctrines, though to my mind is equally important. This purpose is to help believers feel the power of these precious truths in their lives. In other words, I aim not merely to teach the doctrines of grace, but to show what is so great about them. And how great they are! If we really believe the Bible’s teaching on the sovereign, mighty, and effectual grace of God, these doctrines not only will be dearly beloved, they will exercise a radical influence on our entire attitude toward God, ourselves, the present life, and the life to come (pp. xi-xii).

The book may lack for its omission of the historical background behind the formulation of these doctrines, but given the author’s agenda and desire to stay concise, we may forgive that. Especially helpful in each chapter is the answering of key objections to the teachings and a fleshing out of the implications of these truths in our lives.

I am happy to be able to offer copies of this work at only a donation of $8 thanks to our good friends at Reformation Trust. Pick up your copy tomorrow or some Sunday soon!

The Finer Art of How to Walk Into Church

What better time to consider this concept than having opened a new building?

As we all attempt to carve out our particular spots in the auditorium, perhaps we could take a g0spel-shaped tack in determining our seats from week to week.

How so? Here’s a thought.

Pray about where you sit. This is called the “Pew Prayer’ or in our case the “Seat Prayer,” since we don’t have any pews.

The idea is not original with me. I came across it recently while reading through a great little book on ministry called The Trellis & the Vine. Copies, by the way, are available in our resource center for only $8.

I borrowed it from an article referenced in the footnotes for chapter four entitled The Ministry of the Pew.

Here is the thrust of the idea from the article:

Church is a gathering of God’s people to hear his word and respond in faith and obedience. In this gathering, we are in fellowship with each other, through the blood of Jesus, and, because of our fellowship, we seek to serve each other. We use our gifts and abilities to strengthen one another and build Christ’s Church—‘edification’ is the word often used to describe what goes on in church. All believers are involved in building the church, not just clergy or preachers. The New Testament consistently teaches that in the growth of the body of Christ each part must do its work (see Eph 4; 1 Cor 12-14). Because of this, we aren’t to see ourselves merely as part of an organization called ‘St Hubert’s Church’, but as servants of God’s people, eager to meet the needs of others even if it means sacrificing our own. . . . If at church we are working to strengthen our fellow believers, where we sit becomes important since part of our work will be talking to our neighbor in the pew, welcoming people, helping each other understand God’s word and praying with each other. The ‘Pew Prayer’ was a significant turning point in my understanding of what church is all about. It changed my reasons for going to church. The shift was made from being the ‘helpee’ to the helper, the served to the servant (emphasis added). Church is where we seek spiritual food and encouragement in order to become more godly; but church is also where we go in order to feed other people and encourage them. In God’s mercy, we become more Christ-like in the process, as like him we deny ourselves for the sake of others. But our purpose in gathering with God’s people is to strengthen them and build the body of Christ. We look for opportunities to assist the growth of the church in practical ways.

Good stuff. I commend the notion to us all.

Beginning this Sunday why not walk into church (on time, sorry, couldn’t resist) praying the pew prayer: “Lord, where would you have me sit and help me engage with the word in the power of the Spirit as led?”

August Resource of the Month

Now that we have occupied our new facility and now that we have a lovely dedicated space for displaying resources for sale to our people, I want to introduce a new feature of the blog beginning this month and I hope recurring every month from here on.

Welcome to the resource of the month!

We currently stock approximately forty different titles covering a wide range of subjects on the shelves in the middle of our entryway .

When I thought about which title would get top billing here in August, I immediately considered the fact that this month is missions month at OGC (hope to see you at 9:30 AM on Sundays this month in the auditorium for interviews with various ones of our missionaries). That would have made John Piper’s Let the Nations Be Glad an easy selection for promotion. However, I opted not to go that direction. I landed on J. D. Greear’s book Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. Why is that?

I do see a connection between missions month and Greear’s book. Only those held fast in the grip of the gospel will likely engage in Jesus’ mission to reach the world in global missions and the city in local outreach. It’s just too tough a sell otherwise. In getting a bunch of our folks to invest in a copy of Greear’s book, I hope to fan the flame of our church’s passion for both from a supernatural motivational perspective.

The author states his aim in the book quite plainly:

Over the next several chapters, I want to reacquaint you with the gospel. Not just with the doctrines, but with its power. The gospel is the announcement that God has reconciled us to Himself by sending His Son Jesus to die as a substitute for our sins, and that all who repent and believe have eternal life in Him. I want you to see the gospel not only as the means by which you get into heaven, but as the driving force behind every single moment of your life. I want to help, in some small way, your eyes to be opened (again) to the beauty and greatness of God. I want you to see how the gospel, and it alone, can make you genuinely passionate for God, free you from captivity to sin, and move you outward to joyful sacrifice on behalf of others (p. 5, emphasis mine).

Obviously J. D. Greear writes with a mission to believers in churches like ours . He wants to show us the vital importance of seeing the gospel as not just something we believed in the past but as something in which we stand and are being saved moment-by-moment in the present (1 Cor. 15:1-2).

He goes about that in a most practical way. He introduces in Part 2, the bulk of the book, what he calls the Gospel Prayer. I blogged on that elsewhere in the past so won’t repeat the concepts here. This feature and the practical application it offers in the challenge to pray this prayer daily as an antidote to gospel amnesia makes Greear’s book my choice for putting before us when, in fact, a good number of other books out there focus on the gospel as well – Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel and Greg Gilbert’s What Is the Gospel also excellent options just to name two.

May I encourage you to invest in a copy of Pastor J D’s book? A number of copies are available on the shelves of our resource center for $10 each. You can put your cash or check in the payment box supplied on one of the shelves for your convenience.

Imagine with me, if you will, a church full of people who embrace this thought with which Greear closes on p. 248:

The gospel is not merely the diving board off of which you jumped into the pool of Christianity; the gospel is the pool itself. So keep going deeper into it. You’ll never find the bottom.

Fancy a swim in this particular part of the pool? You won’t regret it as you plumb further the depths of the glorious gospel of our blessed God (1 Tim. 1:11).

Resource Center Upgrade

I’ve been putting our summer intern, Jacob Yarborough, (What a HUGE blessing he has been to us!) through a variety of paces so he can experience the range of responsibilities that come with pastoral ministry.

Today I challenged him to write a blog post on our new facility’s version of the resource center, something I’ve wanted to blog about for a while now. I post it here today with a few tweaks of my own.

With the new building comes change in many ways.

One of the things that underwent a change was the Resource Center. Before it consisted of a small bookrack on a table in the hallway of the SDA, now we have four great shelving units with many titles on display smack dab in the middle of our gathering space/entry way.

The purpose of the Recourse Center is to be just that, a resource for the spiritual life and well being of the flock at OGC. Our staff selected these titles specifically with the our congregation in mind. This collection of books and booklets is meant to educate, encourage, and equip the people of OGC by giving them a reliable source for quality reads without the trouble of researching authors or titles. Many of these books will help to establish a Christ-centered worldview that will serve to shape our everyday lives.

Please make the effort to stop by the Resource Center Book area in the main lobby sometime soon. There are over 30 different titles on display from authors like: John Piper, J.I. Packer, Ted Tripp, Francis Chan, and Mark Dever. There is a price chart on one of the shelves to let you know what the cost of the books is as well as a collection box to place payment in for any book that you might want. The money made from book sales will go back into restocking the shelves with more great books.

Some new titles just added to the shelves are: Welcome to a Reformed Church by Daniel Hyde and What’s So Great about the Doctrines of Grace? by Richard Phillips. Both of these books are especially helpful to members and regular attendees of OGC, not to say newcomers unfamiliar with our tradition, who might want to expand their understanding of what it means to be reformed.

In the future we will be featuring a resource of the month to draw attention to strategic books that change people’s lives. Watch the announcement slides and blog posts in the future for more information.

Reading quality spiritual books makes a difference in our lives. Why not pick up one of these excellent titles this Sunday and dive in at your first available reading opportunity?