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book recommendations

Renovate: A Helpful, Practical, Timely Book About Renewal

the right words + the right time = CHANGE

That's the formula that undergirds Léonce Crump, Jr's Renovate: Changing Who You Are By Loving Where You Are. In this new book about cultural renewal, the author has the right words--about the gospel, race, social justice, and a "theology of place." But this book also comes at just the right time; issues of race and reconciliation dominate the news, social media, and conversation perhaps now more than they have in at least a generation or two. And if enough people digest the right words at such a ripe time as this, that's a recipe for the type of renewal the author is seeking.

However, this book is not only about race. At the bottom, this is a book about reflecting the glory of God, and how Christians and churches achieve that--especially through the actions of intentional Christians investing in their communities. In what I thought was the best part of the book, before giving six very practical and helpful ways to seek change, Léonce Crump, Jr, explains clearly--and practically--how cultures change:

through community, not heroic individuals. Renovation happens through networks of people who think critically about culture and seek out ways in which the gospel can be applied to their work or creativity, creatively. (p. 127)

Renovate has many strengths, and I would recommend it to anyone--especially other pastors who wish for their people to embrace their "sent-ness." By itself Chapter 4, "A Theology of Place," is worth the price of the book. The author has a clear passion for being intentional in the place to which you've been sent, as well as a pastoral concern to see Christians and churches take on the task of renewing their cities to the extent that race relations, politics, education, and all other areas are affected -- and that's a message we all need right now.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging For Books, in exchange for an honest review.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging For Books, in exchange for an honest review.

Bullseye, Mr Tozer

I like books. I enjoy reading too, but that's not what I'm talking about. I like the books, themselves. I like books per se. So I have a lot of books, and they're organized by genre. History. Theology. Biography. Ministry. Commentary. Et cetera.

Then I have this half-shelf that I simply refer to as "favorites." These are not really my favorite books, but more like the ones I believe would be of great benefit for any... or every Christian to read. I recently finished reading The Pursuit of God by AW Tozer. It sits on that shelf of "favorites" -- and these are some of my favorite quotes. Enjoy.

There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. (p.8)
The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts. (p.10)
We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Out Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed. 
Our gifts and talents should also be turned over to Him. They should be recognized for what they are, God's loan to us, and should never be considered in any sense our own. We have no more right to claim credit for special abilities than for blue eyes or strong muscles. (p.28)
The greatest fact of the tabernacle was that Jehovah was there; a Presence was waiting within the veil. Similarly the Presence of God is the central fact of Christianity. At the heart of the Christian message is God Himself waiting for His redeemed children to push in to conscious awareness of His Presence. (p.37)
What God in His sovereignty may yet do on a world-scale I do not claim to know: but what He will do for the plain man or woman who seeks His face I believe I do know and can tell others. Let any man turn to God in earnest, let him begin to exercise himself unto godliness, let him seek to develop his powers of spiritual receptivity by trust and obedience and humility, and the results will exceed anything he may have hoped in his leaner and weaker days. (p.71)

*All quotes taken from this publication of The Pursuit of God:
Martino Fine Books (2009-11-12)
ISBN 10: 1578988519 / ISBN 13: 9781578988518

I Liked "I Like Giving"

Brad Formsma's I Like Giving is an immensely practical book about giving, and about how it transforms us when we do it not out of obligation, but out of joy. In other words, giving can be something we enjoy doing--which encourages more giving because we get more joy!

Doing something generous without anyone telling you to is so exhilarating it becomes addictive." (p. 33)

The genius of this book is that it is so readable. It's not heavy, deep stuff, and the book--although 200 pages--could be read in just a few sittings. The constant interjection of stories and suggestions make this a very practical and engaging read. There are many real-life examples of people giving and being blessed for it; almost every story is one that the average person will relate to.

The book's biggest weakness, though, is that God is assumed, and even though mentioned many times, there is little to no scriptural support for living a generous life. Even though I understand that's not the author's intent (to give a biblical case for generosity), I was a little disappointed to see it mostly ignored--especially in light of the greatest motivation for a generous life, that God has so freely to given to us in his Son.

I would recommend I Like Giving to anyone looking for real-life ways and examples to look for opportunities to live generously--especially in ways bigger than simply giving money. This book is about something bigger, it's about living in a way that seeks opportunities to bless others with our own generosity--and for that, I liked I Like Giving.

Find out more at ILikeGiving.com.

If You Only Read One Book This Year...

I love books. If you know me or you’ve been in my office, this will come as no surprise. I love the idea of “books,” the reading and learning - but I also love books per se. Physical, tangible books. No eBooks or digital copies here. If I could get a car air-freshener in “New Book Scent,” I would.

Maybe it’s because I’ve built my life around a Book. Or because God wants us to glorify Him with our minds, too. Or maybe because I’m just weird.

But whatever my reason, there’s something about reading and learning and devouring books that seems right for Christians - and especially pastors. God has preserved His words in the form of a book. Therefore, pastors are vocationally readers. They go to meetings to plan and strategize, they visit with people, they counsel people spiritually, and they cast vision and make budgets - but none of that matters if they are not devoted to the ministry of the Word (Acts 6.1-7). The Church spreads by proclamation of the Word, the gospel message that Jesus Christ saves sinners. Pastors (and Christians) are better served when they are readers, reading the Bible to hear from the Lord, but also seeking wisdom by reading commentary and books written by the godly who’ve gone before us.

So what's one book that's made a huge impact on me? The Cross Centered Life by CJ Mahaney. This book is all about the gospel and its importance in our day-to-day everything we do. So often we slip into this mentality where the gospel is just something that unbelievers need to hear to be saved. And no one does it on purpose. Do’s and don’ts and lots of other things lull us into thinking that the gospel belongs in a tract for the lost, but it really doesn’t have anything to offer us after we get saved. Mahaney argues just the contrary - that the gospel is in every way for the believer after their conversion, and that daily reminding ourselves of the cross can transform our lives one day at a time. He writes about why we need to be reminded of the gospel daily, but he doesn’t leave us hanging. He also devotes time at the end of the book to how we can do it - simple ways to put into practice the cross centered life.

Weighing in at only 96 pages, this short book can be read in one sitting. I know. I’ve done it. But that was the second time I read it. When I put this book down after the first time, I immediately knew it was one that I would come back to regularly. And I encourage you to read it, too. After all, we can never have too much exposure to the gospel of Jesus!

Much Needed Culture Shift

Al Mohler's first full-length book should be required reading for Christians struggling to understand cultural issues, and how to respond biblically. In Culture Shift, Al Mohler has expanded on many of his past blog posts - a blog that majors on the subject of Christian response to cultural winds and crises.

An expert (of sorts) on the subject, Mohler has written an excellent primer on Christians and cultural issues such as terrorism, abortion, public schools, and racism. Though not intended to be exhaustive,Culture Shift engages the reader at an introductory level that is highly accessible, biblical, and informative.

After building the frame in the first few chapters by drawing from Augustine's city of God and city of man analogy, Mohler moves to specific issues for the brunt of the book. If the author's aim is to "understand our culture and its challenges because we are to be faithful followers of Christ and faithful witnesses to the gospel", he has succeeded and left the Church a great resource. Culture Shift is highly recommended!

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.