Books that are Impacting My Life

At times I get asked for book recommendations. This morning I did some copying and pasting to put together a list of ten books for a friend in our church and I thought it could be helpful to share.

  1. The One Year Bible in Hardcopy or through You Version – I had been having personal quiet times since the age of 9 and had been in seminary for several years when I got married. However, I had never read through the Bible. Rebecca was using this when we got married and I joined her. It gave me a plan that changed my quiet time. Now, through using it and other very similar reading plans, I have read through the Bible 8 times. I’m working on number 9.
  2. A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie – This book has been my parents and my own favorite prayer book. The older version has rich language. It guides my heart to pray on a deeper level.
  3. Living by the Book by Howard Hendrix – I had applied for and was planning to get my MBA when a friend invited me to audit a class. This was the text for the class. It was so exciting for me that it switch the direction of my life. For the first time I felt like I didn’t need someone to teach me the Bible. I could open it myself and the Spirit of God would speak into my life. I decided to drop the MBA idea and pursue seminary instead.
  4. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp – By nature I default towards trying to control actions instead of talking to my children about the motivations behind the actions that prompt real change in their lives. This book was huge for me. It also pushes me to see the way that God disciplines me.
  5. You and Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan – This is different than most books out there on marriage. It focuses on how to live for eternity in and through your relationship. “People accuse me of going overboard in preparing for my first ten million years of eternity. In my opinion, people go overboard in worrying about their last ten years on earth… Because I’m crazy about Liza, I want her to have a great life. But more than that, I want her to have a great eternity… I want her to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”
  6. Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem – I know, the title will through you off if you aren’t into reading academic stuff, but this book is phenomenal. When people ask theological questions, I will often, unapologetically, copy several pages and send it their way…. and tell them that they need this incredible resource.
  7. Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas – Most powerful biography I have read. Metaxas does a great job telling this true story in a more intense way than most fiction authors tell a fantastical story. I couldn’t put it down.
  8. Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson – Living by the Book (on this list) is why I went to seminary. Biblical Preaching is why I am a preacher. I didn’t think I would ever work in a church because I feared the act of communicating and felt I didn’t have that many good ideas. This book helped me to see that preaching is not coming up with your own ideas but learning how to expose the ideas that The Author of the Bible has given us already.
  9. Dangerous Duty of Delight by John Piper – This shorter version of Piper’s longer “Desiring God” floored me in college. I grew up feeling that Christians had to hold back the desires that are naturally part of our life. Piper showed me that those desires are God given and can only be met in God. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Christian hedonism is beautiful and at the root of the Gospel.
  10. Church Unique by Will Mancini – I have used this book to help guide the process of identifying and defining existing church’s DNA. In addition, it has helped our leadership teams to set mission, vision, values and strategy at both Park Cities and First McKinney.
  11. Expository Exultation by John Piper – This is my bonus add… Piper is rocking my world again. The second half of this book has pushed me so hard that I often find myself going back to reread pages and paragraphs over and over. The beauty and power of God’s word and the purpose of Glorifying Himself through His Word has brought me to tears on many occasions over the last month.

What about you? Have you read any of the above? Is there a book that you have purchased copies of that you hand out like candy? When someone asks you what book they should read, what is the first one you point them to?

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Helping Someone Process Tragedy

This morning, we heard the tragic news that a McKinney North High School student died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the school. As a pastor in our city, I wanted to help. I drove to the neighboring high school, McKinney Boyd, where they were taking the students to reunite with their parents.

There, I had the chance to watch the response of the outstanding counselors from our school district. I asked them to help me to understand how I can help people respond to tragedy. I want to take some of what they shared and add to it some of what I have learned through the years as a camp director, church staffer and pastor.

Initiate

No one knows all the answers in a tragic situation so many will not start the conversation. Don’t be afraid to start. Be direct about your intentions: “I want to help you process what happened today.” As Jay Adams points out in Competent to Counsel, If you are a Christian, you are empowered to counsel by the Holy Spirit, The Counselor.

Ask

A basic question is all it takes. Something like “Where were you when you heard the news?” Then be ready to follow the direction that they take the conversation. If they are not conversive, you don’t need to be forceful. Just be present.

Listen

If they are able to talk, continue to encourage them to process their emotions. “How did it make you feel?” “What makes you angry?” “What makes you sad?” The more they can verbalize, the more healing they will experience.

Offer

You don’t know all the answers. Your goal is not to give them all the answers. That said, if you are a believer, the Bible gives us hope in tragedy. One of my favorite passages for a tough time is Romans 8:18-39. Here, Paul talks about the brokenness of our world… and the hope we have in JESUS.

Pray

At one point, my mom was in the hospital for over a month. A man visited her room and said the words: “I can’t help you personally, but I know someone who can. Can I take you to Him in prayer?” She has never forgotten those words. Be like the four friends that took the lame man to Jesus in Luke 12. Bring the person and the names of those involved in the tragedy to Jesus. 

Give it Time

We do not give space in our culture for grief. This Sunday, I will be preaching through the Beatitudes in which Jesus says the radical words: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” This makes no sense in our world. It could loosely be translated as: “Happy are the unhappy.” We need to give time for grief. When Nehemiah heard the tragic news that Jerusalem had been destroyed, he wrote: “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days…” (emphasis mine).

If you are reading this article, Please stop right now and pray for the family and friends of the one who took his life today and for all those who are processing this tragedy. PRAY!

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus Changes Everything

As a kid, I heard the story of Jesus often. For me Jesus was like Abraham Lincoln. He was a historic figure that did good things to help people. Then one morning the realization of my evil heart overwhelmed me. I felt shame and guilt for my lies and my lusts. I remember walking into my parent’s room before it was light outside and waking them up to talk. That morning Jesus moved from being a historic figure to my Savior and Lord. My parents helped me to understand and believe that Jesus changes everything. This is the Good News:

  1. All have sinned.

Romans 3:23 tells us that “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Every person that had ever lived has done evil things. We rebel against God. We live with selfish motives behind even our selfless actions.

  1. The penalty for sin is death.

Romans 6:23 says that “The wages of sin is death.” Wages are what one earns for their actions. Because God is good, He must act justly in the face of the evil in the world. Our sin must be judged by a good God.

  1. Christ died for you.

Romans 5:8 explains that a “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is why Good Friday is Good News. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus took our sin on himself and died for us. In addition, on Easter Sunday, Jesus overcame death by rising again. Jesus then appeared in resurrected form to hundreds of people. Their lives were radically changed and most died because they knew, shared and wouldn’t deny that Jesus was the Savior of the world.

  1. You can be saved by grace through faith Jesus.

Ephesians 2:8–9 summarizes the Good News: “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Grace is undeserved favor. We deserve death. Jesus gives life. How? We are saved or rescued through faith in what Jesus has done.

Faith is believing. Faith is trusting. Faith is transformational. Jesus changes everything.

If you were honest, are you trusting in your own doing or in what Jesus has done? Do you believe getting into heaven is the result of your works or the work of Jesus? When you pray do you find yourself boasting or praising with a heart of thankfulness?

If you are afraid to approach God because you know the evil in your heart… If you are ashamed and feel guilty because of your lies and your lusts… I want to invite you to read the bolded points above again. It is true. Jesus changes everything. He has transformed my life and the lives of billions of people.

I’ve got good news! You can be saved (rescued, delivered) right now by grace (undeserved favor, one-way love) through faith (believing, trusting) in Jesus. Talk with God like you would a loving father and thank him for Jesus.

Responding to Sutherland Springs

To those who haven’t experienced what happens in a Christian church.

From a follower of Jesus.

Yesterday, a man walked into a church in Sutherland Springs and opened fire. At least twenty-six people were killed and twenty more were injured. The New York Times describes the horrific scene: “Families gathered in pews, clutching Bibles and praying to the Lord, were murdered in cold blood on the spot.”

With you, I have been reading and watching the news and my heart breaks for the victims and their families. My heart also breaks for the shooter and his family. With many of you, I have been praying for God to “make His presence felt in their lives.”

As I’ve thought about how to honor the lives of the victims, I’ve considered what they would say to the world if they could. I’m a Christian. I was in a First Baptist Church yesterday. If I had lost my life in church yesterday, this is what I would want someone to write to the world…

As my heart grieves for those affected by the shooting, my heart also hurts for the many in the world who have their eyes focused on a Christian church and do not understand why Christians gather. Many who have reported on the story have implied that they don’t know what happens when Christians gather. I’ve been gathering with Christians all of my life. Here is a window in…

What is a Christian church?

Christian churches are gatherings of people around a Person. Christians (the church) gather, not to focus on working harder or getting better, but to be reminded of the selfless love of Jesus. Jesus is the one who demonstrated sacrificial love for all people (everyone) by laying down his own life and rising again so that others may live… eternally. His death and resurrection are historic events that happened 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. Those events changed history and the faith of billions of people. Christian churches are gatherings of people that focus on the person and work of Jesus.

Because of Jesus, Christian churches are gatherings of refuge. Christian churches are gatherings where people find help in times of trouble.

Why do Christians go to church?

Christians are a mess just like everyone else. All of us have hurt others in some way at some point in our lives. All of us have tendencies to be self-centered. But what makes the church different is Jesus. We go to church because we need to be reminded of what Jesus has done for us. Jesus showed us selfless and sacrificial love. Jesus’ love changes people. Christians love because Jesus first loved us.

And that leads me to the other reason that Christians go to church. Christians go to church to gather with other Christians. Christians give one way love to others because Jesus first gave one way love to us. The real ones do. There is nothing like being in a gathering with people who are really for you. There is nothing like authentic friendships that go deep with people who are open about their imperfections (we don’t have to hide them because we believe Jesus came to forgive them) and love other people selflessly.

In a relationship with Jesus, we find refuge and strength in times of trouble. In a relationship with those who follow Jesus, we tangibly see this refuge and strength play out.

Experience “church” for yourself.

 If you haven’t experienced what happens in a Christian church, you might think that gatherings of Christians will be skeptical of you coming to check it out… especially this week. It’s actually the opposite. Jesus’ selfless love for us is overwhelming for those who really get it. We long for you to experience that love for yourself… I’m emotional as I type.

So, as someone who believes what the victims believe, don’t just look in from the outside and wonder what goes on when Christians gather. Check it out. I hope you will be welcomed warmly. I pray you will hear about and experience the most incredible, selfless, and sacrificial love the world has ever known. It’s the only place in the world where you will find supernatural refuge and strength in times of trouble.

You might think that this is an insensitive statement after yesterday’s shootings. I know this is what would most honor of those who lost their lives. I honestly believe that this is what they would want you to hear. As a Christian, if I had been shot in a church yesterday, this is what I would want someone to write to the world. Because I believe what they believe, I know their greatest desire right now is for you to experience on earth what they are experiencing in heaven. The gathering of people around a person – Jesus.

Should Christian’s Celebrate Halloween?

As a Christian dad, I’m often asked, “Are you going to take your kids trick-or-treating?”

Yes, our Christian family does the Halloween thing. Here are three reasons why:

  1. It gives our family opportunity to talk about Spiritual heroes.

Many Christians have run from the holiday because they see it as focusing on demons and witches. Interestingly, the history of the holiday is the opposite. Halloween is a conjunction of the words “Hallowed Eve.” In 835, Pope Gregory decided to take a Romanized Celtic holiday to honor the dead and connect it to a three day festival to honor martyrs on November 1st and all who have died on November 2nd.

At Halloween, talk as a family about the many martyrs who have given their lives for the Gospel. How can someone say? “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Then talk about death and the hope we have in Jesus. “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor 5:6–9)

  1. It gives our family an opportunity to love our neighbors.

On Halloween, many will turn their lights off and pretend not to be home. Going door-to-door to collect treats is a tradition that began in Ireland hundreds of years ago. Farmers would knock on doors to collect food for a village feast and bonfire. It was a community event. During the 1800s, many people migrated from Ireland to the United States and they brought the activity with them.

Christians go out of the way to show love to our neighbors. Halloween is the holiday on the calendar that most encourages our culture to knock on our neighbor’s doors. It also gives us an easy way to show love to our neighbors’ kids by putting candy in their hands. At Halloween, talk about how Jesus taught that all Old Testament could be summarized in the Great Commandment to love God and love your neighbor. If you want to go further, In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus tells the story of the good Samaritan to elaborate on how we should go out of our way to love our neighbors.

  1. It gives our family an opportunity to have fun.

OK, so maybe that isn’t a “spiritual” reason, but I’m serious. We look for opportunities to laugh together. Getting dressed up is fun. Serving our neighbors is really fun… It is better to give than receive. Our kids love handing out candy and watching mom and dad get into it.

What will your family do tonight? If you have a thoughtful response, please share it below.

Note: Today, is also the 500 year anniversary of Luther’s Ninety-five Theses that helped to launch the Great Reformation. Take some time to read my friend, Jeff Warren’s outstanding blog on it here: http://www.pcbc.org/jeffsblog/

Responding to Las Vegas

This morning we awoke to the tragic news of the shooting in Las Vegas. At the point of my writing, the death total has now risen to 58. It is the worst mass shooting in US history. Our hearts break. In love we pray for the victims’ families and the suspect’s families… and many of us are afraid.

Someone told me today that their greatest fear is that something like that will happen in the DFW Metroplex. I was reminded that just last summer, something did. Should those who follow Jesus hide themselves in order to insure safety in a culture that is dangerous? Jesus prayed for His followers the night before He died: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:15–18)

Jesus’ prayer is for His followers to be in the world, not of the world, and sent to the world. If we are going to accomplish our mission, the Great Commission, we must not retreat in fear. We must react in faith. The world needs Christians today. Your coworkers, classmates, friends and neighbors need the hope of Jesus today more than ever.

Jim Denison encouraged a response to the shooting by quoting John Wesley: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

I was immediately reminded of what we read in our services yesterday from Colossians 3:23. Speaking about how Christians are to act in their relationships with other people, Paul says: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” We must be a church that can say: “I will give everything I can, in every relationship I’m in, for The One who gave everything for me.”

Yes, pray for Las Vegas (Please, stop and do that now.)… AND, don’t retreat in fear. React in faith. Run towards people not away from them. Go and be the hands and feet of Jesus. The world needs the hope that we have.

Did not our hearts burn?

Luke 24:32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?”

What is God saying to me? Two disciples spend the afternoon on the road to Emmaus with the unrecognized Jesus. At dinner Jesus reveals himself to them by blessing and breaking the bread and then vanishes. As they reflect on their lesson from Scripture with Jesus, they share how their hearts were kindled. Literally, their emotions were on fire.

How will I obey? I am wary of emotionalism. However, like the 80’s worship song “Light the Fire” expresses, there is nothing that compares to the passion that God can give (specifically here through seeing Jesus in Scripture). I often go to my marriage, my job, my hobbies, my kids, sports, exercise, etc. to excite and satisfy my heart. Today, I am going to pray “Lord, light the fire in my heart again” and then go to Scripture for the kindling.

Who will I tell? Clint