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Launch Your Life by Kenny Silva–Book Review

31/03/2013 Comments off

Thank you Thomas Nelson for the opportunity to review this work!

What if there was a guide regarding your identity, your career, your finances, your home and growth?  ‘A guide for the growing up for the almost grown up’ is just the resource for you. 

As stated by the editor,

“Unlike many self-help books for twentysomethings that hone in on finding a job and achieving success in your career; Launch Your Life helps you view the entire picture, allowing you to deal with everything from setting a budget, finding a home, and selecting a church to dealing with the changing relationships, and finding a fantastic job that suits this happier, healthier version of you.”

This book has just enough transparency of the author (Kenny Silva) that you realize this is NOT just another one of those self-help books mentioned above.  This work is a facilitator of real and actual advice through a biblical worldview, complete with great scripture references and honesty from the author.  One of the reviews I read, said this book would cause you to think more highly your self than you ought.  The reality, at twentysomething, that really is all your thinking about… yourself.  It is a major transitional time in our North American culture when leaving home and planning on going into the outside world.  Kenny attempts to show that by going, you don’t have to do it alone or without some discernment. 

My last comments on this work are going to be trying to think as someone who is twentysomething versus a 42-yr. old reading this work.  The format was interesting, however, I found the pages hard to turn and it just felt ‘klunky’ and I was wondering if I was going to rip a page and damage it, versus being the ‘mobile’ work I think the author and publishing company were shooting for.  The concept of providing a journal and some pockets, a rubber band, and wire binding are cool, I just thought they might be a little more ‘rugged’ than they were.  I was grateful that the author is a graduate of RTS and quotes the ESV in context throughout the work and I did not see any ‘psycho-babble’ which is so prevalent in works like these.  It was refreshing to see some solid biblical content regarding the topic areas.  I would recommend this work to twentysomethings, but possibly not as an individual gifting but possibly to a group or small group so that they could go through it together with a mentor or in community to dialogue through the material.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Communicating for Change…not just for sermons…

16/03/2013 Comments off

Thank you christianaudio.com for the opportunity to review this work, and as always for investing in my spiritual walk.

Communicating for a Change, by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones, Colorado Springs:
Multnomah, 2013. AudioBook narrated by Lloyd James.

When you communicate is it for change or wasting oxygen?  If you could only have one point and confine it to one point could you do it?  What if everything you have been taught about putting together a sermon (discipleship, teaching, public speaking, or just dialoguing with someone) was wrong?  This 2010 book finally made it to audio and bring to life story and application in two parts.  First, a pastor wants to improve his Sunday delivery and he meets a trucker that will change his life.  Second, Andy and Lane outline the principles in application for those who need lists.

I found this audio interesting in that I am not preaching every Sunday, but yet I am dialoging with folks all the time and this really challenged my thinking in this area.  It challenged my desire to fire hose people and instead focus on one point.  Whether it is in engaging in good questions or communicating for change.  This audio enlightened me in thinking that just because I wasn’t preaching, I could benefit from a critique of my communication methods.  I don’t know if I am asked to preach again, if I would put the outline together like this, but it would definitely influence a one point fallen-condition-focus in my next one.  

I felt like for the first part of the book reading the One-Minute Manager, which caused me to rewind and listen multiple times, however I picked up more in the second half of the audiobook as it focused on application. 

The outline of the method being described is:  Determine your goal; pick a point; create a map; internalize the message; engage your audience; find your voice; start all over (Me, We, God, You, We).  I would also add that the next step…implication is going to take some mediation, thinking and asking good questions for the dynamics I have in my life.  For 196-pages of the book, Lloyd James did an excellent narration which was presented in a cohesive and yet appealing manner.  This book although mentioned scripture and had some sprinkled through it was not an exegesis.  The most gracious comment I could share about the work would be that implications were made that pointed to Christ sharing one-point versus bulleted-sermons and handouts.  Would I recommend this book to others?  Maybe.  It is not a MacArthur or Jay Adams work on preaching with a purpose, but it does give novices something to think through before ‘studying’ homiletics. 

525140: Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible  Communication Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication
By Andy Stanley & Lane Jones / Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

Speakers and preachers—follow this instructive parable to keep your message alive and your audience alert! By knowing your destination before you leave (identifying the major premise you want to communicate), using your turn signals (transition ahead!), and employing five other practical points, you’ll be on the road to success—and drive your message home! 176 pages, hardcover from Multnomah.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

"One Bit of Scripture…"

04/03/2013 Comments off

As I get older, more and more I am convinced the importance of discipleship evangelism is for our generation and the generations to come.  Part of that has definitely come from dialoguing with them.  It is through these continuing conversations that I have learned that not everyone likes or can learn when drinking from a fire hose.  I came across this quote some time ago and it is part of the ‘derek-ism’ as a friend of mine would say, that permeate throughout these conversations.  I share it now.

A Two-bit Answer to the Million Dollar Question

This article will consider one small part of the answer. It is an important part, however. Learning this has made a huge impact on how I live and counsel. In a nutshell, connect one bit of Scripture to one bit of life. In other words, always ask two questions of yourself and others: What is your current struggle? What about God in Christ connects to this?

What is your struggle? You might be facing sufferings and troubles of various kinds (James 1:2). You might be sinning—doing and thinking various troublesome things (James 3:16). Usually it’s a tangle of both. God talks exactly about these things. How does the one Savior enter these struggles? What does He say? How does He help?

What will He change?
Perhaps you’ve seen the ecology-minded bumper sticker that says, “Think globally. Act locally.” Keep the big picture in view, then do something constructive. The same principle operates in counseling ministry. Keep the big picture in view, then act on some detail. Get the whole Story on God. Get the whole story on this person. Know the themes both in Scripture and in person. Then apply one relevant thing from our Redeemer to one significant scene in this person’s story. Bring one bit of Bible to one bit of life. You can’t say it all at once.

Charles Spurgeon put the principle in his inimitable way,

  One bit of Bible prayed over, and bedewed with the Spirit, and made alive, though it be only a short sentence of six words, will profit you more than a hundred chapters without the Spirit.1

One bit of Bible, bedewed with the Spirit, comes to life in one bit of life! You can’t deal with it all at once. Scripture never does. Ministry, like life, goes one step at a time.
Apply this first and foremost to your own life. The best advice I ever got on preaching was this: “Live your message for a week, a month, a lifetime. Then aim low. You’re sure to hit something.” The same thing applies to would-be counselors. What is your current struggle? How does God in Christ connect to you in this? You can give away what you are being given. What you give from out of your own life will be life-giving to others. When you are learning kindness from your Savior you will be able to teach unkind people. When you are learning to endure suffering well, you will be able to reach sufferers. It is the same with any other radiancy of the Spirit: clarity, courage, humility, patience, joy, wisdom, gratitude, mercy, teachability, generosity, honesty. If you are unhesitatingly honest, you can help dishonest people.

Richard Baxter graphically named the alternative: “I confess I must speak it by lamentable experience, that I publish to my flock the distempers of my own soul. When I let my heart go cold, my preaching is cold; and when it is confused, my preaching is confused.”2 As with preaching, so with counseling. In fact, the impact for good or ill occurs more instantaneously in counseling. People come vulnerable, with current struggles laid openly on the table. You cannot conceal your response. You don’t have the luxury of planning even the next sentence to come out of your mouth. You immediately publish the distempers or radiancies of your soul. You publish by the questions you ask (or don’t ask), by how you listen (or don’t really want to listen), by the interpretations you offer (or don’t even think to offer), by the advice you give (or can’t give), by the attitude you take towards people, towards problems, towards people with problems.

Let me make the case that one timely passage does three essential things. First, it orients this person to the moral landscape within which he lives, moves, and has his being: “The unfolding of Your words gives light” (Ps. 119:132). If someone tends to get lost in dark woods, the right road lost, then a good map and the light of dawn are extremely helpful! They don’t actually get you anywhere, but they orient you. You see where you’ve gotten and where you need to get. It must be simple and concrete—something true, riveted to real life. Theological generalities, abstractions and intricacies don’t do the job. General truths about yourself—your tendencies, typical patterns, themes that replay in your personal history—don’t change you. You must be able to identify where your particular current struggle lies, what it means, what exactly is at stake, where to go. Where is the firefight between good and evil? Today, what is your particular battlefield? You must be able to trace the difference between truth and lies, clarity and confusion, hope and illusion, right and wrongs, insight and self-deception, true need and wild desires, love and self-serving, living faith and functional godlessness. Where do you need God’s redemption and help? When you are disoriented in your current struggle, you don’t even know your choices. You can’t see the choice points. You can’t choose. When your way is deep darkness, you don’t know what makes you stumble. The right bit of Scripture—six words, two verses, one story—reorients you.

Second, a timely passage brings Christ’s grace and truth to this person. Something that God is, says, and does must invade your life struggles, beckon you, teach you, master you. What about God in Christ do you need in your current struggle? The map-giver personally guides through dark woods. You need help, and the LORD is a very present help in trouble. You can’t make it without grace to help in your time of need. The people you counsel can’t make it without help coming from the LORD who made heaven and earth. The first beatitude—essential poverty, need, and weakness—comes first for a reason. We need what God gives. We need our Father to give the Holy Spirit to us, that Christ dwells in our hearts by faith, that the love of God is poured out within us exactly when the heat is on. Augustine summarized the immediacy of grace this way: “Give what You command and command what You will.” Some part of the good news of the Lord’s redemptive purpose, will, and promise is absolutely necessary—right now. The Bible models how ministry and life focus on one thing at a time. A good theology book rightly asks, “Who is God?”, and goes on to fill 400 pages with truths. But Psalm 121 cries out, “Where does my help come from?”, and seizes on one necessary thing: “The LORD keeps me.”

Third, a timely passage invites change. In the Bible’s vivid picture, we “turn” to our Father, Savior, and Comforter. Oriented to our current struggle, and embracing what God says, we come to Him. He works in us to one end: change. Faith works through love—here and now. The central dynamic of the Christian life is a FROM … TO … movement. “Repentance is not merely the start of the Christian life; it is the Christian life.”3 Faith does new transactions and conversations with God. Love does new actions and choices on the stage of life. When God calls, you listen. When He promises, you trust and talk back to Him from need. When He loves, you love. When He commands, you obey. You aim your life in a new direction by the power of the Holy Spirit who works with you. In every case, you turn.

These are the purposes of the whole Bible, the whole mission of our Redeemer. But a timely text brings truth down to consumable size. Think of it this way. When you get to know a person well, you come to know both the panorama and the details. But change walks out in the details.

The patterns, themes, and tendencies are like the view from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. From one hundred floors up, everything spreads serenely before you. But the action and noise of life happens at the corner of 5th Avenue & 34th Street and takes the Lincoln Tunnel home to Hoboken. Our lives work as stories, in a running series of scenes. Like a novel or movie, big themes work out in small scenes. This is how God has made it to be. This is how He works. This is something that would-be counselors often don’t get. It is something that preachers who do not counsel—and counsel well—often don’t understand. When you counsel (or preach) in great and good generalities, people will nod, but they rarely change. They rarely really change. Jesus works for a turn-the-world-upside-down reorientation and redirection. Ministry needs to know the big picture, but it always takes the elevator down to “G.” Get involved on the corner. Talk into the traffic noise. Drive over to Hoboken at rush hour. Change actually takes place in the watershed moments, choice points, and decisive incidents of everyday life.

So what does this look like while you’re actually talking with someone? What does it mean for what you give a person to take away into the week ahead?

David A. Powlison, "Think Globally, Act Locally", The Journal of Biblical Counseling: Volume 22, Number 1, Fall 2003 (Glenside, PA: The Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation, 2003). 3-5.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Book review of Mark Driscoll’s–Who Do You Think You Are?

20/01/2013 Comments off

Thank you to Thomas Nelson BookSneeze program for the preview opportunity to review this work.

     Forgetting who we are in Christ is a stable diet for many believers, thanks to the fall and depravity.  In a culture of “I need to feel good about myself” and the never vanishing ‘self-esteem movement’, finally a work that brings out an exegetical commentary on the book of Ephesians presenting a biblical worldview in contrast to the psychologized drivel that is so prevalent in our society.  In acclaimed Driscoll style, a contextual work that brings the Bible into everyday life with a humble and scholarly tone that is refreshing in a world looking to define itself by many competing idols with much needed sobriety and candidness.

     I agree with Driscoll, we all live in an identity crisis.  This crisis produces worshippers (we all are worshipping something whether Christian or not).  By worship, Driscoll defines “Worship is the continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do, and all that I can ever become in light of a chosen or choosing god.”  This ‘worship’ is the product of the idols we have; of which he further defines as identity idolatry which can be thought in terms of Items, Duties, Others, Longings, and Sufferings (idols).  In light of the worship definition, it is easy to see how we can ‘worship’ these things.  It is also clear that religious language like ‘worship’ and ‘idolatry’ may produce the temptation to blow off the convicting truths that we are ‘idol factories’ as they may reveal that we are not as ‘good’ as we think we are or that our self-esteem is not as healthy as it should be.  The book of Ephesians provides the lens of the creation-fall-resurrection-restoration narrative we all walk through that define our everyday lives.  

     I enjoyed many things about this book.  Each chapter starts with a pericope of text from a chapter of Ephesians.  This is not your traditional Christian book which slaps three sentences of scripture text to sprinkle a ‘holy wand’ on the chapter.  Mark actually grabs large chunks of text and meticulously works through it in the coming pages.  I also like the footnotes on each page that point you to the exact Biblical references to concepts and points made in each chapter.  A few highlights from the book that I appreciated are,

Practically, focusing on just the sin aspect of our identity leads to despairing, navel-gazing Christians obsessed with their sin.  Such Christians wrongly think that the best sermons are those that beat them up by reminding them how awful they are—without any mention of their new identity in Christ.  The Word of God is not a club for beating Christians until they emotionally bleed as repayment for their sin.  Jesus already took our blows and shed His blood in our place.  And on the cross He did not say, “It is not finished, so beat yourself up to add to your salvation.”  He said, “It is finished!”

“C.S. Lewis was fond of saying that we are often guilty of “chronological snobbery.”  We arrogantly see people  from the past as more naïve, primitive, and less sophisticated than ourselves.  The truth is that people have always been the same, and today, people are as pagan in their thinking as ever.

“To varying degrees, we’re all guilty of participating in our culture of rudeness.  Which of us hasn’t become jealous when others succeed?  Yet we hate it when we are on the receiving end of this rudeness.”

“The true test of your theology is not just what you say, but also how you pray.”

“Bitterness is often related to how much you love the offender”

“Faith is an internal conviction that leads to an external action.”

    This book was interesting to me and will benefit future believers in my life as well.  It challenge, inspire, and enlightened me in reminding (see first quote above) that my desire for good theological sermons or messages has been also contributing to my forgetfulness of the good news of the gospel. Mark’s section on Spiritual Gifts, especially the introspective questions were very helpful, and I think it may also be helpful to not only ask them of ourselves but to ask our ‘communities’ these questions about our Christian witness as well.  Of course, Driscoll makes you think and hold’s your attention, and I found this especially helpful with the personal testimony stories that started each chapter.  It made them more real and transferable.  This commentary on Ephesians was presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner, however, I wish there was a way to also bring the cross-references directly into the chapter rather than having to flip back and forth.  I would like to also note that there are already a myriad of resources out there to bring this work from conviction to application to implication.  Check out:  the Ephesians Campaign 

    Mark Driscoll successfully convey Biblical truth and this book is saturated in scripture, cross references and historical affirmations that is equally impressive.  I would highly recommend this book to all types of readers and humans alike as it addresses all of life, not just Sunday morning.

203857: Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ Who Do You Think You Are? Finding Your True Identity in Christ
By Mark Driscoll / Thomas Nelson

We answer how we are countless times each day, but rarely do we think about who we are. Revealing that we define ourselves by things other than Jesus, Driscoll identifies who you are in Christ—saintly, blessed, saved, afflicted, heard, and more. Discover that you’re not what you do; rather, who you are determines what you do. 256 pages, hardcover from Nelson.

From Connie and I to you…

24/12/2012 Comments off

John 3:16 can give us the message of Christmas.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

While this verse is often overlooked as being a “Christmas verse” we can easily see the loving, giving heart of the Father in that he gave His only begotten Son.

God the Father set the example of giving, and it was carried on through the life of Christ while He lived here on this earth. Jesus said in,

John 14:9 ESV  Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

This spirit of giving originated with the Father and radiated through the Son, and in turn Jesus commands us to do the same in,

John 13:34 ESV  A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This love is not based on feelings or emotions, otherwise Jesus would not have been able to “command” us to love. He is talking about the kind of love He had when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane,

Luke 22:42 ESV  saying, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done."

He is talking about each one of us doing our part in love regardless of what we “feel” like at any given moment.

This is the kind of love that will visit a new friend’s home and hold the hand of one who is discouraged. This is the kind of love that will cry with another who cries, and who rejoices with another who rejoices. This is the kind of love that will look “beyond faults” and see the need.

We encourage you at this wonderful time of year to appreciate our giving God once again, and to minister to the “one another’s” all around us.  We call it the ministry of investing in others without needing the credit.  This season should reveal Prophet, Priest and King to all of us.  And emanate from all of us.  Some from the Word, some from life you lead, the actions you take, the inconvenient moments we all have every day.  Thank you for sharing your lives with us.  So Connie and I want to extend you Merry CHRISTmas and Happy New Year!!! 

And He said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, "Do you want to go away as well?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God."
(John 6:65-69 ESV)

Happy Thanksgiving from Derek & Connie Iannelli-Smith

22/11/2012 Comments off

We wanted to take a moment to say ‘Thanks’ to you for being such an evidence of God’s grace in our life…

William Bradford, Governor of the Plymouth Colony made this proclamation in 1623:

Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

During this season of Thanksgiving, I thought the above words would serve as a reminder that we are to be a people with a thankful heart for the many blessings God has bestowed upon us. Someone once said that true Thanksgiving, is first “thanks”, then “giving”. How true that is! When we really realize all that God has done for us, especially in sending His Son, Jesus Christ to this earth over 2,000 years ago, our hearts are filled with thankfulness which moves us to a life of service for Him.

If we begin to believe that somehow it is “our” strength and ability that has produced our blessings we have become deceived by our own thoughts. Just before the God’s people were going into the Promised Land, Moses gave these final words to them:

10 And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you.

11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today,

Deuteronomy 8:10-11 (ESV)

Moses goes on to warn the people that often the times we are tempted to forget God the most are the times of prosperity.
Looking back on this past year, Connie and I have been blessed greatly through God’s vessel, you… however we must always recognize that without the hand of God and His precious anointing, all our labors will be in vain. During this season of Thanksgiving, I encourage you to express your appreciation to the Lord for His blessings upon our families and friends. Truly, He has been and continues to be a good God!
 
 
Thanksgiving Blessings,

Derek & Connie Iannelli-Smith

Father Hunger: Why God calls men to love and lead their families by Doug Wilson

03/09/2012 Comments off

Thank you Thomas Nelson for the great privilege of being a reviewer in your Blog review program.  I have been changed by your investment!

In a society that has been severely degraded due to the absence of Father’s there is a growing movement in evangelical circles to call us back to the truth.  Doug Wilson’s newest work is one of those primaries every male should have on his discipleship shelf (well read before shelving of course).  After a recent failed attempt to reconcile with my estranged daughter, I have much needed comforting gospel-centered reminders when I am tempted to despair, this is a good encouragement.  Brie (my daughter) also was a part of the recent healing and of which I am grateful;

The best way to peer into the overall gist of the work, I would like to share some quotes which come from 3 different pivotal sections of the book;

A father is responsible to lead his children in a way that helps them think biblically about everything.

In contrast to this, consider Abraham Kuyper’s famous statement from his inaugural address at the Free University of Amsterdam.  “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry:  ‘Mine!”  If this is true, and it most certainly is, what are the ramification for education?

As was shown earlier, authority flows to those who take responsibility.  Taking responsibility is the foundation of all the true authority.  This means that reestablishing authority is accomplished by taking responsibility.  Often a simple reassertion of authority is an attempt to evade responsibility.  The point is reasserted so that some one else will do what needs doing.  This is not only impotent; it is counterproductive.

Further the titles of the chapters drive home some quite obvious points that are very bold and needed as well;

First Words, What Fathers Are For, A Culture of Absenteeism, Masculinity, False and True, Atheism Starts at Home, The Education Axle, Small Father, Big Brother, Escaping the Pointy-Haired Boss, Poverty and Crime at the Head of the Table, Church Fathers, Ha, Conflicted Feminism, The Fruitful Father, Some Father Mechanics, Our Father, It Starts with You.

We need more Doug Wilson’s, Mark Driscoll’s, Paul Washer’s, Matt Chandler’s, Edwin Cole, Patrick Morley’s.  We do live in a time when being a man is playing video games all the time, living with your parents, moral relativistic engagements of entitlement, and never responsible.  I remember having a ‘Courageous’ movie night at my house, I had to invite over 30 men to get 6 to show up.  Guys don’t need cowboy church or football themed worship services, what they need is to zip their pants up in the front.  We need bold voices in our culture speaking to our pride, self-righteousness, and avoiding responsibility hearts.  Until there is revival with men, the downward spiral continues.

Father Hunger will challenge, inspire, and enlighten every man to dust off their pride and confess and repent in the areas that need work.  This is not a soppy, wear a bib book, this book is going to take you to the places you do not want to go and it is about time.  Mr. Wilson does make you think, holds your attention, and it is presented in a cohesive, yet appealing manner.  Mr. Wilson also saturates his work with scripture (and much appreciated – indicative of a man who spends time with the Word), successfully conveys Biblical truth.   I would highly recommend this work to Men in all walks of life.

554765: Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love & Lead Their Families Father Hunger: Why God Calls Men to Love & Lead Their Families
By Douglas Wilson / Thomas Nelson

Absentee fatherhood seems to be the norm in today’s culture and it impacts everyone – families, children, wives, and husbands. Pastor and parenting expert Douglas Wilson reveals the true cost of invisible dads to families and society, encouraging them to be the fathers God calls them to be. Includes self-evaluation tools for dads to critique their fathering methods and a study guide for men’s Bible studies and small groups.

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