Books We Are Reading 

Have you ever wondered what books our pastors and elders at IBC are reading? Do you ever feel you don’t know where to begin when looking for a good book to read? Here are some that have moved and challenged us. Occasionally, we’ll include a video that has been meaningful to us as well.

Sing!

Sing!: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church by [Getty, Keith, Getty, Kristyn ]Our church loves the music of the Keith and Kristyn Getty. From In Christ Alone which has been sung countless times here for fifteen years or more to He Will Hold Me Fast, Oh, How Good it Is, For the Cause, and Lift High the Name of Jesus, all songs that are regular on our current worship song list. As a congregation, we’ve appreciated the music of the Getty’s being theologically solid, upward focused, and easy to sing and engaging. With this love for their music, you can only imagine how excited I was to hear this book titled Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family And Church was coming out.
 
Equally exciting, was a Sunday morning just a few weeks ago when a congregation member and singer very graciously gave me aa copy of this book. I looked forward to reading it. What made it even more exciting was in the mail the next day was a second copy of the book sent from the publisher. I gave the extra copy to another pastor and decided I better get reading!
 

The book is short but filled with depth and wisdom. The book begins with the Biblical basis for congregational singing, and the need for the church to sing. We are created, commanded, and compelled to sing with our hearts and minds. This singing is not limited to a service on a Sunday morning, but extends to our families and through our community. The book ends with the point that our congregational singing witnesses to the world around us. Our singing declares the glory of God in the Gospel of Christ.

At the end of the book are several “Bonus Tracks” that are written for special groups of people such as pastors, worship leaders, musicians, songwriters, and those who work in the music industry.

While a pastor, worship leader, or worship musician may get the most out of this book, anyone-even non-musicians—can learn from the teaching and we can all be challenged with the truth that the important thing is singing with all your heart.

As a worship leader, I highly recommend it to other worship leaders and pastors. Even more, I believe any one of us would benefit from reading it as we strive to worship, declaring the glory of God as sing, proclaiming the gospel together in obedience to God.



Steal Away Home

I sometimes wonder what keeps me from truly enjoying fiction. There are certainly exceptions. I’ve been moved by C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkein. I guess I can be drawn into a great story-line, but I just don’t find myself radiating to it.
 
I was cautiously optimistic as I approached Steal Away Home. First off, it isn’t outright fiction with animals that talk or shires filled with little creatures enjoying second breakfast. It is historical fiction. It is a story told about two real people. One was a pastor/preacher who I truly admire. The other person was new to me. 
 
It is a story of love. A story filled with Christian love and the grace and mercy that the Gospel brings and love we can extend to another brother even if we’re different.
 
Thomas Johnson spent much of his life as a slave until the end of the Civil War. Johnson was able to connect with Charles Spurgeon and attend his Pastor’s College in London to be trained as a missionary. The two became very close and we see a beautiful example of God’s love shining through two people despite their differences and despite the tremendously different paths their pasts have taken them and how they are united in the one most important thing they share: the cross.
 
Perhaps its greatest weakness is a blurred line between history and fiction throughout, but then again, isn’t that always the case with great story tellers? No, this book did not convert me to be a fiction lover, but I do recommend it to those who are. (Mike)
 
I received a copy of this book from B&H Publishing in exchange for a fair and honest review. (Mike Fischer)
You can find this book on Amazon by clicking here
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Worship – A. W. Tozer

I’m a little surprised when I think that I am about to suggest that perhaps the very best book to read to help you understand modern, contemporary worship in the second decade of the third millennium is a collection of writings by a man who died over a year before I was born.

Aiden Wilson Tozer writes as a passionate pastor and his writing delivers words that smack us directly.  He writes things like:

I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.

…I would warn those who are cultured, quiet, self-possessed, poised and sophisticated that if they are embarrassed in church when some happy Christian says “Amen!” they may actually be in need of some spiritual enlightenment.

The great hospitals have grown out of the hearts of worshiping men. The mental institutions grew out of the hearts of worshiping and compassionate men and women. We should say, too, that wherever the church has come out of her lethargy rising from her sleep and into the tides of revival  and spiritual renewal, always the worshipers were back of it.

Science is great, philosophy is greater, theology is greater still, and worship is greatest of all. For worship goes back of where science can go, back of where human thought can penetrate, back of all the wordings of theology, and back to the reality. And when the Christian gets on his knees, he is having a meeting at the summit. He can’t get beyond that.

The wisdom and insight in this small, 134 page volume is significant. The book is full of inspiration and challenge and should make any believer reflect on their own heart before participating in worship, even though we so easily take it for granted. I encourage anyone to read and be challenged by A.W. Tozer as we strive to be worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24)

I was provided a copy of this book by Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.  (Mike Fischer)
 
You can find this book on Amazon by clicking here.
 


Word Centered Church

Word-Centered Church: How Scripture Brings Life and Growth to God's People by [Leeman, Jonathan]
I remember attending the Sovereign Grace conference, WorshipGod 2011 in at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland. I believe it was after Thabiti Anyabwile’s message in that conference, “Gathering to Hear” that we as attendees we were gifted with a book by Jonathan Leeman titled  Reverberation: How God’s Word Brings Light, Freedom, and Action to His People.
 
That book impacted me after reading it, and the 2017 revision—now with a new title—impacted me once again.

 

Jonathan Leeman presents a serious problem in our churches. We say God’s Word is important to us, but we don’t make it central to our lives. We often don’t even make it central to our ministries!
 

We like to look to programs to engage people, yet it is the Word of God that transforms us and gets us to surrender and yield to Christ. Great salesmanship or a sleek presentation doesn’t cut it. Only God’s Word can change us.

Leeman provides practical suggestions challenging us to make the Word central. He uses the word “reverberation” in describing how a pastor preaches and passes it on through the congregation much like a sound wave reverberates and causes other objects to reverberate and “pass the sound on.”

What would the church look like if people came for God’s Word as opposed to coming for “the show?” Would a church that puts God’s Word first see a reverberation that impacts the entire congregation and even the community and world around?

While much of this book is simply the previous edition with some revisions in a new design and with a new name,

Word Centered Church is a good book for any pastor or church member to read and be reminded what is most important in church life: Hearing God’s Word through preaching, reading, singing, and praying.

 
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher.  (Mike Fischer)
 
You can find this book by clicking here.


Pastoral Theology

Pastoral Theology: Theological Foundations for Who a Pastor is and What He Does by [Akin, Dr. Daniel L., Pace, Dr. R. Scott]

I am recently sensing an increased interest in theology. Perhaps there are times in the life of a church where we crave the basics on which we are founded. Maybe we see culture leading us astray or perhaps it is simply recognizing our need for God. This is a good thing as we need this strong foundation for everything we do.
 
Is there a need for another theology book?  There are many great theology texts one can choose from. Why might we choose this book as opposed to dusting off any other theology text in our library? Daniel L. Akin and R. Scott Pace titled this book
Pastoral Theology but it could have just as easily been called “Practical Theology” or “Everyday Theology.” This is a theology handbook for “in the trenches.”
 
While it is written for pastors, I think it would be very helpful for any believer to read as it defines the role of pastor and defines what the church is. In other words, there is purpose and definition defined and described for each one of us. It is easy to get distracted by trends and felt-needs, but good theology helps us focus on what is important.
The book starts with the foundations of our faith—God, Jesus, Spirit—and progresses through the doctrines of the church and ends with how to practically facilitate this in our churches, although there is much practical throughout the book.
 
In a time where there is a war for our churches, we need this practical, everyday pastoral theology. As a pastor, it is helpful to be reminded what we stand for and how this affects how and what we do in church. For the congregation, it is helpful to be reminded what we stand for and what a church is and is not. I found myself both encouraged and challenged throughout the book.
 
I’m glad there is an increase in attention given to theology. I hope that this newly increased interest will help us refine our purpose of making disciples and reaching the lost as we seek to give glory to God the Three-In One.
 
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. (Mike Fischer)
 
Click here to find this book on Amazon.


Awe

We are created by God as worshipers of His glory. Due to the fall, we struggle to worship appropriately. This means that we are created worshipers, but due to spiritual death or theological misgivings we can inappropriately direct our worship to things other than God. In the introduction to the book Tripp says “Our hearts are always captured by something—that’s how God made us. But sin threatens to distract us from the glory of our Creator. All too often, we stand in awe of everything but God. Uncovering the lies we believe about all the earthly things that promise us peace, life, and contentment, Paul Tripp redirects our gaze to God’s awe-inducing glory—showing how such a vision has the potential to impact our every thought, word, and deed.”
 
This is such a common problem. Tripp identifies the problem and then gives the reader a clear challenge to focus their worship daily on our great God. The absence of awe is a sad state for the Christian, the family, and the church. I think this book is an important read for all of us. I hope it will bless you as it has me. (Rob Love)
 
You can find this book here.


The Holiness of God

“The failure of modern evangelicalism is the failure to understand the holiness of God.”

R.C. Sproul

 

This statement from R.C. Sproul’s book entitled The Holiness of God, was written 25 years ago, but still aptly describes the condition of evangelicalism today. Sproul asserts that the majority reader “salutes the holiness of God and protests loudly that it believes in God’s sovereignty, [but] still entertains delusions about our ability to incline ourselves to God, to make ‘decisions’ to be born again.” Thumbing through the pages of this book will leave a person in the deep end of thought, treading over hard questions, and forcing the reader to tear the veil of inaccurate perspectives to see God for who He is: Holy.

 

As Sproul comments, “The task that is given to mankind in creation is to bear witness to the holiness of God, to be His image bearer. We are made to mirror and reflect the holiness of God. We are made to be His ambassadors.” If you have an interest in setting aside a superficial understanding of who you are, and who God is, consider picking up The Holiness of God, a book that has graced Christian bookshelves for the last 2 1/2 decades. No matter your stage in life, today you can more accurately reflect God’s holiness by his grace and become His ambassador to the world. (Ben Graham)
 
Click here to find this book.


Never Enough

For many years, Ron Blue has been helping Christians get their finances in order and to live a Kingdom-focused life. In this book, he and his daughter, Karen Guess, lay out a simple framework for managing finances.

They begin by pointing out how money and life are tied together and just as importantly, God and money are linked:

  1. His wisdom applies to your money.
  2. His work in your heart is tied to your financial struggles and victories.
  3. His Word applies to every part of your life, including money.
  4. His “why” can inform your “how,” transforming your money story.

We all have a pie–a pool of money–to start with. We begin with our income and savings no matter how great or small, and then there is our debt, and spending habits. While all of our “pies” are of differing sizes, the principles of management are the same. That is why it seems strange that we might know one person with very little who is very content and one with great wealth who never seems to have enough. Each of us is  going to be more like one of these two and the question is are we living content or always running short.

The book weaves very practical advice with some great stories to connect with the reader and helps us divide that pie into inequal pieces, the largest being live and the others falling into place based on this one.

The pieces are:

  • Live: Spend less than you can because every success in your financial life depends upon this habit.
  • Give: Give generously because giving breaks the power of money.
  • Owe Debt: Avoid debt because debt always mortgages the future.
  • Owe Taxes: Pay taxes with gratitude because they indicate God’s provision.
  • Grow: Set long-term goals because there is always a trade-off between short-term and long-term.

Simple steps are laid out–small, but incrementally more powerful–that enable one to grow into a Kingdom-focused life no matter where they are beginning. The reading is interesting, and the teaching is very helpful. I am by no means one who can say I’ve always had my life together financially and Kingdom-focused, but this book provides great help for anyone–even me–to live contently with a Kingdom-focused life. (Mike Fischer)

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I received a free copy of this book from BH Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review here.
 
You can find it here.


How To Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus

In my opinion, the sense of smell is one of the most powerful of our five basic human senses.  Even the smallest scent can transport the mind back in time, flooding a person with emotional memories of past joy and even sorrow. But have you also noticed that you can often tell where a person has been just by their aroma?  Subway is one of those restaurants where you can’t help but walk away with their signature smell.  After leaving, we become a walking advertisement for Subway’s fresh bread until the smell slowly fades away.  Sometimes this is annoying, especially when you’re around a Subway-hater. 
 

But when you’ve bumped into an elder, have you taken note of their aroma?  Has the scent given you a glimpse into where they’ve been?  In Jeramie Rinne’s book, Church Elders:  How to Shepherd God’s People Like Jesus, he writes:  “The shepherd (elder) is among the sheep.  He’s not off somewhere else.  He is walking in the midst of the animals, touching them and speaking to them.  He knows them because he lives with them.  As a result, he even smells like sheep.”

Whether you are an elder, an aspiring elder, or among the sheep, this book is for you.  Consider cracking open the cover of this book to explore practical guidance for elders and insight that helps church members better understand and support their spiritual leaders.  IBC has recently experienced change in church polity and with any change comes confusion.  May the fog of confusion lift as you page through Rinne’s biblical commentary on the topic of church elders. (Reviewed by Ben Graham)
 
For more information or to purchase, 
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Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor

Are we able to show and demonstrate Christian love to a neighbor who is gay? How do we or should we respond to a friend who has told us she is a lesbian. Glen T. Stanton helps the reader understand these issues better through his own experiences. As director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family, Stanton would most likely be seen as anti-gay. He regularly debates LGBT advocates and has unwavering Biblical understanding of these issues. But regardless of these truths, Stanton is known as one who cares for and truly loves those who have opposing views from his own.
 

He brought the noted author, journalist, and gay rights advocate, Jonathan Rauch, to Focus on the Family Headquarters to address the staff and dialogue together.  Stanton stresses the importance of relationship and dialogue. Homosexuality and LGBT issues are increasingly mainstream in our society. Stanton stresses that the Bible calls each generation to understand the peculiarities of its culture in order to better serve it. As the church trips and stumbles in our new culture, it is more and more important to understand one another. Stanton says we need to “step out of the safe, neat Christian boxes” and cultivate relationships with those who are LGBT. He challenges us to build relationships and friendships solely for that purpose. While we should always be willing to share the Gospel, these relationships are not simply for that, but to understand and relate together as fellow humans.

In the book, he shows that the stereotypes we see of the LGBT community harm them much like the stereotypes of the Christian community are an unfair representative of us as a whole. He challenges us to move in from extremes, stereotypes, and preconceptions, and embrace relationship and friendships despite our differing  viewpoints.

I appreciated the chapter where he discusses human sexuality. His beliefs are Biblical and are undoubtedly at odds with the LGBT movement, but he frames this by highlighting other sins addressed equally in the Bible—lying, arrogance, pride, and scoffing—and challenges us as Evangelicals to not elevate one sin as more sinful than another. He stresses that the universal desire for intimacy is the root of sexual sin. He reminds us that all people are created in God’s image and have “equal dignity and value.”

I also appreciated his discussion regarding some tough questions we deal with as society such as public restrooms, relating to friends or family who are gay, and whether or not we should attend a gay marriage when invited. These are situations most of us will encounter at one time or another in the next few years.

The bottom line is simple: Treat all people with love and grace. We don’t have to compromise our Biblical values and beliefs, but our responses and relationships must be built on these two things: grace and truth. (Reviewed by Pastor Mike)

For more information or to purchase, click here.
 
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I received a free copy of this book from Moody Publishing in exchange for my honest review here. (Mike Fischer)