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.

Braving Sorrow Together

Braving Sorrow Together by Ashleigh Slater is a good book of encouragement and challenge for every one of us because we have or will deal with sorrow, grief, loss, and fears. The author attempts to prepare us and guide us through these trials through sharing several of her own personal stories as well as some of her friends. The stories show a wide variety of experiences of suffering and sorrow.

In each story, Slater vulnerably shares her weaknesses and how community helped her and gave her strength. The book continually reminds the reader of the important role our friends, church community, and those around us have in our lives and how this is particularly helpful when dealing with hard times.

There is advice for being a supporter as well. Advice including what to say and what not to say and how to be a help and serve. The book also acknowledges how each of us responds to hard times in different ways, but despite the different personal needs we have, the answer always comes back to community and those around us in support.

Throughout the book, Slater not only shares her own experiences, but stories from Scripture that are similar in terms of loss, suffering, failures, and fears. This is a great book for someone who has recently gone through or is currently going through a loss. It is also a great book or someone who has a heart for those going through hard times. It is easy to read, the stories are engaging, and there is much there to make one think and grow as a believer.  (Mike)
 
You can find this book at Amazon.
 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.



Come Let Us Adore Him

Every year, I feel the time from Thanksgiving to Christmas passes by more quickly. I’m sure it is because I seem to cram more and more in those few weeks each and every year. Even to a believer, the focus of Christmas becomes gifts, decorations, concerts, dinners, and get-togethers. I need a tool to help me take time to not lose my focus on what is most important.
Paul David Tripp is well-known as an author and speaker. As a pastor, I’ve benefitted from several of his books including Dangerous Calling, Awe, and Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands. His new Advent season devotional, Come, Let Us Adore Him, is a great choice to help you focus on what is most important this holiday season.
 
The format is similar to another good devotion book he has produced titled New Morning Mercies.
 
He shares some perspective and some thoughts to help the reader get their mind on Christ. Then, there is a short Bible passage to read and reflect. I appreciate this, as while Tripp writes well and shares good wisdom and insight, he doesn’t leave it there, but challenges the reader to dig in this short passage on their own. My hope is that the reader would do that. I could see that being an easy thing to skip over during busy days, but that requires one’s own personal discipline. This requires a little more commitment than the average devotion book that provides the reader with a nice thought. This book challenges you to think on your own.
 

Something he added for this book is one of its best features. For those with families, including children of any age, there is an added paragraph to encourage discussion. It begins with a “central theme” and then there are some suggested questions. The discussions are great and will be very helpful for one who leads their family through them helping each in their family have a deeper understanding of Christmas.

Anything that can help me refocus on the “right things” at Christmas and during the days leading up is something that I need and this book provides that assistance and from a clear God-centered perspective pointing the reader to the glory of God. I highly recommend using this tool this month of December. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Crossway Publishers in exchange for an honest review.   (Mike)
 
You can find this book on Amazon


Biblical Foundations for Global Missions

The 9Marks “Building Healthy Churches” series is such a great set of books for churches. Each book is small and concise—something you can give as assigned reading to even the busiest of leadership teams and find that they enjoyed the reading assignment. Better yet, it is good reading for anyone including congregation members and not just church leaders.
 

“Missions: How the Local Church Goes Global” continues this tradition. The entire book is based in the Biblical foundations of missions. The key goal of global missions is bringing God glory. Many other mission books begin with the need for the lost to be found, the opportunities for serving, the call for workers to the harvest. None of these are bad things, but missions is about bringing glory to God. Glory to God as the lost is found. Glory to God as lives are changed—both those being served, and those who are doing the serving.

The book helps to define missions and missionaries as many things seem to be called missions. The book challenges churches and church members how to support missionaries as we develop a Biblical mission strategy for our churches and live out the Great Commission.

As in each of the “Building Healthy Churches” series books, pastors and church leaders will find the information most relevant and useful, but any believer will find the information helpful and challenging as we are all called to lead from our own place in leadership. I highly recommend this book to anyone to get a good understanding of Biblically-based missions.  

I received a copy of this book from Lifeway Publishers in exchange for my honest review here. (Mike Fischer)
 


Classic Hymns – (Read and Reflect…)

I grew up in a church that sang hymns, so when I was first exposed to contemporary worship in college, it was new, and exciting. I found myself able to participate and understand the simple choruses. Sometimes it was a trade—off. The deep theology of the hymn that was hard to understand for the simplicity of the chorus that perhaps didn’t even begin to have any depth. Most of the time, though, we found some great songs. Songs with depth and theology. And then new ones came along and the old ones from the year before were set aside for the new ones and this cycle continued.
 

I love contemporary worship, but I am also rediscovering a love for old hymns. I used to always want to change the rhythms and style, but I’m rediscovering the beauty of singing them the way they were always sung.

The beauty that I’m discovering is not that these songs are superior. There are many hymns that are just as weak theologically as some of the worship choruses of past years. It is not an issue of hymns being better (or worse) than choruses.

I’m discovering the beauty of the shared history and shared faith these hymns represent. In the “Letter to the Reader” at the beginning of this book, the author writes, “While soaking in these hymns, I was struck with the instant connection I felt to the Church… The men and women who wrote these hymns felt the same longing in 1600 as I feel today; the same adoration that I melt into a service, and the same need to confess their sins…”

The beauty of congregational worship is that it is a shared experience. Sometimes that shared experience may be had best with the latest from Chris Tomlin or Bethel Worship. Some of us need to be challenged in that way. But, I think in today’s modern and active church, a rediscovery of shared faith includes rediscovering hymns and this book allows us to do that starting with what is most important, the lyric.

Then, following each lyric, are some questions that encourage the reader to dig into God’s Word and understand what the hymn-writer was writing about. After that, there are personal reflection questions to help us grow deeper, and each section ends with a prayer to challenge us and seriously seek God to use these lyrics through the ages for our own current, contemporary and alive faith today.

There are ninety hymns included. Some were very familiar to me and some less familiar. My biggest criticism of the book is that I wish the author had chosen ninety hymns that were best because their lyrical and theological content. There are many great hymns that are included, but also some that are flowery and perhaps just there for the emotional and even nostalgic feeling as opposed to declaring God’s truth. #37: “I come to the garden alone, where the dew is still on the roses…and He walks with me…” comes to mind.

Despite this weakness, I still find this book very helpful and I recommend it for the thoughtful questions and Biblical foundation for each song. Even #37 gives us some good things to think about as it highlights Genesis 5:24 and Enoch walking faithfully with God. My hope and prayer are that it will be used to build a connection with people who worship in many ways rather than fuel debates about worship style.

You might want to check it out and rediscover the shared faith we have with many generations past.

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.


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
.


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.