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C. H. Spurgeon As Preaching Mentor

C.H. Spurgeon has long been rightfully regarded as The Prince of Preachers. His sermons recorded in print continue to inspire and instruct even into the 21st century. KINDLED FIRE by Zack Eswine (2006, Christian Focus Publications Ltd.) which began as a Ph.D. dissertation utilizes the pulpit methods of Spurgeon drawn from his sermons and his lectures to his ministry students.

The book is organized into four sections. Section one explores The Preachers Story under the chapter titles Preparing Our Hearts, Clarifying Our Work, and settling Our Convictions. Each of these chapters contains not only excellent content but specific actions points of application as well as discussion questions for further reflection and an introduction that includes points to look for in the chapter and an overview. Part two is The Preachers Practice, which explores sermon delivery, use of the imagination in preaching and motivating hearers in preaching. Part Three focuses on the Preachers Power which highlights the work of the Holy Spirit in the preaching process. Part four deals with The Preachers Limitations including criticism and sharing ministry communication.

There are important lessons on every page of every chapter but one of the most important truths articulated is, “Spirit attended ministry does not necessary remove depression, criticism ans sickness, Rather, it teaches and enables men and women to walk by empowered faith through these trials.” (p. 193). The author teaches homiletic classes at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis and his focus on connecting principles with applications shows his mindset as a teacher. I read this book to prepare for a semester of teaching undergraduate homiletics this spring and I feel both inspired and equipped with insights and quotations by the bushel to use in class. I would highly recommend this book to anyone teaching preaching classes,  preaching themselves or preparing to preach in the future. It is well worth the money to purchase and the time to read this excellent contribution to the preachers bookshelf.


“The Grand Itinerant”

A Long Line of Godly Men Profiles has added a valuable introduction to the passionate preaching ministry of George Whitfield titled THE EVANGELISTIC ZEAL OF GEORGE WHITFIELD by Steven J. Lawson (Reformation Trust, A Division of Ligonier Ministries, 2013). This book differs from a traditional biography in its focus on Whitfield’s preaching rather than a chronological exploration of individual life events. This invites application of the Whitfield’s ministry passions an practices.

Chapter 6 titled, A Mandate From The Lord is illustrative of the set up of the books other chapters. It is outlined:

Sovereignly Called

Relentlessly Driven

Spiritually Energized and

Supernaturally Effective.

The chapter includes a great number of quotes from both George Whitfield himself but also biographers of the past and present, These are footnoted and are easy to utilize in an appendices titled NOTES for further study or reflection. There is a strong motivational element that runs through these chapters so those seeking a more critical assessment of Whitfield’s practices will need to seek additional volumes but this short work of 132 pages is a great reminder of the importance of Whitfield’s preaching and the resulting revivals or an outstanding introduction to this significant preacher from the annals of Church History.

The book concludes with the words, “Truly, we want again Whitfields!” All who read the book will echo that prayer and seek to personally emulate the man called , The Grand Itinerant when he was turned out of the church and its buildings so he preaching where he was invited and even  in the out of doors so the Gospel of Jesus Christ might be declared in power!

Recipe For A New Start

In his book, The COMEBACK (2015, W Publishing Group) author Louie Giglio presents a refreshingly honest and inspirational journey of restoration and hope through the ability to overcome obstacles and begin again where ever one may be at the moment. Weaving personal and Biblical examples together with insight and emotion Louie pants a powerful picture that, “Its Not Too Late And You’re Never to Far” for a Comeback.

Chapter one is a personal narrative about the need for a comeback from a physical/psychological through the exercise of faith through praise. Chapter 2 centers on Jesus and the thief on the cross in Luke 23. This chapter feels like a transcripted sermon and when you can communicate as powerfully as Louie can that is a good thing. I follows a pattern of introduction, Text, illustration including examples of Jesus power from the Gospels and application. I was reading the book while speaking at a summer camp so this structure had a welcome pattern to it. The next chapters covered Old Testament stories including, Joseph and Sampson interspersed with the Prodigal Son and Lazarus from the New Testament. The book is strongly Christ centered which I appreciated and found impact full. The books content is augmented with a 6 part video curriculum of the same name that I have not seen yet. As someone who speaks and preaches a lot it is helpful to have sources of spiritual input for my own soul and life reflection. That is what this book did for me. If you are in a similar situation give this satisfying book a read, you will not be sorry.

Nurturing Our Inner Life In Christ

In a short 120 pages Calvin Miller, the author of The Singer Trilogy turns the lens  of his deeply reflective pastors heart on to the subject of deepening the believers intimate communion with Christ in his book The Table Of Inwardness (IVP, 1984).

The book begins with a Calvin Miler original poem titled THE TABLE which sets the stage well for a deeply reflective discussion on creating space and time for nurturing union with Christ. Each of the seven chapters begin with thought provoking quotes like “When you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your success and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you” Henri J. M. Nouwen.

Each chapter is incredibly thought provoking and need to be read slowly and deliberately for maximum impact. Chapter One is themed The Issue of Inwardness. Brother Lawrence is featured as is a section on the dangers of inward reflection. Chapter Two discusses Barriers To The Inward Journey with the leading metaphor being developing spiritual hunger in light of the temptations to substitute sex, and power. Chapter 3 titled, the Needles Eye confronts consumerism and the need to develop the spiritual discipline of renunciation. Chapter four through 7 deal with the sufficiency of Christ, Prayer, obedience and “foreverness”.

This book came into my hands when I needed its timely reminders and opportunities to reflect below the shallow surface of many of the devotion books I had been reading. I recommend this book as I do all of Calvin Miller’s books. The older I get the smarter Calvin Miller’s writing appear. Which said more about my development than Calvin’s.

Read this book and create space to deeply respond and your walk with Christ will be positively impacted!

Powerful Answers to Some of Life’s Deep Questions

Utilizing the metaphor of two “book ends” that hold the various books that make up the human life authors Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington present the power of The Righteousness  of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit in their book The Bookends of the Christian Life (Crossway, 2009. 159 pages/soft cover) to solve some of the great questions of life like:

-How can I overcome guilt?

-How can I deal with the pressure to measure up?

-Where can I find the motivation to grow?

-Where do I draw the line between God’s grace and my works?  (p. 16).

I have been looking for a book that might be used with incoming university freshmen to cover the adjustment from a purely adolescent experience of faith in Christ to an adult experience of faith. Jerry Bridges has impacted many with his book, The Pursuit of Holiness but I now am convinced this might be his most important published work. The book utilizes chapters that include a breakdown of the three “gospel enemies” including, Self-righteousness, Persistent guilt and Self- reliance as well as “leaning on the first and second bookends. The illustrations and examples are personal and relational in focus. The diagrams and Scripture index make the book even more useful. I especially appreciated the short but powerful quotes from great puritans and the application questions and focal points in each chapter. I would love to see this book receive a greater reading because its message is a powerful 21st century restatement on the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ made accessible to all.   Buy a copy of this book for your library and personal edification and some copies to share!


Fresh Perspectives On Vocation

In Max Lucado’s short very accessible book, YOU CAN BE EVERYTHING GOD WANTS YOU TO BE (2010, Thomas Nelson) selections are lifted from the much longer Cure For The Common Life. The value of the shorter version is the distillation of of Max’s best thinking on vocation and the ability to take a very broad and complex issue like calling and make it easy to digest, reflect upon even apply in bite sized pieces. Using language like ‘Sweet Spot ” as well as diagrams this 127 page book Max simplifies without “dumbing” down a great introduction or reminder of the ideas surrounding life calling. Pages 66-95 unpack the idea of “Studying Your S.T.O.R.Y.”.The acrostic stands for Strengths, Topics, Optimal Conditions, Relationships and Yes! Using stories, statistics, quotations and questions these ideas are explored and applied. It is a bit late for a graduation book for this spring but it would make a great gift for a high school or college graduate next commencement season. A youth worker might easily develop a camp curriculum or series of talks around these themes as well. Max closes this very useful book with this thought provoking question:

Moses had a staff

David had a sling

Sampson had a jawbone

Rahab had a string

Aaron had  a rod

Dorcus had a needle

All were used by God. What do you have?  (p.127)

A Week In The Life of Corinth

This is a unique book in my Biblical studies library that I found fascinatingly informative! A WEEK IN THE LIFE OF CORINTH by Ben Witherington III, a faculty member at Asbury Seminary (IVP Academic, 2012) takes the form of a novella but is so much more. The entertainment element is a fictional narrative featuring Biblical characters like Paul and Erastos (Romans 16:23) involves interesting plot lines, intrigue and romance but the story only acts as a delivery vehicle for a very complete exploration of first century Corinth and its social/cultural background. Helpful photographs and drawings in the frequent “sidebars” provide specific details on Corinthian coinage, City of Corinth baths, Roman roads, architecture, and slavery as well as many more topics. The book is a balance between readability and  solid Pauline scholarship set in the sociological context of a first century world. The Biblical text of Paul’s letters are incorporated into the story which is fictional but based on a Corinthian inscription of a name and governmental title also found in Paul’s writing. This book had a special impact on me because I read it in preparation for a trip to Greece including a visit to Corinth. I feel so much more prepared to see and experience the ruins and museums in the city after reading the book…it was almost as if a Bible Dictionary or Encyclopedia of Biblical Cultures came to life. I am pleased to have this book on my shelf for future reference.