The Messiah: 11 Mediations from the Book of Mark [Weekend Resource]

I’m not going to try to sell you on the top three reasons why you should download this exceptionally written, free book (See there? I only used two reasons).

Or maybe I should tell you the rest of the story…

This 36 page ebook will hit you like a wallop upside the head. It is a page turner. It is written by Demian Farnworth. It is a compilation of arguably his finest series on his blog, Fallen and Flawed. It presents the identity of Christ so clearly, you will be breathless.

I guess the bottom line is: You ought to download and read The Messiah: Eleven Mediations from the Book of Mark.

Here’s a short excerpt from the introduction to whet your appetite:

“Something happens when you systematically read through a gospel narrative like the book of Mark: You are confronted with the real Jesus.

“Gone are the pretty pictures of a gentle man lugging a lamb around on his shoulders.

“Instead, you meet a man who is vast in wisdom, terrifying in strength and exceptional in humility. So vast, terrifying and exceptional you begin to wonder if he is God.”

Here are five ideas for way to use the book from Demian & Co.:

1. Book.
Read it and move on. Pretty straightforward. You could take it a bit further and brag [or rag] on it–whether here, Scribd or your social media site of choice.

2. Devotional.
Print the book out and hunker down each morning with a chapter. Meditate on the messages like you might a page from Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest.

3. Tract.
The book is 30 pages of very short chapters, so it’s easy to read. And the content [the identity of Jesus] is perfect for introducing non-believers to the gospel.

4. Study Guide.
Print this book out and walk your study group or Sunday school class through it. Could stretch into an eleven week course.

5. Gift
Print several copies of the book to give away. Mail some to faraway friends and relatives.

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A Sweet & Bitter Providence [Weekend Resource]

This is audio Bible study at its finest, and that needs to inform your listening approach. Here’s what I mean.

John Piper’s new book, A Sweet & Bitter Providence, is out in audio format at christianaudio.com. The book is more of a Bible study than just a drive-by reading. It is more polished than a sermon, more fervent than a commentary, with more Biblical depth than the typical Christian book.

Piper tackles issues like sex, race, and the sovereignty of God head-on. With gripping clarity, he opens the Book of Ruth chapter by chapter and proves that the three-thousand year old book is still relevant today.

So here is how I would approach this audiobook and turn it into an excellent Bible study on the Book of Ruth.

Read a chapter of Ruth each week. Meditate on it, pray over it during your time with God.

Then, set a time each week to listen to the audiobook. Approach it as a Bible study by digging into the text yourself, and then listening to John Piper add depth to your understanding.

You will enjoy the narrator of the audiobook. He puts enough expression into his voice to avoid sounding mechanical. I had a slight complaint at first blush as the narrator read all of the verse references. But that turns into an asset when you use the Bible study approach.

Get a Taste for the Book: A Quote

“One of the great diseases of our day is trifling. The things with which most people spend most of their time are trivial. And what makes this a disease is that we were meant to live for magnificent causes.

“None of us is really content with the trivial pursuits of the world. Our souls will not be satisfied with trifles. …So our souls shrivel. Our lives become trivial. And our capacity for magnificent causes and great worship dies.

“The book of Ruth wants to teach us that God’s purpose for his people is to connect us to something far greater than ourselves.”

Note: This review was done as part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program.

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Humility: True Greatness [Weekend Resource]

If I met someone presuming to have something to say about humility, automatically I’d think him unqualified to speak on the subject.

So are the feelings of CJ Mahaney as he wrote his book, Humility: True Greatness. But Mahaney’s work merits your attention, at least for one primary reason.

He is writing as a fellow pilgrim pursing humility by the grace of God. His goal? Help you make humility the everyday attire of your life instead of a mere performance. Mahaney approaches that goal in the only effective manner.

The Only Path to Humility

What is the only effective way to find humility? By recognizing that humans “cannot free ourselves from pride and selfish ambition; a divine rescue is absolutely necessary.” Yes, we must redefine greatness to mean serving others instead of being served. Yes, we must see the foolishness of pride. But in the end, all endeavors to find humility are futile if they do not lead you do the cross of Christ. Christ alone offers hope for humility by ransoming us from bondage to pride.

Finding the Authentic Servant’s Heart…At Last

I highly recommend this audiobook…it ranks in the top tier of books I’ve read. Evidence: I’ve read the print version several times as well as listened to the audio from christianaudio.com [that’s a dual statement of the book’s quality and my need]. The book itself is no salvation, but it clearly explains the gospel of Jesus Christ who alone offers real humility. The kind of authentic servant’s heart that you’ve never found anywhere else.

Note: This review was done as part of the christianaudio Reviewers Program.

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How to Ask Better Small Group Questions [Weekend Resource]

Now That's a Good Question! by Terry PowellCan you identify with the following prayer?

Dear God, so far today I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped or lost my temper. I haven’t cheated anyone out of money or stared at a beautiful woman with lust. I haven’t been grumpy or selfish, and I’m really glad of that. But in a few minutes, Lord, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on, I’m going to need all the help I can get. Amen.

Those are the opening lines of Now That’s a Good Question! by Terry Powell.

Who doesn’t want to read a book that starts off like that?

The purpose of this book is to aid the small group leader in leading a discussion.

  • What makes good question?
  • How do you ask effective, discussion-stimulating questions?
  • What is the difference between an interpretation and an application question?

In less than 100 easy-read pages, the book answers those questions, and many others [see table of contents].

You can download [for free] Chapter 1: Creating a Climate for Discussion.

The chapter is about…well, creating an effective discussion climate (like you needed me to tell you that). One of my favorite chapters in the book.

If you like what you see in the free sample, go here to buy Now That’s a Good Question! by Terry Powell.

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Book review: Compelled by Love – by Ed Stetzer

Compelled by Love: The Most Excellent Way to Missional Living. Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation. Birmingham, Alabama: New Hope Publishing, 2008. 224 pp.

Does your church live in a bubble?
Do not read Compelled by Love if you are looking for “101 ways to love better,” or “7 reasons why you should try harder to love.”  You won’t find it. Ed Stetzer, with the help of Philip Nation, starts with the gospel of grace when declaring the truth about love and the church. Christ, not how-to sermons or elbow-grease, is the only solution to the church’s inability to love as we ought. Compelled by Christ’s love, we can step out of the bubble our churches live behind far too often. That’s missional living.

Consider these quotes from the opening chapter:
“The old nature must die so Christ can live in and through us. The change that occurs by Christ’s love is the only path to love as God loves. We cannot by our own strength be loving persons as Christians. We can only become those persons when Christ lives in us. God gives the gracious endowment of the sacrificial life of Christ to indwell us so we might live by faith and not by sight, emotion, or any other earthly power.”

“The way of Jesus is contrary to what we naturally desire. Our fleshly nature refuses to love those we find unworthy. It’s only Christ in us that changes us and makes us see people as God sees them and to live a new life of compassion for both the saved and the lost (see Matthew 22:35-40).”

Stetzer draws from his personal experience as a church planter to provide keen insight. The book is designed for small groups, and each chapter includes a thought-provoking list of discussion questions to spur deeper thinking on what it means to live a missional lifestyle of love towards those around us.

7 Reasons why your church should read Compelled by Love:
1. It is a Christ-centered resource for anyone who wants to grow in love.
2. It reminds us that the bubble the church lives in keeps us from being effectively reaching the lost, because “God is on a mission outside that bubble.”
3. It brings us back to the Father’s heart as the motivation for ministry. “We begin with the knowledge of God because the mission originates with His heart.”
4. It is Bible-saturated, easy to read, and far from dry.
5. It explains the difference between treaty and surrender in our relationship with God, a section worth praying earnestly through.
6. Chapter 7 very likely will rattle your concept of church in regards to relevancy to the culture. It certainly rattled mine.
7. The book provides direction and spurs discussion that will encourage you and your church to prayerfully seek specific ways to lovingly reach the culture around you.

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