Growing Up Christian — A Review

February 9, 2007

Growing Up Christian is a book I wish I could have written. I wasn’t a “church kid” growing up. But, I have spent the past ten years around “church kids.” For those of you who don’t know, a church kid is someone who has grown up in the church. According to Graustein, “they come from Christian homes, have Christian parents, and have attended church their entire lives. They live in a Christian culture surrounded by Christians at home, church, and often school.” Karl Gruastein addresses the unique issues “church kids” face better than anyone I’ve come across.

Graustein understands both the privileges and dangers of growing up in the church. He begins by addressing the dangers of false assurance, taking God’s grace for granted, and wanting to be like everyone else. He issues a strong call for teenagers to be sure of their own faith and not just coast along with their parents. Graustein then spends five chapters helping teenagers to build a biblical worldview of humility, conviction and thankfulness based in a love for the Scriptures and God. He finishes with three chapters on Christian living that focus on battling sin, growing spiritually and using your talents. Throughout it all, he keeps the gospel directly in view.

Graustein does an excellent job of encouraging teenagers to evaluate themselves in the light of Gods’ Word and then act on what they see. He also includes helpful discussion and reflection questions. His two page chart comparing what the world says to what God says regarding a number of areas is a great help (pp. 72-73)

I highly recommend this book. Every teenager in the church would greatly benefit from carefully reading and considering what this book has to say. This book will also help those who work with Christian teens to refocus on the particular issues they face. I believe that if more “church kids,” their parents and pastors heeded the lessons of this book we wouldn’t see as many people abandoning their faith when they get out of High School.


You can order the book here: Growing Up Christian


Review: The Peacemaking Pastor

February 1, 2007

The Peacemaking Pastor is was written by Alfred Poirier, the pastor of Rocky Mountain Community Church in Billings, Montana and the chairman of the board for Peacemaker Ministries. Poirier issues a stirring call for pastors to redefine their role to include Biblical Peacemaking as one of their chief responsibilities.

The book is organized in three main sections: who we are as people in conflict; who God is as a reconciling God, and how pastors are to effectively respond in shepherding their people.

Practically, he gives sound instruction on the nature of conflict, confession, forgiveness, conflict resolution within the church and the heart and practice of church discipline. He approaches all of these issues with sound Biblical insight, gracious humility and wise pastoral counsel. You will learn much as this seasoned pastor guides you down the paths of peace. He closes with some suggestions on how to develop a peacemaking culture in your church.

I found the chapters on church discipline and his explanation of how and why his church welcomed a convicted child molester into membership particularly helpful.

If you are a leader in your church, you should read this book. It is challenging, convicting and helpful. It will renew and restore your vision of what the Church of Jesus Christ should and can be.

If you are not a pastor, considering getting this book for your pastor. You may also be interested in The Peacemaker, by Ken Sande. It presents the same practical Biblical principles for both church leaders and lay people.

You can order the book by clicking here.

Book Review: Richard & Sharon Phillips–Holding Hands, Holding Hearts

October 6, 2006

I’ve posted a new book review on the Heritage Valley Bible Church website. It is on Richard and Sharon Phillips, Holding Hands, Holding Hearts: Recovering a Biblical View of Christian Dating.

You can find the review here.

You can purchase the book here.

In Christ

Pastor Mike Walters

Book Review: Women’s Ministry in the Local Church

August 14, 2006

Book Review: J. Ligon Duncan & Susan Hunt Women’s Ministry in the Local Church

I picked up this book from my wife’s reading stack and I am glad I did.  This is an extremely helpful book for those who desire a Biblical women’s ministry that embraces women’s God-given role in life, marriage and the Church.

Duncan and Hunt understand that God created women to fulfill the roles of helpers and life-givers.  They will also typically hold the roles of wife and mother.  Duncan and Hunt, graciously but firmly, stick to what the Bible says about the need for women to be submissive to the elders of the church and the need for male leadership within the church.  However, they also lay out a rich vision for an effective, powerful, compassionate women’s ministry.  In fact, they insist that it is absolutely vital for churches to embrace women’s ministry in order to combat the false views of womanhood that dominate our culture, promote Biblical marriages and family life, and effectively disciple women in a way that affirms and celebrates their womanhood. 

The chapter titles reveal the key concepts that need to be woven throughout a Biblical Woman’s ministry: submission, compassion, community, discipleship and scripture. I greatly appreciated the emphasis on multi-generational woman’s ministry and the need to relate the ministry to the larger life, teaching and ministry of the church.  I also found the positive emphasis on what women can, should and must do within the church refreshing.  All too often, we focus on what they cannot do, forgetting the valuable roles they have.

My one criticism was that Hunt particularly seems to overemphasize the word “covenant”.  This is not surprising due to her Presbyterian background, but I felt the constant addition of “covenant” in discussion of community a little repetitive. I believe the principles would be the same by simply referring to the concept of community and family that God calls His people to be.

Regardless, this is a refreshing, helpful book that both
Elders and Women’s ministry leaders should read.  It challenged me to rethink how I approach and support women’s ministry in the church I have the privilege of pastoring.

You can purchase the book by clicking here.

In Christ

Pastor Mike

R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God–A Review

July 24, 2006

If God is holy at all, if God has an ounce of justice in His character, indeed if God exists as God, how could He possibly be anything but angry with us?  We violate his holiness; we insult His justice; we make light of His grace.  These things can hardly be pleasing to Him.

In his classic book, The Holiness of God, R.C. Sproul relentlessly hammers home the reality of these truths.  He takes us into the trembling, smoke-filled
Temple as Isaiah unravels in the presence of a Holy God.  He shocks us with the sudden deaths of two rising priests, Nahab and Abihu.  He displays Uzzah, sprawled dead in the mud, after touching the Ark of God.  R.C. takes us to the edge of hell to show us the reality of God’s just wrath. 

Praise God, he doesn’t leave us there!  R.C. knows and loves the gospel of God’s grace.  Through his pen, the cool breeze of God’s mercy will wash over you as you lean over Luther’s shoulder and discover that God’s justice is “that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith.” You will know the peace of being comfortable in God’s presence.

R.C. is an engaging writer.  He has a knack for bringing deep theological truth alive in vivid and simple, but profound ways.  His illustrations move from terribly dark, to laugh out loud funny.  But, his point is inescapable.  I am thankful for the headache that drove him to contemplate the holiness of God.  He has performed a great service by reminding us that God is Holy. He is just.  We must not assume grace or presume upon His mercy.  Yet, we can find mercy freely offered in Jesus Christ.

This is a must read book that will deepen your love for God.  It will heighten your respect for Him.  And, it will give you a profound love and appreciation for what Jesus did on your behalf.

Please feel free to use these study questions to deepen your interaction with this book.  Click here for the questions.

In Christ

Pastor Mike

Book Review–Andreas Kostenberger, God, Marraige and Family

July 14, 2006

Gender roles.  Parenting. Abortion. Contraception. Reproductive technologies. Spanking. Singleness. Homosexuality.  Divorce and remarriage.  Church Leadership.  Each one of these topics is a potential landmine.  In his book, God, Marriage, and Family, Köstenberger faithfully walks through the minefield, shining the light of the Bible in every darkened area.

This book is a foundational book.  It begins from the assumption that God made men and women in His own image, defines their roles and defines the institution of marriage.  However, Köstenberger doesn’t just assume these truths.  He shows where the Bible teaches them.  From this foundation, Köstenberger walks through the scriptures that speak to the many issues above either directly or by application.  You may not agree with every one of his conclusions, but you will benefit from the discussion.  You will understand the issues at stake and the scriptures involved. Köstenberger does a remarkable job of handling viewpoints fairly, even when he disagrees with them. 

God, Marriage, and Family is a must read book for anyone who wants to understand God’s intentions for the family. It will challenge you to think through your own understanding of family. It will equip you to enter the debates of the day intelligently and persuasively.  The book can get a little academic at times, but it is clear and intelligible.  Köstenberger also performs a great service by providing an extensive listing of further resources on each topic and a guide for both individual and group study.  I found his charts extremely helpful as well.

When you read this book, pay special attention to the discussion of spiritual warfare in marriage and the suggestions for young men and women.  For those of you who are newly married or contemplating marriage, the discussion regarding contraception and reproductive technologies is a must read as well. 

Enjoy this book, and may God bless you as you rebuild the Biblical foundations of family in your personal life, church and community.

In Christ

Pastor Mike

You can find the book by clicking here.

Living the Cross Centered Life–a Review

June 20, 2006

There is no question about what the “main thing” in CJ Mahaney’s life is.  It is the Cross.  The gospel of Jesus Christ crucified for the salvation of sinners.

In the book, Living the Cross Centered Life, CJ Mahaney is relentless in his focus on the Cross.  This book will encourage you to be as well.  In a fast moving, direct, but gracious style CJ will take you into the heart of the mystery of Calvary.  He will remind you of the horror of sin, the justice of God, and the suffering of Jesus as your substitute.  His chapters on Gethsemane and Calvary present truths we are often too familiar with in an unforgettable way.  As I read this book, I was continually impacted by the horror of my own sin and the tremendous love of God as expressed in the death and resurrection of Jesus on my behalf.

If you read some of his posts at Together for the Gospel, you know that CJ is all about serving others.  With this book, he succeeds in performing another valuable service to us all in teaching us to deal with the temptations of subjectivism, legalism and condemnation.  He also gives sound advice on how to construct a cross-centered day and ultimately a cross-centered life. I encourage you to pay particular attention to Chapters 2, 11, 12 and 13 if you struggle with emotions, performance, or guilt.  God wants you to experience freedom and joy in Christ and CJ will help guide you through the Scriptures to find them.

As you can probably guess, I highly recommend reading this book.  It is short and easy to read.  But, it contains truth that will radically impact your relationship with God and understanding of the gospel.  You should know that this book combines two older books: Christ our Mediator and The Cross Centered Life, but if you don’t have them, I would recommend getting this one.  You can purchase it here.

In Christ

Pastor Mike