Christianity Today has totally redesigned the SmallGroups.com website. Check it out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you aren’t familiar with SmallGroups.com, it is the premiere site for small group leaders and pastors. They boast thousands of articles and Bible studies.
According to managing editor Amy Jackson, “Our goal was to make it easier to navigate, and it’s now organized around the three main parts of leading a healthy small-group ministry:
Build your ministry—communicating about groups, organizing the ministry, and more
Train your leaders—developing leaders through discipleship and skills training including coaching tips, training tools, assessments, and more
Lead your group—leading healthy, growing small groups with great resources for starting strong, troubleshooting, and ending well
Now it’s easy to know where to look for the information you need.
I’m also excited about our navigation across the top in these three categories. In each category, you can easily see the steps to healthy ministry across the top of the page. For instance, under Lead (the section for those leading groups) we have:
Choose a Study
We also have a new section in all three categories called Be a Healthy Leader.
Another exciting feature is our Explore New Ideas category. This section will include articles about what’s happening in the small-group movement. Right now we’re featuring several new articles about group models. There will be lots of new content in this section in the near future.”
So check it out and let me know what you think.
Good news! I’ve permanently reduced the price for my book, Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members to $5.99 when you order through Mighty Oak Ministries. That’s a full $3.00 off the retail price.
So as you prepare for your small groups in the fall, consider ordering one or more copies of this excellent resource for leaders. If you are interested in more than ten copies, contact me for even lower prices.
May 31, 2014 | Comments Off
If you’re looking for a comprehensive commentary on Judges and Ruth, this is it. Written by Robert B. Chisholm, Jr., department chair and professor of Old Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary and senior Old Testament editor for the New English Translation, A Commentary on Judges and Ruth (Kregel Exegetical Library) is an excellent resource for academics, pastors, or serious lay Bible study leaders.
Since I prefer to do in depth work when I have time, I appreciate a commentary that includes both strong exegetical and homiletical elements. Chisholm’s work is at the same time readable and scholarly. He takes a historical-literary-theological approach, as one might expect from a Dallas professor. He also deals thoroughly with introductory matters and interacts with other commentaries and publications, generally explaining where and why he differs with them. His footnotes and references are excellent. Being a visual learner, I appreciated his Chronological Framework of Judges.
Each chapter in Judges begins with his unique translation and narrative structure and ends with message, application, and homiletical trajectories. While he doesn’t translate Ruth, he does offer passage by passage discussion and message and application, including thematic emphases, exegetical idea, theological principles and idea, and homiletical trajectories and preaching ideas. If you’re short on time as you prep for your bible study, this is where to turn.
Through his work, Chisholm attempts to assist the reader answer three important questions: (1) What did the text mean in its ancient Israelite context? (2) What theological principles emerge from or are illustrated by a thematic analysis of the text? (3) How is the message of the text relevant to the church? This makes it useful for those who are teaching from it.
I highly recommend this commentary, and hope it will encourage more leaders to teach from the Old Testament, and especially from these often ignored or avoided books. (Have you noticed I love Old Testament Resources?)
April 25, 2014 | Comments Off
What did warfare look like in Israel during the time of Joshua, Judges, David, and Isaiah? What about the other Ancient Near East militaries? How were they the same? Different?
OK, call me a geek, but I love this stuff. I’ve written Bible studies on the books of Joshua and Isaiah and on the armor of God. While many biblical allusions are military, most of us know very little about biblical warfare. Now there’s a resource that is both approachable and well documented.
Warfare in the Old Testament: The Organization, Weapons, and Tactics of Ancient Near Eastern Armies by Boyd Seevers explores the military strategies and armaments of the Ancient Near Eastern armies of Israel, Egypt, Philistia, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia during the Old Testament period. Each section begins with a fictionalized story of a warrior during one of the wars discussed in Scripture. While a little contrived, it does make a potentially dry subject a little more personal. The narrative that follows describes the military organization, weapons, chariots, and tactics. The book features many excellent full color maps, line illustrations taken from archeological finds, excellent and informative footnotes, and Kregel Academic’s signature semigloss paper. It’s an excellent reference and actually an interesting read.
February 8, 2014 | Comments Off
The Why Didn’t You Warn Me? website turns seven on February 12! How can that be? Seems like just yesterday I was writing the book and creating the website. I’ve appreciated your support over the years. We’ve shared lots of ideas and built a bit of a community in the process. No, I’m not going away. I still have plenty to say.
But I DO want to celebrate. So, I’m going to give away at least one copy of Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members on February 12. In fact, I’ll give away one copy for every 10 legitimate comments we receive through midnight Pacific Time on February 12. So, it you’d like to be a winner, leave a comment on this post. (Make sure you leave a legitimate email address on the comment form so we can reach you.) And stay tuned. I’ll announce the winners on February 14.
Also, for the month of February, I’m lowering the price for Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members to $5.99. That’s a $3.00 savings on every book. So if your church or small group leaders need this resource, now is the time to order!
January 30, 2014 | Comments Off
My primary interest these days is spiritual and therefore whole person transformation. I spend a lot of time reading, meditating, and praying about how best to help others become all they were created to be. And frankly, to help myself.
A few years ago I discovered both new and older teaching on the human spirit. I learned how the spirit is the control center of the person and how by engaging and growing up our spirits we can grow, change, and become the person God created us to be. That’s been pretty effective. Differentiating between the soul and spirit has been revolutionary for some. But in the back of my mind, I kept wondering about the heart.
Scripture talks about the heart being the center and source even more than it does the spirit. The words used in both the Old and New Testaments for heart are the same whether referring to the physical beating heart or the spiritual metaphorical heart. That has challenged me to read more. Consider where the heart fits in. What I’ve found is that while there isn’t a lot of agreement, what we do know is that both the physical and spiritual heart are more critical to health than most of us have considered in the past.
So it was with great expectation that I agreed to review Minding the Heart: The Way of Spiritual Transformation by Robert Saucy from Kregel Academic. If you’re a regular reader here, you know I review a lot of Kregel books and generally find them to be excellent in both scholarship and usefulness. This book is no exception. Except that it’s very dense, very scholarly, very biblical, and thus, a slow read. That’s not all bad. It’s just a warning. You won’t breeze through it. You will want to linger, think about what he’s saying, and how you might apply it to your life.
Saucy begins with several chapters of discussion of the spirit, soul, body, and heart. He builds a step-by-step case that the heart is the control center of the person, attempting to debunk the theories of those who place the spirit at the center. He backs it up both biblically and scientifically. Then he spends the rest of the book discussing we can transform the heart through renewing the mind, meditation, changing habits, and community. Hmm, those are the same things I teach, and I know they work.
This book would be an excellent resource for pastors, small group directors, lay prayer ministers, and anyone else who is serious about change. It isn’t an easy read, but I think you’ll find it rewarding.
January 20, 2014 | Comments Off
If you’re a pastor, Bible study leader, or student looking for an excellent Old Testament survey, this is it. What the Old Testament Authors Really Cared About: A Survey of Jesus’ Bible by Jason S. DeRouchie (ed.) is another of the gorgeous Kegel Academic publications. It’s simple enough for the non-seminary trained among us, but deep enough that even well trained pastors will find insights and help.
The goal of the 17 authors is to present the essence of what is revealed in the Old Testament, with a conscious eye toward the fulfillment found in Jesus as clarified in the New Testament. They point out that what we know as the Old Testament was all Jesus had. The New Testament wasn’t written until after His resurrection. Seen from that perspective, it’s helpful to see the progression and purpose of God’s covenant in redemptive history. It uses the same progressive revelation as the Hebrew Tanak, which means the order is law, prophets, then writings. Each chapter synthesizes three to six themes, is gospel-saturated, and offers one page summarizing the “who, when, where, why” of the biblical book.
The book, printed on Kregel’s lovely almost-slick paper, is filled with gorgeous photos, maps, and charts that will be useful in teaching or leading. (I’d love to have a CD of these to use in Power Point presentations.) It also includes quotations from various Ancient Near East (ANE) writings that parallel the Old Testament. These are fascinating and might make good discussion in a small group. Call outs offer additional information, tidbits, and challenges. This is one book that will see a lot of use in my work.
July 16, 2013 | Comments Off
It’s another Charts book! This time on Paul. In April I reviewed Kregel Academic’s book of Charts on the Book of Hebrews. I loved it, and feel the same about this book. I wish I had had this book when I took my New Testament class last year. It sure would have made my life easier.
Like the book of Charts on Hebrews, this book is chock full of information. Everything you ever wanted to know about Paul, his writings, his life, and his times. There are charts on Roman social and military structures; the Greco-Roman religions, cults, and philosophies; first century Judaisms; Paul’s life and ministries; lists of women and men in Paul; accusations against Paul, Old Testament quotes and allusions; key words in each book; snapshots by book; theological concepts including Spirit, sin, death and judgment, soteriorology, faith, and more; and even a brief comparison of the old and new perspectives on Paul. There is also a brief section on the Pauline authorship of the disputed books.
So what does this all mean to you? As a pastor or leader, this book will save you hours of research. It’s quick and easy to use, and contains much of the background information you’ll need to teach, lead, or answer random questions. I love these books. I know you will too.
May 27, 2013 | Comments Off
Did you ever wonder what Jesus’ contemporaries understood about the Messiah or how they missed him? With the advantage of hindsight, it seems so obvious that he was the fulfillment of all the prophesies. How did they miss it?
But we start deductively, knowing who Jesus is from the NT and therefore seeing the clear proof in the Old Testament prophesies. Jesus the Messiah: Tracing the Promises, Expectations, and Coming of Israel’s King begins with an inductive approach, looking at the texts and seeing where they lead us. In examining the evidence, Jesus the Messiah assumes that the NT has not been written (giving us the deductive advantage). Rather, it uses only Hebrew writings, asking how those passages of promise were read in light of the whole. It provides a gradual unfolding, moving progressively from implicit to explicit. It wasn’t until the time of Jesus that all of the key elements were in place to make a unity of it all. Jesus’ life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension finally completed the messianic puzzle. It just wasn’t clear until Jesus pulled it together.
The book is divided into three parts, which together make an excellent case for the messiahship of Jesus :
*Promises of a King, with contextual and canonical trajectories from the OT.
*Expectations of a King, focusing on the messianic promises evident in later extra-biblical but Jewish writings.
* Coming of a King, concentrating on christological readings of the First Testament.
This is not a book for just anyone, although it is for anyone who is willing to invest a little sweat equity. It wrestles with the historical, theological, and literary aspects of prophesy. At a minimum, you need to be fairly well versed in Scripture and hermeneutics. The authors’ goal is to help readers comprehend and appreciate the dynamics of messianic prophesy and fulfillment. Every messianic passage is exegeted, providing an excellent reference for pastors, Bible study leaders, and the curious. So far I’ve used to to simply check out a prophesy in a passage I’m teaching. It’s a great reference if you don’t want to wade through the entire thing.
I must confess that I had a love/hate relationship with this book. It’s gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous, with a high quality semi-slick paper and color illustrations, charts, and maps. It’s well foot-noted and just excellent. But it’s so excellent that I had a hard time reading it. I read with a pencil, ruler, and post-it notes, thoroughly annotating as I go. This book was just too pretty to deface. But I got over it, and loved it. Thanks Kregel Academic.
April 28, 2013 | Comments Off
Sheryl Giesbrecht’s life sounds a lot like mine. Maybe a lot like yours, too. Maybe like someone you are ministering to. Do you ever get the idea that your lot is somehow harder than everyone else’s? I do. I compare my problems with my friend’s successes. I compare my not-so-good health to my friend who can walk four miles a day. And yes, I always come up short.
Why do we do this? Why do we think, “I’m the only one…” You know, we aren’t alone. Elijah whined the same thing to God in 1 Kings 19:10 following the biggest event of his life which was followed by a threat on his life. He ran away, and when God asked what he was doing there in the middle of the desert, “He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’” Do you ever feel this way? I sure do. I try so hard to do all the right things but feel as if I’m getting slapped down at every turn.
So what does this have to do with Sheryl? She’s written a very accessible book called Get Back Up: Trusting God When Life Knocks You Down. On one level, it’s a chronicle of a life much like yours and mine. That is, a life full of twists and turns, dips and bumps. And a few head-on crashes. The kind of life that makes us want to throw in the towel, crawl under the broom tree with Elijah, and whine: “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (I Kings 19:4). Instead, Sheryl offers lessons and principles she learned along the way that put a bounce into her falls.
With discussion questions at the end of each chapter, this would be a great study guide for a women’s group, especially for women who are facing life’s challenges. (Uh, yeah, all of us…) It would be useful in a recovery group or even a jail ministry. The truth is, we all face a whole lot more in life that we thought we signed up for. Sheryl’s book offers not only hope, but also practical strategies for becoming victorious.
You can learn more about Sheryl and her book at the LitFuse Group, which provided this book as part of Sheryl’s blog tour.