Monday, August 31, 2015

Reading List (August 31, 2015) & Important Update

Finished this month:
In case you missed it I wrote a book review earlier this month for Plugged In: Proclaiming Christ in the Internet Age by Marie Notcheva here. (Or see previous post.)

How do Preaching and Corporate Prayer Work Together? By Ryan McGraw
This short little booklet on praying in the life of the church will give you some good reasons why prayer is so important. “Every congregation should be characterized by two things above all others: corporate prayer and faithful preaching of the Word” (p. 16). Prayer is the fuel behind the preaching, prayer calls the Holy Spirit to action – and this is God’s means of working, through prayer. Too many Christians do not realize the need for prayer, or the power behind prayer. It’s “important”, but not that important. But you should attend corporate prayer, and you should bring your children too. “Children who do not attend prayer meetings usually become adults who do not attend prayer meetings… teaching your children to attend and participate in prayer meetings is one of the greatest encouragements that a congregation can experience.” (p. 21). “Prayer never changes the mind of God, but prayer does fulfill the eternal counsel of God” (p. 19). I do believe that if you want to see change, growth, conversions, etc. within your church, you must pray, prayer meetings must happen, and the Holy Spirit must be asked for.

“It is God’s manner before any great work for his church, to stir up the spirits of his beloved ones to give him no rest… And undoubtedly if we would join the forces of our prayers together, and set upon God with an holy violence, he would set his power, his wisdom, his goodness, on work for the exalting of his church, and ruin of the enemies of it.” (quoting Richard Sibbes, p. 12)
Joy Unspeakable by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones is one of my favorite writers/preachers! This was a glorious book, a call for an earnest seeking after the renewing power of the Holy Spirit. We become so content in our Christian walk, we are satisfied with baby steps of growth – nothing wrong with that, but God has a Spirit that He is willing to pour out upon us again to infuse us with joy and power to be His witnesses. We need fresh outpourings because we easily grow cold, or at least apathetic. The work of the Spirit is often quiet within us, but it is also meant to be experimental. It is a relationship that we have, a love-relationship at that! Dr. Lloyd-Jones gives great teaching here on what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit, addresses questions like Are we to ask/seek for more of the Holy Spirit? The answer is yes, and he goes on to discuss how we are to do this. I was greatly encouraged just by reading this, and reminded that God is still at work and has a deeper Spiritual life for me to experience.

“[Another] danger, then, is that of being satisfied with something very much less than what is offered in the Scripture, and the danger of interpreting Scripture by our experiences and reducing its teaching to the level of what we know and experience; and I would say that this is the greater danger…” (p. 18)
“New Testament Christianity is not just a formal, polite, correct, and orthodox kind of faith and belief. No! What characterizes it is this element of love and passion, this pneumatic element, this life, this vigour, this abandon, this exuberance… That is what me must seek…” (p. 201)

How to Say No to A Stubborn Habit by Erwin Lutzer
I’m actually not quite done with this book, but close enough! Most of us have stubborn habits (sins) that we struggle with and this is a very practical book on how to break the chains that hold us back from growth and freedom. He deals with guilt, the truth that we need to humble ourselves and seek God’s help, and that we need to realize/reckon our position in Christ. We do not fight from a position of weakness and defeat, we fight from our position in Christ – we are adopted by God, holy and beloved! As we learn to fix our gaze, our mind, on the cross, on the Word of God, than sin and selfish desires will fade into the background. By saying Yes to God, we will be saying NO to temptation (see p.59). This is a really great practical book to overcoming temptation and pursuing holiness.

“Temptation is not sin; it is a call to battle.” (p. 50)
“Only a Christian who is disciplined in the Word of God can rest in the Lord.” (p. 80)

And now, an important update and coming change in my “Reading List” posts:

For those of you who don’t know, I leave for Westminster Theological Seminary in exactly 1 week!!!! For the last year and a half I have been taking online classes and this school year I will be finishing my Master of Arts Degree in Counseling. It will be a very busy year for me, I’m taking 18 credits just this fall! As a result, my reading will almost completely consider of class-required reading which is spread out over the semester, and so my reading list will not be as organized each month. Thus, for the next 9 months my plan is to write a short “Reading List & Seminary Update” and share with you what I’m reading and learning! Please do pray for me as I embark on this journey, I look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Plugged In: Proclaiming Christ in the Internet Age (Book Review)

This is Marie Notcheva’s second book, her first book (Redeemed From the Pit) I wrote a review for when it came out 3 years ago so I feel privileged to write a review for this one as well. This book is primarily written for Christians who desire to minister to others online whether it’s knowing how to respond to someone’s “I’m depressed” post, evangelizing or doing one-on-one counseling. A shorter book, just under 125 pages, but packed with really great advice!

In our modern technological age the internet has opened to us a whole world to interact with. It’s also a whole new sphere where self-promotion is free to abound, where attention-seeking can be disguised and it’s a whole lot easier to be mean and say things you would never say to a person’s face. On the positive side we have a multitude of opportunities to interact with people. We listen, we speak and seek to teach and encourage. With this comes great opportunity, but yet many challenges. How do we navigate communicating with people we have never met or rarely see face-to-face? Is it possible and effective to disciple someone online? 

Marie has years of experience with online relationships and counseling. In this book she explores with us the World Wide Web as a tool to be used, but with wisdom and discretion.  It is a great tool for evangelism and building up others in the faith, but Marie also shares a few stories that illustrate well some cautions we should have when interacting and counseling people online. How do you respond to a “seeker” who seems to understand the Gospel? How do you respond to someone’s seeming cry for help via dark and disturbing posts? Marie discusses various situations and how we can have more discernment in our responses. Many times we can learn to be creative in how we comment on something, but in some cases of more serious issues, private messages are better. Even a “hey, how are you doing?” communicates to people that you notice, and that you care about them .  All relationships are built on trust, Marie reminds us, and trust must be built over time by listening, caring and encouraging. 

True discipleship means a personal relationship, and truth be told, you cannot have a real personal relationship online. We are relational, physical beings and we need face-to-face relationships in order to truly thrive. Marie emphasizes this throughout her book as well as the importance of the local church, which is the community that is absolutely needed for a Christian to grow. If a “seeker” is not interested in getting connected with a church or meeting with a believer in their area then unfortunately that is likely a sign that they are not truly seeking change. Another important point Marie makes in this book is that social media interaction is not fellowship and online instruction is just that, instruction. It’s not discipleship. Marie writes that “a key component of real discipleship is lost online: accountability” (p. 35, emphasis hers) It’s important to be aware that many people say things online in order to gain attention. It’s easy to please people and say all the right things when you’re speaking through a computer screen.

There were a number of things I appreciated in this book. One was the reminder that just because someone wants to talk to us online doesn’t mean they need to monopolize our time. Marie writes, “If you are spending hours writing to someone who doesn’t seem willing to understand or search the Scriptures himself, you may need to re-evaluate the time you are spending with them.” (p. 47) .We need to keep our priorities straight and not get distracted by conversations that are not profitable. Discernment is needed in this area, and Marie shares great advice on how to know when to let an interaction end. Another thing I was reminded/convicted about was how easy it is to follow what everyone else is doing online. Social media especially is so narcissistic (self-focused) and designed to promote self and it’s easy to slip into that. I also appreciated her warnings about how easy it is to be sarcastic and snippy, and act/speak in ways we never would in person. Again, super easy to do; it’s so easy to type something sarcastic and not think about how the other person might feel because we can’t see their reaction. As Christians, everything we do, say and write should be done in love, for the edification of others and for the glory of God. And we all need to grow in this area!

In this internet-driven age we need Scripture-grounded thinking and discernment in how to use our time wisely and how to use the tools available to us. This book gives really practical advice on how to do that – especially for those of us who interact often on social media. I hope you’ll pick up a copy and be greatly edified by it!

You can purchase the book here, just $10 with Amazon Prime! (Also available on Kindle.)

For more information about Marie, to hear her testimony and learn about her counseling ministry, visit her blog: