Book Review, Counseling, Gospel Spirituality

BOOK REVIEW: “Help! I Get Panic Attacks” by Lucy Ann Moll

If you struggle with panic attacks Lucy Ann Moll’s mini book is a great place to start on your journey of discovering how the gospel helps you. This is only 64 pages and can be read in a couple of evenings. She does a great job of providing biblical counsel, but also acknowledges the place of medicine.

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Over four chapters she shares her own journey with panic attacks, but also some biblical ways to think about being overcome with fear as well as some gospel solutions and practical tips. From experience she boldly proclaims, “God can also use your panic attacks for good.”

In the first chapter she explains a panic attack as “an extreme fear experience which is out of proportion to the actual situation.” She acknowledges healthy fear, but puts panic attacks in the category of unhealthy fears. She also addresses the physical symptoms of panic attacks as well as how they can be treated. Moll provides a healthy discussion on the role medicine does and does not play in addressing panic attacks.

In the second chapter she links the Bible’s treatment of terror with our understanding of panic attacks. I think this is a fair link, however this is one of the challenges for Christians. We cannot always make these types of links and we should always strive for a biblical understanding of our problems.

The third chapter focuses on how we can move from fearful to faithful. This is how the gospel is the solution to panic attacks. After looking at a number of biblical examples she concludes that each of these people “focused on their circumstances rather than on God’s power and care.” This comment is the problem that causes panic attacks. She goes further to explain the “root of ungodly fear is belief in a lie.” We need to face the lies we are believing.

In the fourth chapter she explains the ultimate solution as fearing God alone. Battling against panic attacks requires us to watch our thoughts, change our thoughts, and then put off fear by putting on faith. In her fourth chapter she provides a helpful tool she calls the Fear-to-Faith Template. She also closes the read with some practical projects to help us turn our fear to faith.

Again, I think reading this mini book is a great first step for anyone struggling with panic attacks. She provides biblical counsel, provides a balanced holistic approach, and gives the reader practical tips and projects to turn fear into faith.

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Book Review, Counseling, Gospel Spirituality

BOOK REVIEW: Depression: The Way Up When You’re Feeling Down

Many of us have been haunted by depression. The first resource I recommend someone struggling with depression is Ed Welch’s booklet. It is only 32 pages and thus can be read in one day. Even though it is short, it gets to the heart of the problem of depression as well as providing gospel solutions and practical tips on how to fight when depressed.

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Welch begins by explaining how depression is ultimately a spiritual problem. He argues “Depression reveals us, not just the chemical composition of our brain,” (27). When we are depressed we can’t trust our feelings. Many times we don’t feel like doing anything. When we are numb we are to “learn another way to live,” (4). The new way of living is to “believe and act on what God says rather than feel what God says. It is living by faith,” (4). When we are depressed and debating what our feelings are saying and what Scriptures says, Welch explains that “Scripture wins,” (4).

Next, Welch asks, “What is your depression saying?” and “What does it mean?” He acknowledges that our feelings teach us about our perceptions of our circumstances. Exploring our feelings can teach us that we are afraid or ashamed or angry. Hunting why we are depressed should reveal what is wrong with our heart. Ultimately we are to identify what is wrong and grow by trusting the Lord. Maybe we have made an idol out of something and he is calling us to trust him while not obtaining what we want. Ultimately we are to faithfully respond, “I know that my Redeemer is with me, and I will humbly wait for his deliverance,” (17).

Exploring the condition of our heart leads us down a path asking a series of “why” questions.  However, Welch explains that we should follow the path that leads to God if we want to come up out of depression. The more we can look at the “whys” of our depression through a gospel lens, the more accurately we can diagnose the condition of our hearts and find hope in Jesus. He explains, “If you think about what your depression is saying and it takes you all the way to your relationship with Christ, then don’t stop on that journey until you have heard something good,” (20). Welch also comments, “Remember that if you have put your faith in Jesus, you are forgiven, adopted, beloved, and delighted in. You must start thinking the way God thinks, not the way you think,” (20).

Welch closes with eleven practical tips on how to battle depression as well as a charge to not give up. I particularly like the sixth tip: “Each day, speak or write something that can be an encouragement to others. You have a calling. There are people to love, to care for, to help,” (20). I also appreciate the eight tip: “Keep a sharp eye out for grumbling and complaining,” (20). Welch acknowledges, “Depression is hard. No matter what its origin, it doesn’t leave without a fight. But don’t be discouraged. There are good reasons to enter into the fight. Changes are guaranteed (Phil. 1:6),” (23).

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Book Review, Children, Gospel Spirituality, Redeemer Church

BOOK REVIEW: The Ology

Periodically I do a little book review in order to equip readers for the practical works of service the Lord provides each of us (Ephesians 4:12). Parents, particularly fathers, we are called to pastor the hearts of their children. Long before there were church buildings and paid pastoral staff and organized Sunday School programmes, children had parents who taught them the truths of God’s Word and how to faithfully live according to those truths (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Today I want to share with you a resource that has blessed my family as well as how we use the book.

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“The Ology” is written by Marty Machowski and is beautifully illustrated by Andy McGuire. If you are familiar with Systematic Theologies then you will recognize that the book is organized along traditional Systematic Theology categories. It is divided into 11 sections spanning 71 chapters. The chapters are only a couple of pages long. The sections include “The Ology” of: God, People, Sin, Promise and the Law, Christ, Holy Spirit, Adoption into God’s Family, Change, Church, End Times, and God’s Word.

 

I love its intentionality to grab the larger redemptive message of the Bible. It is helpful that each chapter is only one to two pages in length, thus can be read in just a couple of minutes. The Adoption section is a strength because it helps children understand what the gospel accomplishes in our lives. My favorite section is the seven chapters on Change. This book explains spiritual growth and sanctification from a distinctively biblical approach as well as a gospel-grounded approach. Children, like adults, need to know how to live faithfully as well as what to do when they mess up.

 

After our two children bathe, brush teeth, and get into PJs we give 15 to 20 minutes to praying, talking, reading, and singing. We vary our reading, but lately it has been to read a biblical type reading (like “The Ology”) then something fun. Our readings stir up good conversation, but we also take time to simply take about their days. I then pray for the kids, and my wife sings with them. Most nights I spend time with the children separately but some evenings I gather both of them together. It can feel chaotic at times and some nights we skip, but I have to admit that it is my favorite part of my day.

 

Last Spring I began reading “The Ology” with my 7-year-old daughter during our bedtime routine. She reports that she loves the pictures. McGuire provides truly beautiful illustrations. Apparently my daughter is concentrating as I read because she said that she loves the “detail” of his pictures. The way Machowski explains complex ideas is also a highlight for her. My daughter told me that she gets into each little explanation and really understands what he is saying. Finally, my 7-year-old also said she loves the verses he provides in each chapter.

Even as I write these words I am blown away by the impact this little book has had on my little girl. I cherish these biblical truths and I cherish time discussing them with my daughter. Dads, especially if you have a preschooler or a young elementary student, I commend to you “The Ology.”

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Book Review, Gospel Spirituality, Preaching

BOOK REVIEW: Spirit-Led Preaching

Ok, ok, I know you might not be a “preacher” but if you are a Christian you need to know how to understand the Bible and then apply it to your life. Also, if you are growing in the Lord, you need to know how to apply the Bible to other people’s lives. Greg Heisler’s little book (only 153 pages) Spirit-Led Preaching: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Sermon Preparation and Delivery is one of the best books I have read on how to prepare a Bible lesson. It is a worthy read for pastors, but also Elders, Deacons, Sunday School Teachers, Youth Leaders, and Neighborhood Group leaders.

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Redeemer Church holds a high view of the Bible. All our pastors and leaders hold to the infallibility as well as inerrancy of Scripture. We understand that the Bible is authoritative and thus strive to live a Bible grounded spirituality. These convictions and commitments lead us to embrace the philosophy of expository preaching. With our sermons and lessons we simply try to explain and apply a passage of the Bible. This is how God speaks to us…through His Word.

Heisler is a pastor and preaching professor. He holds our same convictions and commitments. He recognizes and applauds the renewal of expository preaching in the American church. His book does not pit the Bible against the Holy Spirit, rather is a call to “recover the Holy Spirit for expository preaching.” (xvi.) He explains that “the sermon is driven along by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the biblical text” (18). As we prepare a sermon or lesson, we need to do the hard work of biblical exegesis, but we also need to yield to the “illuminating guidance of the Holy Spirit” (21). What is so encouraging about this little book is its well-roundedness. It provides a case for the authority of the Bible, for the role of the Holy Spirit, but also the glorious redemptive message for the Bible. Heisler argues, “Christ is the grand theme, the singular message, and the supreme subject of all the Bible” (26). He summarizes his position by stating, “The Spirit reveals and glorifies Christ by magnifying Christ’s teaching, Christ’s gospel, and Christ’s work as the grand fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan.” (55)

I normally wouldn’t recommend a preaching book on this blog, but I found it so balanced, helpful, and concise. If you are a church leader, I encourage you to grab a copy.

 

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Book Review, Gospel Spirituality, Jesus

APP REVIEW: Solid Joys Devotions

Solid Joys have been central in my walk with Jesus for the past year. Daily, the team at Desiring God posts a devotional reading. Desiring God describes Solid Joys as a “daily devotional app from the ministry of John Piper.” It can be accessed through DesiringGod.org as well as the App Store and Google Play. Every day the app provides a scripture passage along with a short reading from one of John Piper’s books or sermons or articles.

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Last November 16th was a devotional using I Peter 5:7 about anxiety. It was powerful in my life including the call to “make war, not with other people, but with our own unbelief”…which is the “root of anxiety.” Also on anxiety, using Matthew 6:30 on November 4th Piper writes, “the root of anxiety is inadequate faith in our Father’s future grace.” Using Hebrews 10:14 on January 4th I read about salvation as, “not the boast of the strong. It is the cry of the weak in need of a Saviour.” I struggle with irritability and last week I read: “And your agonizing, unplanned detour is not a waste – not if you look to the Lord for his unexpected work, and do what you must do in his name (Colossians 3:17). The Lord works for those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4).”

 

The app is relatively simple and its simplicity is part of what I love about it. The reader is not bombarded by endless articles and videos and audio files. You just pop it open once a day during your prayer time. However, initially the app had an x-ray mode that enabled the reader to view the article with a black background and white letters. In a recent upgrade the did away with the x-ray option, which I preferred.

 

I use the app during my daily devotional time. I don’t use it every day, but most mornings I take a couple of minutes to read the passage being referenced then read the article. John Piper certainly isn’t Jesus, but I have been blessed by his insights and theology since college.

 

If you are blessed by books like “Desiring God” and “Future Grace” and “Brothers, We are Not Professionals” and “Don’t Waste Your Life,” then you will be encouraged by Solid Joys. Make it part of your daily walk with the Lord!

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Book Review

ALBUM REVIEW: Kaela Sinclair’s “Sun and Mirror”

I normally reserve this blog for comments about biblical spirituality and issues we are wrestling with at Redeemer Church. However, a couple of times a year I stumble upon an album that I really enjoy. Being back in Denton has only further stirred my enjoyment of indie-rock. Earlier in the year one of the guys from Midlake was plugging Kaela Sinclair so I thought I would check out her music.

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I found sweeping bold vocals, insightful truthful lyrics, and a variety of sounds and instruments that would be expected from an artist connected to Midlake. The melody in “Without” is powerful. “Lock and Key” is one of favorites on the album due its unique sound and the simple poetry of her lyrics. Love the line “looking out from within is the original sin” from “Original Sin.” Not sure Kaela’s religious beliefs but I find “Like Kings” to be a hopeful look to the future. “The Realist” is also a cool little confessional.

Ok, I know I stink at using words to describe music, and don’t have much of a future as a music critic. But, when I find a great album by a Denton artist I have share the love. Check out Kaela Sinclair on iTunes or at KaelaSinclair.com.

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Book Review, Church, Gospel Spirituality

BOOK REVIEW: “Church Membership” by Jonathan Leeman

Jesus is our perfect example of love.  He combines a compassionate heart with acts of mercy, but also doesn’t wink at sin yet sacrificed greatly to be reconciled with those who have wronged him.  Everyone desperately needs to experience that type of love.  We need it from Jesus for our salvation but also for our daily spirituality.  Jesus is no longer physically with us, therefore how can we experience this type of love?  We experience Jesus’ love through Jesus’ body…the church.

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The world needs a representation of Jesus; therefore it needs healthy churches that understand the Christian life to the degree of developing healthy church members.  Jonathan Leeman’s Church Membership explains how the world knows who represents Jesus.  It is a only 130 short pages spread over eight chapters.

 

“Membership” is maybe not the best word because is conjures up images of clubs and Leeman is adamant that the local church is not a club.  He says that the church “is not a voluntary organization where membership is optional for you” (22) rather it is a family we are born into.  We don’t join churches, rather we submit to them.  This family is to “give shape to my Christian life and yours” (24).  Because we connect church membership to the idea of a voluntary club, we struggle to find it in the Bible.  But if you understand church membership through the family or kingdom metaphors we see the idea numerous places.  Leeman describes the church as an embassy that “declares its home nation’s interests to the host nation” (27).

 

Leeman’s second chapter is devoted to showing where church membership is found in the New Testament.  Including the initial church found in the book of Acts, he identifies membership traits of the early church.  Leeman makes deductive arguments based upon ideas like: “Christian leaders are made responsible for specific sheep,” “Christians are responsible to submit to specific leaders,” and “Christians exclude false professors from the fellowship.” The conclusion, based upon the church in Acts, is that a “Christian is to belong to a church” (46).  There is also a sense that everyone, including those part of the church and those who are not part of the church, “knows who is meant when Christians refer to ‘the church’ doing this or that” (47).  The early church knew who was “in” and who was “out” and embraced their shepherding responsibility for those who were submitted to the church family.

 

Leeman also explains the Bible’s vision for what church members are, namely those that hold the keys of the Kingdom.  He also explains the Bible’s vision for the essence of the church as a group that gathers together to oversee each other’s spiritual lives.  He concludes that church membership is simply someone’s public declaration that they are a citizen of Jesus’ Kingdom.  The other members are also declaring their commitment and responsibility to care for that person’s soul.  I believe church membership is simply about committing to each other as a family.

 

Leeman’s book is solidly biblical, but also a short read.  It addresses common objections to church membership as well as thoughtfully navigates issues that arise when a church or an individual Christian commits to biblical church membership.  I highly recommend it for any Christian contemplating joining Redeemer Church or any other church.

 

Church Membership provides helpful biblical answers to your questions about why you should join a church like Redeemer Church.  We feel so strongly about the issue of church membership and the usefulness of this little book, we will make copies available to you for free at our next worship service.  If you have questions about membership in our church you can visit RedeemerDenton.com/Membership or email me at micah@redeemerdenton.com.

 

I close with a moving and humbling quote from the book:

“What’s unexpected about Christianity is that its hero doesn’t risk all for a damsel but for what the Bible likens to a harlot.  Then he calls everyone that he saves to submit themselves to this same harlot – the bride still being made ready, the church.” (102)

Pray for us as we seek to be a broken people loving broken people.

 

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