one at a time by Kyle Idleman–Book Review

I’ve been reading this book during my morning devotional time. It’s an easy read, but so challenging (at least to me). As Christians, we all want to make a difference but how do we do that? Often, we are so distracted by the many tasks we set ourselves, and by the immensity of the work we see before us that we lose heart. According to Kyle Idleman, the key is this — notice and love one person at a time. This is what is known as friendship evangelism.

This idea isn’t new — Jesus modeled it for us. Using many Biblical examples, the author illustrates the way that Jesus, even among crowds, was able to “zoom in” on one person and lovingly address their concerns and needs. He met people where they were — at meals, at parties, at times when they were ill, at times of grief. He did not heal or save everyone, but he focused on the person in front of Him. This is the way God chose to change the world. We can continue His mission in the same way.

Practical and encouraging, one at a time would be an excellent choice for a small group study.

VERDICT: 5 STARS. Recommended reading for all Christians!

For more books for your small group see:

Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton–Book Review

When Words Matter Most by Cheryl Marshall & Caroline Newheiser–Book Review

Difference Makers by Gregg Matte–Book Revi

Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton–Book Review

Life Together in Christ provides a model for studying and experiencing community in a small group setting. Using the story of the Emmaus road as her format, author Ruth Barton leads her readers through 9 topics designed to further spiritual transformation. They are:

  1. Choosing to walk together
  2. Welcoming the stranger
  3. Choosing to listen
  4. Gathering on the basis of shared desire
  5. Men and Women in community
  6. The Spiritual journey
  7. Finding our story in His story
  8. Discerning the presence of Christ
  9. Being a witness

Sprinkled throughout are questions for personal reflection (good for journaling!) and at the end of each chapter are more questions and a prayer for group sharing. There are two appendices at the end which delve further into spiritual growth, community and the practice of stability. The author often relies on quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s well-known work, Life Together, to illustrate her points, so if you’re interested in Christian community, this is another well-respected book to read on that topic.

Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community (Transforming Resources) by [Ruth Haley Barton]

If you’re in a small group, or starting a small group, this would be an interesting choice to use. I agreed with most of what the author had to say, with the exception of her objection to single sex groups. There are certainly times and instances (in my opinion) when same sex groups are appropriate.

VERDICT: 4 STARS

For other books that could be used in your small group see:

Prayer in the Night by Tish Harrison Warren–Book Review

When Words Matter Most by Cheryl Marshall & Caroline Newheiser–Book Review

Dangerous Surrender by Kay Warren–Book Review

Seven-Mile Miracle by Steven Furtick–Book Review

In this book, author Steven Furtick examines the seven last statements (or “words’) of Jesus from the cross in light of the spiritual journey of every believer. He boils each one down to its’ essential meaning:

*Forgiveness –“Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34

*Salvation–“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43

*Relationship–“Woman, here is your son … Here is your mother.” John 19:26-27

*Abandonment–“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46

*Distress–“I am thirsty.” John 19:28

*Triumph–“It is finished.” John 19:30

*Reunion–“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46

Seven-Mile Miracle: Journey into the Presence of God Through the Last Words of Jesus by [Steven Furtick]

Each section includes questions for journaling or group discussion. At the end there is a forty-day reading guide with Scripture selections on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This was an easy read would be a good pick to use as a spiritual exercise during the season of Lent. Since the author is not Lutheran, there were some theological statements I disagreed with, mainly around the issue of “making a decision” to choose Christ. As Lutherans, we believe Christ chooses us.

VERDICT: 3 Stars due to the theological issues.

For more about the death and resurrection of Christ see:

Martin Luther on the Resurrection

Martin Luther on God’s Victory Over Death

The Resurrection is Now

When God Says go by Elizabeth Laing Thompson–Book Review

Using dramatized biblical stories, author Elizabeth Laing Thompson illustrates a variety of circumstances surrounding the call of God.  For example:

  • When God’s call scares you
  • When your past concerns you
  • When you must change
  • When God’s call is not clear
  • When God’s call seems mundane
  • When going means staying
  • When a call comes without warning

You’ll walk through the stories of Peter, Abigail, Jonathon, Moses, Mary Magdalene, Samuel and more as you study how they responded to God’s calling and how you, too, fit into God’s plan. The author weaves her story and those of others she knows into the lessons learned from Scripture.  Sometimes calls are dramatic, and others are quiet and subtle.  You may hear God’s leading through life events, God’s Word, or the advice of a Christian friend.  One thing is certain — we are all called to go and do something for God.  Are you listening?  Will you answer?  Are you willing to be changed?  These are the questions.

After each chapter there are suggestions for further study, questions to be used for discussion or journaling, and a prayer.  This could certainly be used with a small group for study.

VERDICT:  5 Stars.  I’m all about discovering God’s purpose in our lives, and this book could be an important resource in the search.  It’s an easy yet thoughtful read.

Note:  I received this a free e-book from BookBub.  You might want to check them out. You can join and receive offers for free or discounted e-books every day, according to the genres you select.

For another book by the same author, see this review:

When God Says Wait by Elizabeth Laing Thompson–Book Review

 

The Reason for God by Timothy Keller–Book Review

Timothy Keller, pastor of a large church in Manhattan, has written an excellent apologetic work, based on his own experience defending and explaining the faith to skeptics.  In a reasoned and logical way he answers questions such as:

  • How can there be only one true religion?
  • Why does a good God allow suffering?
  • How can a loving God send people to hell?

He also refutes some common assumptions such as:

  • Christianity is limiting
  • The church is responsible for so much injustice
  • Science has disproven Christianty
  • The Bible can’t be taken literally

Finally, he lists a number of good reasons for accepting Christianity as the most rational explanation for what is wrong with the world and the best hope for a meaningful identity and life.

I found this book to both readable and persuasive (however, I am no skeptic so possibly I am biased).  However, his success in attracting a large number of urban doubters to his congregation would argue that he is quite convincing.  If you are a skeptic, Pastor Keller’s book may win you over;  if you’re a believer, it will provide you with logical arguments to face the skeptics in your own life.

He did not delve deeply into doctrine (he is Presbyterian) as his focus is on the beliefs common to all Christians.  I did have an issue with his explanation of hell — he contends that we “choose” to send ourselves to hell.  This implies that we also “choose” to believe, which is contrary to Lutheran belief.  Most of his other positions were unobjectionable, and overall I found this an interesting and thought-provoking read.

I checked and there is a study guide available for use with this book, so it would make a choice for use with a small group.

VERDICT:  4 Stars.  Read this one and discuss it with a doubting friend!

For more on apologetics (the defense and explanation of the faith) see these posts:

Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp –Book Review

Film Review — The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

Jesus Among Secular Gods by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale–Book Review

For more on Timothy Keller see this post:

Ministries of Mercy by Timothy Keller — Book Review

 

 

Leading Small Groups by Chris Surratt — Book Review

This book was loaned to me by one of our authors, Michele, who has already reviewed it, but I thought I would add my opinion.

This is a good, basic guide for launching and leading a small group.  The author, Chris Surratt, has more than 20 years of experience serving local churches, and is currently the Discipleship and Small Groups Specialist for Lifeway Christian Resources.  He concludes each section with a short synopsis of his own experience, which is very helpful.

Everything a new group leader needs is included.  There are sections on starting, leading and multiplying a group, as well as ice-breakers, ideas for arranging childcare, curriculum plan and group covenant suggestions.  If you’ve never led a small group, or are just starting a group, you will find everything you need in this one resource.  It is well organized and straight forward.

VERDICT:  5 Stars.  Highly recommended, especially for new leaders.

For another review of this book follow the link below:

Leading Small Groups – A Book Review

Groups: the life-giving power of community by John Ortberg, Laurie Pederson & Judson Poling –Book Review

This is one of a series of bible studies published by Zondervan and entitled “Pursuing Spiritual Transformation.”  In my opinion, it is an excellent choice for small groups.  It includes an overview of the series along with what you will need to have and do in preparation for each lesson.  The core values of spiritual formation are also listed.

This particular study guide has seven lessons based on the topic of community.  They are:

  • This Is A  Friendship
  • Love Pays Attention
  • Knowing And Being Known
  • When Community Breaks Down
  • Forgiveness
  • Building A Passionately Inclusive Church
  • Being “For” One Another

Each lesson includes questions that lead the participant to examine his or her own life experiences in light of the Scripture.  There are also spiritual exercises for each section, encouraging each person to put what they’ve studied into practice.  It can be challenging — but that’s a good thing!  As Paul writes in the book of Philippians we should:

“…press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:14

There are also leaders’ notes for each session at the back of the book.

Finally included are suggestions and formats for planning retreats:  either individually or with the group.

I worked through the material on my own and enjoyed it so much that I plan to suggest in to my own small group for our next session.

Others in the same series are:

  • Fully Devoted:  Living Each Day in Jesus’ Name
  • Grace:  An Invitation to a Way of Life
  • Growth: Training vs. Trying
  • Gifts: The Joy of Serving God
  •  Giving: Unlocking the Heart of Good Stewardship

VERDICT:  5 Stars!  If you have a small group I recommend you take a look at this material

For more on small groups, see these posts:

Small Groups Made Easy – A Book Review

Fanning the Flame #19 — Small Groups of Saints

Small Groups of Saints #2 — Joan’s Experience

 

 

for all who wander by Robin Dance–Book Review

How do I wander?  Let me count the ways!  This is exactly what Robin Dance does in the story of her journey in faith.  There are so many ways we can move ourselves away from God, sometimes without even realizing what we’re doing.  Here are a few:

  • Ignorance or misunderstanding of Scripture
  • Striving to please people instead of God
  • Getting caught up in “idol worship” by placing worldly goals above God’s will for our lives
  • Jealousy
  • Bitterness
  • Self-righteousness
  • Burnout
  • Tragedy

Well, I’m sure you get the point.  There are a million  things in our lives that can cause us to take our eyes off of the One who is our Shepherd!  It happens to all of us, and so we need to constantly examine our lives to see if we’re heading in the right direction. How do we do this?  Robin says:

“We leave each day a little different than we begin it;  we undergo tiny, imperceptible changes that give shape to who we become over time.  The same is true of our faith.  Small changes are happening whenever we linger in God’s Word, worship in song or service, celebrate the sacraments, or even listen to contemporary classics on the radio …. when Christ comes to us through His people ….”

She is completely honest and transparent in discussing her struggles and doubts, wanting all of us to realize that we are not alone, and that wandering doesn’t have to mean we are lost.

There is also a Journey Guide to supplement the text, for journaling or discussing the book with a small group.

VERDICT:  I give this book 5 stars.  It would make a great book club or small group selection.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

https://www.lifeway.com/en/product/for-all-who-wander-P005786059

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255