Book Reviews

Money, Possessions, and Eternity

I have read a lot of material on the subjects of Christian stewardship and general money management.  While most have been helpful, none of the resources I've looked at so far have satisfactorily provided as comprehensive a treatment (both theologically and practically) of this important topic as Randy Alcorn's Money, Possessions, and Eternity.

How a person views matters of ownership, wealth, giving, saving, investing, debt, and other related matters all comes down to how they view life. More specifically, it comes down to how a person views life in relation to eternity. Either this life is all there is, and so we are all free to spend it in whatever ways make us happy, or this life is the prelude to something greater, which means we should spend our lives with an appropriate concern and long-term perspective for what follows.  Alcorn writes,

"The key to a right use of money and possessions is a right perspective - an eternal perspective. Each of our lives is positioned like a bow, drawn across the strings of a cosmic violin, producing vibrations that resound for all eternity. The slightest action of the bow produces a sound, a sound that is never lost. What I do today has tremendous bearing on eternity...The everyday choices I make regarding money and possessions are of eternal consequence."

I am still learning how to best apply this "eternal perspective" in life, but the influence of the basic theological motivations and practical disciplines promoted in this book has already been tremendous.

Book Description

"What does the Bible really say about money? This completely revised and updated version of the classic best-seller provides a Christian perspective about money and material possessions based on the author's painstaking study of the Bible. Randy Alcorn uses the Scriptures to approach this often touchy subject head-on. Thought-provoking arguments challenge readers to rethink their attitudes and use their God-given resources in ways that will have an eternal impact. Alcorn deals straightforwardly with issues of materialism, stewardship, prosperity theology, debt, and more."

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Nine Marks of a Healthy Church

As a pastor, I've talked with many Sunday visitors at our church who were looking for a new place to worship. The reasons for their searching range across the board.  They may have recently moved to town, or had a bad experience with their former church, or started feeling burdened to fill a pew after so many years of absence.  But in the limited 5 or 10 minutes I have to talk with them before or after a service, the conversation usually gravitates toward what they are looking for in a church.  The reasons for that can also cover a wide spectrum.  Some say they are looking for a certain kind of music, or ministry program, or commuting distance, or social demographic. Others say they are hungry for a certain kind of teaching, whether that be something "relevant and down-to-earth" or, in the opposite direction, more "academic and meaty."   I remember one man, who happened to have a higher-level education, tell me that what he was looking for was something appropriately suited toward his advanced intellectual needs, which our church apparently couldn't offer.

There are a lot of different things a person can prefer to have in a church home, and not all are necessarily bad things to want, but the whole conversation begs the question, "What criteria does the Bible say we should be looking for?"  If the church community is something God has instituted, what does the Lord of the church have to say about what specific attributes a Christian should hope for in a church.?

In his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, which I highly recommend every church member (or church-home seeker)  read, Mark Dever examines nine important marks to look for, and/or to promote, in a church.  Though there could obviously be a longer list of important attributes to mention, the nine marks Dever points to are some of the most neglected, and therefore, desperately needed in churches today.  In the book's foreword, David Platt, makes the following comments:

"As a pastor swimming amid a sea of principles and practices for church health and church growth, this one book has impacted and influenced my understanding of the church far above any other.  Such impact and influence owe to the fact that this book is grounded in God's Word.  The nine marks contained here may not be the marks you would immediately identify as central in the church.  You may think some of them are questionable and others of them are controversial.  But brother or sister, these nine marks are biblical, and that is why they are so valuable."

The nine marks all healthy churches and church goers need to have a biblical understanding, and, in turn, right application, of are: (1) Preaching, (2) Biblical Theology, (3) The Gospel, (4) Conversion, (5) Evangelism, (6) Membership, (7) Discipline, (8) Discipleship, and (9) Leadership.

Book Description

"You may have read books on this topic before—but not like this one. Instead of an instruction manual for church growth, this classic text offers tried and true principles for assessing the health of your church. Whether you’re a pastor, a leader, or an involved member of your congregation, studying the nine marks of a healthy church will help you cultivate new life and well-being within your own church for God’s glory."

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What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done

If you're looking for help with time management and productivity disciplines, I'd encourage you to look into Matt Perman's "What's Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done."  While I have also benefited from some of the market's best-sellers for this genre like David Allen's "Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productive" and Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," Matt's book offers a solid theological basis for why we should ultimately be fruitful in our work, how we can be rightly motivated to that end, and what exactly fruitfulness looks like in God's economy.

One of the most life-changing points-of-reminder made in the book for me is that, because of the sin-atoning and merit-achieving work of Jesus Christ on the Cross (i.e. the Gospel), our favor before God is determined not in how productive we are at the end-of-the-day, but in our dependence on the finished work of Jesus before our day was ever started.

"Embracing the truth that God accepts us apart from good works is the precise thing that causes us to excel in good works . . . the only way to be productive is to realize that you don’t have to be." - Matt Perman

Book Description

Do work that matters.  Productivity isn't just about getting more things done. It's about getting the right things done--the things that count, make a difference, and move the world forward. In our current era of massive overload, this is harder than ever before. So how do you get more of the right things done without confusing mere activity for actual productivity? When we take God's purposes into account, a revolutionary insight emerges. Surprisingly, we see that the way to be productive is to put others first--to make the welfare of other people our motive and criteria in determining what to do (what's best next). As both the Scriptures and the best business thinkers show, generosity is the key to unlocking our productivity. It is also the key to finding meaning and fulfillment in our work. What's Best Next offers a practical approach for improving your productivity in all areas of life. It will help you better understand:
  • Why good works are not just rare and special things like going to Africa, but anything you do in faith even tying your shoes.
  • How to create a mission statement for your life that actually works.
  • How to delegate to people in a way that actually empowers them.
  • How to overcome time killers like procrastination, interruptions, and multitasking by turning them around and making them work for you.
  • How to process workflow efficiently and get your email inbox to zero every day.
  • How your work and life can transform the world socially, economically, and spiritually, and connect to God's global purposes.
By anchoring your understanding of productivity in God's purposes and plan, What's Best Next will give you a practical approach for increasing your effectiveness in everything you do. This expanded edition includes a new chapter on productivity in a fallen world and a new appendix on being more productive with work that requires creative thinking.

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