Your Church Is Too Small by John Armstrong (Part 1: Introduction)

I am reposting this 2010 review (yes it is a nearly 2100 hundred word review that I posted in 3 parts) because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $4.99.  I believe that this is part of Zondervan’s general ebook sale that still has not been announced anywhere and don’t have have an end date. Part two of the review is here and part three here.

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After having read Your Church is Too Small I immediately thought of four people that need to read the book.  So the summary review is that I think the book is good enough that I have bought and sent the book to four friends and bought one more to give away here.

After I was about half way through the book I decided that there is just too much rich content to comment on in just one blog post.  So I am breaking tradition and I am breaking this post into three parts.  Part 2 will post on Saturday and Part 3 on Sunday and I will restart the normal schedule on Monday.

Having read John Armstrong’s blog regularly for the past several years, I can think of few others that would have been better to write Your Church is Too Small.  The basic thesis is that only the “…church of Jesus Christ, ministering out of its spiritual unity in Christ and rooted in core orthodoxy, can best serve Christ’s mission.”

Armstrong loves the church and throughout the book reminds us that we should not fear for the church, because it is not our job to build and maintain the church but Christ’s and the Holy Spirit’s.  However, like our faith, we are saved by grace and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, but we still have responsibility for participating in our own spiritual growth.  Armstrong suggests that the unity the Jesus prayed for in John 17 cannot just be an invisible, spiritual unity, but must be a relational.  So while the church is one spiritually, there is a role for our participation in drawing the church together in unity.  I think this is an important point.  Just like James (2:17-18) tells us that we should not tell someone that we will pray for them, but not actually do anything to help them, we should not talk about the Big C Church and do nothing to build relationships with those outside our stream of faith.

The next point major point I think is central, but most likely controversial.  He talks about the theological concept that people are simultaneously righteous and sinful.  Because we have been saved through faith, we are righteous in the eyes of God, but we continue to sin.  Armstrong moves to a second step, if we agree that individuals are both righteous and sinful, then why not approach the idea of church unity in a similar way.  The different parts of the church are both believers and unbelievers at the same time.  This is similar to the idea of the man telling Jesus, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

I think that some will attempt this but only with an idea of condescension.  They will assume that they (and their church stream) is right and all others are lesser.  Armstrong addresses this later when he talks about the basis of unity.  He suggests that we first need to acknowledge that other Christians are brothers/sisters in Christ.  Once we see other Christians as loved by God, then we need to engage in relational unity.  I know that in cases where I have participated in multi-denominational activities I have much more tolerance for diversity when I actually have a relationship and love for those that are different from me.  Armstrong suggests that if we need a model for unity within diversity, we should look to the Trinity as a model.  He quotes the US Conference of Catholic Bishops”

“The church of the twenty-first century will be, as it has always been, a church of many cultures, languages, and traditions, yet simultaneously one, as God is one–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–unity in diversity”

Tomorrow I will write about how Armstrong deals with Truth, Church and Tradition and the way God moves in history. Sunday I will post comments about how he suggests we can actually move forward with a greater church unity.

So what do you think? Is the mission of the church hindered by relational dis-unity among the different streams of the church?

Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook
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Disclosure: This book was provided free by the publisher for purposes of review.

New Kindle Reviews (Kindle Voyager and Kindle Basic 2014)

This morning reviews for the new Kindle Voyager has starting popping up in the press. The Kindle Voyager is a new high end eink Kindle.*

The summary of the reviews that I have read so far, is that the Kindle Voyager is the best eink ereader available. It has a beautiful screen, with much higher resolution than anything else on the market. It is the only ereader with a light sensor so it automatically adjusts the frontlight based on the amount of light wherever you are reading. It has a new type of button that does not physically click (no more bothering your spouse when you are reading in bed) but senses the pressure when you push the bezel. And it has a new much higher price. It starts at $199 for the wifi only version with Ads. It is $20 extra to removed the Ads and $70 extra to get the version with free 3G.

I think Amazon and Apple are both having the same problem. People that want an ereader (or tablet) mostly have them. And both ereaders and tablets last a fairly long time. There is not a good reason for anyone to upgrade every year, or even every two years.

And for the most part the upgrades are incremental. A slightly better screen, even if it is the best screen, is only slightly better. Better buttons, even if more convenient are still only slightly better than a touch screen. A light sensor, even though useful, is hardly reason to spend $200. A flat screen (instead of a recessed one) is nice, as is a micro etched screen to make it even less reflective, but again, not a reason to upgrade.

Last week, I saw several reviews of the new Kindle Basic. The new Kindle Basic now has a touch screen and the exact same software as the Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle Voyager. The only real difference between the Kindle Basic and the and the more expensive Paperwhite is the lighted screen. In fact many of the reviews noted that the new Kindle Basic ($79) screen is actually clearer than the Kindle Paperwhite 2 ($119) that was released last year.

So at this point there are only three Kindles to choose from:

  • Kindle Basic – $79, touch screen, but no light (6.7 oz)
  • Kindle Paperwhite – $119, touch screen, lighted screen, no buttons (7.3 oz)
  • Kindle Voyager – $199, lighted touch screen, light sensor, sensor touch buttons on the bezel, flush screen to the bezel with micro etching to make it the most anti-reflective screen that Amazon makes. (6.3 oz)

6 Free Christian Kindle Books

Poison Town: A Novel by Creston Mapes

370 pages, 89 of 97 reviews are 4 or 5-star, The audiobook is discounted to $3.49 with the purchase of the Kindle Edition.

There’s More Than One Kind of Poison in This Town

People are sick and dying. Rumors are swirling. Some claim chemicals leaking from a manufacturing plant are causing the cancer that’s crippling people on the poor side of Trenton City, Ohio. Yet nothing at the plant appears amiss. The problem remains a mystery until reporter Jack Crittendon’s long-time mechanic falls ill and he investigates. Soon Jack becomes engulfed in a smokescreen of lies, setups, greed, and scandal. The deeper he digs, the more toxic the corruption he uncovers. As he faces off with the big-time players behind the scenes and tries to beat the clock before more people die, he realizes the chillingly unthinkable–he knows too much.

It’s Your Call: What Are You Doing Here? by Gary Barkalow

224 pages, 54 of 58 reviews are 4 or 5-star

Discover God’s calling for your life …

Few spiritual concepts have fascinated and confused people more than understanding God’s calling for their life. Is it primarily about a job or a role? It is precise or general? Is a calling only reserved for those who work in professional ministry?

The truth is actually amazingly profound: What we are supposed to do is what we most want to do.

This is a guide for discovering God’s design and destiny for your life. Drawing from over 20 years of experience in ministry, Gary Barkalow shares how you can:

  • Live alert and oriented to the voice and choreography of God.
  • Discover and interpret the voice of your own story.
  • Discern the strategic assault against your calling.
  • Recognize God’s intentional training in your life’s journey.

Most of all, you’ll be inspired to let the glory of your life touch the world around you.

Consider the Thorns by Michelle Lynn Brown

212 pages, 25 of 27 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled

Barbara Houlton is a best-selling romance author, known for her achingly sweet love stories. However, her own love-life is nothing to write home about. Raped on the eve of her high-school graduation, she was left pregnant and scarred, both emotionally and physically. She has learned to hide the physical scars, but the emotional scars that taint her soul become harder to hide each day. Sarcasm, avoidance and denial have become weapons to keep her monstrous past at bay. Barbara avoids her home town at all costs. She denies to all those who are concerned for her that there is anything wrong. And those who try to pass her protective boundaries are met with her cutting sarcasm. Her emotional scars make intimacy a frightening thing, and those who try to grasp this beautiful rose are quickly met with her thorns. Instead, she loves through her characters, embracing her romantic dreams with every book she writes, and convinces herself it is enough.

All In by Mark Batterson

“If Jesus is not Lord of all, then He is not Lord at all”

In a concise and ease to understand approach, Batterson challenges the reader to perform a self-examination and discover what they are holding onto more firmly than Jesus. He points out that we are either following him completely or inviting him to follow us. By engaging numerous examples from the Bible, Batterson illustrates that God does not do great things because of us. Instead, He does great things despite us.

God did not choose Moses and David because they were great leaders. They did not have impressive resumes or a wealth of experience to draw from. What they had was a solid commitment to the God of creation. Imagine if we were all in like young David was all in when he went to face Goliath.

This is an easy and quick read, but it is well worth your time.

All In by Mark Batterson Purchase Links: Hardcover, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook

10 Free Christian Kindle Books

First Dawn (Freedom’s Path #1) by Judith Miller

388 pages, 68 of 73 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled

Lured by the promise of “real” freedom and a new town to call their own, sharecroppers Ezekial Harban and his three daughters leave behind remnants of slavery in the war-torn south and set off for Nicodemus, Kansas. When they arrive, they are shocked to see that little of what they were promised actually exists. Many head back home, but Ezekial and his daughters are determined to build a new life in the stark territory. Dr. Boyle, a newly arrived doctor in neighboring Hill City, is called to deliver a baby in Nicodemus. He and his family are moved by the plight of the settlers there and vow to help. But the white pioneers of Hill City face problems, too. When the lives of these two families intersect, neither town will ever be the same

Tucker’s Way by David Johnson

136 pages, 933 of 1010 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled, Previously Free

After a childhood steeped in abuse and poverty, Tucker trusts no one. Having carefully crafted a life of isolation, she suddenly finds she needs help or risk losing the grandchildren she is raising.

Into Tucker’s private life steps Ella, whose childhood was a life of privilege but her marriage was a private life of abuse. As Tucker’s new neighbor, Ella’s openness about her life crashes headlong into Tucker’s closed-door attitude. Gradually, Tucker begins to rethink her view of the world.

It is Tucker’s six-year-old, mute granddaughter, April, who becomes the fulcrum that pries open the vault on Tucker’s heart and allows Ella to step inside.
Tucker’s Way, a tale set in the rural south, is an inspirational story about overcoming incredible odds.

Leaving Liberty by Virginia Carmichael

229 pages, 100 of 112 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled, Previously Free

At eighteen, Daisy McConnell left Liberty, Colorado and never looked back. The only bright spot in a childhood of neglect and loneliness was the town librarian, Marie. Now settled as a teacher in sunny Fresno, Daisy does her best to forget everything about Liberty including her drunk father, her MIA mother, and the town she hated with every beat of her heart.

Lane Bennett’s life as a small town cop is pretty close to perfect. He’s got his dog, a pretty date when he needs one, and plenty of time to fish on the weekends. No other place can compare to his hometown and he’s happy to devote his life to keeping the folks of Liberty safe. When Marie passes away, Lane knows one of the best parts about living in Liberty is gone, along with the old Carnegie library. It needs repairs the city can’t afford and the city managers won’t pay the new flood insurance. It’s too bad but safety comes first.

Pure Pleasure: Why Do Christians Feel So Bad about Feeling Good? by Gary L. Thomas

I am reposting this 2010 review because the Kindle Edition is on sale for $2.99 (along with the also reviewed Sacred Pathways and Sacred Marriage).

Takeaway: God has created pleasure, we should not feel bad when we enjoy what he has created.

I have been puttering through this book for about eight weeks now.  I started it, read a few chapters, then got distracted by some other books.  Then picked it back up as my pastor started a series called “Guardrails” (itunes podcast link).  In some ways, Pure Pleasure is the opposite of the point of the Guardrails series.  But I like to read several books together in tension.  I have been reading three different books on virtue and keep stopping one to read another to keep them in conversation.

The short version of the thesis is Christians were designed as spiritual, physical people.  But too often Christians reject physical pleasures as “less than” or sinful.  Instead Christians should embrace both physical and spiritual pleasures as a form of worship.

12 Free Christian Kindle Books

With Autumn’s Return by Amanda Cabot

417 pages, 109 of 118 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled

Elizabeth Harding arrives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to establish her medical practice thanks to the wooing of her two older sisters who extolled the beauty of the land. She’s certain she’ll have a line of patients eager for her expertise and gentle bedside manner. However, she soon discovers the town and its older doctor may not welcome a new physician. Even more frustrating, the handsome young attorney next door may not be ready for the idea of a woman doctor. For his part, Jason Nordling has nothing against women, but he’s promised himself that the woman he marries will be a full-time mother.

Despite their firm principles, Elizabeth and Jason find that mutual attraction–and disdain from the community–is drawing them ever closer. And when the two find themselves working to save the life and tattered reputation of a local woman, they’ll have to decide how far they’re willing to go to find justice–and true love.

Finding God When You Need Him Most by Chip Ingram

224 pages, 98 of 104 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled, Previously Free

In this encouraging book, Chip Ingram reveals how readers can meet God in the midst of their most difficult circumstances. Chip’s candid discussion, personal stories, and solid guidance will allow readers to move from “knowing about God” to profoundly experiencing his presence and power in their lives. Whether they’re struggling with rocky relationships, unexpected crises, depression, or injustice, Finding God When You Need Him Most will remind readers that the Lord is faithful to hear their heart’s cry and will be there for them, time and again.

Running on Empty by Ruth Logan Herne

204 pages, 186 of 194 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled, Previously Free

Anne Kellwyn has a secret. It’s cost her everything to keep it, including her marriage. Now she may have to pay an even higher price to reveal the truth, but is she too late? Back home to care for her dying mother, Anne is faced with the past she ran from and a future she can’t have, a future that includes Joe McIntyre and the happily ever after she’d dreamed of years ago.

Chief of Police Joe McIntyre takes his position seriously. A lead-by-example Christian, he’s put to the test when his ex-wife appears with another man’s child after eight years of silence. Anger and pride challenge his small-town-hero existence, driving him out of his comfort zone. Faced with choices he made eight years before, can he tackle the present to ease Anne’s future so she’s no longer “Running on Empty”.

39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones is the first book in a 10 book series about a large-scale scavenger hunt that takes family members all over the world in search for clues to becoming the most powerful person on Earth. Two teenage siblings, Dan and Amy, find themselves in an exciting but dangerous adventure as they search for and follow the clues. Other family members such as the snotty Kabras and “the bull in a china shop” Holt family, force Dan and Amy to stay on their toes and remember not to trust anyone, especially family. Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series, is the writer of this series and the overall story arc for the series, which he then hands off to other writers for the other books in the series.

The author of this book and creator of the main plot of this story, Rick Riordan, has an impressive history as an educator. Before quitting to become a full-time author, Rick taught high school and then middle school for many years. He mainly taught English and History and he particularly loved teaching Greek mythology. The idea to write the Percy Jackson series, stories about a long lost son of Zeus, came from the fact that he had run out of stories to tell his son, who had developed a deep interest in Greek Mythology, and had to then create stories of his own. Also, in writing the series, Riordan created the story hoping to capture the interest and motivate his own son, Haley, who had been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. From videos I found on the Scholastic website, Riordan has a clear desire to engage young students to read and specifically writes his book with their needs in mind.

With this particular series, Riordan states that Scholastic actually approached him with the idea for this story and he agreed to develop the story and write a couple of the book in the series. Riordan states in an interview that because he had created the story arc he has a general idea of what would happen in the sequential books but that many of the details are left up to the authors of the each book. He also commented that editors at Scholastic, not himself, would be responsible for keeping the books cohesive. I have read a book where each chapter was written by a different author, and I was not pleased with the outcome. The story felt weird, and so I wonder if the multiple authors in this series did a better job of maintain a more singular voice.

Audible’s Discover a New Series Sale

Audible.com Discover a New Series SaleAudible.com is having a Discover a New Series Sale until Oct 19th. This sale has the first two book of more than 100 series on sale for $5.95 for each book.  The sale is open to member and non-members.

There are only three series in the list that I have read. Lots of mystery, thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, romance and young adult series.

14 Free Christian Kindle Books

Deadly Devotion by Sandra Orchard

385 pages, 75 of 85 reviews are 4 or 5-star

Research scientist Kate Adams and her colleague Daisy are on the brink of a breakthrough for treating depression with herbal medicine when Daisy suddenly dies. Kate knows that if it hadn’t been for Daisy’s mentorship, she wouldn’t have the job she loves or the faith she clings to. So when police rule Daisy’s death a suicide, Kate is determined to unearth the truth.

Former FBI agent Tom Parker finds it hard to adjust to life back in his hometown of Port Aster. Though an old buddy gives him a job as a detective on the local police force, not everyone approves. Tom’s just trying to keep a low profile, so when Kate Adams demands he reopen the investigation of her friend’s death, he knows his job is at stake. In fact, despite his attraction to her, Tom thinks Kate looks a bit suspicious herself.

As evidence mounts, a web of intrigue is woven around the sleepy town of Port Aster. Can Kate uncover the truth? Or will Tom stand in her way?

The Heart of a Leader: Insights on the Art of Influence by Ken Blanchard

197 pages, 57 of 66 reviews are 4 or 5-star

Arranged with your busy schedule in mind, this book offers you Blanchard’s most important concepts in an accessible format. You can reach for instant motivation and insight on a daily basis or soak it up in one reading. Powerfully challenging and deeply inspiring, The Heart of a Leader will enable you to develop the courageous heart of a true leader, master key attitudes and actions to impact lives around you, and enjoy the profound wisdom that only Ken Blanchard can deliver.

Works of Darkness by VB Tenery

287 pages, 37 of 38 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Lending Enabled

Some secrets just won’t stay buried.

A construction site provides a horrific surprise when a worker uncovers the skeleton of a small child wrapped in a sleeping bag. Police Chief Matt Foley soon links the murder to another cold case, the hit-and-run death of Attorney Josh Bradford.

The long suppressed memory of the young victim’s childhood friend, Sara Bradford may hold the key to both crimes. But Matt has mixed emotions about Sara—his prime suspect in her husband’s murder.

Matt soon discovers the twenty-five year old mystery has the power to stretch across decades to kill again.

Man of God: Leading Your Family By Allowing God to Lead You by Charles Stanley

212 pages, 39 of 44 reviews are 4 or 5-star, Previously Free, Audiobook is discounted to $3.99 with purchase of Kindle Book

What does it take to be a “real” man?

You don’t have to be perfect to be a man of God. As Dr. Charles Stanley writes, a man of God is a maturing man, a striving man, a knowledgeable man. And the first step in real manhood is spiritual rebirth.