Warnings To The Churches (book review)

J.C. Ryle died in 1900, placing his writings two centuries before our own. And yet his Warnings To The Churches sound an alarm that is just as relevant to the Church and her leaders as if it were written last week! 

Bishop Ryle spoke and wrote with an authority that sounded much like the Old Testament prophets thundering, “Thus saith the Lord!” And at the same time, you can also hear his ardent love for Christ’s Bride as tenderly as the beloved disciple John, who called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Taken together, that means Ryle’s words are steeped in authoritative, loving Scripture. 

He pulls no punches in pointing out how even Church leaders have bought into a definition of “church” that doesn’t quite line up with the way Jesus defined it. He reminds pastors of their heavy responsibility to preach the Word of God in all its purity. Just like Jesus, Ryle warns church leaders of the “leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And he calls for loving confrontation of those leaders who have succumbed to the “leaven” just as Paul confronted Peter. 

This is a challenging book to read simply because of the gut-level honest introspection that it will require. I certainly couldn’t read through this book thinking I’ve got my act together, and I doubt few others will be able to either. If you are a church leader and you would like Ryle’s iron to sharpen your iron, Warnings To The Churches is a definite must-read for you.

Cultivation Of Christian Character (book review)

I’ve always enjoyed reading J. Oswald Sanders. Let me rephrase that: I enjoy the new insights on God’s Word that Sanders’ books have given me, but the confrontation of the Holy Spirit that comes while reading these books can be quite painful at times. Cultivation Of Christian Character is no exception! 

In his opening words, Sanders explains the purpose of “this little volume” (as he calls it)—

“The genuine disciple of Christ earnestly desires a closer walk with God and a greater conformity to Christ. If these are absent, there is reason to doubt the genuineness of the discipleship. But many true lovers of the Lord are beset with a sense of inadequacy and failure in living the Christian life as it ought to be lived. They are very conscious with Paul that they have not already attained, neither are already perfect, but they yearn to know Christ better and to serve Him more worthily.” 

There you have it in a nutshell: If you yearn to be more Christlike, and yet at the same time struggle with how far you still have to go to see the fruits of Christlikeness in your life, this is the book for you. 

The chapters are short enough to read in just a few minutes. But the thought processes and the heart-searching that these short chapters will stimulate will undoubtedly take a long time to assimilate into your daily life. At least, this is the case for me. 

None of J. Oswald Sanders’ books are long books, but all of his books live long inside of me. Dive into Cultivation of Christian Character with an attitude of ready submission to the Holy Spirit, and then watch the amazing fruitfulness and Christlikeness that will begin to blossom from your life. 

I am a Moody Publishers book reviewer. 

Saturday In The Proverbs—Relationship Builders And Killers (Proverbs 27)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

Do not boast… (Proverbs 27:1).

This proverbs has some noteworthy relationship builders and relationship killers. 

Relationship Builders

  • Humility (v. 2) 
  • Confronting in love (vv. 5a, 6a)
  • Contentment (v. 7)
  • Minding your own business (v. 8)
  • Giving good advice (v. 9)
  • Investing in family friendships (v. 10)
  • Exercising wisdom (v. 11)
  • Using foresight (v. 12a)
  • Investing in yourself so that you can invest in others (v. 17)
  • Serving others (v. 18)
  • Honest self-assessment (v. 19)
  • Good work ethic (vv. 23-27) 

Relationship Killers

  • Boasting (vv. 1, 2)
  • Provoking a foolish argument (v. 3)
  • Jealousy (v. 4)
  • Unexpressed love (v. 5b)
  • Insincere flattery (vv. 6b, 14)
  • Ignoring the signs of impending trouble (v. 12b)
  • Cosigning a loan (v. 13)
  • Arguing (vv. 15, 16)
  • Envy (v. 20)
  • Not handling praise humbly (v. 21) 
  • Not listening to correction (v. 22)

To keep our relationships strong and vibrant, let’s kill the killers and build the builders! 

Saturday In The Proverbs—The Best Things Are Hard, But Rewarding (Proverbs 25)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

Good things—the best of things—usually require hard work. They don’t just come to us but we have to discover them. However, the good things are always worth the effort!

Things like:

  • Revelation, insight, new discoveries (vv. 2-3)
  • Righteousness (vv. 4-5)
  • Recognition (vv. 6-7)
  • Quality relationships (vv. 8-10)
  • A timely word (vv. 11-13, 25)
  • Good gifts (vv. 14, 21-22)
  • Confrontation that leads to restoration (v. 15)
  • Temperance (v. 16)

The opposite is also true: cutting corners, looking for the quick fix, and not considering long-term consequences bring pain. Things like:

  • Frayed relationships (vv. 17, 20, 24)
  • Provoking anger in others (vv. 18, 23)
  • Distrust (vv. 19, 26)
  • Self-promotion that rankles others (v. 27)
  • Lack of self-control that leads to destruction (v. 28)

Good things are hard, but they’re so worth the effort! 

Saturday In The Proverbs—Sowing & Reaping (Proverbs 17)

[Each chapter in the Book of Proverbs contains thoughts that fit into a theme; they are not just random thoughts gathered together. In this “Saturday In The Proverbs” series, I will share a theme that I see in each chapter. But the cool thing about God’s Word is that you may see an entirely different theme. That’s great! If you do, I would love for you to share it in the comments below.]

A wise servant will rule over a son who causes shame… (Proverbs 17:2).

There are inevitable outcomes for our attitudes and (in)actions. Or said another way: We always reap what we sow.

Not dealing with confrontation correctly → → Strife (v. 1)

Wise work ethic → → Leadership rewards (v. 2)

Allowing God to refine you → → A pure heart (v. 3)

Listening to lies and slander → → Punished by God (v. 4)

Mocking the less fortunate → → Punished by God (v. 5)

Living well → → Leaving a legacy for my children (v. 6)

Truthful, uplifting speech → → Being treated like a prince (v. 7)

Lies and loose lips → → Being treated like a fool (v. 7)

Giving gifts to others → → Favor with others (v. 8)

Forgiving and forgetting an offense → → Cementing a friendship (v. 9)

Telling others about an offense → → Losing a friendship (v. 9)

Rebuking a wise man → → Gaining wisdom (v. 10)

Rebuking a fool → → Getting rebuked myself (v. 10)

Rebellion → → Repaid with cruelty (v. 11)

Trade folly with a fool → → Get mauled (v. 12)

Repay good with evil → → Get stuck with evil (v. 13)

Keep picking a fight → → Open a world of hurt (v. 14)

Justify the wicked or condemn the just → → Displace God (vv. 15, 26)

Give wisdom to a fool → → Get burned (v. 16)

Love your friends → → Have help in difficult times (v. 17)

Make a bad deal → → Get stuck with it for a long time (v. 18)

Love sin and promoting yourself → → Watch it all crash down (v. 19)

Look for deceit → → Fall into evil (v. 20)

Don’t discipline your children → → No joy (vv. 21, 25)

Be happy → → Make others happy (v. 22)

Be sad → → Cause rotten feelings in others (v. 22)

Accept a bribe → → Pervert justice (v. 23) and displease God (v. 15)

Keep focused on the here-and-now → → Get wisdom for there-and-then (v. 24)

Use words sparingly → → Bring calm (v. 27)

Stay silent when you have nothing good to say → → Be thought of as wise (v. 28)

If you don’t like what you’re reaping in your life, check what you’re sowing. 

9 Quotes From “Leadership Promises For Every Day”

leadership-promisesLeadership Promises For Every Day is a devotional book for leaders and aspiring leaders. A passage from the Bible is combined with a passage from one of John Maxwell’s outstanding books. It’s an excellent way to start your day! If you haven’t already, check out my review of this book here, and then enjoy a few quotes—

“How many leaders have ruined their lives and damaged the lives of others through immorality? Character has become a crucial issue today precisely because of the myriad of leaders in the political, business, and religious worlds who have fallen morally. No doubt they fall partly because the enemy has targeted leaders for attack. Leaders need to remember that they influence many others beyond themselves; they never fall in a vacuum. They also need to realize that replacing fallen leaders is a slow and difficult process.”

“Our goal among brothers should not be to punish or excommunicate, but to restore. Confrontation is a redemptive act of leadership.”

“Leaders need to respond to individuals based on their needs rather than their faults. … Good leaders do this well. They don’t lead out of a predetermined package of behaviors, but size up every situation and discern what must happen to reach the desired goal.”

“People rise or fall to meet our level of expectations for them. If you express skepticism and doubt in others, they’ll return your lack of confidence with mediocrity. But if you believe in them and expect them to do well, they’ll wear themselves out trying to do their best.”

“Leaders must constantly ask if their plans fit God’s revealed will for them and their organization. Then they must ask if their plans remain relevant to the needs of their mission, their values, their vision, and their long-range objectives. Finally, they need to ask if their plans fit the needs of their culture and time.”

“We need to remember that when people follow behind us, they can only go as far as we go. If our growth stops today, our ability to lead will stop along with it. Neither personality nor methodology can substitute for personal growth. We cannot model what we do not possess. Begin learning and growing today, and watch those around you begin to grow.”

“Servanthood is not about position or skill. It’s about attitude.” 

“People who blame others for their failures never overcome them. They simply move from problem to problem. To reach your potential, you must continually improve yourself, and you can’t do that if you don’t take responsibility for your actions and learn from your mistakes.”

“Laughter breeds resilience. Laughing is the quickest way to get up and get going again when you’ve been knocked down.”

I am always sharing great quotes from John Maxwell and others on Twitter and Tumblr. If you’re not following me there, please do so!

Links & Quotes

link quote

“Suppose you talk about depending on God and how wonderful it is, and then others see that in your own immediate concerns you do not depend on Him a bit, but on your own wits, it makes them say, ‘Well, after all, it’s a big pretense, there is no Almighty Christ to depend on anywhere, it is all mere sentiment.’ The impression left is that Jesus Christ is not real to you.” —Oswald Chambers

“The law is meant to lead the sinner to faith in Christ by showing the impossibility of any other way.” —Charles Spurgeon

“The truth is that evil is not a real thing at all, like God. It is simply good spoiled. That is why I say there can be good without evil, but no evil without good. You know what the biologists mean by a parasite—an animal that lives on another animal. Evil is a parasite. It is there only because good is there for it to spoil and confuse.” —C.S. Lewis

“The great missionary hope is that when the gospel is preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, God Himself does what man cannot do—He creates the faith that saves.” —John Piper

“Men do less than they ought unless they do all that they can.” —Thomas Carlyle

“Pastors—and not just pastors—avoid confronting issues such as cohabitation, divorce, consumerism, materialism, and greed rather than risk negative outcomes if we confront. But we do each other no favors by assiduously avoiding conflicts over faith and morality. When we do, individuals suffer, the Church suffers, and the culture has a heyday pointing out our hypocrisy.” Read more from Jim Tonkowich’s devotional here.

Dan Reiland speaks mostly to church leaders in his post Desperate Leaders. He writes, “Desperate leaders need people more than they lead people. When you are under pressure, lack confidence, and not sure how to make things work, it’s easy to want more from your people than for your people.”

[VIDEO] Tim Dilena tells us how God helps us when we are people of integrity.

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