Q & A Resources
8/31/2009 | Author: RCW
Okay, so one of the best things we do in the Bible Study that I help lead is a Question & Answer session. Members are encouraged to bring a friend, bring some food, and bring a question that can be about the Bible, about Christianity, the Christian life, a certain Bible passage, theology, the church, etc.

A couple of the times we did the Q & A session, I mentioned a few resources that someone might be able to consult if they wanted to "cut the middle man out" so to speak. In other words, if someone wanted to play the Question and Answer game on their own, they could consult these resources (among others). Here those are resources as well.

R.C. Sproul - Now That's A Good Question

Ravi Zacharias - Who Made God? and Questions to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith

Paul Little - Know Why You Believe

This is a wonderful resource that I stumbled onto as a senior in high school. Christian Apologetics Resource Ministry is a tremendous wealth of information on virtually any topic that you could ever confront. World religions, difficult passages, theological questions, etc. I am not saying that I agree with everything you will find there, but you will find that it is extremely helpful. It attempts to be objective and answer questions in ways that are Biblically faithful and theologically sound. Check it out for yourself!

The Theology Program - If you have questions that are of a more theological nature, a great resource is the Theology Program's resources.

Remember, these are just a few user-friendly resources for starters. There are certainly other great ones as well.

Five Things Every Christian Needs to Grow -
This brief and user-friendly resource is an excellent guide for new Christians desiring to begin growing in their walk with Christ or for stagnant Christians that might suddenly realize they're not growing in their walk with Christ. I have already mentioned in a previous post of my admiration of R.C. Sproul. In this short book, Sproul identifies five crucial “nutrients” that promote spiritual growth: Bible study, prayer, worship, service, and stewardship.

Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth -
I don't know how to summarize this book adequately in a few sentences. It has won countless awards, it is used all over the world in theological schools and seminaries, and it is perhaps the best book on the spiritual disciplines out there. I can put it to you this way: Nearly everyone who attended seminary in the last 25 years has probably read or at least purchased this book. Richard Foster, the books author, comes from a Quaker background, but you certainly don't have to agree with every little statement or opinion of his to get enormous insight from this book.

The Imitation of Christ -
Written over five centuries ago by Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Bible (according to the back cover of my copy). It has been acclaimed by countless readers as one of the greatest spiritual masterpieces ever written. John Wesley considered The Imitation of Christ to be of such value to spiritual growth, and the best summary of the Christian life, that he personally translated it for the use of his followers. This book was instrumental in the early Methodists' revival of England. There's a reason this book has stood the test of time...it's certainly a Christian classic.

A Year With C.S. Lewis -
Beloved author C. S. Lewis is our trusted guide in this intimate day-by-day one year companion offering his distinctive and celebrated wisdom. Amidst the bustle of our daily experience, Lewis writes about themes such as the nature of love, the existence of miracles, overcoming a devastating loss, and discovering a profound faith. These daily meditations have been selected an put together from Lewis's celebrated classics: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, and A Grief Observed, as well as from the distinguished works The Weight of Glory and The Abolition of Man. Throughout the book, the reader will also find biographical commentary about C. S. Lewis's life. A perfect resource for everyone who cherishes Lewis's timeless words.

A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer -
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was only thirty-nine when he was executed by the Nazis in 1945, yet his influence on Christian life has been enormous. His passionate, theology-based opposition to Hitler's Nazi regime made him a leader, along with Karl Barth, in Germany's Confessing Church. Bonhoeffer is embraced by both liberal and conservative Christians, and the integrity of his faith and life have led believers everywhere to recognize him as one of the greatest theologians and philosophers of the twentieth century. This book showcases his letters, sermons, and writings--which are a treasure of spiritual wisdom, social conscience, pastoral care, and theological insight--in a one year daily devotional format. This resource is sure to encourage and deepen your reflections and meditations. There's even a foreword by Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics. Bonhoeffer's faith led him to lay his very life down and his influence will forever continue. (As an aside: Other titles by Bonhoeffer that would be good to read and grow in Christ include The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together).

Christian Beliefs : Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know -
Theology is important because what we believe affects how we live. Wayne Grudem's beefy textbook Systematic Theology has established itself as a foundational reference in the evangelical church today, prized by pastors and teachers everywhere. But this is not that book. Instead, this is a very readable condensation of Grudem's award-winning book on systematic theology. It is a reader-friendly guide to Christian doctrines--for new believers and all Christians. If you're a relatively new believer in Jesus, or if you're a more mature Christian looking for a quick brush up on basics of the faith, Christian Beliefs is a great resource.

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life -
The message of this book is that: Far from being legalistic, restrictive, or binding, as they are often perceived, the spiritual disciplines are actually the means to unparalleled spiritual liberty. So if you'd like to embark on a lifelong quest for godliness, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will help you on your way. Based on the rich heritage left us by the early church fathers, the Puritan writers, and Jesus Christ Himself, Whitney takes you through a carefully selected array of disciplines that includes Scripture reading, prayer, worship, Scripture meditation, evangelism, serving, stewardship, Scripture application, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning. By illustrating why the disciplines are important, showing how each one will help you grow in godliness, and offering practical suggestions for cultivating them on a long-term basis, this resource will provide you with a refreshing opportunity to embrace life's greatest pursuit--the pursuit of holiness--through a lifelong delight in the disciplines. Whitney currently teaches at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. This is also the book that probably most closely approximates Celebration of Discipline.

Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health - The title of this books pretty well describes it. Whitney poses intensely introspective questions to aid Christians as they gauge their own level of spiritual health. Do they have a driving thirst for God, as well as behavior dictated by God's holy standards? How loving to others and sensitive to the Holy Spirit are they? Do they experience genuine grief over personal sin and a willingness to forgive repeat offenders? Whitney also discusses the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, meditating upon Scripture, and so forth, showing readers how to transform these often routine rituals into faith-building activities. He advises Christians to spend more energy enjoying God and developing a Christlike nature and makes readers aware that following Christ is a lifetime commitment. This book is great for unearthing deeply entrenched habits and digging for the treasure found only in a carefully-kept relationship with God.

Alright, so that concludes this series of posts about spiritual growth resources, but I am sure you are well aware that not just more resources out there, but that this won't be the last time I provide lists of resources. :)


By the way, I apologize if some of these descriptions read a bit like a sales pitch. That is because I used portions of the books' own descriptions to formulate my own, tweaking things here or there. It's not plagiarism because 1) I am telling you what I did; 2)Who is going to argue that the books are REALLY about what I have said. If anything I have tried to be more faithful to the books themselves by using their own descriptions; and 3) What writer or publisher would have a problem with me showcasing their books and suggesting them as resources?
"The Question"
8/11/2009 | Author: RCW
I experience so many blessings working for the church and doing the things that God has called me to do in that setting...specifically, my role at the church is to help adults (everyone from college age upwards) to grow in their faith.

So, naturally I feel that I have an amazing job that is certainly full of its own rewards. But today I had a special blessing. An individual I just met on Sunday for the first time called me up on the phone and asked me one of the questions that I am convinced pleases God so tremendously. He simply asked, "What can I do to become a stronger Christian? How can I grow in my faith?"

Have you asked that question lately?


P.S. (Answering that very question is part of this blog's purpose!)
Knowing God Through the Year with J.I. Packer -
Every Christian should read J.I. Packer's Knowing God. It is a classic that will surely endure the test of time...not to mention it's written by one of the most outstanding churchmen and theologians alive today...Did I mention he attended C.S. Lewis's lectures while a student at Oxford and later as a result gave his life to Christian ministry? Anyway, enough about the author (can you tell he's a hero of mine?). About the book: this is a one-year guide through one of the most treasured books of Christian spirituality: J. I. Packer's Knowing God. Each day you'll read a Scripture and a brief passage about the glory of God and the joy of being in relationship with Him. An idea at the end of each day's reading will help you to respond to God in prayer and reflection.

Discipleship Essentials -
This resource can be used in a variety of ways. Even though this material is designed for groups of three, it can also be used successfully as an individual study, a one-on-one discipling tool or even a small group curriculum.
Each week contains the following elements:
-a core truth presented in a question-answer format
-a memory verse and accompanying study
-an inductive Bible study
-a reading on the theme for the week
-questions to draw out key principles in the reading

Morning and Evening -
Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening has earned its status as a devotional classic. Generations after Spurgeon's death, Christians are still finding his timeless and original engagement with God's Word to be a refreshing way to begin and end their day. In this yearly devotional, there is literally a very short devotional for the morning and a very short devotional for the evening for every single day. Spurgeon was one of the most noteworthy Baptists in history. If that weren't enough, this particular edition has the touch of one of my favorite pastors alive today as well...Noted pastor and author Alistair Begg has updated Spurgeon's language while preserving the dignity and clarity of Spurgeon's original words and written a nice introduction as well.

Learning from Jesus (a Renovare' Spiritual Formation Guide) -
These guides are workbooks that personally take you on a journey to be more like Christ. The aim of this one is to make you more like Christ by doing a focused study on Jesus Himself. It covers everything from Jesus's interactions with those around him to His revolutionary wisdom recorded in the Gospels. Other titles in the series include "Connecting with God", "Living the Mission", and "Prayer and Worship". The Renovare' website is a great place to find other resources as well. These guides can be used by individuals as well as small groups.

Everyday Blessings with Max Lucado -
If you love Max Lucado's books, you will be delighted to find this resource. This is a small devotional with very short entries for every day of the year that come straight from the pen of the beloved Christian inspirational author. 365 reflections on individual scriptures in a conversational style that people everywhere have come to love.

The Keys to Spiritual Growth -
I own this but haven't really read it entirely, so here's a "canned" description: God intends for every Christian to grow to spiritual maturity. His Word commands us to progress daily toward a fuller personal knowledge of God and Christ. In this book Pastor John MacArthur thoroughly explores a multitude of biblical passages to reveal the riches of God in Jesus Christ--riches that will help us continue growing in both faith and spirit. This noted pastor and author takes readers back to the basics of what the true Christian life is all about, so that they can unlock the treasures God has for them in Christ. Sorry to use the lame "infomercial" language to describe it. John MacArthur is certainly a beloved, well-known, competent author when it comes to spiritual growth, understanding the Bible and theology, etc.

Running the Race: A Graduate’s Guide to Life -
If there's one resource I like to put into the hands of recent high school or college graduates, it is this one. Graduates have many important decisions to make-about careers, education, dating, and marriage-all of which will be influenced by their faith. Sproul invites graduates to think about what they believe and how their worldview and the worldview of others will touch each aspect of their future. Along the way, he offers helpful tips on how graduates can discover God's will and bring their life into harmony with it. Drawing from some of his classic books, Sproul even gives a brief overview of philosophies that graduates may encounter as they meet people who approach the world differently. Sproul also answers common questions graduates ask about their faith, including: "Why should I trust the Bible?" "Isn't it narrow-minded to say Christ is the only way?" and "Why does God let horrible things happen?" Sproul is founder and chairman of Ligonier Ministries, is a professor of systematic theology and apologetics at Knox Theological Seminary, speaks on the daily radio program "Renewing Your Mind", and has written or edited more than fifty books. (Did I mention he's one of my personal heroes?)

Hope these are still proving helpful!

Self Examination
8/01/2009 | Author: RCW
Going just by the title, let me answer what may be a question for some of you...No, this posting is not about breast exams, physicals, prostate or testicular cancer. In other words, it is safe and pleasant to keep reading. :)

I posted a few weeks ago about our natural and dangerous tendency as humans to fault-find and judge others. Later this week I received a fortune cookie with a message that I thought naturally tied into this post. It simply reads: "It is more difficult to judge oneself than to judge others." I read it and thought, "Perhaps that's why we don't do it (judge ourselves)."

We can switch though-patterns too...The Chinese wisdom in fortune cookies reflects tidbits of what you might call "eastern philosophy." What about what is commonly known as "western philosophy?"

Even Socrates -- the great philosopher and teacher of Plato -- is attributed to have employed the maxim, "The unexamined life is not worth living." That's not just some archaic quip. In essence, the statement asserts that someone who gives no thought to how they live, what they do, what they say, and never taking time to do some introspection or reflect on their own priorities (90% of Americans) are living a meaningless existence.

Okay, so you don't have to be a follower of Jesus to do what Plato and my silly little fortune cookie suggest. The philosophers seem to understand its importance well enough. You can examine yourself just fine regardless of your faith perspective. But where the process differs for the Christian is in the standard by which we measure ourselves. For the Christian, we should obviously look to the Bible for our spiritual idea of what should be normal in our lives. More specifically, we long to be more like Christ and develop the fruit of the spirit, grow in godliness, etc. Someone outside the fold of the Christian faith is left to merely aim for "a better self" or readjusting their priorities in such a way that they are more likely to bring success or happiness, etc.

God expects perfection from us. He says multiple times throughout the scriptures, "Be holy as I am holy." The only way to attain it? -It's embracing the work of Jesus Christ and asking that the sacrifice He made on the cross to count for you. If your reading this blog, you probably already know that. But think for a moment just how revolutionary this is for us who have Jesus - we don't have to worry about a thousand priorities or "try" to be better. We don't have to settle for a vague definition of what is best. We don't have to go it alone and figure out what works best for ourselves.

No, instead we have it all there before us. Jesus Christ and His righteousness have become ours. When we do our self-examining we are doing more than looking at ourselves. We are asking God to look at us. We are submitting to His words about what is best for us. We are asking Him to let us see ourselves as He sees us.

What I am speaking of is a spiritual self-examination. Is it time for one?

Prayer: Lord, help me to make your word the standard by which I measure my success. Help me to examine my own spirituality and determine if it reflects more of you or if it simply reflects more of me. God help me to set aside all worrying and prioritizing that does not have you at the center of the picture. Send me to your word to find my answers for how I should be living, how I should spend my time, what I should say, what I should do, where I should go, how I should act, and ultimately the goal for which I strive. Conform me more
-- even this very moment -- into the image of You. Amen.