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When Love Comes to Town – Paul Louis Metzger on John's Gospel

Paul Louis Metzger on the Gospel of JohnI’ve preached through the gospel of John a couple of times in my ministry, and each time, I bought more commentaries. The Book of John is pure profundity wrapped in simplicity. It’s deeply complex and linguistically simple at the same time. Very few commentaries dive deeper than the simplicity of the text itself.

Paul Louis Metzger, however, has done an amazing job of probing not only the gospel of John, but the human heart as well in his new commentary, The Gospel of John: When Love Comes to Town (Resonate Series). From the very preface of the book, I was engaged. As I skipped along to sections covering my favorite chapters and portions, I was delighted by new insights at every turn.

A good friend of mine often says that everyone has a desire to be “deeply known and loved,” and Metzger makes the point that the incarnation of Jesus (the arrival of the God-man in flesh on earth) was God’s ultimate way of touching the very deepest needs in the human heart. John brings us to the culmination of this loving touch in the cross and resurrection, to which he surprisingly devotes half of his entire evangelistic record.

There are plenty of commentaries on John available, but what I yearned for in my own preaching were books that would help me connect the text to the lives of the people in the pew, and that’s what the Resonate Series seems to do. This is the first commentary in the series that has crossed my desk, but I’m definitely looking forward to more!

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Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book for review, but was not asked to give a positive review. The links above are affiliate links and I would earn a small commission from any purchases made using them.

Costly Grace: One of My New Favorite Books on Discipleship

Costly GraceI have well over 1,000 books in my library, but just a handful come to mind when I think of books that are able to define discipleship well. They would include Jim Berg’s Changed Into His Image, Clyde Cranford’s Because We Love Him, and of course, Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. Now, I’m adding another to that short list – Jon Walker’s Costly Grace: A Contemporary View of Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship.

I suppose it’s ironic, first of all, that my short list of favorite books on discipleship includes works that probably contradict each other in many places. Jim Berg is methodical in his approach, presenting a great outline of a life of discipleship. Cranford is more poetic and philosophical while Rick Warren is extremely practical, real, and down-to-earth. It’s also ironic that I’ve never read Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, which is the classic work that serves as the basis for Jon’s new book. The original was even listed by Christianity Today as one of the ten most influential books of the last century. Even without having read Bonhoeffer’s classic, I grew in my understanding of discipleship simply by digesting Walker’s observations and conclusions. For example…

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7 Ways to Outlive Your Life

Outlive Your Life by Max Lucado

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I’ve just finished reading Max Lucado’snewest book, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference, and I feel… challenged! The premise of the book is that we have a choice to do things that will make an impact that outlasts us. Life is a temporary assignment, but the effects of our lives are permanent.

Lucado begs the question over and over again, what are you doing to outlive your life? What are you doing that matters in eternity? How are you investing yourself and giving yourself away? And as I read through each chapter, I was faced with new questions and new issues. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are many ways to outlive our lives, including…

  1. Pray. A lot. Prayer affects eternity. As Spurgeon said, “prayer moves the arm that moves the world.” Do it without ceasing.
  2. Be hospitable and welcoming. Welfare and food stamp programs can help assuage the physical problem of hunger, but opening ourselves to others addresses much deeper issues.
  3. Stand up for Christ, even in the face of persecution and criticism.
  4. Loosen your grip on your goods. It’s not that you have to give everything away, it’s that everything needs to be available at all times since it all belongs to God anyway.
  5. Come out of your shell. It’s easy to pull a mental curtain around us so we can block out the images we see of suffering, but we need to open our eyes to the hurt and pain of the world.
  6. Always be investing in someone.
  7. You can dine in and give your steak dinner money to buy a meal for someone.

When it comes to helping people in need, we do all kinds of things to protect ourselves from having to open our eyes and our hearts. We have our stock answers ready… well we can’t help everyone… those people should help themselves… I’m not going to enable them… they’re probably criminals… But when Peter and John met the lame man at the gate called Beautiful, they didn’t run a background check. They also didn’t give him any money. They healed him, in Jesus’ name, and watched him leaping and praising God as a witness to other hopeless people.

This is a tough post to write. Why? Because I’m not doing enough to outlive my own life. So I’m taking a bit of a risk in having readers question me on what I’m doing, and I might very well come up short. But here’s the thing, I’ve never met a truly generous, giving person who spent time questioning the giving of others. Challenging others to give? Perhaps. But let each one of us look within and ask, what is God leading me to do to outlive my life?

Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this book for review, but was not asked to give a positive review. And the Amazon links above are affiliate links. I would earn a small commission from any sales generated through them.

21 Things Pastors Need to Know About Porn

Just this morning, a book came across my desk, Eyes of Integrity: The Porn Pandemic and How It Affects You, and I devoured it in a matter of hours, not because it was an “easy read” but because it shares a compelling story that rarely gets talked about – what happens to people who consume or produce pornography, and how they can find hope and help.

It’s written by Craig Gross and Jason Harper, both a part of XXXChurch, a radical kind of rescue outreach into the porn industry and the porn problem as a whole. The book shares dozens of stories of real lives damaged by the power of pornography, as well as the divine rescues that often happen when people turn from porn to God for help.

You’ll read of young men and women trapped by an industry that treats them as merchandise and men and women hiding behind the immense shame of a secret addiction. The book should break your heart, for one reason or another. I found it eye-opening, and it inspired me to share some thoughts on what Pastors (and you, too) need to know about pornography.

  1. It’s sin. It’s lust. Lust is sin. It’s mental adultery.
  2. It’s everywhere. Half the men in your church are likely exposed to it every week, and some of the women too.
  3. It’s a ruthless slavedriver and traps people in shame and secrecy.
  4. NOT talking about it with your people does NOT help them.
  5. The porn industry is a dark and twisted place, filled with people with souls whom God deeply loves.
  6. People who act in pornographic films are people whom God loves.
  7. People who produce pornography are people whom God loves.
  8. It does NOT encourage more intimacy in marriage – on the contrary, it destroys it.
  9. It is NOT victimless. Broken marriages and shattered lives are all around us as evidence.
  10. The internet has exploded the number of porn addicts, offering the three deadly “A’s,” making porn accessible, affordable, and anonymous.
  11. Pornography is a drug. It triggers chemicals in the brain that create addictions. It offers a temporary high, followed by a crash into guilt and shame. And one kind of pornography is almost always a gateway into something worse.
  12. The younger you are when first exposed, the more susceptible you are to addiction as an adult.
  13. Pornography WILL cause you to treat people (especially women) like objects and not living souls.
  14. Pornography WILL harden your heart.
  15. There is hope.
  16. Consumers and producers of pornography can find forgiveness of sin in the blood of Jesus and be made righteous and pure by the saving power of God.
  17. Those trapped in pornography addictions can be forgiven of what they’ve entertained themselves with.
  18. Breaking the cycle is possible, but extremely difficult, as with any addiction.
  19. The cover-up is always worse than the crime.
  20. The cost of recovery is high, but the cost of not recovering is much higher.
  21. You need help. You need help and accountability, without question.

Don’t be a story of tragedy – be a story of hope. If you have a problem with porn, or if you’re involved in the industry in some way, turn to God and reach out for help. He knows where you are. He knows your pain. He knows your shame, and He longs to rescue you! Angels will cheer in heaven if you’ll just turn to Him by faith!

By the way, have you "liked" Grace Hills Church on Facebook yet?

If you’ve failed again and feel God will not forgive you this time, you’re wrong. 1 John 1:9 is an irrevocable promise that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Try Him – He’ll prove Himself a forgiving and gracious God. But also, “flee youthful lusts” and “fight the good fight of faith.” “Take every thought captive” and “put on the whole armor of God.”

In case you missed the link earlier, if you’re not using accountability software, click here.

Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of this book for review, but was not asked to give a positive review. The Amazon links above are affiliate links on which I would earn a small commission.

Jesus Manifesto, by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola (Book Review)

About Jesus Manifesto

Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2010

Video Review

Jesus Manifesto (Book Review) from Brandon Cox on Vimeo.

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have written an excellent treatise on returning to Jesus as the core of what life is all about. They move us away from thinking about methodologies and regulations and back to the idea of just knowing the Person of Christ.

One Big Takeaway

Jesus isn’t a cause; He’s a real and living person who can be known, loved, experienced, enthroned, and embodied.

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Disclaimer: I did receive a free copy of Jesus Manifesto for review, but was not asked to give a positive review. The links to in this post are affiliate links. I would earn a small commission if you purchased the book through a link.