Saturday, November 5, 2011

In My Bag at the Moment...

I'm checking back in after over one year off (it's difficult to blog when I'm not on sabbatical I guess) to share the abundance of good reading that I've been enjoying of late...

To read more about each title, simply click on the book's title to be taken to the bookstore page for that book. There you'll find reviews of others who have read the book as well as other books in similar categories.

Building Below the Water Line by Gordon MacDonald

From the cover material... 
In this important work, Gordon MacDonald gives the reader a blueprint for leading a life that is at once powerful and humble, productive yet unhurried, focused yet expansive. By telling stories from his own life and sharing wisdom of people like Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster, he takes us step by step through the interior processes and qualities necessary to be able to lead others effectively.... This book is not just for pastors. It is a powerful manual for anyone who answers God's call upon their life and says, 'take me.'

Thirsting for God by Gary Thomas
From the cover material...
This fascinating and easy-to-read journey into the insights of Christian leaders from centuries past will help you...set meaningful goals for your spiritual life, overcome temptation and develop authentic holiness, survive and even thrive in desert times. Discover what Christians through the ages have learned--a truly relevant Christian walk has nothing to do with fads and styles and everything to do with a life that's centered on God.

The Effective Pastor by Peter White
From the cover material...
The Effective Pastor is a book for both trainee and experienced ministers. ...'Christian ministers, old and young alike, have needed material to which they could turn regularly and with confidence for wise counsel, encouragement and biblical direction in their immensely demanding calling'l Few authors have risen to the challenge but in 'The Effective Pastor' ministers now have a friend to help them. 

Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian
Possibly my favorite cover of all. 
From the cover material...
During a year of great turmoil, Pastor Tchividjian discovered the power of the gospel in his own life. Sharing his story of how Jesus became more real to him, Tchividjian delves deeply into the fundamentals of the faith, explaining the implications of Christ's sufficiency--a revelation that sets us free and keeps us anchored through life's storms.

Lit by Tony Reinke
There are two of these books in our home. I ordered one copy for Gretchen and one for me. When the books arrived, we settled into our inner "book geek" modes and read the Table of Contents aloud, one to another before moving on to the reviews written by other writers that are printed on the first few pages.  Imagine our excitement about a book devoted to the Christian's endeavor of reading books.

From the cover material...
"I love to read. I hate to read. I don't have time to read. I only read Christian books. I'm not good at reading. There's too much to read."
Chances are, you've thought or said one of these exact phrases before because reading is important and in many ways unavoidable. Learn how to better read, what to read, when to read, and why you should read with this helpful guide from accomplished reader Tony Reinke. Offered here is a theology for reading and practical suggestions for reading widely, reading well, and for making it all worthwhile.

The Prayer Coach by James Nicodem

From the cover material...
In Prayer Coach, James Nicodem, begins with a frank discussion about the obstacles of prayer, and then offers practical suggestions and basic principles on how the reader can strengthen his or her prayer life and bring depth to this spiritual discipline. As readers apply the methods taught in this book, they will learn to approach the throne of God with passion, fervency, and confidence.

The World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips
From the cover material...
The first generation of Christians were not popular. They were ridiculed, persecuted, yet according to Acts 17:6-7, they "turned the world upside down." As a result, their message was communicated louder and clearer than any message before or since. Even with today's social medias, big-name celebrities, and shiny evangelism techniques that add glitz and glamour to the gospel, today's Christians fail to communicate as effectively as the first followers of Christ. Simply put, the early church turned the world upside down, but today's church has been turned upside down by the world.

What He Must Be...If He Wants to Marry My Daughter by Voddie Baucham
This is what we are currently studying in Sunday School. 
From the cover copy...
...God has given us a clear picture of the role of the husband/father in the home, and in [this book] Voddie Baucham breaks this picture down into ten desirable qualities. Not only should parents seek these qualities in a son-in-law, but parents of young men should strive to cultivate these qualities in their sons.
As you can see, my bag is full but the reading is rich! I hope you've got a good book in your bag.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Where I Worshiped - The Fourth Sunday

Yesterday morning The Wright Family had the privilege of attending worship together -believe it or not- for the first time this month as a whole family.  The three previous Sundays one or more of us were separated.  So, we woke up early, got ready and left the house shortly after 8:00 a.m. (a miracle in itself), and made our way back to the outskirts of Cleveland Ohio and worshiped at Parkside Church.

Their senior pastor, Alistair Begg was ministering in Scotland, so the sermon was given by Mickey Aquilno.  He preached a very practical, exegetical sermon from 2 Chronicles 14 on the life of King Asa.  The music was led by a special guest artist/worship leader named Nathan Tasker.  Everyone enjoyed the worship time, and it was so nice to sit together as a family.  (To read about Molly and Katie's take on their experience, check out my wife's blog here).

After the service, we took the children to the church's bookstore/cafe, where the children enjoyed the well stocked children's section.

 Their father also enjoyed perusing the New Release section,

while Molly did gymnastics in the "Common Area" just outside of the bookstore.
You'll notice that though we were merely visiting this church, our stop in the bookstore caused us to be among the last folks to leave the church, as is our habit!

After we left the church, we drove through McDonald's for Molly and Kate's lunch, and then took Cole and Megan to Gretchen's favorite fast food place...Chipotle.

There is much to learn by visiting and worshipping with other church families, however, we are so anxious to rejoin our own church family this coming Sunday for worship.

Look out First Baptist!  Here we come!!

(Check back in a few days for a wrap up of my sabbatical. 
And then for continuing posts in the future.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Where I Worshiped - The Third Sunday

This Sunday, as part of my participation in the Weekender, I worshiped at Capitol Hill Baptist Church, a thriving congregation located just blocks from the Capitol building.  The dynamics of this church family were truly unique from any other I've ever experienced.  Everything that the so-called "church growth" experts say you must have to grow a church, this church doesn't exhibit.  Yet, nearly 75% of their congregation is under 40.

Before the morning service began, I attended the "core seminar"(Sunday School) called "Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church".  Morning worship lasted approximately two hours, and when it was finished, no one was in a hurry to leave.  The congregational singing, accompanied only by a piano and a guitar, was arranged in such a way that you could hear everyone singing and it was fantastic.  Scripture reading, several different prayers, intentional pauses of silence and congregational preparation music were also included as part of the liturgy.

 The sermon was entitled "Jesus Paid Taxes" (click here to hear it for yourself) from Mark 12:13-17.  I was thrilled to discover that in attendance at the Weekender was the author of an excellent book I read last year:

Collin Hansen, author of the above book, writes a great blog post about Sunday's service at Capitol Hill Baptist in which he says:
While Dever may serve a church on Capitol Hill, he does not commonly address issues of Christianity and government so directly. But as an expository preacher working his way through the Gospel of Mark, Dever obligated himself to address Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:13-17. In these days of overheated rhetoric and protest rallies, I pray that evangelicals will set aside 70 minutes to listen to Dever’s sermon. Much of the wisdom expressed here echoes the forthcoming book City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era, written by Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner, with a foreword by Tim Keller. We need to hear from the best evangelical thinkers about a faithful, biblical approach to politics.
You can read the blog in its entirety here.

As part of the Weekender, I also attended the evening service and the church's business meeting, called the "members meeting" which followed, both gatherings had hundreds of members in attendance.  The evening service was a "prayer and praise" service with a totally different structure and feel than that of the morning service.  This service lasted approximately one and a half hours, with  a ten minute break before the members meeting which also lasted approximately one and a half hours.

After the "members meeting" concluded at about 9:30, the "Weekenders" gathered in the fellowship hall for dinner and a "debriefing" of all that was experienced on the Lord's Day.

Everything that I was privileged to experience made a lasting impression upon my life and ministry.  I cannot wait to share more about everything that I learned from my time in Washington D.C. with the gracious staff and members of Capitol Hill Baptist Church.  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Heading to D.C.

Greetings from Washington D.C.!

Early this week, Gretchen and I returned from our retreat in Walnut Creek, Ohio, gathered the children, and began to get back to the "normal" to which we are becoming accustomed this month.  Just when we got back in the swing of things, it was time for me to pack up again and head to our nation's capital to attend an event called "The Weekender" (click on colored words to link to the event site) at Capitol Hill Baptist Church.
(Pictures in this post are from article on Capitol Hill Baptist Church in the 
Christian Science Monitor--click here for more pictures.)

The trip to Washington D.C. was a far cry from what I experienced in the Amish countryside last week as traffic made my progress into the city itself, a creeping, crawling trial! Upon arrival I joined my fellow "weekenders" (there are 75 attendees this time instead of the normal 50) in a "behind-closed-door" elder's meeting that was to prove fascinating.  The meeting lasted three and a half hours and was something to behold.  I'll share more on that topic after I've had more of a chance to gather more information about the "whys and wherefores" of it all.

Today the schedule of activities is packed full and there's much to learn and observe.  The sample schedule of the weekend is here.

Have a super weekend!
I'll be worshiping here...
...this Sunday.

I'll be encouraged to hear of my own church family worshiping together this Sunday as well!
I pray the words of Paul in Colossians...

that [your] hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge....For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
Colossians 2:2-3,5

I'll post more from D.C. as my weekender continues.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Where I Worshiped - The 2nd Sunday

Today Gretchen and I left the "peace and comfort" of our hotel room and made the 90 minute drive through winding roads and interstate to Parkside Church outside of Cleveland Ohio to worship with Alistair Begg and his church family.

This is a view from the backside of the church property.

Here is the worship center.

The worship team did a fantastic job of blending traditional and contemporary music together.  Their music has a very Irish feel to it.  If you would like to take a listen, click on the link below.

Here is a view from our pew.

Pastor Begg preached a terrific sermon from Romans 8.  Click on the link below to hear him read the scriptures in his Scottish accent.

If you are interested in hearing the sermon, you can access it for free by clicking here: Parkside Church and then clicking on the play button on the picture on the right side of the page.

It was a wonderful time of worship, and definitely worth the drive.  One of my favorite parts was being able to worship and sit beside my wife for an entire service. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Dialogue, Date, Depart

Today is day two of my time away with my wife.  Wednesday we delivered two of our children to Grandma.  Yesterday the other two were delivered to Mamma.  Then off we went for our get away.  We decided to stay somewhat close to home and opted for the Amish Country.  Far enough to feel like we are out of town, yet close enough to not be weary after a long drive.

Our time away reminds me of a principle that Gretchen and I learned early on in our marriage, and have to this day, tried to practice.  Sometimes more successfully than others.  Long time pastor Ed Young taught us many years ago that in order to have a successful marriage, you must "dialogue daily, date weekly, and depart quarterly".  Gretchen and I have not been alone for an extended period of time together since May, so this is our quarterly departure.

We have a couple of other descriptions for it, like:  white space, margin, quiet, rest, and a time to reconnect.  The Amish Country is a perfect place to "depart".  This morning there was no extra noise.  Just the sound of horses moving down the road.  There are no cell phone signals.  Just me, my wife, a quiet room, and our books.  Pastor Young knew what he was talking about when he gave his prescription for a successful marriage.  Thank you Pastor Young for the great advice, and thank you to those who made this "departure" possible.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


I spent day eight of my sabbatical focusing solely on reading and note taking.  Cole's football game, the holiday weekend, and my travels left me behind a little bit in my reading schedule.  So today, instead of splitting my study time between reading and working through some pastoral training material, I immersed myself in some fantastic books.  I read and took notes on eight different books.  To see what I am reading look to the right of today's post.  Tomorrow Gretchen and I hit the road together for a few days without the children.  Stay tuned for more updates.