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Todd

Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice by Christopher Ash
Christopher Ash's wisdom has been distilled into this short, accessible book, in which he reveals a neglected biblical truth and seven keys that flow from it. Understood properly, and built into our lives as Christians who are zealous to serve the Lord, they will serve to protect us from burnout, and keep us working for God's kingdom and glory.

The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry by John Feinstein
The riveting inside story of college basketball's fiercest rivalry among three coaching legends—University of North Carolina's Dean Smith, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, and North Carolina State's Jim Valvano—by the king of college basketball writers, #1 New York Times bestseller John Feinstein.

Carlos

The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James by Douglas J. Moo
This highly original commentary seeks to make the Letter of James clear and applicable to Christian living today. Interacting with the latest views on James but keeping academic references to a minimum, Douglas Moo first introduces the Letter of James in its historical context and then provides verse-by-verse comments that explain the message of James both to its first readers and to today's church.

The New American Commentary: James by Kurt A. Richardson
THE NEW AMERICAN COMMENTARY is for the minister or Bible student who wants to understand and expound the Scriptures. Notable features include: * commentary based on THE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION; * the NIV text printed in the body of the commentary; * sound scholarly methodology that reflects capable research in the original languages; * interpretation that emphasizes the theological unity of each book and of Scripture as a whole; * readable and applicable exposition.

Chris

1924: The Year That Made Hitler by Peter Ross Range
Until now, no one has fully examined this single and pivotal period of Hitler's life. In 1924, Peter Ross Range richly depicts the stories and scenes of a year vital to understanding the man and the brutality he wrought in a war that changed the world forever.

The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes by Robert McGee
Robert McGee's best-selling book has helped millions of readers learn how to be free to enjoy Christ's love while no longer basing their self-worth on their accomplishments or the opinions of others. In fact, Billy Graham said that it was a book that "should be read by every Christian."

Travis

Ordinary by Michael Horton
Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there’s a “next-best-thing,” if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom—the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be “ordinary.”

Parables by John MacArthur
Master expositor and Bible commentator John MacArthur has spent a lifetime explaining the Word of God in clear and comprehensible terms. In Parables he helps Christians understand the essential lessons contained in the most famous and influential short stories the world has ever known.

Timur

Prayer by Tim Keller
With his trademark insights and energy, Keller offers biblical guidance as well as specific prayers for certain situations, such as dealing with grief, loss, love, and forgiveness. He discusses ways to make prayers more personal and powerful, and how to establish a practice of prayer that works for each reader.

When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey
Dave's writing style embraces the reader as he speaks honestly, and sometimes humorously, about sin and the power of the gospel to overcome it. He opens the delightful truth of God s word and encourages the reader to see more clearly the glorious picture of what God does when sinners say "I do."

Tanner

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore
Two-time Grammy winning rap artist, Lecrae, learned this lesson through more than his share of adversity—childhood abuse, drugs and alcoholism, a stint in rehab, an abortion, and an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Along the way, Lecrae attained an unwavering faith in Jesus and began looking to God for affirmation. Now as a chart-topping industry anomaly, he has learned to ignore the haters and make peace with his craft. The rap artist holds nothing back as he divulges the most sensitive details of his life, answers his critics, shares intimate handwritten journal entries, and powerfully models how to be a Christian in a secular age.

Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason
Jesus demands your entire life. In Beat God to the Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life, Author Eric Mason succinctly articulates God's call of discipleship on every person. In a winsome, persuasive tone, Mason calls people into a posture of submission to the gospel.

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Theology Leads to Missions

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INTRO to THEOLOGY

Growing up not loving theology, I learned that it ruined my understanding of Global Missions. When I was a young Christian, I was never motivated to do missions because I had a poor understanding of who God is and what He has done for me through the cross of Christ. But God was so gracious to me, that He used my close friends who introduced to me a God-centered theology that leads not only to doxology (praise/worship) but also to missiology (study of missions). At that moment, I fell in love with it.

It changed my thinking and motives toward missions. I give thanks and glory to God for it!

THEOLOGY MATTERS

I've come to find out that many Christians believe that theology is only for seminary students or for pastors, but not for normal Christians who do not attend seminary or are not pastors at the local church. I believe that that is a wrong approach to and understanding of theology. I believe every true and genuine Christian must study theology for the sake of their growth in Christ and Christian discipline.

I believe that that is why so many Christians do not want to do missions, or they do poorly in the mission field, because of the way they approach theology.

They need to see why theology matters.

Theology matters because it helps us to see who God is and what He wants to accomplish through us for His glory and for our joy.

Theology matters because people are dying and going to hell.

Theology matters because God loves the nations.

Theology matters because God loves His own glory!

THEOLOGY DRIVES MISSIONS

By God's grace, I've learned and am continuing to learn more about theology, because I want to be effective in my mission work that Sovereign God has called me to do. God-centered theology showed me the need for missions and God's passion for the nations.

That is why I am doing missions.

I know that I cannot do missions well if I ignore theology. I know that I cannot preach the good news of Christ if I ignore theology. I know that I cannot love people well if I ignore theology. And I know that I cannot plant healthy churches if I ignore theology.

Dear friends, we need theology for the sake of missions, because God honors, loves, and blesses missions when it is driven by God-centered theology.

BOOKS on THEOLOGY

Theology books that helped me to understand theology:

1. Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem

2. Institutes of Christian Religion (2-Volumes), by John Calvin

3. A Theology Of Lordship (3-Volumes), by John Frame

4. Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkhof

5. Desiring God, by John Piper

ADVICE

Go read good theology books, and obey, because Theology leads to Missions!

 

Timur

Why Youth Group?

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I’ve been a part of FFC’s children and youth programs since Wednesday nights meant Gamemo and Sunday mornings meant helping fold curtains at the Nevele Center, and it’s been awesome. I’ve experienced the growth and progression of our ministries, from activities to Awanas, through different leadership, even through different types of snacks (I miss the gummy worm days).

These days, I still hang out with the kids (it’s funny to hear them call me “Miss Zoe”, because I’m sixteen and I have no authority. I just sing Veggie Tales), but I spend most of my time in the youth ministry, hanging out and sharing with my fellow high schoolers and singing and talking with the middle schoolers.

These are the highlights of my week.

I don’t know how much of adult-kind knows this, but First Family Church has the best youth group in Ankeny. I listen to my friends from other churches describe their youth groups, and they make it sound like dragging themselves to youth group is a ten thousand mile run they slog through just so they can flop down in a chair, be yelled at for being a terrible person, maybe play dodgeball, and go home. I don’t know how accurate that is, but that’s how it comes across to me. Sometimes, these friends learn I volunteer not just with little kids, but also with middle schoolers. Gasp! The horror! Like I’m herding rabid squirrels or something. Then, when these friends visit my youth group, they’re like, “Hey, you’re right, your church is pretty cool.” Well, yeah, we have the best youth group in Ankeny (in my opinion, at least). And to think, these people haven’t even gotten the full experience yet!

The full FFC Youth experience is an amazing thing.

It’s when you walk into the youth room and all these people are hanging out together in the back, and when you walk over, it feels comfortable, like you’ve known them forever, even if it’s onlyyour first week.

It’s when you play stupid games and don’t have to feel awkward because you know nobody cares how gross you look trying to sing while gargling. It’s a regular opportunity to praise God with your friends.

It’s when you sit down and listen to Travis preach the Gospel every week, and even though you accidentally choose the seat where the air conditioning would chill a penguin, and who knows what’s wrong with the projection screens this time. That doesn’t matter because the message cuts through. It reverberates through us.

Any baggage is checked at the cross, any prayers are pored over in small groups. Any question can be answered, every ear open.

Our youth group is great because it doesn’t matter where we are, what we’re doing, or what we’re talking about. We’re going to have a great time and walk away encouraged even if we’ve just spent a half hour reading and talking through Ecclesiastes 7 (which is great for providing perspective but not so much for breeding joy).

Our youth group is great because we’re great at being all for each other and all for Jesus.

That’s why we have the best youth group. That’s why I spend as much time as I can there. That’s why I want my friends to come. We support each other and we lift up our saving Creator, all while playing ping-pong and eating junk food.

And come on, if that’s not good community and fellowship, I don’t know what is.

Unity in Community

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Gary, along with his wife and children, minister to the people of Lille, France.

Jesus prayed in John 17 for us—his Church, his Bride—that we may be one. When I look at our small church plant in France, I marvel at how God put us together. After all, it is God who builds the Church, and we rely on him for unity.

Some church bodies in the U.S. are formed with people of the same type of socio-economic status, some with the majority falling in the same age group, and sometimes with those who dress practically the same way. Only after looking deeper into the matter would we find that the location of a meeting place or the doctrinal alignment with one’s beliefs were considered in someone choosing a church. In our new church, most of the above considerations, as important as some are, seem to be discarded.

How would you react and how could you pursue unity in a church where…

  • 22% of the married women in your church have gotten divorced this year alone?
  • Only 2 of 7 families come regularly with all their children (under age 18)?
  • 10% of your couples live together outside of marriage?
  • 5 distinct cultures are present and many affect the way our services are run?

As far as divorce, it happens when reconciliation is not possible. The response of the church in terms of community is to see that each person is loved, and each person is accompanied in spiritual growth. We praise God that even with our small number we are able to accompany each divorced person so that they are one with us.

As far as children who don’t come to church with their parents, there would seem to be a clear lack of unity. However, when I or others on the leadership team conduct family visits, we actually see the “missing” children in their homes. They know us, and we can have at least a limited relationship with them. Yes, we would love to have them participate in our community and in our classes and programs for their age. Surprisingly enough, our small church does have something regular for all age groups, and many of our leaders are involved in a teen ministry and in a children’s group. I also have college student ministry ties for the young adults. Family ministry is critical for us, and we really do need God’s help for there to be unity in the community.

As far as unmarried couples living together, we work with them towards marriage or living apart, despite heavy economic burdens that may result (yes, also from marriage; no time to explain that here). Purity inside and outside of the boundaries of marriage will help us towards unity, in accordance with God’s will.

As far as our distinct active cultures present in our community, we praise God for diversity, which actually brings us to unity. We hear prayers in other known languages, and we rejoice that God hears them. We have Bibles present in different languages, and we praise God for Bibles in English, French, Arabic, Kabyle, and Spanish, so that God can speak directly to the hearts of each one.

Unity is not possible in our church context if we try to base it on similar clothing styles or economic background, or even age. It is only based on God unifying us in Him, in the blood of Christ, and in love, that which Jesus said is the distinguishing mark of his disciple (John 13:35), of unified Christians everywhere.

Just Another Day?

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Anissa, with her husband Eric and their three children, are artists/musicians and IMB church planting catalysts living in Sweden.

We often wake up and quickly fall into our usual routine, whatever that may be.       

We start the day with coffee, and end it with tea.

When we leave our home, we are often tunnel-focused on what we have to accomplish; headed from point A to point B. Sometimes we are in such a hurry that we don’t even leave the smallest margin for God to interrupt our day or surprise us with a beautiful divine appointment.  

We’re rushing out the door; no time for anything more.

Each day like that before, and all we see is Just Another Day.

What if we are missing something special that God has planned?

What if each day the sunshine and rain were set into motion before life began? And what if each person we met was on purpose, a divine intersection, a part of God’s Plan?

Psalms 139:16 says “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” 

How would that affect the way we live? The way we wake up in the morning? The way we go from point A to point B?  

A few Saturdays ago, I had such a moment, a divine intersection... but this time I was ready and available to let God interrupt my schedule and use me while I was “on my way.” I was headed to a Social Media Workshop Event that Eric and I were hosting for all our local artists at Stockholms Groove, a community of songwriters in Stockholm. As I was almost to my bus stop, I heard a voice saying

“Can you help me?”

I could see my bus stop just ahead, and knew that if I helped this lady, I would miss my bus and be late for our own event we were hosting to bless artists in practical ways. (Luckily, Eric was already there early.)  I remembered God strongly saying the day before…"Let me interrupt your plans…be available…I am speaking in between here and there."

So, I talked with this lady (about my age) who was lost and looking for the king’s palace on the street that I live on; quite far off from where we were.  I live on a completely different island than the palace. So I spoke with her and found out that she is a musician/pianist from Russia visiting Stockholm for just a few days for a meeting. She was so excited to hear that I was also a musician. She was free that day and wanted to see the palace and music hall.  

“Do you have a transportation card?” I asked.

“No.” she replied. “Where do I get one of those?”

“I will take you and show you.”

So I walked with her to the train station to help her buy a pass and show her how to get to the palace. On the walk, she asked me if I was Swedish, and I shared that I was not. She asked why I lived in Sweden, and then I had the opportunity to share a bit of my story and what God had done in my life to lead me across the world. She was immediately interested and asked “So you believe in God?” I said “Yes, what is your experience with God or church?”

She explained that most Russians don’t really believe in God and don’t go to church. She said that she does not go to church, but believes there could be a God. She was so excited as I told her that Eric and I were kind of like pastors to those who don’t have a pastor or church. I shared with her from Psalm 139 how much God loves her and created her uniquely and wonderfully. He cares for her and sees her. He saw her before she was even created in her mother’s womb and He longs for a relationship with her.

She just smiled.  

I told her that maybe the reason why she was on my street that day and we met was so that I could share God’s love with her. She was so happy when she got on the train, and neither of us wanted to say goodbye. I gave her my contact info and said she could call me if she needed anything else while in Stockholm. I truly pray that God will continue to water the seed of hope that was planted within her!

What if I wouldn’t have taken the time to stop and help her? What if, like the countless other times, I was in too much of a hurry to get where I was going? I would have missed out on the blessing of meeting this young woman and the joy of sharing God’s love and message of hope with her. God certainly didn’t need me and could have used anyone else he wanted to speak to this woman. But what a privilege we have to join Him in His resurrection work of bringing dead things to life; bringing light to the darkness!  

2 Corinthians 4:6 says “For God who said, ‘Let the light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”  

We are to share this light at all times. May we be so full of God’s light and hope that it overflows out of our hearts and spills onto all those we meet, as it says in Romans 15:13:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

If we would just slow down, be intentionally aware and available to God, we could experience His blessings in such a beautiful way while we are “on our way.”  

Each day is so much more than Just Another Day.

 

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