Book Readings: Biblical Eldership (chapter 1)

Welcome to the book that has been the foundation of our Elder Training at Carney EFC! Alexander Strauch's book Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership starts with a walk through what the Bible teaches about the role of elders as shepherds. As a shepherd protects, feeds, leads, and cares for his flock, so an elder must be competent and committed to protect, feed, lead, and care for God's people in the church.

  • What does a church elder need to protect his flock from? Is Strauch going overboard on this point--even in making it his first point? How can an elder be competent to protect the flock?
  • Who has excelled at feeding you from God's Word? Have they taught you to feed yourself on the Word as well? What happens when shepherds don't feed their sheep?
  • Why is it that sheep need to be led? Where did you catch the need for elders to be leaders in the Bible texts referred to? Isn't it too much to expect an intense commitment to hard work from someone who works full-time and has a family as well?
  • Would you say that the elder's work, apart from love for the sheep, is worthless? Does the elder's care for others replace the every-person ministry of the church? In what ways are elders especially called to care for the flock of God?

Book Readings: The Hiding Place (chapters 1-2)

Corrie Ten Boom's autobiography has been a classic for so many -- thanks for entering into her world with us!

Chapter 1: The One Hundredth Birthday Party

  • What do you think will come of the different people written about in this chapter? How do you think they will fare when the Germans come to their street?
  • How was it that Corrie's father was so well-loved by everyone in their city? How did he treat people who might have been considered "competitors" in their area?

Chapter 2: Full Table

  • What was more off-limits in conversation in your family as you grew up: death or sex? What do you think about how the topics were handled in the Ten Boom house?
  • What does it mean that "some knowledge is too heavy for a child to carry"?
  • Did you notice Corrie's father's relationships with the Jewish people in Amsterdam? The discussions and arguments--with a sincere love for the other person? What does love and hospitality have to do with discussing our faith with people who don't believe in Jesus?
  • Are you afraid of death? What do you think of Corrie's father's advice at the end of the chapter?

Book Readings: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (all 17 chapters)

By popular demand, Pastor Kit reads C. S. Lewis' classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. As you listen, perhaps keep a few thoughts in mind:

  • Which of the four children would you be most like if you had gone with them to live with the professor? What make you say?
  • Lucy's reaction to the Faun is truly unique. What would you have done if you had found out he was in the act of betraying you to the White Witch? What are your typical reactions? What was especially godly about Lucy's reactions?
  • Edmund was quickly taken in by the White Witch. What about Edmund made it possible for her to manipulate him so easily? Where do these qualities creep up in us when we aren't living by the Spirit?
  • If Lucy had come up to you with a detailed story about what she had seen in a split second in a wardrobe … would you have believed her? Why, or why not? What do you think of the professor's response about "logic"?

Chapter 1: Lucy Looks Into a Wardrobe

Chapter 2: What Lucy Found There

Chapter 3: Edmund and the Wardrobe

Chapter 4: Turkish Delight

Chapter 5: Back on This Side of the Door

Chapter 6: Into the Forest

  • When did you first come "into the forest"––that is, when did you first learn that what Christians say about God and His kingdom are true? What was it like to enter into this reality, this truth?
  • When the siblings entered into Narnia, things were actually quite dangerous! Can it be the same way for Christians who start following Jesus Christ?
  • Edmund teaches Peter that they're lost after following after this robin. What's your reaction when you feel lost? Was it worth trusting this robin to lead them? Is it difficult to follow Jesus when you feel lost in the woods, or lost in a church or in a Bible?

Chapters 7 and 8: A Day with the Beavers and What Happened After Dinner

  • What rises up in you when you hear the name "Jesus"? Courage? Sweetness? Disgust? Excited joy? What do you associate with the Name above all names?
  • We all begin, at one point, unfamiliar with prophecies. How do you treat the things that the Bible foretells? Do you really think they'll happen? Do you suppose God could fulfill His Word in your lifetime?
  • How did Edmund sneak away from the rest? What does it look like for Christians to chase after and bring back those whose hearts are captive to the devil yet?

Chapter 9: Into the Witch's House

  • What does it really look like as we creep towards sin? as we walk towards the devil?
  • How did Edmund miss all the signs of death all around him? Why did he shake off the things which should have convinced him to abandon this terrible deed?
  • Did you note that the moon shone to guide Edmund further? What would have happened if Edmund got stranded in the dark on his way to the Witch? Does this "blessing" bother you?

Chapter 10: The Spell Begins to Break

  • How quickly do you flee from sin? Was Mrs. Beaver foolish or wise, compared to the others?
  • What do you think of the presents Father Christmas gave to the children? The Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts to use for building one another up in the church: what gifts has God given you to use? Are they important?
  • What do you think kept the wolves from finding the Beavers and the children? How have you seen God's mercy in protecting you from harm in your own story?

Chapter 11: Aslan Is Nearer

  • Reflect on the let-down Edmund felt, of having been promised a kingdom and filled up on his favorite treat--only to be turned into a slave of the queen! How does sin treat us that way: giving us its pleasures for a moment, but turning us into its slaves?
  • What was the effect of the Queen turning the breakfast party to stone on Edmund? When you see how the devil treats those who celebrate what's good, do you feel pity? Compassion? Drawn out of yourself in love for someone else?
  • Even while Edmund is being driven as a slave, he can't help seeing and hearing the beauty of Spring rising up all around him. What are the marks of God's presence in the world around us that call our attention to God and His goodness?

Chapter 12: Peter's First Battle

  • What emotions do you expect to feel when you see Jesus for the first time, face to face? How does that compare to the Beavers' and the children's reactions?
  • Lucy suddenly spoke up to Aslan regarding her lost brother, and Peter unexpectedly found himself confessing his part in his departure. What is it about Jesus that causes us to mention to Him those who are lost and to confess our sin to Him?
  • Is following Christ at all a battle? What do you make of Peter's rescue of his sister from the wicked wolf Maugrim? If Christians should expect to fight, then how? Under what circumstances?

Chapter 13: Deep Magic from the Dawn of Time

  • What a relief that the Witch hadn't thought of distorting the prophecy earlier by simply killing Edmund! And what a relief that the rescue party came just at the right time for him! Can you think of the mercy God has shown you in sparing you from terrible things and rescuing you when the time was just right?
  • What do you suppose Edmund and Aslan talked about in their own conversation?
  • Did you see a genuine change in Edmund after he talked with Aslan? How so?
  • How does the conversation between Aslan and the Witch mirror that of God and the devil, the accuser of His people? Did God "work out a deal" with the devil? How does this compare to our salvation through Jesus?

Chapter 14: The Triumph of the Witch

  • What is it like when you hear God speak to you, but you don't understand why He's telling you to do what you have to do? Does God ever not make sense to you? … have you made it to the other side of one of those times before where it finally made sense?
  • Compare Aslan's death at the Stone Table to Jesus' death on the cross. What matches up? Why did Aslan do what he did?
  • What will keep the White Witch from ruling over Narnia and destroying her enemies now? Has Aslan made a grave mistake?

Chapter 15: Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time

  • Spending that time with Susan and Lucy at the Stone Table with Aslan dead makes me think of the women who waited to anoint Jesus at His tomb. Have you spent time thinking of the grief they must have felt while Jesus was dead?
  • There's something symbolic about the Stone Table cracking as the sun rose on the slain Lion. Does God's Law--say, the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments--have any more power to condemn those who have broken it but who trust in Jesus?
  • Do you feel the thrill that Lucy and Susan experience when they meet the risen Aslan? What was that like for the women at Jesus' tomb that Easter morning? What is it like for us to learn that Jesus lives again, and He lives for us‽

Chapter 16: What Happened About the Statues

  • What a difference in the castle, when everything that was stone was turned to life! The silence breaks into singing, the stillness swarms into motion! How is it that Jesus can turn the statues of a village or a city into vibrant life by His Word and His power?
  • Notice that Aslan sets everyone to work finding more statues within the castle. What is our role in running to and fro to reach more people for Christ? Is it our job to turn them back to life? or to bring Jesus to them?
  • Different creatures have different skills: the Giant to break down the door, the dogs to sniff out the trail, the quicker creatures to carry those that can't keep up, the fierce ones to lunge into battle. Do you see different skills at work in our own church? What skills and talents to you bring to the life of the church?

Chapter 17: The Hunting of the White Stag

  • Isn't there a joy and a satisfaction in hearing that prophecy was fulfilled, the witch was defeated, and everything was set to rights? To know that the two Kings and two Queens of Narnia ruled well over the land they were called to? Why is it that we long for endings such as this?
  • What does it mean to say, "Once a King or Queen in Narnia, always a King or Queen in Narnia"? Why is this assurance so vital, not only in Narnia, but also for the Christian?
  • How is it that you've met someone and "discovered" that they were Christian by a certain phrase, or a distinct glance? What do you notice in people who believe in Jesus?

"Christianity is declining in the West. Churches in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe are closing their doors at an accelerating rate. How will the church respond? 

"In this short but sweeping manifesto, New York Times bestselling author and pastor Timothy Keller argues that this decline should prompt us to rethink the church's mission from the ground up. Using the early church as our guide, churches and individual Christians must examine ourselves, our culture, and Scripture to work toward a new missionary encounter with Western culture that will make the gospel both attractive and credible to a new generation."

  • How are you building personal relationships with non-Christians by befriending and loving them? How will God call their attention to His gospel through you?
  • What does it mean to "question people's answers" before you answer people's questions? (Have you listened to the book reading from Unquestioned Answers yet?)
  • How will you explain the gospel in a way that is compelling and attracts late modern people? What is different about their perspective that will affect how you present the good news?

  • The early church formed a new culture in society that was multi-ethnic, cared for the poor, cultivated civility, cared for life at every stage, and upheld a healthy sexual ethic. What of these do we do well at as a church? What can we improve on--and how?
  • How are students today trained in the worldview of our surround culture? Do you see the effects of the world's teaching on identity, freedom, happiness, science, morality, justice, and history in young people? What will be effective in teaching our students a different script than that of the world and its absolutes?
  • What approach is your sinful nature's default when it comes to the world: gain power over it, hide away from it, or blend into it? What changes would you need to make to adopt a "faithful presence" approach to the world?

Book Readings: Ordinary

We have cultivated an appetite for the radical, amazing, life-changing that we can never satisfy -- not only in our culture, but in our church! How is it that so many evangelical churches can get caught up in The Big Experience or The Next Big Thing … and miss the ordinary things God offers to us to grow, steadily, consistently, and over the long haul?

  • What are some examples of ways in which you feel the pull toward the "radical" as opposed to the ordinary? Consider/discuss various movements, trends, and programs you've encountered that seemed to grab your allegiance and then dissipate.
  • Do you have a problem with "everydayness"? How does the Christian subculture sometimes contribute to this?

Book Reading: The Gospel Comes with a House Key

Rosaria Butterfield brings another great and challenging book to our library as she urges Christians to practice the "radically ordinary hospitality" that the Bible commands of us. Not only does she make the case from the Word, but she lives it out with her life in powerful vignettes. Let her challenge you as you listen to the Preface and Chapter 1.

  • How would you describe this "radically ordinary hospitality" Butterfield keeps referring to?
  • If you had been living across the street from Hank, what would your gut reaction have been on the morning she described?
  • What was the fruit / what were the blessings of her choices that morning, for both herself, her family, and her community?

Book Reading: Radical, by David Platt

What does radical abandonment to Jesus really mean? Why can't we follow Him and still cling to our comforts and provisions––so long as we thank God for everything we receive from His hand? David Platt walks us through Jesus' methods of evangelism in the gospels, his calls to follow him, to show us the cost of discipleship … and the cost of un-discipleship, for us and for others as well.

  • What's your vision of the American dream? Do you feel positive about it, negative about it, or … still need to take some time to think about it?
  • How would you describe what it means to become a Christian and to follow Jesus? Where in the Bible does your mind go on that topic?
  • Of all the characters Platt introduces us to in this chapter, who mirrors you most closely? Why?

Book Reading: Sacred Marriage

"What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?" Gary Thomas challenges our most popular assumption about why we marry so that God can use our marriages for what can truly make us happy: holiness.

  • Why did you get married? Or if you're not married, why would you consider getting married?
  • How do you suppose most Christians would describe the purpose of their marriage?
  • What's your reaction to this idea that "God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy"?

A classic from the '90s, Seven Promises of a Promise Keeper urged men to make intentional choices about living out their faith with God personally, as husband and fathers, as church members, and in their communities. Many of the very best teachers of the day rallied together with hundreds of thousands of men in America's biggest stadiums to commit to following Jesus. But what do you remember about it?

  • What are the seven promises of a Promise Keeper? Do any of them seem outdated? Or do they still feel practical and challenging for how we live today?
  • What does it look like to seize the moment, the opportune time (the kairos)? Why do we so often pass up our opportunities?
  • Pray for the men in your church. Who are the men who are strong believers, leaders in the church and the family? Who are the men that you want to challenge and encourage to become stronger in following the Lord?

Book Reading: Disunity in Christ

Christena Cleveland takes us on a Brain Games-style tour through group dynamics to explain why we cling to those who are like us … and why we resist and reject those who are different, even if they're somewhat close to us! From the neighborhoods of Chicago, to the power of the familiar, to GQ's 44th funniest joke ever, Cleveland helps us look at ourselves to see where the power of God to draw us together needs to come into play.

  • What does your vision of heaven look like? Does it more closely resemble Chicago or the household of God?
  • What are some of the factors that led you to join your church?
  • Think of a time when you "I-shared" with another person. How did that experience affect your relationship with that person?
  • How do shared experiences (or lack thereof) affect your relationships with believers who are very different from you?
  • Do you see evidence of the "snowball effect" in the body of Christ?
  • How might Christians benefit from more interactions with other Christians who are very different from them?

all questions come from Christena Cleveland, Disunity in Christ, page 43

Book Reading: How to Stay Christian in College

Every year we give out a book to our graduates called "How to Stay Christian in College." To my shame, I haven't read it until just now! And WOW is it a great preparation and resource for our high schoolers entering into this new world ahead of them! To be frank, probably many student have buried this treasure, shoved it into a bookshelf, and not been aware of how helpful it would be. But those who have taken the time to dig in will never be disappointed. Think through these questions after you've gone through chapter one with me:

  • Those who have graduated already: what's your story of faith in college? Did you fall away from faith then, or come to faith then? Did your walk with God get stronger or weaker? Why?
  • Those who are graduating from high school: describe in advance what your story of faith in college will be like. Why does it look like that to you right now?
  • How do you respond to loneliness? Does it seem to affect you more than it does others, or less? Can you think of a time when someone has broken into your life to relieve your loneliness? What effect does that person have on you today?
  • How is your life at college a step up into adulthood? What are you nervous about having to do on your own? What are you glad you won't have to do on your own? What's your game plan for finding a church on your own, and a Christian campus group?
  • J. Bud's comments about how not every Christian college actually acts Christian is a wake-up call. What is the on-campus culture like where you're going? What's it going to be like if you commute to school from home: what is your home community like without school? Think through at least three differences you'll face in your new setting, near or far, college or no college.
  • What were the four simple tips to keep your feet on the ground (pp. 27-28)? Are you committed to remembering them?
  • Do you know that, if you stray like the son in Luke 15, that God is eager for you to repent from the heart and to come back to Him?

Book Reading: Christianity and Liberalism

In many churches today you'll hear that Christianity isn't about doctrine: it's about a life, it's just about loving Jesus and appreciating Him for Who He is. But as J. Gresham Machen reads the letters of Paul, or the story of the earliest church in 1 Cor. 15:3-7, or even the preaching of Jesus in the Gospels, it's really hard to shake the persistent idea that there was a historical event in their day with a definite meaning that makes or breaks Christianity. As you listen, consider some of these questions below …

  • Why do some people say that Christianity isn't about doctrine and stuffy old creeds, but about a way of life? What makes having definite Christian beliefs unappealing?
  • One tenet of modern liberalism is that God is the Father of everyone and Jesus is the brother of everyone. Why would the Christian find fault with this? (Hint: what does it mean to be adopted into the family of God, like we read in Galatians 4:1-6?)
  • What does it look like for a church to avoid talking about the history of Christianity and to frame its beliefs after a pattern of being good, nice, and kind to others, as taught in the Bible and by other world religions? Is this a common thought among people in our communities today?
  • Why was Paul happy with other people preaching instead of him while he was writing to the Philippians from jail (see Phil. 1:18), but outraged at those who were preaching in Galatia (see Gal. 1:8)? What makes the difference? How does that affect our attitudes towards other churches and other preachers?
  • Have you ever met someone who says, "I'm a red-letter Christian: I just follow the words of Jesus"? Why would someone want to avoid the rest of the Bible and focus just on what the Gospel-writers recorded from Him? Does this strategy work out for them?
  • What if someone said that 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 doesn't work to describe the primitive church because those are Paul's words? Take a look at the apostle John's words in 1 John 1:1-4. Does John make a case there for a universal common religion, or for a specific historical event with definite significance? What about Peter? Or the author of Hebrews?
  • “The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine.” Is this how you understood doctrine before reading along? What are your views at the moment towards doctrine?

Book Reading: One Blood

Dr. Perkins' parting words to the church on race, in his book One Blood, point us in the body of Christ to lament, confession, forgiveness, and positive action in the Christ-reflecting work of reconciliation. And both black people and white people have work to do in confessing, first before God, and then before one another, those things which have divided us and not pointed to the kingdom of God. From the book's study guide, here are some questions to take this deeper:

  • Dr. Perkins suggests that, like the prodigal son, the Church has walked away from the standards that God set for us. What do you see as the standards that are guiding the church today?
  • How has anger on the part of blacks played a significant role in the struggle for reconciliation?
  • Explain the historical and current aspects of and implications of this anger.
  • How are you impacted by John Piper's statement on page 86? [by the way: his book Bloodlines is available for download at]
  • Are you conscious of white privilege, or do you feel that it is a myth?
  • What are you fearful of as it relates to this discussion of biblical reconciliation?
  • Do you have a personal confession that you feel led to make in this arena of reconciliation?

Book Reading: Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Sixty years ago, a pastor wrote to fellow clergymen from a narrow jail cell to explain his participation in nonviolent direct action for the cause of desegregation in Birmingham, Alabama. His words still challenge and convict us today, as Christians weigh whether they should participate in protests around police brutality and racial inequity. As you listen to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., consider these questions as you evaluate where we stand regarding racism and action today.

  • What is misguided about the call to wait and let justice roll in on its own time?
  • Why did King say, "Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection"? Describe the difference between a negative peace, where tension is absent, and a positive peace, where justice is present.
  • How did King respond to the condemnation of his direct action, "because it precipitates violence"? Did King support violence? How did he explain the surge of violence in his day among some black people? What should we make of those who advocate for violence in their protest?
  • Was King against the church, or for it? He offered a prophetic message for the church, based on the history of the church in previous ages: would you say that his statement still stands?
  • What was King's point in quoting T. S. Eliot: "The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason"?
  • What do you make of King's final statements, about the length of his letter, his caution regarding overstating or understating the truth, and his desire to meet these fellow clergymen as a fellow pastor and brother in Christ? How does his closing compare to Paul's words at the end of Galatians, or Philippians?

Book Reading: Mere Christianity (Beyond Personality)

So what of following Christ? How should it look like … and why doesn't it match what we expect? After you listen to the chapters, take some time to work through these questions in your own approach to God and others:

  • Why did Lewis say that coming to Christ with your sin is like going to see a dentist for your teeth? What struggles or sufferings were you glad to have God's help to fix in you? Have you wished that God would let it go at that?
  • Is God's plan to take who you are and make it better? Why, or why not?
  • What was Lewis' point in saying God tells us, "Be ye perfect?" How is that possible?
  • Why is it that Jesus says at some points, "Take up your cross and follow Me," and at other times, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light?" When you think about the two geometry students in Lewis' example, which one have you found yourself more likely to be?
  • How would you answer someone who says, "How come so many Christians I know aren't as nice as the non-Christians I know? Doesn't that refute your so-called faith?"
  • Do nice people need Jesus to save them? If they do, are they easier or harder to be saved? How is it for people who are 'rich' in pleasantness and common graces?

Book Reading: Mere Christianity

What do Christians believe––about God, about good and evil, about why so many things have gone wrong with the world? In the two videos below (apologies: I thought that the video conked out partway through the first), Pastor Kit relays how C. S. Lewis walked his listeners through the question above, introducing a supremely good God who created men and women with free will and introduces humanity to Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

  • Lewis notes that, unlike atheism Christianity has the freedom to spot hints of truth in other religions, without having to affirm them or deny them wholesale. What is your reaction to other religions? Do you strive to lovingly affirm them, stringently deny everything about them, or have another reaction to them?
  • How would you explain the relationship between good and evil to someone interested in Christianity? How do you make sense of that universal desire to pursue what is good and resist what is evil?
  • Lewis quickly dismisses what he calls "Christianity-and-water," an overly simplistic view that God is good and everything is terrific. What do we risk if we offer others a simplified religion? Do you appreciate things more when you realize the beauty of the complexity that's behind it: a beautiful song, a well-crafted chair, or a delicious meal?
  • Apart from God, what fuel have you tried to run your life off of? Consider how far it worked … and where it failed you. What does it mean to have God as the fuel for our life and happiness?
  • Why would someone want to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but not as God? Why does that view not make sense as you read about Jesus? Do people still try to hold this viewpoint today? If so, on what basis?

Book Reading: The Holiness of God

How should people react when in the presence of the holiness of God? So many people thronged to Jesus, wanted Jesus to touch them, listened when Jesus spoke to them … but when His holiness was on display, we either beg Jesus to leave us (Peter), tremble in fear (disciples), or try to put it to death (Pharisees). While we only made it through most of the chapter today, consider the following as you listen and connect this book with your walk with God:

  • Why did the disciples get more scared once the storm was stilled? Have you had an experience with God's holiness and power that left you in shock?
  • What do you make of Peter's request to Jesus that He leave him alone? What other situations can you think of where someone keenly feels their unworthiness to be around another person and wants to escape?
  • How does Jesus respond to Peter's request to leave him? Can we follow Jesus and serve Jesus rightly without grasping His holiness like Peter did?
  • Why was it that the Pharisees––a group that intended to be very holy and God-honoring––sought to put Jesus to death? Why didn't they gel with Jesus? Where do you see The Peter Principle come into play, with Jesus, the Super-Competent One?
  • Have you been overcome by the holiness of God, watched it from a distance, or written it off as irrelevant? What would it look like to focus on God and His holiness in your life over the next few days?

Book Reading: Knowing God, chapter 3

What does that even mean, to know God? It's not just intellectual information; it's not having a personal emotional experience, either. Think of meeting the Queen of England, or the President of the United States––and having them ask you to join their staff, to hear their thoughts on the world, and to labor along with them! In fact, the greater reward is not only knowing God, but being known by God.

  • Who is the most important person that you've met? Did that person actually speak to you? Shake your hand? Sign something of yours?
  • Who do you wish would ask you to work alongside them? George Lucas on a Star Wars project? Mark Cuban or Jerry Jones for their sports teams? The President or Vice-President of the United States? What would it mean to work with someone in such a high position? In light of your answer, what does it mean when Jesus calls YOU to come and follow HIM?
  • Which is better: to know all about someone famous but never meet them, or to know nothing about a famous person yet to be invited to know them?
  • What does Packer mean when he says, "We do not make friends with God; God makes friends with us"? Why is that important, and what comfort does that give?

Book Reading: Knowing God

It makes sense that people who are part of God's own family would love to know God their Father! Yet how do we keep from letting what we know about God make us prideful over others, puffed up in our knowledge, and even more distant from God? Packer presses on to help prevent these pitfalls––and to show how knowing God gives us great energy for God, great thoughts of God, great boldness for God, and great contentment in God.

  • What does it look like to know a great deal about God (theology) without much knowledge of Him personally?
  • What does it look like to know a great deal about godliness (Christian action) without much knowledge of God personally?
  • Packer lays out five foundational truths about God. What five things would you have said are most important to know about Him? What strikes you about Packer's list?
  • Do people today find it important to tell their children much about God's character? Do churches today find it important to tell their children––and adults––about what God is like, deeply? If yes, how? If no, why not?
  • What is the best end goal of knowing more about God?
  • Why does Packer recommend that Christians practice meditation more? How is it different from the Eastern religious idea of emptying the mind?

Book Reading: Desiring God

When we talk about "Celebrating in the worship of God" at our church, have you ever felt like we have to suck it up and worship Him … instead of having fun with something else? Or that if you were to actually enjoy God, that that would rob God of the selfless, disinterested honor we "should" be giving Him? Piper turns that all on its head as he urges us to take God's command across Scripture seriously "to glorify God by enjoying Him forever."

  • What are some things that you truly enjoy? Hunting on November 15? Seeing flowers finally bloom after a long winter? Watching the Packers beat the Bears?
  • Is it more important that you be unselfish towards others, or that you love others? Why?
  • Have you ever felt guilty that your selfish motive to be happy ruins your selflessness in some kind act done for someone else? How does Piper flip this script?
  • What makes enjoying God different from enjoying the streets of gold in heaven, or from enjoying the reunion with loved ones in heaven? What would you think if your friend down the road enjoyed you … because you had a trampoline to bounce on, or a better video game system than him?
  • Do you agree that we're all hard-wired to seek pleasure? Does that feel wrong, or can it be okay? good, even?
  • Do you enjoy God?

Book Reading: Unquestioned Answers

Jeff Myers, in his introduction to Unquestioned Answers, shares what parts of his life story prompted him to want to write––and to read!––a book like this. It can be scary to let someone tap on the clichés we've put our faith in … but are you willing to push through for a deeper, stronger, and truer faith?

The Introduction has four discussion questions: please, think about them yourself, or talk them over with others who watched this with you!

  • How does Simplicism differ from simplicity?
  • How would you describe the effects of Simplicism on our culture? On your life?
  • What are some clichés that you have found yourself reciting without having reflected on them?
  • What clichés are you looking forward to reading about? Why?

For more resources: a brief video, coinciding Scripture, additional reading, videos, websites, and more––check out! Really, you should check it out. Right now. Unless you haven't listened to the chapter below, then do it right after :)

Book Readings: Coronavirus and Christ AND The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity

Pastor Kit posted a two-for-one special on a couple short books: Coronavirus and Christ, written in late March 2020 by Pastor John Piper; and The Ten Commandments of Progressive Christianity, written by Michael J. Kruger. As you listen, and after you listen, think over these questions in your own life and from your own experience:

  • CAC: When have you been in a situation where you felt like you were "playing the odds"? Were the odds in your favor … or against you? Did you feel safe, or scared?
  • CAC: "Live or die … you will be with Me." Is that a comfort to you as you look to the future? Why, or why not?
  • CAC: How does hope for the future affect your present situation?
  • CAC: What's the difference between "I'm fine" and "I feel fine"?

  • Ten C: Are you willing to say that "liberal Christianity is not Christianity"? Why, or why not?
  • Ten C: Give an example where, as Benjamin Franklin said, "half the truth is a great lie."
  • Ten C: Where does the statement, "Jesus is a model for living more than an object of worship," break down? Why might it appeal to someone?
  • Ten C: Why is Jesus' moral example binding only if He is also Lord?

Book Reading: The Cost of Discipleship (Chapter 2)

The Christian life requires faith and obedience, both together, in equal measure. As Bonhoeffer puts it, "Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes." As you listen or after you listen to chapter two of Bonhoeffer's classic, The Cost of Discipleship, take some time to consider these questions as we understand the obedient nature of faith.

  • Could Levi have been a disciple of Jesus if he stayed at his tax booth when Jesus called him? What about Peter: would he have been a disciple of Jesus if he kept going to the synagogue and thinking good thoughts about God, but didn't leave his nets to follow Jesus?
  • How are we tempted to tell God our conditions and what we require before we Him? How did Jesus treat the would-be disciples who came with their own conditions? (Luke 9)
  • What would you say to someone who says, "I'd follow Jesus, but I just have trouble believing in Him, and I can't follow Him until I believe"?
  • What would you say to someone who says, "I already believe in Jesus, so I don't have to prove it by doing a whole bunch of typical 'Christian' stuff"?
  • If God commands us to worship together with others as part of local churches, can someone have faith in God while being stubbornly disobedient to this command? Why, or why not?
  • What is God calling you to do right now? Are you showing your faith in Him by obeying Him, or your unbelief in refusing to obey Him?

Book Reading: The Cost of Discipleship (Chapter 1)

Bonhoeffer writes to a church that knows all the right things to say about grace … but treats it as the starting point of the Christian life, and not the answer at the end! Cheap grace is what's taught so many Christians to live no differently from the world: after all, if you have to follow Christ or DO what He commands, doesn't that destroy what grace is? But as we read today, costly grace is what springs out of and gives life to a commitment to discipleship. Think about these questions as you listen in:

  • "I don't have to read my Bible, be part of a church, or do anything really religious to be a Christian. I'm saved by the grace of God! God's done it all!" Is this an example of cheap grace or costly grace?
  • Is discipleship the opposite of grace? That is, does it destroy God's grace to tell someone that they must obey Jesus and do the works He commands?
  • How does the world around us look at Christians when generations of us treat grace as cheap?
  • Why is cheap grace attractive in America––even in Menominee County?
  • What's the difference between the justification of sin and the justification of the repentant sinner?
  • What does it mean to follow Jesus like Peter did?

Book Reading: Let the Nations Be Glad!

Glad you could join us for Piper's book on missions, Let the Nations Be Glad! When you watch, think through some of these questions below to help take Piper's words to heart:

  • Piper says, "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't." What's your initial reaction to this statement?
  • Is it right for God to be motivated to missions out of a love for His own glory? What makes God different from the other gods of the nations that need to be served?
  • The Psalms, Jesus, Paul, and John all emphasize the glory of God and going for the sake of the name of Jesus. Had you ever made those connections before across the Bible?
  • What do you make of John Dawson's claim that you won't have a real burden for "the lost" or "the world?" Have you ever felt guilty for not having a "passion for missions" before? What's his point in saying that "the lost" is an abstract idea, not a concrete person or situation?
  • Dawson suggested not worrying so much about your own love for a stranger in evangelism, but thinking more about your own love for God and His love for this person who is separated from His love. How can that change your approach to telling others about Jesus and the glory of God?

When you watch the video, especially if you're on Facebook, don't forget to vote for what pair of books to jump in on next week!

Book Reading: An Enquiry …

In 1792, a shoemaker named William Carey wrote a pamphlet, asking his fellow Christians, "Shouldn't we be actually doing something to share the gospel with those who have never heard it before?" Of course, he phrased it differently––but once he wrote it, it lived it. He went to India to translate the Bible into several languages there, started schools to educate the people, fought against the caste system and the tradition of widows burning themselves on their husband's funeral pyres … and saw the people of India coming to Christ. As you listen to these selections from his Enquiry, think through these questions as well:

  • Have you heard people say, "We have enough unsaved people in our own communities; we shouldn't be wasting our time on trying to reach people around the world"? What are some key differences between their access to the gospel here versus in other places? Does global missions cancel out local missions, or enhance it?
  • Carey boasted about how much easier it was in his day to get to other places in the world, thanks to trading companies and ships doing global commerce. What would he think of our ability to travel (COVID aside) today and what that means for sending missionaries?
  • Carey compared the eagerness of merchants to do business around the world with the reluctance of Christians to spread the gospel around the world. How does our desire for people to be saved compare to the desire of businessmen to make a profit?
  • Did you know that the Evangelical Free Church of America came into being thanks to missions societies like William Carey described? Even before you go into missions or give towards missions, are you willing to pray for God to provide missionaries and to provide for them in their task?
  • How should you be engaged in God's call upon you to missions?

Book Reading: More Than a Carpenter

Logically, we're given three choices with Jesus: either Jesus is who he says he is and actually is God in the flesh; or Jesus is a liar about his identity, meaning his teaching all falls apart and he's a very, very bad man; or Jesus is a lunatic, thinking he's God but fit for a room with padded walls and a jacket with tight arms. Want some follow-up to the chapter we've read? Take in some of these questions (actually provided in the book itself!):

  • Why can't you say that Jesus was just a good moral teacher? Can you think of any specific "good morals" that he taught his followers that still make sense today?
  • Why do you think Jesus took his message to the Jewish nation? Do you think there was any advantage to him being a carpenter before his ministry began?
  • Is there anything in Jesus' behavior (other than his claim to divinity) that would suggest he was deranged? If you had lived in his day, would you have wanted to hear him?
  • Why do you think so many psychologists see Jesus as a model for health? Why was he so content?
  • If the evidence for the deity of Jesus is so clear, why do you think so many people still reject it?

Book Reading: On the Incarnation

To continue our celebration of the resurrection, Pastor Kit shares the words of the 19-year-old Athanasius to stir our confidence in all that God has most certainly done in raising Jesus from the dead! Some follow-up questions to consider …

  • Why does it matter that Jesus was raised on the third day? Why not sooner, or later?
  • Do you expect to go to death bravely, with confidence that Jesus has conquered death and that eternal life is yours? How is the bravery of Christians, who treat death like a dead lion or a shackled tyrant, a sign that Jesus has indeed been raised?
  • Could Jesus still transform lives and overpower demons if He were still dead? How do you continue to see Jesus work powerfully today?

Lord willing, we'll see you again for More Than a Carpenter on Thursday at 2pm!

Book Reading: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Part Two)

Pastor Kit reads the second half of chapter 1, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, by Rosaria Butterfield. Some of the follow-up questions will be taken directly from her book! And please, help us engage with this book together, whether by commenting on the Facebook post itself, by emailing Pastor Kit, or by joining us for a Zoom book review group in the future …

  • Who do you identify with most in the story? With those who feel out of place in a church? With those who aren't sure how to welcome someone so different to your church? As someone caught in between yet compelled to be there?
  • How would you describe the differences between Pastor Ken Smith, the drag queen who formerly was a Presbyterian minister, and the dean of the chapel at the university? How is it these three Christian leaders could come to such different conclusions? Can they all be right?
  • What do you make of Pastor Ken pointing Butterfield back to her religious upbringing, especially what she knew about the Triune God and her own baptism? How was Pastor Ken's method different from many evangelistic methods? Was it wrong? right? hard to say?
  • Butterfield challenges the reader after a conversation with someone struggling who says, "If people in my church really believed that gay people could be transformed by Christ, they wouldn't talk about us or pray about us in the hateful way that they do." Answer the author's own question: "Christian reader, is this what people say about you when they hear you talk and pray? Do your prayers rise no higher than your prejudice?"
  • How does your conversion experience compare to the author's? When you pray for the lost, are you preparing to walk them through a train wreck, to help them with "the rubbish of [their] sin, forgiven by God, but still there to be cleared away"?
  • What does it look like to be a bridge between the church and a community outside of the Christian faith? Are you willing to be walked on, as a bridge, as the Lord strengthens you?
  • What other parts of the book stirred you, shook you, or caught your attention?

Book Reading: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Part One)

Pastor Kit reads the start of chapter one, Conversion and the Gospel of Peace, from Rosaria Butterfield's book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Some questions as you walk through the chapter:

  • Butterfield appreciates that Pastor Ken doesn't treat her like a "blank slate," recognizing that she has morals and beliefs that have been forged through her previous life experience. Have you you responded when someone tried to force their values on you? How can you respect someone else's views while still identifying with Christ?
  • Think about the letter Butterfield received from Pastor Ken: for a full week, neither going in the hate mail or the fan mail bins. What would your response be like to an editorial like hers? How can you share truthfully and lovingly in a way that invites someone else to further conversation?
  • What do you think of Butterfield's appreciation that Pastor Ken didn't insist on sharing the gospel or inviting Butterfield to church during her first visit? Were Pastor Ken and his wife Floy faithful to the Lord in their early interactions with her?
  • How did you react to Butterfield's descriptions of the Religious Right? Do you take more of a Pat Robertson approach to culture and evangelism, or a Pastor Ken approach? How did God use both of them in Butterfield's story?

Lord willing, I (Pastor Kit) will upload the rest of the chapter either Thursday or next week. Share your comments on Facebook to keep the conversation going!

Book Reading: The Problem of Pain

Pastor Kit shares chapter 3 of C. S. Lewis' book, The Problem of Pain. Key quotes from the chapter include …

  • "The Divine 'goodness' differs from ours, but it is not sheerly different: it differs from ours not as white from black but as a perfect circle from a child's first attempt to draw a wheel. But when the child has learned to draw, it will know that the circle it then makes is what it was trying to make from the very beginning."
  • "What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, 'What does it matter so long as they are contented?' We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven but a grandfather in heaven––a senile benevolence who, as they say, 'liked to see young people enjoying themselves,' and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, 'a good time was had by all.' … I do not claim to be an exception: I should very much like to live in a universe which was governed on such lines. But since it is abundantly clear that I don't, and since I have reason to believe, nevertheless, that God is Love, I conclude that my conception of love needs correction."
  • "You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the 'lord of terrible aspect,' is present … the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist's love for his work and despotic as a man's love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father's love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes."
  • "A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell."

Book Reading: Life Together

and The Pursuit of God

Quotes from Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

  • Within the spiritual community there is never, nor in any way, any "immediate" relationship of one to another, whereas human community expresses a profound, elemental, human desire for community, for immediate contact with other human souls … Here human ties, suggestions, and bonds are everything, and in the immediate community of souls we have reflected the distorted image of everything that is originally and solely peculiar to community mediated through Christ.
  • Human love of one's neighbor [often] far surpasses genuine Christian love in fervent devotion and visible results. It speaks the Christian language with overwhelming and stirring eloquence. But it is what Paul is speaking of when he says, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned"––in other words, though I combine the utmost deeds of love with the utmost of devotion––"and have not charity [that is, the love of Christ], it profiteth me nothing" (1 Cor. 13:3)
  • Life together under the Word will remain sound and healthy only where it does not form itself into a movement, an order, a society … but rather where it understands itself as being a part of the one, holy, catholic, Christian Church, where it shares actively and passively in the sufferings and struggles and promise of the whole Church.
  • It is precisely in retreats of short duration that the human element develops most easily. Nothing is easier than to stimulate the glow of fellowship in a few days of life together, but nothing is more fatal to the sound, sober brotherly fellowship of everyday life.

Quotes from The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer:

  • Within the fold of conservative Christianity there are to be found increasing numbers of persons whose religious lives are marked by a growing hunger after God Himself. They are eager for spiritual realities and will not be put off with words, nor will they be content with correct "interpretations" of truth. They are athirst for God, and they will not be satisfied till they have drunk deep at the Fountain of Living Water.
  • There may be a right opinion of God without either love or one right temper toward Him. Satan is proof of this.

Book Reading: Life Together

Pastor Kit reads most of the first chapter of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book, Life Together. Some key quotes from the book for you:

  • It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden under foot by those who have the gift every day. … let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God's grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.
  • Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this.
  • Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community. What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ.
  • By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. … Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God's sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community.
  • He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.
  • Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate. The more clearly we learn to recognize that the ground and strength and promise of all our fellowship is in Jesus Christ alone, the more serenely shall we think of our fellowship and pray and hope for it.